(Originally written: May 2, 2020)

Lia Loch, 13, woke up at 4:00 A.M. on a Friday. First she splashed cold water on her face and brushed her teeth to wake herself up. Then, while still half-asleep, she quietly grabbed her bag from the room she shared with her sister, Luna. Luna was a heavy sleeper but still. Luna worked hard at her job and Lia didn’t want to disturb her. On her way down the hall she first checked in on her two brothers, 8 and 8. They were sleeping as they should be and as usual, Danny had found his way to his twin’s bed. Lia wondered how Peter was able to sleep with Danny’s foot on his face but she didn’t do anything to fix it. Then Lia checked on her grandparents. She did this by putting her finger under their noses until she felt warm air. 

With all the people she loved safely in bed, Lia went to the living room where the family computer was so she could do her homework. It was old and made funny noises while it started up, noises that Lia suspected were signs that the computer wasn’t doing so great. She hadn’t shared her suspicions with Pop and Nan since she was still able to use the internet. Pop didn’t fully get why his grandkids needed a computer to do their homework when books did him just fine when he was in school but since, like Lia, he was the type to accept things as is he didn’t comment on it. 

Lia was happy that there wasn’t much homework assigned and that she had gotten most of it done before bed last night at 11. She was also happy with her past-self for getting the hard math problems done and leaving her the fun biology homework. The biology homework was still hard since it involved a lot of googling words she didn’t fully understand but it was cool. Cells are cooler than algebra and that’s just fact. 

At 5:30 she was finished. Luna didn’t need to wake up for another thirty minutes so Lia decided to clean the main bathroom. That’s usually a chore she saved for Friday night after she showered, but she had a sleepover to go to this time. Thankful that she didn’t have to skip a week – she hated dirty bathrooms – Lia gathered the cleaning supplies from under the sink and got to work. The sink had streaks of toothpaste, Luna was the prime suspect for that. The toilet had dribbles of yellow, which Lia blamed the boys for. The tub though. Everyone was guilty for the state of the tub, including Lia.

After finishing and thoroughly washing her hands at 5:55, Lia got two glasses of water and the pills that Pop and Nan had to take when they woke up. She left the medicine on the nightstand after checking if they were breathing (they were). Luna was already up when Lia went to wake her.

“Oh my God Lia you’re not gonna believe this!” Luna was bouncing on her bed while seated, her phone lighting up her face as she smiled at it. 

“What? What?” Lia shuffled over and looked at the screen. It was upside down but she could see that Luna had received a text from her coworker at the grocery store. Theodore. 

“He sent me a text asking me out!” Luna exclaimed. “I was dead last night from work so I missed it!”

“Whoa! Cool!” Lia smiled. Luna really liked Theodore. Lia hadn’t met him though so she didn’t have an opinion. But he did have nice dimples. “When?”

“Tonight! He wants to take me to dinner tonight!” Luna fell back on the bed and kicked her legs in the air before sitting back up. “I can’t wait!”

“Have fun, Luna!” Lia hugged her sister. “Get up though. You’re gonna be late.”

“I will I will!” Luna sent the text saying yes to the date before sprinting out of the room. Lia was going to the boys’ room to check on them again when Luna’s head popped out of the bathroom door. “Lia did you clean the bathroom already?!”

Lia’s face fell.

“Ugh you know I hate the smell! It gives me a headache!”

“…sorry Luna.”

“Whatever.” The door slammed shut.

The boys were still asleep and could remain that way until 6:30. Lia put an apron on even though she didn’t need it to make sandwiches. Danny and Peter got the last of the peanut butter for their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She figured they’d need the extra sugar since their class was taking a field trip to the natural history museum today. She also gave them an extra cookie each because they had picked flowers for her at the park the day before. Well. They were dandelions and dandelions are weeds. But Lia appreciated the thought.

“Good morning, sweetheart.” Nan said.

“Morning, Nan.” Lia smiled. 

“How’d my little worker bee sleep?”

“Good.” Lia filled a pot with some water and set in on the stove to boil. Pop and Nan both liked oatmeal in the morning.

“And my big worker bee? Is she up?”

“Right here!” Luna came rushing into the kitchen to grab her keys off the counter. “I have cheer practice so bye!”

“What about breakfa…” Lia’s voice trailed off. She sighed and poured herself some cereal, trusting Nan to keep an eye on the pot of boiling water. 

