I'm not sure why I woke up so early that morning. Maybe it was my sister, bouncing the ball against her door in the next room. Or maybe it was my soggy back end, soaked by a fallen water cup in the middle of the night. Whatever caused me to wake up, I was grumpy either way. I threw the sweat-soaked sheets off of me and swung my legs over the side of the bed. My foot landed on something squishy and I closed my eyes in terror. Please, not dog poop, I prayed, please not dog poop, please, God, not dog poop! I tentatively opened one eye and looked down. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized it was just one of my sisters' slime.

The anger returned when I realized that the slime was stuck to my new school uniform shirt! I'd only bought one because they were getting a new shipment the next day, and this was that one! I swiped up the shirt and brought it to the bathroom sink. I ran it under the water and hastily scrubbed the slime off, but the stain remained. I groaned and threw the shirt on, stain and all.

After brushing my hair, teeth, and doing... girl stuff, I headed down the stairs and started to make breakfast. I popped four slices of bread in the toaster, as much as it could toast at a time, and got the creamed honey from the pantry.

I had just started making scrambled eggs on the stove when my brother, Harrison, came bounding down the stairs. He skipped two stairs down to the landing and rounded the corner to the kitchen. I almost teared up at the sight of him in his little, partially-tucked polo shirt. He was going into Kindergarten. He crashed his toy truck onto the table and made small vroom-ing noises with his mouth. I bade him good morning, and he grinned and said good morning back. Always the little gentleman.

Next, came Lea. I could tell because my two-year-old sister always took the stairs with carefully-measured steps. She came down, dolls in hand, and immediately ran over to me and wrapped her little arms around my shins. I picked her up and moved her away from the open flame. I swooped her through the air while she giggled and then plopped her down into her seat. She giggled again and started to play with her dolls, making up little voices for each one.

Last but not least, or maybe least depending on the day, my two 13-year-old sisters, Nora and Audrey, slid down the banisters of the stairs and stuck the landing like pros. The little ones cracked up while my sisters beamed, and I rolled my eyes lightheartedly. The entertainers, as always.

I finished making the eggs just as the toasts popped up. Right on time, I thought to myself with pride. The Dunn family was like a well-oiled machine. We stuck to the same routine every day and got out the door easily. And right on time.

As I ate breakfast, my mind began to wander. I was going to be a senior this year. I had proven my worth at home. A caretaker, babysitter, keep-in-line-er, whatever you want to call it, but my social life just wasn't there. My thoughts were interrupted by a loud BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

"What the hell is that?" I shouted. Lea had her hands cupped over her ears and was crying, fat tears rolling down her face, her expression twisted in anguish. Nora pointed to the stove and I gasped. Black smoke was billowing up towards the ceiling, and I could already see the haziness in the air. I rushed over and turned off the flame. I removed the pan from the stove, turned on the stove fan, and opened all of the kitchen windows. Gradually, the smoke drifted out of the room, and everybody was still in a state of shock. I rubbed my neck sheepishly and said, "Sorry, everybody." I chuckled nervously.

So, this wasn't part of the normal schedule, but there were surprises every day. I could already tell today was going to be interesting.

I waved goodbye to my little siblings, threw on my bookbag, grabbed my keys, and walked out the front door. I slid behind the wheel of my Tundra and just took a rest. What. A. Morning, I thought to myself. Nora and Audrey plopped themselves in the back seat and stayed silent. They could tell I was having a moment.

When I was ready, I started the engine and backed out of the driveway. I left the neighborhood and rounded the office building. Just them, my car's engine started to sputter and I pulled it over into the shoulder. It rolled to a complete stop, then started to roll backward. The girls started to scream.

No, No, No, Jesus! I slammed on the break and I stopped. I put the car in park and got out to examine the damage. The girls pressed their faces against the window. I retraced my footsteps and realized I had not filled up when I had been supposed to the day before! I had come home from work late and had been too exhausted to remember. I smacked my palm into my forehead and called my parents. We were going to be late on the first day of school. Just my luck... I rolled my eyes and waited for my parents to pick me up.

We had my truck towed back to the house where we'd fill it up manually later, but we had bigger problems at the moment. My parents weren't mad; they'd had similar experiences in their youth. They drove us to school and dropped us off, beaming. I rolled my eyes at them amusedly as they sped away, probably glad to have a few lass children to deal with.

The girls branched off to meet some of their middle school friends and I went ahead to the library. I jumped into a beanbag chair and let myself get wrapped up in one of my favorite classics, To Kill A Mockingbird.

