Twinepathy (Part 31): Lila or Maddie?

Hullo, everyone! I hope Monday’s post hasn’t left you hanging too much. 😉 Let’s learn a few more things today, shall we? Enjoy! New? Check out part one.

I gape at Keller, mouth wide open. Maddie looks panicked and freaked out and tries to pull away from Keller. Her whole body is rigid. Keller pulls away, frowning. “Lila?” she asks.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Jen comments from the doorway. I jump in surprise, my eyes meeting hers. She raises an eyebrow, and I look down at the ground sheepishly.

Keller grabs Maddie’s shoulders. “Lila, what’s wrong? What’s going on?” She sounds panicked.

“She has amnesia,” Jen says quietly. “You know her?”

Keller stares at Maddie. “She’s… my sister.” She whirls on Jen, eyes flashing. “What did you do to her?!”

Jen stands calmly, watching Keller. “I didn’t do anything to her. Why don’t we go inside and see if we can piece together everything that’s going on?”

Keller looks back at Maddie, a look of mixed horror and anger crossing her face. Then her shoulders slump and she nods.

We head inside and Maddie grabs my hand again, looking up at me with fear and worry in her eyes. I avoid looking at Keller as we head into the living room. I’m surprised to see Blaze relaxing on the couch, again with his mask on, but I’m not as surprised as he is. I’ve never seen so much shock on his face, not even when Brooklyn passed out. Then again, I’ve only known him for a week.

“What…!” he sputters.

The corner of Jen’s mouth twitches. “What perfect timing, hm?” She sits down next to Blaze, somehow looking just as at home as he does but still appearing poised. Keller slumps down into the armchair across from Jen, her eyes occasionally straying towards Maddie.

Jen turns towards me. “Let’s start with the easiest string to untangle. What are you doing here?”

I take a deep breath and dive into the whole story of how we tracked down Keller, doing my best to keep it short. Jen nods periodically, but when I finish, her expression doesn’t change. I squirm in my seat.

“Well,” she begins slowly. “You certainly have a knack for investigating. And being too curious.”

My face turns pink. “Maybe just a little bit,” I admit.

“And Brooklyn doesn’t know anything?” Jen asks.

I shake my head. “Not that I know of. She might be a little suspicious, though.”

“I would be,” Blaze says. He pauses. “Maybe not, if I was Brooklyn.”

I turn a fiery glare on him. “Are you insulting my sister?” I say in an icy voice.

Blaze grins, but Jen steps in. “Enough. Let’s move on. I used the same technique to find Keller, except I gained more information from Genesis. Keller is one of the people who was fighting in Brooklyn’s brain. That’s as far as I’ve gotten.” She turns to Keller. “I’ll let you explain the rest to us.”

And Keller begins.

Twinepathy (Parts 29 and 30): A Bit of A Surprise

Hullo, everyone! I hope you’ve had an enjoyable weekend! As you may have noticed from the title, I’m actually posting TWO parts today. This is happening for two reasons. First, yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the publication of Paralyzed Dreams!!!!! If you haven’t bought it yet, you should definitely go check it out and leave a review on Amazon or on Goodreads! The second reason is that Part 30 has a terrible cliffhanger… So my apologies. 😉 If you missed the part posted on Friday, you can see it here, and if you’re new, start at the beginning! 🙂

—-29—-

My fingers fly over the keyboard as I search for Keller Stone. There are a few options, but now that I know that Keller is a girl, I’m able to find the right one. And I’m astonished to find that she lives right here in town.

Perfect.

I’m about to hurry downstairs to get Denver when I realize he’s not here. No. I don’t want to let anyone else in on this, so how am I going to get there? I check the address. It looks like it’s within walking distance, but I need to check. I pull up a map and enter the address. Good, it’s pretty close, just past where I think the Lava Java café is. Perfect. Now I just have to get out of the house without getting stopped. I grab my shoes and wrack my brain for a good excuse.

“Where are you going?” Maddie asks, watching me in her perceptive way.

I pause. Again, Maddie can be my perfect excuse. “Would you like to do some shopping?” I ask.

