My bedroom door swings quietly open thanks to the WD-40 I sprayed on the hinges yesterday. I kick off my flip-flops then step out onto the carpet. If Mom and Dad hear me creeping down the hall for sure they’ll drag me into their latest shoutfest. I’m not taking sides.
My big sister’s door is shut tight. Sarah is not asleep. No one could sleep through the fight downstairs. I just want all the yelling, all the sniping to stop. Well, it just might. And really soon.
I knock twice on Sarah’s door. Nothing. I’m not standing out here exposed for much longer. I knock again. “Open up, Sarah.”
Finally the door cracks open. A sliver of face appears. Her left eye scans me up and down.
For starters, stop the war between our parents. But what kid can do that? Well, maybe this kid can. “I need your help. It’s important.”
Her door inches open just enough for me to slide in, then silently shuts. Since she turned sixteen last month this is forbidden territory. When we turn sixteen we get to redo our bedrooms. Sarah just finished redecorating. My chance comes in four years. Sarah’s room is girly all the way—pink walls with cream-colored ceiling molding and baseboards.
“I’m the reason this time,” I walk over to the white-framed mirror on the wall opposite her desk where she keeps her laptop. “I told them it would be nice to get out of New York City sometime this summer—”
“Oh please. That’s your sixth grader’s thinking.” Sarah leans up against the bookcase beside the desk where all of her school books are supposed to go but instead end up scattered around the room.
From downstairs Mom shouts, “This is not about where we go. It’s about being together as a family.”
“Still wrong, Brian,” Sarah says.
I brush my fingers along the fringe dangling from the pink-shaded lamp that lights up her workspace. Scraps of paper and post-it notes litter her desk. I couldn’t stand the mess. My room isn’t as new or fancy. But at least it’s neat and I can find my things.
“Your strategy of punishment by ignoring Dad seems to really be working. Great way to get his attention, Sarah. That’s what you really want.”
I see her surprised smile. Gotcha. She picks up a post-it, begins tearing it and slowly nods. “Daddy being pissed off has at least something to do with me. Forces him off that cell of his even if it is only to yell at me.”
“Do other kids have this problem?”
“Sure they do, little bro—like all of my friends. Parents are from another planet. You’re the straight-A student and president of your class. Got any ideas?”
“Actually, I do.”
“You do? Okay, Brian Schilling, Mr. Scary Smart Geek. Spill it.”