Authors: Eve Hathaway
Tags: #ya action adventure romance, #ya romance fantasy, #ya mythology, #ya action adventure, #ya romance, #ya urban fantasy romance, #ya love and romance, #ya teen supernatural, #ya gods, #ya coming of age, #ya mystery, #ya paranormal action books, #ya thriller romance, #ya romance paranormal, #ya fantasy
Tomas came back.
"Yo hablo Espanol,"
he said, before she could screw up a "hello" again. "I understand, but you must speak slowly," he added.
Mila didn't quite know what to say.
she said, to fill the air with something other than his expectation. She'd spent the afternoon trying to avoid him so that she wouldn't inadvertently remind him of his memory loss. It should have been easy in a house this large-sometimes there were days, literally, when she didn't see one parent or the other, after all-and yet he seemed to pop up everywhere, wanting to carry something or do something or hold something. Eventually, she'd retreated to her room and closed the door; only coming out when their guests arrived. It was always a big deal when they arrived, mostly because they always missed the turnoff the first time and had to drive to the next little village before they realized their mistake. Some of them never did find the turnoff, and ended up renting a room in Cancun. Gloria and George always had champagne waiting, and it was Mila's job to smile and put up with being ogled while introductions were made. This time was no different, except that the Alvarezes couldn't quite figure out how to introduce the one they'd later christen Tomas, and in the midst of all the ums and ahs, Mila slipped away, only to run into Tomas in the kitchen. Again.
"Are you afraid of me?" Tomas asked suddenly, jarring her out of her blank-minded state.
"What? No," Mila said. "Why would you think so?" The question was out of her mouth before she remembered how skittish she'd been acting. "I'm just- I've never had a- Never mind." She caught herself before the word
could escape her, because he wasn't her boyfriend. Why did her subconscious insist on acting as though he were? "It's just... strange, I guess."
"I will try not to be strange," Tomas intoned.
Despite herself, Mila had to smile at him. He was so serious, so sincere. The word "cute" came to Mila's mind, but she squashed it with a hard blink and merely nodded. "It's late," she said, finally. "I should probably go to bed. It's going to be a busy day we'll have a lot of work tomorrow."
THE NEXT MORNING, Mila was awakened at five-thirty by the sound of something scraping the stone in the courtyard. Bleary-eyed, she got up and stumbled out of her room, wondering why their guests were trying to tear up their courtyard. It was ugly, sure-f of weeds and a fountain that didn't work-but that didn't give them the right to wake the world at this ungodly hour trying to destroy it.
What she saw, though, when she stomped out of the house, was Tomas, on his hands and knees, attacking the cracks between the stones with the point of a crowbar. He was at the other end of the courtyard, where the kitchen was, opposite the bedrooms and the servants' quarters. So far, Gloria was not in sight and Mila considered warning him to stop with the noise already. But Tomas saw her at that moment and waved.
"I am cleaning the courtyard," he said, as she walked towards him, not giving her a chance to ask. "The dirt between the stones is enough to grow the grass, and their roots run deep and crack the rock elsewhere, see?"
Mila nodded, even though the words washed over her meaninglessly. "Why are you awake so early?" she asked.
Tomas shrugged. "I couldn't sleep," he said.
Mila sighed. "Well, at least let me make you something to eat," she said, going past him to the kitchen. She wondered what had happened to the eggs she was supposed to take to Paulo the previous morning. She couldn't remember if she'd brought them home, or if she'd left them on the beach. But wherever they were, they weren't in the kitchen. She'd have to get more from the chickens.
She grabbed the egg basket on her way out of the kitchen, remembering how oddly quiet the chickens had been yesterday. She hoped they were doing better. The sun was rising now, and the jungle's usual cacophony was beginning, floating over the walls of the house on the sea breeze. Everything was back to normal again, Mila noticed.
When did that happen?
She couldn't remember, and it bothered her. She'd been distracted and flustered yesterday, so it was impossible to be certain, but the hairs on the back of her neck rose as she realized that it was likely that everything went back to normal when Tomas was resuscitated. Did it happen the moment he took that first gasping breath? She couldn't be sure; she'd been so focused on him. Then she remembered that she didn't believe in ghosts. Irritated, she tried to dismiss the idea that Tomas had anything to do with the life returning to the area, but instead she was only reminded that the
had been sparky enough to leave their area and join them for dinner-all four of them.
Mila gathered the eggs and brought them back to the kitchen. Tomas stood up when he saw her, and reached for the basket with a little bow. Mila was still too sleepy to protest. She followed him to the kitchen, and began pulling down the bowls and the whisks and taking out the cutting boards and things to make eggs and tortillas and orange juice.
"Can I help?" Tomas asked.
"I guess you can crack the eggs," Mila said, fishing out some tomatoes from the dish they sat in. "I'll make the salsa." She began chopping the tomatoes and onions, pointing him at the bowl.
Tomas stood behind the bowl and cracked an egg. They both jumped back when a chick came flying out, cheeping its protest.
"Maybe it was an old egg," Mila said after a moment. The chick was scrabbling around the bowl, trying to find some kind of footing on the smooth surface. Mila tilted it back into the basket and carried it to the henhouse, wondering how the egg had managed to escape her notice yesterday. She let it scurry to the feeding trough, where the other chickens had congregated. If the other birds didn't kill it, then maybe they would have another chicken one of these days.
