lemon

It’s bound to be a pretty unbloggable week, we’re just driving, and we’re not even doing it particularly quickly. The kiddo, who I can’t bring myself to call Jane, was not lying when she told Neal last week that she gets sick in the car. We have to stop every hour or so to mitigate puking.

And that’s just the beginning. She hates eating too, we can’t find her anything that she’s willing to ingest. We’ve tried everything. We brought her to the grocery store and let her loose to find something to eat, but she hated the grocery store, and the fluorescent lights, and spent the whole time with her head inside Julian’s t-shirt, covering her eyes with the fabric. Neal brought her a bunch of fruit and vegetables to smell, but she point blank refused.

It’s been three days. I’ve seen her eat maybe 4 bites. We’re all worried.

“They’ll be able to help her once we get to Palefish,” Julian said earlier, after yet another stop in yet another little restaurant in which we ordered the kid like four different meals and she refused to eat anything. She’s so skinny we’re starting to get concerned looks from strangers. She doesn’t even like to drink water, she always cries when Neal tries to explain that she has to.

The closest we’ve come to food enthusiasm was yesterday, when she unexpectedly reached out to grab the lemon wedge out of Julian’s iced tea, and before anyone could stop her, took a huge bite out of it. We all just sat there, frozen, watching to see what she’d do.

She chewed maybe three times before her she started puckering. Like a full on body shaking too-sour response, which I had to bite my lips not to laugh at.

Then the tears came. She spat everything out on the table — drool everywhere — and started wailing. She was absolutely inconsolable. We had to leave the restaurant because she was in total breakdown mode.

I can’t blame her, considering everything she’s been through in the last few weeks. Goodness knows how long it’s been since she ate anything.

After the lemon incident Neal called Jasper to see if he could meet us sooner than Palefish. It’s gonna take us a while to get there at the rate we’re going, and the poor kid needs a break.

Oooooor maybe this week isn’t so unbloggable.

We ended up stopping at a taco truck and the women working were giving us the WEIRDEST looks. More specifically, they were giving the kid the weirdest looks.

It was a popular taco truck, so popular we shared a picnic table with some construction workers, who also were giving us strange looks. In fact everyone at all the tables kept glancing furtively at us and then averting their eyes.

Julian was the one who eventually noticed: “There aren’t any kids,” he said.

Which was strange. It was a nice day. This taco truck is like next to a bunch of cute boutiques and a nice little park. There were tons of people around eating, or walking in the park with their dogs. Lot’s of them were family aged. None of them had kids. NO kids? None???

It wasn’t until we were almost through our meal that one of the women working in the taco truck approached us. She waited until the construction workers left, and then came to sit down, wringing her hands a little.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Are you coming to stay long?”

“Just passing through,” Neal said, slightly cautious.

She glanced around as if worried someone might be listening, then said, “You maybe should move on to the next town. It’s only an hour, maybe a bit more. They have a nice hotel, I can give you the number.” She looked distinctly at the kid.

“Is there something wrong?” Julian asked, in his honey voice.

The woman, who’s name was Fernanda, gestured and we all budged aside to make space for her. “I don’t mean to scare the little girl,” she said. “But children have had bad luck in our town these last two weeks.”

Ding ding ding. Folks, is that a case?

“What happened?” Neal asked.

“You’ll think I’m crazy,” she said. “If it weren’t the same for all of us, no one would believe it. But the children left their beds three nights ago, and they never came back.”

Ooof that’s a case all right.

“You are thinking I’m crazy, I knew you would,” Fernanda went on. “But I promise, I’m not lying. They walked out our front doors, all of them at three am and they left town.”

“Do you know where they went?” Neal asked.

She pointed out of town, towards the hills. “The river is that way, but we don’t know if they made it that far.”

“… did they organize it? Is this a prank of some kind?”

“How would they have organized it?” Fernanda said. “They don’t all know each other. All our children? Everyone younger than fourteen? All gone? Impossible.”

“Have you called the police?”

“We’ve called everyone,” Fernanda said. “None of us knows what to do. But you should take your little girl and bring her far away from here.”

And with that she got up.

“Thank you,” Julian said after her but she waved him off.

“Don’t thank me,” she said. “Just take that little girl and bring her somewhere safe.”

We were all quiet and looking at each other.

“So are we gonna go somewhere?” I asked.

Neal gave me a look. “Of course not,” he said. Then he got out his phone and started making some calls.

We’re back at the motel now, the boys are each on different phone calls. Neal’s seeing if any other hunters have heard anything about this case, and Julian’s pretending to be a reporter at the police station.

Oh shit Neal just asked me to call Bass and see if the Scelerats have heard anything!! I have a task!!

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