Home > Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood #1)(4)

Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood #1)(4)
Victoria Scott

Cody sits up in bed and nods as Mom talks about lesson plans. Something about her voice is too eager tonight, like she’s trying too hard to get the rest of us to smile. I glance at my dad and realize she’s failed to amuse at least one of us. My dad’s fork twirls in an endless circle, turning my spaghetti masterpiece into reddish-orange mush.

I can’t stand the look on his face any longer. “Dad, you okay?”

His head snaps up, but it takes a while for his mouth to form a smile. “Yeah, everything’s great.”

Great? Now I know something’s up. Without meaning to, I eye the pocket where I know he stashed the device. He places a hand over it, and our eyes meet.

“Let’s do the dishes, Andrea.” Dad looks away from me and to my mom. They couldn’t be more different tonight: Dad with his somber twitchiness and Mom with her pageant smile.

My mom nods and collects our paper plates. Then she leaves, giving my dad a final look. These trippy vibes are killing me, so I open my mouth to say something, anything. “Nice prank, Cody. Too bad Dad killed your punch line.” It’s not the best I’ve got, but I feel like my dad’s bad mood started with the blue box. Why not lay it on the table while he’s still in the room?

Cody is in the middle of pulling himself farther up in bed but stops when he hears what I’ve said. He looks down and bunches the blanket into his fist. His face looks almost pained. A shiver works its way down my spine. What if Cody didn’t put that box in my room? But if he didn’t, then who did? Dad’s too pissed to have done it, and Mom would never do something like that. At least, I don’t think she would. She’s surprised me too much this last year to know for sure.

The shiver sneaking down my back starts to morph into goose bumps. But right then Cody raises his head and grins. “Took a lot of brainpower, baby sister,” he says, tapping his temple. Then he shakes his head as if I’ve been a huge disappointment. “Would have been so great.”

I sigh with relief. Adventure sounds a whole lot more enticing when it’s safe inside my head. For a minute there, I was thinking he might be like, “What are you talking about?” And then I’d have to decide if I really did want something exciting to happen, or if I just liked to dream.

Rolling my eyes, I say, “More like lame. It would have been so lame.”

I head toward the door, surprised Dad hasn’t spoken. If this is what he’s mad about, why hasn’t he piped in? As I’m heading out to help Mom in the kitchen, I look back over my shoulder. I catch Dad giving Cody a nod. It’s just a nod, nothing special. But something passes between the two of them during the exchange. They both look relieved, and it’s the most unsettling feeling — not knowing what they were so worried about.

Walking down the hallway and toward the sound of my mom humming, I can’t stop thinking about the device. What it really is. How Cody got his hands on it.

If it even was Cody.

The look on his face when Dad nodded makes me question everything. I set my glass down on the kitchen counter, and though I know my mom is talking to me, I don’t hear a single word. Because all I’m thinking is that I’ve got to get that little white device back. Tonight.

CHAPTER THREE

That blue box was meant for me, and my dad stole it. Even if Cody did plant it in my room, which I’m starting to doubt he did, my dad had no right to take it away. What am I — five?

I sit in the living area with my mom and dad, staring at the book in my hands. I’m not reading — I’m masterminding a complicated escape plan for my device. So far, I don’t have much in the escape department, but I’ve come up with plenty that could be classified as complicated.

The only thing I hear — and it’s driving me crazy — is the sound of my mom and dad turning the pages of their own books. God forbid we buy a TV for this house. Wouldn’t want anyone to have a link to life beyond the Holloway household. I swear, the second Cody got sick, my parents lost all sense of reality.

But right now none of that matters. The real reason I’m irritated with my parents is because I want them in bed. Asleep. Where they can’t watch me slink around the house, looking for my device. And I am going to slink like nobody’s business.

I glance at the clock. It’s ten at night, and my parents look like they could run a marathon. I stare at them as they stare at their books and will them to become tired. After five minutes of mental warfare, I give up. But just then my dad yawns. Victory is mine!

“Think I’m going to hit the hay,” he says.

“I’m right behind you,” my mom answers, not even looking up. She doesn’t move.

Hoping she’ll be swayed by numbers, I stretch my arms over my head and announce, “I’m exhausted. I think I might turn in, too.”

That does the trick. She runs her finger down the page. It’s her telltale sign that she’s finding a stopping point. She reaches for the busted-up bookmark I gave her for Mother’s Day when I was, like, nine, and slides it into place.

“You going to bed, too?” I ask.

She looks up at me and smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes. I suddenly wonder if my parents were doing the same thing I was — pretending to read.

“Yep” is all she says. Then we begin a Mexican standoff: me waiting for her to get up and her waiting for … what?

“Okay,” I say, caving. “Guess I’m going to go now.” I stand up and walk toward my room, throwing the book I wasn’t reading onto the couch. Right before I leave, I glance back. She’s watching me go, so I throw a little wave. Mom waves back, but her smile is long gone.

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