“Who the hell is that?” Jose said that, and his voice was shaking, and he sounded very scared. I looked at him, and he was pointing at the Duchess. He could Definitely see her.
Then I heard Granpy behind me, and he said, “Can I help you, young lady?” His voice sounded scared, too.
Ms. Fess was standing right next to her, but she wasn’t looking at her. She was looking down at Simon, who was still hissing. Even someone who doesn’t know much about cats knows that hissing is not a friendly thing to do. It means the cat is very angry, or very scared, or both. He was saying Get Out Of Here in cat language.
Ms. Fess turned her head up to look at me and Granpy (well, maybe just Granpy, since she couldn’t see me). She had a confused look on her face. Her eyebrows were squashed in to the center of her face and turned up a little in the middle. People don’t make that face very often, except at school when the teacher is explaining something really difficult. She said to Granpy, “I’d hardly call myself a young lady.” She had a little smile on her face. She did Not see the Duchess.
Then the Duchess smiled a great big angry smile and said, “I think he was talking to me, sweetheart.” Ms. Fess jumped straight up in the air and her eyes turned into big Os, and then she turned around really fast to look at the Duchess, and I couldn’t see her face anymore, but she took a few steps backward very quickly. She said Oh, then she said Um, Hello. Then she turned around and walked over to Granpy really quickly. She went right past me, but she still didn’t look at me.
Simon was still hissing, and moving backwards away from the Duchess, towards me and Jose. The Duchess looked down at him and smiled. She said Good Kitty, and Nice Kitty, and then her eyeballs popped right out of her head. They reached out on long strings and went right down into Simon’s face. He hissed one more time, and then he ran behind me and Jose and hid and made a Meow that means Please Don’t Hurt Me. The Duchess pulled her eyes back into her head and laughed a really crazy laugh. Then I realized Ms. Fess was screaming. It was a terrible sound, but Fortunately, Granpy made her quiet down and said Calm Down and I’ll Handle This.
Granpy walked forward a few steps and put his hands on his hips. He was Taking Charge Of The Situation. He said, “Listen here, now, young lady. I don’t appreciate you playing tricks and frightening my cat, and I don’t like kids wandering on to my property in the middle of the night.” I wanted to tell Granpy that it wasn’t even dinnertime yet, it was just dark out because it was winter, but I knew he wouldn’t hear me, so I didn’t say anything.
The Duchess didn’t say any of that. The Duchess just laughed the crazy laugh again and floated up into the air. I heard Ms. Fess yell “What is going on here?” behind us, but I didn’t turn around. I was watching the Duchess, and wondering how long you have to be out in the cold without gloves before you get frostbite and they have to cut off your fingers, because they were getting so cold I almost couldn’t feel them anymore.
That’s when we heard the old man say “She’s just looking for attention.” I looked around and saw him sitting in the chair that Simon liked to sit in, the one that was under a big tree branch, holding his magazine like always. Then he said, “Don’t pay her any mind.” For a second, I was a little bit happy, because I had guessed exactly what he would say next, and I can Almost Never guess what people are going to say. But then I remembered that he was the one who made me invisible and probably made Jose invisible too. Maybe he even made the Duchess invisible and turned her into a monster. Maybe it was All His Fault. Maybe he was the real Bad Guy, and the Duchess was just a normal girl. I remembered again how her face looked when she asked me for help. Her eyes looked so sad. I know I’m not good at knowing when people are lying, but she really looked scared then.
She didn’t look scared now, though. She was flying up in the air and screaming and stretching her body in lots of Unnatural ways. She was yelling noises, but then she started yelling words, too. She was saying things like We Were Here First and Take Back Our Homes and Invaders and Enough Is Enough. Then I heard another sound. It was something I had never heard before. It was like the sound I make sometimes when things start to be Too Much and feel like I want to run away. It’s a sound you can make in your throat, way down at the bottom. Granpy says it’s a Moan. I heard a Moan, but it didn’t sound like mine. It sounded far, far away, like a million million moans coming from a mile away. But they weren’t coming from a mile away, because I looked around and I could see they were coming from the Dead Eye ghosts. They were standing all around our backyard now in a circle, maybe even all the way around the house. We were trapped there, with the Duchess screaming and the old man reading and the Dead Eye ghosts moaning, and I was very, very scared.
The old man said, “Attention is all she wants,” and “Don’t give her the satisfaction.” He turned a page in his magazine. I wasn’t even looking at him, but I heard it. I felt confused for a second, because that felt Wrong. I shouldn’t be able to hear a page turn in a magazine when the Duchess was screaming and the Dead Eye ghosts were moaning. But when he turned the page, I heard it like it was the only sound in the whole backyard, and the sound of the Duchess and the Dead Eye ghosts sounded farther away, Just Like That.
I looked at Jose, and he wasn’t looking at the Duchess anymore. He was looking down at the ground, and he had the Confused look on his face, like Ms. Fess had earlier. I looked at Granpy and Ms. Fess, and they looked the same. No one was looking at the Duchess.
I looked at the Duchess. She was flying around in circles now, screaming even louder. Her Dead Eye ghosts were coming in closer. For a second, I saw the Duchess’ eyes, and they were Bright Red and very, very angry. Then I heard another magazine page turn. It wasn’t coming from the old man this time, though. It was coming from the back door to the house. I looked over and there was the old woman, sitting on another chair that had snow on it. She said, “Don’t pay her any mind.”