The Calling Page 55

He tried to stick them in my face. I grabbed him around the ankles and tickled the bottom of his feet. He let out a shriek.

“Well, you’re still ticklish,” I said. “And you still giggle like a girl.”

He tried to grab me, but I held his feet tight. Sam slid from the recliner and limped into the next room.

“Our immaturity is scaring her off,” I said. “Sorry, Sam. Come back and we’ll act our age.”

“No, I’m just grabbing some food. You two carry on. You’ve earned a maturity time-out.”

I let go of Daniel’s feet and he pulled them off my lap.

“We’re home,” I said. “Well, not our home but…” I leaned back into the cushions and let out a happy sigh. “Close enough for now.”

“Feels good, doesn’t it?”

“Unbelievably good.”

I opened my eyes and glanced at him.

“Thank you. For keeping me on my feet and getting us back here.”

“Um, pretty sure you did at least half of the ‘getting us back here’ part. And I needed some help staying afloat, too.” He paused. “Well, not as much as you, but that’s because I’m a guy and we’re naturally tougher.”

I threw a pillow at him.

“She’s not here,” Corey called as he thundered down from the second floor.


“MOM ISN’T HERE,” COREY said. “Neither is Travis. So much for my grand resurrection.” He slumped onto the sofa. “We’ll have to wait for them. Which is a little anticlimactic.”

We decided to clean up and eat. Start looking and feeling human again.

“There’s not much in the way of food,” Sam said. She’d come out of the kitchen with a Coke and a spoon heaped with peanut butter.

“What?” Corey said. “Mom knows better than to let our cupboards get empty or I’ll dig up her stash of fancy chocolate bars.”

“The fridge is practically bare,” Sam said. “Grocery shopping is apparently the last thing on your mom’s mind.

I’m sure there’s more in the cupboards. I just stopped at the peanut butter.”

We went into the kitchen. Corey headed straight to a cupboard and pulled out cereal and cookies.

“Pop’s in the fridge,” Sam said.

Daniel got that. As he stood there, door open, he glanced at me. I was looking past him at a loaf of bread, uncovered and rock hard, on the counter. Beside it was a pitcher. The smell of sour milk hit me as I moved closer.

Corey’s mom wasn’t here. She hadn’t been here since the fire.

Daniel shook his head at me. Don’t say anything yet.

I accepted a Coke from him and cookies from Corey. Then I took a bowl of cereal out toKenjii. Not ideal, but no worse than the granola bars I’d been feeding her.

As we headed back into the living room, I noticed the phone on the counter.

Daniel followed my gaze and laughed. “Um, yeah. We’re holed up, waiting to notify someone that we’re back … and there’s a phone. We’ve been in the woods way too long.”

He picked it up. Sam leaped forward and grabbed it from him.

“It could be bugged,” she mouthed.

Corey opened his mouth to argue, but she motioned for him to wait until she hung up. As she lowered the phone, she stopped. She looked at it. Lifted it to her ear. Frowned.

“It’s dead,” she said.

Corey took the phone from her. He jabbed a few buttons. Then he strode into the study and picked up another phone.

“Dead?” I said.

He nodded.

“Must be from the fire,” Sam said. “I’m surprised they even have electricity.”

Corey said nothing. He was staring at the empty desk. All the wires for a laptop dangled over the edge. He turned and tapped an empty shelf behind him.

“My laptop should be here.” He gestured at the empty desk. “It was when I left.” He turned to Daniel. “Okay, obviously between the fire and the crash, Mom hasn’t come home. But she didn’t take my laptop. She told me to pack it. I didn’t.”

“Why?” Sam said.

“Because my homework’s on it,” he said, in a tone that implied this was a stupid question. “Laptop perishes in the fire? I get a free pass on every assignment.”

“Which I’m sure she knew you’d try, so she took it. I’m supposed to be the paranoid one, guys, and I—”

Corey was already gone, heading for the stairs again. He took them two at a time. Then he pitched forward, hands clutching his head as he let out something between a moan and a strangled cry.

Daniel raced upstairs to help him to his feet … and Corey promptly puked on him.

“You were done with that shirt, right?” Corey mumbled as we half carried him into his room. He started to say something else, and heaved again, this time twisting enough to vomit on the floor instead.

Sidestepping the puddle, we got Corey onto his bed. He went into fetal position, hands over his head, moaning.

“Where are your pills?” Daniel said.


“We’ll find them,” I said, and started to go.

Corey grabbed my sleeve. “Stay.”

“Good idea,” Sam said. “My bedside manner sucks. I’ll help Daniel.”

They left. I knelt beside Corey’s bed, holding his hands as he groaned and writhed, his face shiny with sweat.

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