A Trip Across the Snow

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Chapter 2: The Storm is Howling In

Whoosh, redwoods and oak trees cling to their remaining leaves. Branches and twigs flap and bash from side-to-side. Dust swirls through the air and snow struggles to reach the ground, with the wind dragging it through the air.

For the animals, proper shelter becomes hard to obtain. Squirrels hide in small caves while bunnies duck below the surface, in fear of the storm catching and harming them. Up in trees, wind twirls at birds, forcing them low. The mother bird clutches and hides the younger ones inside her wingspan, protecting them from winds unheard of to little baby birdies.

Boom! Crr! Clouds roam over the sky. Bombs away! One after another, the powdery chunks collide with the ground. Splat!

Ouch! What’s that we crashed into? Oh, only plants. Four flowerbeds sit in a matching bistre brown on the wooden patio. Two lie on each side, two containing lavender, one with winter roses, and the last with light pink daphne. Lizzy owns the lavender as a gift from her mother to share her favorite color. Oliver has daphne from his grandmother before she died. Evelyn possesses the strawberry-red roses from James to celebrate their fifth child’s birth.

Though their porch is so lovely, no one will dare step on it for a while for the snow has covered the seats and flowers. Besides, any step outside in this weather could result in becoming frozen.

And so, as the base of the yard softens to a thick rise of snow, we gaze as the storm continues. In a mere few days, all should clear up and go back to normal. We’ll have to wait and see. And here we come, back to the window where Oliver still glares at the storm like nothing happened.


Oliver rocked one last time and thrusted himself to his feet. He ambled to where Lizzy and Charlie played Monopoly.

“Yes! You’re bankrupt. I win,” Lizzy said. She laughed while Charlie stared cold.

“What’s going on over here?” Jeffrey asked. He trotted over to Lizzy and Charlie and took a seat next to Lizzy.

“I won our monopoly game, Jeffrey. Charlie lost…again. None of you guys can beat me, what a shame it must be.”

“You know, you act all nice and sweet, but when you play games, you’re the meanest of all of us.”

“I can’t help I’m better and more competitive.”

“And a bragger too. Oliver, don’t you think she could tone down her bragging a bit?”

“If you want to her stop, then beat her.”

Charlie shook his head and leered at Lizzy. “This ain’t over.”

“I hope your bad grammar is,” Oliver said.

He’ll never take my side, will he? If I was bragging he would’ve told me to stop.

Lizzy laughed and joined Oliver’s side. Betty entered the room. “Suppertime, sweeties. We’ve set the table.” She ushered the five children into the dining hall.

At the table, seven seats aligned, but Betty had set five placings. Ellie and Jeffrey sat on boosters to reach the table. The two youngest made pitter-patter with their silverware and put their elbows over the table.

“Eloise, Jeffrey, I don’t want to see your dirty elbows on the clean table. And if I hear that rickety sound one more time, I will send you to bed with no dinner!” Ruth said.

The two settled as told. Ellie situated her silverware without even a chime, but Jeffrey dropped them. Cling. Clang. He planted a snoot on his face while Ruth walked out. “Such annoying trouble-makers. Why, they couldn’t be pleasant for one second if their lives depended on it,” she muttered.

Charlie mimicked her faces and waved his finger at Jeffrey and Ellie. “Now don’t you laugh in this house,” Charlie joked. “There will be no laughter in this house or I’ll send you to bed with no dinner.”

Lizzy, Ellie, and Jeffrey, burst into laughter. “Do it again Charlie, do it again,” Jeffrey said.

“Save the talking for later,” Wilma, one of the maids, said. Four other maids joined her to put the food on their empty plates as pots and pans clunked their way on the table. The children sniffed the aroma with delight. Oliver sighed to avoid remarking on their cockamamie sniffles. Betty filled the plates with swiss chard and spinach, Wilma rolled corn-on-the-cob over butter to make it tastier.

Bubbles and steam flew out of the pot as Wilma removed the top. Red sauce slurred over thin strips of linguini. Meatballs slithered away from the center. Charlie and Jeffrey drooled. Lizzy grabbed a napkin and wiped Jeffrey’s mouth. Oliver hit Charlie and glared at him. Fool.

Charlie grabbed his own arm. Ouch! Doesn’t he know that hurts me? Does he even care?

Betty opened the last pot and out plopped two handmade bread rolls for each kid. Scoop, plop, serve, scoop, plop, serve. Each portion piled on the plates and went to a kid. Scowls interrupted, as did every night, when they saw their vegetables.