She glances towards the door, towards Brooklyn. I don’t think I need anymore clothes.”

I grin. “Not that kind of shopping. I was thinking more like books or something. Whatever you want to look at.”

Maddie’s face lights up. “Sure, that would be nice.”

“Cool. Then go ahead and get ready to go. I’ve got a place we can walk to.” I grab my wallet. I can probably delay my investigation a little for a trip to the bookstore. And it’s a much better reason than just “going for a walk.”

After Maddie’s ready, I motion toward the door. “Let’s go, then.”

“We aren’t going to wait for Brooklyn?” Maddie asks.

I shake my head. “She’ll be in the shower for ages. And if she comes, you’ll probably end up with more clothes.”

Maddie smiles and follows me downstairs. Mom greets us as we pass through the living room. She’s doing something on the TV, probably setting one of her shows to record. “Going somewhere?”

“Just a little shopping,” I tell her.

“Without Brooklyn?” Mom asks, surprised.

I nod. “We’re not getting clothes, and she’s in the shower, anyway.”

“Well, be careful,” Mom says. “Make sure your phone’s on.”

I smile. “Got it. Don’t worry, Mom, we’ll be fine.” We’ll be fine while we’re shopping, but I’m a lot more worried about the meeting with Keller. What am I expecting to learn, anyway? She’s just a friend of Genesis. What would she know that could be helpful?

I shrug off my doubt and wave goodbye to Mom as Maddie and I leave. I don’t know what I’m doing, but it’s all I have to go on right now, and I can’t let all my hard work go to waste, right?

—-30—-

Maddie and I have a lot of fun in my favorite bookstore. I point out some of my favorite books from when I was younger to Maddie, ad she gets a couple of them. I pick up a few for myself, too. After we pay, we go out and start walking towards Keller’s house.

“Where are we going?” Maddie asks.

I search for a non-dangerous answer. “I thought we’d stop at Lava Java,” I say, pointing at the building ahead. I’d never been there before Jen showed us – in fact, I’d never noticed it before.

“Sure,” Maddie agrees. We pick up the pace a little as we near the shop. I reach for the door handle, frowning at how dark the shop is. But when I tug on the handle, the door doesn’t budge.

“It’s closed!” I exclaim. I step back and notice there’s no sign. “That’s weird…” That’s something I will definitely be asking Jen about.

“I guess we won’t do that, then,” Maddie remarks. She looks curiously at the shop, then around the street.

I nod. “Guess not.” I pause, trying to find the best way to put this. “We can go visit someone I know while we’re in the area. I think she might like to meet you.” Probably a dead lie. But I can hope, can’t I?

Maddie looks up at me. “What are we really going to do, Albany?”

Caught. Maddie’s really perceptive for a little girl and an amnesia victim. Or maybe it’s because she’s a little girl and an amnesia victim. I sigh. “I’m trying to find the person who hurt Brooklyn.”

Maddie frowns. “But isn’t that what Jen is doing? Can’t you just let her find the person?”

I sigh again. “I could, I guess. But I don’t want to sit around doing nothing! I want to help.”

“You are helping,” Maddie says thoughtfully. “But anyway, I guess if you’ve gotten this far, you might as well keep going.”

I reach down and squeeze her little hand. She’s so young to be caught up in all of this. I’m so young to be caught up in all of this! “Thanks, Maddie. Let’s go.”

We head off down the street, our pace slowing as we get nearer to Keller’s house. What are we doing? Everything in me screams Run! Finally, we come to a stop in front of the house. It’s small, fairly nice, but plain. The most eye-catching feature is the motorcycle parked out front. Why does that scare me even more?

We walk up to the front door together, and Maddie grabs my hand. Somehow that gives me extra strength, and I reach up and push the doorbell.

There’s some shuffling noises inside, and the door is opened by a woman, who is clearly an older version of the Keller in the picture, right down to the bright red hair.

She starts when she sees me, surprised. “Well. You’re not Genesis.” Then here eyes flash down to Maddie and double in size. “Lila!” she cries before bending down and enveloping Maddie in a hug.

