Fauna

Fauna by Alissa York Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Fauna by Alissa York Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alissa York
Tags: General Fiction
waterfall. He looked to be shouting or laughing, but the picture was taken from too far away to be sure. Edal looked long and hard at the happy, blurred figure, wondering what it would be like to swim without her blue suit between her and the water, to stand in her skin like a tree in its beautiful bark.
    There was Mij—chewing his towel, tossing an apple, kissing a woman on the lips—and there was Edal. Her throat really was white as snow. She lay across Gavin’s lap as he slept; she lolled in the rowboat, deciding whether to slip into the sea. The photographs Edal the girl went back to again and again, though—the best ones in the book—showed Edal the otter in Jimmy’s arms.
    In the first, he cradled her like a baby, his strong right hand cupping her supple back. The second was more grownup. She lay beside him on a hillside, her tail draped over his thigh, her forepaw folded in his loving grip. She looked into the camera for the baby shot, but her gaze was soft and somehow private in the one where they lay together on the flowering hill. Behind them lay the view—black cattle grazing, a crust of rocky shore—but Jimmy was looking at Edal. He couldn’t tear his eyes away.

3
The Chronicles of Darius
    D arius had never been kept in at recess before. Mrs. Gamble’s eyes looked weak and watery behind her glasses, but it turned out she noticed things anyhow. Things like the way Darius couldn’t stop yawning and laying his head down on his desk. The way, when he wasn’t sleeping, he was scratching himself, hard.
    “Darius, honey, when is your bedtime?”
    “Eight o’clock.” Scratch.
    “And do you fall asleep right away?”
    “Sometimes.” Scratch, scratch. He had his red and blue sweatshirt on. It was hard to get through to his arms. “But then …”
    “Then what, Darius?”
    “I get woken up.”
    Her eyes closed, a blink longer than most. “Who wakes you up, honey?”
    Darius wasn’t sure he should say any more. He and Faye had never even spoken about it between them. He looked down at Mrs. Gamble’s shoes. “The biters.”
    “The biters?”
    He nodded and scratched his arm.
    Mrs. Gamble breathed out a long breath. “Darius, push up your sleeves.”
    They walked together down the long, deserted hallway to the school library, Mrs. Gamble leading him by the hand. The book had a green and white striped caterpillar on the cover. Mrs. Gamble let him carry it to a nearby table even though it was heavy, big enough to show every bug that ever was.
    “These ones?” she asked, after finding the page she wanted. “They’re small, almost like specks. You see them hopping.”
    Darius shook his head.
    She turned the pages, glassy wings and antennae flashing past. “These? About this big?” She pointed to the nail on his pinky finger.
    Darius peered into the book, and there they were—the red-brown, shiny-backed biters that found him no matter where he lay down. They were worst on the couch that was his bed, but the carpet wasn’t safe either. He knew not to bother seeking refuge in Faye’s bed; she liked sleeping alone, and, anyway, they’d found her too. He’d seen the marks on her thin white skin. It might have been why she spent so much time in the bathtub, lying motionless until the water cooled, then digging the stopper out with her toe and running the water up to her chin again.
    “Does your mother know about this?” Mrs. Gamble asked.
    Darius said nothing.
    “Darius, what does your mother say?”
    ——
    Faye wasn’t mad at him for telling—at least, she never said she was. As usual, she said very little at all. Even when the lady in the light brown raincoat came, his mother mostly listened, nodding her head slowly, as though she could scarcely manage its weight. The raincoat lady was their first-ever visitor, but she wasn’t their last. The men in dark blue jackets and matching pants came next. Darius and Faye weren’t allowed to stay in the apartment while the men were there. The

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