“Do we have to eat these?” Charlie asked, holding up Swiss chard while plugging his nose.

“Oh yes, my dear,” Betty said, resting a hand on Charlie’s shoulder.

“Why?” Jeffrey asked, gazing up at Betty.

“Because they’ll make you big and strong when you grow up. Look at your father.”

“Ugh,” Jeffrey said.

“Let’s dig in already. I’m starving,” Charlie said. He pricked his fork inside his meatball. Tomato sauce brushed across his lips as juice from the meatball squirted out.

And Charlie, much to Oliver’s displeasure, always made a goof of himself. He rubbed sauce on his face and shirt. “I’m bleeding, help! Someone stabbed me!” He placed his hands over his heart and fell out of his chair. Giggles arose from the youngest as they couldn’t help but look over at their brother. Oliver shot at stare at Charlie and shook his head.

He always gets away with acting like a complete fool. But when Mommy and Daddy are here, he acts like a perfect angel. It never gets me. Those were my tricks first, anyway.

“Oliver, get over here!” James stomped down the stairs. A petite boy cowered to him, displaying a goody-two-shoe and “yes Daddy” face like nothing happened. A stern look crashed the man looming over Oliver.

“James I need your help with Ellie, she woke up!” Evelyn said.

James glanced back upstairs. “One minute darling.” He stepped off the last step and kneeled before his son. He kept his head down. Oliver peered down and twiddled his thumb.

“Oliver,” he said, “I know you want attention we don’t always show you, and I’m sorry.” He peered up and Oliver turned to leave, but his father’s firm grip reassured he had more to say. He faced his father. “But, this doesn’t mean you can go and pull pranks. I need you to step up and act as the role model your siblings need. We’re traveling to the city soon and we need your help,” James said. The stern expression receded as he scurried to assist Evelyn with their two babies.

Oliver soon took responsibility and became the group leader. So why didn’t they ever give me enough attention after all that? And why does Charlie do these shenanigans though? He can’t do it for attention for he never acts out when Mom and Pop spend time with us.

Twirling linguini, he realized he had zoned out. Charlie noticed Oliver glaring at him. Why does he always give me that look? I wish my jokes would make him laugh like they make the others do. He’ll never laugh, or smile at anything I do. I only want him to impress him too.

Oliver gobbled the last bites and fled to the living room, in front of the fire. Why don’t I get the same laughs he does? Why don’t they care about me as much as they do about each other? I’m just bossy and boring to them. How can I change to be someone they like? Maybe Mom and Pop would love me more. I don’t get it. I try the hardest and get the least care.

“Oliver? Everything alright? You left dinner early and seemed to rush over here,” Lizzy asked, hurrying to his side.

At least she cares. “Don’t worry, it’s nothing. I felt some chills in the dining room. Now c’mere, sit down,” he said. He tapped the deep red carpeting beside him. She perched beside him.

Boom. Clack. Hobble. Charlie pounced on the floor while Ellie swished her slippers. Little Jeffrey tried to keep up. “Wait up, wait up!” he said.

“Alright guys, let’s do something fun!” Charlie said.

“Children, time to put your pajamas on and prepare for bed.”

“Bedtime? Wah!” Jeffrey said.

“I’ll have none of this bickering. Go help them, Oliver,” Ruth said.

“Certainly. They’ll return in a jiffy,” Oliver said.

Ruth scoffed and headed off. She muttered, “Their parents better arrive soon. I’m sick of tending to these bickering brats.”

She despised children and wanted nothing to do with them, but with the terrible economy, this became her best job offer. She needed a place to live and sleep. When I signed up for this job, I didn’t think their mother and father would travel out of the house this long. Such snobs, they have five children and can’t bother to care for them.

“Everybody, up we go. Put on your nightwear and wait back at the top of the staircase,” Oliver said. They hesitated to do anything involving bedtime. Nevertheless, Ellie led them up the stairs and every kid dawdled to their room.

Ellie’s room, the second room from the staircase, was positioned across from the staircase. Inside, the door led to her chambers, any little girl’s dream room. Her room filled of dolls, stuffed animals, a castle, palace, dresses, toys, and anything else her heart desired. Beside the doorway, a black curtain brushed to the side as a she entered her wardrobe, one bigger than most girl’s bedrooms. Coat hangers flopped and flew when she scooted through dress after dress, many of them pink. The options appeared limitless.

