Illustration from MASQUERADE by Kit Williams


The answer comes in the form of a memory as clear as glassy water before anyone dives in. The day we translated that riddle in fourth grade, Lemon witnessed my most embarrassing moment of elementary school. This was before those awkward initials in the sand drew us apart. We worked the problem while Mr. Duncan pointed to each line on the board. "To be nothing," he circled the words as we took notes. What air does in water is how Trout are able to speak to us. "Does anyone know the answer?"

Suddenly I felt a growing sensation escape my bowels, surreal like it came from somewhere else. With absolutely no warning, a horrendous noise followed and there was nothing I could do to take it back.

"A fart!" kids around the room answered with shrieks and giggles. Everyone laughed as I drooped in my chair, everyone but Lemon who sat next to me in silence. "Nooo," Mr. Duncan tried to keep a straight face but I could see his mouth turning up at the corners. "But actually it's close."

When they tried to make the nickname Farty Fuchsia spread through the playground, only Lemon stopped them. She came right up to the group of kids making gross noises and put her hands on her skinny hips. "Shut up!" she screamed as she shook her yellow hair.

Why was she so good to me? She had treated me just like that girl at the shelter, without judging or hesitating. Our friendship had been strong. Maybe, a small voice in the corner of my mind insists, my family's sacrifice for her now is happening because of justice. Someone so generous deserves to survive. If only Mom wasn't the one risking her life for Lemon; it should have been me hooked up to that hideous syphoning machine.

The Cloak repeats the riddle, his raspy tone echoing in the earthy hollow. "Well, do ya know what is nothing on its outside, nothing on its inside, is lighter than a feather but ten tribespeople can't pick up?"

"It's a bubble," I say.

"Yer correct little lady and that thar bubble can be found where the trout live in the stream."

"The same place we need to get water for Grandma," Cord adds.

Mr. S checks his watch. "We need to move it."

We scurry up the ladder and cover the door to Grandma's hideout back up with dirt like we've done before, but this time Cord grabs some branches and throws them on top for back up camo. We make it to the crime scene tape when a light blinds us.

Cord pulls me behind an Aspen before the beam catches us in its trap. Mr. S and the Cloak are pressed to the tree next to ours and we trade worried looks in the brightening light.

I peer around and see more beams coming from some Columbine guards. Either they're starting an early shift or they're onto us, and either way, they're moving closer with each step.

"Okay, here's the plan," Mr. S whispers. "I'll distract them while you and Cord climb aboard the Cloak. He'll get you up and away from the guards and take you to the stream. Then the Cloak will fly the water back to the hollow."

I'm not thrilled about touching that wooly creep let alone riding him, but this is the only way we won't all be caught trespassing on a crime scene and get questioned about our many violations. If they find out we've saved an Elder and a Toadflax, the Sunangels will be ordered to kill us.

"On three, you and Cord crawl under the grasses over to our tree. I'll do the same until I'm twenty feet away."

"What will they do to you?" Cord asks. I don't like the idea of Mr. S taking the blame either. He already lost his job and now he may get arrested.

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