“I lower my head and look at him. I gasp. The first thing I notice are his brilliant eyes. One is blue, one brown. White tipped spikes adorn his green scaly body.”
“Calm down, Ivy!” my older brother irritatedly shouts at me over the loud music, as I am practically bouncing up and down in the brown leather seat of his car.
We pull into the parking lot of Topiary Garden and Tea House. Let me rewind. I am Ivy Marie Wildson, and I love iguanas. I have been begging my parents for an iguana since I was five years old. I am 12 now, and we found an iguana from Iguana Love Rescue online, and I finally convinced my parents to get it for me. His name is Albert Einstein. We are going to pick him up today. I get out of my brother’s Subaru, the hot summer air engulfing my body. We live in Miami, Florida. My mom pulls out her phone and checks the address the organization gave us.
“Yup, this is the right place,” she says.
We walk towards the main building, the rubber straps of my flip-flops rubbing against my skin, but I barely notice the pain. Walking through the big oak door, the air conditioning relieves my skin. The man at the front desk has a friendly smile and a hairy unibrow. He points us in the direction of the manager’s office. We walk down the long marble corridor and come to a wooden door with a golden plaque reading: CAROL RODREGUIZ; MANAGER.
My mom knocks lightly, and a shrill voice yells, “Come in!”
I open the door, just to see a tower of boxes guarding it. We slide around the maze of packing boxes, and just when I think they don’t end, my eyes come upon her. She has small round librarian glasses perched on the very tip of her long, pale nose. Folds upon folds of skin adorn her face, making her look like the world’s oldest person. Long, white hairs, bleached by age, sit on her tiny head.
“Hello, dears,” she says with a smile full of yellowing teeth. “Tis so sad that I cannot bring Albert with me, but the apartment I am moving to does not allow pets. Please take good care of him.”
She carefully places the metal cage in my arms. While she and my mom take care of the paperwork, I sit on one of the duct taped cardboard boxes. I lower my head and look at him. I gasp. The first thing I notice are his brilliant eyes. One is blue, one brown. White tipped spikes adorn his green scaly body.
“He’s a beau, isn’t he,” she says.
“Yes,” I say.
We thank her and walk back out to the lobby, and out into the afternoon sunlight.
The comfort of my duvet cover hugs my feet as I lay on my bed, Albert in front of me. I stroke his dewlap, the piece of loose skin that hangs below his chin, kind of like a beard. My dad had a beard that would he would shave every morning, but it would still keep growing. I remember the night my dad left. I was so young, but it is one of my clearest memories.
“I want you to leave this house right now, Simon,” I remember my mother yelled, her voice stinging with sadness.
I heard a door slam, and Travis say, “Mommy, where is Daddy going?” and then my dad grabbed his keys and whispered softly to Travis, and my mom said, “Daddy is going away for a while, okay, sweetheart?” and then my dad slammed the front door, and Travis cried, and Dad’s car started and ran over our mailbox with a loud crash.
I remember him pulling out of our driveway and driving down the street really fast and Travis crying even more and Mom crying and yelling. The next morning, I remember hearing a stranger coming to the door and taking all of dad’s stuff away. For the next month, Mom cried every night, and I didn’t know why.
“Ivy! Bedtime!” my mom yells, snapping me out of my thoughts.
I get into my pajamas and brush my teeth. I slip under my comforter, and my mom opens my door a crack.
She sits down on the edge of my bed, and I ask, “Mom, why did Dad leave?”
I can tell she is surprised by my sudden question, and her face turns pale for a second, and I trace a hint of anger in her eyes.
“We are not going to talk about that right now, Ivy,” she says, clearly angry.
“Then when will we talk about it Mom?” I yell. “I deserve to know what happened to him!” I say, my voice rising.
For a second, her eyes shine with fear. “We are not going to talk about that right now. I will now turn off the light, and you will go to bed,” she yells, standing up, walking across the room, and flipping the light switch. She stops walking and turns around to face me. “I love you, Ivy,” she says softly, her voice now more scared than angry.
But I just turn my back to her until I hear the door close, then I cry myself to sleep.
I feel my pale face burning red, and I put my head down and focus my eyes on the armful of books in my arms. I continue shuffling my feet forward through the school halls. Suddenly, I trip. Oh crud, I think as my face meets the cold tile. I hear snickers and whispers around me. I gather up my belongings but then slip on a history book and fall back onto the floor. I feel hot tears sneaking out of the corners of my eyes, and I try to keep them in. The sound of laughter rises around me, but then the bell rings, and the crowd around me disperses. I just sit there, willing my feet to get up, but they feel too heavy to move. All of a sudden, a set of hands appears and starts stacking up the books. I look up and a familiar face meets my eyes. He always looks the same. Curly brown hair. A face dotted with freckles. Calm hazel eyes. I nod a silent thanks.
“You’re new here, right?” he asks with a small smile.
“Not really,” I replied, my voice quivering.
“I haven’t noticed you.”
“Okay, well I’m here,” I say, starting to get agitated.
“Are you nervous?” he says.
I wake up in a cold sweat, the sheets twisted around my legs. That is the seventh time I’ve had that dream in the last month. Every time, it has the same scenario. I fall in a crowd of people and humiliate myself. And every time, there is that same face of that stranger boy who helps me pick up my stuff and asks me those same questions.
