Bob Read online

  “Well, one time you came over and we all had a tea party.”

  Livy stops chewing. “I brought my invisible friend over to your house for a tea party?”

  Sarah shakes her head. “No, it was only the three of us. You said yours wouldn’t want to get dressed up and pretend to drink from little cups.”

  I have to smile. Livy always looked out for me.

  “Though I bet he’d look pretty cute in a tutu,” Livy says rather loudly. Clearly she knows I’m eavesdropping.

  “If you say so,” Sarah says, then adds, “I haven’t thought about Philippa in years.”

  “What happened to her? At the end, I mean.”

  I know Livy’s face so well that even though her back is to me I know she’s holding her breath right now. This is it! This is when I find out how I’ll get home! I press my eye right up to the crack and hold my breath, too.

  Sarah shrugs. “I got bored of pretending to see her, I guess.”

  “Oh,” Livy says. It’s a sad oh. Sarah’s invisible friend wasn’t real. Not in the same way I’m real. I feel foolish and slump down to the floor. Unfortunately I land squarely on the mast of the pirate ship and then jump back up with Legos sticking where Legos shouldn’t stick. I must have made a noise, because both girls turn to face the closet.

  Livy jumps up. “Thanks for coming today, it was fun. I’m still kinda jet-lagged though, so I think I’m gonna take a nap.”

  “Okay,” Sarah says, standing up from the rug.

  Livy looks all around the room and grabs one of those creepy dolls. “Do you want to borrow Abigail? I’m sure my mom won’t mind.”

  “No thanks,” Sarah says. And I think she’s finally going to leave, because one hand is on the doorknob, but then she says, “Do you want to hang out later?”

  “I can’t,” Livy says. “I’m making a cake with my grandmother now that the baby is out of the house.”

  Then they leave to walk downstairs and I come out of my closet and sit on the edge of the bed. Only crumbs are left on the cookie tray.

  Why am I not surprised?

  Livy comes back in and closes the door and flops on the bed. “I think you need a larger chicken suit. That one’s like, five times too small for you now.” Before I can argue that no one taught me proper laundry techniques, she reaches under the pillow and pulls out a cookie. “Saved you one.”

  I lean past the cookie and reach around and hug her bony shoulders.

  “You smell clean, but what was that for?” she asks when I finally let go.

  “For the cookie. For not making me go to a tea party. For tape-recording stories for me to listen to even though I never got them.”

  “Guess you saw the dancing,” she says.

  “You’ve got some good moves.”

  She smiles. “I do, don’t I?”

  “You don’t need to feel bad about leaving me in the closet,” I blurt out, then take a bite of the cookie. I chomp and talk and crumbs fly out as I try to explain how I was never alone because I had my imagination to keep me company.

  Man, this cookie tastes good!

  When I finally run out of words, she says, “Didn’t anyone tell you not to talk with your mouth full? All I heard between crunches was something about you exploring your inner Bob.”

  I swallow my last bite. “That’s pretty much the gist of it.”

  “You have a Lego stuck to your leg,” she says, reaching over to pluck it off. “You really didn’t get tired of building that same ship over and over?”

  I smile. “In between I’d make whatever word I was reading in the dictionary. The aardvark was my first. I was particularly proud of that one.”

  She tilts her head at me. “How many different objects can you make from one pirate ship?”

  “Exactly three thousand and nine. So far.”

  She nods, clearly impressed. It is impressive.

  “So it was a ship but also all those other things.”


  She tosses the Lego piece back into the closet and grabs her shoes.

  “Where are you going?” I ask.

  “We are going to search the farm for that time capsule Sarah talked about. One thing can be lots of other things, right? So a time capsule can also be a clue. Who knows what I put in there. It could take a while to find it, so bring a flashlight.”

  My spirits rise and rise. We’re going on an adventure! “We don’t need to bring one,” I tell her with a grin.

  “Why not?”

  “Because I know exactly where you buried it.”



  I distract Gran by asking for a snack while Bob slips out the back door. We’re supposed to meet under the farthest tree in the yard, near our Sylvester rock. I find him relaxing against the tree trunk with his eyes closed and his legs straight out in front of him.

  “You look happy,” I tell him. I hand him half a slice of banana bread and kneel beside the rock to get to work, feeling around its edges. It’s a big rock. How are we going to get under this thing? How could I have hidden something under it when I was five?

  “I am happy,” Bob says cheerfully. “We’re together, aren’t we? We’re outside! And we’re looking for clues. We’re going to find my mother. Like you said, my large family! So I won’t be lonely when you leave again.” He smiles into the sun. “Plus, I have banana bread! It’s like a banana, with bread!”

  I glance at him as I try to scrape the dirt out from under one side of the rock. It gets under my nails and up my nose. “Don’t get your hopes up, okay, Bob?”

  He blinks at me. “Why not? Old Livy never told me not to get my hopes up.”

  “I’m just … being careful. Of your feelings. Okay? We don’t know for sure that we’ll find anything here.”

  “Oh, we will,” Bob says. “We will find whatever the old Livy hid underneath the Sylvester rock! For me, her invisible friend.”

  Bob is one hundred percent sure that the old Livy hid the invisible-friend time capsule under the Sylvester rock. He says that for the last two days she was at Gran’s, Old Livy got a “certain look” on her face whenever we got near this rock.

  “That’s how you know?” I asked him. “My expression? Five years ago?”

  Bob nodded. “Oh yes. Whenever we came close to this rock, Old Livy’s face said, ‘I’ve got a secret.’ It was loud and clear.”

  I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s worth a try. We have to start looking somewhere. And I have to admit that Bob is pretty good at reading faces. Especially mine.

  So I’m scratching the hard-packed dirt away from the sides of the rock, trying to find any gaps where I might have hidden something. Now I’m pretty much coated in dirt-dust. I sneeze.

  I look over at Bob. His eyes are closed.

  “Hey! Why are you just sitting there?”

  “I’m not just sitting here! I’m feeling the sun on my face. And I’m also being careful of you.”

  I sit back on my heels and try to slap some of the dirt off my hands. It makes a big dust cloud that makes me sneeze again. “Careful of me? What are you talking about?”

  He gets a patient look on his face. I’m pretty good at reading Bob’s face, too, I realize. “I am being careful of your fingers, Livy. You are playing very near the rock, and I don’t want to drop it on you when I pick it up.” He smiles and closes his eyes again. “Just tell me when you’re done playing in the dirt. I’m not in a hurry. I’m just enjoying the outdoors.”

  I stand up. “Bob, I’m not playing, I’m working. And we can’t ‘pick up’ this rock. This rock is huge. First, we’re going to dig out some of the dirt underneath and then we’ll both get on one side and we’ll try to tilt—”

  I stop talking.

  Bob has picked up the rock and is holding it over his head. “Where should I put it?” he asks. “If you’re done playing?”

  Speechless, I point to the tree he was leaning against, and he carefully props the rock against the tree tr