In all honesty, Mom's never been much of a cook. Neither have I, actually. Or Dad. We'd all starve without microwaveable meals. But there is one dish no one can beat Mom in: her homemade enchiladas. Chicken, cheese, tortillas, fried onion, sticky rice, black beans, chili, spicy sauce... Man, you have [i]not[/i] eaten until you've had at least one of them. I hadn't eaten one for about four years, which made me even more desperate. I'm pretty sure I was drooling by the time we reached the kitchen. Mom smiled at me as she pulled out each ingredient and set it on the counter. "Just wait. This'll be the best batch yet." I covered my ears. "No! Don't say that!" "Why not?" I sighed. "If you assume something will go well, it's even more likely not to. The law of the Irony Gods." Mom sighed back. "Okay." She adopted an exaggerated frown. "This'll be terrible. We'll wreck the whole thing and have a god-awful mess to clean up." Her frown evaporated as quickly as it had appeared. "Happy now?" I raised my eyebrows (I still can't raise just one eyebrow, but I'm working on it). "Ah, but you don't really want us to mess up. Just wait." Rolling her eyes, she handed me a knife and a bag of onions. "Chop some onions first, then you can be all doom and gloom." "Hey, I can multitask." I set an onion down on the chopping board and started slicing it up. [i]This is actually really easy[/i], I thought. I should have known better, I know. Don't worry, I paid for it pretty quickly. How? Two words: Onion tears. I've always had terrible onion tears. I guess that after going for years without really cooking much, I kind of forgot. God, it was awful. My eyes were stinging like needles had been driven into them, and streams of tears were pouring down my face. I couldn't even rub my eyes, because my hands were covered with onion juice. I know I should have been grateful my life wasn't in danger, for once. After being bitten by sharks, disembowelled by Hork-Bajir, torn apart by ants (ants, of all things) and numerous other horrors, onion tears should have been no big deal. The human body tends to live in the moment. Pain is pain. And at that moment, I was in pain. Enough pain to drop the knife on the chopping board. Usually, that wouldn't have been a big deal, but the knife landed in a small pool of onion juice, flicking droplets of it everywhere. And apparently the Irony Gods weren't done with me yet, because some of the juice managed to hit me directly in the eye. For a split second, everything was okay. Until my eye exploded. Well, not really. But that's what it felt like. A supernova of pain exploding on the surface of my eye. Or a strong acid, eating into the gelatinous layers and burning a hole clear through my retina. I could have sworn I heard a hissing, burning sound. Apparently I can come up with a lot of terms for pain when I'm not busy running for my life. But all that standing and contemplating only amounted to a few seconds. After that, I rushed to the sink for some water. It took three cups poured onto my eye (completely soaking my T-shirt) before I started to feel better. "Better", meaning that I wanted to scream a little bit, rather than a lot. Mom never even knew this was happening. She was cooking the rice and beans, humming an upbeat tune. Occasionally, I heard her sing snatches of the song, but I had no idea what it meant. It was all in Spanish. I could pick up a few words, but not enough to make any meaningful sentences. I kept washing my eye until there was no more burning. There was a slight irritation that the water couldn't take away, but I would take a sore eye over an exploding, melting one. I looked back at the chopping board and instantly felt like crying. I had two more onions to chop. It wasn't fun, but I gritted my teeth and got through it, avoiding further disaster. After the onions, I moved on to grating the cheese. Thankfully, I managed to grate it all without losing any fingers (not that I couldn't just morph to get back any lost body parts). It was weird. I've never been a fan of cooking, but with Mom there, it was almost fun. When the rice and beans were done, she turned around to look at me. "We'll eat like kings and queens tonight, [i]mijo[/i]." It was an offhand comment, not intended to really mean anything. But Mom hadn't called me [i]mijo[/i] since I was ten. She had told me I was too old for a nickname. Except it hadn't been her at all. It had been a Yeerk who had never felt an ounce of affection towards its host's son. Hearing that old nickname again was just another reminder that my mother was free, and I would never let her be taken again. Okay. That's more than enough sentimentality. We made it through the rest of the cooking without dropping, breaking, burning, losing, spilling or otherwise ruining anything. Mom smiled at the finished trays of enchiladas. All... four of them. "Uh, Mom?" I asked. "I don't think the three of us will be able to eat twenty-four enchiladas." She rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "Oh dear," she said dryly. "I made too much food. If only you had five friends that could come and help eat it." She started serving the enchiladas, on eight plates. Oh. Right. I walked over to the phone and dialled Jake's number. Within a few minutes, I had casually invited both Jake and Rachel to dinner. I had to be more careful when I called Cassie. We're always worried that the Yeerks might be tapping the phone lines, so we make sure not to seem like anything more than ordinary kids. I wanted my message to get to Tobias and Ax, without tipping any unwanted listeners off that we're hiding an Andalite in the woods. I dialled Cassie's number, waiting for her to pick up. She did, after a few rings. "Hello?" "Hey Cassie, it's Marco." "Hi Marco, what's up?" She tried to sound cheerful, but there was an edge of worry in her voice. I didn't usually call Cassie unless something was wrong. "I was just wondering if you wanted to come over for dinner? Believe it or not, Mom and I actually cooked something decent. Jake and Rachel are coming too." "Sure, I'll be right over!" She still sounded worried. I wished there was a way to let her know things were okay without alerting the Yeerks. "Oh, and you know our friends from out of town? I thought it'd be cool to invite them too. You'll let them know, right?" Hopefully she would pick up on what I meant. "Yeah, I will. I'll be there in... about fifteen minutes. See you then!" "Okay, bye." After hearing a "Bye" in return, I hung up. I don't like to talk on the phone. Knowing that any of our enemies could be listening in gives me the creeps. Twenty minutes later, the eight of us were crowded around our small dinner table. Thankfully, Ax was in human morph, or it would have been way more crowded. Then again, Ax can be kind of weird as a human. Especially around food. At that moment, he was wolfing down his enchiladas, taking the seconds between each bite to exclaim about how excellent it was. Mom and Dad looked alarmed, but the rest of us ignored him. We're kind of used to it. As we all ate, Mom started telling everyone about the events of my driving lessons. Jake laughed so hard he nearly choked. "Oh, wow," he kept saying. "You actually [i]crashed[/i] it?" Nice to know how much my best friend supports me. After dinner, Mom stood up. "Nobody goes anywhere," she warned in a low voice. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw several people flinch. Jake was the only one of my friends who'd known Mom before she "drowned". The others had only known her as Visser One. An enemy. They thought this was a trap. "Nobody goes anywhere... until what?" Jake asked, caution in his voice. "Until everyone's had ice-cream!" The Animorphs sighed with relief as she pulled a massive tub of Ben and Jerry's out of the freezer.