That’s very trusting. Iris watches Anke search our backpacks.We’re saving people’s lives. We thought we could be,Anke says. I’m more fixated on her arm in my backpack than on what she’s saying, though. That bag is nearly empty, but it’s mine. She’s messing it up. Her hands might not even be clean.When she does stop, I immediately wish she hadn’t. Denise, she says, I need to search your bed next.My gaze flicks to my pillow. I. I. Could I.She doesn’t like people touching her bed. Iris stands, guarding me.You’re touching it, Captain Van Zand’s brother says.Iris shoots him a withering look. I sat at the foot, which is the only place that’s OK for even me to touch and I’m her sister.Anke’s sigh sounds closer to a hiss. Look, we have more rooms to search.I squirm. No. Not squirm. I’m rocking. Back and forth. Wait, I say.You can’t— Iris goes on.Just ’cause she’s too precious to— the man argues.Wait, I repeat, softer this time, so soft that I’m not even sure Iris hears it. Can I, can I just, wait. I can lift the sheets and mattress myself. You can look. Right? Is that good? Right? Is that good? If I lift them? I force my jaw shut.No one says anything for several moments. I can’t tell if Anke is thinking of a counterargument or if she really is trying to make this work. Her lips tighten. OK. If you listen to my instructions exactly.You’re indulging her? Captain Van Zand’s brother says. She’s just being difficult. Have you ever seen an autistic kid? Trust me, they’re not the kind to take water scooters into the city like she did.Denise, just get it done, Anke snaps.I don’t stand until they’re far enough away from the bed, as if they might jump at me and touch the bed themselves regardless. I blink away tears. It’s dumb, I know that—I’m treating Anke’s hands like some kind of nuclear hazard—but this is my space, mine and too little is left that’s mine as is. I can’t even face Iris. With the way she tried to help, it feels as though I’m betraying her by offering this solution myself.I keep my head low and follow Anke’s orders one-handed. Take off both the satin and regular pillowcases, show her the pillow, shake it (although I tell her she can feel the pillow herself: that’s OK, since the pillowcases will cover it again anyway)—lift the sheets, shake them, lift the mattress long enough for her to shine her light underneath, let her feel the mattress (which is OK, too, since she’s just touching it from the bottom) . . .They tell us to stay in our room for another hour.I wash my hands, straighten the sheets, wash my hands again and wrap the pillow in its cases.That was a good solution, Iris says.Sorry, I mutter.For what?Being difficult. Not letting her help me. I keep my eyes on the sheets as I make the bed and let out a small laugh.
Corinne Duyvis