Mama told me to lie.
She said it would be best, when we got to Peach Hill, if I practiced the family talent of deception; I was likely to hear more if I appeared to be simple. So, I perfected the ability to cross one eye while my mouth stayed open. I breathed out with a faint wheeze so that my lips dried up, or even crusted. Once in a while, I'd add a twitch.
People would take a first look and shiver with disgust. Then they'd look again and think, Oh the poor thing, thank the heavens she's not mine. And then they'd ignore me. I got the two looks and became invisible. That's when I went to work. People will say anything in front of an idiot.
Mom was in the hallway before I even got my key out of the door. Why was she home so early?
I couldn't really see her in the soupy darkness of the hallway, but I could tell she was still in her white dental assistant's uniform.
"Hi, Mom, how come you're - "
"Katie? I have great news, honey."
She was using her chipped china voice. High and cracked.
There was a crash, then rattling in the kitchen. I stepped towards her, my heart racing and pounding at the same time.
"Yes, that's right, honey," she said, nodding. "Your father's home. Let's go into the living room."
He found us.
I can't help it. I'm feeling a little mad at my grandpa, even though he's dead. I know it's so selfish of me, but man! If Grandpa hadn't died I would not be sitting here in the backseat, behind my mother and my grandmother, driving a hundred million miles to Vermont, where we are going to visit Grammy's oldest friend. I'd be home hanging with my own friends...
"You're already that far, Evie?" Mom's voice echoes vaguely through my headphones.
"She's got her ears on," says Grammy. "She can't hear a thing."
I can hear through my headphones, but why let them know? I hear Grammy call them my ears and it makes me smile. Slightly.
"What page are you on, Evie?" asks Mom.
"Already? Wow - and didn't you just start this morning?"
Mom is trying to connect with me. I can tell because she'll make a series of stupid comments. In a minute she'll reach her hand back and, unless I'm being the meanest person in the world, I'll give her what she wants - a little hand touch. I'm not much in the mood. Here's her hand. Fingertip brush only, no squeeze, but she'll take it.