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Chapter 12

Cecelia was right. That was definitely the weirdest way I’d ever brushed my teeth. When I and my family were in areas like the warehouse, sometimes we’d just skip brushing altogether. That’s definitely not what this group does.

“So, you cup your hand and get some water and let it drip over your toothbrush until it’s nice and wet.” Cecelia demonstrated. “And then you brush.” She got to her feet and held her toothbrush close to her mouth. “Don’t spit anywhere relatively close to the stream because that’s a little gross.” She chuckled softly.

I nodded, perplexed. “Okay.” I did as she’d described and slowly put my toothbrush in my mouth. As I did so, I made a face. “This is so weird.”

Cecelia laughed. “Yeah...” She shrugged. “It’s better than nothing, though.”

I rolled my eyes as I ran my toothbrush along my teeth. I nodded in concession but didn’t say anything else.

We brushed our teeth in silence after that, but it was amusing silence. It wasn’t at all awkward like I was expecting it to be. It was nice having someone beside you who wasn’t expecting you to talk. I was tired of talking. Snark was just about all I’d managed lately.

Cecelia spit on the other side of the door and I followed suit. By the time we’d finished, half of the group had already laid down to go to sleep.

“I guess this is where I say, ‘see you tomorrow.’” Cecelia said, smiling slightly as she looked down at me. I felt unusually short next to her.

I nodded back. “Yeah.” I thought for a moment as I looked around again. “Tell everyone not to freak out if I disappear before anyone wakes up. I’ll be back, just...” For some reason, I was lacking an explanation.

Cecelia just nodded knowingly. “Got it.” She smiled. “Goodnight, Calypso.”

“Callie.” I corrected her, allowing her to use the nickname my parents had given me.

“Callie.” She smiled bigger and walked away to her own ‘bed.’

I walked back to my blanket and looked down at it, breathing raggedly as I fought against nostalgia. I laid down on it, rolled onto my back, and stared at the ceiling. As I tucked my hands under my chin, I closed my eyes.

“Ellie!” A girl called. I didn’t recognize her.

I looked up from a squatting position. “What?”

“Mommy wants you.” As she grew closer, I noticed that she looked like me.

“I’ll be there in a little bit,” I replied to the girl, totally relaxed.

“She said to come now.” The girl insisted.

My hands were covered in mud and there was grass scattered throughout the mound I’d made. “I was making a pie.” A childish whine came out of my mouth.

“You can finish it later.” The girl looked impatient. “Come on, Ellie.”

“Emma.” I mimicked her, standing up. We were the same height.

“Beat you there.” The girl, Emma, grinned.

I bounced up to my feet. “Go!” Even in a long blouse, I flew down the hill. Stones crunched under my shoes and the grey flew by with sparkles of mica in the granite crags. Emma and I squealed with laughter as we kept in pace with each other. Neither of us would actually try until we got closer. That would just be a waste of energy.

The sky stood still, fluffy white clouds floating by as the baby blue stayed firmly in place. The sun shined bright, but it was still cold. It was always cold at home. My boots didn’t slip on the rocks because I’d made this run so many times. The only mud was found far away from the house. My favorite was the mud under the big oak tree after a rain. It rained last night. Emma and I had watched it out the window. She said that the sky cried, but I said that it raced to the ground.

As the stone building came into view, I put on a burst of speed. Emma followed suit only a second later. I slowed until I ran right into the house, using my outstretched arms to catch me.

“No fair,” Emma complained half-heartedly.

I grinned at her.

“Girls!” Mommy called.

Emma and I looked at each other, then walked inside. I hid my muddy hands behind my back. “Coming, Mommy!”

In the kitchen, Mommy was sitting at the table. Papers were spread in front of her like they were usually around Daddy. It made me slow down.

I approached the sink and washed away all the evidence of my playing in the mud. Mommy didn’t like me getting dirty with mud. Daddy thought it was funny when I made mud faces.

“There you are, Ellie,” Mommy looked up from her papers, her eyes looking tired.

My hands stopped moving in the water. “What’s wrong?” I looked at Emma, but she seemed to be just as startled by Mommy’s face.

“Nothing.” Mommy tried to smile. She was a horrible actor. Her lips always moved into a straight smile when she tried to force a smile. We never told her.

I pulled my hands out of the water and dried them off on the towel next to the sink. I only barely stopped myself from wiping my hands on my jacket because Mommy was there. “Okay.” I wasn’t convinced, but I didn’t want Mommy to know. I approached the table.

Mommy took a deep breath. “Daddy and I need you girls to do something. It’s really important.” Her eyes looked scared.

“We can do it,” Emma said eagerly, looking concerned. She had always been the one who tried to please everyone. I was worried, but I wasn’t falling over myself to make it better.

“I know you can.” Mommy looked at me. “But we needed you to say yes. It’s going to be really hard and you aren’t going to like it.”

I stood up taller. “We can do it,” I repeated Emma’s words.

Daddy walked in. When he spotted us, he stopped. To my surprise, tears sprang to his eyes.

I looked between Mommy and Daddy, my heart breaking a little bit.

“Why are you both sad?” Emma voiced my thoughts.

“There’s been a new development.” Daddy said, his voice starting to sound like it was underwater. “We need you girls to...”

I woke up with a start, shuddering as my eyes popped up. My breath was ripped out of me in gasps. I swallowed and tried to shut it all off. The dream was already gone, but I wasn’t sure where it had come from. I didn’t remember it happening, but I wasn’t convinced that I would want to dream about something like that.

I pushed myself up to my feet. As I glanced around, everyone but the night watch was asleep. They were only stationed beside the door and they looked half asleep. They weren’t a problem.

I walked carefully around everyone’s sleeping figures and slipped out the back door, remembering where it was from brushing my teeth. As I listened to the door click softly behind me, I looked up at the wall that was just above the top of my head. I scuffed my boot on the ground before jumping and pulling myself up. I only glanced back at the door once before I ran off into the night.

I don’t have a mom, I don’t have a dad anymore, and I don’t have a sister. Now, it’s time to run all that nonsense off.

Maybe I’d feel slightly better after.

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