A Mango-Shaped Space Read online

  “So this is pretty great, right?” Adam says. I’m not sure if he means the meeting or us sitting on the bench together.

  “Uh-huh,” I say, figuring it’s a safe answer.

  “Where did this come from?” he asks, lightly touching my friendship bracelet. His fingers graze my arm, and I shiver a little as I tell him about the bracelet.

  “Are you cold?” he asks, moving a little closer. “We should have grabbed a bottle of wine from inside; they never would have noticed. That would warm you right up.”

  “Really, I’m fine,” I tell him. “Didn’t you get really sick the last time you drank?”

  “Oh, that. I was just a kid then.”

  Before I can ask what he thinks he is now, he says, “You look just like I thought you would. Am I like you pictured?”

  “I don’t know, I didn’t really —”

  “Mia?” he interrupts.


  “Can I kiss you?”

  “What?” I ask a little too loudly.

  “Never mind,” he says, looking across the yard.

  “No, I mean, it’s okay. I mean, yes, you can.” I stop rambling and he smiles at me. If my palms weren’t already sweating, they would be right now. It was about time I had my first kiss. It seems fitting that it should be with another synesthete, since we understand each other so well.

  I close my eyes and feel his lips touch mine. Our noses bump and I giggle.

  “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” he asks, smiling.

  I shake my head, afraid to say anything stupid. He leans in to kiss me again.

  Suddenly I hear footsteps behind us. “Mia!”

  I cringe and pull away from Adam. My mother doesn’t look happy to see me kissing a strange boy on a bench in the dark.

  I hurry to introduce Adam, explaining that we knew each other already.

  “That’s great,” she snaps, and practically drags me away by my sleeve. All I can do is wave good-bye.

  “See you tomorrow, Mia,” he calls out after us. “Nice meeting you, Mrs. Winchell.”

  My mother grunts in reply and hands me my coat. I wonder if she’s this hard on Beth’s boyfriends. Not that Adam is my boyfriend or anything. I don’t even know if I want him to be.

  I think about whether or not I’d want him as a boyfriend the whole ride home. I’m still thinking about it as I pick through the Thanksgiving leftovers. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of the tofu loaf left. It actually tastes better the day after. Maybe it tastes better because everything tastes better when you are wearing old flannel pajamas at midnight.

  It suddenly dawns on me that I have to get up again in six hours in order to get to the university by nine o’clock. I quickly rewrap what’s left of the tofu loaf and toss my fork into the sink. On the way out of the kitchen I pass Mango’s food dish and see that it’s still mostly full from this morning. I bet he’s still stuffed from all the Thanksgiving table scraps Zack fed him when our parents weren’t looking. There’s a thin orange glow in front of the food dish, the last trace of my “magic” powers. I think it’s very interesting that everyone else’s glow is almost completely gone, but I can still see Mango’s.

  My thick socks are perfect for skating in the smooth hallway, and I have to grab onto the staircase to avoid crashing into the front door. As I come to a stop the full moon shining through the living-room window beckons to me. Even though it’s freezing outside, I feel like sitting out on the front porch.

  Grabbing my coat from the front closet, I quietly open the front door and slip outside. The top step seems dry enough, so I sit down and watch the clouds pass quickly in front of the moon. It seems impossible to believe I was just in a room with fourteen other people just like me. I can’t wait to tell them about the acupuncture, which, as cool as it was, did get to be pretty distracting. But if my abilities had been stronger tonight, I would have been able to see exactly what Adam was feeling when he kissed me. That could have been useful.

  A light drizzle turns the air to mist, and by the time I get back up to my room, a steady rain is pounding the ground. I climb under the warm comforter without even bothering to brush my teeth.

  Sometime around three-thirty in the morning, a loud burst of thunder wakes me. I raise my head to look for Mango, who hates the thunder. Even in the darkness I can see the orange glow. I reach down to bring him into my arms, but my hands land on an empty blanket. As if on cue, a flash of lightning shows me that Mango is definitely not on the bed. The only thing there is, is a Mango-shaped space. I sit up and try to remember when I saw him last. I must have given him his medicine before I went to bed. But why can’t I remember giving it to him? My memory used to be so good, but last night is all a blur. I stare at the Winnie-thePooh blanket, mentally willing Mango to appear.

  It doesn’t work.

  As I’m concentrating I notice a faint orange trail leading off the bed and out my door. I decide to follow it. When I get to the front hall I have to choose between the thick orange trail leading down to the kitchen and the very faint trail leading straight to the front door. My heart pounding, I open the front door to find Mango curled up in a tight little ball on the doormat. He looks so cold. I quickly gather him in my arms, and he sluggishly opens one eye, then lets it close again. Holding him tight against my chest, I push the door closed with my hip and hurry back to bed. We lay there, under the comforter, as my body heat slowly warms him. I spend the next hour holding and nuzzling him, alternately wondering how I didn’t see him slip outside, hating myself for letting him get so cold, and debating whether or not I should give him another pill. Mango might not know any better than to go outside in the freezing cold, but the part of him that’s Grandpa should’ve. Maybe the Grandpa part was asleep at the time. Finally Mango starts purring, and I let my eyes close.

  The next time I wake up it’s a few hours later, and the clacking of the furnace almost drowns out the sound of Mango’s heavy wheezing. Almost. I try to wake him up, but he won’t respond. Then he starts twitching his arms and legs but still won’t wake up. For the second time that night I jump out of bed and run into the hall. This time I run to my parents’ room and knock frantically on their door. My mother opens it and immediately looks worried.

  “What is it, Mia?”

  I’m wringing my hands, and my heart feels like it’s going to burst in my chest. “We have to take Mango to the vet right away. There’s something wrong with him! Please hurry!”

  Together we run back to my room. She takes one look at Mango, who is still twitching, and tells me to wrap him in a blanket and meet her in the car. I slip on my rain boots and briefly wonder whether I should put real clothes on. Another twitch from Mango makes the decision for me. I grab the Pooh blanket, wrap him up in it, and head downstairs. My mother, also in her pajamas and rain boots, is hanging up the phone in the kitchen.

  “What did the vet say?” I ask, terrified of the answer.

  “The storm last night flooded the main road,” my mother says helplessly. “She can’t get to her office, and we can’t get to her house.”

  I stare at my mother as I digest this information. “We’ll have to take the helicopter,” I say, panic building in my chest. “It’s not raining anymore, right?”

  Mango wheezes loudly, and my mother tells me to wait by the door while she runs back upstairs. I wait by the stairs, my ears buzzing with fear as every second seems like an hour. Finally my father appears, hopping on one foot as he pulls on his thick boots.

  “Where will we land, Dad?” I ask, my throat tight.

  “Leave it to me,” he says. “Wait here while I warm up the engine.”

  I watch him run across the rain-soaked field and disappear into the cockpit. I remember how Mango’s mango-colored wheezes used to be comforting because they meant he was still around. They are anything but comforting now. Mom and Zack join me in the kitchen. Zack gently strokes Mango’s head while we wait. Every few seconds I feel a twitch through the thin blanket, and my stomach flip