No. Thomas was not going to come stalk me in my own room.
“Look, I just told Dani, I’m not going to tell people! Do you really have to follow me around like this?”
Thomas smiled. “I just thought you might want to know that I heard back from Jon.”
Oh. That changed things a bit. “What does he have to say?”
Thomas glanced up and down the hall. “May I come in? I’d rather not discuss this in the hallway.”
“Fine.” I stepped aside and held the door open. He didn’t move; he just shifted his weight like he was waiting. “Well?” I leaned forward and grabbed him. “Hurry up, I want to get this over with.” I tried to pull him into the room, but something happened. He tripped, or I tripped, and we fell. It almost felt like he had pulled himself out of my grip and had fallen deliberately. I tumbled back into my room, and he fell out into the hall. He sat up and winced, like he was in pain.
“Oh, come on,” I snapped. “Either get in here and tell me what you have to say so that you can stop stalking me or go away!”
He smiled, stood back up, and slid past me into the room. He regarded the beds for a moment and sat on the one that wasn’t mine. That was a bit creepy. Actually, it was really creepy. The crew had just made them, and I didn’t know how he knew which bed was which. Nevertheless, I sat down across from him.
“So,” I began, “Jon.”
Thomas sighed. “Jon.” He bit his lip like he was wondering how to say things. “So, Jon is my boss.”
“Well, actually he’s higher up than that. He’s the head of our agency.”
Agency? That caught my attention. Agency was a government term. For an absurd moment, I thought that he worked for the government, but quickly pushed the idea aside. He was just a college student. There was no way he worked for some government agency. Plus, it had to be a pretty small company. If this Jon guy really had a position that much higher than Thomas, he wouldn’t be personally corresponding with him or TS. Then, something else occurred to me, and I felt like an idiot for never even considering it before. They had all known each other to begin with. Out of 307 students, I was the only one from my school, and I had only heard of one other from my state. Mariana and Dani of course knew each other, but they had to have known the others before the voyage started. They wouldn’t all be sticking together like this, if they didn’t. And suddenly, things seemed a bit stranger.
“And what you saw…” Thomas continued. “Well, you shouldn’t have. I had to report it, and I figured I’d just go right to the top. Jon wants to talk to you.”
“Like, on the phone? Did you get my number while you were stalking me?”
“867-5309, right?” Thomas asked, looking like he was trying to hide a grin.
It took me half a second to recognize the number. I glared at him when I did. “Wrong Jenny.”
He laughed. I realized that it was the first time I’d heard a genuine laugh from him. Under any other circumstances, it would have been a cute laugh. “I’m sorry,” he said, still chuckling. “Bad joke. I didn’t think you’d know that song.”
I rolled my eyes. “It has my name in it. You’re far from the first person to make that joke. It is a catchy song though.”
“Most 80s songs are.” He turned serious again. “Anyway, no, he’s not going to call you. He’s coming to Panama.”
“What?” We’d be in Panama in two days. Why on earth would the head of the agency or whatever come all the way to Panama? “Let me get this straight,” I said. “The Big Boss is coming here just to talk to me?”
“Well, I assume he wants to see me too.”
“Why?” There was no way this supposedly high-up guy was going to come all the way to Panama to talk to one girl and see a random employee.
“He’s … sort of like my father.”
“Sort of? He either is or he isn’t.”
Thomas shrugged and looked uncomfortable. “He took care of me after my father died.”
I felt embarrassed for pushing the issue. My first instinct was to say I was sorry, but I knew from experience that people offering sympathy about a dead parent didn’t always mean much. Instead I said, “My father’s dead too.”
He looked surprised that we had something like that in common. “I’m …” He hesitated, and I had a feeling he felt the same way I did.
“Thanks,” I said softly.
He nodded, and we shared a small smile. Then, he sighed and, after a moment, spoke again. “I’m not entirely sure when Jon will be here. Sometime after we get to Panama.”
