Good thing John was awake to smell the smoke. Just don’t ask him why he was up in the first place.
June wakes up in the middle of the night, knowing something is wrong. The problem is figuring out what.
It wasn’t supposed to get this hot, this high up in the mountains. Birdie could remember her childhood, all the way back in the last millennium and she couldn’t ever remember temperatures above ninety degrees. Oh, sure, odd heat waves here and there. A couple of days, three tops. And then the winds would change and the temperatures would fall back into the upper seventies. Hot enough when you’re used to Easters and Halloweens buried in snow.
Nico leaned against the doorframe in his room, yawning and wiping the sleep out of his eyes. “Who is it?” he asked, knowing damn well there was only one person in the Biddies who would pound on his door at the ass-crack of dawn.
In the Before Times (something he always called it in his head but never out loud, at least not since that one time he said it and Doc Wendy looked like she’d take his head off) Henry had never been an early riser. His parents, his bosses, his professors, his coaches, they had all tried all sorts of crazy things to get him somewhere on time before ten o’clock. Alarms that were loud enough to tear a hole in his eardrum. Alarms that required he solve a math problem or a puzzle before they shut up. Cold buckets of water. Nothing ever worked for long. Henry just loved his sleep.
Spring had finally come to the Biddies, but only because Marietta had said it had.
Birdie had spent the night pacing in front of her bed, tossing this way and then immediately getting uncomfortable and turning back the other, pacing some more, being mad at Wendy, and then being mad at herself, staring out the window at the stars like some kind of sad movie heroine, and finally falling into broken, unsatisfying sleep as she gripped a pillow to her chest. All the while June slept a deeper sleep than he had since he had stumbled into town, not even waking when she had stubbed her toe while pacing.
Wendy flipped through the book. She remembered the pop-science books from when there had been bookstores. Always at the front of the store, on one of the tables people browsed through to kill time but never picked up from. Always colorful with a cutesy title. The books would be hardcover and big, but when you picked them up they seemed to be light as a soul, and the print inside would be huge. Summer or airport reading designed to make you look smarter to strangers.
There were three ways to survive the Blues, and they were not equal. The worst was also the rarest.
Birdie kept herself at a jog as she went through the mall, peering into the stores. If she went any faster, if she started to run, the panic would set in. There was no reason to panic. Not yet. He’d be here, somewhere. The good memories the lit-up mall had brought to her were gone. There was only one memory, the same memory her mind retreated to whenever she became stressed.