“Okay,” she lied.

Resuming construction on the tepee-shaped pile of beans, she looked at Danny, who sat next to her, preoccupied with his DS, and then at the empty chair across from him, glad that Monday was her mother’s Pilates night.

After dropping Isobel off at home, Gwen had initially invited herself to stay for dinner but then opted out as soon as she discovered that Isobel’s mom wouldn’t be there to act as a buffer between her and Isobel’s dad.

For once, though, Isobel was grateful to be free of Gwen’s company. Aside from wanting to escape the endless barrage of questions she didn’t have answers for, she would need solitude in order to conduct that night’s after-dinner plan of action.

“Glad to hear it,” she heard her dad say as he shook salt onto his mashed potatoes, not bothering to look up. Isobel’s gaze remained downcast as well while she stabbed at the slice of roast beef on her plate.

So far, her father hadn’t brought up hearing from Coach. If she had called, Isobel couldn’t fathom why it wouldn’t have been the first thing out of his mouth as soon as he walked through the door. Since he had yet to mention anything about it, Isobel had to believe that he didn’t know what she’d done in practice and that she was still in the clear regarding Baltimore, at least for the time being. She had to trust that, because right now, there were more immediate things that needed her attention, like her dresser mirror.

Isobel swept the sliver of beef around and around in its pool of thin gravy. If she could just bring herself to take another bite, if she could just down enough food to clear half her plate, then there was a slim chance that she might be able to excuse herself. Then she could go to her room, close the door, and face the mirror without having to worry about being interrupted.

She’d once conducted a similar experiment, in the bathroom at school. There, in desperation, she’d confronted one of the mirrors in an attempt to summon Reynolds, calling out to him by name.

It hadn’t worked.

Yet later that day, when she’d again encountered the mysterious masked figure, she recalled very clearly how he’d chastised her. I am not a dog to be called, he’d said.

In other words, he’d heard her.


“Isobel, did you hear me?”

“Huh?” She looked up. Bringing her fork to her lips, she forced herself to take another bite. Roast beef squished against her tongue like a tough sponge.

“I said, how was practice?”

Isobel coughed. She lifted her glass of lemonade to her lips and, taking a sip, managed to force the food down. She nodded in response while taking another gulp of her drink. “Good,” she said, her voice raspy.

“Really,” he muttered. “That’s not what Coach said.”

Isobel froze. Slowly she lowered her glass.

“Did you know she called me on my cell?” he asked.

Isobel didn’t answer. Vines of panic began to wrap their way around her insides.

Turning her fork on its side, she used the edge like a mini snowplow, shoving the goopy, too-smooth glob of instant mashed potatoes from one edge of her plate to the other. The action made a long, high-pitched scraping noise, which caused her little brother, even though he had on his headphones, to glance up from his game. He glowered at her before returning his attention to the tiny flashing screen.

Normally, neither of them were allowed to have anything electronic at the dinner table. Isobel knew that if their mother were there, she’d have confiscated the DS for sure by now.

“Said you pulled an outright kamikaze on her,” he went on, elbows working as he sawed at his food with fork and knife, the movement causing the table to wobble slightly. “Her words exactly.” He stabbed at the meat, stuck the fork in his mouth and, chewing, continued to stare at her.

Isobel wished she held the power to shrink to a pinpoint and float off. More than that, she wished that she could blink and make the rest of the two weeks before the Baltimore trip pass by in an instant. That way, she could avoid doing all the stupid things that would prevent her from going at all.

She sank into her seat.

“I threw a pass when she wasn’t looking,” Isobel confessed. “There wasn’t a mat and no one was spotting. I missed the last rotation, and I fell.”

She assumed that he had his reasons for remaining silent until now. It could only mean he’d made up his mind regarding what he was going to do about it. Taking that into consideration, Isobel knew it was better to just go ahead and match stories with Coach’s instead of playing verbal dodgeball in hopes of finding out exactly how much had been said. When it came down to it, she needed to know what fate he or Coach or Mom or school would sentence her to. After what had happened that day, after what Varen had seen, or thought he’d seen, the only thing that mattered was getting to Baltimore, finding a way to find him. She would need to know if getting there, to the city and to the cemetery, was something she was going to have to do on her own after all.

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