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Chapter Two

The feeling of gentle hands shaking me roused me from sleep. I moaned and opened an eye.

"Morning already?" I signed. Mom smiled. "Always too soon," she signed back.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes. Mom gave me a kiss on the forehead and walked out, no doubt to wake the twins up. I got out of bed and ran for the bathroom before I lost the chance for privacy.

I've never been able to enjoy a game of Marco Polo in the pool or the sound of someone knocking on the door if I've been under the spray too long. I start my mornings like I end my days: in silence.

But the silence is short lived. After my shower, I ran back to my room. With my hair wrapped in a towel, I affixed my devices. It takes a moment, but the sounds of a house waking up for another day filled my brain.




I whirled around. A mop of red hair jumped up from behind my bed. Something that felt like a bullet slammed into my eye. I let out a cry, my hand flying up in desperate to stop the pain.

"Ooooh, you were way ooo-ffff."

"Let's go!"

Out of my good eye I saw Brayden and Tristan tear past me. They had a baggy filled with little objects.

"What did you two do?" mom shouted. A second later she was back at my door. I was still holding my eye.

"What happened?"

"They hit me with something," I said. I couldn't help but sound whiny; my eye was throbbing.

Mom and I both looked at the floor. A second later I held up the offending object: a tampon.

"BRAYDEN! TRISTAN!" mom bellowed. She took it from me and headed down the stairs.

A second later mom ran back up. The boys always split up when in trouble. She must have found one of them hiding in their room because I heard a loud lecture about using sanitary products as weapons.

I walked over to my door and locked it. I had learned from years of awkwardness that it was too easy for the boys to just barge in. I took my time getting dressed. I loved making sure everything blended.

I especially loved when I was able to use something old of Shelby's. I loved old clothes. Even though dad had no problem letting mom and me loose with the credit card, I preferred shopping at thrift stores.

Everything old could be made new again.

A half hour later I was ready for school. I ran down the stairs and burst into the kitchen.

Joe was skulking at the table. Dad was lording over a big griddle filled with pancakes. I sat down, leaned over, and nudged Joe's shoulder. He scowled.

"What's wrong?"

"Dad's being a douche."

Dad turned around. "Jonah."

"What? I think it's bullshit!"

"What's bullshit?" I asked.

"Your brother," dad said. He flipped the pancakes onto a plate. "is pissed off that I won't give permission for him to get a tattoo."

"Says the man that's got more ink than a fuckin' octopus," Joe said. He speared a pancake off the plate the moment it was set in front of him.

"Your grandmother didn't let me get a tattoo until I was eighteen. You're going to wait two more years."

"What kind of tattoo did you want?" I asked. I grabbed a pancake. Joe smothered his with strawberries. They looked so colorful; unfortunately, I was allergic.

"I wanted a barracuda. Y'know to represent the band."

I resisted rolling my eyes. Joe's band was called J.A.M. and the Barracudas. So far the only steady work they could get was playing in a bowling alley on Friday nights. I didn't think that constituted enough pride to get a tattoo, but I didn't say anything. I didn't want to hurt his feelings; he was already feeling angry enough.

"That would be like me getting BSB on my ass," dad said.

"Getting what on your ass?" mom asked. She had Brayden and Tristan in tow. She pointed and they sat down sullenly.

"Our son is still complaining about the tattoo," dad said. Mom sat down and shook out her napkin.

"Joe, when I was sixteen I would have kissed my parents feet if I got a car for my birthday. You need to drop the tattoo thing."

"This is child abuse," Joe scowled. Mom's eyes widened.

"Excuse me?"

"What, did you fart?" Tristan asked. Brayden laughed. I guess everything was funny when you were almost eleven.

"You're one minute away from being grounded. The both of you," mom said. "Don't you have something to say to your sister?"

Brayden turned to me; his brown eyes danced impishly. "I'm sorry I catapulted a cooter stick into your eye," he said. Tristan had been gulping orange juice; he sprayed it all over dad and fell out of his chair laughing hysterically.

"Why couldn't I have had all girls?" dad whispered under his breath. He dabbed at the orange juice bubbling up on the top of his bald head. Mom was yelling; Brayden and Tristan were forced to eat in opposite corners like they were four years old again. Joe rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, because your daughters are so perfect," he said.

"No one's perfect," dad argued. "But at least they know how to behave."

Joe's eyes darkened. He shoved his last bite of pancake into his mouth.

"I'm outta here," he said.

"Where are you going?" mom asked.


"So early?"

Joe smirked. "I've got morning detention."

Dad just sighed. Joe yanked my hair out of the side-twisted ponytail I had labored on. He slung his backpack onto his shoulder and headed out.

"I'm worried about him," mom said softly. She hadn't touched her food. Dad looked stressed.

"My past is coming back to haunt me."

I felt so bad. Why couldn't Joe see how much he was hurting mom and dad? Why did he have to be so stubborn?

"How's your eye Al?"

I looked at dad. He smiled. I touched my eye.

"It's fine. It's good to know I always have a weapon in my purse," I teased.

Dad laughed. Mom leaned forward.

"I talked to Shel last night. When you get home from school, give her a call. She wants to let you know more about that job she found for you."

"Alright," I said happily. I couldn't stop from beaming; dad frowned. I had six short weeks of school left before summer.

"Can I get Ally's room?" Tristan asked.

"I'm not leaving for good!" I complained.

"Shelby did," Brayden argued.

"Alright you two. Get your backpacks. We've got to get you guys going," dad announced. He tossed down his napkin. Mom gave him a knowing look.

I couldn't imagine doing what Shelby did. As annoying as the twins were and as moody as Joe was, I didn't know how I'd be able to stay away too long. Dad needed me, or I liked to think he did. Besides, Joe and I have always had a connection; I seem to always know when he's in trouble. I don't know if Joe feels it as much as I do, but then again I usually never get in trouble.

"Penny for your thoughts, beautiful," mom said. She took my plate. "Have a good day at school."

"Thanks," I said absent-mindedly. I grabbed my bookbag. My stomach felt queasy. That sixth-sense of mine was already warning me that Joe was already up to no good...

And the day had just begun.