Abandoned by his mother and now in danger of losing his nanny, Josh sets off in a desperate journey to find the one man he believes can set everything right. A man who may not even exist.
At the fifth floor they got out and followed the signs to their room. Ellie used the card to get them in and Josh hardly needed to turn on the lights it was already so bright inside. A marquee sign across the street lit the room with an eerie glow that changed from red to yellow and pulsated when the light blinked. They could hear the traffic from the street below and loud voices and crashes from a TV in the next room.

Josh fell backwards on the bed onto his backpack. He squiggled out of his backpack and returned to his back, shutting his eyes and enjoying not standing up. His toes were cold and his legs tired. He pried his shoes off with his feet and let the shoes fall to the floor.

“I never want to get up,” he said.

Ellie lay down beside him and he opened his eyes. They both watched the play of light on the ceiling. Out of the corner of his eye Josh saw something move. He sat up quickly.

“Did you see that?” he asked.

Ellie got up and flipped a switch near the door up and the lamps on either side of the bed came on. Josh looked in the direction he thought he had seen movement and he saw a big black bug.

“Is that what I think it is?” he asked as he pointed to it.

“It’s a cockroach.”

Josh’s skin crawled and he said, “Can you kill it?”

Ellie went into the bathroom and came out with a cup. She pulled a chair underneath the cockroach and clamped the cup over it. “Get me a piece of paper or something to put over the end of the glass.”

Josh found a pad of paper on the desk and handed it to her. She slid it under the end. “See if you can open the window,” she said.

Josh didn’t see a latch on the window. “I can’t open it.” He couldn’t bring himself to look at Ellie because then he’d see the cockroach and he was afraid if he saw the cockroach again he’d never be able to sleep there. He wasn’t sure he could anyway, but he kept his eyes averted.

“I’ll take it to the other end of the hallway,” she said.

“Can’t you just kill it?”

“I could but it’s not necessary. I’ll take it down the hallway and let it go.”

“Not a good idea,” said Josh. “What if this is its home and it can find its way back, like a lost dog or cat?”

Neither of them moved. Another loud crash came from the other side of the wall behind him. He thought it sounded like a great show and wondered what it was and what channel it was on. A siren sounded in the distance outside.

“I’ll take it down to the lobby and let it out in the street,” said Ellie and she left before he could say anything.

Josh felt frozen where he stood. The siren got louder and drowned out the sound of the TV next door, but he could still hear heavy footsteps in the hallway and then the thud as a door closed. He knew Ellie would come back but couldn’t help but think what if. What if she walked out the front door of the hotel and kept walking? His dad was hundreds of miles away in St. Louis, and there was no one else who would care if he were all alone in this really awful hotel. Or what if someone kidnapped her, he thought. She was very pretty by Josh’s standards. Not flashy pretty or girly pretty but cleanly pretty, and he suddenly realized that while he was growing up and his dad was beginning to get gray like his friends’ parents, Ellie hadn’t changed. She was literally the same as she was eight or nine years ago when she first came to his house. Her hair was the same style, she seemed to have the same clothes, no wrinkles had formed between her eyes or around her mouth.

The TV had quieted a little and the siren was gone. Josh heard footsteps again and they stopped outside their room. Then nothing. Then a knock. “Josh, I didn’t bring the key. Open the door,” said Ellie.

With a breath of relief, Josh opened it for her. She put the empty glass by the TV and said, “Now it’s time to dye our hair.”