I hate school.
I also hate tennis, dachshunds, macaroni, and bees. Which is why I was far from happy when a bee flew in from the window of my history classroom and stung my hand as I tried to swat it away. I ignored the pain until my hand was very obviously swelling up a minute later.
I raised my hand. “Mr. Underwood, a bee just stung me and my hand is slowly but steadily becoming a watermelon. Can I go to the nurse?”
“Wait till class is over,” Mr. Underwood said.
I shrugged my shoulders. “Fine. I’ll wait till class is over. But I could possibly be developing an allergy to bees and if I die, you could be sued. Or worse—fired.”
Mr. Underwood sighed impatiently. “All right. Just go.”
In the nurse’s office, a bowl half-filled with macaroni and cheese was on the desk. The smell made me sick. I really hate macaroni. Who eats macaroni at eight-thirty in the morning, anyway? My bad mood worsened when I saw the small TV in the corner of the room. She was watching tennis. Even worse, the walls had pictures of dachshunds everywhere. Every. Where. To avoid eye contact with the dachshunds, I looked down and happened to see my hand. It hadn’t swelled up nearly as much as I had hoped it would. I wouldn’t get to leave school.
It was official.
I was ticked off.
The whole time I was in the nurse’s office, I complained about how much I hate school, tennis, dachshunds, macaroni and bees. I also hate bubblegum-flavored toothpaste but that’s a long, painful story that has nothing to do with why I was currently making an old nurse quite upset.
When she finally sent me back to class, I was still muttering inappropriate things. The bell rang and the halls were suddenly filled with students on their way to second period. I stopped at my locker and got my science book out. The guy whose locker was below mine waited impatiently for me to move, so I took my time. When I got bored of pretending to be looking for something, I slammed my locker shut. “Move,” I said as I shoved the guy out of my way.
I made a list in my head of all the things I hate about school as I made my way to class. I had decided the crowded hallways were the third worst thing about school when I heard my name. I turned around. My friend Sunny Handler was excitedly making her way toward me. “Fate, come see this!” I still wanted to be mad that a bee had stung me, but it was hard to be mad at anything with Sunny smiling brightly as she pulled me by my wrist to the doors at the end of the hallway.
“Look!” she said. She stood directly in the morning sunlight that poured in through the windows on the doors.
“Look at what?”
“The walls!” I followed Sunny’s gaze to the walls and the ceiling, where the sunlight was reflected off of the sequins on her shirt. “Isn’t this so cool?” She spun in a circle, watching the pieces of light dance with her every move.
I had to laugh with her. “You find the weirdest, most random things entertaining.”
Sunny is very good at putting me in a good mood. Ms. Peterson is not. By the time I was in my last class of the day, I was mad again. I had Ms. Peterson to thank for that.
Nelson Anderson, too.
Nelson had always annoyed me. He always sat in the front of the classroom, correcting the teacher and reminding the teacher about our homework. That’s exactly what he did on this particular day.
There were only five minutes left of school and Ms. Peterson hadn’t collected our homework yet. I was hoping I would actually have some good luck for once and she would forget all about it. Not that I believe in luck. But thanks to Nelson, my hopes were smashed by a boulder, run over with a bulldozer, and then incinerated.
I had to empty my book bag before I finally found the worksheet from the day before crumpled up at the bottom of my bag. Ms. Peterson walked by and took my assignment. She rolled her eyes as she straightened out the paper. While she went on to pick up everyone else’s assignments, I tore a piece of paper out of my notebook and crumpled it. I tossed it over some desks. It hit Nelson on the back of his neck. He turned around and glared at me. I glared back.
Ms. Peterson caught me as I tossed another wad of paper that hit Nelson right on the nose. “Fate Verne!” she scolded. “Quit acting like a child.”
“All right. Fine,” I said when she gave me that look she had reserved just for me.
“Good. If you’re done acting like you’re seven, you need to finish up today’s assignment before—“ Ms. Peterson was cut off by the bell.
I love when that happens.
Everyone jumped from their seats and rushed for the door. I grabbed my book bag and waited for my sister Destiny to gather her things to leave.
Destiny and I are twins. We both have thick brown hair and golden brown eyes, but even though we look similar, we’re different. Aside from the most obvious reason, which is that she is a girl and I absolutely am not a girl, we don’t act anything alike. I couldn’t be serious about anything if you paid me. I laugh at people blowing up and at funerals. My aunt says I use humor as a coping mechanism, and maybe she’s right.
