Tara’s Story: old enough to work, young enough to dream

Tara crept downstairs, straining to make out hushed voices. Unfortunately, the stairs creaked under her weight and their mother and Quinn fell silent. She sighed, marching loudly the rest of the way while rubbing her eyes. She froze at the bottom of the stairs, as if she’d just noticed the two of them sitting at the kitchen counter.

“Good morning,” her mother said, grinning wanly.

“Morning,” Tara replied hesitantly, entering the kitchen. She couldn’t quit staring at Quinn’s…uniform. All-black shirt and shoes and hat. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing you need to know about,” Quinn’s seat squealed as he stood up. He slipped past as Tara turned her questioning gaze to their mother.

“What’s that about?” she asked, slowly walking around the counter, hand tracing the smooth wood.

Their mother sighed. “I’m taking him to work in a few minutes.”

Tara paused with her hand halfway to the cereal cupboard. “Work?” Quinn was old enough to get a job?

“Yeah,” her mother sighed again. “Just had an interview last night, starts this morning. Quick turn around, which was good.”

Tara slowly grabbed a box of cereal. “What do you mean that’s good? Since when was Quinn looking for a job?”

Her mother swiveled slowly on her stool. “Tara, you only got here a few days ago. Things…haven’t been shaping up well the past few months.  I thought this new boarder would be a turnaround for us, but…” she trailed off, glancing towards the stairs. “The money she gave us suddenly disappeared. She wanted to pay in cash, which I did think was odd, but it wasn’t a problem until I took it to the bank the other day and it was suddenly just…gone.”

Tara leaned back, counter’s edge digging into her side. “Someone stole it?” she breathed.

“I don’t know how anyone could have. Unless I mis-remembered bringing it with me, or misplaced it somewhere…” she shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll keep looking, but something tells me…” she trailed off, gazing at her hands. “Anyway, I should head out,” she stood and carefully set her half-eaten bowl of oatmeal in the sink. “Quinn’s job is at a pizza place a few miles away, so I won’t be gone long.” Their mother busied herself with cleaning up Quinn’s breakfast, a plate of muffin crumbs and a dirty glass.

“Um, I need to go…do something important. Also. See you!” Tara clapped the cereal box onto the counter and ran from the room.

***

Shaking her sister through the blankets, Tara hissed, “Tamy, get up. We have a problem. A serious, for reals problem.”

Tamy perked up instantly, nearly hitting Tara with her shoulder. “What’s wrong? Did the dinosaur eat us?”

Tara shook her head. “No dinosaur.”

Tamy finally seemed to glance around the bedroom, at the rumpled blankets and pillows on the floor, the sunlight streaming through the pale curtains. “Oh, we’re not at school. Right.”

Tara sat back on her heels in the shaggy carpet. “Who’s got a dinosaur at school?”

Tamy bit her lip and stared at the ceiling. “Huh. I don’t remember, actually. It was super terrifying though. You couldn’t walk, and one of my arms was numb, and a dinosaur was trying to eat us.”

“Thanks,” Tara muttered, wondering why her sister’s dreams often included her unable to walk. Or talk, or eat, for some reason.

Tamy yawned. “What’s the problem?”

“Quinn’s getting a job.” The front door promptly slammed, and a car outside sputtered to life.

“Why is that bad?” Tamy asked. “Sounds pretty great if you ask me. Less grumpy Quinn around.”

“No, that’s not the bad part,” she said. “The bad part is that Quinn’s getting a job because the money Alex was supposed to be paying for rooming was all completely fake.”

Tamy stared at her, expression blank. Tara waited. Tamy rubbed her eyes, “I’m sorry, Mother and Quinn know about Alex’s fake money?”

Tara shook her head. “Mother thinks it’s lost, or something. Or maybe she thinks Alex stole it back. I’m not sure.”

“Ah,” Tamy yawned again. “Can we discuss this after breakfast? I’m still pretty sure there’s a dinosaur out there trying to eat us.”

Tara’s stomach promptly growled. “That dinosaur?” she tried grinning.

***

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