Chapter 1 : When is a door not a door?
My parents have this thing about giving us “lessons.” Oh sure, if we do something wrong they do the usual things like grounding us or making us do meaningless chores, stuff like that. Sometimes, though, they go all out and do things that are kind of ... extreme. I’ll give you an example.
This happened about a month ago – about a month before my thirteenth birthday. My sister, Tara, is fourteen, Dan is twenty and little Angie is three. Tara and I mostly get along by leaving each other alone. Sometimes we’re nice to each other and sometimes we fight like it’s going out of fashion, but mostly we just leave each other alone. I’m Rebecca by the way, but most people call me Bec.
It was a Saturday morning, Mom and Dad were sleeping in, Tara had gone out early to swimming practice, so I felt safe to wander into her room to grab one of her music CDs. I didn’t know, but swimming was cancelled because of a problem with the chemicals in the pool. I had a couple of CDs in my hand and was trying to pick which one I wanted to listen to when Tara charged into the room ... busted!! She took one look at me and started yelling at me about always coming into her room and taking her stuff. Then I noticed one of my tops half hanging out of her laundry basket. I figured attack is the best sort of defense, so I yelled back at her about how she was always stealing my clothes and how that was my favorite and how I wanted to wear it the next day but now I couldn’t and so on (not completely true, but hey, it was a fight and all’s fair... ). Well she grabbed me and pushed me out of her room, still yelling, and slammed the door, and screamed, “and stay out of my room.”
So I stood in the corridor screaming at her through the closed door for a bit, then I stomped down to my room and slammed my door shut behind me. Seconds later I heard Tara’s door slam again, then mine burst open and she threw the top at me and yelled, “Have your skanky top back, I hope I stretched it.” Then she stormed over to my desk and grabbed a pile of CDs off it, some were mine and a couple were hers but she said they were hers and she was taking them back and ... well you get the picture ... it was a pretty normal fight for us with lots of screaming and slamming doors.
This went on for, like, maybe half an hour or so and it ended with both of us charging together into The Parents’ room, both talking over the top of each other, trying to persuade Mom and Dad to do something to make the other sister stay out of our room and leave our stuff alone. Well Mom and Dad were still in bed and cuddling under the covers, no way could they have slept through all the noise and they pretty much knew what the fight was about because half the neighborhood probably heard about it. But they just ignored us and kept whispering to each other, so we kept yelling about how we wanted locks put on our doors so we could keep stuff private.
Around about then, they rolled away from each other and sat up in bed to look at us. The looks on their faces kind of shut us up real quick as we started to realize that we made a mistake asking them to fix our fight. They were going to fix it their way and it wasn’t going to be pleasant. Finally it was quiet and Dad said in a real calm voice, “Do you realize you both just charged into our room without knocking? You’re each complaining about your sister doing the same thing that you just did to us.”
We got sent to our rooms and told to stay there until further notice. I sat on my bed, wondering what was going to happen, when I heard Dad calling for Dan. Soon I could hear weird noises from the rest of the house. This went on for a while. Then my door opened. Dad walked in with Dan behind him. Dad totally ignored me, but Dan kind of looked at me strangely. Dan held the door and Dad went to the hinges with a nail and a hammer and knocked the little pin thing out, then the two of them picked up my door and carried it out of the room.
I just sat there staring out into the corridor. I was stunned! I didn’t even know you could do that to doors. I always figured they were kind of permanent, but Dad had just taken away my door.
A bit later, Mom walked past. She looked in through my empty doorway and told me to follow her. We collected Tara and went into the kitchen for a family meeting. I followed along in a daze. There wasn’t a single door left in the house, only the outside doors were still there. Even the bathroom door was missing. Mom had stuck paper labels on the walls outside our rooms with numbers on them. The Parents’ room was “1,” Dan’s room was “2,” Tara’s room was “3,”mine was “4” and Angie’s was “5.”
