How it started
Two months passed. Long months. Things with Gaby and Nate didn’t get any better. Gaby hated the way Nate made such close friends with the Wallace twins. It hurt. Gaby’s church friends didn’t seem as amused of spending time with her as they used to.
So Gaby took it all on Nate, to forget.
Nate was in pain as well. His past, what he saw, was just too much. It hurt. He saw how Gaby was so fiercely loyal to her friends, how she would do anything for them, and wished he could trust and let trust like her.
One of her church friends even once told Nate, “I always find my mind wandering because of my dad’s having cancer, and she still treats me like a wonderful person. I know she gets a little hurt, I see it in her eyes, yet, she never stops treating me the way she always has: interested and helpful.”
So Nate took it all on Gaby, to forget.
And so the cycle went. No one tried to stop it — that is, not the quarrelsome ones! You bet Mom and Dad and Belle anguished when they heard the argument.
One night, the family sat on the dinner table, eating cold left-over onion stew and warm sizzling cornbread that clashed horribly with the stew. Everyone was unusually quiet.
Gaby sat, staring at her food. She wanted to gag. Even Mom looked a little green. Mom had recently discovered a two week old onion stew, and placed it on the dinner table.
Every Friday the family swallowed as many left-overs as possible. Mom hated it when old food piled up in her fridge. And she also hated throwing away food too.
So here sat the family, asking themselves whether or not they should actually eat this gooey thing. Gaby and Nate were under the threat that if they started fighting, they would have an extra-large second serving of onion stew and no cornbread.
Mom cleared her throat. “Well, I have a surprise for you kids…” she winked at Nate. “You are going to have a new brother!”
Belle felt onion stew making its way up her esophagus. “Mom, you’re forty-two. You’re too old to be pregnant.”
Mom laughed so hard she almost choked on cornbread crumbs. “Noooo! What I mean is that we are going to adopt Nate!”
The onion stew in Belle’s esophagus slowly lowered itself down to her stomach. ” Cool!” she managed.
Gaby’s response was different, though. “I don’t need a brother and I don’t need you ruining MY LIFE!”
She stood up and stomped away. Nate cast the remainder of the family a dirty look, and stormed off to his room.
Church the next day was the usual, but with a little tension from the two. Gaby and Nate sat as far away from each other as possible.
After church, there was a church potluck in the cafeteria. Everyone crowded over to serve themselves steaming spoonfuls of beans, crispy chips, and crunchy salad all piled up in a haystack.
Nate wasn’t in a good mood. Especially that Charlene and Isaiah weren’t there yet.
Gaby was, though, in a darling mood. She was happy and smiling and she knew that she was bugging Nate, which made her smile even harder. At one point when Nate was passing by her, she stuck her tongue at him to annoy him.
Nate felt his face and neck get piping hot. Not realizing what he was doing, he found himself pouring his lemonade on her head.
“Arghhhh!” Gaby screamed as the reception suddenly got super quiet. “I HATE YOU, NATE!!! I REALLY DO!!! I HATE YOUR GUTS!!! I DON’T KNOW WHY YOU’RE STILL HERE!!! ALL I KNOW IS THAT I ABSOLUTELY HATE YOU!!!”
Gaby got up and stormed off into the ladies restroom to rinse her face and hair and to just bawl with anger. Why did she just say all that? Kind, sensible Gaby just turned into a total monster.
She could hear in the distance shouts and screams in the cafeteria. It was all her fault she knew that!
“What’s happening?” Gaby heard Charlene say outside the door.
She heard Nate mumble something, and Charlene started crying.
It’s all my fault, Gaby sniffed.
Loud piercing screams cut through the air once it seemed that nobody was there.
And that’s when Gaby noticed.
Those weren’t screams. Those were sirens.