Chapter 18

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Chapter 18


Kamree's mother scraped fluffy tan pancakes onto her plate, her delicate facial features arranged into contentedness. "Kam, I've got a meeting with your teacher tomorrow for parent-teacher day. She's not going to tell me you're a nasty student, is she?"

With her mouth already half-filled with chocolate chip pancakes, Kamree made a noise that sounded like, "Nuh uh."

At the other end of the table, Paisley gurgled her baby noises and slapped her hands on the tray of her high-chair, sending her Cheerios scattering. Her mother grinned at Paisley as she put the pan back on the stove and flipped the knob to off. "Last time you said that they told me about the frog incident."

Mrs. Philips was, of course, referring to the last parent-teacher conference, where her teacher had ratted her out for snatching the class pet, a frog named Stan, and taking him outside during recess where she let him go. But how could she continue to sit through classes watching the frog jump up at the glass again and again and again. It was like he'd been begging to get out of there.

"Nancy is going to be coming over in a bit to watch you guys," her mother said, "and if I get any bad news about your behavior you best bet there will be no pizza for dinner tomorrow night."

Kamree swallowed down her bites of pancakes and took a big gulp of her milk. "Dad would never let you cancel pizza night."

Her mother's gaze narrowed, though the smile still sat at the corner of her lips. "Are you sure you're twelve?" She asked rhetorically, then, "Of course I can cancel pizza night, I'm the mom. Your dad would have to deal."

"What would I have to deal with?" Her father strolled in, dropped his briefcase on the wooden chair adjacent to Kamree, and kissed baby Paisley on the crown of her head.

"If the parent teacher conference doesn't go well, I'm canceling pizza night."

Mr. Philips jokingly pointed at Kamree and said, "That conference better be good."

"It will," Kamree assured. She hadn't done anything bad since the frog incident. And all her grades were good, so Mrs. Kimack wouldn't have bad things to say.

"Good. Now, do I get pancakes?" Her father asked his wife. Before she could answer, he swiped one off the plate on the counter and took a bite. Then he wrapped his arms around her mom's waist and nuzzled at her neck.

Her mother's long black hair had been scraped up into a messy bun and the loose tendrils moved as she tilted her head back and asked, "What time is your meeting, dear?"

"8:30. I need to head out soon." Instead of letting go, he hugged her mom closer, squeezing her tight.

And then it went wrong.

Mrs. Philips suddenly dropped, her body becoming motionless. "Janelle? Janelle!" Her father braced his feet and caught her, lowering her to the floor. He put her in the recovery position, head tilted back.

But by the time he'd gotten her settled and picked up the phone, her mother had gone pale. Cold. Kamree cried, unable to catch the tears as they fell. Even little Paisley stopped. Her baby noises went quiet.

Then her father whipped his head to her. "This is your fault," he said. He got up and strode her her, his steps wide with intent. "I'd rather you died. I'd rather it be you."

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