Since I was pretty sure Dad was going to kill me, Em offered to take Lily home. I left her at the pool house.
After a few good-bye kisses, of course.
He wasn’t upstairs or in his office. I finally spotted him in the sunroom, his back to the glass doors. When I opened them, he jumped and clamped his fingers down on the edge of the blanket he’d wrapped around himself.
Something was way off.
Not just the stoop of his shoulders, or the way he sat still, especially without a book in his hands. Since my dad had come back home, one thing had been constant. His ache for my mother.
It was gone.
I wanted to run. Instead, I stepped around the front of the couch.
“Dad?” I asked cautiously. “What are you doing out here?”
He remained still, his expression blank. I focused on his face.
Saw that he wasn’t in there. What was left sat on the couch in front of me, fingertips picking at the threads of the blanket. I could barely breathe, barely move. I dropped to my heels and put my hands on top of his.
A seeping black hole of nothing. It was what Em must have been like after Jack Landers took her memories and left her to recover in a mental hospital-what my mom would be if I could break through the wall that separated us. So empty and so, so dark.
Jack had robbed my father, and he hadn’t put anything in place of what he’d taken.
I fought to keep my voice steady. “Dad?”
He blinked a few times. “Kaleb?”
He knew me. A tiny spark of hope flashed under the surface. “Yeah, Dad, it’s me. What happened?”
“You’re so… big. I don’t know how you got to be… you’re a man, not a child.” His voice was frail, more like an eighty-year-old man’s than my father’s. How would I take care of him? How could I fix this?
“It’s okay, Dad,” I lied. “It’ll all be okay.”
“Nothing looks like it’s supposed to. I know this house, but not why I’m in it. It’s like my world stopped, but the rest of you went on… your mother. She’s upstairs in a room… there are machines. She won’t wake up.”
I swallowed the tears that burned in my throat. “What’s the last thing you remember, Dad? About me?”
“Middle school, your first day. It didn’t go well. I talked to Cat about starting an Hourglass school-even if there were just a few students and private tutors at first. For you. For kids who’d struggled the way we did.”
The first day of middle school had ripped me wide open. It had started the second I stepped on the school bus in the morning until I got off it again in the afternoon. It had been so important to me to attend school with my friends. The earlier grades had been easy- my mom was kind to my teachers and they gave me a little extra room when I got too emotional. They were always so impressed with how much sympathy I had when someone’s feelings were hurt, but less so when I latched on to someone’s anger or fear.
The middle school had twice as many students as the elementary school, and way more hormones. I’d done all I could on that first day, determined to make it work, but the second I’d seen my house come into view, my mom waiting anxiously at the end of the driveway, I’d lost it.
I’d managed to hold off the worst of the crying until the bus had pulled away. She held me there until I stopped.
She applied for homeschool status the next morning.
A month later, we’d all moved to Ivy Springs, and the Hourglass had been born.
“Five years, Michael. He’s lost five years.” I stared out the window into the cold, gray morning.
Usually by this point in the fall, my mom had cut back the monkey grass lining her flower beds, pruned her rosebushes just so, and mulched every plant in sight to help them survive the winter. All I saw this year were frostbitten petals and wilted leaves.
I’d called Michael for help, and he’d dispersed the crowd and come up to the main house by himself. We’d spent all night trying to help Dad remember anything, but we’d only upset him. Finally, he’d yelled, told us both to go away. Locked himself in the bedroom with Mom.
I’d sat outside their closed door, listening to him cry himself to sleep, my knees pulled up to my chest like I was a little kid. I’d wanted to call Lily, just to hear her voice. But I couldn’t. What would I tell her? What would I tell everyone else?
“We’ll make it better,” Michael said, breaking into my thoughts. “We’ll fix-”
“Don’t tell me we’ll fix this. I don’t know how we can. I can’t make Jack give them their memories back.” If Jack had wanted to break me, he’d succeeded. I had no family left. I was alone. I fought against the desolation that threatened to overwhelm me. “Even if we do manage to find Jack before Chronos does, we’ll have to turn him over. Mom’s and Dad’s memories go with him.”
“We’ll find the Infinityglass before Jack does, use them both as leverage,” Michael argued. “We’ll hold him, make Chronos leave him with us if we hand the Infinityglass over, and we’ll find a way to force him to restore your parents’ memories.”
“We might as well accept the truth.” I spun around to face him. “Jack’s beaten us. He’s won.”
“You still have options.”
My lips stretched over my teeth in a grim smile. “I can’t ask Lily. There are reasons.”
It would put her in the direct path of danger. Abi had said people were watching. I believed her.
I didn’t want to lose anyone else.
“I don’t think you have a choice.” Michael started to lower himself into my dad’s empty office chair, but he stopped and stared at it. Not willing to take Dad’s place. “Lily’s going to have to be involved, whether it means she looks for Jack or for something else.”
“Lily could look for the Infinityglass.” Michael walked around the desk and sat down in the armchair. “You need to talk to her, Kaleb. Tell her what’s going on with your dad. That things have changed. If she finds the Infinityglass… Poe said it could help set the continuum right without any consequences. Maybe it can fix all of this.”
I was so sick of false hope and almosts. So tired of Jack screwing with my life.
“I’m supposed to pin my hope on something that could be fictional?” I grabbed one of the hourglasses from Dad’s shelf and slammed it to the floor. “Something made of sand and glass?”
“No. I want my parents back. I can’t make it happen. An object can’t make it happen.” I swept my arm across the shelf, knocking every hourglass over, breaking two more. “All of these represent a failed attempt. All the hourglasses in Teague’s office represent a failed attempt. What makes you think we’ll find the Infinityglass when all these people haven’t?”
“Faith. Stupidity. I don’t know.” Michael folded his hands over his chest and considered me. I felt his concern and love, and for the first time in a long time, it was welcome. “But there’s so much to lose. I’m on your side, brother. I’m here for you. It’s just the two of us now.”
“Not just the two of you,” Em said, from the door of the office. “We can do this, Kaleb. We can do it together, I know it. But I agree with Michael. You’re going to have to talk to Lily. She’s on your side, too.”