Leah didn't know whether to laugh or not. She had always known how screwed up Tosha was since they first met and the blondie asked her, by way of greeting, did she think that all the art of dinosaurs was a waste of time because no one could possibly know what color the giant lizards had been, but this was something she hadn't encountered before in their friendship. She knew Tosha took medicine, three different pills actually, two every day and one every other day, for reasons she had never quite been able to figure out; pills didn't get rid of randomness and an overactive imagination, did they? She couldn't imagine any other reasons that bright, happy, B-student Tosha would need medication. Well. Here it was. The girl was psychosomatic.
Don't encourage her, she told herself.
"Yes!" the other girl almost yelled. Luckily the librarian had stepped out.
"Okay, okay. He's a cannibal. Cool, dude. Now, about after school. Wanna come home with me and pretend to do some homework while we talk about Jason McDonald?"
"Yeah. I know. Cannibal. We can talk about that too if chu wanna. But what about the homework?"
"Omygah," Leah sighed. "Just, get on my bus, okay? We'll talk."
And talk they did. Or rather, Leah talked while Tosha listened and nodded and made uninterested noises whenever there was a pause and she suspected a reply was expected of her. She was trying so hard to distract herself, but she just couldn't. She had caught DJ in the hall and told him she was going to be going to Leah's house so he didn't have to wait for her, and he had only nodded, feigning irritation at being talked to in public by his little sister, but he was not very good at hiding from her. She was not dumb. She could be very smart, actually. And she saw the doubt and confusion and concern in his eyes. She kept seeing it, couldn't stop. He and Sharon would be home alone with Bernard for hours. Who knew what was being said? Who knew what was going on?
She certainly didn't. And it felt like it would kill her.
After a time, she lapsed into an unbreakable, dazed speechlessness. By that time it was near seven o'clock and rapidly going dark; Leah gathered up her friend and her friend's things, picking up the latter and almost picking up the former, shouting to her mother she was going to drive Tosha home and would be back in time for dinner.
Neither of them made a sound until the car had rolled to a complete stop in the driveway. Leah looked at Tosha and decided, this once and this once only, to humor the dysfunctional girl. "So, chu gotta be sure to tell me how this all goes down, chu get me?"
"Yes," Tosha replied. The single word was like music to Leah's ears. She cheerfully kicked Tosha out of her car and drove away merrily, whistling.
Bernard's truck was not in the driveway. Looking around for it and seeing it was not there, Tosha realized she wasn't surprised. Of course he would park some distance away and come back on foot. He always thought things through.
She did not drag her feet. She didn't even walk slower than her normal pace. Even though her stomach was rolling and she was sweating, droplets of it rolling down her back and beginning to plaster her hair to her head, she knew the time for timidity had ended. She certainly couldn't be brave or courageous about this, but she wasn't going to be afraid anymore.
That was what she told herself all the way through the front door, the living room, and while she was poking her head around the kitchen wall to see if her brother was on the computer -a habit of hers even when she didn't want to get online. What she saw would stick with her forever and ever and ever, would haunt her every time she blinked, between beats of her heart. The sounds were the worst, the monstrous chomping noises as her parents and her brother ate whatever they held in their heads, snorting and snuffling like animals, ripping away great hunks, pieces too big for their mouths so that little chunks fell away as they chewed; they would bend down and lick up the crumbs, grunting. Their eyes were glazed in ecstasy and they all looked happier, closer than she had ever seen them before in her life.
And on the counter, looking lonely and dejected and so insignificant, were the two plastic bags. She could not find the cookbook at first and then realized: it was sitting open on the table, at an angle where they could all read it if they strained their eyes. They were flicking frantic glances at it between gruesome bites, almost slavering on the pages.
|George Clooney||as Bernard Avery|
|Diane Lane||as Sharon Avery|
|Dakota Fanning||as Tosha Avery|
|Logan Lerman||as DJ Avery|
|Isabelle Fuhrman||as Leah Brown|