“What exactly is he talking to me about?” Thomas obviously didn’t want to talk any more about his father. But, that was all right with me. I didn’t want to talk about mine either.
“About … the other night,” Thomas said. Just like that, my empathy from our last topic vanished. I had guessed that much. More dancing around the truth.
“Is he going to explain things?”
It seemed like he hesitated. “Yes. And,” he added quickly, “until he does, you have to continue to keep quiet.”
“And then?” It seemed like I really did have to wait at least two more days until they stopped hiding things from me.
“Then, uh …” Thomas paused in thought. “Well, then, you’ll know. And you’ll still keep quiet. ‘Secrets are no fun, unless I am a part of one’, right?”
That was, I hated to admit, true. All I really wanted was to know what I had seen and get my questions answered. If I knew what was really going on, I probably would keep it a secret.
“Yeah. I won’t tell anyone,” I said. “If you promise that it’ll all be explained.”
“Oh, it will,” Thomas said with a smile. He stood. “I should go.”
“Are you guys going to keep stalking me?”
“We’ll ease up a bit.”
Thomas let himself out, and I sat on my bed, replaying our conversation. Maybe this was bigger than I had thought. Had I really seen something so important that this “boss” was going to come all the way to Panama to talk to me? I took another moment to entertain the idea that they worked for the government. Had I stumbled onto some secret government experiment? They wouldn’t be using a bunch of college kids on a cruise ship, would they? I lay back with a sigh and thought for a while. Even though they were going to give me my answers in two days, I decided that I wanted to try and figure it out first. I liked a good mystery, and I had just found myself smack in the middle of a very odd one.
I put off going to dinner for as long as I could to puzzle it out, but finally decided to go up before they started putting the food away. On the way there, I stopped by the Student Life Desk. The wall across from it was covered in pictures of every student on the ship, like a giant yearbook page. It listed our names, birthdays, schools, majors, and expected graduation dates. I didn’t know their last names, which was how the wall was organized, so I knew it would be a challenge. The pictures were all too small to be useful, so I had to scan every single name and squint at the corresponding picture. It took a few minutes, but I found them all. Mariana Bar – she must have kept her last name – was majoring in International Affairs at a school in New York. Thomas Clark and Tethys – which explained why he went by TS – Conall were majoring in International Affairs too. My breath caught. They went to the same school as Mariana. A minute later, I found a bio for Daniel Pelagos, and then, I spotted one for Charles Smith. A chill ran up my spine. There was no way that this was a coincidence. All of them went to the same school and had the same major?
It was satisfying to have confirmed that they must have known each other before the voyage, but the student bios had left me with more questions than answers. I headed for the dining room, mulling over the new information. There was no line at the buffet, so I grabbed a plate and started loading up. Most of the lettuce had already been taken, and it looked like they weren’t going to replace it. I piled some veggies on my plate and moved on to the hot foods. The pasta looked rubbery and cold; I had waited too long to go up. I scooped out of a spoonful of the International Choice, some beef dish it looked like, and grabbed a fillet of tonight’s fish. I grabbed a couple of rolls out of the basket at the end of the buffet and looked around the dining room for a seat.
The professors had been and gone, and it looked like most of the students were finishing up. A table over by a window caught my eye, and I watched the occupants carefully. Charlie, TS, and Mariana sat next to each other and talked. Dani and Thomas sat next to each other with a textbook between them. There was an empty place next to Dani. Thomas glanced up from his book, and his eyes met mine. He tilted his head at the empty spot and smiled. I squared my shoulders and walked over. I sat down and braced myself.
“Good evening, Jennifer,” Thomas said pleasantly.
“Hiya, Jen,” Charlie said, grinning from across the table.
TS grunted a hello from around a bunch of food and speared another forkful. Dani waved but kept his eyes on the notebook he was holding.
Mariana smiled at me too. “The sea bass is really good.”
“Great.” I grabbed a fork and cut off a chunk to try.
