Ahh yes, and earlier in the book they learned how to send and receive radio signals using the metallic substance in their heads. Ben's running gag since they discovered this is to say something annoying to his sister, after which she tells him to shut up and he claims to have not "said" a word—which he didn't, of course.]
"Ben, how do we get out of here?" I asked.
"Um, we could try a phone," he said.
"Okay. I can't stay here another minute with everyone around us thinking we're lunatics!" I picked up the phone and dialed home.
" . . . Hello?" said Mom.
"Yes, honey. What are you doing calling us this late at night?"
"Mom, we can't stand it here. All they do is give us busywork and . . , " I trailed off, not knowing where to begin. "Could you please take us out of this school, Mom, please?"
"I'm afraid not, honey. For one thing, your father and I are on vacation in Orlando, and you're all the way back in Miami! We couldn't get you if we wanted to!" The way she said the last part, it was like she didn't want us around, like they didn't want to come over to get us.
I started to cry over the phone.
-Don't cry on the phone, Crissi!- Ben said with a radio signal.
"Shut up!" I yelled at him. "Don't call me Crissi!" I glared at him before he could say that he didn't say a word.
"Cristabel, honey, what's wrong?" Mom asked, worried.
"I just hate this stupid place! All we do is busywork! And everyone is watching us every second just to make sure that we don't go crazy or have any uproars!! I wouldn't be surprised if there was a camera watching my 'uproar' this very second!"
"Honey, what are you talking about, going crazy?" Mom asked. I realized that she didn't know any more than we knew when we came here.
"Mom, why did you bring us here?" I asked, taking a deep breath and sniffling.
"Well, one day we got a letter addressed to the parents of Cristabel and Benjamen Saunders. It said that you both had been recommended for a special private school, for which there was no tuition. Private lessons free! We immediately decided to bring you there. I called the number on the letter and made arrangements. That's it."
"This isn't a school! It's a research center!"
"Don't be silly, Cristabel!"
"It is! It says so on top of the school! In plain sight!"
"Well, what do you think they're researching?"
"Us! They're watching us and teaching us things that have nothing to do with academics!"
"Why would they want to do research on you?"
"Because—" that was as far as I got. The power went out. The phone went dead. And I was cut off from my parents, my only way out of here.
"Mom . . . . . " I whispered into the phone. But no one was there. "Ben, what should we do?"
"We'll have to get out ourselves," he replied.
"Why?" I asked. "Just because the phone's dead?"
"Well, you know that they said they wouldn't come and get us. They don't beleive anything. They probably think that we're just homesick," he explained.
"I can't beleive they'd leave us here," I said softly.
"Yeah," he said, matching my tone. "How can we get out?"
"Well," I said, "first of all we've got to tell everyone about what we found. Then, we could get out and run to a bus stop or something."
"You're overlooking one tiny problem," he said.
"WE DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY!!!"
"Oh. Maybe—the other kids have some?"
"Well, let's just sleep on it. Maybe we'll get an inspiring dream."
"Don't let the bedbugs bite!"
"Hey!" he always says that because once I had a dream that I was laying in bed and spiders fell off the ceiling on me. I'm afraid of bugs in my bed.
"You sure are!"
"Shut up and sleep."
I made fake snores to annoy him, then I actually fell asleep. Sometimes it seems like Ben is my older brother by eleven months instead of eleven minutes.
[Notes on this: 1. Wait, they're on vacation but Cristabel can "dial home" and get her mom? This was written way before cell phones. 2. Cristabel seems hysterical about how they're "watching every second," but that sure isn't the case in practice. They're alone in their rooms all the time, they eat breakfast without supervision and seem to be pretty free to roam the grounds and explore. They go swimming and use the gym or the swingset any old time they want unless it's class time. So . . . huh? 3. Letter for free private lessons doesn't sound fishy to anyone, does it? Never! Let's drop everything and throw our kids down in another city! And why was it addressed to "the parents of" the twins rather than the parents' names on it? The research facility should have had the parents' names. 4. There was never any explanation as to why the power went out then or why the phone line was affected by a blackout or why they couldn't just call their parents again when the power came back. 5. I'm aware that "beleive" is a spelling error.]
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