When we got to the soccer fields, I told Eliot and Jeremy to go to one field and I’d go to the other. That way, we could check all four goals to find this clue.
It wasn’t that I expected it to be hard to find it or anything, but I think I was expecting something bigger. The last clue seemed like the most important. Shouldn’t it be at least a little bit flashy?
But no. Of course it was the most unexpected thing imaginable.
The first goal I checked had nothing. When I got to the other side of the field nothing on the new goal stood out immediately. But there was a soccer ball sitting beside the post.
When I picked it up for further inspection, I found the initials JC on one white patch. It was my soccer ball. I flipped the ball over. There was a pink Post-It note stuck to it. In black pen, it said;
Mom’s keys should be answer enough.
What did mom’s keys have anything to do with this?
I raced back for the bikes, not even waiting for Eliot of Jeremy to get back, and took off for the house. Why would Cam need keys to hide? Where could she have gone that needed keys?
Two blocks away from home, I heard someone shouting behind me. “Jove!” I glanced back. Jeremy was standing up and pumping hard on the pedals, pounding them as if it would force the bike faster.
“Wait up, man!” Eliot was close behind him.
I didn’t stop until I’d made it to the front yard, leaped from the bike before it stopped rolling, bounded through the house to the back door where the key rings were kept, and pulled mom’s keys from the rack. Jeremy and Eliot came just as soon as I’d caught my breath.
Since they hadn’t read the note yet, I shoved it at them and began shifting through the keys.
Jeremy nodded after he’d read the note. “She’s smarter than I thought she was.”
“Mmm.” I continued my search. What was missing? I knew that there were supposed to be five keys. One for the house, one for her work, one for he car, one for the garage, one for—
“The storage garage!” Jeremy punched the air with his fist, shouting, “Eureka!”
We were on our bikes and down the street before Eliot could even get past the fact that Jeremy had actually yelled “eureka”.
He caught up to us before we got to the end of the third block. “You think she’s at your storage garage?” His breath was coming quick and sharp, as though it hurt to breathe.
The air was growing steadily colder and I shivered. “Yeah,” I said, “it was the only key that was missing.”
Jeremy’s eyes were bright and wide against the dark air that blasted us as we raced down the street. “And we haven’t used it for a couple months now,” he added. “It’d be an ideal place for a hideout.”
We rode in silence the rest of the way. When we got into the country and turned onto the side road that led to the rental storage garage unit, I was just beginning to see my breath. It came in soft puffs and flew back into my face as I pedaled.
The crunch of gravel began when we entered the lot. I stopped in the light of a streetlamp at the corner of the lot and put my foot down to steady the bike.
“You want to find her yourself,” Jeremy whispered as though he might disturb something if he were to talk normally.
I realized that he meant it as a statement before I objected. “Yeah,” I said. “It seems like—“
“She wants you to find her. We’re unneeded at this point,” Eliot said as he smiled. “We’ll wait here.”
I stepped off my bike, smacked the kickstand down with my heel, and noticed for the first time that I was shaking. My fingers, with nothing to hold onto, quivered at my sides.
They stayed behind like Eliot said they would as I made my way down the row of ten or so garages.
My shadow fell in front of me gradually, keeping pace with my every step. My fingers continued to twitch, so I clenched them into fists to keep them from knocking against my legs.
Our garage was the second to last in the row. There was a garage door that opened up for easy access, but there was also a door to the left of it. It was just as big as a normal door. When I reached for the handle, my fingers stopped shaking. I knew then that Cam would be in there.
The doorknob turned when I tried it. Sure enough. I pushed the door open hesitantly with my shoe. Nothing of interest immediately caught my eye.
I stepped through the door. There, in the middle of the room, was an old metal fire pit raised up on three legs. There was a fire in it, of all things. A couch and an old chair had been arranged around it, but weren’t right beside it, in case sparks happened to leap from the fire.
On the couch, there was a small person huddled in a blanket, eyes staring into the flames. Her long blonde hair wasn’t anything like Cam’s short brown hair. I realized that I’d also been looking for Gwen along with Cam.
There was someone else sitting in the chair. “Cam?” I stepped towards the middle of the room, my hands clenched again to stop the shaking.
The girl in the chair looked up. It was Cam, her bright green eyes speaking more than she’d ever really said to me in her life. She leaped from the chair, the blanket she’d had wrapped around her shoulders falling to the floor, and nearly tackled me right off my feet.
“Hey, girl.” I hugged her and smiled. It was the first time I’d hugged her since the diagnose.
“I knew you would look for me,” she whispered into my shoulder, squeezing me as though I were a stuffed teddy bear.
“Why wouldn’t I,” I asked. “You’re my sister.”
She shrugged and released me to step back. “I’ve been a jerk to you. And I was scared that you wouldn’t want to talk to me anymore, since I haven’t been . . . talking to you.”
“No,” I said. “I’ll always talk to you. Even when you don’t want me to.”
She grinned and tapped me on the shoulder with her fist. “Good thing you found us today too, cause it was getting stuffy in here.” She glanced back at Gwen. “And we only had one more days worth of food.”
“Lets get you home then,” I said. “Your mom has been worried about you,” I told Gwen.
She shrugged. “It’s good for her. I’m always the goody-two-shoes around here anyway—thought I should do something rebellious for once.”
We got them home soon after seven that night. Jeremy and I rode with Eliot to his house and then went to Brad’s to drop off the bikes. No one would answer the door, so we chained them to a tree in his backyard.
When we got home, mom didn’t say anything to us about Cam being home. Neither of us mentioned it either.
Cam told me later that she and Gwen had still been able to go to school, filthy as they were. She said it wasn’t worth missing school over and the teachers would have noticed if their absences had been called in.
Every morning, they would get on the bus to go to school like everything was normal. Then when they got back to town, they would walk out to the garage and stay there until the next day.
I told her I was glad they were able to take care of themselves after all that. But I also told her “No more hide-and-seek.”
From now on, we’ll be talking to each other like real siblings.