“Do I need to go grocery shopping?” Nan asked, glancing at the empty peanut butter jar still on the counter.

“Luna said she’d go tomorrow.”

“Oh. Okay.” Nan said. “Tonight is your sleepover! Are you excited?”

“It got cancelled.”

Nan frowned and combed her fingers through Lia’s hair. “Oh I’m sorry sweetheart… I know you were looking forward to it.”

“It’s okay. There’ll be another one.” Lia smiled and shrugged.

“If you say so…” Nan said. “But if you want I can take you and the boys to the movies today.”

“That’s okay, Nan.” Lia shook her head. The boys started soccer in a week and would need cleats. “There’s nothing good playing.”

Nan frowned, sighed, and returned to the stove. With her cereal done she went to wake up Danny and Peter. “Booooys!”

Silence. It was a faked silence though. Silence that resulted from the boys being asleep included deep, audible breathing. In this silence, Lia could drop a pin to the carpet and hear it. 

“I know you’re up. Come on! Get dressed!”

Silence that was extra quiet.

“Guess you don’t want to go on the field trip then… Mr. Thresk is picking you up in thirty minutes.” Mr. Thresk was chaperoning the trip and had offered the boys a ride since his son was the boys’ best friend. 

The boys woke up quickly and raced to the bathroom. It took a long fifteen minutes but they were out of it eventually, allowing Lia to finally do her business and join them at the breakfast table after. “Is Pop still not up?”

“He’s outside. Wanted fresh air.” Nan pointed out the kitchen window and Lia saw Pop stretching while facing the sun. Lia was contemplating going out to say hi when the doorbell rang. Guessing at who it was, she told the boys to get their lunches from the counter before getting their bags. 

“Good morning, Mr. Thresk.” Lia said, moving to the side so the boys could push past her to his waiting car. They were in the backseat with their friend in seconds.

“Morning, Lia.” He laughed, looking at the car. “You want a ride? Your school is on the way.”

“Oh it’s okay I’ll take the bus.”

“You sure? When I was your age I took every chance to not ride the bus. I’d rather walk.”

Lia figured she could go a day without that mean boy making fun of her for not having boobs. Not yet. She thought. I don’t have boobs yet. “Okay. Thank you, sir. I’ll get my bag.”

The ride to school was quiet and loud. Quiet because Lia didn’t say a word to anyone, content to stare out the window. Loud because the boys and their friend talked without end about what they were going to do at the museum. Sam said confidently that he’d find a way to sneak into the T-Rex exhibit but his dad wasn’t too confident in his son’s sneaking abilities since he was stupid enough to reveal his plans to anyone who’d listen. Mr. Thresk didn’t chastise Sam too much beyond saying he’d be keeping an extra eye on him. 

Lia managed to avoid her friends in the morning by volunteering to help her science teacher set up the day’s lab. She avoided them during class as well, taking advantage of the fact that she had been assigned a seat away from all of them and by ‘going to the bathroom’ between classes. Lunch, however, was inevitable.

“Lia!” Kate smiled, waving at her to sit down. “My mom asked if you have any allergies or if you’re vegan!”

“I don’t. And I’m not.” Lia said, smiling at her friends and taking her sandwich out of the otherwise empty lunchbox without the others noticing.

“Cool! We’re ordering pizza. I love pizza.” Kate loved a lot of foods. “And remember. Come over at 6!”

Lia curled her toes and pressed her knees together. “I’m sorry Kate… I actually can’t come tonight.”

“Whaaaaaat.” Kate whined. “Whyyyyy?”

“I have to babysit my brothers.”

“Don’t you live with you grandparents? Can’t they do it?”

No. Lia thought. “It’s better if I do it. Peter and Danny can be really annoying.”

They aren’t. The boys are good boys.

“Then get a sitter!” Kate pleaded. “Come on Lia it won’t be fun without you!”

“Kate just drop it.” Mariah intervened, looking at Lia. If you asked Mariah, that look was to apologize on behalf of Kate for not knowing about Lia’s ‘situation’. If you asked Lia, she’d say it was pity. Lia was right. “When someone says no you’re supposed to drop it!”

“But…” Kate sighed. “Fine. Sorry, Lia.”

