Dara’s hand was clammy in mine as I stared into the leafy loft that held our imaginations. “I wish I had an older sister.” We murmured the words at the same time, then stacked hands.
“Bubblegum, bubblegum, how do you do? I’ve come from the queen to visit you.” Dara smacked my hand away. “I win! First dibs!” She scrambled up the rope ladder.
“Cheater!” I muttered, hurrying up after her.
“I didn’t cheat.” She retorted. “Besides…I’m older.”
“Older? You’re fourteen minutes earlier.” I hoisted myself up.
Dara snorted. “Okay, fine. We’re both terrific thirteen, happy?”
“My dibs.” I lunged for the ‘dressing room’, a corner of the tree house sectioned off by a purple sheet and clothespins. There, I would transform myself into the wise, older sister character of ‘Pamela’.
“Suit yourself. I was gonna let you go first anyway.” Dara settled into a pile of old blankets. “Do you think we should pray for an older sister or something? I mean, instead of this hopeless wishing stuff and pretending all the time.”
“Then we’d need two.” I teetered out from behind the sheet on metallic pumps. “We’re cousins, not sisters.”
“Whatevs.” Dara turned to study my entrance. “I heart you anyway.” She scrambled to clear the crate that was ‘Pamela’s’ throne.
“And I heart you back.” I sank onto the seat, adjusting the leather jacket.
Dara snickered. “Whose idea was it anyway? Yours?”
“I don’t know...go ahead, ask me your question, these earrings are killing me.”
“Then take them off silly. Pamela doesn’t have to have pierced ears.” Dara sighed. “Here’s my problem. I snuck out to Jamie’s party…and now I’m grounded for life!”
“Life?” I perked a brow. “Dara….!”
“Okay, fine. I wasn’t supposed to, but I really wanted to…so I went. I got caught, and grounded. Clear as mud?”
“About…did you have fun?”
Dara nibbled on a peach-colored nail. “Not really. It was confusing with so many people and stuff.” She shuddered. “I thought it’d calm down when it came to the slumber party part, but then they started watching dumb movies and playing truth or dare.”
“Ouch.” I looked at the floor, squeezing my eyes shut.
Father…what am I supposed to say here? I’m only thirteen! How am I supposed to answer questions like this? I really wish you could give us a ‘Pamela’. I opened one eye. “It’s your fault…you know better.”
“Yeah…but I learned my lesson! I won’t go to something like that again. Now my parents won’t let me do anything!”
“Then be responsible.”
“What?” Dara scowled.
“Be responsible.” I repeated. “If you have extra chores, do them right, don’t fuss or grumble about it. Maybe they’ll ease up-if you’re taking responsibilities for your actions.” I shrugged.
“Whatevs?” Dara shifted to her feet. “My turn.”
I scrambled off the throne, passing over the ‘Pamela’ costume. Dara wriggled into the leather jacket and slipped on the metallic heels, holding still as I slathered on pink lipstick and blush.
“Okay, what’s your problem, little sis?”
“It’s not a problem.” I grunted, taking up her earlier position by the door. “The new girl cheated off my page on our history test-guess who Mr. Mojack blamed?”
Dara’s eyebrows danced upwards. “You aren’t expelled or anything, are you? I can’t help with that!”
“Nah. Just grounded…almost suspended. All my teachers are looking at me like I’m some sort of criminal. My parents don’t have the time to deal with it, so they aren’t doing anything.”
“Double ouch.” Dara chewed her fingernail. “Wow…I’m not even sure what to say, I mean, well, this is almost serious.”
“Ask to retake the test.” The new voice that filtered in from the doorway with a matter-of-fact air. It belonged to a spiky head of black hair with pursed, glossy lips on the face of a teenager I’d never seen before.
“Who are you and why are you spying on us?” Dara sputtered.
“Spying?” The owner of the interruption rested her elbows on the edge of the floor. “I’m your cousin…Pamela, from New York. Whichever one of you is Cori, your mom just sent me here to get you. The family reunion’s starting.” Her head disappeared from view. “Why would I want to spy on you? It’s common sense to retake the silly test.”
Dara and I exchanged a glance. “Pamela?” I mouthed.
She shrugged. “She could probably answer a few…questions.” Dara kicked off her shoes. “Last one down has to wait her turn.”
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