“So, can I rename you Alien?”
Before I can think about what I’m doing, I send the back of my hand into his chest. “Focus, Silas!”
He uumphs, and then I’m pointing straight ahead. “What’s that?” I walk ahead of him.
It’s a building, castle-like in structure, and white. There are three spires jutting up toward the sky.
“Looks like a church,” he says, taking out his phone.
“What are you doing?”
“Taking a picture…in case we forget again. I figure we should document what’s happening and where we go.”
I’m quiet as I think about what he said. It’s a really good idea. “That’s where we should go, right? Churches help people…,” my voice trails off.
“Yes,” says Silas. “They help people, not aliens. And since we’re—”
I hit him again. I wish he would take this seriously. “What if we’re angels and we’re supposed to help someone, and we were given these bodies to fulfill our mission?”
He sighs. “Are you listening to yourself?”
We’ve reached the doors to the church, which are ironically locked. “Okay,” I say, spinning around. “What’s your suggestion for what’s happened to us? Did we boink our heads together and lose our memories? Or maybe we ate something that really messed us up!”I storm down the stairs.
“Hey! Hey!” he calls. “You’re not allowed to get mad at me. This is not my fault.” He runs down the stairs after me.
“How do we know that? We don’t know anything, Silas! This could be all your fault!”
We’re standing at the bottom of the stairs now, staring at each other. “Maybe it is,” he says. “But whatever I did, you did it too. Because in case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the same boat.”
I clench and unclench my fists, take deep breaths, concentrate on staring at the church until my eyes water.
“Look,” Silas says, stepping closer. “I’m sorry for turning this into a joke. I want to figure it out as much as you do. What are some of your other ideas?”
I close my eyes. “Fairy tales,” I say, looking back up at him. “Someone is always cursed. To break the spell they have to figure something out about themselves…then…”
I can tell he’s trying to take me seriously, but this somehow makes me angrier. “There’s a kiss...”
He grins. “A kiss, huh? I’ve never kissed anyone before.”
“What? If I can’t remember, it doesn’t count!”
I fold my arms across my chest and watch a street musician pick up his violin. He remembers the first time he picked up a violin, the first notes he played, who gave it to him. I envy his memories.
“I’ll be serious, Charlie. I’m sorry.”
I look at Silas out of the corner of my eye. He looks genuinely sorry—hands shoved into his pockets, neck dropping like it’s suddenly too heavy.
“So, what do you think we need to do? Kiss?”
I shrug. “It’s worth a try, right?”
“You said in fairy tales they have to figure something out first…”
“Yeah. Like, Sleeping Beauty needed someone brave to kiss her and wake her from the sleeping curse. Snow White needed true love’s kiss to bring her back to life. Ariel needed to get Eric to kiss her to break the spell the sea witch put on her.”
He perks up. “Those are movies,” he says. “Do you remember watching them?”
“I don’t remember watching them, I just know I’ve seen them. Mr. Deetson spoke about fairy tales in English today. That’s where I got the idea.”
We start walking toward the street musician who is playing something slow and mournful.
“Sounds like the breaking of the curse is mostly up to the guy,” Silas says. “He needs to mean something to her.”
“Yeah…” My voice drops off as we stop to listen. I wish I knew the song he was playing. It sounds like something I’ve heard, but I have no name for it.
“There’s a girl,” I say softly. “I want to talk to her…I think maybe she knows something. A few people have referred to her as The Shrimp.”
Silas’s eyebrows draw together. “What do you mean? Who is she?”
“I don’t know. She’s in a couple of my classes. It’s just a feeling.”
We stand among a group of onlookers, and Silas reaches for my hand. For the first time, I don’t pull away from him. I let his warm fingers intertwine with mine. With his free hand, he takes a picture of the violinist, then he looks down at me. “So I can remember the first time I held your hand.”
We’ve walked two blocks and she hasn’t let go of my hand yet. I don’t know if it’s because she likes holding it, or if it’s because Bourbon Street is…well...
“Oh, God,” she says, turning toward me. She fists my shirt in her hand and presses her forehead against my arm. “That guy just flashed me,” she says, laughing into the sleeve of my shirt. “Silas, I just saw my first penis!”
I laugh as I continue steering her through the inebriated crowd of Bourbon Street. After walking a ways, she peeks up again. We’re now approaching an even larger group of belligerent men, all without shirts. In the place of shirts are mounds of beads draped around their necks. They’re all laughing and screaming at the people perched on the balconies above us. She squeezes my hand tighter until we’ve successfully navigated through them. She relaxes and puts more space between us.
“What’s with the beads?” she asks. “Why would anyone spend money on such tacky jewelry?”
“It’s part of the Mardi Gras tradition,” I tell her. “I read about it when I was researching Bourbon Street. It started as a celebration for the last Tuesday before Lent, but I guess it’s turned into a year-round thing.” I pull her against my side and point down to the sidewalk in front of her. She sidesteps around what looks like puke.
“I’m hungry,” she says.
I laugh. “Stepping over vomit made you hungry?”
“No, vomit made me think of food and food made my stomach growl. Feed me.” She points to a restaurant up the street. The sign is flashing in red neon. “Let’s go there.”
She steps ahead of me, still gripping my hand. I glance down at my phone and follow her lead. I have three missed calls. One from “Coach,” one from my brother, and one from “Mom.”