I considered running away. Snatching the car keys and making a break for it. But inevitably I’d be caught, and then things would be even worse for me.
I fantasized about Emma coming to my rescue. I even wrote a letter telling her what had happened, but I had no way to send it. Even if I could’ve snuck out to the mailbox without being seen, the mailman didn’t come to our house anymore. And if I’d reached her, what would it have mattered? I was stuck in the present, far from a loop. She couldn’t have come anyway.
On the third night, in desperation, I swiped my dad’s phone (I wasn’t allowed one anymore) and used it to send Emma an email. Before I’d realized how hopeless she was with computers, I’d set up an address for her—[email protected]—but she was so firmly disinterested that I’d never written her there, nor even, I realized, bothered to tell her the password. A message in a bottle thrown into the sea would’ve had a better chance of reaching her, but it was the only chance I had.
The call came the following evening: a room had opened up for me. My bags had been packed and waiting for days. It didn’t matter that it was nine o’clock at night, or that it was a two-hour drive to the clinic—we would go right away.
We piled into the station wagon. My parents sat in front, and I was squashed between my uncles in the back, as if they thought I might try leaping from a moving car. In truth, I might’ve. But as the garage door rumbled open and my dad started the car, what little hope I’d been nurturing began to shrivel. There really was no escaping this. I couldn’t argue my way out of it, nor run from it—unless I managed to run all the way to London, which would’ve required passports and money and all sorts of impossible things. No, I would have to endure this. But peculiars had endured far worse.
We backed out of the garage. My father flipped on the headlights, then the radio. The smooth chatter of a DJ filled the car. The moon was rising behind the palm trees that edged the yard. I lowered my head and shut my eyes, trying to swallow back the dread that was filling me. Maybe I could wish myself elsewhere. Maybe I could disappear.
We began to move, the broken shells that paved our driveway crunching beneath the wheels. My uncles talked across me, something about sports, in an attempt to lighten the mood. I shut out their voices.
I’m not here.
We hadn’t yet left the driveway when the car jerked to a stop. “What the heck is this?” I heard my father say.
He honked the horn and my eyes flew open, but what I saw convinced me that I’d succeeded in willing myself into a dream. Standing there before of our car, lined up across the driveway and shining in the glare our headlights, were all my peculiar friends. Emma, Horace, Enoch, Olive, Claire, Hugh, even Millard—and out in front of them, a traveling coat across her shoulders and a carpetbag in her hand, Miss Peregrine.
“What the hell’s going on?” said one of my uncles.
“Yeah, Frank, what the hell is this?” said the other.
“I don’t know,” said my father, and he rolled down his window. “Get out of my driveway!” he shouted.
Miss Peregrine marched to his door. “We will not. Exit the vehicle, please.”
“Who the hell are you?” my dad said.
“Alma LeFay Peregrine, Ymbryne Council leader pro tem and headmistress to these peculiar children. We’ve met before, though I don’t expect you’d remember. Children, say hello.”
As my father’s jaw dropped and my mother began hyperventilating, the children waved, Olive levitated, Claire opened her backmouth, Millard twirled, a suit of clothes without a body, and Emma lit a flame in her hand while walking toward my dad’s open window. “Hello, Frank!” she said. “My name’s Emma. I’m a good friend of your son’s.”
“See?” I said. “I told you they were real!”
“Frank, get us out of here!” my mother screeched, and slapped him on the shoulder.
He’d seemed frozen until then, but now he laid on the horn and jammed his foot on the accelerator, and as shells spit from the back tires, the car lurched forward.
“STOP!” I screamed as we sped toward my friends. They jumped out of the way—all but Bronwyn, who simply planted her feet, stuck out her arms, and caught the front of our car in her hands. We slammed to a stop, the wheels spinning uselessly while my mother and uncles howled in terror.
The car stalled. The headlights died and the engine went quiet. As my friends surrounded the car, I tried to reassure my family. “It’s okay, they’re my friends, they’re not going to hurt you.”
My uncles passed out, their heads slumping onto my shoulders, and my mother’s screams gradually faded to whimpers. My dad was jumpy and wide-eyed. “This is nuts this is nuts this is totally nuts,” he kept muttering.
“Stay in the car,” I said, and reaching over an unconscious uncle I opened the door, crawled over him, and slid out.
Emma and I slammed together in a dizzy, twirling embrace. I could hardly speak. “What are you—how did you—”
I was tingling all over, certain I was still dreaming.
“I got your electrical letter!” she said.
“My … e-mail?”
“Yes, whatever you call it! When I didn’t hear from you I got worried, and then I remembered the machinated postbox you said you’d made for me. Horace was able to guess your password, and—”