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My mom coined our place, The Loud House.

“Yes, I’m back in black!” blasted from the family room speakers. My little brother cried like a baby in his bedroom, because, well, he’s a baby. I stepped into my room and shut the door for some rare peace and quiet. Why couldn’t our place be The Occasionally Loud House?

Even with my door closed, I could hear my dad listening to his AC/DC playlist on the iPod speakers. He always did that when he paid bills. AC/DC is a classic rock band. Which means they’re old. I like music and all. In fact, I love it. But there’s a time for rocking out, and there’s a time to get things done. I desperately needed to find something to wear to Brooke’s birthday party. Right now. Stat. Immediately. Pronto. If only my brother would go back to sleep. He should be napping now. He usually can sleep through music playing, dogs barking, anything in The Loud House. Mom said that he’s teething. Another reason for my parents to smother him with attention. Another reason to say, “Stef, wait a minute. Stef, I can’t do this now. Stef, your brother is the only thing we care about.” Okay, maybe they’ve never said that last one, but they’ve probably thought it.

I glanced at my neon guitar clock on the wall. It was almost time to leave for Brooke’s birthday party, and I was anxious to get out of the house and away from my baby brother. Brooke’s party was at the roller rink. I’m not great at skating, but lots of girls in my sixth-grade class were going. It should be fun, even though it was a Pink at the Rink party. According to the invitation, we had to wear pink to the party. Pink! It might as well be called a Stink at the Rink Party. Black is the only cool color. It’s very rock ‘n’ roll, and black goes with anything.

I know about rock ‘n’ roll because my dad is a musician. He plays guitar in a band with my cousin Gina. The band is called Quandary, because they couldn’t agree on a band name. My dad is also an accountant. He calls it his day job. He says he works to live, and lives to play music. Whatever that means.

My mom called, “Stefani! It’s almost time to go!” See, even my name screams rock ‘n’ roll. Mom named me after her favorite musician (favorite musician besides my dad, of course). Even my baby brother, Gerard, is named after a lead singer. What do you expect from a family with a dog named Lyric?

I rummaged through the black tops in my bottom drawer and finally picked out a shirt with a skull on it. Not much pink, but it would have to do. I took off my black concert tee and slipped on the new one. I kept my favorite black jeans on even though they felt a little tight. I’ve had them since last year, but they had little silver studs on the pockets that would reflect the strobe lights at the roller rink. I brushed my hair quickly with my glittery black brush and tossed it onto my dresser. I tore down the stairs humming the Beatles “Birthday” song.

“Hey, Stef! You ready?” my mom called.

“Yep! Where’s the gift?” I asked. Mom handed me the bubblegum pink gift bag. I peeked inside. A book and an iTunes gift card, Mom’s standard gift. She always thinks that everyone loves music as much as she does, and that reading is the next best thing to music. Actually, most of my friends do like the gifts she picks out.

“Stefani! You aren’t wearing any pink,” Mom said as she smoothed my hair with the palm of her hand.

“Yes, I am,” I said, and I pointed to the hot pink bow atop the skull on my shirt.

“I know you have some pink accessories somewhere,” Mom said under her breath before she ran up to my room. She came down with a hot pink headband and plopped it onto my head.

“At least wear this,” she scolded. “It is a pink party.”

Gerard started wailing again from the bedroom.

“Simon, can you get Gerard?” Mom called to my dad.

Dad didn’t answer. I looked for him in the kitchen where the music was still blaring. There was the pile of envelopes and the checkbook at the table, but no Dad.

“Dad!” I yelled. Where in the world was he? We were going to be late.

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