My fulls arrive, not surprisingly, super early.
"Can you hear us, Tig? We’re ringing the bell—can you hear it?”
I open the door. “Yes, I can hear you,” I tell them. “My numbers are back to normal. They have been for a long time now, you know that.” I open my arms. “Happy greets, Mom and Dad.” I can tell my mother wants to hug me, but she’s not doing it. She’s trying desperately to stand still and hold on to that dourpuss stretched across her face. Dad’s sporting the matching paternal version.
Did they practice these in front of each other before they left the house?
“Could you at least wait until you step inside before you start frowning?”
“What’s there to smile about?” dad says.
“Well, it’s a beautiful day and you’re both here for the first time in months and I’m staying out of trouble and it’s a beautiful day and can we not talk about this right now. I’d just like to forget the whole thing happened and I can’t do that if I’m constantly getting beat up about it. I’m here now, it’s a new life for me, and I just want to move on. Can we do that? Can I just move on?”
Mom goes from zero-to-slobbery in one point three seconds. “Of course we can, sweetie. We forgive you,” she says, pulling me to her bosom while my father grumbles something about babying. “Now that they’ve shipped that awful girl far away from here things can get back to normal for you.”
“Well I hope you learned your lesson,” dad says. “At least that way something good can come out of this whole mess.”
I nod like the dutiful son. It seems to appease them and I truly am happy they feel better. I never wanted to hurt them. We spend the rest of the day talking and lunching. They give me the know on everything that’s happening back home.
It’s good to hear their voices again.
But when I’m talking they both have this weird look about them. I can’t really explain it, but I feel like they look at me differently now. I remember thinking in mid-speech how I wish I could take that look from their faces and replace it with the one they used to have. I wish I could bring back my innocence, if only for their sake. But I guess you can’t unbreak an egg. Outside, the snow flew around in big swirlies and then settled to the ground. It’s so cold. When it’s like this it’s hard to imagine it’ll ever be springtime again.
“Just let me see it and I’ll never ask you about it again,” Alfa says while he trudges through some shrubbery.
“I don’t like being out here,” I tell him. I brush aside one of the aspen’s pale branches. “If they find me back in the west grove I’m totally kuffed. You know that.”
“Don’t get all inside-out on me, Tig. It’s a sunshiney Saturday, the ice is melted—we’re allowed to take a walk as long as we stay on the grounds. No one suspects a thing.”
“O-kee-dee, I’ll show it to you, but then we ghost out of here, and don’t even think about going up.”
“You think I’m manic or something? After all the tales you tell, I just want to see it with my own two.” I stare down at a twig with a few round aspen leaves attached to it. He begs me again, “Show me this lantillo tree.”
I understand, I really do. That whale tale I fed them is a pretty ripe fish to swallow whole. A little too hard without at least some proof. Alfa’s been top notch to me this entire school year so I suppose if I owe anything to anyone, I owe it to him. After about ten minis in the grove, we’re at the polyfence.
“Here it is,” I say, pointing out an azure-stained tree stump. “Or should I say, here it was.”
“What’s with the blue paint?”
“It’s not paint,” I tell him. “It’s called dolorjuice—it kills the tree. Should’ve known they’d poison it.” I clap my hands once. “That’s it, you’ve seen it. Right where I told you it would be. Can we go now?” Alfa begins to pace. “What’s wrong with you?” I say.
“Tig, I haven’t been telling you all truths.”