Twinepathy (Part 28): Monopoly And Bingo

Hullo, everyone! For once, I actually remembered to post an extra part on Friday like I wanted to! How awesome is that? Enjoy, my friends! Check out part one if you’re new.

After I recover from my laughing fit, I head upstairs to check on Brooklyn. The door’s still closed, but I’m pretty sure I hear her moving around inside, so I knock softly. “Brooklyn?”

I hear a muffled “come in,” so I open the door cautiously. Brooklyn’s shuffling through her drawer, trying to pick out her clothes. Her eyes are surrounded by dark shadows.

“Sleep good?” I ask, concerned.

She shrugs. “Good enough, but my head still hurts. I hope we’re not doing anything strenuous today.”

I smile. “Monopoly?”

“Mmm…” Brooklyn pauses, considering. “I don’t think that’ll be too strenuous, but I do think Denver will have a better chance of beating me than usual.”

“Actually, he already left with Ezra,” I say. Brooklyn’s expression darkens, and I hurriedly move on. “But we started a game, and Maddie seems to be a master already. I’m not sure you’ll be able to beat her.”

Brooklyn gives me a doubtful look, but I think she picks up on the challenge. She grabs her clothes and heads towards the door. “We’ll have to play, then.”

I grin to myself as she leaves and sit down at the computer. I pull up the same search I used to find Genesis and type in the name Keller. Generally, that’s not a common name at all – I’ve never met anyone with that name – but since I don’t have a last name, there are still a lot of options. I scroll through the list. Hundreds of people. How will I ever find the right Keller? I need more to go on. How can this guy be connected, anyway? It doesn’t help that this person could live anywhere. Genesis could know someone named Keller who lives in England, or India, or Russia, or some tiny country no one’s ever heard of.

Besides, how do I know that Genesis is telling the truth? Maybe she is the person, and the Keller idea is just a stupid red herring. I rest my chin on my hand, glaring at the computer. I feel like I’m missing something. Maybe… could Genesis be on some social media?

The instant the idea hits me, I flip over to a social media site and search for Genesis, only hoping that she’s on there under her real name and not some crazy username. No luck. But I do notice that you can search by location, so I do that. White Bluff is pretty small, so maybe…

Yes, it’s small, but pretty much everyone in town has a social media account, apparently. A lot of them can be ruled out, but it’s still not good enough. What am I supposed to do? I grab my hair and growl to myself.

Maddie wanders into the room. “Whatcha doing?” She peers over at the computer.

I shrug. Nothing really incriminating on the screen. “I’m trying to find someone, but all I have is their first name and the name of one of their friends. I’m not sure where they live, either.”

“Who is it?” she asks.

I tap a finger on the desk. “Someone named Keller.”

Something sparks in Maddie’s eyes for a second, something I haven’t seen on her face before. But it disappears, and she frowns at the computer. “I don’t know. You could ask Data or Volt to find it for you.”

She catches on quick. I shrug again. “I don’t want to bother them. It’s not that big of a deal. I just need to find him.”

Maddie pauses, and it looks like she’s struggling to think of something. “It… might not be a him,” she finally says, giving up. “Keller doesn’t have to be a guy name.”

I hadn’t considered that before. But that strikes another idea in my head. “What if he’s her husband? Or a relative?” I mumble, quickly returning to the search I used to find Genesis and add “Fabel” to the name Keller. A minute later, I growl and bang my fist on the table, immediately wincing. No results again.

But then I see it. A small link at the bottom of the search, where things are listed that are close, but not exactly right. It’s an old-ish newspaper article. I click on it. In the main picture, two women stand holding a trophy, smiling happily for the camera. One is clearly Genesis – same raven black hair and face. The other has bright red hair and a face that looks almost familiar, but I can’t place it. I look at the caption on the photograph.

Genesis Fabel and Keller Stone…

Bingo.

Twinepathy (Part 27): You Have No IDIA

Hullo, everyone! I hope you had a great weekend, and a wonderful Valentine’s day! I hope you’re enjoying all of the post-Valentine’s sales… Enjoy the part, and check out part one if you’re new.

