“Hello? Who’s this?” Tara said slowly.
“It’s Tamy. Obviously.” her sister’s voice crackled through the walkie-talkie.
Tara grinned, peering over the edge of the counter. She lifted the walkie-talkie to her mouth. “I can’t believe these actually work.”
“Neither can I,” Tamy crackled.
Tara sat on the icy tile, grinning like a maniac. “Do you think Nick has ever used this?”
“Come back in here,” Tamy said. “Let’s see what else we can find.”
“Copy that, commander.”
“What’d you call me?”
Tara laughed, rising from the ground and running through the house. She tiptoed past Nick’s room–he was supposed to be sleeping but was rustling under the covers–and crept into her and Tamy’s old bedroom. Old bedroom turned home office/storage room, since somewhere in the mix-up of turning this bedroom into an office and the upstairs storage room into a bedroom the storage room wound up in the office. Probably what their mother deserved for listening to a figment of Nick’s imagination. A figment who could also read thoughts? Nick hadn’t actually explained.
“Whose do you think this was?” Tamy held up a long, shimmery ribbon that twirled slowly above its box. As it spun Tara discovered it was in fact a toy snake.
“Not ours,” Tara shivered. “Must have been Quinn’s.”
Tamy studied it. “I don’t know. Your limbs can be kind of snaky sometimes.”
Tara shivered again. “I didn’t need that.”
Tamy dropped it back in the cardboard box. “The rest of this looks like old school papers,” she pressed the lid back on and absently dusted the top of it.
Tara held up her walkie-talkie. “Did this go in there?”
Her sister pointed to the corner of the room, past the office chair. “It was over there.”
Tara studied the line of boxes along the wall, slowly pursing her lips. “Do you think mother kept anything in here about our dad?”
Tamy glanced up, puzzled. “Do you want there to be?”
Tara shrugged. “No, not really. Just curious, you know?”
Tamy hefted the snake-box and set it back in the row, like replacing a missing block from a tower’s foundation. “If we do find anything about him, we better make sure Mom’s not around.” she hesitated. “Speaking of which, do you know when they’re going to be back?”
“Nope,” Tara clambered over the empty desk to replace her walkie-talkie. A ripped package of batteries sat in the swivel chair, reminding her they probably shouldn’t leave the walkie-talkies holding said batteries. She slid off the desk and rummaged in the open box for the second walkie-talkie, prying the backsides off both and accidentally turning them on in the process. They crackled with static, one of them squealing.
“Ow,” Tamy exclaimed as Tara pried the batteries free.
“Sorry,” Tara told her. “I was just taking the batteries out.”
“No, I said wow,” papers rustled. “You have to look at this box.”
Puzzled, Tara replaced the walkie-talkies and pushed the lid in place. Grabbing the battery package, she super-stretched over to Tamy and knelt on the hard floor. “Baby shoes?”
Tamy held up a pair of worn, baby blue shoes. “I think these were ours,” she squeaked.
Tara grimacingly prodded the tiny pair of white slippers still in the box. “Why did Mother keep these?”
Tamy lifted her own leg, comparing the shoe to her real foot. “I can’t believe I used to fit in these. My entire foot used to be as big as three of my toes.”
Tara nodded seriously. “Yes, you were a baby Tamy. Just like every human ever.”
Tamy glared. “Just admit it’s adorable,” she plucked the white pair from the box and dangled them in Tara’s face. “Aren’t they so cute?”
A door slammed, and Tara jumped. Tamy’s mouth fell open in an O. “Oh shoot, they’re home,” she scrambled to shove the shoes back in the box and squeeze it in place against the wall. Tara hid the battery package behind her back as they darted out the door, running for the bathroom.
“I thought you two were getting ready for bed,” Quinn’s voice called. Tara froze.
“Yeah, we are!” Tamy said. “We were just going to brush our teeth.”
Tara bit her lip, since their toothbrushes were actually still upstairs.
Quinn sighed. “You’re lucky Mother’s still out in the car.”
“Doing what?” Tara asked.
Quinn rolled his eyes. “How should I know?” he started stomping towards the stairs.
“Actually,” Tara said before he disappeared, “I think I’ll go change into my pajamas,” she gave Tamy a look. Her sister slowly nodded and crept into the bathroom.
Tara ran after Quinn, and he glared at her before blocking the stairs, taking each step turtle-slow. Tara stopped and planted her hand on her hip. “I could just step over you if I wanted,” she told his backside.
“Yeah, and I don’t care,” he replied.
Tara glared at his shoulder blades. Because he obviously did care. “So where did you and Mom go?” she asked.
He shrugged, finally reaching the third step. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Tara glowered out of sheer annoyance. “Wouldn’t understand? What wouldn’t I understand?”
Quinn slowly turned around. “You wouldn’t understand finances. Why do you think we let a stranger board in our house?”
Tara blinked. “For…the money?”
Quinn groaned in frustration and slapped the wall. “Why do you think we need the money?”
Tara shrugged. “Not for me and Tamy, obviously.”
He laughed. “If only we paid for you to go to your fancy school. Then you’d actually care.”
“Then we’d care?” Tara exclaimed. “If you had to pay for us to go to a ‘fancy’ school just so we could learn to use our powers, we wouldn’t go there! We’d still be stuck here, breaking things all the time! Is that what you want?”
Quinn rolled his eyes. “Believe what you want, Tara. At the end of the day, you get a fancy school, while I get to worry about money.” He spun on his heel and stormed up the steps. Tara, scowling, waited until his door slammed to stretch over all the stairs, planting her hands–still gripping a pack of batteries–on the carpet and pulling the rest of herself up.
“Believe what you want,” she muttered, tossing her hair. “Some of us have real issues.”
Panting heavily, Tara squeaked the bathroom door open, bumping her sister. “Oops,” she whispered.
“What took so long?” Tamy hissed, pulling the door open and accepting her toothbrush.
“I had to actually change into pajamas,” Tara explained, silently shutting the door behind her. “And Mother walked in right as I was leaving the bedroom.”
“What was all the shouting with Quinn about?” she asked softly.
“Oh. That,” Tara shoved the water tap on. “Quinn thinks we don’t understand money.”
Tamy stopped in place, toothpaste tube squeezed in her fist. “Well I don’t. I didn’t even take math this year.”
“He meant that Mother doesn’t make enough money. Obviously. He didn’t say that exactly, except he basically did. And then he said if Mother had to pay for our school we might actually care,” she grabbed the toothpaste from her twin, which resulted in a messy blue glob splatting into the sink. “Because we need that to remind us how hard life is.” She snorted.
“Alex did say he was jealous,” Tamy muttered.
“Alex isn’t real,” Tara reminded her.
Tamy shrugged, brushing slowly. “Nick’s a telepath.”
“Right, because I need that reminder either,” she hurled the toothpaste tube into the shower curtain, glaring as the thing thunked to the tub.
“Was that necessary?” Tamy asked, words muffled around her toothbrush.
“Of course it was,” Tara replied, brushing her teeth with a vengeance.