Let me start by saying this: I’m not my dad. My dad is this big, Russian teddy bear that everyone goes to for comfort, and I’m not my mom either, exactly. So why my little sister came to me the other night for comfort, I dunno. This is just to remind myself that though she’s pretty annoying sometimes, I love her to death. Gods, I hope I’m not turning into my mom with this journal writing stuff.
“Lukey?” I heard my little sister Sophia’s voice squeak outside my door. She knocked lightly, which wasn’t like her. Normally she just barges in when she wants something– that’s like the unspoken rule in our whole house, actually. I’d been pretty comfortable in my bed, but I figured if I didn’t get up to see what she wanted, she’d start pouting soon. I rolled off, walked to the door and opened it to see her with tears streaming down her face and clutching two things: an old notebook, and one of her story books. Oh gods, I thought. What do I do? She didn’t say anything before pushing past me and leaping onto my bed, sobbing loudly. I looked out into the hall desperately for either of my parents, but I remembered suddenly that they were going on a double date with Aunt Lilly and Uncle Jake tonight... making me the one in charge.
“What’s wrong, Soph?” I walked cautiously to my bed. Eight year olds are like land-mines, you take one wrong step and they explode and all your stuff goes everywhere. I kid you not, it’s like she knew I wasn’t sure if I wanted to sit next to her, because she grabbed a pillow and started crying even louder into it. I sat down quickly and started stroking her hair, and she pulled herself onto my knee. C’mon, you gotta have some big brother instincts in there somewhere, Lukas. I saw the notebook sitting in front of me. My natural detective reflexes told me that it was unlikely that her story book had made her cry this hard, so it had to have been the old notebook. I admit, I was curious, so I opened it up. Oh, oh no. This is Mom’s camp journal.
“Sophia, what did you read in here?” I asked. She looked up at me, sniffling.
“There’s a bunch of stuff where Mom talks about how mad she is at Dad, and she uses a bunch of those words I’m not allowed to say,” she said. I sighed in relief. That means she didn’t see, or pay attention to, anything demigodly. That’s even worse than Dad’s “now that you’re getting older ____ will happen to your body” talk. I shuddered at the memory.
“Y’know, sis,” I said, pulling her up to sit next to me, “people who love each other can fight too.” She looked like she didn’t believe me. This is how I wanted to spend my night. Convincing my little sister Mom and Dad love each other.
“Sure, Lukas, whatever you say,” she said, sticking her tongue out at me, so I poked it back into her mouth.
“Remember how you and your friends in ballet were fighting?”
“Because they all wanted to be the fire fairy!” I didn’t know details, but I guessed that’s what had happened.
“...yeah, that. Well, it’s like that, kinda. I mean, the stuff you read in Mom’s journal happened a really long time ago,” I flipped through the pages, still finding it hard to believe Mom had actually taken any time to write anything down. “So if they’re happy now, that means they fixed whatever went wrong back then.”
“But if something happened then, what’s keeping anything from happening now?” Sophia sounded really worried.
“A lot of things, I guess... I mean, there’s you,” I poked her nose, “and me, for starters. And they love us, right?” She giggled a little and nodded. Okay, you’re not doing too bad. Keep it up. “Plus, they’ve been together a while. And when people grow up, they change, right?” And... I lost her there. I kept having to remind myself that she’s eight. She sat up all the way and squinted her eyes at me.
“You’re a teenager but you haven’t changed a bit, so how does that work?” she asked.
“I meant... so here, for example. I didn’t used to skateboard, but now I do. Mom had a lip piercing, and now she doesn’t. Mom says Dad used to be really shy, and now he isn’t. See what I mean?” Sophia looked me up and down, as if she could see my lies somewhere on my skin. I apparently passed her inspection, because she leaned up against my side and closed her eyes.
“Can you read me a story, Lukey? One of Mom’s?” I was about to say no, that she needed to go to bed, but I saw her lower lip jutting out. Really? Pouting with your eyes shut? That’s a new low. I had a staring contest with her pout before I gave up and agreed.
“Let’s see here...” Skimming a lot of the entries, most of it was definitely not appropriate for Sophia, but I started to get where my sense of humor came from. I wanna meet my Hermes aunts and uncles, I thought. “Here we are, this one’ll work.” I found the story about how our parents first met. Even I gotta admit, it’s funny and kinda (dare I say it?) cute.
“This is exactly how she puts it, looking back, I swear, Soph:
‘Um, we first met in my first week of camp. I ran into him accidentally while he was shirtless and darn, even at that age of 13- he had some fine muscles. It was embarrassing because I couldn't control my mouth and I told him he was gorgeous.