“What dress should I wear to sleep tonight?” She pondered through all the options. She pulled out a blue, short-sleeved dress. “No, it’s much too cold for short sleeves.” She tossed the dress on a pile of her other clothes she had decided not to wear. Those laid on the floor until the maids to hung them back up.

She scrolled through her sleepwear and came across two dresses she liked; one pink, the other in midnight blue. “What do you think, Alice? Which one should I wear?” She looked at her doll. “The pink one? I agree. Pink is my favorite color.” A long-sleeve, silky, and pink nightgown slipped over her brown waves. White cotton fluffs tinkled along the collar and at her sleeves’ ends.

Ellie skipped out of her room and toward the steps in hopes of arriving first, but Charlie sprinted to steal her place. “Well Ellie, I see I beat you again,” Charlie said.

“You won because your room sits right next to the staircase,” she said.

“Coming through.” In came a little squirm of energy, trying to squeeze past Ellie and Charlie. Lizzy stopped Jeffrey from doing any such thing.

“Hold it, mister,” Lizzy said. She yanked him toward her and held his hand. Lizzy squeezed his hand and twisted her waist from side-to-side, allowing her lavender nightgown to flow.

“Why am I standing here? I could be playing with my trains.”

“Patience, Jeffrey. Maybe while we wait, you could tell me something,” Lizzy said.

“Ooh, did you know the first train was invented by a man named James Watt? But then the first working railway used successfully was created by Richard Trevi—oh I can’t remember how to say his last name. Darn it!”

“Jeffrey, that’s fascinating. Where’d you learn all this from?” Lizzy asked, with intrigue and surprise.

“Father taught me. He learned all about them when he visited mother because mother used to live in the United Kingdom where the railroads and trains were first invented.”

“Wow, Jeffrey, that’s incredible you know so much.”

“Yeah, who knew Jeffrey was more than a birdbrain?” Charlie said.

Jeffrey’s mouth widened. “Hey, meanie,” Jeffrey lunged at Charlie, but Lizzy caught him in between.

“Charlie! That was mean, untrue, and not funny! You shall never say something again like that. I’ll have to tell Oliver.”
“No! Don’t! He already hates me. Don’t give him any more reasons to…”

“Did I hear my name?” The oldest stepped in like royalty with everyone waiting for his “grand entrance.” A navy robe hung over his silk bottoms. He strolled between his siblings and gripped Lizzy’s hand to lead her down. He signaled Charlie to bring the others down. Oliver and Lizzy clanked down the stairs while Charlie skipped down the steps. Oliver hit the bottom and escorted Lizzy to the side of the staircase. He scrambled up the stairs to bring Ellie and Jeffrey down himself. He shook his head at Charlie’s skipping on the stairs. What on Earth is he trying to do? Make them trip? And he wonders why he falls all the time.

“Oliver, why do you always watch and take us everywhere?” Ellie asked.

“For your protection.”

“We don’t need help walking down the stairs,” Ellie said.

“You don’t know what you need! Things are always worse than you’d expect,” Oliver said. He tramped to the game room, leaving them to shrug. Lizzy motioned to follow him. The other three did behind her as she galloped to a seat beside Oliver.

Betty appeared with a box in her hands. Once she set it down, the case revealed itself as their favorite game—Snow Mountain. The goal was to climb the mountain and reach the other side first. Every player used a different colored snowman that moved through obstacles along the way.

“You children may play for an hour and then off to bed,” Betty said.

“You’re on, everyone,” Lizzy said.

“Choose a snowman,” Oliver said.

“Alice and I are the pink one,” Ellie said. She plucked it on the start space. Charlie snatched the gold colored one, his favorite.

“I’m purple, though that doesn’t matter because I win no matter what color I play with.” Lizzy said, raising an eyebrow and challenge at her fellow competitors. Charlie eyed her while Ellie placed her hands on her hips. “Well, if anyone thinks they can beat me, they better prove it.”

“Can I go yet?” Jeffrey asked. Oliver nodded and Jeffrey rolled the dice.

“Dessert, youngsters!” Betty said. Everyone dropped their snowmen and crowded around Betty. She handed each child a petite plate with an oven-fresh cookie. Chocolate chips melted in the kids’ mouths as the chewy cookie softened with every bite. Slurp. They drank their warm hot cocoa and set their mugs on the table to continue the game with nothing but laughter and smiles amongst each other.

Yet, terrible storms present terrible things to discover, but that’s something to reveal later.


