Around 5:45, Mom finally stuck her head in Danica's room. Seeing us there, and that I had Rory, mostly sedate now, in my arms, she came inside, smiling wearily at me. I noticed the blood spots on her clothes and her slightly stooped shoulders and could only guess just how many similar fiascos she'd seen today.1

" I'll take Rory now, Cadence. Thanks," she said, reaching for her and taking her from me. Rory didn't stir, only placidly allowed her to lift her. She was back to her near catatonic state, the former spark of life put out once more. Mom smoothed her hair back tenderly.2

" Poor thing. I should have remembered to keep her away from Allyn... she shouldn't have seen that."3

Standing up, she made a motion at Danica. " Come on, Dan, time for you to eat. Don't even think of arguing either," she added as the panicked look in Danica's eyes returned.4

I stood up and stretching, pulled Danica to her feet. " Come on, I'll go with you," I said.5

Dad and Allyn were already in the kitchen when we entered, sitting at the table. Allyn looked nearly dead, her head slumped in her hands, body shaking slightly in small spasms. He was not talking to her but only sitting nearby, watching her. We sat down as Mom plunked one of Danica's milk shakes in front of her and stuck a precooked meal in the oven. I looked over at Allyn surreptiously, not sure if she felt like being talked to or not. I highly doubted it, but it felt weird to sit there and ignore her when seh was shaking like that, especially in light of what had just happened.6

" Al, you okay?" I asked finally. She said nothing. I shrugged, looking at Dad questioningly.7

"She'll be fine," he told me. " Drug side effects," he mouthed. I nodded, satisfied. I was just glad she was sitting at all of her own will, and being quiet too. Such as scene was nearly a miracle.8

Dinner passed with little conflict, especially considering the number of incidents that had occurred today. I guess everyone was too tired to put up much of a fight. Rory ate her dinner without too much urging, and none of it ended up on the floor. Allyn only played with her food listlessly, but we let her be. As long as she was behaving... even Danica eventually drank her milkshake, although she was crying as she did and almost gagged. We hugged her afterward and told her how proud of her we were. All in all, it was an amazingly smooth affair.9

After dinner I went to my room to do homework. Allyn went in with me, and headed straight for bed, burrowing under the covers. After an hour or so, I wasn't finished, but I decided to wait until I was on the bus tomorrow. I went to our bathroom to brush my teeth, then making my way back to our room, turned off our light and got into bed. I hadn't been lying there long before I heard it. Funny, stifled noises somewhere in the room, almost like hiccups. They'd start, then stop, almost as if someone were holding their breath. I knew it had to be Allyn making those sounds, but it took me a while to realize she was crying.10

" Allyn?" I called softly. There was no reply from the huddled figure in the bed across from me, except that she cut off one of her sobs abruptly, making a guttural sound in her throat. I sat up in my bed, brow furrowed. I couldn't just leave her alone, go to sleep, when she was crying. She might to something to herself again...11

" Al, you okay?" I whispered. I waited, but there was still nothing. Pushing my covers back and rolling out of bed, shivering as my feet hit the cold floor, I padded over to Allyn's bed and stood over her. She stayed hidden from my view in her cocoon of blanketsnot moving, not speaking, but I heard her sob once more.12

" Allyn, what's wrong?"13

" Leave me alone, Cadence," Allyn growled, but I heard the tears in her voice. Instead, I sat on the edge of her bed, gingerly touching part of the blanket I estimated was her shoulder.14

" Allyn, I know you're crying. You're not fooling me. It's okay, though. I'm not shocked, or thinking less of you because of it. I don't know why you think it would be so awful to admit to anyone you cry," I told her quietly. " It's okay."15

" I'm not fucking crying, you fuck!" Allyn snarled, but even as she said it her voice cracked, and we both knew she was lying.16

" You can be a screwed up badass slut and still cry," I muttered, not intending for her to hear. But apparently she did, because she threw her blankets off and turned around aggressively, looking at me with red, puffy, but narrowed eyes. Now that she was facing me, her damp face only made it even more obvious that she'd been crying.17

" What the fuck did you just call me, Cadence?" she demanded.18
Oops. Shit.19

The only option I had was to tell her the truth, obviously she had already heard. My body tensing, preparing, to leap up quickly should she attack, I muttered, " A screwed up badass slut... can still cry."20

