“Look who the cat drug in,” said Linda. She was standing in her doorway, her hands on her hips. “I thought that the Wraith couldn’t even stand up.”
“Leave her alone, Linda,” said Roger. “It’s none of your business if she wants to sleep in her own bed.”
“In her rain boots?” asked Linda.
“Just ignore her,” said Mavis to Roger, not wanting to fight.
Linda blocked their path. “I saw you out in the yard. I don’t know where you went or what you did. But when I find out, I’m telling Grandma so fast your heads’ll spin.”
“Just as long as no heads roll,” said Mavis.
“Downwiththebloodybighead,” said Roger, under his breath.
“I heard that, scumbag,” snapped Linda.
Mavis just went into her room and closed the door. Reality wasn’t nearly as fun as Otherworld.
The next morning at breakfast, Grandma kept glancing worriedly at Mavis.
“Is there something wrong, Grandma?” asked Roger.
“No. I mean...are you sure that you’re alright, Mavis?”
“I’m as good as I ever am,” said Mavis. She raised her eyebrows at Roger but he just shrugged.
“Why do you ask?” asked Roger.
“I don’t know. Linda said that she heard something, and that she thought that you were hurting or...”
“Noooo…” said Mavis. “I just went upstairs and--”
“Whatever,” said Linda. “Sorry for pretending to care.”
Mavis put her head in her hand and used her fork to move the eggs around. She didn’t know that anyone was still looking at her.
“Poor Mavis,” said Grandpa softly.
“Poor Mavis. Hurt--hurting Mavis.”
“Don’t worry, dear,” said Grandma. “Mavis is going to be fine. Don’t you worry about anything.”
But Grandpa didn’t seem to hear. He just reached out and gently touched the side of Mavis’ face. “I see the mark, the hurting mark,” he leaned forward until their faces almost touched. “All in your head, isn’t it?”
Grandma was getting wide eyed, and Mavis was just starring. So Roger jumped up. “I’ll wash today. You want to dry, Linda?” And to her credit, Linda just stood up and started stacking dishes.
“Grandpa?” whispered Mavis. “What do you mean?”
But Grandpa had already gone back to tracing the flowers on the plate with a finger, his eyes watery and distant. “I’ll help you up to bed, dear,” said Grandma, still looking worriedly at Grandpa.
“Couldn’t I lay on the porch for awhile?”
Grandma looked surprised, but she nodded and helped her out.
Mavis curled up on the porch swing and closed her eyes. She wished that she could close out her thoughts. “All in your head, isn’t it? All in your head. Everything is all in your head. In your head…”
There was a thud, thud, thud, as Brent and Roger came out onto the pavement and started their drills. It was a comforting sound, in a way. A steady sound that her brain could latch onto and predict. It lulled her into a slight doze, warm and safe on the porch.
“Is Linda really your cousin?” Brent asked, and there was a swish of net.
Roger’s feet pattered as he went to get the ball before he replied “Yeah, she is.”
“Ok. She just doesn’t...”
“Look like us,” Roger finished. “It’s ok. She doesn’t. Her dad is Hispanic.”
“Oh,” said Brent, and there was a bonk from a rebound. “That’s cool.”
“It would be cooler if her dad wasn’t such a jerk.”
“Ugh. That must stink.”
“It does,” said Roger. “I think that’s why she’s so cranky. That’s why people are cranky in movies, you know, ‘cause of their rotten parents or luck or whatever.”
“Yeah,” said Brent.
“What’s cool is her Abuela. She’s amazing. She cooks like no one’s business and she tells the best stories.”
“That’s cool,” Brent agreed again. “One on one?”
“Sure thing,” said Roger.
Mavis listened to their game, enjoying being close enough to feel like a small part of what was going on. It was nice not to be up in her room.
The ball soared over the railing and hit into the wall of the house.
“Got it,” said Brent, heading toward the porch.
But Roger gasped. “Mavis is up there!”
She could hear the fear in their sudden silence, the sudden feeling of the air being sucked out of the yard. But she hadn’t been startled. She hadn’t been hit. She was just fine. So she sat up to tell them so.
But the looks on their faces rendered her speechless. Something was horribly wrong.