Gingerly, I inched my chair to the door of my house. I could hear Mom and Dad yelling. As usual it was WWIII, The Civil War, and Doomsday all wrapped into one. They fought about the same ridiculous thing: money.
Two years ago, Dad quit his job in San Myshuno, working as an architect, to come out to Brindleton Bay and join his friend to sell solar windows. Solar windows helped insulate a house better so money didn’t literally fly out the window. I all knew was the business stunk and my dad was under a lot of stress which put my mom under stress and so the whole house was an exploding bomb set off at almost all hours.
Cringing, I opened the door quietly so they wouldn’t notice me.
Damn. I’d forgotten about the freaking squeaky door. Quickly, I rolled my wheelchair toward the hall.
Mom stopped yelling at Dad for a moment and brushed a piece of hair from her eyes. She was half Italian and half Scottish. She looked like Gran, her Scottish mother–a very pretty artist in her day. But Mom didn’t “do” art. She was creative in an engineering way. She made all sorts of contraptions from the Flab-buster (a device that will make your belly skinny) to Christmas robots—elves that actually decorated the Christmas tree with lights and Santas whose bellies wiggled when they laughed while offering drinks to friends. I often wished she’d make a machine that would take the wrinkles from between her eyebrows. Mom would be very pretty if she wasn’t so mad all the time.
“Athena? Is that you?” She marched up to me and waved her hand. “You’re late. Again.”
“I know, Mom, but I can explain…”
Dad showed me a letter. “Explain this.”
“What’s this?” I scanned it quickly. Oh my God!!! “I got accepted into Art Studio Summer Institute in San Myshuno! Isn’t that great?”
“Read on.” Dad motioned with his finger.
“Cost is…” I gulped. “Three thousand dollars?”
Dad moved next to me as I read. “Why did you sign up for this, Athena? You know we can’t afford it.”
“I didn’t sign up for it. My art teacher, Ms. Harper, did. She didn’t say anything about the price. She just thought with my talent for art, it would really help my future. Can I go? Please, please, please? Think of it as an investment in your future. If I get rich, I’d share.”
Dad laughed. “Nice try, peanut.”
Smiling, Mom asked, “Todd, please, can we talk about this? There might be scholarships for teens with disabilities.”
This was one time I didn’t mind that term. “Yeah! I know there are probably tons. Please, Dad?”
He shook his head slowly. “It’s not just the price. They might not have the proper facilities.”
“We could look into that, of course,” Mom countered. (Yay, Mom!) “And I’ve got a bite on one of my Christmas robots. If it sells, there will be more, and then we’ll have the money.”
Dad sighed. “Listen, Serena, I hate to say this again, but you need to get a job. A real one. Not this flim flammy stuff that doesn’t pay a dime.”
Moving away, Mom said, “You’re not starting up on that again. Inventing things is my career. You just have to keep persevering. Look at what happened to Thomas Edison!”
Dad smirked. “The Ho Ho Ho-er is NOT the light bulb.”
Oh no. They were about to start up again. I tried to slip past them, but I felt a hand stop me.
“We’re not done, young lady,” Mom said, walking in front of me and narrowing her eyes.
“You were late again. Why?”
“Um…there w-was this little girl and she gave Francisco an interesting, golden book to give to me. So, I got distracted by it. I mean, it’s really cool. You want to look at it?”
Mom rolled her eyes. “Riiiight. Another one of your lame stories.”
Stiffening, I said, “You don’t believe me?”
“I find it hard to believe that you would have a perfect excuse every night. First you had to get a flower from Holly’s mom’s shop for a project without telling me…”
I crossed my arms. “I did, and I had to!”
“Then an unidentified dog chased you all over town and you happened to end up at Holly’s house…”
I craned around my chair, jerking my backpack onto the table.
“Fine. I’ll show you.” Scrounging around inside it, I pulled out a science book, a spiral, my art notebook, a few pens. Turning the backpack over, I shook. Nothing but dust. My heart pounded.
The golden book had vanished.
“Well?” By this time Dad was getting into the picture. Mom had a satisfied smirk on her face.
“I-I…” I looked from face to face. How could I make them believe me? “I had the book in my backpack. Honest! It was a beautiful golden expensive book that someone gave me.”
Mom pursed her lips. “And now you’ve lost it.”
“Well, yeah…I guess…oh, I don’t know.”
“Athena, we are really tired of your stories,” Mom started, “and you’re not going to get away with it this time.”
“You’re grounded,” Dad finished.
“Grounded?” I squeaked. “But I’m telling the truth!”
I felt my face prickle with guilt, remembering how I’d told a little lie yesterday about going over to Holly’s. I mean, Holly and I did see a dog and it scared us but then I didn’t want to go home and went over to Holly’s house, hoping they’d let me stay. But this time I was telling the honest to God truth and they didn’t freaking believe me.
