When I woke up that morning and found the kitchen sink spewing forth water, I had a feeling it was going to be a really bad day.
I had no idea I had a new baby brother as I crept back up the stairs, mindful of the creaky step, toward my parents room. I couldn't fix the sink on my own and I didn't think Mom and Dad would want the puddle to continue to grow. I opened the door and poked Dad in the back to wake him up.
It was then that I saw Haiti snuggled in Mom's sleeping arms. While I didn't relish the idea of another person in the household - I had to admit, he was kind of cute. For a baby anyway. Dad hadn't woken up, so I shook him gently. "Dad!" I whispered right in his ear over and over again until he finally opened his eyes and looked from me to the clock.
"Sorry Dad." I said after he'd followed me downstairs to see what the problem was.
"No no, it's okay. It's got to be done..." he said, though he sounded exhausted already and the day had just begun.
Since Mom had been up all night, Dad made sure all the kids were fed and changed and told us all to keep the noise down. I'm not sure the little kids understood his instructions - they were noisy even in their sleep - but they nodded anyway. Then they started yanking pots from the kitchen cabinets and banging on the walls.
"No no! Shhh!" Dad said, loud enough to wake Mom all on his own.
"It's okay Dad, I'll take these two." I pointed to Violet and Minsk. Windsor and Amethyst were old enough to understand the concept of quiet and had retreated to the block table by now. I took the hand of each toddler and we started the slow, arduous trek up the stairs. Considering they were both pretty wobbly on their feet, it took us awhile but we made it.
If it weren't for Haiti's brief moments of crying, I wouldn't have known Mom ever woke up that day. She would nurse him and comfort him until he fell back asleep and she would do the same. They stayed in bed all day long.
Some weeks before I'd suggested the community pool as a venue for Windsor and Amethyst's birthday party. I honestly don't know why I did except that Ora Mandarin had mentioned it a time or three at school. I don't really care for being outside or swimming or loud parties for toddlers. And yet the next day we were packing up half the house in an effort to have a birthday party at the pool. Yeah well done me...
It wasn't soooo bad but I stayed curled up under a massive umbrella after the cake had been cut. They tried to convince me to jump into the pool but I was perfectly content where I was...okay I wasn't really content but I'd suffer for a couple hours anyway.
That weekend was the big dance with Ora. I'd regretted my impulsive decision to ask her to the dance ever since the words had slipped from my mouth. But you see, I foolishly looked to my dad for guidance at that pivotal moment and he shot me the biggest, proudest grin and a pair of thumbs up. I took that as a good sign and took the plunge!
And now I was stuck going on a date...sort of... I don't think it counts as a date when you're seven years old really. Mom didn't seem to think so anyway.
"Isn't your date here yet?" Amethyst teased. She didn't think it was a date either - I'm not even sure she knew what "date" meant. Truth be told, I didn't really know either but Peche and Merlot - who were both older than me - told me all about them.
I'm not sure I trusted their assessment really...
"I think I'll wait outside." I muttered. Mom was looking at me with a sappy smile and tears in her eyes. Dad looked like he was about the thump his chest at any moment. Windsor and Amethyst were snickering about me and kept looking at me before bursting into fits of giggles again.
I stepped outside and sat down on the steps.
After a moment, I considered the merits of just hiding out when Ora came...she didn't have to know I was here. Maybe Amethyst could tell her I'd been eaten by a giant snake. The mental picture of me standing inside the snake's belly was enough to make me shutter.
I sat rigidly on the steps for a couple hours before it become obvious that Ora wasn't coming after all. Maybe SHE had been eaten by a giant snake? Even though I'd regretted the decision to ask her, it still annoyed me that she didn't come.
When I walked slowly back inside, Windsor and Amethyst were no where to be found but Dad no longer looked proud and mom's smile was gone. She came forward to hug me but I waved her off and Dad held her back. I slumped up the stairs and went to the one place I knew I could find the solace I needed...the computer.
I heard the bedroom door open and close but I didn't turn to face whoever it was. I heard snickering and had to grind my teeth not to turn around and punch him in the nose. Mom and Dad wouldn't like it if I got his blood on the carpet...
Unfortunately, life went on in spite of being ditched. Windsor bugged me more and more during my computer time and Mom and Dad showed no signs of getting the family a second computer. "Rum! You've been on that computer all morning!" Windsor whined.
"I was here first AND I'm older!" Windsor slumped away - probably to go whine to Mom or Dad.
Amethyst, like Mom, loved to be outside - it was so weird to me that anyone could like it out there but they did. She would help mom in the garden and then they would play in the sprinklers on the weekends.
She even managed to drag Windsor out to play a lot. While he didn't have my disdain for the outdoors - he wasn't exactly what one would call the outdoorsy type either. Truth was - he was a nerd.
But she and Windsor had a twin thing going on. They played together in the same way Violet and Minsk could play together. I felt a little left out actually because I didn't have a twin. But Haiti didn't either...maybe when he was older and not like a slug...maybe then we could be friends.
Mom and Dad's tenth wedding anniversary was coming up pretty quickly - at least that's what they told me. I got the impression from the little list my mom was making that an anniversary was a gift giving event. I wasn't sure Dad understood this fact though as he made no mention of getting Mom anything from her list - or anything at all.
