Danny poked me to wake me up.
“Are you still alive?” he said, “Cuz I wouldn’t be surprised if you weren’t.”
“Technically I’m not,” I told him.
“Am I? Living skeletons aren’t zombies but they aren’t alive—wait, but zombies are living dead—are skeletons dead?”
We smiled. Then I remembered.
“No!” I cried, bounding out the room. Tape followed after me and made it in the casaco closet before I slammed it shut. I heard Zero’s barking upstairs.
“Gretchen?” dad said. It sounded like he came from the back porch.
I said nothing. I can’t believe it, though—I was so excited about nailing the audition I forgot that today is…
“The twins must be up,” mom said to the boys.
“Is she in the closet?” the triplets asked.
Danny answered, “Yeah.”
“Boys,” I heard dad scold them for snickering uncontrollably.
“What?” Q said. “She’s so adorable.”
Jeremy said, “Ten going on eleven and she still hates school. I’m so proud.”
Zeeb, at least, tried to help me out. “You should consider keeping her home. She likes it here a lot mais than school.”
Mom stopped them. “You know she needs this. If it wasn’t for school, she would never be out of the house.”

True. I never really thought about that, but it’s true. The only time I go out is with mom in the late afternoons to help her get plants from the garden (the graveyard’s garden where the forest also starts).

mais boys spoke in my favor. “Last time she told me she said she’d rather boil in the desert and be eaten por wombats,” which was a lie.
“I never said that!” I yelled.
Laughter sprung from my brothers.
“She lives!”
“I knew she was smarter than that. There aren’t any wombats in the desert.”
“That’s not the point,” said Jeremy. “The point is Gretchen is having another crisis. I was just trying to characterize her feelings in one rápido, swift phrase.”
“And you failed.”
“Epically failed.”
“Boys!” dad said again. “It’s only six o’clock and you manage to wake up the whole street.”
Calvin said excitedly, disregarding the meaning of dad’s statement, “That’s hyperbole, isn’t it?”
“No,” Q said, “he’s exaggerating.”
“You idiots become mais stupid por the mouthful. Will you be quiet for once?”
Within this small pause I imagined Q and Calvin looking at each other before they said together, “Look who’s talking!”
“’More stupid?’”
“What happened to ‘stupider’?”
I can felt Zeeb getting angrier at them. “You’re going to die,” he said quietly. He doesn’t get loud when he’s mad, but really really quiet.
“Would you boys please settle down?” I knew dad was getting annoyed. Stuff like me hiding in the closet isn’t what normal parents have to deal with—but who said we were a normal family?
“I’m not going to school!” I said after I was asked to come out. “And that’s final.”

Silence. Dad was sitting cross-legged right in front of the closet door that I locked.

