For the third time this week, I’m in the principal’s office. Personally, I’m proud of the design I spray-painted on the side of the school. The staff don’t seem to feel the same way. I was bored, and it’s impossible to focus on class. We had to do in-class reading, and I’m dyslexic.
My mother is here. She’s not happy, but when it comes to me, she never really is. She emerges from the principal’s office looking displeased, her lips a tight, pursed line. She snatches my wrist without saying a word, dragging me out of the office and down the hallway. ‘This is the third time I’ve been called out of work this week. The third time, Jaxon. Do you understand how important my job is? Do you realize I can’t just leave every time you get into trouble?’
She’s clutching me very tightly. ‘Ow,’ I grumble, ‘ease up on my arm a little, woman, will you?’ She doesn’t. ‘In my defence, it was Avi’s idea.’ Like always, my best friend gets off scot-free. Sometimes I think he throws me under the bus just to save himself.
My mother gets into her car and waits for me to do the same. ‘You have got a week suspension, Jaxon. What is wrong with you? Why can’t you be more like your sister and brother? At this point, it’s a wonder you made it to high school.”
Ever since Hattie disappeared, my mom’s been a real bitch. She’s always obsessed with Fletcher’s medical care and Eloise’s academic status. I just want a bit of attention. This is the only way I know how to get it. I grumble. ‘You never pay attention to me. You never even care about what’s going on in my life. All you care about is your job and finding Hattie. She’s gone, Mom.’
At a red light, my mother slams on her breaks and glares at me. ‘Oh, Jaxon, grow up, will you? You’re thirteen years old; you ought to know by now the world doesn’t revolve around you.’ That’s funny, I could say the same thing about her.
The night of my sister’s abduction, we were nine years old, and waiting for the school bus to pick us up and take us home. I remember looking away from her for a moment to acknowledge a friend, and when I glanced back beside me, she was gone. “Hattie?” I said, and looked around. At the time I’d figured she’d gotten lost in the crowd, and that we’d got off the bus together and see each other at home. I went home alone, and she never got off the bus.
I was never allowed to help look for her. I was too young and not strong enough, my parents claimed, but Fletcher could go, and he was dying. Aside from Hattie, Fletcher’s always been the favourite. Everyone knows that.
My sister comes home an hour after my mother drops me off. She walks past me to get to her bedroom, and shoots me the finger on her way. My parents think Eloise is so sweet and hard-working. I know her a little better than that. She comes out of her room dressed in a short, tight dress, and sneaks into the bathroom. Mom would never let her go out like that. I never care.
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