My first ever words to him. Yeesh.’ ”
Sophia was laughing really hard now. I still don’t know why, but for some reason, this cheered me up too. I hadn’t even known I was upset until I started reading this mushy stuff. I knew in some part of my brain that if our mom came home to find us reading it aloud and laughing, we’d be grounded until we died, but I didn’t really care right then. It was cool reading about our parent’s old friends, too.
“I bet you didn’t know that Aunt Lilly used to play on a boy’s lacrosse team,” I said. Sophia gasped.
“No, she didn’t! Boys play on boys teams, girls play on girls. That’s how it works.”
“But she did, it says it right here, see?” I showed the part where young-Mom talked about Lilly beating up the guys at lacrosse practice. “She mentioned somewhere else that there wasn’t a girls team when Aunt Lilly first wanted to play, so she just joined the guys instead.” Sophia wrinkled her nose. “What?”
“But boys smell, Lukas.” I clapped my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing too loud. “Well, they do!” She crossed her arms and I tugged her ponytail.
“Especially you!” She picked up my pillow and hit me with it as hard as she could, meaning not very hard at all. I laughed even harder, and she told me to stop being mean.
“I’m your big brother, Sophia. It’s my job to be mean to you, isn’t it?”
“No, you’re supposed to keep other people from being mean to me, duh.” I don’t care what you say or who you are, and eight year old saying “duh” is the downright funniest thing you will ever hear in your lifetime.
“Whatever you say,” I said, flipping to the next page in Mom’s journal. I couldn’t read her anything about quests, monsters, or training, and a lot of the pranks she pulled on the other campers were starting to give me some ideas. I didn’t have any of this Greek fire stuff she kept talking about, but I was pretty sure I could figure something out.
Sophia curled up next to me and laid her head on my knee, looking up at me out of the corner of her eye. She was holding her storybook again. “Can you read me one of these, now?” I was about to tell her I wasn’t her babysitter, but her eyes bugged and her lower lip was jutting out again. When did I turn into such a sucker for that?
“Alright, alright. Fine. But just one, and then you’re going to bed. Promise?” She nodded enthusiastically and stuck the book in my hands. “Which one do you want?”
“Uhm... the Little Mermaid!” I could tell she’d read it on her own before, because so many of the pages had been dog eared down and smoothed out again. I took a deep breath.
“Far out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep; so deep...”
I don’t remember Sophia falling asleep, and I definitely don’t remember falling asleep myself. My back and neck were stiff since I’d apparently slept up against the wall for a couple hours, but my sister was comfortably laying on my pillows, snoring lightly. I slipped out my phone to check the time. Mom and Dad should be home by now, I thought. I carefully slipped off my bed, grabbing my mom’s journal and tiptoeing out into the hallway. Where the heck did Sophia find this thing? I decided to check the bookshelves in the living room, since usually no one but Aunt Holiday took anything off of those. I didn’t turn the lights on as I crept into the room- no use waking my parents up when I’m trying to sneak around the house.
“Oh, that’s bright,” I said as a light flicked on.
“Red-handed, Lukas. Give it here,” my mom’s voice came from the hallway behind me.
“Busted, huh?” I turned around and handed her the notebook. I didn’t want to meet her eyes- I’d seen her give super-deadly looks before, and I did not want to be on the receiving end of that one.
“No kidding. Sophia ought to know better than to take something of mine or Dad’s,” she said. I glanced up- she looked more like she was about to laugh rather than kill me.
“Aren’t you mad?”
“Oh, hell yeah. At least I was, until I saw you and your sister cuddling, hunched over the Little Mermaid,” Mom was grinning ear to ear. She tossed her old journal on the arm of the couch and pulled me into a hug.
“You’re squishing me,” I said.
“I know, it’s your punishment.” I squirmed for a second before hugging her back. She leaned away from the hug and brushed my hair off my forehead. Her eyes looked like they were watering. “Back to bed, Lukas. I’ll put it back where it came from.”
“Alright,” I started walking past her, into the hallway. “Mom?”
“Some of that stuff in your journal–”
“No, I will not give you Greek fire. Or tell you what it is, for that matter.” She turned the lights back off.
“Okay, okay, I’m going. Night, Mom.” I quietly walked down the hall to my room and saw my dad carrying Sophia back to hers. He flashed a smile back at me.
“I’m proud of you,” he whispered. My face turned red, but I was pretty sure he couldn’t see it in the dark. Or at least I was until he chuckled a little before saying goodnight.