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“Hold on a minute,” said Mahender. “Did you say ‘finding our way out of the Pit’?”

“Yes, that’s what I said,” said Mrs. Sharma. “Congratulations. At 25 years old, you’ve finally learned how to listen and pay attention. If you were 20 years younger, I might actually be proud.”

“Well, you’re a delight as always.”

“Unfortunately, it seems you still haven’t learned not to be sarcastic to your elders.”

“You were being sarcastic to me first,” said Mahender. “Maybe I learned from your example.”

Mrs. Sharma’s fist clenched.

“You’re in my house, and you will show me proper respect.” Mrs. Sharma turned to the rest of them. “That goes for all of you, too. Is that clear?”

Lachlan noticed her directing especially pointed looks at him and Angelina.

“Yes, ma’am!” said Jen. “Crystal!”

“Good,” said Mrs. Sharma. “Now, let’s get back to the matter at hand. Finding our way home.”

“I don’t understand, though,” said Mahender. “Where’s this coming from? We’ve been here for years. I thought you’d given up on making it home? You’ve been so obsessed with finding–“

“25 years old and you still haven’t learned how not to interrupt me.”

“Oh, I’ve learned. I just choose to do it anyway.”

Mrs. Sharma’s jaw clenched so hard, Lachlan saw it from all the way across the dim room.

“You irritating, disrespectful little–“

“Ahem,” said Lachlan. “If I may interrupt–“

“You may not,” said Mrs. Sharma.

“If I may interrupt,” Lachlan continued, “the two of you clearly have some family issues you need to work through. But maybe you could consider tabling that discussion until after we all escape from the murder pit. Just a suggestion.”

“Fair enough,” said Mahender. “Sorry.”

“Fine.” Mrs. Sharma paused, looking each of them in the eye as if daring them to interrupt again. “Angelina, you somehow appear to have information that could be useful to us, and you believe you’ve discovered a way back to our plane of reality. Can you tell me what you think you’ve figured out?”

“Sure!” said Angelina.

“Excuse me,” said Mahender.

Mrs. Sharma’s jaw clenched again.

“She looks like a cartoon character, the way her vein’s popping out of her forehead like that,” Jen whispered just loudly enough for Sam and Lachlan to hear.

“What was that?” said Mrs. Sharma.

“Nothing, ma’am!” said Jen.

“Really?” said Mrs. Sharma. “If it’s nothing, then why is it important enough to interrupt our discussion about getting home?”

“Um, because…”

“She said you look like a cartoon character,” said Lachlan.

Mahender huffed out a laugh into his sleeve.

“Excuse me?” said Mrs. Sharma.

“Hey!” said Jen. “Tattle much?”

“I look like a what?” said Mrs. Sharma.

“Well, I, um,” said Jen. “I didn’t mean–“

“She didn’t really mean you look like a cartoon character. She just meant you’re so mad right now, you look a little cartoon-ish,” supplied Sam.

“Lucky for you three idiots, I have more important things to focus on than your childish insults,” said Mrs. Sharma.

“What do you mean childish insults?” Sam protested. “I said you don’t really look like a cartoon character. How is that an insult?”

“And why am I included in the ‘three idiots’?” said Lachlan. “If you recall, unlike these two, I didn’t actually say anything about you. I’ve been a perfect little angel.”

“If anything, what I said was a compliment,” said Sam.

“I don’t really think you look like a cartoon character,” said Jen. “You look very nice.”

“I know I look nice. You’re not winning any points with me by sucking up.” Mrs. Sharma sighed. “From this point forward, I am going to ignore any further remarks from the three stooges here unless they directly pertain to our conversation.”

“If we’re talking about going home, we need to include Nancy,” said Mahender. “She should be a part of this conversation too.”

“Who’s Nancy?” whispered Jen.

“She’s an older lady who lives in an airplane,” said Sam. “She’s been trapped here for a while.”

“So you’re suggesting we leave the safety of my home and walk all the way to Nancy’s plane?” said Mrs. Sharma.

“Yeah. My brothers will come with us. It’s not as dangerous as you’re making it sound.”

“That’s out of the question,” said Mrs. Sharma.

“I’m not leaving this place without her,” said Mahender. “And you wouldn’t leave here without me.”

“What makes you so sure I wouldn’t?”

“I know you. And as much as you don’t like me, I know you wouldn’t leave your family behind.”

“Really?” Mrs. Sharma shot him a dark look. “You’re going to talk to me about leaving your family behind?”

So much for tabling the discussion about family issues.

“Well, I, for one, I don’t think we should leave Nancy out,” said Sam. “We can’t just leave her here.”

“Yeah,” said Lachlan. “We should go talk to her.”

“I have an idea!” said Jen. “Why don’t we all vote on it? Everyone who thinks we should go find this lady, raise your hand.”

Everyone but Mrs. Sharma raised their hand. Even the strange little bat-like creature sitting on Angelina’s shoulder raised a hand after Angelina whispered something to it.

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