What sucks about school is that it could get quiet. I think I’ve gotten so used to noise that I’m driven crazy when there isn’t any. I know—I’ve got major issues. I start to tap and twitch and squirm in my seat. I do amor how cold the rooms are though because then I can lay my head down, but that’s not even considered a benefit of going to school. It just helps become a distraction and boy do I get distracted.
“Who knows?” Danny attempted to coax me out of the closet. “Maybe you’ll actually be in my classroom this time. You’ll never find out if you don’t check.”
“You know they separate twins,” I said.
“Okay, but maybe you’ll like your class this time. You’ll never know if you don’t come out and see.”
“You know I’m always stuck with the “less developed” since I stink at paying attention.”
“Please? Things could be different in junior high. There’s gotta be kids that you want to see again.”
“Fat chance.”
“What about Caty? I thought you were cool with her.”
“Only because the teachers told her she needed to find friends without blood to suck.”
“Um, Tangent?”
“She hates me now.”
“She said I was a zombie and had no heart! I only refused to ask her crush if he would stalk her.”
I heard dad’s voice. “Really?”
“This is the 5th grade and you already have to worry about stalking?”
“I know!”
“Why haven’t you told us any of this before?” he asked, trying to look through the key hole.
I said nothing for a while. “Uh…” Then I made sure the door was locked.
“I know, Gretchen,” he said, his grin on his face, “You could bring me to show and tell this ano and I’ll scare everyone that bothers you.”
“Jack,” mom said.
“Thanks for the offer, but that would make my life so much worse. Everyone expects me to be just like you and to talk all about you and to just be…I don’t know. The boys have it so easy—nobody bothers them, and then there’s me.”
“Gretchen,” mom said, “It’s good to try again.” She knelt down and put her hand on the door. Checking for the inevitable, she rattled the doorknob. “Things will be different this year.” She kept talking. As I looked through the keyhole I saw her peering down for some reason. “Jeremy, Calvin, and Q are in the same building as you this year. They’ll be there if you need them.”
“Yeah, like they’ll want to acknowledge me in public.”
A click came from the knob followed por a sliver of light. Mom opened the door, a shuriken in her hand. “Nobody hates you. You’re ten years old. You’re just an individual and a lot of kids don’t know how to deal with that yet.”
“You’re just ahead of the game,” dad said.
I took mom’s hand and we went right outside on our back porch. It’s elevated a few feet off the ground, so we can see our whole backyard along with others.
The sky was a beautiful laranja and the grama was brown and I can see the gray rock rua below too. We have great views of the town. This is where breakfast is usually served—unless it rains or hales).
My brothers cheer for my arrival.
“There she is!”
“Our little girl.”
“Eat up for your big day.”
“You’re all making her nervous, idiots.”
They paused to think of how to sound mais positive.
“There you are, all confident and such.”
“Our little socialist.”
“Value your nutrition, Gretch. May I suggest some oatmeal this morning?”
    “That’s…a little better,” said Zeeb. Mom and dad smiled at each other. At least the triplets can be tamed por someone. “Do you want soco or cider?” Zee offered after scooping me up onto the last chair (that I’d have to climb to get on).
    I looked at him. “What do you think?”
    “Both, huh?” he shrugged, looking tired.
    “You weird one,” he smirked. “Danny?”
    “I have water.”
    “Ya sure?”
    “Uh huh.”
    “What do you want before game time today?
“I dunno.”
“Well, make up your mind. I’m gonna be the one making it for you—if Carrie doesn’t butt in, that is. Once she saw me trying to make a tune sandwich,” he explained, “and she gave me a whole lesson on how I could make it easier for myself.”
“Or how to mash potatoes the right way,” said Q.
    Calvin chuckled. “Remember that one time with the smores?”
    “I’m glad she’s coming with you,” mom said.
    “Yeah, me too.” Zeeb smiled.
“And it’s made me so happy that you can take care of the kids when we’re not around.”
“Baby-sitting’s easy,” he said sitting down.
“Hey, we’re not babies,” Jeremy said. “But maybe Danny is.”
While making a sanduíche with his eggs and toast, he said “At least I can recite the alphabet backwards.”
“Is that a challenge?”
Q and Calvin applauded their triplet. “Bravo! Better luck seguinte time, bro.”
Jeremy grumbled, “Can’t wait to go to school and have new people a annoy.”
“Shh!” Calvin nudged him.
My hands started to shake. “Oh no.”
“Now look what you’ve done!”
“Good going.”
“I’m fine,” I lied. “Nerves just make me sch—school just makes me nervous.”
“We can see that.” Q stabbed his torrada, brinde and pointed the thing at me. I took a piece off to humor him. “Go on,” he said.
“I’m not hungry.” I put it on my plate.
“To eat a piece of bread.”
“You know what happened last year.”
“So you’re going to stop eating breakfast?”
“No. Today I’m not eating breakfast but I will tomorrow cuz I’m staying home.” I said it so confidently I almost thought it was true myself, but we all looked at mom to see.
“We’ll have to see what happens today,” she said. “But you’re probably going to school again tomorrow.”

Cruel, I know, but she didn’t totally reject the idea. I’ll come up with something. In the meantime, here’s Calvin:

Calvin, surprisingly, is the oldest triplet, the accident prone caretaker of the group. He gets in a lot of mishaps but bounces right back from any situation. He’s a great role model when it comes to staying true to yourself under pressure.
His outfit mimics dad’s the most. Over a plan white t-shirt, his pure black button up has a crazy double colarinho, colar with twisted tails at the bottom. Then his pants are gray :) He’s got the best simple fashion style out there.