I waited for him to say something more, but he was quiet."Was there something you wanted?" I asked.He didn't answer right away, but I could feel him struggling, so I waited."If I asked you something, would you tell me the truth?"It was my turn to hesitate. "I don't know everything," I hedged."You would know this. When we were walking... me and Jeb... he was telling me some things. Things he thought, but I don't know if he's right."Melanie was suddenly very in my head.Jamie's whisper was hard to hear, quieter than my breathing. "Uncle Jeb thinks that Melanie might still be alive. Inside there with you, I mean." Melanie sighed.I said nothing to either of them."I didn't know that could happen. Does that happen?" His voice broke and I could hear that he was fighting tears. He was not a boy to cry, and here I'd grieved him this deeply twice in one day. A pain pierced through the general region of my chest."Does it, Wanda?"Why won't you answer me?" Jamie was really crying now but trying to muffle the sound.I crawled off the bed, squeezing into the hard space between the mattress and the mat, and threw my arm over his shaking chest. I leaned my head against his hair and felt his tears, warm on my neck."Is Melanie still alive, Wanda? Please?"He was probably a tool. The old man could have sent him just for this, Jeb was smart enough to see how easily Jamie broke through my defenses.Jamie's body shook beside me. Melanie cried. She battered ineffectually at my control.But I couldn't blame this on Melanie if it turned out to be a huge mistake. I knew who was speaking now."She promised she would come back, didn't she?" I murmured. "Would Melanie break a promise to you?"Jamie slid his arms around my waist and clung to me for a long time. After a few minutes, he whispered. "Love you, Mel."She loves you, too. She's so happy that you're here and safe."He was silent long enough for the tears on my skin to dry, leaving a fine, salty dust behind.
Nothing is simple if your mind is a fetch-and-carry wanderer from sliced perilous outer world to secret safe inner world; if when night comes your thought creeps out like a furred animal concealed in the dark, to find, seize, and kill its food and drag it back to the secret house in the secret world, only to discover that the secret world has disappeared or has so enlarged that it's a public nightmare.