I was nearly bored out of my mind when the Robinsons came back. “What do you think about having a barbeque?” Mr.Robinson asked, stepping into the house. “Oh. Hey dad.” Caleb glanced up from his sports magazine. The girls giggled as they ran into the house, toting small bags. “Hi, guys! We got kinda lonely so we came back quickly. Maybe we could have a barbeque, and then go for a bike ride after, since it’s a nice day!” Sheba bubbled. “Not bad.” Theo brushed past me and ambled down the stairs. “It’s gonna be awesome!” Sheba squealed. I bit back a grin. Her enthusiasm was contagious. “Who’d like to help me set up the grill?” Mr.Robinson headed towards the back door.
There was a jumble of exclamations, then everyone trooped outside. Except me. Not that I cared, anyway. What was the big deal about a barbeque? I stalked back upstairs and flopped onto my bed. “Ughh . . . I need a plan.” I muttered. I was tired of staring at the dust motes floating through the window. The problem was, my brain was a mess of thoughts and emotions and it was hard to think. I strode across the room and rummaged in my suitcase. I pulled out the cigarette box that I’d filched from a kid at my last school. After lighting a cigarette, I took a deep drag and relaxed. Smoke encircled me, bringing its soothing memories. I sighed. “Now for that plan . . .”
Thump. Thump. Footsteps echoed up the stairs. Perfect. I quickly snuffed out the cig, tossed it in the trash can and threw open the window. There was a rap on the door. “Tara, honey. Would you like to help with the barbeque?” Mrs. Robinson’s mild tones floated through the door. “No. Go away.” I retorted. The door opened. “Gee. Can’t a person have some privacy?” I groaned loud enough for her to hear. “How are you doing, Tara?” Mrs. Robinson asked pleasantly. I opted for silence. “I know how hard it must be to keep on adjusting to different families.” she continued. I only rolled my eyes. I hated when people acted like they understood me. She knew practically nothing about me other than what my social workers told her. And unless she actually lived in my shoes, she couldn’t understand me. “I just want to let you know that I’m here for you. If you need to talk, I’m listening.” Mrs.Robinson finished.
Then she plopped onto my bed and waited. Seriously? She really expected me to spill my guts to her? I nearly laughed. “Yeah, well, guess what? I don’t wanna talk.” I lowered my voice and infused it with defiance. Mrs. Robinson didn’t flinch. “Why don’t you leave me alone!” I yelled. She didn’t move. I had to admire her patience and composure. But I still wasn’t gonna comply. “So we’re gonna play the waiting game. Fine.” I narrowed my eyes. It was the ultimate standoff. Silence saturated the room. Nothing but the sounds of my breathing and heartbeats. My hazel eyes collided with her deep blue ones. They were filled with sincerity and warmth. I inhaled sharply.
Just then, Mrs. Robinson stood. A triumphant smirk twitched at the corners of my mouth. But she only picked up a crumpled gum wrapper and started to toss it into the trash can. My stomach squinched. She froze. “What is this?” She pulled out the cigarette butt with two fingers. “Surely you know what it is.” I countered. “Didn’t you know that we do not allow smoking?” Mrs. Robinson asked. “Yeah.” I flicked a lock of hair over my shoulder. “Then why did you smoke?” She looked sad. I probably had at least twenty reasons, but I only gave one. The best one. ” ‘Cause I wanted to.” “I am disappointed.” Mrs. Robinson sighed. “Very disappointed.” Then she plodded out the door. For a moment, I wondered if she wasn’t going to punish me. Then I shook off the ridiculous thought and prepared myself for a barrage of scolding and lecturing.
An eternity later, Mrs. Robinson reappeared with Mr. Robinson. “What you did was wrong, Tara. Not only did you break one of our rules and cause a fire hazard, but you also endangered your own health. So, we have decided that you will have to be punished. You will be grounded for two days and you will have to do extra chores during that time.” Mr. Robinson said grimly. I shrugged. I wished them luck in trying to get me to complete those chores. “I’m afraid that we’ll have to search your bags, to make sure that you don’t have any more. . . . contraband.”
“As if I care.” I crossed my arms. They uncovered the empty box of cigarettes and a small lighter. “You know, smoking is bad for your lungs. It damages . . .” Mrs.Robinson started. I cut her off. “Save it. I already know that stuff.” Mr. Robinson heaved a sigh as he left. Mrs. Robinson shook her head sadly before disappearing through the door.
“Whew. That was all? I might be tempted to disobey more often.” I muttered half-heartedly. Mrs. Robinson’s crest-fallen eyes lingered in my mind, haunting me. My head started throbbing. Yikes. Not another headache. I need some air. I stomped across the room and slammed the door. Then I wiggled the windowscreen free and sprung onto the roof below.