Mom frowned, leaning to look into the living room which was behind Haley and in the front of the house. Following her gaze, I noticed that unlike the windows in the dining room, the windows in the living room were shut. A breeze seemed unlikely.
“I felt it too,” she said, not looking at either Haley or me.
Dad nodded, “I think a thunderstorm is in the forecast. We could use it. The heat these last few days has been miserable. Well, enough about the weather. Did you see last night’s Tigers game, Haley?”
From there the conversation detoured away from troubling memories and weather to sports. Baseball, basketball, football, and hockey never interested me the way they did my dad, but Haley’s whole family, except for maybe her mom, followed them religiously. So, Dad got to talk sports with someone, much like he’d been able to do with Travis back when Rachel had been dating Travis.
I guess that was a good thing.
After supper, we talked a little longer, and then Haley and I went up to my room and not, in case you’re wondering, to make out. We’d have a lot more privacy for that anywhere else but my parents’ house. We went up to my room to see if there was anything else I needed to grab. I’d never had an official move-out date from my room. I’d always come home to grab a little bit more stuff.
Now, a little more than half of my books were still on my bookshelf, some of them college textbooks I couldn’t sell back, but didn’t want to throw away. Most were novels or comics. My senior pictures from high school in a multi-picture frame sat next to yearbooks.
A little bit of me was tempted to pick up the yearbooks and show them to Haley, but that part of me was outranked by that part of me that remembered high school. It hadn’t been great. It said something that senior year, the year in which the mayor tried to call in the government on me, and Ray and the Cabal tried to capture and kill me represented an overall improvement in my life.
Still, the half-empty bookshelves, the bed with its perfect, untouched green and white striped coverlet and sheets felt neglected. My desk was neat with no books or papers, but the working model I’d made of a trebuchet was still there. One of these days I’d have to move the disassembled parts of the finished version out of my parents’ basement.
Haley took it in in a glance, “Do you want to take anything?”
I shook my head, “I think I have everything I want on a day to day basis. I think the rest will have to wait until whenever the final, for real, move out date is.”
Then I noticed a matchbox on one of the shelves. Opening it to check whether what I thought was inside was still there, I saw a squat metal cylinder. Grandpa had invented a version of the transistor in 1939 because he’d needed one for an early Rocket suit. It predated the official invention of a useful transistor. He’d given me one once when I asked about it.
“You know what? I think I’ll take this,” I said, and pocketed the matchbox.
For a second Haley’s eyes followed the box and I felt sure she was about to ask about it. Instead, she blinked and turned toward my bedroom door, saying, “Your mom’s coming.”
Mom gave the door a knock and stepped inside without waiting for a response, closing the door behind her. Letting go of the doorknob, she turned to face us, “Do you know how long it will be before he knows?”
Freezing as I thought through my answer, I finally said, “I have no idea. I didn’t know he was this close to the end of his block until today. I mean, you’d probably have a better guess than I do. You actually had one like his.”
Mom’s face tightened, “I don’t know if it was the same sort of block as mine. Because I can do what I can do and my history, I think my block must have been more complex. Ben’s a normal person. His block might not be as complicated.”
And there I could have told Mom about the Artificers, the Live and Destroy factions, the Cosmic Ghosts, Lee, Magnus, and what I’d seen inside them, but I didn’t. Instead, I committed what’s called a sin of omission—I didn’t explain anything. Maybe that would have made what followed better, but even now, I doubt it. I knew that explaining all of that to the wrong person or telling someone who explained it to the wrong massive supernatural entity could end the world, maybe taking this arm of the galaxy with it.
Ignoring the fact that my dad had the worst possible name for the father of a superhero, I said the first thing that came to mind, watching her face for a reaction. “I can ask Daniel and his dad. They might know.”
Her mouth twitched, “Please do that. When Ray kidnapped me, it all fell away in a moment. I didn’t recognize all the ways it had been building up before then until later, but it could have fallen at a different time, one that would have been better, but also one that was worse. How do you think he’ll respond to finding out that we’ve known for years?”
I don’t know what I would have said next because my phone rang. Pulling it out of my pocket, I saw who was calling. Saying, “It’s Daniel,” I clicked on the screen and took the call.
Not even saying, “Hi,” Daniel went straight to the meat of why he was calling, “Do you remember after the Cabal when my grandpa went ominous and cryptic on us? He’s doing it again. He just told me to call you and tell you that ‘It’s starting. Find it before they do’.”