They met in the tunnel as planned. Each had prepared this time: rucksacks of water and snacks, ways to mark the trail back, rugged shoes and clothes for exploring. Haily practically hummed with excitement.
“Which door today?” she asked. “How do we choose?”
Irene pulled sidewalk chalk from her bag, then numbered the doors from left to right.
“I think we should just go in order,” she said. “What do you think, Frankie?”
“Why not?” He shrugged. “I guess that is as good a way as any.”
He reached up and pushed the lintel stone of the blue door Irene had labeled #1. Haily grabbed Irene’s hand as the door swung out and fresh sea filled the hallway. Once more Haily was the first one out the door, dragging Irene with her. Frankie followed, stopping to wedge a brick in the doorway.
“Nice,” Haily said admiringly.
Frankie led the way across the tall grass, stopping periodically to put markers. Haily danced around the other two, clearly wanting to run ahead. She suddenly disappeared from view, screeching.
Irene and Frankie dashed forward in time to see her rolling down the dune towards the water. She sat up as a wave splashed her face. Frankie fell down on the dune, laughing hysterically. Irene leaned against him, smiling down at her friend. Grimacing, Haily climbed back up the sand.
“Yeah, yeah, so funny,” she groused as she came to stop besides them. Haily stiffened as she looked beyond them. “Um, guys, I can’t see the door!”
Irene and Frankie spun.
“Haily! You can’t see the door because it is over there! God, I thought I would die!” Irene exclaimed, then collapsed on the ground.
Frankie started laughing again, while Haily looked even more frustrated. Then, recovering her natural ebullience, she pulled her cell phone out of her rucksack.
“Think it will work?” she winked as she turned it on and thumbed through her apps.
“What are you going to do with it?”
“Somewhere….ah, there it is! GPS,” she announced proudly. “We are….huh.”
“Well,” Irene demanded, “where are we?”
“Not sure, it doesn’t seem to be working properly. Maybe the leap through space confused it.”
Frankie rolled his eyes. He got up and headed for the dune.
“Hey, where you going?” Haily demanded.
“Out there,” he pointed, “I’m pretty sure the owner of that house know where they live.”
Haily and Irene stared at the trail of stepping-stones leading to the house out on the sand spit. Haily immediately followed her brother. Irene looked back at the safety of the door, so far away, then followed the other two.
“So, what,” Haily said, “you are just going to say we have no idea what continent we are on and can they please tell us?”
“No, how about we just say we got lost? If they tell us where we are, we should be able to figure it out.”
Irene had been slowing down as they got closer to the first rock. Now she stopped.
“Wait, what if we can’t understand them? What if they don’t speak english? What if, what if they aren’t nice?” she finished on a whisper.
Frankie looked at her seriously while Haily hopped from foot to foot.
“That’s a good point,” he finally admitted. “Maybe I should go out there and you guys wait here.”
“Then what?” Haily asked. “We aren’t going home without you! What would I tell Mom? At least if we go we don’t have to worry the entire time. If they don’t understand, we will pretend to be tourists. And if they aren’t nice then we will, we will punch them! Frankie knows how. Lord knows he does it to me enough,” she finished, sticking her tongue out at her brother.
“Ok,” Frankie nodded decisively. “We probably shouldn’t be separated. I don’t want to explain that to Mom or Dad either!”
Still not reassured, Irene followed the other two, again, out onto the rocks
The rain started pouring down as Irene trailed after Haily and Frankie. Reaching in her rucksack, she tugged out an umbrella, trying unsuccessfully to squelch her laughter as the other two broke into a run. She did hurry up, not wanting them to get to the unknown house before she got there. She caught them just as they reached the path leading to the front door.
Even in the storm with granite clouds behind it, the house looked friendly and normal. Catching a glimpse of Haily’s face, Irene could see she looked disgusted. Of course, that could be because she was dripping and Irene wasn’t. Frankie went up the steps, ignoring the puddles drowning his shoes. He knocked firmly on the door. Haily joined Irene under the umbrella and they hung back as Frankie knocked again. He waited, then shrugged as he looked at the girls.
“Don’t think anyone is here.”
“Probably a summer home or camp,” Irene said.
Haily darted towards one of the wide windows, standing on tiptoe to peek in. “Hey! I see a French magazine! Maybe we are in France. I’ve always wanted to go to France,” she said.
“Great,” Frankie answered, “now you have been. Or they just like reading French magazines,” he ended, stamping her dreams as only a brother could. “And we need to get back, it’s getting late.”
Haily flounced off, sticking her tongue out at her brother. Irene rolled her eyes, then followed Haily, with Frankie coming behind them. All three jumped when Haily’s phone suddenly rang. Pulling it out of her bag like a live snake, Haily cautiously put it to her ear.
“Hi….Mom!….I know, I know, we are on the way home….I’m with Frankie and Irene.”
Frankie and Irene could both hear her mom’s voice calm after Haily said that.
“Yeah, be home soon……can Irene stay the night?…”Haily lowered her voice and moved away, while Frankie moved closer, standing at Irene’s shoulder. “You can call her mom….you know it doesn’t matter…”
Haily hung up and popped her phone back in her bag. “Guess we just needed a tower! Cool. And you can come home, then head to school with us in the morning, Irene.”
Frankie expertly shepherded the girls back across the sand and grass while Haily chattered at Irene. Just before they got to the door, Haily pulled her phone back out. She thumbed through her apps again.
“Hah, France,” she exclaimed triumphantly, showing the GPS on her phone to Frankie before dancing through the door.
Frankie shook his head, smiling at Irene. “You ok?”
“Yeah, sure, why wouldn’t I be?” she asked stiffly.
“Well, she kinda is dragging you to our house. That ok?”
“Oh yeah, sure, be fun,” Irene answered, relaxing and heading through the door.
“C’mon Frankie,” Haily yelled. “Mom is going to call again any minute.”
Frankie shut the door carefully, leaving the door-stop next to door #Two.
“Tomorrow, tomorrow, after school we try this one,” he said before following the girls home.