Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Chapter 6

    I didn't want to get up. Bright sunlight streamed through my window, but the room was still cool. I stretched under the covers and felt a heavy weight by my foot. Grandma Charlotte's scrapbook. 
     I dressed and shoved my list of clues in my pocket. Where could I stash the scrapbook? There wasn't a good hiding place in the room. The unmade bed would have to do.
The scrapbook went under the pillow, wrapped in my pajamas. With the bed messed up, it should be the last place someone would look.
     I could smell bacon half-way down the stairs and suddenly I was hungry. I raced to the kitchen and almost collided with Josh. He was coming out as I was going in.
    "That's okay," Josh said. He was eating a toaster tart. Half of it crunched under my foot.  
    "That's okay," he said. "They're not very good anyway."
Mom said, "If you like bacon and pancakes, you can join us for breakfast."
    "It sure smells good," he said. "You sure it's not extra work for you."
    Mom shook her head and set a pile of steaming pancakes on the table followed by a plate of bacon. "Dig in. Don't let it get cold. And speaking of work, would you like a job?  There's a lot of chores to be done around here. It's not much, but I can pay you five dollars an hour."
    Five dollars an hour isn’t bad, I thought. If I had to work, as least I was going to paid for it. Even if I only made twenty dollars a day, by the end of the week I'd have enough to buy a track phone, some C-D's, and more photo paper for my printer.
    "I know how I'm going to spend my money," I said, smiling at the world. I poured syrup on my pancakes.
    "What money?" Mom asked.
    "My chore money."
    "What chore money?"
    "The money you're going to pay me and Josh for working."
    "Jessica," she said. "You don't get paid for helping your grandmothers. They're family."
    Suddenly I wasn't hungry. "It's not fair!"
Josh looked uncomfortable. "Hey, you don't have to pay me. I don't mind helping."
    "Nonsense, you're not family and I don't feel I can ask you to work without paying you," Mom said. "Jessica is a little spoiled." 
    I hate when she talks about me like I'm not there.
    "Now eat up. There's a lot to do and you'll both need the energy. I've made two lists. One for outside work and one for inside chores."
    Josh gobbled down the pancakes like he was a half-starved dog. I wondered if he always ate like that.
    "You eat more than my cousin Mark," I said, "And I thought he was a pig."
    Josh stopped chewing.
    "She's just kidding," Mom said. "You eat as much as you want. I like to cook and it's nice to have someone appreciate my efforts."
    Josh had taken his last bite of his fifth pancake when Mr. Thomas strode into the kitchen. He glared at me and then noticed Josh at the table.
    "What are you eating?" Mr. Thomas demanded.
    Before Josh could answer Mom said, "We're just having a little breakfast. The bacon's all gone, but there's plenty of pancake mix left. Would you like me to fix you some pancakes?"
    I couldn't believe she offered to cook breakfast for him. What would my father think?
    "No thank you," he said a little louder than necessary. "And you don't need to feed the boy, either. We can take care of ourselves. Josh, I need you to help me upstairs." Mr. Thomas turned and left. The swinging door that led to the hall flopped back and forth angrily in his wake.
    Josh, his face red, jumped to his feet and knocked over his chair. He set the chair back on its legs and slunk out of the room with a mumbled, "Thanks."
    "Mr. Thomas isn't very nice," I said. "I don't like him. Why did Gram rent a room to him?"
    "Because she needed the money."
    "Speaking of money. I don't think it's fair that you pay Josh and don't pay me."
    "It's not fair of you to expect pay for helping Gram and Grandma Charlotte." 
    I knew I wasn't going to win the argument. Mom had made up her mind.
    Why couldn't I just go back home?
    Mom poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down opposite me. She spooned in sugar and stirred. "Jessica, these first few days are going to be hectic. I called the hospital this morning. Gram's doctor said that her hip is healing well considering her age. She should be out of traction in about a week and will be released shortly after that."
    "What about Grandma Charlotte?"
    "Grandma Charlotte is better, but they want to run some tests." She swallowed the last of her coffee and stood. "Wash the dishes. I need to study their mortgage papers."
    I filled the sink with hot soapy water, set the dishes in to soak, and stared out the window. The backyard was even worse than the front. Some of the weeds were almost as tall as me. It would take a week to pull them. 
    "I hate dishes. I hate housework. I hate yard work." 
    I wished Kelsey had come with us. She'd understand how I felt. Mom didn't care. 
    That's when it hit me. If Josh was getting paid, then I would, too. He'd get money, and I'd take phone time on the land line. I needed to talk to Kelsey. 
    The phone bill wouldn't come for at least a month. The worse that could happen is that I'd be put on restriction for a month and given extra chores. Big deal. It felt like I was already on restriction with no TV, no friends, and enough chores to keep me busy for the rest of my life.
    The downstairs phone rested on a stand in the hall. It was an old black one. Instead of buttons to push, it had a wheel with holes in it over the numbers.
    Kelsey answered on the first ring like she knew I was calling. "Hello?"
    "Hi, Kelsey, it's me."
    "Jessica? Are you home already?"
    "No. I'm stuck here all summer."
    "You're kidding?"
    "I wish I was. Have you talked to Todd yet? Did you tell him I won't be there tonight?  Did he sound disappointed?"
    "Yes. Yes. And I think so. I talked to him yesterday morning. He couldn't believe your parents wouldn't let you stay home and hang out at my house during the day while your dad was at work."
    "I wish I was there," I said and went on to tell her about how both grandmothers were in the hospital, a strange man and his nephew were living in the house, and of Mom's plans to use me for a slave. 
    "How old is the nephew?" Leave it to Kelsey to ask the important questions. "Is he cute?"
    His name is Josh. I think he's about our age, but he's kind of weird."
    "Too bad. If he was cute, it'd make up for having to be there."
    Someone was on the stairs. 
    "I've got to go now. I'll call you later. There's a lot more to tell you. Bye."

 Be sure and come back next week to find out what happens in 
Chapter Seven.

To read the whole book at once, or make it a part of your personal library, 
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