It's a freaking sunny day. So sunny in fact, that I can't help tying up my hair into a bun—something I haven't done in nearly a week now.

I perch my fake Raybans on my nose and sigh, leaning against my middle-aged Ford. The old buster has been amazing throughout the 4-hour drive. Not a sputter, or chug, or cough, not even once. I realize this thought of my heroic car now and turn back towards it, giving it a kiss on its sun-baked roof, and realize this new fact—it's sun-baked.

"Oww owwww, shitshitshitshit!" I shriek, brushing my fingers against my lips to relieve the burn. It doesn't work so I ram my mouth onto the freezing purple slushie cup in my hands. That makes it better.

"Ok there, honey?" a voice calls from behind me.

"Yes, Dad," I answer.

"Ready to go now?"

"In a bit. Please, please, please can't you just go ahead? I have my GPS, you know. It's not like I'm gonna get lost or anything."

"No, Fi, I told you. I'm never losing sight of you on the road, GPS or not. Hurry up and get whatever air you stopped here to get, we need to be there by evening to sort stuff out with the delivery men."

I roll my eyes, noting the slight worry in his voice, probably at the thought of me in a car crash, then decide not to retort on that. I turn toward him. "Dad, at this rate, we'll be there before they arrive, and then what'll you do whilst waiting?"

"Check out the beach, duh. We were going to do that whether or not the delivery men are there,"my younger brother Charlie quips from the open window of his back seat. He sat with Dad throughout our journey.

Dad's not amused. "You two will help me arrange the things, whether you like it or not." He gets in his car, calling through his open window. "Come on, Fi. Move."


I tip my slushie cup to my mouth, letting all the tiny icecubes run onto my tongue, then toss the empty cup into a nearby bin. Ugh, brain-freeze.

Starting up my car engine again, I wave at Dad and Charlie as they roll up their windows, then slowly reverse out of the parking lot of the shabby R&R we found isolated by the highway. In a matter of seconds we're back on the road, speeding at 70 miles per hour. I squint through my windshield at Dad's Volkswagen, with Charlie's mountain bike strapped carefully on the roof, bobbing with the moving car. From here, it's clearly obvious that we're moving into a new house. The insane number of suitcases in the boot behind where Charlie's sitting is visible from a mile away. Granted, my stuff made up some of it, but it wasn't so much our things, but Mom's things. Dad had wanted to bring them along as well.

The subject of my mother's death is something we haven't gotten around to discuss—at least properly and seriously—ever since it happened. We'd all loved her, heart and soul, forever, and all that. But long story short, Dad is definitely not over it, I've been trying to cope without a motherly figure for the past 3 months, and Charlie, being the bright one in the family as he is, has gone by exceedingly well. That I admire his courage at doing so well in school, even up til two days ago when we left Trevor Hills for good, is something that I will probably never admit to him, just because.

Meh, an older sister needs to show that she's got her shit together.

I turn up the volume on my car stereo and nod my head to Of Montreal, readying myself for the next couple hours on the road.

"Oh. My. God." I exclaim to no one in particular.

It's 5pm and we've only just arrived in front of our new house, my car parked by the sidewalk, Dad's reversed into the driveway and the mover's truck only just arrived (surprise, surprise), parked in front of my Dad's car.

The house is enormous. I'd prepared myself to some extent for this, considering the fact that Dad is pretty well-off in his company and even if he'd been the one to ask for the placement transfer here, I figured that he was still by any means a big asset to them. It would make sense for them to place one of their most trusty men in a comfortable, well-designed home, fit for someone of his stature and living expenses.

But this was beyond what I'd expected. It was surprise enough that the housing area was gated (the words 'BP Oil Corporation Housing Estate' plastered in cursive across the surrounding brick walls) and secured by day and night guards. I'd had to register my car at security along with Dad's, after which we were given a two-hour brief on visiting, guest and housecare rules and regulations (fine, I lie—it was more like 45 minutes).

As like every other house in the neighbourhood, the house is a single-storeyed bungalow, picket-fenced on either side, surrounded by perfectly trimmed ixora and daisy bushes and a variety of other colored flowers, enough to make me feel like I was living in the proverbial Hollywood movie suburb. It wasn't much the height of the house, but more of the expanse of land it covered—I couldn't see past 50 yards from the side of the house. I wondered how on earth the three of us would ever cope with a house of this size.