Then, they all returned to what they had been talking about before. I was content to eat quietly and observe the strange group. TS had a big pile of fish and International Choice on his plate, and there was a large pitcher of the evening’s juice next to him. Thomas grabbed it and refilled TS’s glass. TS said nothing, but started drinking. He looked sort of sick. He was pale and seemed more quiet than usual.
“Eat up,” Thomas said to him.
TS snorted softly in Thomas’ direction, but shoved another forkful of International Choice into his mouth. He wrinkled his nose and took another long drink.
“Spicy isn’t it?” Charlie asked with a big grin. He took another big bite and chewed happily. “What country was this from again?”
“Ethiopia,” Dani said absently. “Thomas, you’re killing me.” He shoved the notebook away from him.
“What class is that for?” I asked.
“Climate,” Thomas said. “And what? Is it wrong?”
“It’s a disaster,” Dani laughed. “I’m getting a headache just looking at it.”
“Excuse me for not having a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science,” Thomas said.
Dani rolled his eyes and picked the notebook back up. I frowned. Was Thomas implying that Dani had a Master’s Degree? Less than ten minutes ago, I had read that he had another semester to go before getting a B.S. and was only turning twenty-two in the fall. Even if he had already graduated, there was no way Dani could have a Master’s.
“Are you just making stuff up?” Dani demanded. He flipped through a couple of pages. “This entire page is wrong too!”
“What?” Thomas yelped. He frowned at the page in confusion. “How is this wrong?” Dani started to smirk and Thomas narrowed his eyes at him. “You’re such a dick! Is any of this wrong?”
Thomas glared. “I might kill you.”
“Come on, Tommy. You know I only tease you because I have a secret crush on you.”
“God help me,” Thomas muttered. “And don’t call me that.”
“He gets to.” Dani jabbed his thumb in TS’s direction.
Thomas glared. “That’s because he isn’t referring to the rock opera.”
“Can’t prove that I am,” Dani said.
Thomas sighed and rolled his eyes. “Except I know that you are.”
“For a deaf, dumb, and blind kid, you really are observant,” Dani said.
Thomas groaned. “Charlie, do something, please.”
Charlie held up his hands helplessly. “Don’t drag me into this; I’m innocent.”
“I’m knackered. I’m going to bed,” TS announced. He stood slowly, grabbed his tray, and headed off.
“Is he sick?” I asked.
They all exchanged a strange look.
“It’s a boat,” Thomas said. “We’ve all been sick.”
“Actually, it’s a ship,” Dani corrected.
“I will murder you in your sleep,” Thomas told him.
“I’ll leave the door unlocked for you,” Mariana said.
“Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll make sure Teth finds his way to bed,” Thomas stood and nodded to me. “Night, guys.” He turned to me. “Sleep well. I’ll keep my promise if you will.”
I nodded. I couldn’t meet this Jon guy fast enough. Charlie returned to his food, and Dani pushed the fish bones on his plate around. I followed their lead and quickly finished eating. The Ethiopian food was so spicy that I kept refilling my water. The pitcher ran out, and I looked around for more.
“Can have mine.” Charlie pushed his glass toward me. He kept eating, and I realized he hadn’t once taken a sip of water.
“Aren’t you thirsty? This stuff is really spicy.”
“I like it hot,” Charlie said with a wink. He winced and glared at Dani, who looked smug, and I assumed he had kicked Charlie under the table.
Dani slid out his chair and stood. “I should get going. I still have that essay for L.A. History.”
“I’m done, too,” I said.
“Yeah, me, too,” Mariana agreed.
The four of us took up our trays and headed down to Deck Four. Dani, Mariana, and I peeled off into the corridor, and Charlie continued down the stairs to Deck Three.
“Night,” Dani said, stopping at his room.
“Sweet dreams,” Mariana added.
I curled up on my bed with a textbook and read. When Laurie came back to the room, she asked me to proofread her Latin American History essay. I offered her mine in exchange. When we were done reading and correcting, we turned on the TV. The first channel was the Ship channel. We watched for a moment, as the little icon of the ship sailed closer to Panama. When the screen changed to a display of announcements, we changed channels again. A special on the Panama Canal, a movie, and another movie. The second movie was just starting, so we put that on and laid back.
