Tina rushed off the school bus and into her friend’s house. She pulled her mask off as soon as she was through the door, taking a deep breath of air. Amanda and Jacob’s mom met them as soon as they entered the kitchen.
“You can all leave your masks here,” she said.“Why don’t you go upstairs and play? We’ll grab some dinner before I take you two back to your houses tonight.”
Tina placed her mask on the table along with Amanda, Jacob, and Brad.
“Let’s play soccer,” Jacob suggested. Tina and Amanda shook their heads.
“No way!” Amanda said. “We played soccer at school today. I just want to do something relaxing, like playing Uno. Want to?”
Jacob stuck out his tongue. “Me and Brad can play soccer, and you guys can play boring old Uno.” Brothers could be so annoying.
Tina and Amanda both shrugged, and the boys ran outside.“Come on,” Amanda said. “Let’s go upstairs. I don’t think my sister is home yet from her school, so we’ll have the room all to ourselves.”
Tina and Amanda went into the bedroom that Amanda shared with her sister- Cara. Cara was in high school. Tina went to Cara’s dresser and ran her fingers over the turtle figure made entirely of shells. It had a tiny mask on its face, hooked over its shell ears. The mask was covered with polka dots.
“This is so cool!” she said. “Where did Cara get this?”
“She bought it at the beach,” Amanda responded, getting the Uno cards out of her closet. “With her own money. Then she made the mask. She’s like this sewing genius or something.” Tina stroked the turtle again, feeling the ridges of its shells under her fingers. Then, she and Amanda sat on the floor and began playing the game.
A short time later, Cara threw open the door and looked surprised to see them both in there. “Get out, you guys,” she said.
“What are you so grumpy about?” Amanda asked.
Cara rolled her eyes. “Can’t you guys just get out of my room? I have some sewing to do, and I don’t need you guys in here.” Her hands were behind her back.
“It’s my room too!” Amanda complained.
“Well, you already had it for, like an hour. Now, it’s my turn.”
Amanda and Tina reluctantly left, and Cara quickly shut the door behind them.
“What should we do now?” Tina asked, looking at the door sadly. She hadn’t meant to make anyone mad.
“Just ignore her,” Amanda said, taking Tina’s hand. “Let’s go downstairs and see what the boys are doing.” They looked out in the yard, but the boys weren’t there.
“Where are they?” she asked. They looked in the living room and saw the boys laughing about something. When the girls came in, they threw something behind the couch.
“What are you doing?” Amanda said, her hands on her hips. The boys laughed again and ran out of the room. Tina and Amanda chased after them. The boys ran outside, and the girls followed them. Finally, Amanda’s hand just brushed Brad’s back.
“You’re it!” she called.
All four of them started a fun game of tag, running through the yard and chasing after one another. Finally, they all sat on the ground, panting.
“I thought you said you were tired,” Jacob said as he gasped for air.
Amanda laughed. “I was, and I still am. But playing tag is fun.”
Amanda’s mom leaned out the back door. “We’re going to be leaving soon. If you brought anything with you, now is the time to get it together.”
Tina stood and trudged into the house, trying to remember if she had taken anything out of her backpack. She didn’t think so. She went to the front door, where everyone had come in, to check on her backpack. It was there, and the zipper was closed. Then, she turned to the table where she had left her mask. At the end of the table were an array of masks. There was a pink one with purple flowers, a plain black one, and one with superheros. But hers was not there.
Tina whipped her head back to her backpack. Had she put her mask in the small pocket on the front of her bag and forgotten? She zipped it open, but there was only an empty plastic bag inside. Her mask was gone!
Tina felt fear creeping in. How was she going to get dinner if she didn’t have her mask? And this mask was her most treasured one! It was the one her grandma had made for her.
“What’s wrong?” Amanda said when she entered the kitchen and saw Tina on the floor beside her backpack.
“I can’t find my mask,” Tina said. “It’s gone!”
Amanda looked at the table and saw that there were only three masks. “It wasn’t me,” she said. “I was with you the whole time.”
Tina shrugged. She already knew her best friend hadn’t touched it. “I know for sure I put it on the table. I dropped it right there.” She pointed to the bare spot on the table. “And then when I came back here, it was gone!” She tried to keep her voice from showing how much she was panicking.
“Okay, okay, I bet someone took it. Maybe the boys did when we were upstairs. They probably hid it, and they thought it was funny!”
Amanda’s mom came into the kitchen. Tina turned her sad face away, but it was clear that she wasn’t happy. “What’s going on?”
“Her mask is gone!” Amanda explained. “Someone stole it!”
“Hold on, hold on. Don’t accuse someone of stealing without all the facts. The facts are important when you are trying to solve a mystery. Let’s go over them. What do you know?”
“Those boys probably took it,” Amanda started, but her mom shook her head.
“No, that’s not a fact. That’s an opinion, a guess. You can’t base an accusation on that. A fact is something you know is true.”
Tina raised her hand like she was in school then answered without waiting for anyone to call on her. “I left my mask here. We went upstairs and played. We went outside and played. Now, the mask is gone.”
“Excellent! Those are all facts! Anything else?”
Amanda nodded. “Yeah, Cara was hiding something behind her back when she got home. And I didn’t see what it was.”
Amanda’s mom nodded slowly. “Did she say anything about a mask?”
“No, but she didn’t want us in the room with her.”
“Anyone else who could be a suspect?”
Tina looked toward the door that led to the backyard. “Well, the boys were playing outside, and we were playing upstairs. I don’t know if they could have come in the house while we were playing. . .maybe. . .”
“They were in here! Remember?” Tina shouted.
The boys came in the back door right then. They hurried over to get water out of the fridge. “What’s going on?” Jacob asked.
“Somebody stole Tina’s mask,” Amanda said, her eyes narrowing at her brother and his friend. “Do you happen to know who did it?”
“That ugly thing with the cats on it? No way!” Jacob said.
“How do you know what it looks like?” Amanda’s voice was accusing.
Jacob stuck his tongue out at her. “She wore it on the bus. Duh.”
Amanda looked at her mom, and her mom surveyed the group. “I think it’s time to talk to everybody. We need to get this story straight.” She called Cara downstairs, and after shouting back that she was busy and didn’t want to come down, Cara finally came. Everyone looked at Tina like it was her fault her mask was missing. She felt scared. She didn’t want anyone to be mad at her.
“Tina doesn’t know where her mask is. Does anyone here know?”
No one nodded or shook their heads. They all just sort of looked at the ground.
“We saw you throw something behind the couch,” Amanda said, pointing at Jacob.
“You were hiding something behind your back,” Tina said more timidly to Cara.
“Why would I want your mask?” Cara asked. “Yours doesn’t even have one of those metal nosepieces, so I’m not sure how it’s supposed to stay on.”
Jacob was already protesting his innocence again. “And it has cats, and dogs are way cooler than cats, so I wouldn’t even want to touch it.”
“Fine, what did you throw behind the couch then?”
“Some dumb old toy,” Brad responded.
“What did you hide behind your back?” Amanda asked her older sister.
“None of your business,” Cara said. “I just need like ten more minutes. Can you guys solve your fight on your own, and I go back upstairs? Then, everything will be fine.”
But Tina timidly volunteered. “I think I know who took my mask.”
Do you know who took her mask? Do you know why?