As I searched in the crannies of the earliest sunspots where the lizard first crept out of the night’s cold, I heard the throaty sound of a motor. Mom heard the approaching engine too, and she sat back on her heels in front of a vegetable bed to look in its direction. A worn pale-blue pick-up crested our driveway in a swirl of dust. Mom cried out. I ran towards it, but Mom was quicker. Jay was out, and they were in each other’s arms.
“But what are you doing here?” I heard Mom ask as I stole behind a gazebo.
“There was an evacuation plane,” Jay began.
“Did something happen to the Research Center?”
“One of the mechanics fell ill.” Jay was kissing her again. “Oh God, I’ve missed you.”
“Your hands,” Mom said. I noticed now that they were both wrapped in thick white gauze.
“It’s nothing,” Jay said. “They are almost healed.”
I retreated, not waiting to hear more.
In my mint hideaway, knees to chest, I stroked Lionel’s paws with my fingertips. Jay was supposed to be spending the whole winter in Antarctica. What was he doing back? I heard his feet coming close, crunching on scattered stones. I saw the toes of his battered, blue canvas shoes, then a blue-jean covered knee.
“Can I join you?” he asked, peering in.
At the sight of him, tears stung like traitors. I wiped at them harshly, but they wouldn’t stop. I rose to push through Mint, and out the other side.
“Wait!” Jay called.