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“It’s okay, Maddie,” I say firmly. “Everything’s fine.” While it’s easy to wind Maddie up, I don’t really have any idea what to do to bring her back down. I try taking her little robot cat from the nightstand and putting it on her pillow. Maddie doesn’t react, but it makes me feel better. “Don’t worry, you don’t have to say anything. I’ll ask Mom if you can stay home today.”

Mom and Dad are in the kitchen when I go back downstairs. When Dad sees me, he points to the empty cereal bowl and raises his eyebrows.

“I know, I know. She never ate breakfast,” I tell him. “Maddie’s sick, or something. She’s doesn’t want to go to school.”

I’m not sure why I fall back on calling her sick, because I don’t really think that’s it. But one thing I do know is that Mom and Dad worry enough about Maddie. And somehow “sick” is better than “stressed out and not talking and one more reminder that Maddie has a problem you haven’t solved.”

Mom is already out of the kitchen and heading up the stairs. I trail behind her, trying to catch the disjointed words and directions she’s tossing back over her shoulder.

“I’m staying home today anyway...so is your dad...have a lot talk about...are those your wet shoes?...put them out on the porch before you go...do you have lunch money?”