We sat down around the kitchen table. Dad and Dan were already there. Mom held Angie on her knee. They explained to us that privacy was a privilege not a right and that the doors wouldn’t go back until we had learnt that. Tara complained about not being able to get changed and how, with the bathroom door missing, people would see each other going to the toilet and how that was gross. They just shrugged and said we would manage somehow. Then they went on to say that technically they owned everything in the house including the stuff that just happened to be kept in rooms 3 and 4 ... that’s what they said ... rooms 3 and 4. Our rooms weren’t our rooms any more ... and our stuff wasn’t ours any more. I tried to object saying that we’d paid for some of the things in there, clothes and CDs and things. They just said we’d bought those things using their money, given to us as an allowance.
Mom then said, “Speaking of which...” and stood up and left the room. She came back a minute later with two purses, Tara’s and mine. She tipped all the money in them onto the table ... which wasn’t much ... we aren’t that old, and pushed it across to Dad, saying, “We want our money back!” Tara and I were silent. What could we say?
Dad looked at the little pile of bills and loose change, picked up a couple of dollars and handed them to Tara. “The two of you have ruined our morning,” he said. “You can both walk down to the shops. Get your mom and me some nice little present then come straight back. I want any change back too. This money isn’t for you!”
So off we went. Once we were outside, I guess we both had a little rant at each other about how they couldn’t do this to us, and how it was probably child abuse and such like, but eventually we kind of wound down and walked in silence. I guess we were both thinking back over the argument that started all this. I know I was.
We bought some chocolates for Mom and Dad and headed back. On the way back, we started fighting about whose fault it was that got us into this mess. Eventually, Tara turned around and stomped off to sit on a bench and I went on home on my own with the chocolates and the change.
As I came into the house, I could hear that Dad had one of Tara’s CDs playing really loudly on the big stereo system in the living room. I wouldn’t have minded so much except that it was a really old one that neither of us wanted to listen to any more. I walked into the living room and Dad was dancing around to the music and being silly. He was clearly in a good mood and it made me mad because I sure wasn’t. Then I noticed that there was a huge line up of CDs on the shelf. Dad had taken all the CDs out of Tara’s room and my room and stacked them all out here. I gritted my teeth and tried to smile. I handed Dad the change and the chocolates. He took the chocolates with a big smile and said “Why thank you, Bec. What a lovely present.” He then grabbed my hands and tried to make me dance to the crappy music. I broke away as quickly as I could and headed off to my room.
I walked through the doorway and stopped cold. My baby sister Angie was sitting on my bed in the middle of a huge pile of my clothes. She had my favorite skirt wrapped around her like a blanket and was playing with my clothes. She was grabbing handfuls of shorts and t-shirts and panties and throwing them into the air. I was about to scream at her when I noticed Mom sitting at my computer watching me with a grin on her face. On the computer, I could see she had opened up a log of my last chatting session with my friends. I guess there wasn’t anything really embarrassing there, my friends and I were all twelve after all, but they were things I thought of as private, not really for a mother to read. She just stared at me straight in the eyes and said, “These are not your things, Bec!” I’d gone beyond furious and was now just in complete shock. Mom stood up, saying, “Watch Angie playing please? Don’t let her stick anything in her nose.” She then kissed me on the cheek and left the room. That’s when I noticed, Mom had let Angie play with one of my lipsticks. It was smeared on her face and hands ... and all over my clothes, including my favorite skirt. I glared at Angie and said really quietly, “Mom is evil!!!!!” Angie just hid her face behind my good jeans. Then I slid down to sit on the floor and started to cry.
That night, we had dinner together. Mom and Dad chatted on as if nothing was unusual. Dan was pretty quiet, just joining in occasionally. Tara and I were silent – just kind of keeping our heads down. After dinner, Dan went out and we all watched television. When it was bedtime, Mom looked at me with a stern face and said, “It’s time for bed. Go to Room 3. When you are there, find some pyjamas to wear and go to bed. You will sleep in Room 3 tonight.” Both us started complaining at once. That was Tara’s room! Dad just cut through our complaints by telling Tara that she would be sleeping in Room 4 tonight, my room. We gave up and left the room.