Destiny is serious most of the time. When she’s with me and no one else is the only time I see her lighten up. People think she’s a snob. Maybe she is, but I’m the only one allowed to talk about her like that. I don’t think she fully appreciates having a brother who will get suspended for beating someone up in her defense though. Destiny would certainly never be in trouble for throwing wads of paper at jerks, as I was now.
“Fate, I’d like to speak to you,” Ms. Peterson said in her I’d-really-like-to-strangle-you-to-death-but-I-can’t-afford-to-get-fired voice. This had also been reserved just for me. Destiny and I were the only ones left in the classroom.
Destiny rolled her eyes at me and left to wait in my truck.
“I’d love to stay and chat but I have to get home before my aunt starts to worry. I just can’t do that to her,” I said dramatically.
“Sit,” Ms. Peterson said as she gestured to the seat by her desk.
I pulled out the chair and turned it around so the back was facing the desk. I sat down on the chair backward. “So. What do you want to talk about?” I asked casually.
“You are much too old to still be acting like this.”
“Acting like what?”
“Don’t pretend you have no idea what I’m talking about. And sit in your chair like a civilized human being.” Ms. Peterson rolled her eyes.
“Can I go?” I asked impatiently.
“Not yet. We need to talk about your homework.” She picked out a piece of paper from the stack in front of her and held it up. It was a worksheet from last week with equations I was supposed to have solved. I had only answered four questions, then I had given up and covered the paper with drawings of people being attacked by flying strips of bacon.
“What? You don’t like bacon?” I asked innocently.
Ms. Peterson scowled at me again. “You could have at least tried to do the work.”
“I did try. I solved four of the equations. And it took me over an hour just to solve those.”
“They’re all wrong.”
I felt my face grow warm. “I guess I’m just stupid, then,” I muttered, trying to fight the red embarrassment coloring my cheeks.
“You’re not stupid. I can help you if you don’t understand the homework I give you.”
“Can I go now?”
“Fine. You can go. But I’ll be calling your aunt.”
“Fine with me.”
In the parking lot, I opened the door of my truck and slammed it behind me. Destiny already had the keys in the ignition and some stupid pop music playing. I turned the music off as I backed up. “We’re not listening to that.”
She reached over and turned it back on. I turned it off again.
And Destiny turned it on again.
Half the drive home was spent like this.
I felt my phone vibrate and I took it out of the pocket of my black jacket. When I saw the call was from my aunt, I ignored it. A minute later, she called again, and again I ignored it. When Destiny’s cell phone rang, I said, “If that’s Sandra, don’t answer it.”
“It is Aunt Sandra, so I’m answering it.” She turned down the music and held the phone to her ear. “Hello?” she said, smiling smugly at me.
I could hear every word Sandra said from my place in the driver’s seat. “Give the phone to your brother.”
“Gladly.” She held the phone to me but I didn’t take it.
“Sorry. It’s not safe to drive while using a phone.”
“Take it,” Destiny said.
“There is no way I am going to risk the life of my beloved sister for an idle conversation.”
She put the phone back to her ear. “He won’t take the phone, but we’re almost home,” she told Sandra.
I turned onto the road we lived on as Destiny hung up the phone. I stopped in our driveway and said, “Get out.”
“Aren’t you coming in?”
“Heck no,” I said. As soon as her door closed behind her, I sped out of the driveway. I turned some good music on as I headed toward Sunny’s house. I felt my phone vibrate again. It was Sandra, of course. I turned off my phone.
Sunny lives just two blocks from my house. It didn’t take long before I was parking my old, dented black truck next to Sunny’s mom’s shiny red car. Sunny’s car wasn’t there so I knew she hadn’t gotten home yet. She was probably on her way back from picking up her brother from the elementary school.
On the porch, a small brown package addressed to Sunny’s mom was in front of the door. It didn’t have a return address—just the letters SAK where it should have been. I brought it with me into the house.
“Katrina! You got a package!” I called as I closed the front door behind me.
Sunny’s mom came from the kitchen. “Are Dylan and Sunny here yet?”
“No. But here’s your package.” I tossed it to her and she almost didn’t catch it.
Katrina took the package into the kitchen and I followed. She sat the box on the counter and took a knife out of a drawer. “You’ve been baking, haven’t you?” I said, the smell of fresh cookies taunting me.