Before I knew it, Laurie’s alarm was going off. I rolled over and waited the twenty minutes until mine went off, before I got up to shower. I got out just as she got back from the gym. We went up to breakfast together and grabbed a table with Carrie from my Plants class and a girl from one of Laurie’s classes. TS walked by and nodded to me. I smiled and nodded back. He sat down with a couple of Professors nearby, but true to Thomas’ word, not at my table. Maybe they really were going to ease up. He looked a lot better this morning and dug right into what looked like nothing but bacon and sausage.
During Latin American History, Dani sat a couple of rows behind me, but once again not close enough to be a pain. Charlie walked near, but not with, me to our Plants class. I sat down next to Carrie, and Charlie sat on her other side. Nobody showed up to my other two classes. After Spanish, I got a smoothie and stretched out on deck in the sun. I noticed Thomas settle into a nearby lounge chair with a book a couple of minutes later, but he didn’t talk to me. They left me alone during dinner as well. I noticed that TS, Thomas, and Charlie ate alone and wondered where Dani and Mariana were. I still didn’t see them when everyone gathered in the Latin American History classroom for an evening lecture about docking in Panama.
Later that night, I crept into a classroom to find a quiet place to study. A few people were studying, but most were finished and wandered the ship, being loud. About an hour went by before I heard voices outside the door. I recognized Charlie’s voice and closed my book to listen. It sounded like a study-group. I was about to return to my book, when a loud song started to play. I looked in the direction of the door curiously; it was Part of Your World from A Little Mermaid. A silhouette outside of the frosted glass door stood and started for the door.
“Excuse me,” Charlie said.
I could see his shadow moving toward the classroom door. Before I realized what I was doing, I dropped down out of my desk and slid behind a couch. Was I seriously hiding from Charlie? The door opened, and he stepped in, Part of Your World still blaring. He closed the door again, and I felt my heart beating wildly. This was ridiculous. Charlie was part of some strange secret, yes, but I felt almost scared. From the way my heart was pounding at the thought of him finding me, I could have been hiding from a murderer or something. I closed my eyes and pressed my back against the couch. Too late to stand back up. I’d look like a total idiot. The song stopped abruptly.
“Hey,” Charlie said. “What’s up? … Danio? Why are you calling me on Mariana’s phone?”
A cell phone ringtone, of course. I almost laughed at myself.
“Toasty,” Charlie said with a laugh. “Well, I guess it’ll end up part of a coral reef or something … Of course, I’m laughing at you…What? You aren’t seriously considering looking for it. Do you realize how hard it would be to find a phone in the ocean? … I thought as much. Anyway, did you get there alright? … Of course I was worried! You know how I feel about water.”
I frowned, what on earth was he talking about? I was pretty sure he was talking to Dani, I’d heard them call him “Danio” before. But where was he? Why would he call Charlie from somewhere else on the ship?
“Yeah, yeah. Hey, what’s all that noise? … Oh, it’s Fend? Hi Fend! So Jon’s already there, then?”
I froze. Jon?
“Yeah, sure … Hey, Jon! … Nah, everything’s toasty here. What’s the plan? … Dinner tomorrow? … Yeah, I’ll tell her. I think we dock at nine … Oh, I don’t know what her trip is tomorrow … No, it won’t be overnight; there aren’t any of those in Panama, but my trip will be out late … Hot! I’ll see you then … Hi, Mariana … Swim was good? … Toasty, toasty … Yeah, I heard … Where are you and Dani staying? … Oh, okay … Tell me there’s a sauna there! … Hot! … Yeah, yeah … Why not, put him on … Hiya! So where’s dinner? … Right on the dock, huh? Do they have hot wings? … Phew! I miss spicy food. That’ll be great … Yeah, TS’ll be thrilled! Can’t get him to shut up about rare meat … Okay, so burger place on the dock at eight. What is that, fifteen-hundred? … I was kidding! Twenty. I know … Yeah, I don’t think I’ll make it, but I’ll tell Jen … Right, I love you too. See you tomorrow.”