“Alright children, it’s time for bed and I don’t want a fuss,” Ruth said. She lifted Jeffrey’s forearms and dragged him to the stairs. The four eldest scurried behind.

“We can’t sleep, Mother and Father aren’t home,” Ellie said.

“There’s a storm, they may stay trapped in the city for a few days. Now up, up, up, and off you go. Good riddance,” Ruth said, pushing the kids up the stairs.

“But,” Ellie said.

“No buts!” Ruth said. “Go.” They four youngest hurried up the stairs, but Oliver dawdled behind.

“Shoo. Go to your rooms and I’ll come to each of you soon,” Oliver said.

On most nights, the lady and man of the house wound up at the house in time to tuck them in. However, this occasion, Oliver would give the goodnights. As they headed to their rooms, Oliver gazed at the ceiling window to hear the heavy snow pounding. This storm sounds bad, but I can’t tell them that. Soon Mother and Father will show themselves and everyone will sleep well. I should comfort them, in case.

Into Charlie’s room he went, where dark gold walls reflected snow colliding against the window. Books and magic kits covered the rugged carpets. Oliver halted at the end of the mini hallway. He pushed aside Charlie’s hanging magic cape to see his brother flipping the pages of a book in his bed.

“Who gave thou permission to enter me room?”

“Your knight riding his horse in our hallway, obviously. No, you twit, of course I took my own courtesy to enter.”

Charlie stared at him cold. Does he actually think I’m a ‘twit?’ He’ll never stop calling me those names. All I want is him to regard me and be my friend.

“Are you still reading?” Charlie nodded. “I’ll come back later.”

“Out, out with you, you peasant!” Charlie joked and pointed at the door. “And next time you better wait for my word.”

“Oh I will.” Oliver winked while walking out.

Pew, pew, pew! A rabbit flew at Oliver’s face as he opened the door to Jeffrey’s room. Wolves chased deer across Jeffrey’s room while trains sounded their engines and prepared to leave the station. Choo-choo! Oliver stepped in. Do I even want to know what’s been going on? He approached Jeffrey and said, “time to set your toys aside and go to sleep, Jeffrey.” Jeffrey hid his eyes from Oliver. “Jeffrey,” Oliver said, “if you don’t put those away this instant, I’ll get Ruth to tell you herself.”

“You wouldn’t, would you?” he said, turning to Oliver.

“Try me.”

“Oliver, don’t. I just want to play.”

“Playtime passed hours ago,” Oliver picked up some of Jeffrey’s action figures and animals and tossed them in the bin.

“One more minute.” Jeffrey held up a finger.

“No.”

“Please. Pwetty please.”

“Jeffrey!”

“Fine!” Jeffrey said. He threw his toys to the ground and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Come here, Jeffrey. I’ll read you a story, but you know to behave better. Betty and the other maids will clean the rest,” Oliver said. Jeffrey stayed on the floor. Oliver ran at Jeffrey and zapped him.

“Hey!” Jeffrey said.

“I’ll get you again,” Oliver said.

“No!” Jeffrey leapt off the floor and ducked inside the closet.

Oliver glanced inside. “Where are you Jeffrey. I’m going to turn on the light.”
“No!” Jeffrey crawled between Oliver’s legs and raced to the door. He reached for the doorknob when he felt his feet leave the ground.

“No chance,” Oliver lifted Jeffrey. He kicked and wiggled his arms, but Oliver held on and stuck him inside the covers. Oliver towed over a stool.

“I don’t want to go to bed.” Jeffrey pouted.

“Gee, no kidding.”

“So why do you make me?”

“Because those are the rules. Now, how would you like me to read Winnie the Pooh?”

“Ooh! That’s my favorite story.”

“How’d I know?” Oliver smiled. He flipped through the pages and went through the story. Jeffrey pitched in a few words he knew and forgot he didn’t want to go to bed in the first place.

“Oliver, I’m scared to sleep alone,” Jeffrey said. “Please stay, Mother always lies in bed with me.” Oliver shifted on the stool’s legs and turned away.

“I’m sorry Jeffrey, but I mustn’t stay.”

“What if the evil snowman gets me?”

“He won’t. I promise.”

“How are you so sure?”

“Um…because I locked the front and back doors.”

“What if he crawls in through the window?”

“Snowmen can’t do that.”

“Well, what if I have a nightmare?”

“Jeffrey! You have to learn not to fear everything.”

“But there are too many scary things!”
“I know, but you can’t let them affect you. Your fear allows you to have nightmares. I need you to move past these things so that you can grow and up and take care of yourself one day.” Oliver headed toward the light switch.

