As soon as her parents’ tail lights disappeared down the road, February whipped out her cell phone and dialed Cameron. She wondered if maybe she should consider having a little party — wasn’t that normally the thing to do when your parents left you alone with the house for a few days? — but immediately disregarded the idea. After all, the only person she was interested in seeing was Cameron.
“Cameron! Hi!,” she chirped as soon as Cameron picked up the phone. “My parents are gonna be gone for a while…you wanna come over?” Cameron, of course, didn’t hesitate to agree and made plans to be at February’s house within the hour. February hung up, feeling an odd mixture of nausea and excitement at the idea of being alone in her house with a boy that was not her brother…wait. Her brother…where WAS Martin Luther, anyway? February poked her head into Martin Luther’s room, expecting he would be merrily chatting it up with that thing he dragged around everywhere, but the room was deserted. Frowning with consternation, February made a quick check of the other rooms in the house, to no avail. Panic was beginning to creep its way into her throat; where could the little monster be? He had gotten off the bus with her…hadn’t he? Come to think of it, February had been so busy mulling over Cameron’s invitation to prom that she really hadn’t noticed whether her little brother was there or not.
The sky was growing darker now; Cameron would be arriving any minute, and there was still no sign of Martin Luther. Although February hadn’t really spent a lot of time considering how she and Cameron would spend the evening, she was pretty sure looking for her crazy little brother would never have made the list of possibilities. She was quickly running out of options that did not include either calling her parents or the police, both mortifying, but necessary, scenarios if Martin Luther didn’t reappear quickly. She had already scoured the vast backyard, calling his name repeatedly with no response, and, as Martin Luther had no friends that weren’t stuffed with fabric, she was pretty sure he wasn’t hanging out at some other kid’s house. February was just about to give up when she caught site of Cameron strolling down her walkway. “Well, this is just great,” she thought bitterly. “He’s gonna take one look at this freak show and rethink prom for sure.” Gamely, February pasted a big smile on her face and was starting up the walk to meet him when a strange, gutteral voice wafted over the lawn, stopping her in her tracks: “Stranger danger! Stranger danger!” Frowning, February turned slowly towards the backyard; she knew that creepy little voice…she heard it pretty much every single day, whenever Martin Luther’s doll “talked” back. Squinting, she could just make out the form of her little brother up in the tree fort behind the house, peering back at her with the paper towel tube he used as a “stethoscope.”
“Martin Luther!” she screamed, forgetting all about Cameron and running behind the house. “Where have you been? I’ve been looking and looking for you!” Martin Luther gazed down at her impassively. “No, you haven’t,” he responded in his normal voice. “Yes, I HAVE,” February argued impatiently, glaring up at her brother from the bottom of the tree. “I’ve been calling you and everything!” “No, you haven’t,” Martin Luther repeated. February took a deep breath, preparing herself to scream her lungs out at her derelect younger sibling, when she remembered that Cameron was just behind her, watching the whole exchange. “Hey dude,” he called up to Martin Luther, “Cool tree house. Whatcha doing up there?” Martin Luther regarded Cameron stonily. “Stranger,” he growled, before backing out of the window and disappearing into the depths of his fort. Flushing with mortification, February faced Cameron, who grinned at her amiably. “Kids, huh,” he laughed. “Yeah…he’s definitely a weird one,” February admitted, praying that Martin Luther didn’t pop out and do anything else to further embarrass her. “Aw, he’s not so bad,” Cameron said comfortingly, laying a hand on February’s shoulder. February’s heart unexpectedly skipped a bit at the gesture; for about the bazillionth time that day, she felt her face flush and hoped that Cameron didn’t notice in the quickly fading light. “Actually,” he went on, “I’m kinda jealous. I never had any brothers or sisters, and I always wanted one.” “Well,” February laughed unsteadily, “You’re welcome to mine any time. Like…seriously. Any time.” Cameron chuckled and moved his hand off February’s shoulder. Hazily, February observed that somehow the skin that Cameron had touched felt both cooler and warmer in the absence of his contact.