About 5 minutes later, the first bell rang, time to start class. I walked out of the building to the Locker Room for ENS(Excercise and Nutritional Science) Class. I quickly changed into my bathing suit and headed out to the pool.

My high school had switched around the units, so, even though I'd done Swim in Freshman year, we had to do it again in Senior year.

I was one of the first out to the pool, so I waved to Coach Rand, and started to do laps. I focused on my strokes, extending my arms and bending them at the right places and times.

I popped my head up just as more students were starting to enter the pool area, laughing and talking loudly with friends. I saw Coach Rand give me a thumbs-up as I reached for a towel off of the rack. I smiled tiredly and gave her one back. Then, I walked over and sat on the bench with the other students, using the towel to wipe down my face. I congratulated myself on a good run just as Coach Rand started to explain our first exercise. Juvenile, I thought to myself.

After she finished talking, I enthusiastically hopped into the pool and started to execute the practice expertly. After I'd finished, I whipped my hair up, shaking it out and smiling at how early I'd finished. Then I froze.

Everybody in the class was looking at me. Some with envy, but most with utter awe. I cocked my head confusedly, but Coach Rand started to clap.

"Well done, Ella. You see that, class? That's how you do it," I blushed at her putting me on display, but the praise still felt good.

After ENS, I showered, changed, and headed back inside for Honors English. There's not much to be said about this class. We read an excerpt from some Shakespeare play, and I couldn't stop staring at the cute new boy. That's it.

The next class I had was Drawing and Painting. We met our new teacher, Mr. Potterson who was a cartoonist! Because cartooning was my favorite drawing style, I had a ton of questions for him. They would have to wait.

During class, he told us his life's story, and why he pursued cartooning as and occupation. I listened to the whole speech with wide-eyes, and I was almost sad when the bell rang to end the period.

I decided to meet him personally after class. I walked up to his desk and introduced myself.

"Hi, I'm Ella. it's so nice to meet you!" He shook my outstretched hand and chuckled softly.

"It's nice to meet you too, Ella. I look forward to spending the year with you!" I laughed.

"Thanks!" I sped out of the room, grinning stupidly, excited that he would be my teacher for the year. I couldn't wait to see all what he could teach me this year. I couldn't wait for my cartooning to get better. Maybe then, I'd be able to look back on it and see my progress!

Last period was off-roll, so I was free to head home. I chuckled to myself. A whole hour-and-a-half without my little sisters. They'd take the bus so I didn't have to come back for them. I spun my keyring around my finger as I headed for the parking lot then froze.

Right. No truck. I whipped out my phone and called my stepmom. She said she was waiting in the parking lot. I skipped like a little girl all the way there. Sure, I got some weird looks, but I didn't care. This day was really turning out well.

I got home and reviewed the projects we'd already received in Honors English and did about an hour of that. Then, I opened my blinds and curled up in my beanbag chair to read.

Half of an hour later, the girls got home. And the circus begins, I thought to myself, rolling my eyes. I sighed and closed my book, heading down the stairs to help with the chaos.

About ten minutes later, my stepmom got home with Harry and Lea, Harry coming home from kindergarten and Lea from pre-school. Lea came skipping in, humming to herself. Harry stomped in, in a grumpy mood for some reason. I walked over, picked him up and launched him into the air. He wasn't amused. I put him down, my smile fading, and he stomped into the next room.

My stepmom smiled as she passed me, whispering, "he's mad he doesn't get to play with toys like pre-school." I snorted and followed her and Lea into the living room, where Harrison was sulking on the couch. I beckoned for him to follow me upstairs. he came but kept the scowl on his face.

I met him in my room. I kneeled down to his level and looked him in the eyes. I said "Harry."

"Don't call me that," his scowl deepened and he crossed his arms.

"Harrison Joseph."


"Harrison Joseph. I know kindergarten isn't exactly how you imagined-"

"Not. At. All," he interrupted.

"Okay, so it's 'not at all' how you imagined. So what? You are excited to learn to read and write, aren't you?" His face softened.


"Well, that's much more worthwhile than playing with toys. Sure, toys are fun, but they don't teach you to read or write, do they?"


"That's right. Now you see here, you're very lucky to be able to go to school. How about we learn at school, and then you can play with toys after school?" His face broke into a grin.

"Okay, Ella." He gave me a big bear hug and then ran out of the room with his arms out, making engine noises with his mouth as if he were an airplane.

I grinned after him. I knew my role in this family.

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