“In the cookie jar,” she replied absentmindedly. She was focused on her package. She sliced the tape on the box with the knife.
With a handful of cookies, I watched Katrina open the box. “What is it?”
“I don’t know,” she replied. But then she finally got the box opened. She took one look at what was inside and quickly closed the box.
“Do you know now?”
“Yes. I know now,” she said mysteriously.
“Well, then what is it?”
“Nothing.” She picked up the package and walked calmly out of the kitchen and up the stairs. I followed behind her.
“What is it?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“What’s in the box?” I asked impatiently.
“What is it?”
“It doesn’t matter.” She made her way to her room at the end of the hall.
“Tell me what’s in the box!” I pleaded.
“No.” She looked at me cryptically as she closed her bedroom door behind her.
“Fine,” I said. “I don’t need your secrets. I’ve got my own.” I stalked back down the stairs. I took the cookie jar and sat down on the living room couch, cradling the jar in one hand while using the other to stuff cookies into my mouth.
A car pulled up to the house and a few moments later, Sunny and her six-year old brother Dylan came through the front door. “Fate!” Dylan squealed as he jumped on me. He has this crazy idea that he and I are best friends. “And you’re holding cookies! This day just keeps getting better and better!”
“Back off. These cookies are mine.” I was just kidding, but Dylan looked like I’d just told him Santa Claus had been stabbed to death or something. I felt bad so I handed him a cookie.
“Yay!” he screeched and ran off.
Sunny sat down beside me. “Why are you here?”
“The usual,” I said.
“That’s the usual?”
“Isn’t it?” Sunny asked with a laugh.
I could have told her the usual was to see her. I wanted to. But I didn’t. She was partially right anyway. I was avoiding Sandra. But didn’t she realize I had a thousand other places I could go to avoid Sandra? “I guess so,” I said with a shrug.
“I almost forgot!” she said suddenly. She opened her book bag that was lying beside the couch. She took out a piece of paper and handed it to me. It was a flyer for a music contest in Orlando, Florida.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
“I think you should sign up for it.”
“Because it’s a talent show. And you have a talent.”
“But it’s in Florida. Sandra would never let me go to Florida just to be in a stupid music contest. I don’t sing in front of people, anyway.” I have to admit, it did sound like a lot of fun, but I’d never sang anywhere near other humans, Sunny being the only exception. There was no way I was going to Florida to sing.
“But you’re really good,” Sunny said. “You’re the best singer I’ve ever heard.”
“Thanks for the exaggerated support,” I chuckled. “But why would I want to go to Florida anyway? It’s hot and humid and it sucks.”
“If you win, you get one thousand dollars.”
As great as it would be to win one thousand dollars, I still said, “I’m not signing up.” I handed the flyer back to her.
She folded it up and handed it back to me. “Just think about it.”
“Fine. I’ll think about it,” I said reluctantly. I put the folded paper in the pocket of my jeans and tried to forget that it was there.
Through the doorway to the kitchen, I could see Katrina at the table with a book. I snuck up behind her and whispered in her ear, “What’s in the box?”
She jumped and turned around. “Would you stop asking me about the box?”
Dylan was sitting at the bottom of the stairs. I sat beside him. “Will you do something for me?” I kept my voice low so Katrina couldn’t hear me.
“Good. Go to your parents’ room and look for a small brown box. Tell me what’s in it.”
“Okay.” Dylan grinned and ran up the stairs. A minute later, he returned. “This box?” he called down to me.
Katrina looked up from the kitchen table and jumped up as she saw what Dylan was holding. She was at the stairs in less than a second. “Dylan, give me the box.”
“I don’t wanna.”
“Give Mommy the box.”
Dylan smiled sneakily and shook his head; his shaggy blond hair flew around his face.
Katrina lunged for the box and Dylan ran up the stairs, laughing uncontrollably. “What’s in the box?” I called. I really wanted to know what was in that box.
“Catch!” Dylan tossed the box down the stairs as Katrina chased him.
I opened it quickly before she could stop me. At first, I couldn’t tell what the contents of the box were. But it soon became clear as I peered inside. I slowly closed the box and sat it down on the staircase. I felt like a changed person as I walked away from that box and out the front door to my truck.
During the drive home, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I really didn’t want to know what was in that box.311Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡO25OhSt5zQ