“You should have at least texted us or turned on your phone,” Dad argued.
I blinked back tears. “I’m sorry, I forgot. And you know I have ridiculous teachers who make me turn off my cell phone all the time, but whatever. You guys don’t care.” I was about to twirl my chair to leave but Dad stopped me.
He asked,“Where are you going?”
“Nowhere. I’m grounded,” I choked out.
Wheeling myself as fast as I could to my room away from them, I slammed the door.
Instead of throwing myself on my bed and crying like I wanted to, I was slammed full on by what I saw.
Oh my GOD!
My bedroom was a total and complete hot mess.
“What the hell did you do to my room, Zelda?” I couldn’t even think straight I was so mad. She’d destroyed it, throwing everything she could think of–clothes, food, trash all over the floor. And the smell was so bad I wanted to puke. Was that dog poop smeared on my rug?
But then I caught a sight of what she was holding and I about lost it. “Zelda!” I cried. “You stole my book?”
Caught, Zelda’s lip quivered. “Don’t be mad, ‘Thena!”
I glared even harder. “Why shouldn’t I be mad? I got grounded because of you. Mom and Dad thought I was lying about it. Now give it back to me and get out.”
Slowly, she shook her head. “I saw them. They’re coming for you. You can’t stay. I made a mess in here and you can’t stay in your room.”
“What are you babbling about?”
Zelda dropped the book on the floor and hung her head. “Please, ‘Thena. Just run away. I saw them. They’re ugly–not like you.”
She wiped her eyes and sniffed looking at me as if for the very first time. “You’re…pretty!”
I pressed my lips together. Zelda must have had some freaky nightmare.
“Flattery isn’t going to get you out of trouble. You need to clean up starting with this.” I pointed at the disgusting dog poop. I had no idea where she got it. We didn’t even own a dog.
Zelda jumped off the bed then brought me the golden book. “Here, ‘Thena. It told me it’s yours. You gotta make a wish. Wish those bad people away.”
I squinted at her. “Have you been into the Halloween candy stash? I think it’d expired and messed with your brain.”
She gave me a pencil then jumped back on the bed. “Hurry! You gotta wish.”
Sucking in a breath, I opened to the first sparkly page. Although I knew nothing would come of it, I decided to wish away my messed up bedroom and readied the pencil. In my head, I pictured a beautiful new bedroom with freshly painted walls, new furniture, the works. I mean if I was going to wish, why not go big?
Quickly, without warning, I drew fluidly almost as if a magical force was guiding me, beckoning, sinking me into a sparkly golden pond.
“There!” I said, savoring the awesomeness of the drawing as I rolled over to my sister. “What do you think?”
Zelda’s eyebrows knitted. “That’s no good. Try again.”
“What do you mean? That’s a great picture of what my bedroom SHOULD look like.” I gave her a knowing stare to make her feel guilty.
But she kept shaking her head. “Do it again, ‘Thena. The bad people have to go. Put them in jail.”
I couldn’t believe Zelda was acting so strangely. I’d never seen her like this. I thought I should ask mom to check up on her. Maybe she was getting bullied at school and to cope, she dreamed up all these “bad people”.
A few minutes went by as I was trying to reason with a messed up five-year-old when Mom knocked on my door.
“Come in,” I called.
Walking into my room, she waved her hand in front of her face. “My God it stinks in here. What happened?”
I cocked my head. “Nothing much. Just a misunderstanding. Zelda’s helping me clean.”
Mom shook her head in amazement. “Wow. What timing! I just got off the phone with a decorating company. Seems you entered a raffle and won the grand prize. The decorator will arrive here tomorrow to talk about redecorating your bedroom.”
My stomach plunged. “I didn’t enter a decorating raffle, Mom.”
“Well, someone must have entered for you.” She smiled brightly.
I stared at Zelda who was staring right back at me with a worried look on her face. A weird yet wonderful feeling swept through me like I was invisible and could float through a wall or fly to a mountaintop.
I heard a whisper…
The book seemed to sing to me from the nightstand, “Oooopen meeeee!”
And right there in the middle of my dirty bedroom I saw my drawing of an amazing bedroom. I swallowed as my heart thumped hard in my chest.
The possible power swirled in my head. But then I stopped myself. Maybe Holly’s mom entered both of us in the drawing and this was just all a weird yet wonderful coincidence. But what if the book actually worked? And how did it work?
If it was real, I had to be smart about the wish power. Maybe that little girl was really an angel—a gift sent from heaven. I mean, my life had been total garbage, and it was going to take miracles to set it right. Why not?
Tingles of anticipation rippled through me. My life was really going to change.
SO, next update Wednesday, October 23rd.