We glared at each other a bit, then went into the bedrooms. No doors, so we could just walk right in. I went to the drawers and found one of Tara’s t-shirt nighties to wear. I realised I needed to change panties too. I hesitated. I’d worn Tara’s clothes before but never her underwear. I figured I had no choice so I picked a plain pair from her underwear drawer, staring in jealousy for a moment at the little pile of bras – I wasn’t up to wearing a bra. I then wondered how I was going to get changed without being able to close the door. I put the nightie on over the top and wriggled around to take my other things off and change my panties. Finally I got into bed and lay there. This was really weird, lying in Tara’s bed. There was light spilling into the room from the corridor, so I lay there looking around at the posters and things on her wall. Then I thought about Tara lying in my bed. I wondered what she was thinking about my room.
Mom came to say goodnight. I started crying and said I hated this. She hugged me and kissed me and told me she loved me. She tried to tell me everything would be okay. I didn’t believe her. Then she left to see Tara and Dad came from talking to Tara to wish me goodnight. I tried to hug Dad and told him I was sorry, over and over again, and could we please put things back the way they were. But he gently pushed me away and said I needed to learn something and that it was important and this was a way of learning it. Eventually I calmed down a bit. Then Daddy looked me in the eye and said, “Bec, I love you. Trust me. I’m not doing this to hurt you. Nothing that has happened today has hurt you. You’re upset because it’s strange and I understand that. I want you to figure out what is important about this. I don’t think you’ve done that yet. Don’t worry about that, you’re a smart girl, you’ll figure it out. Try to get some sleep. Let tomorrow take care of itself. Good night.” Then he kissed me and left the room. They turned out the light in the corridor, but there was still some light from other rooms and I could hear the TV. I lay there for a long time. Eventually I went to sleep.
I woke up in a strange bed, in a strange room. For a moment I panicked. Then the events of the day before came rushing back. I was in Tara’s room. I’d slept in Tara’s bed. I could hear Angie playing with some blocks in her room. I got out of bed in my nightie, I mean Tara’s nightie, put a robe on and then wandered down to check on Angie. She was having fun with some blocks. She smiled happily at me then went back to building a tower with an intent expression on her face. She was fine. I needed to go to the toilet, so I went there next. Of course there was no door on the bathroom so I walked right in and I got the shock of my life. I came face to face with Mom sitting on the toilet. “Eeeeew!” I exclaimed. I guess I couldn’t see anything because of Mom’s clothes, but no twelve year old girl wants to see anyone sitting on the toilet, especially her mother.
Mom just looked at me and said good morning. “I didn’t expect to see you up quite so early, yesterday was a big day.” I just stood there like a lump of clay, thinking maybe I should just run away. Mom just kept talking as if this was the most normal thing in the world. “You should take a shower. Go back to the room you slept in and find some clothes to wear for today.” I opened my mouth to object, but Mom cut me off. “Don’t argue. You girls often wear each other’s clothes, with or without permission. This really isn’t any different.” Just then Mom farted into the toilet and I burst out giggling. She laughed too then said “shoo” so I ran away, trying to stifle my giggles.
I went back to Tara’s room and picked through her wardrobe. Of course I knew all her clothes and had worn quite a few things, Mom was right about that. Because we were pretty much the same size, Tara’s clothes would all fit me. Some of them would be a bit loose around the chest though. I wondered briefly about wearing one of her bras and stuffing it with tissues so that I would fill out the clothes better but decided not to. It was Sunday and I had no plans so I grabbed some sweat pants and a top that I liked and headed back to the bathroom. Mom was gone by then, thank God, so I went into the bathroom. I put the fresh clothes on the bench and reached up to take off the nightie. Then I froze. There was no door. I would have to completely undress to take a shower. If anyone saw me nude I would just die of embarrassment, especially Dan or Dad. What could I do? I just stood there shaking.
