We were miles away from Lemap when the sun came up. The autumn weather was unpredictable, and today, it must have been about eighty degrees. I was sweating in my jean jacket.
Peter tugged off her jacket and threw it to the ground. “It’s not going to get super cold again while we’re out, so why don’t you leave your jacket here?” she suggested.
Wondering why she thought she could predict the weather, I shook my head. “You don’t know that it’s not going to be cold. I don’t want to freeze out here,” I protested, slipping out of my jacket and tucking it under my arm.
Peter shrugged. “Suit yourself. But I bet you won’t want to carry that jacket around for a week.”
I tied my jacket around my waist in spite. I’d show her that I could carry my jacket around! We walked on for awhile, but the temperature only went up. Grudgingly, I set my jacket on the ground and left it behind.
About a half hour later, I began to wonder whether we were actually going in the direction of Pamel. It seemed like we just zigzagging across a vast meadow, with no real goal. Why had I even agreed to go on this journey with Peter?
Peter glanced up at the sun, then turned so she was facing south. Did that mean she knew where we were going?
“How do you know where we’re going?” I asked. Not knowing was driving me crazy.
“I told you, remember?” She sighed. “Clues and hints and hidden things!”
That was not the answer I was looking for.
We walked for awhile longer in silence until I groaned, “I’m hungry!” My stomach rumbled, right on cue.
Peter laughed. It was weird when she did that — sort of like it didn’t belong, but sort of like her eyes were always laughing at people. “There’s some food in about a mile. We’ll stop and eat until our buttons burst if you like,” she promised.
Yep. She’d definitely been to Pamel before if she knew where the nearest McDonald’s was.
A mile or so later, a fence, covered in green vegetation, came into view. Red dots were scattered across the fence, and as we got closer, I realized that they were tomatoes.
Peter jogged up to the fence and pulled a ripe tomato off the vine. She popped it into her mouth and handed another one to me.
As strange as it seems, I, in all my twelve years, had never eaten a tomato. Of course, I’d had the chopped up ones Mom put in vegetable soup, but never a whole one. Never one that hadn’t been cut. Gingerly, I raised my hand to my mouth and bit down on the tomato. It’s insides splattered all over the place. I hastily shoved the tomato in my mouth. It tasted like sunshine, and I don’t know what else, but it was good.
Picking tomatoes and stuffing ourselves with them, I decided that I should ask Peter about something that had been bothering me since she’d shown up at my apartment.
“How did you know? I mean, how did you know that my mom couldn’t pay the rent?”
Peter glanced my way, but she wouldn’t meet my eyes. “My dad knows the landlord,” she said.
It was a pretty good argument, but my gut was telling me that she was lying. Something else was going on here.
We popped a few more tomatoes into our mouths and moved on.
Soon our trekking brought us to a long paved road. The sun beating down on us warmed the asphalt beneath our feet. I couldn’t explain it, but there was something forbidding about the street.
“This,” Peter breathed, “is the Road to Pamel.”