But one day while Mom was busy trying to teach Violet to walk - AGAIN - Dad ushered us out of the house with him and said we were going shopping. This little fact thrilled Amethyst and Windsor as visions of calculators and footballs no doubt danced in their heads. I really didn't care as much.
Still, I imagined someplace a little more upscale was required for shopping for an anniversary...
"Dad....do you think you'll find Mom's anniversary present here? Seriously?" I asked, cringing as Windsor and Amethyst dug deeper into the piles of trash. "Is this blood??" I looked at the pipe closely before dropping it quickly on the ground and backing away.
"Hmm? Anniversary...?" Dad started to say, his eyes wide with fear and anxiety. "Oh nooo...no of course not!" he said quickly. "This is for something else entirely..."
"Oh...okay..." I said looking around. There was a small shack attached to the junkyard and I pointed to it. "I'll be in there..." I said, though no one was listening to me. I shook my head and stepped into the shack and stopped dead in my tracks.
"Ora!" I shouted in surprise. Given the small confines of the shack, my voice bounced around the room quickly.
"Oh...Rum...." she said sheepishly. Man she'd grown! I'd avoided her at school for so long now, I hadn't realized just how much she'd grown since the date that didn't happen.
Without anywhere to retreat to but the outside, I squared my shoulders and walked over to her - intent on making a few attempts at small talk. But as soon as I got next to her, I exploded. "Where were you?! Why didn't you come?"
She said something about something coming up and may have mentioned the name "Cookies" before my dad step inside to retrieve me. We were on to our next stop, and not a moment too soon.
This time Dad took us to the consignment store - which still didn't look like the ideal place for gift shopping - but I kept my mouth shut this time.
Dad made a beeline for the register where Ms. Blueberry Muffin was working. Windsor starting browsing their book selection and Amethyst looked at just about everything while I hung back and hoped this trip would be quick. I just wanted to get home and be done with this day.
It may have been my eyes playing tricks on me or my young mind reading too much into it, by my dad seemed really fond of Ms. Blueberry...of course he'd been selling his painting here for years so maybe they were just friends.
Still he came away with a specially wrapped box and he swore Mom would love it and that he'd gotten a great deal on it.
When we got home, Violet was watching something on TV while Mom read one of her cook books. Violet was enamored with the TV...didn't matter much what was actually on, she just loved watching it.
With six kids - it seemed like we were always planning for someone's birthday around here. Haiti's was finally going to become less grub like - something I greatly looked forward to. Right now he was the least interesting person in the house.
And then suddenly he was VERY interesting. Mom said his hair color reminded her of her dad's - though the purple roots had to be from Dad's side of the family. "Maybe it'll get darker..." she said, tilting her head to one side.
"Of course it will." Dad said, though I noticed he put down Haiti rather quickly and stepped away from him.
Well I liked him anyway, I sat down with him and started playing peek-a-boo while everyone else got some cake.
I was so busy playing with Haiti that I didn't see Ms. Blueberry come in. I was pulled away from our game by Amethyst's shouts though and looked over to see what was going on. I couldn't make out any of the words though and wondered what Blueberry had done to upset my sister so much.
Mom soon went upstairs with Minsk and Violet in her arms. They were both practically asleep already and I knew they'd sleep soundly today. I saw Dad step outside with Ms. Blueberry, probably to see her out. Windsor and Amethyst were fighting for a space at the window to watch.
"What is going on?" I asked as Mom scooped up Haiti and took him to bed as well. They waited until Mom was upstairs before motioning me over to the window as well.
I stared out into the near darkness for several minutes before I heard the creak of the stairs, followed shortly by a gasp. Mom was charging out of the house, with Windsor and Amethyst close at her heels.
Ms. Blueberry made a hasty retreat once Mom started yelling. We were soon shooed upstairs but we all sat quietly on the top step that night.
"Cin..." Dad started.
"Wha...why?" Mom was struggling between shouting and crying.
"I didn't realize her feelings!" Dad said quickly. "And then..." he hung his head.
"And then? And then what?!" Mom shouted, making all three of us cringe.
"Nothing happened Cin, I swear nothing else happened..." he was pleading with her to accept his words as truth.
Mom just shook her head and stepped away from him. "I'm tired...let's just go to bed for now." she said quietly. The three of us knew it was time to retreat to our own rooms lest we be spotted.
I laid awake in bed for much of the night and wondered what was going to happen now. I was near enough to Mom and Dad's room to hear that they weren't sleeping either. They fluctuated from silence to muffled talking to all out shouting - mostly on mom's part.
Their anniversary passed by without much attention. While Mom hadn't kicked Dad out of the house or anything it was clear that their relationship was somewhat strained after that.
As my birthday approached, my mom put on a happy face and offered to throw me any sort of party I wanted but I had a small invitation list and even fewer requests so she had an easy time of it.
I guess it went as well as to be expected. Ora was there, looking cute but not really paying much attention to me. Mom and Dad weren't speaking much and Aunt Ella was giving Dad the evil glare. Dad had the good grace to stay out of the way for the most part and Uncle Jag stayed by his side while most everyone tended to avoid their corner of the room.
Maybe High School will be easier than this...I can only hope.