Just then Tara walked into the bathroom, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. I squeaked and then shrieked “Get out.”
Tara just stood there half awake and then gave a kind of half smile. “It’s okay, I’m not looking. Mom sent me down here. She wants me to stand in the door while you shower and make sure Dan and Dad don’t come in. Then you have to do the same thing while I shower.” She then groaned and propped herself in the doorway. She was wearing a pair of my flannel pyjamas and had obviously just been dragged out of bed. She had her back to me.
I said “thanks” in a quiet voice and then turned around. I quickly skimmed out of my night clothes and jumped into the shower. I finished quickly, then dried and dressed in a hurry. All the time, Tara stayed propped in the doorway with her back to me ... I think she might have gone back to sleep standing up!! When I was finished, I nudged Tara and told her it was her turn. Then I stood in the doorway, crossed my arms and glared down the empty corridor, just daring Dan or Dad to show up so I could tell them to get lost. I could hear Tara getting undressed and showering behind me. I guess it felt kind of cool, protecting my sister from embarrassment like that. After a short time, Tara was finished. She hadn’t brought clothes with her so she put on a bathrobe and we headed back to our rooms together.
I looked at Tara and said, “I think you’re supposed to wear something of mine today.” She just kind of looked at me with this blank look. She really still wasn’t awake yet. Then she nodded and went on to my room. After a second of hesitation, I followed her and stood in the doorway. I didn’t say anything as she fished out a pair of my jeans and a t-shirt. One of her bras was on the bed – I figured that was a present from Mom. She couldn’t exactly wear one of mine. I didn’t have any. I said, “I’ll just stand in the door while you get changed,” and turned my back. She said thanks and I listened to the sounds of her getting dressed behind me. As I stood there, Dad came down the corridor. I told Dad to wait there for a sec. He said okay and leaned against the wall. I guess he figured out why I was standing in the doorway like that. He asked how I’d slept and I said “okay I guess.”
It wasn’t long until Tara came up behind me and said “all done.” The three of us then headed down the corridor to get breakfast.
Dan hadn’t appeared yet, Dad said he got in late last night and was probably sleeping in. We chatted about our plans for the day. It felt kind of normal, which was weird. I had some homework to do which was on the computer in “my” room. I wondered what to do about it, but finally I just asked if I could use my computer to finish off my homework. Mom and Dad just looked at each other then Dad said I could use the computer in Room 4 to do my homework so that his investment in an education wouldn’t be wasted!! I guess I kind of sighed, because Dad just grinned at me.
After breakfast, I went to do my homework but something made me walk the other way and I went to Dan’s room, at the other end of the house. There was no door of course, so I stood in the doorway and could see Dan lying there in bed, fast asleep. I walked quietly in and sat down on his computer chair. It swivelled so I could turn it around and look at Dan. I’d never really seen Dan sleeping before. I mean I had, but I’d never really looked at him while he was sleeping. He looked so peaceful just laying there, his face all relaxed and gentle. There was the faintest of snoring sounds, maybe more just heavy relaxed breathing than snoring. I just sat and looked at him. The blankets had slipped down and exposed his shoulders and the top of his chest. He wasn’t wearing any shirt. I took a second to admire the muscles in his shoulders. I guess I am at the age where girls start to notice that men can be nice to look at.
About then Dan’s breathing changed a bit. He’s eyes blinked and slowly opened. I could see his eyes slowly focus as he realised I was sitting near him, watching him. He smiled gently. “Good morning, kiddo,” he said.
“Hey there sleepyhead,” I responded. I reached forward and pulled the blanket up over his shoulders. Then I leaned down and gave him a kiss on his cheek. When I did that, I suddenly figured out why I had come into his room. With all the weirdness going on, Dan was still Dan. He was my big brother. With my love/hate relationship with Tara, and my parents being, well, The Parents, I’d always been able to talk to Dan about problems I had and he always seemed to love hearing about things I’d done. He was like my rock, and I’d been kind of swept away in the raging torrent of my parents’ weirdness, so I’d come here to cling on to my rock so I wouldn’t drown. “I love you Dan,” I whispered in his ear. Then I turned and walked out of his room so that he could wake up and get up in peace. I went to “Room 4” to do my homework feeling better than I had in ages.