“Wait! No!”

“Quit stalling me, Jeffrey. I have to go help our siblings. Betty can protect you too.” He twiddled his thumb and index finger on the switch.

“But I want you to stay, Oliver. I don’t want anyone else.”

“Sorry, Jeffrey, but I better be on my way.” He dragged the switch downward and released, as did the light from the lamp. He turned and left Jeffrey’s room. I wish I didn’t have to seem like the bad guy, I wish I could comfort him, but he’ll be out in two seconds anyway.

“Meanie. He doesn’t like me as much as everyone else.” Jeffrey murmured before pivoting to sleep. Betty entered with a candle. Oliver tiptoed to the door of Ellie’s room, cracking it open before shuffling inside.

Ellie rocked back and forth on her chair. She brushed the hair of Alice. “And you know Alice, one day when we’re all grown, you’ll marry your own Prince Charming and you’ll become the queen. But when you’re queen, you won’t forget about me, right?”

She looked to her doll. “You won’t? Yay! You mean everything to me, Alice.”

“Ellie?”

“Oh, hello, Oliver.”

Oliver neared her and grabbed a book. “Are you ready for bed? I’ll read you a story.”

“Just a minute. I have to bring Alice to her bed.”

“Take your time, all the time you want,” Oliver said, rolling his eyes.

“Looks like it’s bedtime, Alice. I know you’re not tired, but Oliver’s going to read a story so you’re welcome to listen in. Goodnight.” Ellie squeezed her doll once more before placing Alice in her snow castle bed.

“Are you ready yet?” Oliver asked.

“I didn’t say goodnight to everyone else yet. Goodnight, Mr. Rabbit, goodnight, Mrs. Frog, goodnight, Grumpy Crocodile…”

“That’s enough now, Ellie. I think they all get the point.”

“Oh? They do?”

“Sure,” Oliver said. “They want you to get your rest.”

“Well then,” Ellie giggled, “I better get to bed, huh?”

“Oh yes.”

Ellie waltzed into her canopy bed. Baby-pink curtains of the bed seeped from the ceiling to the four corners of the bed. A blanket gushed straight into the lace tips of her cherry-pillow.

“Which story would you like me to read? Cinderella or Madeline?” Oliver asked.

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know? Pick one.”

“No thanks. You can. I never make decisions.”
Oliver set the two books down. “What do you mean you don’t make decisions? Why wouldn’t you?”

“Because I’m afraid of making the wrong one, so I never decide on anything.”

“So who does decide for you?”

“Alice or Daddy. And they’ve yet to make a bad one so I don’t feel I should stop all the good they’ve done.”

“Well this is preposterous, Ellie. Just choose one book or the other.”

She shook her head and ducked further under her covers. “Fine. We’ll read Cinderella.” Ellie hopped back to sitting position and prepared to listen. Oliver rolled his eyes. “Maybe not now, because it’s late, but one day I will teach you to make your own choices. Whether you want to or not.”

Oliver grabbed Cinderella and flipped over the cover. He skimmed past the first few pages to the story’s beginning. Ellie curled into a ball.

“Once upon a time,” Oliver said. He scanned the words as spurts sprung out of his mouth. As words plopped and dropped, various expressions crossed Ellie’s face. Smiles widened at happy parts like the fairy god mother turning Cinderella’s torn up dress to a ball gown while Ellie scowled at wicked parts, like the stepmother trapping Cinderella in a room. But there was no reason to worry after long, for Cinderella made it to the ball and met Prince Charming. “And they lived happily ever after.”

“Yay!”

Oliver stood. “Goodnight, El.”

“What about Alice?”

“Huh?”

“You didn’t say goodnight to Alice.”

“You want me to say goodnight to your doll? Seriously?”

Ellie gave him her puppy eyes. “Daddy always does. And she’s not just a doll, she’s a princess.”

“Alright then. Goodnight, Alice,” Oliver said.

“Goodnight, Oliver,” Ellie said. She shut her eyes and rolled to sleep. Oliver wandered out the exit path and left the door a crack open. Next Oliver goes to Lizzy, but that must wait for word has it, something’s happened outside the house.


Burr, whoosh. Wind rips across the land as snow keeps falling. Snow whips from left-to-right as the wind sweeps it to-and-fro. And through this windy road we go across the valley, where the parents travel. Something tragic has happened, but what was it? We must find out!

