Trees sped by, and Gret found herself counting them. With the sun overhead and the shadows right beneath them they looked wider and stouter than they really were. Izzy was in the back seat, staring at something on the floor. Or maybe just the floor itself – from where Gret was, she couldn’t tell.
“What are you thinking about?” Gret asked.
“Nothing. Did you know about all of this?”
Gret pulled the car to the side of the little side road and turned around in her seat.
“Yes,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
Izzy rooted through the pouch on the back of the passenger seat and began fidgeting with a paperclip she found inside. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
We were hoping it wouldn’t come up. She didn’t say that.
“We needed to make sure you were ready first,” Gret said.
“Do you think I am?”
Her mother shrugged. “This is younger than we were hoping, but we’re running out of time.”
“So all of the stuff about us being in danger that Sam told me? That was true?”
Izzy had straightened the paperclip and bent it once to make a little helicopter blade. She spun it between her fingers. Her mom gestured for it, and she gave it to her. The spinner whirled.
“Yeah, it is,” Gret said.
“Why is he after us?”
“I don’t know if he is. If he starts to come around, things are going to get pretty hectic.”
Izzy was quiet for awhile, and Gret gave her back the paperclip and grabbed her hand. She held it in hers, and felt her daughter’s pulse in her wrist.
“It’s going to be okay,” she said. She held her gaze for awhile, making good and sure that Izzy knew she was being serious. It was going to be okay.
Gret turned around and started the car. She pulled out onto the road and restarted the drive home.
“Mom,” Izzy said.
Gret knew the question. Mom, why didn’t you tell me? Why did you take me to a strange woman and have her tell me the truth about the world? Why couldn’t you be my mom for once?
What Izzy asked instead was something different and dangerous.
“What can I do to help?” she asked.
Gret resumed the tree count as best she could before giving up and starting over. She didn’t think about the other question.
“You can learn about what’s happening, and you can follow the rules.”