Mona’s head was swimming. She had a rare urge to sit down, to sink into her sofa in an undignified slouch, but she resisted. She didn’t want to sit down in front of these kids, and she didn’t slouch ever.
As if reading her mind and mocking her, Angelina plopped down onto the couch, throwing her legs over the arm and sliding her backpack under her head as a makeshift pillow. Mona shot the girl a glare, but didn’t say anything. She had more important things to think about.
For nearly two years, she’d been alone, with only mutated fabrications, her useless nephew, and the woman with the airplane providing occasional company. She wasn’t used to being surrounded by people, let alone five unruly college kids.
She wondered how her husband managed, being a college professor. She wouldn’t have been able to tolerate it. But then, Rahul had always been the more patient one in their marriage.
These noisy kids had dropped information on her that had turned her desolate existence on its head. After two years of doing nothing but searching, she knew where Sarah was. She could be reasonably certain Sarah was alive. And they weren’t even letting her process it.
Sarah was still in CPSI’s clutches, doing their dirty work, but she was safe. She was in Charlotte.
Mona had been searching every corner of the Pit for two years, and Sarah was in the one place she couldn’t reach her.
Angelina had mentioned a way to get out of the Pit. Mona highly doubted the girl had figured out anything worthwhile, but she didn’t have any other leads at this point.
“Angelina,” she said.
Angelina lay on the sofa, singing to herself and tapping out a beat on the cushion.
“Angelina,” said Mona again, more sharply this time.
Angelina jerked her head up, startled.
“Eh? Cosa? Oh.” Angelina at least had the decency to look a little embarrassed. “What’s up?”
Mona frowned down at her.
“First of all, if you’re going to sit on my sofa, sit properly.”
“No, I’m good like this. It’s more comfy.”
“That wasn’t a request.”
Angelina sighed, swinging her legs over the chair arm and swiveling into a seated position. She pulled the backpack into her lap and hugged it to her body as she slouched backward into the cushion.
“I said sit properly. Straighten your back and put your bag down.”
Angelina tossed her bag to the ground and sat up a fraction straighter, mumbling something under her breath in Italian. Mona didn’t understand the words, but it sounded sarcastic.
“I’m going to ignore whatever you just said under your breath and get straight to the point. You said you knew a way out of this place. Tell me what you think you know.”
The boy with the bandaged hand–Sam, Mona thought he’d said his name was–perked up.
“You know how to get out of here? How?”
The other boy, Lachlan, gave his companion a look that communicated exactly what Mona had suspected. Angelina had no idea what she was talking about.
Still, Mona didn’t have anything better to go on.
“It’s like this,” Angelina began. “There are all these different layers to reality, and stuff can pass in between them in a specific pattern. Does someone have a notebook? That would help me explain it more–“
Mona wasn’t sure what she’d expected Angelina to say, but it certainly hadn’t been that.
“How do you know about that?” Mona interrupted.
Angelina stared at her, blinking with large, vacant-looking brown eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“You said there were layers to reality. It’s a crude description, but an accurate one. How did you know about that?”
Angelina blinked at her again.
“It’s obvious if you look hard enough.”
Mona frowned, unsure what to say.
It most definitely was not obvious. What was becoming obvious was that this girl wasn’t at all what she seemed.