The drive home is gloomy and quiet. Denver must be thinking about our failure, while I’m just trying to figure this puzzle out. I’m smart, you know. I might not be able to match up with Jen’s brains, but I’m not an idiot. Right now, though, I feel like one. Why can’t I figure this out?

Mom and Dad are up when we get home, and Maddie’s helping them make breakfast. Denver gives them our story: we wanted to go for an early morning hike, which we actually do sometimes. They accept it without questions. Brooklyn’s still asleep, and I don’t blame her. We’ve had a rough week, her most of all. She deserves the rest. But that also means that I can’t go on the computer and check out this Keller person. Everyone else is too touchy about their computers to let me use them, especially since that one time I accidentally deleted Dad’s important twenty-one page paper. And that was five years ago. Yeah, my family holds grudges.

I help my mom with a few little things around the house and then turn my attention to Maddie. I think it’s high time she learned how to play Monopoly. I mean, she’s been here for about a week already, and we haven’t played with her yet! It’s basically a family tradition. So I convince Denver and Dad to join us, and we sit down in the living room, ready to play.

We play for about an hour, with me helping Maddie. She’s far, far ahead of all of us when the doorbell rings. Denver shoots up and races to the door like he’s on fire. What is he…

Ohhh. When he opens the door, I hear Ezra’s familiar voice. No wonder he was so eager to get to the door. He didn’t mention that they had any plans today.

Denver brings Ezra into the living room. “Let me just go get my stuff,” he says, moving towards the stairs.

Ezra nods and sits down, giving us a shy smile. She doesn’t know Dad very well, I know that much, and she always seems to have a little trouble talking to adults. Dad says hello and chats politely with her before excusing himself and leaving. I lean forward, moving my game piece to Go. “Hi, Ezra. Had any good IDIAs lately?”

Ezra gives me a confused look, but then it dawns on her, and she gives me a nervous look. She looks around and then leans in. “Does… does your family know?”

I know what she wanted to ask. Does Denver know? I shake my head. “No.”

Denver walks back in. “Okay, I think I’m ready. Albany, I think I heard Brooklyn moving around. You can probably go check on her.”

Finally. It’s almost lunch time. I don’t think she’s ever slept in this late. I nod. “Okay, I will. Have fun, you two. Make sure your phone’s charged.” I wink at Ezra.

Ezra and Denver both give me odd looks, but Ezra’s has so much more meaning. The front door shuts behind them, and I burst out laughing. Maddie gives me that funny look little kids give grown-ups when they do something that makes absolutely no sense. “You’re weird.”

I laugh harder. “You have no IDIA.”

Beautiful People February 2016: Denver and Ezra (Ezra’s Answers)

Here are Ezra’s half of the answers! Enjoy! 😀

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BeautifulPeopleHeaderWas asked to do this by C.B. Cook a friend of mine and of course I said yes. I mean, it’s adorable Denver and Ezra how could I not? Anyways, if you would like to see Denver’s answers to these questions you can click here!

  1. How did they first meet? Ezra: I bumped into him at the library, knocking the books out of his arms and awkwardly introduced myself.

    2.

    What were their first impressions of each other? Ezra: That he was waaayyy out of my league. I mean I know I’m not ugly, but I’m not exactly ‘model material’ either. But after getting to know him better I realized we’ve got a lot in common.

    3. How long have they been a couple? Ezra: I’m horrid with remembering things, uhhhhh seven months?


    4. How committed/loyal are they to each other? Would they break up over a secret or a…

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Beautiful People February 2016: Denver and Ezra (Denver’s Answers)

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From the moment someone suggested that I answer the Beautiful People questions for this month for Denver and Ezra, I knew I had to do it. So I sent an email to Ezra’s wonderful creator, asking if she wanted to do it in interview form. And she agreed! Ezra’s interview will be going up on her blog soon, so keep an eye out for that. If you have absolutely NO IDEA what I’m talking about (Who are Denver and Ezra, anyway?), check out the first Twinepathy post.