Charlie left the room. I sighed and leaned against the couch. More mysteries. How was the swim? He couldn’t mean … Mariana and Dani couldn’t have swum from the ship to Panama! I went over to the window and looked out, no shore in sight. We had a good twelve hours of travel left to go. Swimming was impossible. And yet I had a feeling that Dani could have done it. He must have, and Mariana too! Then, there was that ‘I love you’. Charlie couldn’t have been talking to Jon. Maybe, what was the name, Fend? I heaved another sigh. I had hoped his conversation would clear things up. Now I was even more confused.
I dragged studying on until long after I heard Charlie’s group leave. When I got back to my room, I found a folded note stuck to my door. I grabbed it and squinted at the sloppy handwriting.
Jen – Jon’s in panama. wants to meet you. dinner at a burger place right on the dock at 8 tomorrow night. can’t miss it. will your trip be over by then? drop by my room or call me – 3044 and let me know! – Charlie
Well, why not? I grabbed the ship phone off of my roommate’s desk and dialed the room number.
“Charlie?” I asked.
“No, it’s Mark. Charlie’s not here.”
Mark, hmm? I wondered if Mark was in on their little secret. “Can you tell him that Jen says eight o’clock is fine?”
I sighed after hanging up. A part of me was excited to dock in our second country and see new things. I couldn’t wait for my trip tomorrow. And yet there was another part of me that just wanted to skip the clock up to dinner so that I could find out just what was up with these people. It was a miracle that I fell asleep at all.
I got up early enough for the tradition of watching the sunrise in port, but it was too rainy and cloudy to see anything. The sunrise in Mexico had been spectacular. Disappointed, I went to breakfast much earlier than usual. I spotted Charlie across the dining room, but didn’t see anybody else. Maybe Dani and Mariana really had somehow gotten off the ship early. I ate quickly, hoping to avoid Charlie. I knew that he couldn’t have known that I overheard his phone call, but with all the strange things happening, it wouldn’t have surprised me if he did.
He caught me anyway. “Hey, Jen. Did you get my note?”
“Yeah. I left a message with um …”
“Mark,” he said dryly. “Figures. Does eight work?”
“Toasty. Have a good day!”
Much to my relief, he didn’t say anything else. I went back to my room to get ready and made my way to the gangway to disembark. We couldn’t dock in Panama, we had to anchor out in the bay and use our lifeboats to cruise into the dock. They separated us into groups of twenty to fill the lifeboats and let us out one at a time. When it was finally our turn we lined up and swiped our ID’s to check ourselves off of the ship.
Just my luck, Charlie, TS, and Thomas were all in my group. I grumbled a greeting back to Charlie. Thomas nodded at me before stepping through the metal detector. He swiped his ID and headed for the small staircase that led down to the lifeboat. The girl behind him did the same and moved through the metal detector.
“Oh my god, he fell in the water!” the girl in front of Charlie screamed.
The crewmember checking us off of the ship raced forward. “Stay here!”
I could hear everyone on the lifeboat freaking out and the crewmembers shouting orders. I craned my neck but couldn’t see what was happening. I noticed movement and looked over at Charlie. Rather than trying to see what was happening, Charlie had calmly swiped his ID. I looked at the screen where our data appeared and to my surprise saw Dani’s picture appeared with Daniel Pelagos above it. Charlie slid the ID into his pocket, pulled out another, and swiped it as well. The name Mariana Bar and her picture popped up, too. Charlie turned and noticed I was watching. He shot me a look that plainly said to keep quiet.
The checkout crewmembers returned.
“Everything is alright now,” one said.
“I haven’t swiped my ID yet,” Charlie told him innocently.
