Mavis knew what he was looking at. It was what doctors had been looking at, poking, scanning, testing, for hours on end. It was the giant, funny shaped bruise that was all down the side of her face and almost onto her neck. The bruise that had seemingly appeared without cause or explanation, the bruise that finally proved that something was wrong. That she was not making things up. That she, Mavis, was sick and that nobody knew why.
And nobody knew what to do about it, either. Some of the doctors said that she should be rushed to the nearest research hospital for more extensive testing. Others said that she must have fallen and simply forgotten that she had. Was it a concussion? Grandma wanted to know. It wasn’t. It was just...there.
Grandma was driving them all home, steering their silent car through what seemed to Mavis an unfriendly stretch of countryside. Because she knew this wasn’t the end. She would be tested and analyzed and badgered until some explanation was found. And all she could think, over and over and over, was that it was all in her head.
Grandma’s old school ring tone went off, much too loud, and Roger had to help her flip the ancient phone open so she could answer.
“Hello, Ruby, yes we’re going home. No, they didn’t give her anything…”
Mavis closed her eyes and tried not to listen to Grandma talking to her mom. She tried not to think about anything.
“Is Nathan there?” asked Grandpa, suddenly.
“What, dear?” asked Grandma weakly.
“Nathan.” He gestured to the phone. “I want to talk to Nathan.”
“George wants to talk to Nathan,” said Grandma into the phone.
They could hear Ruby’s voice on the other side, excited and demanding. And then there was the warm, calm “Hello, Dad?”
“Hey, Nathan,” said Grandpa. “Mavis isn’t feeling well.”
“That’s what Ruby was telling me. But, hey, what about you? You sound amazing!”
“Mavis isn’t feeling well,” Grandpa repeated. “I don’t want you to send her to the research hospital.”
There was silence in the car and silence on the other side.
“They can’t find anything, anyway,” said Grandpa. “Let her stay with me.”
Mavis could hear her mother’s voice rising to a crescendo in the distance, punctuated here and there with her father’s low comments. Then he came back onto the phone. “Dad?”
“Yeah, Nathan?” said Grandpa.
“I’m going to trust your call on this. Mavis is going to stay with you for now. But if anything changes, I want Mom to call me right away. Okay?”
“And Dad?” Nathan’s voice sounded funny.
“I love you.”
Grandpa smiled into the phone. “I love you, too, Nathan. It’s going to be all right. Take care.”
And then Grandpa sort of sunk back down in his seat, his eyes wandering out of the window. Grandma took the phone away from him gently. She wasn’t making any sound, but everyone in the back seat knew that she was crying.
Roger looked over at Mavis, and this time he met her eyes. They just both shrugged at each other, unsure what to say.
When they got back to the house, Linda bolted from the car, slamming the door behind her. Grandma looked in the rearview mirror and sighed. “All right, Mavis, let’s get you inside.”
“It’s ok, Grandma, you can take Grandpa. I’m not dizzy.”
Grandma looked unconvinced.
“I’ll walk with her,” said Roger.
“Maybe you should stay downstairs, dear,” said Grandma. “Since the doctors say that you have to stay awake. You could watch cartoons, or a VHS.”
“I just want to be quiet for a while,” said Mavis. “My head hurts.”
“I’ll make sure she stays awake,” added Roger. “I’m going to camp out with her all night.”
Grandma smiled at him. “Thank you, Roger. You’re such a big help.”
Mavis and Roger went in, leaving Grandma to coax Grandpa out of the car. They needed to be alone. They needed to talk.
But they weren’t alone when they got inside. Linda was standing in the living room, waiting for them, and she followed them up the stairs. She awkwardly stood watching while Roger made a pallet on the floor and Mavis moved her blankets around to make a nest.
Finally, Roger sighed and looked up at her. “What is it, Linda?”
Her face curled up into a kind of scowl that they had never seen before, but she still didn’t say anything.
“Are you ok?” asked Mavis wearily.
“Am I ok?!” snapped Linda. “You’re the one freaking everyone out! Now tell me this, and tell me the truth. Does that weird mark on your face have something to do with what you did outside last night? Because if it does, and you didn’t tell anyone about it, I’m going to…”
“I don’t know,” said Mavis. “That’s the honest truth.”
Linda looked at Roger.
He shrugged. “She didn’t get hit. She didn’t fall down.”
Linda put her hands on her hips. “You’re hiding something. I know it. And I’m going to find out what, just you wait.”
As soon as she was gone, Roger hopped up and shut the door. “Why don’t we just tell her the truth? There’s no way that she’d ever believe us.”
“Because she might follow us to make fun,” said Mavis. “I can’t deal with her in this world and Otherworld.”
Roger perched on the edge of the bed, wrapping his hand up in the corner of Mavis’ fuzzy blanket. “Do you think that your face has something to do with Otherworld?”
“Well...maybe. I made a wish, the other day. When Linda was being mean and said something about it being all in my head. I wished that it was. I think that somehow the Gullumgall'ad must have heard me and granted it.”
“So we should be able to get him to un-grant it. Or maybe grant a wish that counteracts it.”
Mavis nodded. “And we have our tickets, to go back to his cave.”
It was Roger’s turn to nod, but Mavis could tell that he wasn’t satisfied yet.
“What is it?”
“Grandpa hasn’t spoken a full sentence since last Christmas. And all of the sudden, he was talking to Dad on the phone, telling him what to do.”
“Grandma said that he has good days and bad days.”
“Yeah, but that wasn’t a good day. That was five minutes of being normal again.”
“I miss him,” said Roger softly.
“He’d know what to do, you know. He’d just look at you and know what to do.”
“Maybe he still does,” said Mavis, sliding her arm around Roger’s shoulder. “He made sure that we would stay here. I couldn’t talk to the Gullumgall'ad if I was on my way to the research hospital.”
“You’re right.” Roger hugged her back. “I’m really glad that you’re staying here.”
He didn’t say the “for now” part because neither of them wanted to hear it.
“Anyway,” said Mavis, “we’ve got to think of something to do for a few hours, until Grandma comes to check on us. Then we take our tickets and run for it.”