  1. How did they first meet? Denver: We bumped into each other at the library. Kind of literally. And then I kept seeing her at the library, and after a while I got the nerve to ask her out.
  2. What were their first impressions of each other? Denver: At first I was surprised at her purple hair, since she seemed really quiet. Then I noticed the geeky-ish books she had, and… we hit it off.
  3. How long have they been a couple? Denver: About… six or seven months?
  4. How committed/loyal are they to each other? Would they break up over a secret or a disagreement? Could stress drive them apart? Would they die for each other? Denver: Ugh, awkward question. I’m very loyal to Ezra. If anything happened to her… I don’t know what I’d do. I’m not sure a secret or anything would change that, depending on what it is, of course. 
  5. List 5 “food quirks” they know about each other. (Ex: how they take their coffee, if they’re allergic to something, etc….and feel free to mention other non-food quirks!) Denver: So many. She’s wonderful that way. She’s allergic to shrimp and mushrooms, and she loves popcorn. She likes chocolate chip cookies, but only the chewy kind, and she’s good at making them, too. Better than Albany, at least. One of my favorites is that she’ll dip her fries in her milkshakes when she gets one. Favorite to watch, not to try. And… I’ll have to go with a non-food one. She can’t fall asleep without some sort of noise, like the TV or music.
  6. Does anyone disapprove of their relationship? Denver: *laughing* Hehe, well… my parents like Ezra, and my sister Albany enjoys her most of the time… but my other sister, Brooklyn… Let’s just say that “disapprove” isn’t the right word. She’d much rather I never got a girlfriend.
  7. What would be an ideal date? Denver: Curling up on the couch and watching a movie.
  8. What are their personality dynamics? Similar? Contrasting? Do they fight a lot or mesh perfectly? Denver: I’d say that we’re pretty similar. I don’t think we’ve ever had a fight…
  9. What have been their best and worst moments together as a couple? Denver: Best is… the first time we worked on a computer together. That was fun. Worst… Any moment we’ve had with Brooklyn around? I don’t know…
  10. Where do they see themselves and their relationship in the next few years? Denver: I’d say we’d be closer than now, maybe even… married? I don’t know… (Note from the interviewer: Subject is blushing furiously.)

Well, friends, I hope you enjoyed that! Let me know what you think in the wonderful comments below. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Twinepathy (Part 26): A Creeping Suspicion

Hullo, everyone! Ready for another Monday? It feels like I just posted a part… oh, wait, I did! I posted Part 25 on Saturday, so if you missed that, you should go read it, and if you’re new, you should start at the beginning. Enjoy!

Ms. Fabel’s jaw drops. “What…” But she collects herself quicker than anybody I’ve ever seen and gets a firm grip on my arm, glaring at me with a menacing expression. “You’re from that IDIA thing, aren’t you? That Data person already knows everything, so why did she send you?”

My first thought is Denver. But we’re standing in a position that prevents him from seeing my arm. I glance back frantically, but he’s still digging through the car. He must have left his phone at home if he can’t find it. Denver, please… Do I scream? Do I send a panic message to Brooklyn?

Her voice softens a little. “I don’t want to hurt you. I just want to know why you people are invading my life… my privacy. And my friend’s, too. We haven’t done anything wrong. We don’t deserve this.”

I open my mouth, then close it. I sigh. “My sister was knocked unconscious by two people fighting in her brain. One of which was you. But I’m sure you remember that.” I look her in the eye.

Ms. Fabel looks surprised. “Me?” She looks at me and realizes I’m serious. “I’m not a telepath,” she says firmly, and I get the creeping suspicion that she’s telling the truth.

I frown. “But…”

She sighs. “It wasn’t me. I’m not sure what happened, but I wasn’t a part of it. That Data girl knows everything. Why don’t you ask her?”

“Why can’t you tell me yourself?” I counter. The last thing I want to do is go to Jen and ask for information. That would ruin everything, and besides, I’d probably have to admit that I’d been investigating on my own. And I don’t want that to happen.

“I can’t,” she insists. “I’m sworn to secrecy, and it would be too dangerous. I’d never forgive myself if something happened…” She looks past me. “So is he really your brother?”