The man nodded and Charlie swiped his own ID, and vanished out the door. After they looked in my purse, I checked out and got onto the steps. At the bottom, two crewmembers took my arms and helped me jump from the steps into the arms of the crewmembers waiting on the boat. It was a bit freaky, but also fun. I stepped down into the lifeboat and looked for a seat. And there, soaking wet and wrapped in a blanket, was Thomas. Charlie and TS sat across from him, so I sat down in an empty chair next to him.
“You’re the one who fell in?”
He nodded sheepishly. “Slipped.”
“Or did you fall in so that Charlie could use Dani and Mariana’s ID’s without anyone seeing?”
Thomas glared at me. “You are entirely too observant.”
Charlie and TS glanced at each other and shrugged.
“So, where are you off to, Tom?” TS asked. Seeing as they probably spent a lot of time together, I doubted that TS really didn’t know Thomas’ plans for the day.
“Indian village trip.”
“Me too! Keen!” They high-fived, and I rolled my eyes.
“I’m doing the half-day rainforest tour,” Charlie said. “Then, I’m taking that sunset Panama Canal boat ride.”
“I’m doing the rainforest tomorrow,” TS said, “Let me know how it is.”
“Will do. What about you, Jen?” Charlie asked.
“Lake Gatun boat tour.” As eager as I was to meet Jon and figure out what was going on, I was excited for the trip. We’d be on a boat on one of the largest man-made lakes in the world.
The little boat, rocking violently, started across the bay.
“I’m gonna be sick,” TS groaned.
“You’re fine,” Thomas said. “We’re only on for a few minutes.”
It was a short ride, and TS was practically the first person off the boat.
“Don’t forget, that restaurant down there at eight!” Charlie reminded me, pointing down the dock.
Thomas argued with the crew for a bit, before they agreed that he was perfectly fine, just a bit wet. After he pointed out that we were practically on the equator in the middle of summer and he’d dry off fast, they let him go. He and TS headed off toward the bus marked with their trip number. The bus next to it closed its door, and Charlie groaned.
“Oh clinker! That’s my trip! Gotta go. Give this to Danio, will you?” He thrust Dani’s ID at me and ran off toward his bus.
I frowned after him and made my way to my own bus. I almost felt bad that I didn’t have time to find Dani, but I didn’t want to miss my own trip. A teacher seemed to be arguing with someone, and as I went around of the front of the bus, I saw Dani. So, he was on this trip with me, then. Charlie must have known that.
“I swear, I had it when I got off the ship,” he said. “Ask anyone, I really am a student, you can’t kick me off the trip!”
“No ID, no trip,” the teacher said.
“Dani!” I called and hurried over. “Here, I found this down on the dock.”
I handed him his ID, and he grinned.
“Thanks, Jen! You’re a lifesaver!”
We got onto the bus and ended up sitting together.
“You know, Thomas fell off of the lifeboat and into the water.”
“Really?” I noticed that he seemed curious, but not at all concerned.
“Yeah. And then Charlie used the distraction to swipe your and Mariana’s ID cards.”
Dani hummed under his breath and smirked. “You really keep an eye on us, don’t you?”
“Well, I am curious. But I meet Jon tonight, right?”
“So…how did you get here?” I asked. “Did you and Mariana jump off the ship and swim all the way to shore?” I left out the fact that ‘all the way to shore’ would have been over 100 miles.
He just smiled at me. “Everything will be explained, I promise.”
“But you did, right? If it were anybody else, I’d say that it was impossible to swim that far, especially in an ocean. But you did.”
“Keep your voice down! Yes, all right? We swam here to meet Jon.”
Dani looked shocked.
“You weren’t at dinner.”
“Fine, fine. Keelhaul me, why don’t you?” he hissed. His eyes were doing that weird thing again, where darker blues looked like they were splashing with his normal color. “Yes, we did. Now drop it.”
He turned away from me, and I knew that the conversation was over. He and Mariana had swum from a ship in the ocean to shore in the middle of the night. It just wasn’t possible. The more I tried to figure it out, the more supernatural my thoughts became. I decided that I needed to lay off the fantasy books.