The rest of the day was pretty normal. Tara and I learned to go to the toilet with a long shirt hanging down so no one would see stuff they shouldn’t. We learned to cough or talk loudly if we went near the bathroom so if someone was there, they would call out, and so we could avoid being grossed out. I got a phone call from my friend Liz and we chatted for a while. I said I was being punished and told her I’d explain about it at school. Tara spent time playing with Angie and I joined in for a while. Dan spent most of the day in his room; he had a lot of study to do. Mom and Dad did housework and stuff in the garden. We girls had chores to do like dishwashing and folding clothes. Mom had washed my favorite skirt and somehow gotten the lipstick stains out of it. Tara and I talked then carefully put our clean clothes away in the opposite rooms, so I had some of my clothes in “her” room and vice versa. We figured that way, whichever room we got to sleep in that night, we’d have some of our own clothes to wear. We were proud of ourselves for coming up with that little plan.
We got that one wrong. That night at bedtime, Dad said to us “You are both sleeping in room 1 tonight. Go there and find something to sleep in, and get into bed. We’ll be along in a moment to wish you good night. They had just told us to sleep together in their room. They looked at the surprise on our faces then burst out laughing. Dan was there; he was grinning too. Tara and I looked at each other and I could see why they were laughing. The expression on Tara’s face was priceless. Mine was probably the same. I guess it was kind of funny. Soon we joined in the laughter. Tara and I both hugged Dan goodnight, then headed off to our parents’ room.
We stood inside the door and looked at each other doubtfully for a second. They’d told us to find something to sleep in so we decided to do that. We went to the cupboards and I found one of Mom’s flannel nighties, it was a bit too big for me but it would do. I didn’t dare wear some of the other stuff she had in her sleepwear drawer. Tara found one of Dad’s old work shirts. It buttoned up the front and came down nearly to her knees. Her hands disappeared inside the sleeves until I helped her roll the sleeves up, both of us giggling away like crazy. Then we hugged and both got into bed. I realized that we’d just gotten changed in front of each other without getting all embarrassed. That was a first. We’d shared beds before, especially when camping or travelling, so that wasn’t really new to us. I guess we’d even both slept in here with Mom from time to time when Dad was away on business. What was new was sleeping in this bed without Mom.
Our parents came in together and kissed us both good night. Then they grabbed some nightwear for themselves and left. We talked for a bit. This was the best we’d got on together for ages and I think we both enjoyed the chance to just be together and be nice to each other. I was on Mom’s side of the bed and the faint smell of her perfume on the pillow wrapped around me like the warmest blanket in the world.
I woke up again later, in the same position. Tara was spooned up behind me with her arms still wrapped around me. It was still dark. I tried to move my head but I couldn’t and realized Tara was lying on my hair. I just lay there, feeling Tara’s warm breath against the back of my neck. I felt warm and snug, safe and secure. Her arms around me protected me from everything. Well just about everything. Everything but her, that is. I tried to puzzle out my feelings for Tara. I had all these questions going around inside my brain. How could I go from hating her to feeling like this, so quickly? How could she make me feel so bad and so good at the same time? I lay there for ages trying to figure things out. My brain was all confused. The best answer it could come up with was that I loved my sister, and that I always had. Even in the worst of our fights, I’d never stopped loving her.
The next time I woke up, it was to the sound of giggling. It was still really early. For once Tara had woken up before me, probably because she hadn’t spent half the night awake, trying to sort out her mixed up feelings. I woke up pretty quick when I realized what she was giggling about. Tara had gotten out of bed and had put on one of Dad’s suits. She still had his work shirt on that she’d slept in and had added a tie and jacket and pants. Everything was way too big of course, so the effect was hysterical.
