“Sebastian Michael sit and do not say a word!” Mom pointed at the fancy restaurant chair. Seb pulled out the heavy chair and plopped down, ready to be done with this day. Wyatt, fifteen—three years older than Seb—walked behind him and pulled his hair. Seb lifted an elbow and caught him in the ribs.

“Sebastian, I saw that.” Dad scowled as he pulled out a chair on the opposite side of their table. “You’re pushing your luck.”

“Did you see what he did?”

“Shhh … for heaven’s sake.” Mom sat next to him around the table for four. Dropping his cheek in his hand, Sebastian stared past Dad to the girl sitting at a far table. Long blonde hair, a yellow dress. She could be a princess and was probably nicer than anyone in his family. A wrinkly older woman sat next to her, shaking her finger.

Seb checked his posture and straightened his shoulders, imagining that even a day with a princess would be way better than the one he spent in the desert with his family. Trekking through caverns wasn’t any fun in a thousand degrees.

Wyatt followed his gaze and huffed out an exaggerated chuckle. “Good luck with that. I doubt she’s into dweeby little nerds.”

A waitress placed a basket of bread in the center of the table and filled their water goblets.

“Seb, I want you to drink all of that water.” Dad nodded at his glass. “You need it after what happened today.”

“Dehydrating wasn’t my fault.” Seb stared at the swirling ice cubes.

“No, but we don’t want a repeat of today. Tomorrow’s another hot day in the sun.”

“I won’t puke again.” He lifted the glass and took a drink. Chunks of ice fell against his face, splashing water into his nose and eyes. He jerked the glass back and slammed it on the table.

“Sebastian. What in the world?” Mom unfolded his napkin and handed it to him.

“It was an accident.” He wiped his face and glanced across the room. Good. She hadn’t seen.

“What a loser.” Wyatt chuckled and lifted an arm over the back of his chair.

“Enough.” Dad silenced Wyatt and motioned for him to sit up straight. “Dehydration is serious business. You need to drink the entire glass.”

He hated water. “Can I get milk?”

“That might upset your stomach.”

Fine. Sucking in a deep breath, Seb lifted the glass and took a huge gulp, receiving another face full of water.

What was doing that? He set the glass down and peered over the top.

The waitress returned, and while the others ordered, Seb wiped his face and studied the goblet. Still three-fourths full. How was that possible? The ice cubes moved, bubbles rising up around them. Seb leaned down for closer inspection.

“Sit up,” Mom said. “It’s your turn.”

“Cheeseburgerandfries. Ketchup only.” He returned his attention to the glass. It was full. “That’s not fair!”

Mom shushed him. “If you don’t quiet down, you’re going back to the room without dinner.”

Wyatt sniggered and Seb fought an urge to toss the ice-water on him. Instead, he lifted the goblet and swallowed … one … two … three… The ice froze his teeth. Four … five gulps. He slammed the glass down then lowered his forehead to the table and groaned. His stomach didn’t feel good.

Mom sighed. “Sebastian…”

“My stomach hurts.”

“Well, you shouldn’t gulp cold water. Eat a piece of bread. That might help.”

Being with people who didn’t nag would help. Seb picked at a roll and stared at the half-empty glass while the others talked about tomorrow’s schedule. He didn’t care about tomorrow. Just like at school, he always messed things up. No one wanted him around.

Ice cubes clinked as the water in his goblet swirled in opposite directions. Beneath the cubes swam what looked like a dancing translucent creature. Bubbles, the size of peas, popped out of it. He counted one … two … three. As they burst, the water level rose.

“No way!” Seb jumped to his feet and bumped the table, spilling all four water glasses. “There’s something in my glass! It’s doing it. I’m drinking, but it’s filling it back up.”

“Sit down right now!” Mom hissed and grabbed at napkins. Wyatt swore and folded up the tablecloth to catch the running water.

“There was something in my glass.”

“John, he’s still delirious.”

Dad flagged a waitress, “Sorry, we brought you, Seb. I thought you were feeling better.”

“I am. I’m not sick! No one ever listens to me.”

Dad stood. “Let’s head back to the room. Maybe with some rest, you’ll feel better tomorrow.”

“Dad, I’m not sick. I’m fine.” Seb followed him toward the exit. “Why won’t you believe me? There was something in my glass.” Seb lifted an arm, covering his face as they passed the pretty girl’s table.

She giggled and peered in her goblet, stopping him cold. Half hidden by a large cactus planter, Seb watched as she touched the water.

“Look at how she dances.” Her voice tinkled and blended with the sound of the ice hitting the edge of the glass.

Mouth dropping open, Seb glanced around the restaurant. Was there something in the water, or could only they see the creatures?

The older woman slapped the girl’s fingers. “Hush. I can’t believe I’ve been stuck with a delusional child.” The old hag stopped a waitress and lifted the girl’s plate and glass from the table. “She’s finished.”

As the waitress walked away, the girl folded her arms. “I’m not delusional.”

“But you are an embarrassment. And if you keep acting like that, no one will adopt you. Tomorrow you’ll stay here at the resort while I take care of business.

Why was she so mean? And how could no one want that girl? She was perfect.

He’d tell her.


Seb’s spirits lifted as he backed toward the door.

“You’re right, Dad. I don’t feel so good.”