Chapter 6

Hunter

It was 5:59 am when I woke up. I was halfway through the door when I realised that since I wasn't at home I didn't have chores to do. Since I was one of those who couldn't sleep so easily after already waking up, I went downstairs, pulled on some snow boots, a coat and some pants and went outside to take a walk. I went around the neighbourhood twice and leisurely returned.

By the time I opened the front door it was 6:25 am. When I walked in Vaughn, Nat, Winnie and Brennan were eating cereal and watching cartoons. They were all still in their pyjamas. Winnie looked up at me and walked over. Somehow she didn't miss the sadness in my eyes, "Wish Martha was here to see all this, huh?"

"So, when does school start today?" I asked, completely dodging the question/statement. I wasn't going to answer that, after all Winnie knew the drill: no talking about her just about ever.

She didn't press the matter; instead she answered my question, "Well, on the twelfth day in January, like every other day, school starts at 7:40 am!"

"The twelfth? Oh-" I headed for the stairs.

"Swear jar, Hunter!" Natalie reminded.

I ran upstairs and took a quick shower then dived straight into chapter 1 of my Geography text book. By page 2 of 10, and while reading the same paragraph for the second time in a row I realised that I wasn't processing much of what I was reading. Geo didn't normally pose a problem for me but...I had sort of 'missed' the last few classes and today we had a test on all of chapters 1 and 2. And by 'missed' I really mean I'd skipped class. As much as I didn't care, this would be our first test for the school year and I really don't want to start the school year off on a bad note.

Before I knew it, it was time to go get my siblings ready for school and so I ditched the studies and packed lunches, lugged school bags downstairs and all that mom-ly morning time stuff.

Out of nowhere I heard a scream. I just knew that it would be Brennan and Vaughn's doings. I sighed. What did they do now? Before I could do much wondering I heard some stumbling and then Danielle appeared in the room. Her room. The same room I was in.

"Hunter? Gavin? Who's there?" she asked as soon as she saw me. She was squinting.

"It's me, Hunter."

"Why're you in here?" she asked, gripping her towel tighter around herself.

"Um, uh-" nope, no reason whatsoever. I had to think of something to say, "Where are your glasses?" I asked.

"Vaughn and Brennan just busted into the bathroom and grabbed them," she explained.

I frowned. "I'll go get them for you," I offered. I excused myself and caught the boys downstairs. They were in a corner of the dining room, huddled together.

"Guys, I know you've got Danielle's glasses so hand 'em over," I announced as I walked towards them. At the sound of my voice they both went rigid and got up and turned around quickly. Obviously hiding something behind their backs.

"Seriously guys, give it here."

"Okay," they handed me the pair of black rimmed glasses.

When I returned she was already dressed in some simple jeans and a plain white blouse, combing her hair. Once she spotted me in the mirror she abandoned her project and took her glasses from my outstretched hand, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

She placed them on her face, "I was afraid they'd break them and they're my only pair," she rambled.

"You don't have contacts?" I asked, almost sure that I'd seen her once at school without her glasses.

"I used to."

We were both quiet for a while, Danielle packing her bag and me just standing there.

"So..." I moved towards her vanity, "who's this?"

She turned around to look at the framed picture of a dark-skinned girl tossing a Frisbee.

"That's Tara, my cousin."

On closer inspection I realised that most of her pictures were of Tara. Tara had smooth-looking dark chocolate skin, big, brown eyes and perfect, straight white teeth.

"Are you done ogling my cousin?" Danielle asked as she pulled her backpack off her bed and on to her shoulders.

"Huh?" I hadn't even realised I was staring when she snapped me out of my thoughts. I placed the picture back in its spot. "Uh, do you write?" I asked while pointing to her wall that was entirely covered in what appeared to be short stories.

"No, I don't. These are actually letters I've gotten from Tara over the years."

"Wow."

"I guess," she shrugged her shoulders just as Winnnie loudly called out to me, from downstairs. We both hurried downstairs and I swiped a piece of toast before grabbing Dad's keys and driving Nat, Winnie, Brennan and Vaughn to school. By the time I returned Danielle had already finished breakfast and was waiting on me to go. I was however, right on time to see Dad and Alice slowly descend the stairs. Alice was suffering from an extreme case of bed head and Dad just looked totally out of it.

"Mum, how come you're still here?" Danielle asked, surprised.

"I slept in; I guess I didn't get enough sleep last night," she said while headed to the kitchen.

I just had to say it, "Guessing you guys had a pretty interesting night then, huh?"

Never had I ever seen someone turn that shade of red; tomato red doesn't even begin to cover Alice's description at the moment. Dad coughed, awkwardly and gave me a look.

"Gross, those are our parents," Danielle wrinkled her nose and punched my shoulder lightly.

"I'm just saying that if you're screaming didn't wake them that must have been one night."

"You're disgusting."