The trip went well. We took the boat around the little islands on the lake and saw some huge ships bound for the Panama Canal. There were monkeys in the trees and crocodiles in the water. While we ate lunch, I noticed that Dani was nowhere to be seen, but when we all went to a swimming hole after lunch, he was back. I climbed up some rocks and sat down by a small waterfall. I watched Dani while he swam below me, half hoping that he’d do something out of the ordinary. A few minutes later, he scaled the rocks and settled down next to me.
“Done swimming?” I asked. “Isn’t that your thing?”
He let out another one of his lyrical hums and leaned back against a rock. “Don’t like the water,” he said with a shrug. “This little swimming hole is gross.”
I looked down at the water; it looked fine to me. Dani stretched out in the sun, and I realized that he hadn’t changed into a swimsuit; he was still wearing his shorts and t-shirt.
“Your clothes are going to be wet for hours.”
Dani chuckled. “You think wet clothes are going to bother me?”
His eyes were their usual cheery blue, but in the sunlight I could swear that the irises were still slowly moving. It reminded me of gentle waves.
“So, where were you?” I asked.
“During lunch. You vanished.”
He narrowed his eyes, and I could see the flecks of blue-gray appearing. “I was around.” His tone sounded worried, and I realized that “worried” was the exact word I’d use to describe what his eyes did too. I thought of Charlie and how his flared red when he got upset. It was like their eyes reacted to their emotions! It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen. A little voice in the back of my mind kept saying inhuman.
“We ate lunch on a tiny boat. You weren’t there.”
His eyes got even lighter, but streaks of dark blues starting churning in. It was fascinating and so strange to watch. “Maybe I was hiding to make you suspicious.”
I glared at him. Then, without another word, he slid down off of the rocks and jumped back into the water.
I didn’t talk to him until we were back on the bus a couple of hours later. I had a feeling he was avoiding me. It seemed like there was a lot more to what was going on than just the fact Dani had gone overboard. With every new thing that he and the others tried to hide from me, my curiosity grew. I sat down next to him on the bus and couldn’t help but feel a bit smug that I’d stopped his avoiding-game. It was time to get some more information.
“Is Jon your boss too?”
He glared at me. “Yes,” he finally muttered. His eyes swirled to dark blue as I watched.
I never really thought of blue as an angry color, but his irises reminded me of waves during a storm. They really did react with his moods. I stared, mesmerized as they grew darker and darker. The colors in them crashed against each other like waves on rocks.
“Is there a reason you’re staring at me?” he chuckled. “I’m married, you know.”
“Sorry,” I said quickly. “It’s just …” Just what? Your eyes are weird? I didn’t think that would be very polite.
“Your eyes are … interesting.”
He looked confused for a moment and his eyes stayed dark, but the movement slowed. Dani studied me for a moment, almost like he was curious. “Interesting how?”
“They uh …” I wasn’t sure how to say it without sounding crazy. “Change color.” Eyes did that. Not nearly in the way that Dani’s did, but it didn’t sound as insane if I said it like that.
That got his attention. Now he was definitely curious. He almost looked surprised. “Change color? What do you mean?”
“Like, different shades of blue.” Well, now that I was telling him…”And they move. The colors sort of, I dunno, splash around. It’s like water.”
Dani’s jaw literally dropped. Then, the touch of the deep blue I had started to associate with angry splashed in his eyes. “You’re not just something messing with us, are you?”
“What?” I asked in confusion. “No, I’m not. Your eyes really do that!” I figured that was something he would have known.
Dani studied me for a moment, then whistled and hummed at the same time and looked out of the window. He looked really bothered, and I hoped I hadn’t hurt his feelings or anything. The bus stopped near the dock, and Dani wordlessly fell into step with me when I headed for the burger place. We stopped at a railing on the dock by the restaurant and leaned against it. I watched one of the lifeboats make its way from the dock to the ship in the distance. A few minutes later Dani pushed himself up off of the railing and cleared his throat.
“He’s here,” he said.