For one alarming moment, from teh look I saw in her rather scary eyes, I thought she was going to kill me. But then suddenly her face relaxed, and she laughed, to my absolute astonishment.21

" I can't believe you just said that! YOU of all people! Damn- you're the only one who's ever said the truth! You have nerve!" Allyn chortled.22

I stared at her, not believing I'd said something like that to her and was still sitting unharmed. She'd actually laughed! I had never seen Allyn laugh before- and over that!23

" Uh- thanks?" I said uncertainly. That only made her laugh harder.24

" People are such diplomats. Everyone tiptoes around the truth- no one wants to admit who I am- no one wants to admit I'm a lost cause at 13. No one wants to say I'm worse than my fucking mother ever was or ever would be! It's all true, why not say it? Thank you Cadence, you have admitted the truth! I suck! I SUCK!" Cadence said loudly, her face aburdly cheery considering her words. Then suddenly there were tears streaming down her face. She didn't seem to notice- she was still smiling widely as she began to chant, " I suck, I suck, I'm a fucking loser slutbag whore, I'm a badass, a fucking slutbag whore, I suck, I suck!"25

It was so weird to be in this situation. I had set her off, of course, with my smart comment. But it was so crazy- I had never seen her saying things like this, about herself and her actions in a bad light. And she'd NEVER cried in front of anyone. This was an astonshing thing for me to witness. I couldn't decide if it was good or bad. I'd have to tell my parents tomorrow. But for now, I needed to calm her down- if she hurt herself, it was my fault. 26

" Hey Allyn," I said awkwardly. " Don't say that. You don't suck. You're just... troubled. You had an awful childhood-"1

Allyn laughed brittlely, still grinning strangely through her tears. " Oh, so now you're backpedaling, huh? Trying to be all diplomatic, all psyche-speak after all. And after such a refreshing display of honesty. I'm disappointed in you, Cadence."2

" Allyn-"3

" Go to bed, Cadence. I don't want you to "console" me," Allyn said sarcastically. Turning her back on me, she lay down and pulled her blankets back over her head. I stayed where I was, unsure what to do. She wasn't Rory or Danica- I couldn't just hug her and make her feel better. I might lose an arm if I tried that. But I didn't want to just ignore her and go to sleep either.4

"Allyn, are you sure?" I said doubtfully. " Are you okay? You're not going to-"5

" If you want to know if I'm going to slit my wrists the second you go to sleep, don't worry," Allyn snapped. " But I guess since I'm such a liar anyway you won't believe me no matter what. So why even ask?"6

I stood there for a moment, watching her uneasily. But she was right. I couldn't watch her all the night- if she really wanted to hurt herself, she'd find some way, somehow to do it- I couldn't stop her. I might as well go to bed and hope for the best. Now that I thought about it, that was the only real way to deal with Allyn- leave her alone and hope she'd be okay.7

Giving her one last uneasy glance, I turned back and climbed into bed, pulling my blankets up to my chin and closing my eyes. On one hand, I didn't really want to sleep, in case something happened...but I know also that I'd better hurry and try to cram in as much sleep as possible before Rory woke us all screaming in the midst of a nightmare. I was sure it would only be a few hours until this happened- I could check on Allyn then, I told myself. Might as well try to sleep now.

I closed my eyes, allowing myself to fully relax for perhaps the first time in the whole day. I hadn't realized until now just how tired I had been. It had been a long, stressful day, as usual. But despite my weariness, there was a kind of strange energy coursing through me, almost a buzz- a kind of exhilerated charge, I guess from all the day's chaos. This too was not unusual for me. No matter how much I might hate whatever happens with my foster sisters, I thrive off the excitement of it- I can't imagine how dull it would be to go through a day without it. Don't get me wrong, living with them is rarely fun- stressful, infuriating, and frustrating is more like it. But somehow, I get something out of it- not only constant entertainment, but a feeling that somehow, no matter how slightly, I can change someone's life... it is an awesome feeling. Even if all our efforts come to nothing, there is still the knowledge for them that someone tried, someone fought and loved them and cared for them someone who did not have to, but wanted to. I wouldn't trade this- nor my foster sisters, strange behaivor and all, for any so called normal family in the world.9