I turn and see Denver heading back towards us, no phone. I face her. “He is, and he also knows nothing about all of this. Please don’t say anything.” Denver’s within earshot now, and I can only pray she doesn’t say anything.

Denver holds up his empty hands. “No phone. Guess I must have left it at home in the rush to get out the door.” He gives me a pointed look. “I’m sorry we took up so much of your time.”

Ms. Fabel waves a hand in the air. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll let you know if I find any information. I hope you find the girl’s family.”

“Thank you,” I tell her, my eyes showing her there’s a double meaning to my words. I pull out a slip of paper and write my cell phone number down on it. “You can call me if you hear anything about it.”

“It was nice meeting you, Ms. Fabel,” Denver says, offering her his hand.

She shakes it. “Call me Genesis.” She tilts her head, listening. “It’s too quiet. I’d better go.”

I nod and Denver and I turn to leave. “Have a great day,” I call over my shoulder.

The door closes, and Denver and I head to the car. “That was unsuccessful,” he says, sighing.

I slide into the seat and look out the window. Maybe it was unsuccessful on the Maddie front – like I knew it would be – but it seems to be a little bit of progress on the Brooklyn front. Now I’ve just got to see who this Keller person is.

 

Twinepathy (Part 25): Stupid Me

Hullo, everyone! I’ve been wanting to post an extra part for a while now, but it always seems to slip my mind. Not today!!! Feel free to slap Albany in the comments below. You’re welcome. New? Check out Part One.

“Albany!” Denver scolds me, grabbing my arm. “I’m so sorry,” he apologizes to Ms. Fabel. “I’m not sure what’s gotten into her. We should go.”

I pull away from him. “No. Ms. Fabel, we really need to talk to you. About our friend,” I add hastily. I pause, making myself get emotional. “She’s about ten years old, and we’re trying to find her family.”

Ms. Fabel pauses, confused. I’m not sure what kind of friend she thought we were talking about, but she certainly didn’t think it was a little girl. But still she stands guardedly in the doorway. “What’s her name?” she asks.

“Maddie,” Denver says, relaxing a little now.

I jump in. “Actually, we don’t know her name. We’ve just been calling her Maddie. She has amnesia.”

Her eyes narrow again at the mention of amnesia. I forgot that Jen’s probably talked to her. Amnesia would be a touchy subject after that, a warning signal. “And what does that have to do with me?”

I weave an elaborate story about looking for people in nearby towns, and how she seemed like a likely person. “I have a list of other possible people,” I lie. “But you seemed like the most likely, and I couldn’t wait to ask you about her. I thought you might know her, or have lost her, maybe.”

Ms. Fabel shakes her head. “I’m sorry, I don’t.” But I can tell she’s just trying to get rid of us. “I’ll let you know if I hear anything, though.” She reaches for the door again.

“Wait.” I turn to Denver. “Do you have a picture on your phone that you could show her?”

He reaches for his pocket. “Oh, my phone’s in the car. Let me go get it.” He turns and hurries over to the car. I know for a fact he hasn’t taken a picture of Maddie, but this is my chance. He probably didn’t realize that. He’s so scatterbrained sometimes, just like Ezra. I immediately push her out of my brain.

I offer my hand to Ms. Fabel. “You are Genesis Fabel, correct? I’d feel really bad if you weren’t.”

She nods, setting the toddler down and reaching for my hand. “I am.”

The instant our hands connect, I dive into her brain. I’ve learned from Jen that some telepaths can guard their brains – at least, I assume that’s what Jen does – but getting into Ms. Fabel’s brain is as easy as getting into Denver’s head. The first thought that surfaces (I always refer to that as the “prominent thought,” because it’s what the person’s thinking the most about at that moment) is “I need to tell Keller.”

Ms. Fabel lets go of my hand too soon, so I’m left blinking and looking at her. “Who’s Keller?” I ask.

Stupid me.

Twinepathy (Part 24): Meeting Ms. Fabel

Hullo, everyone! How are all of you doing this fine Monday morning? Happy for a new part? I am… 😉 New? Check out part one.

