i am four years old and covered in sand. my eyes are huge and match the ocean, eyelashes thick and full.
"jay," i say, and my hair bobs up and down in its little ponytail. "who's this?"
there is a small girl standing in the doorway. her clothes are caked with dirt in some places, but she smells like fresh donuts. she holds her arms stiff at her sides, and she doesn't smile.
jay, who is chubby and friendly, turns to me. "her name is eden," says jay. "she is looking for marley."
i am puzzled. "marlene is not here," i tell the girl.
she squints down at a tiny piece of paper, scrunched in her tiny fist. "then a vivianna," she says. "i am looking for a vivianna."
jay looks at me, with his eyes like mine, and i know he is trying to tell me something. but i ignore him. just for a moment. "that's me!" i say. "i am vivianna! but no one calls me that. they call me anna."
"anna," says jay. he is trying to tell me something with words now, and not looks. the little girl is shaking. it is winter, after all.
"come in," i say, and clap. "tell us about why you are looking for me and my sister."
"anna," says jay.
"i do have something to tell you," says the girl. "something very interesting."
i turn to jay, triumphant. "see!" i tell him.
jay sighs very quietly. "okay," he says.
"it is very cold outside," i say. "why are you all by yourself?"
the girl steps inside and closes the door behind her. it takes her a minute to push it shut, because she is shaking and because she is small. "i have been like this for awhile," she says. "i am training to be the next on the council, and this is part of what i have to do." she draws herself up a little when she says this, and her lips quirk upward.
"what is the council?" says jay. we are sitting on the red couch, now.
the girl is sinking into the pillows. she is closing and opening her eyes. "it is for the very smartest," she says. "me and my sister are going to be on it, both."
jay is crinkling his eyebrows. "what is your sister's name?" i say. but the girl has fallen asleep.
jay looks at me again, like he wants me to know what he's thinking. "do you think marlene will let her stay?" i say to him.
jay is still crinkling his eyebrows. he stops for a moment, which eliza says he does for emphasis. "i don't know," says jay. "but i have a feeling that she is very different."
i smile at him. "that's okay," i say. "so are we."