“I can’t talk about my family,” I explained to everyone at the table. “It’s too risky.”
“Wait a sec, they’re really spies?” Kiki exclaimed. “That is so cool! So, is, like Ombee a fake name, to throw people off?”
“Something like that,” I said.
“Holy Smokes,” said the kid with the backward hat. “Tell us everything.”
I smiled but shook my head. “I really can’t talk about it.”
Leila reached inside the hat and pulled out a never-ending multi-coloured scarf. Red and green and yellow and blue and purple and orange. Her father was obviously trying to distract them from the idea of the monkey running scared outside. Classic misdirection, Leila thought.
“Hurry now!” Mr Vernon added, snapping his fingers excitedly. “A good magician should never be caught unprepared when the audience arrives.”
“Welcome to Misty Valley!” Ms. Webster called, smiling. Her face looked pleasant now, wholesomely weathered. Her eyes were calm, sane. The streaky black makeup, the tears, the skull smile were all gone. She might have been a totally different person, except Ollie recognized her long amber-honey braid.
Liam made a grumbly sound that kinda turned me on and wrapped his arm around my middle as I walked by. My feet left the floor even though they kept moving as if I were walking.
“You ain’t walking around in front of Alex with no pants on, woman.”
A disgusted sound ripped out of me, and I glanced up. “I’m not putting on my murder pants.”
The steady flow of brain-exploding new things was hammering at her. When she was little, a wave had knocked her over at the seaside, and every time she’d tried to get up the next wave had knocked her down again. This was worse. Her mum had come and picked her up back then. Who was going to help this time?
I’m surrounded by cattails. They jog the memory of the egret, tall and reed-thin. Something not quite reight about those spindly legs, the curved beak tucked to its breast, the eyes like beads of volcanic glass.
I turn slightly, and it’s there: tall, dark egret shape, the head cocked in study of me. I jolt, flashes of thought (egret – Mumbler – run) slamming through me, but my feet are rooted, and I nearly fall.