The week passes in impatient agony for me. Mom’s at home the rest of the week, so we don’t have to take Maddie to IDIA. School feels even longer and more boring than usual for me, but it’s even worse for Brooklyn, since she’s still got a raging headache. Every time I see her wince or rube her aching head, it’s all I can do not to punch something… or someone. I leave a stormy look on my face so people will leave me alone.

On Saturday morning, I wake up around six, knowing that Denver will take ages to get up and get ready to go, but impatient nonetheless. I quietly go to the bathroom and shower. First dibs is always nice. It only takes me a couple of minutes to get ready, but when I get out, everyone’s still in bed. It is Saturday, after all.

So I have a choice. Do I wait patiently, or do I wake Denver up?

I’ve never been patient, that’s for sure.

“Albany, go away!” Denver mumbles, flipping over and burying his face in his pillow.

I stand over him with my hands on my hips. “Do I need to get some ice water?” I threaten in a fake sweet voice.

He sits up slowly, a grumpy look on his face. “I’m older than you and Brooklyn, but you’re always bossing me around,” he grumbles. He does a zombie walk to the bathroom. I take pity on him and go down to the kitchen to pull together an easy, unruinable breakfast – also known as cereal.

Denver comes downstairs fifteen minutes later, hair wet and tousled from his shower. He goes over to the coffee machine to make his coffee, which I didn’t dare to attempt. He sits down at the table, looks at me, and then pours himself a bowl of granola. “We could’ve waited until this afternoon, so I could sleep in. It’s not like we’re on a deadline,” he grumbles.

Oh, if only you knew. “I just can’t wait,” I insist. “If this works out… if it’s really her family, then she’ll be so happy.”

Denver nods reluctantly in agreement. “Well, I hope you’re right. I’d hate to waste a trip up there for nothing.”

If he knew what was really going on, we wouldn’t be going at all. But I simply nod and hurry to get the dishes cleaned up and put away as he pours his coffee into a mug for the drive. Before I know it, we’re on the road in Denver’s old fixer-upper car and headed towards White Bluff. I put one of Denver’s favorite CDs into the CD player to get him into a good mood. I’d prefer silence and random jokes about the passing billboards and scenery, but I know how he likes music. I just hope he doesn’t start singing.

A little over forty-five minutes later, we pull up in front of the address. The house looks good, well-cared for, with some really nice flowerbeds out front. I’d guess they’re the work of someone who loves flowers but wants to keep it easy to care for. Denver nods. “Looks like a nice place.” He turns off the car and reaches for the door handle.

I pause. “You’re coming?”

He gives me a look like I said that I made filet mignon and chicken cordon bleu without burning it. “Of course I am. They’re strangers, after all.”

That I hadn’t planned on. I manage a grin. “That’s true.” Internally, I’m screaming, What am I going to do???

We get out and head to the front door. My brain zooms through options. Is it possible I could get Denver to leave me alone with Genesis Fabel? That doesn’t seem likely. And what are we going to do if IDIA has already got to her – which, in all likelihood, they have – and she’s not even here? All the worrying is going to make me sick. Denver rings the doorbell, and we wait.

Denver’s about to ring the doorbell again when the door swings open. A lady with long, raven-black hair stands in the doorway, an adorable chubby toddler on her hip. She looks us over with a glint of suspicion in her eye. “Hello,” she says, her voice a bit chilly. “What can I do for you?”

I step forward before Denver can say anything. “Are you Genesis Fabel?” I ask.

Her eyes narrow slightly. “Why do you ask?”

Why is she so jumpy, if she’s not the right person? Jen must have come and talked to her. “I’m Albany, and this is my older brother, Denver,” I explain. I do my best to look friendly and cheerful. Think like Brooklyn. “We wanted to talk to you about a friend of ours.”

She reaches for the door handle. “I’m sorry, I can’t talk right now. I’ve got a lot going on.” She begins to shut the door.

What to do? She can’t do this! I panic, and I shove my foot between the door and the door frame. “No,” I tell her firmly, narrowing my eyes. “We need to talk to you, now. And you can’t get rid of us.”