Soon I was joining in as we tried on several of our parents’ outfits. I ended up in Dad’s dinner suit, complete with bow tie. I had the belt on his pants pulled to the tightest notch, and his pants still kept falling down on me. The pants legs were all crumpled around my calves so that my feet could poke out and my hands were completely invisible in the sleeves of the jacket. My feet positively swam in Dad’s enormous shoes.
Tara had on one of Mom’s fancy dresses, which was only a bit baggy in places. To fill it out in the chest, Tara had put on one of Mom’s bras and we’d stuffed it full of tissues. Mom’s boobs are a bit bigger than Tara’s. She was also wearing a pair of Mom’s high heels which were obviously also a bit large. She’d put on some bright lipstick and eye makeup too, to complete the effect, so I used eyebrow liner to draw a moustache on my face. As you might guess, we did all this through gales of giggles.
Finally we walked hand in hand down to “our rooms” to look for our parents. Tara was holding one of my hands and my other hand was holding my pants up. Tara had to keep using her free hand to adjust her stuffed boobs. It was hysterical. By this time it was nearly normal “wake up” time. Dad was sleeping in Tara’s bed with his legs poking out over the end. Amazingly he was still asleep after all of our noise. We poked him in the chest and sang out “wakey-wakey!” He jerked awake and sat up, looking around through bleary eyes until he saw us. We said, “Come on, Dad, get up. We’re ready for school.”
He stared at us then he roared with laughter. Just then we heard Mom in the doorway laughing as well. She was holding Angie and had come to see what the fuss was. Dad bounded out of bed in his t-shirt and boxers and grabbed us both in a big hug. Mom came and joined in so we had a sort of great big group hug with everyone laughing. Angie didn’t understand why we were laughing but she enjoyed the big hug. Dad didn’t hug us like that very often so it was a nice change.
Finally Mom said, “I think you two should go check if Dan is awake, he won’t want to miss seeing you two like this, then you both need to get some breakfast.” So Tara and I held hands and went across to Dan’s room at the other end of the house. When we were near his room, we yelled “Knock, knock” because there was no door to knock on, and we didn’t want to burst in on him if he was changing.
We heard Dan say “come in,” so walked turned the corner into his room. Dan was awake and sitting up in his bed in his boxers. He’d just pulled a t-shirt on as we came into the room. He gaped when he saw us, then he laughed out loud. We stood in the doorway and posed, like in fashion magazines. “So that’s what all the noise was about.” He came over to us and we all hugged together. I laid my head against Dan’s big chest and sighed. It was my second group hug in ten minutes and I was feeling very loved and appreciated. I think Tara was too, because her eyes were shining brightly and she leaned into me and gave me a quick kiss on the side of the mouth. We then both reached up onto our toes and tried to shower Dan’s face with little sisterly kisses. Dan laughed and fended us off, then said, “Okay, enough, I need to get dressed and you need to get changed ... unless you intend to go to school like that??” We winked at him and didn’t answer his question as we turned and left his room. Tara was wiggling her butt at him as she walked out of the room. I thought that was bit cheeky ... get it? Cheeky? ... as in the cheeks of her butt? ... Sigh ... some people don’t get my sense of humor.
We went straight to breakfast, but Mom looked at us and said, “You better not try to eat in those clothes or you’ll make a mess. Go and find something suitable to wear to school and get changed.” We turned and headed towards our own rooms. Very soon we were ducking between our two rooms helping each other find a good outfit to wear to school. Both of us ended wearing a mixture of our own and the other’s clothes. It was huge fun, heaps more than dressing for school normally is.
School was amazingly normal, after everything that had happened over the weekend. It was nice to spend time with Liz and we chatted away whenever we could. I told her what was going on at home and her eyes were really wide. She shook her head in disbelief.