Snow blocks the roads. The trees on the side of the road appear hollow and cold, like they need a fur coat. Animals curdle and cuddle inside any shelter they can find, hoping the freeze won’t sicken them.

A glimpse of light appears in view. Closer to the scene, coats and hats hustle and bustle around a catastrophe—the most horrid sight of any. They murmur and whisper among themselves of how it could’ve happened. Some let out tears while others try seeing what’s going on. Slabs of tree bark scattered across the ground. A crash has torn the tree.

Candle lights flash around the arched structure—an automobile. An enormous dent caves into the car. Is it inside out? How can one recognize the vehicle with all those scars?

They pry open the jammed door, to get the people out. Two bodies still lay there, lifeless and unfamiliar. But before we dwell on an unknown tragedy, let’s evacuate the premises.

Off we go, through the snow, without a single woe. We pivot around and find ourselves traveling back to where we came. Snow may pound as the storm howls, but we must go there to say goodnight to the other three children. There’s no time to wait, so c’mon and we’ll get there in no time.


“Lizzy? Are you still awake?” Oliver asked, looking in from the doorway.

“I am. Come in.”

Oliver slogged through her room of purple and white. Her white desk lined up across from her own canopy bed. Black, silver, and white feathers sparkled the side of her desk while her jewelry boxes and snow globes covered the table’s surface. Unlike the other rooms, Lizzy’s carpet remained free of toys and books.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I drew a picture,” she said, while filling in more details with her pencil.

“Can you show it here?”

“Sure.” She smiled. “Here.” She held up her drawing. Her drawing detailed the windy trees and storm she could see outside her window. She had managed to blur the trees in the sketch, like the fog, which made them less clear from their view. One could also tell which snowballs were closer to her view than others.

“Is this your drawing or did you steal Father’s camera?”

“It’s my work! I’d never steal.” Oliver admired the sketch and examined it closely. “So, what do you think?” she asked.

“Magnificent. I can’t help but keep staring.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Now, let’s get on with your bedtime.”

Oliver opened the worn and torn pages of the ever-so-old Brown Book of Tales. In laid various stories splattered into words. Oliver chose a tale about a secret snow castle and read the story.

“What if we lived in a secret castle?” Lizzy asked.

“Quite interesting,” Oliver nodded his head, “we could scavenge all around and play all sorts of games.”

“Ooh and I could win them all because surely I’d have the best hide and seek spots and know every inch of the place.”

Oliver chuckled. He tucked the book inside the shelf when they finished and looked to turn off the light. “That’d be such fun, but right now you’ll have to dream about it.” Oliver reached for the lamp.

“Wait, Oliver, do I have to go sleep yet?”
Oliver turned around. “Well, yes, why wouldn’t you? You’re normally not the one who tries staying up.”

“I know, but Mom promised we’d practice the piano. I’d hate to be asleep when she comes.”

“She might not return for hours, Liz. You’ll be too exhausted by then to play.”

“Then why would she promise if she couldn’t go through with it?”

“Oh Liz, I know she’s kicking herself right now that she couldn’t get here on time. Please don’t hold it against her. Sometimes things happen and prevent what we want from happening.”
“Okay, I won’t.”

“I’m sure you’ll play with her tomorrow.” Oliver placed the book in the empty slot and turned off the lamp. “Nightie-night, Lizzy,” Oliver said. He scampered out the door. “One more.”

When he reached Charlie’s room, he saw Charlie wiggling in his sleep. He’d perched his book on the nightstand. Oliver smirked.

“Goodnight, Charlie,” he muttered. He cleared the lights and exited.

He whistled and strolled on his heels to his room. At last, I can sleep. He kicked off his slippers and started looking through his shelf for a book. “Oliver?”

“Hello?”

“It’s Betty, dear.”

“Betty, can’t you see I’m trying to get ready for bed.”

“But…”

“It must wait,” Oliver held a finger to her mouth and shushed her.

“No, it can’t.”
“I don’t want to hear it,” Oliver said.

“Believe me, you never will,” Betty said. She sighed and took a seat on his stool. Her eyes rimmed of red and her heart had sunk.

Oliver turned to her. Is it actually serious? What could be wrong now? He set his book down and stepped closer to her. “What is it?”

“You know,” she stood, “maybe you were right. I should tell you tomorrow.” She headed to the exit, but Oliver pulled her back inside.

“No, now you have to tell me. What’s going on?”

“Come, Oliver, and let me remind you to always remember how happy your life once was, before you heard this.”

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