The alarm on the clock radio activated. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” by the Beach Boys. Too loud. She always had to set the alarm at full volume or she’d sleep right through it. Eyes still closed, she felt around on the bedside table till she found the radio then slapped the snooze button. She whimpered, rolling over.
When the alarm sounded ten minutes later, a different song blaring, she again reached for the clock radio. The music stopped before she found it.
Maribelle forced her eyes open, blinking.
Adam sat on the floor, cross-legged, right beside the bed. Watching her.
“Hey,” Maribelle said. “Did you turn off the radio?” Adam nodded once. “How long have you been there?” she asked.
Adam put his right index finger on his wrist, then moved it up his forearm past the elbow. Then he tapped the back of his wrist with two fingers.
Maribelle closed her eyes. “Geeze, have you learned that stuff already?” She rolled over, her back to him. “I need ten more minutes.”
She woke again when something tickled her face. She rubbed her cheek but it happened again. She opened her eyes. Adam stood beside the bed. He held a few strands of her hair between his fingers, using them to tickle her nose.
Maribelle groaned. “You’re worse than Mister Jones.” Adam stood, watching. “Alright, alright, I’ll get up.”
Maribelle slid from beneath the covers. The room had grown dark. No sunlight left to bleed in through the closed drapes. Maribelle had slept in an old oversized T-shirt, navy blue, with the image of a faded Mighty Mouse on the chest. She knew her hair was a shambles. She sat up on the edge of the bed.
“Did you sleep at all?” she asked.
Adam used his hands to make a slicing motion, drawing the edge of the right across the palm of the left.
“You *have* learned it already,” Maribelle said. “Adam, that’s amazing. You must have a photographic memory.” Adam signed something else. “I’m sorry,” Maribelle said. “I don’t understand. I’m not as fast a learner as you.”
She stood. “I’m gonna hit the shower. Judi should be here pretty soon.” She stopped on her way to the door, turned back. “And no lurking around the bathroom door or peeking through the keyhole.”
Still half asleep, Maribelle brushed her teeth and showered. Sleeping during the day always left her feeling groggy and lethargic. But they were going to be up all night. She might even be doing some of the driving. She’d had to sleep. She ran a comb through her wet hair and left it, put on her bathrobe. When she opened the door the steam escaped out into the hallway. The cooler air caused her skin to gooseflesh.
Mister Jones yowled.
“Adam!” Maribelle rushed down the short hall to the living room. Adam had her sofa tipped up, squatting down, pulling the cat from underneath it. Mister Jones squalled and hissed. “Adam, no!” Maribelle said.
Adam released the cat. Mister Jones streaked past her down the hall.
“Do you remember the ground rules?” Maribelle said. “We do not eat Mister Jones!”
Maribelle thought Adam looked downright sheepish.
“I swear, I can’t leave you alone for five minutes. You’re worse than a kid. And I should know, I did plenty of babysitting back in the day.”
Now it looked to her as if Adam was smiling. That’s because he is, she realized. His smiles just look a little different.
Adam went across the room to the computer desk and got a piece of paper. He brought it to Maribelle.
“What’s this?” She took it, began reading.
*Maribelle, I am excited to be leaving. I have read about this new place on the Internet and it sounds nice. I think I will like it there. But I am concerned about Moe. I do not think she is altogether of sound mind, and she is old. This city is a dangerous place. She should not live alone, without a house. Without me, she will be alone again. Maybe she can come to live with you, or come with us to this new place. I do not want to leave her behind.*
Maribelle shook her head. “Oh my God,” she muttered. She looked at Adam. *How could anyone think you are a monster?*