That night, we were each assigned to our “own” rooms and by Tuesday when we were assigned to the “other sister’s room” to sleep in, I realized I was relaxed and comfortable in our new weird lifestyle. The CD collection was out in the living room and we both just grabbed whatever we wanted to listen to. Our things and clothes were now totally mixed between the two rooms and we stopped trying to keep track of who belonged to what. The shower and toilet situation was sorted by the two of us working together as a team, and the older folks having showers after we went to bed. Angie loved it because she got to wander everywhere and she wasn’t shut out of places like she was used to.
Tara and I hadn’t fought for four straight days, which had happened before, but we were actually nice and caring to each other for four straight days, which was a new record. Tara and I got used to changing in front of each other which we hadn’t done since we were little and we made sure to give Mom and Dad space when we knew they were changing. Dan bought us a new CD that we liked and added it to the collection in the living room. Mom and Dad spent a lot of time laughing about the way things were. As far as we could tell, they had no intention of going back to the way things used to be.
While I was getting used to the situation, I didn’t want it to stay like this forever. I wanted a place where I could sometimes go in and shut the door and be left alone. Not to mention the bathroom stuff. I wanted our parents to set things back straight, but I didn’t know how to get them to do that. On Wednesday after school, I talked to Tara about it. She agreed with me, but couldn’t figure out what to do either. Pretty soon we decided we both needed to see Dan, so we went to find him in his room. He was studying when we arrived but he seemed pretty happy to talk to us.
I started things off, “Dan, we don’t understand something. We’ve stopped fighting; in fact we’ve been more friendly than ever with each other. Why is everything still all screwy? Why haven’t our parents put things back to normal?”
He looked at us both carefully for a moment. “That’s true; you have been really nice to each other lately. As for the rest, they are probably waiting for you to do something.”
“I think they want you to figure that out for yourselves.”
“Can’t you help us?”
“Sure I’ll help you, but you have to start helping yourselves a bit too.”
I still wasn’t sure how to start. “Can you give us a clue?”
“One thing you need to remember is that when The Parents do stuff like this, they don’t come out and say what they want you to learn, but most of what they say will be a hint. Think about what they said and about what they didn’t say. You’ll get it.”
“They said they own everything in the house,” blurted out Tara. “They said nothing is ours.”
Dan smiled, “Now you’re on the right track. They said that, but they don’t really believe it.”
“They lied to us?”
“Of course they did! What does that tell you?”
I thought for a moment, “They lied to us because they wanted to confuse us, to mess with our heads. They didn’t want us thinking straight about what was going on.”
“Clever girl,” said Dan with a smile.
“They didn’t take anything away from us,” chimed in Tara. “They just told us the things weren’t ours any more. Then they messed your things up and put the CDs in the living room where anyone could use them.”
We were silent for a while, just looking at each other’s faces. I think both of us were kind of reviewing the conversation we’d just had and the things that had happened over the last few days. I found myself looking at the earrings that Tara was wearing. They were mine, a present from Aunty Penny last Christmas. But they looked really good on her. They kind of went with the shape of her face and the color of her hair. Suddenly I knew what to do. The question was, how to get Dan to help us do it.
I gestured at his open doorway, “Why did you let them take your door too? You weren’t fighting.”
“They weren’t going to. I told them they had to.”
“Partly because I hate it when you two fight all the time. I wanted to show both of you that I agreed with them about this, one hundred percent. I said I didn’t want to be part of the room swapping games though, and they respected that.”
“You said partly?”
“That’s right!” He smiled at us.
I looked at Tara and tried to tell her with my eyes to back me up. She nodded at me, she’d figured something out too. I stood up. “Dan,” I said as firmly as I could, “we’re going to put the doors back, but they’re kind of heavy. Will you help us?” He smiled really big. He didn’t say anything. He just jumped up and we went together to the garage to get the first door.
