âWhat am I supposed to do ?â
My voice sounded flat and dead in the silence of the kitchen. I felt foolish. It wasnât like me to get all emotional.
I stood there, just staring at the cupboards. The Ellimist â¦ the bear â¦ my father â¦ What was I supposed to do? Leave my mom and sisters? Leave my dad? Leave my friends? Leave the whole messed-up planet?
I imagined going to see my father down at the convention center. âDad? I have this problem.â And he would put his arm around me and fluff my hair the way he always did and say, âCome on, kid. Donât be so serious.â
I turned the TV sound back on. My dad was grinning at something. He was doing some chatter with the anchor people back at the station.
ââ¦ be leaving us soon, and weâre all sorry to hear that. But I know it will be a great opportunity for you.â
âYes, it will,â my father said. âAlthough I will really miss all the ââ
I snapped off the TV set. I felt sick inside. Like I had swallowed broken glass.
I needed to get out of the house. I needed to stop thinking.
I went upstairs and opened my bedroom window.
Several minutes later, a large bald eagle flew from my window and soared high into the sky.
W e all met up later that afternoon at Cassieâs barn.
Inside her barn there are rows of cages in all shapes and sizes, mostly full. Birds are in one area, with mammals separated from them by a partition wall. I guess it makes the birds nervous to be in the same room with foxes and raccoons. Nervous birds hurt themselves, banging around the cages.
When I showed up at the meeting barefoot and in my morphing outfit, everyone immediately knew I hadnât exactly taken the bus to get there.
Jake and Marco were lolling on bales of hay.
Tobias was perched on a crossbeam a few feet over our heads. I felt a stab of pain, seeing him that way again.
Ax did not come to these meetings, usually. He would have had to assume his human morph, and he preferred to remain in Andalite form as much as possible.
âHi, Rachel,â Marco said, looking amused, but also a little wary. âWhat have you been up to? Or maybe I should ask, what have you been ?â
Cassie was busy changing the bandage on the wing of a sad-looking kestrel.
âHey, Rachel,â Cassie said. âGive me a hand here, will you? I didnât see you at school today.â
I went and held the struggling bird as well as I could. Kestrels are small falcons. This kestrel tried to take a bite out of me, but he was too weak to do any damage.
âI felt kind of sick this morning,â I told Cassie. âSo I stayed home.â
âBut you felt better this afternoon, huh?â Jake said. âSo much better that you decided to morph? How did you get here, just out of curiosity?â
Cassie was done and took the kestrel from me. I turned to look Jake in the eye. âI flew. Is that okay with you?â
He glanced at Cassie. Then at Marco. âThat bear you morphed yesterday â¦ you went to The Gardens and acquired that all on your own, didnât you?â
âNo,â I said, âI met that bear at the mall.â
âOkay,â Jake said. âAnd today you ditch school and end up morphing â¦ whatever you morphed.â Tobias said.
âItâs so nice knowing I have privacy,â I said sarcastically.
Jake looked at me sharply. âYou spent the whole afternoon in morph?â
âYes, Mother ,â I said.
Jake jumped up and stood right in front of me, his face just inches from mine. âDonât give me your sarcasm,