Elle

Now that my stupid brother is off to work again, Papi says we can do lessons again. He holds up a ball and says, "Try to lift it in the air like last time."

I try to move my wheelchair closer, but he clicks his tongue at me. "Try to do it from farther away, sweetie." I move my chair back to where it was, and my brother Cameron rushes back in the door. Papi said a long time ago that when my brothers are here we can't do lessons. I sighed and wheeled myself into the kitchen to get some soda pop. I still have trouble opening the door on the fridge, but if I give it a little push with my power I can get it open just fine. I grab two sodas and push the fridgerator door shut just as Cameron (my brother) leaves back to work. I set the sodas on my lap and go back to the living room.

I start to move the little blue ball from a distance; then I try to get my dress-up scarf and some coins on the table. They all float around in the air, and they dance so pretty. Papi looks pleased and says I'm doing real good. With a chuckle, he adds in a tie and a shoe to the mix, but I don't have to lift them because he does. I try to pick up more stuff, but I can't do much more. I like the way they dance around with no strings like a magic show at the circus. Then the answering machine beeps and most of the things fall down on the table.

The silly old lady keeps calling Papi to tell him about them. I don't know what them is, but it sounds scary. Papi says she's a 'religions freak', and she doesn't know what we do because it scares her. It's so fun though, and I don't know how it can scare people. Papi says not to tell people about the lessons, or they'll be scared too.

I don't know how they could be scared. It's really cool.

Papi pushes some buttons, and the answering machine beeps again. He looks right at me and says, "Only a few more, Elle, and you can walk again." He starts crying, but not like waa-waa crying. It's just a little tear on his face. I take his tear off his face with my power and he smiles. He grabs the basement key and moves downstairs. 'Course, my chair can't go down there, so I don't know what it is that is so important. He takes his sack and comes back later with it empty.

He puts the key back under the flowers he got it from, and then he kisses me on the cheek. "Bye, Ellie pie. I'll be back in a little while, 'kay?" I giggle at him and he gets his soda from across the room. I know he's going to find more people to help me. I think they're doctors, but I don't know.

Papi said that for a birthday present, I can walk like I did when I was little, if all these people help me. That's good, because then I'll know what's down in the basement or up in the attic. Cam gets bothered that I want to go there, though. He says that I look just like Ma, and it makes him sad, but I didn't know her. She went up to heaven when I was born. Cam says I act just like her sometimes.

I start to move the ball and the scarf again, but Papi took everything else with him. I practice until Cameron comes home again. Papi is still 'at work'.


Madison

I'm sitting down after a loooong day of housework. Apparently these people haven't cleaned their house in a while. It seems so organized at first, but there's a mess under everything. I reached for a biscuit, and James sits down next to me.

"So..." He asks, a big grin on his face.

"What?" I'm not sure he can understand me with a mouth full of biscuit. He grabs one too, and slowly tears a piece off before putting it in his mouth. I don't get an answer to my question, because Melody bangs the front door open in a huff before slamming it back. She nearly runs to 'our' room, and slams that door, too.

James looks confused for a moment, and then turns to me and asks, "Do you know what this is about?" I shake my head and take another bite of my biscuit, this time dipping it in some gravy first. Whatever is on Melody's mind, I definitely do not want to get on her bad side. Besides, it's probably about that sour old bitch back "home."

"Well," says James, "I've got to get to work. See ya later, Maddy!"

Well, now that he's got my nickname all worked out, I have to find one for him. Damn.

I watch him from the window, of course, when he takes off. He walks slowly (it seems he does everything slowly) and looks at his feet. When he passes the mailbox, he taps it three times without even looking up. OCD at it's worst, apparently.

James'- I mean Jamie's- little brother walks in. Of course, I forgot the kid's name. He walks into the kitchen, hair a mess, grabs a box of Cheerios, and walks back into his room. A timer went off in the garage and I jumped up off the couch to get the laundry done, but it's still running. I reset the timer with a sigh and plop back down on the couch. Unfortunately for me, there just happens to be a whoopee cushion. Jamie's brother peeks out from around the corner.

Getting up sneakily, I hide at the corner like a spy. I count down to myself, three, two, one… go! I jump out, and tickle the little monster. He laughs without sound, and I half-tackle, half tickle him to the floor. His voice doesn't seem to work no matter how hard I tickle, so I ask him, "Are you mute?"

He just nodded. None of the sign language I've heard about, no paper. Just a nod.

"So, want to help me do something fun?" I asked, feeling that tricky feeling I sometimes got. He nodded once more, and looked at me. Feeling his stare, I quickly said, "It's a game called tornado super race! All you have to do is get everything back to its place before I do. First to get everything nice and tidy gets a prize… um… how about ten bucks?"