When Mom and Dad got home later all the doors were back up and Tara and I were sitting at the table. I was decorating a big sign that said “Tara’s Room” and Tara was decorating a similar sign for my room. The CDs were still in the living room but we’d put all our clothes back in our rooms. Dan was sitting in the corner pretending to read a book – he didn’t want to miss this.
Our parents looked around a bit then came and sat down at the table with us. They didn’t look mad, just intrigued. That was a relief. Dad picked up a handful of nuts from the bowl in the center of the table and started munching on them. Mom watched us decorating the signs for a bit then said, “You two have been busy.”
I just shrugged and said, “You told us the doors wouldn’t go back up ‘til we’d learnt what you wanted us to learn.”
Dad leaned back a bit and tried to keep a straight face but I could see the corners of his mouth going up. Mom looked at us both carefully, “So what have you learnt?”
They’d spent all their time making cryptic comments at us, so I decided to give them some of their own medicine. “We learnt that Dan told you to take down his door too.” Mom and Dad’s eyebrows shot right up to the top of their faces. It was so comical it was hard not to laugh. It was totally not the answer they were expecting. I think they wanted us to talk about privacy and all that. But in my mind my answer was way better than that. I heard this muffled snorting sound coming from Dan. He was trying not to laugh at their surprised looks.
Dad didn’t say anything but he’d stopped munching on the nuts. Mom looked at each of us in turn then looked me straight in the eye and said with a really stern voice, “You’d better explain that young lady.”
I was confident that I was right so I stared her straight back. I was working out in my head what to say then Tara butted in. “Dan told you to take his door as well because he knows that he is part of this family and he knows that we’re all in this together. It didn’t make sense to take down all the doors in the house except his.” We hadn’t talked about this so Tara had obviously figured things out the same as I had.
Dad finally chimed in asking, “Did Dan tell you all this?”
“Nah,” I responded putting some disgust into my voice. “He just said he did it because he wanted us to stop fighting.”
“Ahhhh!” said Dad, rolling his eyes up and making like everything had suddenly made sense to him. Dad and Dan exchanged grins, Dan was enjoying this way too much.
Mom wasn’t finished though. “So what now?” she wanted to know.
“Well,” I said as casually as I could, “tonight I will go to MY room and put on MY pyjamas and sleep in MY bed, and Tara will go to HER room and put on HER pyjamas and sleep in HER bed.”
“Ahhhh!” said Mom, totally imitating Dad from a few seconds ago, as if we’d explained everything.
Dad reached across the table and grabbed her hand and said, “I told you they would work it out, my two girls are both very smart little cookies.” They both looked at us with big smiles. Dan silently pumped his arms in the air, congratulating us for sorting things out in a good way.
“Wait a minute,” said Tara, “I don’t want to sleep in my room tonight.” She glared at me. “You can’t make me.”
I gaped at her, so much for solidarity. Then I saw a glint in her eye, in the middle of all this tension, she was teasing me! “You can sleep out here on the floor for all I care,” I said crossly, but I winked at her to let her know I wasn’t cross.
“I won’t,” she declared. “I’m going to sleep in your bed tonight, and you can sleep out here on the floor.”
“You will not.”
“I will too, who’s going to stop me?”
“Just ‘cause you’re older doesn’t mean I can’t kick your skinny butt out of my room.”
Somehow we both managed to maintain straight faces as we exchanged insults. Pretty soon, we’d grabbed each other and were wrestling on the floor. Mom and Dad both groaned in unison and dropped their heads onto the table. Dan, who’d worked out we weren’t being serious, just burst out laughing when they did that and that started the two of us off, and soon we were laughing and giggling and trying to tickle each other. Angie saw us rolling on the floor and came over to jump on the top of us. Dan yelled “stacks on” and sprawled all over us ... did I mention that Dan is pretty big?
Soon Tara and I were pretty well flattened. From where I lay, flat on the floor, trying to keep Angie’s elbow out of my face, gasping for air under the combined weights of my two sisters and my brother, I could just see Mom and Dad shaking their heads at us in disbelief.
What were they expecting?
A group hug?