But of course that leads to a more pleasant thought—my room must be a tiny house in itself. I skip past the men heaving our things at the front double doors and check out the reception (there is such a thing), living room, den, dining room, drawing room, and kitchen. All are decorated similarly—stone floors, rustic furniture, plush cotton-draped sofas, nature-themed art hanging on the walls, elaborate albeit random ornaments lined on the mantelpiece and shelves. There is a library, too, with a large window overlooking the massive backyard, a solid oak working table and computer, and rows and rows of bookshelves, although these contain no books; guess they're for us to fill.

I leave my room for last, as it is, of course, the best. And true enough, it's cavernous compared to the closet I had for a room last time. It's brightly lit through the two windows on the north and eastern walls and I get a queen-sized bed, a large study table, a walk-in closet and a small but tasteful bathroom and tub.

I smile contentedly and take it all in, admiring the emptiness of the bed and closet, the bareness of the walls, the polished tabletops and vacuumed corners. Decorating is going to be fun.

"How is it possible that I'm not allowed to do this?" I hear my dad shout from the living room.

"Sir, we were told not to remove anything from the original decor work unless granted permission by the authorities. That's what it says in the moving contract," one of the men reply.

"But can't you just place it somewhere else for the time being and put this up? They're pretty much the same size," says Dad.

I strut back to where they are and find the living room in a mess of furniture, suitcases and boxes from our old house, and Dad with a frustrated look on his face whilst gripping onto a framed portrait half his height, showing it to the men. Of course. The portrait. Of Mom with us. Photographed just a year ago, when she was still alive, when we were still...happy.

"We could, sir, but it would be in violation of orders. They'd get us if they were to come inspect and find the original taken down, you know what I mean?"

Dad snorts. "But what are the odds of that happening? I can choose to not let them in, right?"

The men look at each other, unsure of how to reply.

"Dad," I start, touching his shoulder, "Maybe we could put this in your room, how does that sound?"

He considers this for a moment, frowning. "Okay. You can put it in my room. But I want it to be hung, not on the floor. Do you think you could do that?" The men nod and proceed to his room.

"How's the house looking?" Dad asks.

"Great, Dad, this is really great. How do you think we'll manage to keep it clean though?" I say.

"Oh I've sorted it out, we're getting a caretaker who's going to be coming in everyday and she'll be taking care of everything—meals, laundry, gardening. She'll be staying here once I start work at the oil plant."

"She'll be what? Dad, we don't need a babysitter!"

"Did someone just say babysitter? Why? No way!" Charlie emerges from his room, already changed into shorts and t-shirt.

"Well how else are you going to survive without me?" Dad asks.

"Won't you be home after work everyday?"

"Honey, my new job wasn't just a transfer of the former. It was a promotion. I work at the drilling plant now, it's no joke, all the engineers who work there are trained rigorously for this and it entails me having to be there weeks at once. I can't leave you two alone, who's going to cook and wash up and tidy? You?" he pointed at me.

"Bad idea," Charlie mutters.

"Hey I thought you were on my side here!" I say, tossing a cushion to his face, which he deflects as usual. "Dad, I can handle it. We don't need any help. We were just fine before, I'm getting better at cooking and I can take care of housework after school," I plead, thinking of the long days with friends I will never have owing to a sweaty old, non-English-speaking helper on my back the whole time.

But obviously Dad's not having any of it. "You're just starting college, Fi. You can't seriously expect to come back with truck-loads of assignments and have to deal with the house at the same time. I mean, in the case of Charlie, maybe, but..." and he trailed off there.

"But I'm not smart, and I'm not Mom." I finish off for him. I get it. I'm not smart enough to handle more than two things at once. I'm not like Life is so unfair.

"Fi you know that's not what I meant."

I don't reply and huff off in the opposite direction, into the kitchen. That's how it always is. That's how every confrontation in this family ends. The tiniest suggestion, the smallest mention of Mom, and someone has to get hurt. I lean on the back door, resting my head on the windowpane, and look around the kitchen. The tidiness of the place, the smell of lemon detergent, the polished sink and mirrored surfaces of the microwave oven and stove, everything seems to suffocate me with a new-found, glaring disposition.

And that's when I see it. I missed it before, oddly enough, maybe because it was inconspicuous, dull-colored and blended well with everything else. Just beside the stove is a wooden door that reaches my shoulders and stretches just the width of my shoulders too, and bound across by what seems to be a wooden panel with a keyhole on one side.

I approach it and lift the panel. It's not locked on. With some budging and prying, it comes loose and I pull it off its hold. The door itself requires some pushing, but I manage to open it, and what greets me is utter darkness.