Lia nodded and ate her sandwich in silence. Her burning ears and clenched jaw were thankful for her friends not noticing it. When she got home that afternoon, she felt for warm air under her napping grandparents’ noses, set out their pills with some cut fruit, started the first load of laundry, mowed the lawn, put the laundry in the dryer, started the second load, began prepping for dinner by chopping up all the vegetables she’d need, and turned on the computer to try and get a head start on homework before the boys got home. The head start amounted to nothing more than two finished math problems before the doorbell rang again. 

“Peter scraped his knee in the parking lot.” Mr. Thresk explained. “Field trip was great otherwise. Right boys?”

“Right!” The boys said in unison. “Lia we’re hungry.”

“You can have an apple each and that’s it. Peter go wash your knee first!” Lia ordered. “Thanks again, Mr. Thresk.”

“My pleasure.” He smiled. “You have our number, right Lia?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Remember. You can call us for anything you need.” He said, looking worried. “Nina and I are happy to help.”

Lia smiled. “We have your number. Drive safe!”

He opened his mouth to say more, sighed, then left. Lia watched him drive off before checking on Peter. As expected, he had splashed water everywhere. “Sorry…”

“It’s fine. I’ll clean it up.” Lia ruffled his hair and gave him a band-aid she had taken from the medicine cabinet.

“Awww Iron-Man?” Peter frowned at the band-aid. “Are we out of Spidey?”

“Yep.” Lia dug through the box and pulled out a different one. “Oh wait! Here.”

“Cool! Thanks Lia!” He hugged her before putting it on. “By the way. Danny and I got you something. Sam’s dad helped us pay the gift shop lady.” 

“Did you boys make him buy me something?!”

“No! We bought it with our money! He just talked to the lady. Come on it’s in my bag.” He dragged her by the hand to the living room where the twins had abandoned their bags. Danny was eating his apple and watching TV. Seeing his brother, he rushed over.

“Are you giving it to her?” Danny beamed. “Hurry!”

“Yeah!” Peter dumped the contents of the bag. Among the various papers, pencils, rocks, and tissue paper was a stuffed stegosaurus that surely cost far more than the twins had. He grabbed it and held it out to her, cherubic face filled with pride. “Here!”

“Oh my gosh thank you.” Lia hugged the stuffed toy to her chest. The boys looked too happy for her to tell them Mr. Thresk had definitely helped pay for it. She decided to bake him a pie since he’d refuse money. “I love him!”

“Awesome!” Danny cheered. “Peter wanted to get you a T-Rex but I said you’re too nice for that.”

“But she’s awesome like a T-Rex!”

“I’m sure I would have loved that too, Peter.” Lia said before the two could begin arguing. “Just as much as I love this stegosaurus.”

“Cool!” Peter smiled. “Can I have some chips?”

“Nope. Just an apple.”

Peter sulked but he did listen. Lia allowed them to watch TV for a little while but she did sit them at the dining table eventually to start their homework while she cooked. During that time, Luna returned home in a rush. “Hey guys!” She gave them all a quick hug. “Okay I’m gonna get ready for my date!”

The rest of the evening passed in the same rush as the afternoon. Cleaning up after dinner, massaging Pop’s swollen feet, vacuuming, doing more laundry, getting the twins ready for bed, showering, and finally putting the twins back to bed. Feeling extremely tired and, weirdly enough, bloated, Lia opted to go to bed early. She’d have plenty of time over the weekend to finish her homework. Hopefully. She lay in bed with her old, cracked iPod touch and scrolled through Instagram. Lia saw that Kate had posted to her story, along with Mariah and the others. She resisted the temptation to look for the longest time but she eventually caved.

Her friends looked to be having a lot of fun. Dressed in pajamas long before they’d be going to sleep, the girls were doing everything Lia had been looking forward to. Binge watching some show on Netflix, stuffing their faces with pizza and ice cream, talking to each other while sitting in a circle… It was like Kate had googled how to throw a slumber party and followed the instructions to a tee. Clearly it had worked. They were all laughing and smiling. They were all having fun despite Lia not being there.

Lia turned her iPod touch off, set it on her nightstand as far from her as possible, hugged her new stuffed toy to her chest, tried to ignore her sudden cramps, and stared at the wall. Her eyelids inevitably grew heavy and she shut them, pushing out the few tears she had been holding in. Feeling the tears on her cheek, warm and ticklish, broke her control.

Lia Loch, 13, cried herself to sleep at 10:00 P.M. on a Friday.