“What!” I demand. “What d’you mean Lorraine doesn’t want to go to Jackson’s birthday party?”
My mom looks at me sadly. “Exactly that, Vivian.”
“But…but…she might actually make a friend! Seriously, mom? God, she must be the only kid in the world who needs to be forced to go a birthday party!”
“Feel free to talk to her. She is your cousin…she gets along better with you than me,” Mom says.
“You bet I’ll talk to her!” I snap, already walking over to Lorraine’s room. I swing open the door, and Lorraine looks up, surprise in her gray eyes.
“Vivian! What’ve I told you about coming in my room?” Even as she says this, my eyes sweep over the light blue walls, where bookshelves and a desk dominate every bit of spare room. Her closet is vastly smaller than mine.
“Well, what’ve we told you about being sociable for a change!”
“Is this about Jackson’s party?” she asks, yanking at a strand of silky black hair. “I don’t understand why you’re so obsessed with my social life. It is my social life, after all.”
“Why don’t you want to go? It sounds like fun! Horseback riding, how fun is that?” I remember having a horseback riding party when I was twelve.
“I don’t like Jackson. He’s manipulative.” Why does a twelve year old use bigger words than me? “He likes me just because I helped his math grade go from a C to a B. That’s it. He’s probably gonna make me look like an idiot while playing a game or something.”
I roll my eyes. “This is exactly why you don’t have friends!” She looks at me, obviously confused. “You’re so damn paranoid! Just ‘cause you’re ‘gifted’, doesn’t mean everyone’s out to get you. ”
“I wasn’t suggesting-”
“Oh honey. Don’t you dare try to get out of this one. You’re so anti-social, no wonder no one wants to be your friend!”
“Oh, thanks! No one? Really? I have friends!” she cries.
“Oh yeah? Name one!” I shout.
“Why should I? It’s none of your beeswax,” she mumbles.
“Actually, I think you’ve made it my business!”
“How?” she snarls.
“You’re being so stubborn! I’m also your cousin, and I want to help!”
“No! You don’t. You just want to yell at me.”
“Not true!” I take a breath, try to calm down a little. “I think you’re lying.”
“I don’t think you have any friends. I think you’re making ’em up.” That’ll trip her up a bit.
“But…you’re suggesting I haven’t got any friends. Not even in Denver.”
“Well, I’m not. Now get out,” she whispers, her eyes shining and her voice breaking.
“Excuse you. I can leave whenever. You don’t boss me around.”
“I hate you, Vivian! You and your ludicrous ideas! Now get out!”
My temper is up again, and I’m seeing red. “Fine! I hate you too!” I snap, leaving. I make sure the door slams.
Even though Lorraine is four years younger than me, I’ve always felt like I’ve been in her shadow.
When she was four, she’d managed to learn to read by herself. I learned to read by the tail end of kindergarten. She’s also a whiz in everything on the first try, and I’m only a whiz in art. There’s a reason I used to call her Mikasa when I was mad.
However, I’ve always been protective of her. Unlike all the geniuses on TV, she experiences really strong emotions, and can barely control them. She doesn’t keep calm under pressure very well.
Lorraine lived in Denver until eight months ago. She lived with her mom and grandma in a little apartment. It would’ve worked, except for one small thing: her mom was as dumb as a brick. How such a dull-minded woman had such a smart daughter is beyond me. All I can say is that it happened.
I feel guilty to admit that it’s better for Lorraine that her mother died. Grandma’s too old to take care of Lorraine, so we were her only option.
I know I hurt Lorraine pretty badly. I could see it in her eyes. I just find it hard to apologize.
Two hours later, I’m looking at her door, breathing in. Well, you’ve got to apologize. Better do it now.
I open the door, but I don’t see Lorraine. What? I look in her closet, to see only a few shirts and pants left. Wait, what? I think again. I look at her bookshelves. Her favorites are all gone. Oh, God! I’m about to leave the room, when I see a patch of pink on her door. I look closer to see a small note, written in a twelve year old’s writing:
To Vivian and Aunt Nancy,
I’m sorry, but I’m going home. I’m so sick of this place; no one seems to care about me. Maybe I can live with grandma. Who knows? I’ll write soon. Love from Lorraine.
“What the hell?”I whisper. I can’t believe it. I’ve got to find her! Who knows what’ll happen to her! I can’t tell mom; she’ll only get worried and try to get the police involved. It’s only been two hours anyway at most; she can’t have gone far. I think for a moment, and then I look at her computer. Of course. I go onto her computer. I know her password because she has a code on her screen that I cracked a few months ago. I just didn’t tell her because it was actually really hard; it was disguised as a shopping list.
I look up her internet history. Maybe she got arrogant and thought that no one would be able to crack her code, but I see exactly where she decided to go to get home: COS Train Station. I mentally slap myself. Duh! She’s never been on a train, but she’s always wanted to!
I check the schedule to see if any trains go to Denver today. Bingo. There’s one leaving in an hour and a half.
I get out of the house, taking my backpack, just in case I’ll need money. I manage to get a taxi.
It’s raining heavily by the time I get to the station. Okay, think. Where is she? The rain splashes onto my skin and hair, and I wish I’d brought a jacket or hoodie. “Lorraine!” I call. Where could she be? “Lorrie!” I scream. All I know is that I don’t want my cousin to leave. I run up to a man in a gray suit.
“Sir! Have you seen a twelve year old girl with black hair? She may be wearing a sweater and faded jeans!”
The man looks at me sadly. “I’m so sorry, I haven’t seen anyone like that.”
I sigh. “Okay. Thank you.” I walk a little further away towards the gift shop, when I see a young girl with black hair in the shop. Aha! I rush into the shop and snap, “Lorraine!” She looks up at me, startled.
“Vivian! What the heck’re you doing here?”
“I’m here to take you home! Now, let’s go!’ I shout, grabbing her wrist.
“How’d you even know I was here? There’s no way you could’ve known!”
“I looked on your computer!”
“How’d you even know my password?”
“I cracked the damn code, genius! Now, we have to go!” She glares at me with rage in her eyes.
“You looked on my computer? But that’s private! How could you?”
“I needed to find out where you were! Let’s go home and talk some more, okay?” If I can get her home, that’d be good.
“I’m not going back, Vivian! I paid for the ticket, fair and square!”
“How’d you even get all that money?”
“I’ve been saving my money for years!” She looks down. “I’m going home.”
“What home? Grandma’s too old to take care of you, and I’m sorry, but your mom is dead!”
“I can live on my own! I know I can! I know I can… Besides, you wanted me to leave, right? Right?” she yells.
“What the heck, Lorrie? When did I say that?”
“You hate me! You said so!”
“I think you said that first…”
“Honestly, I actually had friends back home. I know, hard to believe that little old paranoid me had friends, yeah?” She stares up at me accusingly, like she’s daring me to contradict her.
“Wait…so you weren’t lying?”
“Why would I? What would I have to gain?”
She looks triumphantly at me. “Exactly.”
I sigh. “I’m your friend. I don’t hate you.”
Surprise flickers in her eyes. “Really? But we’ve argued so much these past eight months… I’d hate me too!”
I gasp a little. “Of course I don’t hate you! You’re my baby cousin,” I say, hugging her. She squirms out of my embrace.
“Don’t hug me! You’re soaking wet!”
“So’re you.” I laugh. “Okay, kiddo. Let’s go home. Mom’s probably losing it.”
Lorraine chuckles. “She is high strung.” I laugh again and teasingly punch her as we walk out of the gift shop.