Beth made Jack lie down on the couch when they got back from next door. She wet a washcloth, set it over his eyes. She sat on the other end of the couch, and read him the chapters they were supposed to have covered in history.
Charlotte and Hannah arrived, catching the door before it banged shut.
“Well? Is it still as empty as ever?” asked Charlotte.
“I didn’t hear any sirens. I guess Beth didn’t blow anything up?”
Jack’s mother poked her head out from the kitchen. “No. But she made the most beautiful patterns on the X-ray films.”
“No cartoons?” Charlotte asked.
“Ellie is in her room. Considering things.”
Charlotte stuck her hand out in front of her sister. “Ha. Pay up.”
“I told you, you should have gone with the mummy curse,” said Beth, not looking up from the book.
“You clonk your head, and sleep through all the good stuff,” said Jack.
“Oh, you sure did sleep through the good stuff.” Charlotte snickered.
Jack’s sisters skipped their videos, but not without reminding Jack that he would owe them. They instead worked on their homework until a bit before dinner time, and then shooed Beth away from setting the table, actually doing it themselves.
“You just keep reading, Goldilocks,” said Charlotte. “I never knew history was actually so interesting.”
“I don’t remember half the stuff she’s going over,” said Hannah. “And I actually paid attention when I had Richardson for history. She’s padding it. You’re padding it, aren’t you, Beth?”
“Well, the book is just so dry and boring,” she said. “And… c’mon. Its about Egypt. I know a little bit about it.”
The crunching of tires over the gravel drive interrupted them.
“Well,” said Jack’s dad, as they all sat down to dinner. “Glad to have everybody back at the table. Mostly in one piece. And it’s nice, not to have to eat by candlelight, romantic as that was.”
Jack’s mother filled them in on the details of the morning’s test and X-ray results, which led in to what had been on the late night news.
“Now, I know we all agreed to certain things last night, but this changes things, it being on the news and all,” said Jack’s dad. “So, how was the reaction at school?”
Charlotte shrugged. “Well, I stuck to the ‘what are you talking about’ line.”
Hannah nodded. “Same here. Just told them I was busy doing my nails, and didn’t see anything.”
The girl had been quiet as a mouse. She squirmed a bit in her chair.
“I told a friend I saw the bright light. But you wouldn’t tell me what made it shine. So I didn’t even really lie. ‘Cause you won’t.”
“‘A friend’ being… the whole class?” asked Charlotte.
Ellie sniffed. “I already said I was sorry! We were on the news!”
“Well, with it being on the news, there’s no denying that people would have seen that light. Now we just need to get our stories straight and wait for this whole thing to blow over.”
“Actually, Dad…” Jack said, “we might have already started some wind blowing.”
Jack related their encounter with Alan Philip Waters, of the Daily News, and they shared a few laughs at Jack and Beth’s portrayal of the journalist.
“High powered halogen,” mused Jack’s father. “That was some quick thinking, Jack. Maybe that game of catch did knock some sense into you.”
* * * * *
“No, no stairs for you, Jack,” his mother said, when bed time rolled around.
“What, am I going to sleep down here with Beth?”
“We don’t need any more lightshows,” Charlotte called from upstairs.
“You two are just going to trade places for the next few nights.”
“But what about all my stuff?”
“I can pick out what to wear for you,” Beth offered.
“Beth, I’ve seen how you dress yourself.”
She stuck her tongue out at him.
“I will bring down some clothes for you, Jack,” his mother said. “You can rest easy knowing she won’t be going through your underwear drawer.”
“Mom, I don’t know that I’d rest easy knowing you were going through it.”
She brought him a fresh set of pajamas, and a change of clothes. He was staying home from school one more day, but Beth wasn’t off the hook so easily.
Jack settled in, drifting off sooner than he’d expected. The doctor had said that he would need more rest than usual, but to still stay as active as normal, minus the rough-and-tumble stuff.
He didn’t dream, that he remembered.