Seconds Away Page 15

’’I figured you\'d be home by now,’’ Myron said.

’’I\'m on my way.’’

’’Do you want me to pick you up?’’

’’No, I\'m good.’’

’’But you\'re on your way?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’Good,’’ Myron said. ’’I need to talk to you about something.’’

I switched hands. I could see Bat Lady\'s creepy house now. ’’Is everything okay?’’

’’Everything\'s fine,’’ he said.

’’Okay then. I\'ll be home soon.’’

I hung up. Bat Lady\'s house looked, as always, haunted. The wind had picked up and for a moment, I almost thought the gusts would topple it. There was a bent willow tree in the front yard and, I knew, woods in the back. Night had started to fall.

Ema and Spoon stayed on the sidewalk across the street. As I approached, I noticed that no lights were on. Not one. Strange. Usually the Bat Lady had a light on in her bedroom. But not tonight. I knocked on the door, feeling the porch beneath my feet shake. One of the columns had already collapsed.

There was no answer.

I walked back over to Ema and Spoon. We started down the street in silence. Suddenly yet as always Ema said, ’’I\'ll see you guys later.’’

She veered toward the woods without another word.

I wanted to ask where she was going or if I could accompany her, but I had been through that before. She would only get upset with me. I watched until she vanished into the thickness.

Unsure what to do, I let my curiosity get the better of me. I knew that it was probably wrong, that it was some kind of breach in our trust and friendship. As I said before, we are all entitled to our secrets. But I asked anyway.

’’Spoon?’’

’’Yeah?’’

I could still back off, but I didn\'t. ’’What\'s Ema\'s deal?’’

’’What do you mean?’’

I gestured toward where she\'d just disappeared. ’’Where does Ema live, who are her parents, that kind of thing.’’

Spoon pushed the glasses up his nose. He seemed lost in thought.

’’Spoon?’’

’’No one really talks to me directly. So this is all stuff I\'ve overheard.’’

I thought about that, about this town, about what it has done to him. Spoon wasn\'t so much actively bullied or picked on as he was ignored. Week after week, month after month, year after year ignored or worse. He had found an escape by pouring himself into things that don\'t turn away from you musical theater, books, random facts, his imagination. He was like a sponge, absorbing all of this information and goodness, but he didn\'t really have anyone to wring himself out on, as it were.

Except now, I guessed, he had me.

’’Well,’’ I said, ’’you\'re a great overhearer.’’

Was that even a word?

Spoon smiled. ’’Really? You think so?’’

’’Sure. So tell me. What have you overheard about Ema?’’

He made a face as though he was mulling that one over. ’’No one seems to know much,’’ Spoon said in a faraway voice. ’’But . . . there are stories.’’

’’Like?’’

’’You know her real name is Emma, not Ema, right?’’

I did. It seemed that Buck had helped give her that nickname in Spanish class, noticing that her real name was Emma and that she was kind of emo.

’’She moved into town three years ago. I\'ve never been invited to her house. Big surprise, right? But it isn\'t just me. I don\'t know anyone who has. Rumor has it, she lives in a cabin in the woods, you know, and her dad does something illegal. Like making moonshine or something.’’

I frowned. ’’Making moonshine?’’

’’Moonshine is a slang term for an illegally produced distilled beverage. There are other terms for it. Hooch, Devil\'s Brew, White Lightning ’’

’’I know, I know,’’ I said, putting a hand up to slow him down. ’’It just sounds kind of weird.’’

Spoon\'s eyes were wide now. ’’They also say her dad\'s an alcoholic. And he hits her a lot. They say she\'s got all those tattoos to cover up her bruises.’’

Could that be true? I didn\'t know what to say, but it suddenly felt like something heavy was sitting on my chest.

’’I Googled her once,’’ Spoon said. ’’Emma Beaumont. But there was nothing relevant. In fact, there is no listing of a Beaumont in town.’’

’’Nothing at all?’’

’’Nothing,’’ Spoon said. ’’In short, I don\'t know what Ema\'s \'deal\' is. But I like her a lot, don\'t you?’’

’’I do,’’ I said. And then, corny as it sounded, I added, ’’I like you a lot too.’’

My words startled him. Spoon looked up at me, blinked a few times, and then puffed out his chest. ’’I like you a lot too.’’

Spoon and I both just stood there, saying nothing.

’’We\'re having a moment, aren\'t we, Mickey?’’

’’Right,’’ I said, ’’and now I think it\'s time to end it.’’

’’Agreed,’’ Spoon said. Then: ’’Mickey?’’

’’Yes?’’

’’Don\'t you think it\'s time you told me all about Abeona?’’

He had a point. He had more than earned his stripes. ’’Yeah, Spoon. Maybe we should talk.’’

’’As we walk,’’ he said. ’’I have to get home, remember?’’

’’Right. The Musicals I Love Foundation meeting is over.’’

’’Exactly. Do you want to be vice president?’’

’’Sure, why not?’’ I said. ’’It\'ll look good on my college applications. One thing, though.’’

’’Yes?’’

I threw my arm around him. ’’We need to work on a name change. . . .’’

Chapter 14

I didn\'t know what to do with what I\'d just learned.

Ema was my best friend. I know that might sound pathetic we had only known each other a few weeks but it was the truth. We were more than that, really, though I couldn\'t quite figure out what that meant yet.

But if she was in danger. If someone was hurting her . . .

She had told me to butt out.

But could I?

From three houses away, I spotted Uncle Myron standing in the front doorway. For a moment, I just stood there and watched him. I tried to sort out my feelings for him, but they were all over the place.

Myron saw me and raised his hand in a wave. I waved back and hurried over to him.

’’Are you okay?’’ he asked. ’’How are you feeling?’’

I knew that he meant well, but I wished he\'d stop it. ’’I\'m good.’’


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