Though Gran’s land is mostly wet, there’s solidness, too. My eyes trace the long path that cuts the property between Gran and Mr. Cadwell in half. I’m expecting to see nature—the kinds of birds Dad and Mom study, snakes, grass, and forever sky—the same things I’ve seen every morning since moving here with Dad and Mom to help Gran, who’s ailing but doesn’t like to admit it.
I get halfway down the path with my stare before my eyes snag on something. A serving spoon falls from my hand with a clatter into the sink.
“Who,” I whisper, “is that?”
Across the way stands a boy. He’s staring at me, wearing a twisted grin like he knows me. The wind ruffles his depths-of-the-ocean black hair. He’s wearing a dark shirt and dark jeans, and I cannot tear my eyes from his.
Gran hobbles over and looks out the window. “What is he doing so close to our side?”
“You know him?” I ask.
I can’t stop staring out the old weathered screen.
“Hell right, I do. Grandson of the evil next door. Trouble in living form. Someone oughta hand that boy a Bible. Change his life forever and ever, amen.”
Gran curses a lot. “Hell” is her favorite word.
“Hell, you’d better look away first,” Gran says. “B’fore he snares you for good.”
I wonder if she’s right. I want to look away first. Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t want to look away at all.
“Mother!” Dad’s voice enters the room a moment before he does. “Did I just hear you cursing around Willow again?”
I rip my eyes away—though it’s hard—to see Dad clad in shorts and a T-shirt, ready for another day of observation. He and Mom are ornithologists, scientists who study birds. Mom follows Dad into the kitchen and takes a seat at the table; her strawberry-blond hair is braided and slipped through the adjustable hole in her hat. Dad’s hair is like Gran’s and mine, his eyes, too. Mom’s eyes are blue, and I’m secretly glad mine are not. I enjoy being like Gran.
“It’s not good to curse around her; she’s only seventeen,” Dad continues.
In Florida, Dad and Mom studied birds so much that I hardly ever saw them. Here’s no different, but at least now I have Gran to keep me company.
“Doesn’t matter, and you know it,” Gran says. “A heart is a heart is a heart. A few words here and there won’t change that.”
My stare goes to the window again. The boy is gone.
“Quit looking for that boy, you hear?” Gran says, knowing.
“I’m not looking for him,” I reply. But I’m a lying liar.
“What boy?” Dad asks.
I join him and Mom at the table.
“No one,” my lying self answers.
“Stop thinking about him,” Gran says.
“I’m not!” I say, frustrated. But only because she knows me so well that I can’t hide myself from her.
Clearly Gran isn’t a fan. We drop it and eat our breakfast, Dad and Mom jabbering about some new species of bird they think they’ve discovered. Gran watching me like a hawk. And me wondering about the gorgeous black-souled, trouble-in-living-form grandson of the evil next door.