He nodded eagerly, and his face had a mischievous look on it. I wondered if he had a secret plan or something… had James coerced him into "playing" this before?

"Okay little buddy, I'll get the kitchen and you get the living room in 3! 2! 1! GO!"

I raced into the kitchen and started to sweep the floor hurriedly, to look like I was actually trying to "win." I swept a mop over it really fast, and then started on the counters. In five minutes, all that was left was a dish mountain - named that because that's what it was.

As I was about to get the sponge, I felt a tug on my shirt. I looked down to find the little mute kid grinning like a maniac. I followed him into the spotless living room.

It was absolutely spotless, though, which was weird. I said to him, "Fine, I'll get your ten dollars if you tell, um, write, how you did it so fast." I was actually amazed at his cleaning ability, and that was saying something. He just shook his head and rubbed his fingers together, indicating money. I frowned.

"I'll go get it later. Double or nothing?"


Melody

Argh, that crazy old woman drives me nuts! I heard her freaking selling out her grandchild to some slimy creep who I've never even seen. I want to help Melody, but how? I can just imagine those two together, somehow. I don't think she knows about love, though. She certainly never had enough of it with Morgan Rose.

Just then, I hear her knocking on the door to the room we now share. As I get up to answer, I wonder, "How long will she stay here with us? Can we afford her?"

She walks just a bit grumpily into the room when I open the door. She says hi distractedly while searching through her only bag. I then notice that she is wearing the same clothes she did when she came here. I'll have to sneak some from her old place. If I do it while the old bat is in the hospital, she'll never know.

I stare as Madison pulls out a few ten-dollar bills. Did she steal it? She grumbles "stupid kid," and it clicks.

"Madison, what happened with TK?"

"Is that the kid's name? Cheerio-head?"

I laugh inside at her 'nickname.' His real name is Arthur, but he doesn't look like one. We call him TK for another reason.

"Yeah, our little kid's been cleaning you out, I see. How'd he do that, exactly?" I already know, but keep it to myself. Secrets best kept, you know.

"He beat me in a cleaning contest."

Now that I didn't expect, exactly. She mumbles some more, and leaves to pay little Cheerio-head.

What would I do without the chaotic neatness that is this house?


James

"Jim, buddy, thanks for coverin' for me, dude."

"Always welcome. You know I owe you big, Danny-boy."

"Hey, that's MR. Daniel Ronald Jones the third to you!" He said laughingly. I think he comes to thank me just to embarrass me. I tug on my ear again, wondering if Maddy is okay with my family.

Do thoughts of her occupy my head constantly? Is that what happened with Patience?

I jerk myself out of my thoughts and keep talking to Daniel until our breaks end. As I scan through groceries relentlessly, I keep thinking of her.

I wonder what she has to wear.

I wonder if she's good at cooking.

I wonder… if she'll reject me.

Walking home, I meditate on if she likes me or not. I'm not sissy enough to resort to the flower method, so I carefully analyze every one of our past interactions and compare it to things I've learned in psychology. Did -

I rush out of the way of a pair of headlights and fall to the ground. The car screeches to a halt and a concerned man comes out, yelling, "Are you all right? Oh my gosh!" I am so dazed, I can't do anything except let him pick me up out of the dirt on the side of the road. I recognize his face slightly as resembling Daniels, and I ask if they are related. I am not surprised to know that this is his father. I accept his ride home.

Halfway through the ride, I regain my wits. I tell him the directions I haven't already, and he drops me off in front, apologizing once more for the near miss.

Something is wrong on his face; he sits there, looking at my house.

"Sir? Mr. Jones? Are you alright?"

This snaps him out of it. "Yes, son, I'm fine. You just get along home, now, and don't let your mother worry about you." He still seems somewhat perturbed, but I step out of the car. One, two, three… back to the repetitive rhythm of the steps. Five from the walk to the mailbox, three taps, another twelve to the dilapidated porch, three up the steps, and three more to the door. There is a rut the exact way I walk each time. I open the door and see Maddy and Melody chatting animatedly on the old, worn couch.

"So then I look in the kitchen, and there's a cook! I have no idea how she didn't hear the alarm, but I was so scared."

"Cornelia is half-deaf. That's probably why."

Just then, they both notice me. Maddy chants, "Hi, Jamie!" While Melody goes for a simple "hey." I notice Mel looking at Maddy, then at me, then winking. I blush, and Maddy pulls me into the kitchen, where I see a bunch of slightly burnt biscuits.

"Look Jamie! I made them! They're crispy, but I did it!" Her entire face lights up in joy and pride. I take a bite and they aren't that bad. I smile, and tell her it's time for another lesson.