2. Countdown to Summer Camp

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My whiteboard was black, white, and marked all over

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My whiteboard was black, white, and marked all over.

It wasn't really a whiteboard, or even a board; I'd snapped a sheet of paper under a clipboard and called it a day. Only the marks mattered, anyway. They told me that I was winning.

As the TV announced another victory for King Dedede, Isaac threw his controller down and stood up. "I'm so bad at this game."

"Agreed," I said, already setting up for another game, but he marched forward and switched the TV off.

Before I could complain, he stole the controller from my hands. My very hands. My royal, grand, larger-than-life hands. "They have to be back. It's almost ten o'clock. We need to get ready for bed."

By "get ready for bed," Isaac meant, of course, pretending to slide beneath our covers and sitting there as we struggled to fall asleep. I didn't know why Dad made us go to bed so early. Had he not been a teenager himself? Didn't he know it was basically impossible for us to sleep at ten? During summer break?

I dragged myself to my feet, dragged myself to the bathroom upstairs, and dragged myself to the sink. Isaac had a bathroom of his own. He wouldn't be here to bother me.

It felt amazing.

I could stand him most of the time, but the last thing I needed now was a pessimist reminding me of everything I couldn't do. I mean, he could be warning me about the end of the world and I'd push him away. I wasn't in the mood.

The bathroom lights trickled down my spine, flooding the room in a sickly yellow. I reached for my yellow toothbrush in its yellow cup, squeezing out a strip of yellow toothpaste as one bang after another hit the floor below. Dad liked to slam the doors. It gave him power.

He said something in Mandarin, which I couldn't understand for three reasons.

First of all, his voice was muffled by the walls. I couldn't hear a thing, even if I wanted to.

Second of all, Mom had raised us in English because she wasn't Chinese. And she'd wanted nothing to do with Dad. Even back then.

Third of all, I didn't care. I'd stopped caring. Dad's speeches were nothing compared to the weight of his presence.

I worked foam between my teeth, clutching the edge of the sink with my other hand. If Dad broke in without warning, I could rip the sink from the counter and smash him over the head with it.

Yeah. That sounded perfect.

I rinsed my mouth and rinsed it again. I looked at myself in the mirror. Same old face. Same old clothes.

Change was scary.

When I slipped into my room (without running into Dad or Laura, thank goodness), I slipped on a random set of pajamas. Cold air hit my arms. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into my blankets and forget.

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