The next morning, Mom is gone to Alabama on a work trip, and Travis is taking care of me. I spend my morning playing with Albert and listening to music. Travis is working at Harvey’s, the local burger joint, for his day shift. I finish the newest Rick Riordan book, play some Mario Kart, build a cardboard maze for Albert, and it feels like this day will never end. I go outside and sit on the old creaky rocking chair. The rain stops, and it looks like a picture perfect sunset accompanied by crystal clear glittering waters reflecting the ombre of colors. The temperature is perfect.
Finally Travis comes home, and the fight with Mom feels distant, like it was ages ago. He makes us some mac n cheese, and we watch the news. It says that there is going to be another storm to hit us tonight, but I don’t mind enough to pay that much attention.
“They always say the storm is going to directly hit, but then it completely avoids us,” he says with a sigh.
His phone beeps, and he glances at it, but shields the message from my view. He gets up and grabs his jacket.
“Where are you going?” I ask.
“Out with some friends,” he says. “I won’t be back too late.”
I turn back to the TV and surf the channels, but nothing good is on. I am about to turn it off, but suddenly, the screen goes black. Oh, the power must be out, I think. I hear the pitter patter of raindrops on the roof and the whooshing of the wind through the palm fronds. I pad my way up the stairs and into my room. I coo to Albert as I gently pull him out of his cage. Plopping onto my bed, I snatch my most recent library book, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, off my shelf. I place Albert on my lap and open my book. I have just almost gotten to the end of the seventh chapter when I hear a loud boom of lighting that makes me jump out of my skin. I cuddle Albert and soothe him, though it seems that I’m the one that needs soothing. I sit on top of the covers of my bed and suddenly, it seems that the world goes silent, except for the dripping of water from the ceiling.
I put my old coffee mug under the leak and look out the window. I can barely see the front lawn; the rain is coming down in thick walls. I hear tree branches snapping and electrical lines sparking. I suddenly start thinking, maybe I should have listened to those storm warning signs. I huddle under the covers with Albert and try to read my book over the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. It feels as if the house is shaking. I can’t concentrate, so I go downstairs to get a snack. As I’m pulling the Goldfish box out from the pantry, the front door slams open and bangs against the wall. I run to the living room and don’t expect to see what’s outside. The sight is unbearable. The wind pulling the trees out of the ground. The streets are flooded, and it seems as if the sky turned to rain and is falling. Creak. Uh oh. Small particles of drywall float in front of my eyes, almost peacefully. Crash! I slowly turn around just to see a piece of ceiling fall onto the floor. My eyes widen, and I slowly walk backwards and out the door. I stand on my front lawn and look up at my house, the beautiful cream yellow house with white window trim and the bay window with the soft pillow, crashing to the ground. Then I remember Albert. I had put him on my shoulder, and there he was, gripping onto my shoulder in such a cartoonish way. His front claws hook into my tank top, and his back legs fly behind him. I reach out my hand to grab him, but at the very moment my finger touches his claw, he falls off my shoulder and onto a piece of driftwood.
“No!” I yell.
I run after him as he is swept away by the current. I scramble forward, plunging into the water, my hands feeling for his sandpaper scales. The current carries me, and I am blinded by the stinging winds. The street I once lived on feels like a roaring ocean.
I attempt to climb up onto a soggy mattress, but the waves just pull me under. I forget to hold my breath; seawater filling my lungs. I thrash and kick, pulling myself through the surface. I gasp for air, and the cold, damp oxygen filling my lungs hurts my chest. The waves slam my body into a wall, and a searing pain cuts through my body. I fight to keep my aching body above the surface, and I try and pull myself onto a ragged dirt hill that I remembered sat on the edge of my block with the swing set and play structure. The dirt crumbles under my feet as I scramble up onto the small hill. I pull myself up and collapse on the wet grass. I sit up on the hill, pulling my shaking knees to my chest. I look up, the rain clouding my vision. I see a shadow moving slowly towards me. I hear a creak, then a crack. Uh oh. I see the shadow moving faster. I recognize the familiar shape a little too late. I let out an ear-piercing scream, and the world around me goes black as a tree falls on my leg. I come back to consciousness, and I try and bear the pain. I feel as if someone is splitting my leg open. That gives me an idea. I try and feel the rocks around me. I feel a sharp one and start banging it against the other rocks, slowly chipping it into a sharp point. I stab it into the stem of the palm frond and wince. I saw at it and attempt to cut it in half.
“Urgh!” I clench my teeth, beads of sweat running down my pale face.
I try and pull my leg out from under the palm frond tree. The blood circulation of my leg is slowly getting cut off from the rest of my body. I push my tangled, soggy locks out of my eyes and continue working on cutting the palm frond in half. The pain is so great that my leg is turning pale and numb. I would cry, but I have no more tears in my dehydrated eyes. I bite my bottom lip, the taste of blood seeping into my mouth. I decide to take a break, and I lay on the wet ground and start thinking. Suddenly, I sit up. I can’t believe I was stupid enough to not have realized this before. I connect the dots. Heavy rain. Fast winds. Loud roars. One word flashes through my mind. Hurricane.