My eyes snapped open. “Where am I?” Faint light drifted through a window. The events of yesterday trickled into my foggy brain. “Oh yeah. 12th foster home.” I sat up and sprang down the loft bed’s ladder. A digital clock flashed 7:15. Crazy. I never woke up at this time. Then my nose caught the sweet, spicy aroma of French toast. Made sense. Food cooking is the best alarm clock.
There was a faint rap on the door. “Theo? Are you awake?” a muffled voice asked.
I grinned slyly. “No.”
There was a chuckle. “Well, when you’re awake you can come down for breakfast.”
In less than a minute I was down the stairs. Tara stumbled down after me. “Why get up so early on a summer holiday,” she muttered.
“Good morning. Glad to see you joined us. Have a seat. We were just about to say grace,” Mr. Robinson boomed.
“Uhh . . . I have to use the washroom.” Tara made a hasty retreat. Aww, man. She stole the perfect excuse.
“I forgot sunscreen.” I used the best excuse I could think of and disappeared upstairs.
I flopped on the landing and wiped my forehead. “Whew! That was close!” That coaxed a smile out of Tara.
When the prayer was done, we reappeared downstairs. “Wure gon tur the mull turday!” Sheba’s eyes danced.
“Don’t speak with your mouth full, Sheba.” Mrs.Robinson scolded.
Sheba gulped some milk and tried again.
“We’re going to the mall today!”
Suddenly I wasn’t hungry anymore. My eyes darted to Tara. She looked like she was eating a frog.
“That’s right. Back to school shopping. We usually make it a family outing and afterwards we go bowling or get some ice cream.” Mr. Robinson said.
“No offence, but I’m not coming.” A flicker of fear flashed across Tara’s face.
I focused on slicing my French toast.
“Why not?” Mrs. Robinson asked.
“Just don’t feel like it.” Her mask of nonchalance was back on.
“Are you sure?” Mr. Robinson asked. “We just want you to be included in our family.”
A wave of panic swept across Tara’s face. I crossed my fingers. “Don’t make a scene. Please don’t make a scene.” This would be the perfect time for Twin Telepathy to work.
“Hey! I said I don’t want to go to the stupid mall and I won’t! Don’t be so pushy!” She snarled. Then she fled upstairs at a speed that would make Flash ashamed.
I sighed. A thick silence blanketed the table. Mrs. Robinson started to push back her chair.
“I wouldn’t if I were you,” I mumbled. Everyone’s eyes turned to me. “Okay.” Mrs.Robinson sighed.
A few minutes later, Tara stalked down the stairs, mask firmly in place.
“I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to upset you.” Mr. Robinson said.
Tara just nodded.
“If you don’t want to go to the mall, then where will you stay?”
“Yeah. I’m not a baby.” Tara snapped.
“Umm . . .” Mr. and Mrs. Robinson shared a glance.
“I’ll stay. I already have enough stuff anyway.” Caleb volunteered
“I don’t need a babysitter,” Tara muttered. I frowned.
Mr. and Mrs. Robinson shared another glance. “Alright. What about you, Theo?”
“I’m staying.” And this had nothing to do with the fact that I’d never gone anywhere without Tara. It was more of “I don’t wanna go back there because of what happened last time”.
It was a day I’d never forget. I could almost see the . . .
“Ouch!” Tara kicked me under the table. I snapped back to the present. My French toast was in shreds, and I gripped the butter knife like it was a life preserver. I willed myself to put it down.
Perfect. I thought I’d gotten over this a long time ago. Guess not. I’d have to get my revenge first.
Whoah. Thinking morbid thoughts is not a good way to start a day. I shovelled the rest of my toast into my mouth and stood up.
“I can wash the dishes.” I offered, ignoring Tara’s raised eyebrows.
“Why, thank you, Theo.” Mrs.Robinson beamed.
It’s always good to get into a foster parent’s good books before testing the waters. And washing dishes can be fun if you make it a contest.
“Let’s race guys. Whoever takes the shortest amount of time to finish their job, wins.” I announced. “You guys in?”
Caleb, dish soaper; Elisha, dish dryer and Sheba, dish sorter all nodded.
“Alright! Start the stopwatch!”
Hey, did I mention that washing dishes is pretty fun? I won, by the way.