An anguished cry broke the morning calm. It came from Tomas, and Mila ran back to the kitchen, hoping that he hadn't hurt himself or cut off his finger with a knife. She could hear Gloria's voice sneering in her head,
Men don't belong in the kitchen.
"What is it?" Mila asked as she barreled through the doorway. Tomas was sitting on the floor, his face wrenched into a combination of horror as he pointed at the bowl on the counter. Mila couldn't see into the bowl, but she didn't have to-the soft cheeping noises the baby chicks made said it all.
"What did you do?" Mila demanded, even as she knew it made no sense to blame him. But then she realized that there was no way ten eggs would have escaped her notice yesterday. The flock numbered only fifteen birds, and if they had been old eggs, it would have meant that ten eggs had escaped her notice for three weeks. She knew she wasn't that inattentive.
"I don't know," Tomas said. "I don't know."
Footsteps outside the kitchen door approached. Mila felt a surge of panic running through her. There was only one other person who would be awake at this hour; and Gloria would not be pleased at the fact that ten perfectly good eggs had spontaneously hatched when there were guests who would be expecting breakfast. Mila shoved the cheeping bowl under a towel and stepped in front of Tomas, her heart racing.
Please, God, let her be in a good mood,
"What is going on here?" Gloria demanded as she came in. "First I hear someone tearing up the courtyard and- What's that?"
Mila felt the need to come up with a semi-plausible lie, only there was no good lie that would explain how ten newly-hatched chicks ended up in the mixing bowl. Gloria scowled at her, and then at Tomas. "What's going on here?" she demanded an instant before she saw the birds. "What is that? Are you planning on cooking baby chickens for our guests-""No, Mama," Mila said, hurriedly. "I just-"
"A neighbor dropped them at the edge of the jungle early this morning," Tomas said. "I felt bad for them, so I picked them up."
Mila's mind blanked. Tomas had told the lie so smoothly that, for a moment, even she believed it. She could actually picture him in her mind leaning over and scooping up the chicks into the bowl, and bringing them to the kitchen because he didn't know how to open the chicken run.
Gloria weighed what he said-true, or false? Mila fought the urge to take Tomas's hand. It would give them away. And indeed, it was "them" and not just Tomas, because with those two sentences he'd cast his lot with Gloria alongside hers. "Very well," Gloria sighed. "Were there any eggs this morning, Mila?"
Mila shook her head, no, pointing to the empty egg basket. "They must be having an off day," she said. It did happen occasionally. There was nothing to do then but drive the five miles to the nearest store in Playa del Carmen to buy the eggs. Gloria waved her away with an impatient flick of the wrist. "Go then," she snapped. "I need you to get back before nine."
Mila felt lighthearted, almost giddy, as she grabbed Tomas's hand and pulled him out from the kitchen to her father's Jeep before her mother could change her mind. "Get in," she said, vaulting into the doorless vehicle. She started the engine and rolled the Jeep onto the matted vegetation that constituted the path to the main highway.
"What did you do that for?" she asked him when they were safely out of range of the house. "Why did you lie to my mother?"
He shrugged-or maybe they'd hit a lump in the jungle path that caused his shoulders to rise. In the rainy season, the dirt road was insurmountable in anything less than four-wheel drive, and only in the lowest gear. Mila had the Jeep in second. "I thought you might be in trouble if I didn't," he said.
"I always get in trouble for everything," she said, shortly. She was concentrating on driving, hoping the deep-treaded tires would catch rather than slip. The sunlight through the trees speckled the jungle floor, and Mila always had a hard time discerning the innocent shadows from the ones that meant a hard lump, so she took her time; easing the Jeep along, feeling her way through the obstacles by the rumble in the gas and the stick. "I can handle it."
"But it was my fault," he said.
"Yeah," she agreed. "What was that with the eggs? What did you do?"
"I don't know what happened. I just cracked them like you asked me to do, and little chicks came out," Tomas said. His voice trembled as he recalled the horror of wasting all those eggs. He understood, all too clearly, how dependent his stay was on Gloria's good graces. "I don't know anything, I swear," he said.
"Bullshit," Mila snapped. "Either I missed ten whole eggs for three weeks, or you did something to make freshly-laid eggs hatch."
"I really don't know," Tomas said. "Please believe me," he pleaded.
Christ, this kid needs a backbone,
she thought. "All right," she said.
She pulled onto the "highway"-the two-lane paved road that connected Cancun to Tulum-and shifted out of second. The road was pitted with potholes, and during the hurricane season, frequently flooded and sometimes washed away. But they were out of the jungle, and she could at least see the potholes. She turned off the four-wheel drive, and the Jeep leapt forward. Tomas sat in silence next to her, glum with reproach.
After a minute of this, Mila sighed and pulled off the road. "All right, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped at you like that," she said as she cut the engine. "It's just- I know I didn't miss ten eggs for three weeks."
"And I swear to you, I don't know what happened in your kitchen," Tomas said.
Mila shrugged. "Well, when we buy these next eggs, you'll let me hold them," she decided.