Chapter 1

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Anneole's POV
Eight years old
Anniko
Eleven years old

"Mother! Father! Wake up!" I say. "It's Christmas!"

"What time is it?" Father asks.

"Three," I answer.

"Go to bed!" He laughs. "A few more hours, bud."

"Fine," I groan, retreating to the room I share with Annakey.

"Anneole?" Annakey asks.

"What?" I hiss.

"Do you think Santa came?" He asks.

"It's Christmas!" I say. "Of course he came."

"Then let's go!" He smiles.

"Go to bed, twerp," I say. "They said no."

"You've never cared what they said before," he points out. "Why now?"

"I heard Mother talking to her friend," I say. "She hates us."

"Then let's hate her more," he smiles a devilish grin. "Let's win."

We wait three more hours to open the presents. I open a box, throwing the wrapping paper everywhere, just like Mother hates. I hear her groan as Annakey does the same, leaving wrapping paper strewn all over the floor.

Anniko is being perfect as always.

My final present is a bag holding sweatpants identical to the ones in Anniko and Annakey's bags. Red and white, our names embroidered.

Only we would get matching pajamas for Christmas.

Nine at night comes quick. I lay awake in bed, unable to stop thinking of Annakey's idea, his words repeating in my mind.

Let's win.

I want to win.

~*~

I wake up and look at the time. Seven in the morning. Time to terrorize.

I wake up Annakey, hitting him with his pillow.

"Go away, Anneole," he groans.

"Wake up," I hiss. "Do you want to win or not?"

"What are we doing?" He asks.

"The painter is finishing tonight," I say. "I think our work would be better than his."

"We get to paint?" He smiles.

"We get to paint," I confirm.

We sneak into the basement, grabbing the cans of paint.

"They didn't use them all?" Annakey asks.

"I guess not," I shrug. "But I think the beige in the living room would look better with some red in it."

"Cool!" He smiles.

We bring the paint cans upstairs, hiding them in our room as Anniko comes in.

"Go away, Anniko!" I order.

"No," he denies. "I'm older. What are you runts doing?"

"We want to paint," Annakey smiles.

"Wanna help?" I offer.

"No," Anniko shakes his head. "Mother will have your heads. I'd prefer to stay out of that."

"Your loss," I shrug.

We carry the red paint to the living room, dipping our hands in and dragging our fingers across the walls. We take handfuls and toss it up to the ceiling, laughing as it hits the ceiling and walls, some falling to the floor.

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