I sit at the kitchen table, waiting for Mom to come downstairs. My Uggs are already on my feet, even though it's only November. It's barely gotten cold here in Chicago. I look down at my green Iphone and check my Instagram. It's a little bit pointless for me to even have the app. I have about ten followers, and I'm only following those ten. We're the Homeschool-Crew: an elite group of elementary to middle school homeschooled kids. This club was started by my mother, so I was forced into it. I am positive that it's just a waste of time. But it is where I see my only friends— Haley Merrik, Delaney Kent, and Jackie Kent.
"Becca-boo, are you ready?" Mom says as I look up from my phone. I cringe at the use of my "nickname".
"Yep," I sigh, throwing on my black North Face sweatshirt. I push myself off the wooden chair and crack my back.
"Lily, let's go," Mom gestures for my younger sister to follow her. The three of us march out into the garage. I pull myself into the front seat.
"Why doesn't Alaina go to the Homeschool-Crew?" I ask, rather annoyed. The Crew is one of the worst parts of my day. It would be more fun if Mom could just drop Lily and I off at the park's gazebo and let the whole group just run free. We don't need her watching over us and making sure that we always are playing nice, happy, little-kid games. There have been numerous occasions in which she has forced us to play a two-hour-long game of duck-duck-goose.
"You know your sister," is her only response.
"That's not a good answer," I mutter. I know what she means though, but still. It's really not fair that Lily and I are forced into the Crew and Alaina isn't because she's nothing but a hermit crab.
"Becca, be smart. We both know that Alaina couldn't do the Homeschool-Crew," Mom sighs.
"I get it, she doesn't have to do the Crew because she locks herself in her room and doesn't even speak to her own family! If I just locked myself in my room and stopped talking to you, would I get to skip the Crew? No, I wouldn't," I snap, but instantly regret it. "Sorry," I add.
"What's wrong with the Crew?" Lily asks from the backseat.
"Nothing, it's just boring," I shrug.
"I like it," she says. Of course she does. Lily's only in fourth grade, or she would be if we went to school. I sigh, trying to end the conversation. We sit in silence for about ten seconds, and that's when I realize that Mom didn't try to continue this important talk about my hatred for the Crew. That's a first. I have the type of mother that never likes to stop talking. You can ask her what her favorite color is, and she'll give you a ten minute long spiel about how when she was two years old, she got a beautiful green necklace from her grandmother, and therefore, green is her favorite color.
Honestly, I don't understand my family. My dad is never home, and when he is, he's always so serious. But there's my mother, who doesn't shut up, and her daughter, Alaina, doesn't talk at all. I guess Lily takes after Mom, but I think that's how most normal nine year-olds are. However, I think I must be most like Alaina, but I don't really see how that's even possible. I think I'm a lot different than Alaina, but when it comes down to it, I have social anxiety issues, and I don't have a lot of friends. Neither of us enjoys talking to people.
"Let's go," Mom says, turning off the engine of our blue Subaru Outback. I push open the door and step down. Lily runs out of the car and over to the park's gazebo. Mom briskly walks ahead of me, and I reluctantly follow behind. I know that I should enjoy the Crew, but I don't. Haley and the twins are my only friends, and it's a rare occurance for them all to show up. Like always, the Kingsers are the first to arrive. I take a seat on one of the benches and check my phone.
"Is Haley coming? Or Delaney and Jackie?" Mom asks.
"I don't know," I respond.
"Why don't you text them?" she suggests. This is one of the first times Mom has been desperate to make sure that they all get here. Usually it doesn't matter. This means today is special in some sort of way. For better or worse, who knows.
"Okay," I shrug.
You coming 2day? I text Haley.
Yeah, r u? She responds.
LOL when can I ever miss? I roll my eyes. I love Haley, but nobody can deny that she has a lot of dumb blonde moments.
O yeah. Sry, I feel like I can see her laughing to herself over that little mistake.
"Haley's coming," I tell my Mom.
"Oh, that's great! What about her little brother, Johnny? Or the twins?" she asks, almost desperate sounding. I don't know why she's freaking out so much over this. This isn't like my typical mother. I'm not sure what's going on, and honestly, I don't think I want to. If it means having the entire Homeschool-Crew here, it can't be good. I go back onto Instagram, knowing that if Delaney and Jackie are coming, they'll let the whole world know through their accounts. I see almost instantly that I've been tagged in " Jackattack9180"'s most recent selfie.
"Off to the Crew! Can't wait to see you beccking_!" Yep, Jackie's coming, so that means Delaney's coming too.
"We've got the twins," I say to Mom. She nods happily. Today will be one of the rare occasions in which we have Haley and the Kents.
"That's great! Very great! What about Johnny Merrick?" she jumps off her seat on the bench.
"I assume he's coming, I mean, if Haley's gonna be here," I shrug. Johnny's nine, he would go to school with Lily if he, like the rest of us, went to school. The Crew ranges in ages from nine to fifteen. Haley's my age, but the twins are a year older. It doesn't really matter though, they're my only friends.
We sit in silence for a while. Mom can't sit still, Lily has her nose in a book, like always. Okay, maybe not always, but she enjoys reading much more than anyone else in our family, except possibly Alaina. I don't really know if she likes to read. I don't really know anything about my older sister.
After about ten minutes, Haley and Johnny walk into the gazebo. My friend sits down on the bench next to me.
"Hey, Bec," she says, smiling like always. Haley is just that type of girl, always happy, always friendly, always positive. Don't get me wrong, I love her— like a friend, of course. But nobody can deny Haley's constant optimism.
"Hola, Hal," I smile, looking up from my phone.
"Who ya texting?" Haley leans over my left shoulder to get a look at my device.
"Nobody, I was just on Instagram," I shrug, avoiding what I knew her next question would be.
"Cool," she says. I guess there's not really much of a response she could say to that. We sit in a silence for about two minutes, which for Haley Merrick, is a really long time. Johnny and Lily race each other around the gazebo. They honestly look like they could be siblings. They have the same brown hair, big smiles, and they're the same height. The strange silence is snapped as the big Crew-carpool shows up. It consists of pretty much the rest of the Crew, since they all live within five minutes of each other. Not long after, the twins arrive, and they're the last to join the party. Mom is the first to see the two brown heads step out of the typical white minivan.
"Jackie, Delaney! Hurry up!" she shouts, almost nervously. A couple of the boys (from the carpool) look up abruptly. It's Steven and Albert Jones, two brothers who, I realize, are rarely ever here when the Kents are too. Of course, the Kents are barely ever here. Jackie and Delaney sprint across the field to the gazebo.
"Sorry, Mrs. Kingser. Are we late?" Delaney asks almost instantly. Classic Delaney, terrified of doing anything wrong.
"No, no you aren't. I just wanted to get started right on time!" Mom smiles like a two-year-old at Disneyworld getting out of one of those spinny teapots.
"Okay," Delaney sighs. Jackie walks straight over to me and Haley. She takes a seat next to me on the bench. Her sister remains standing.
"Alright, now that the entire group is here—" Mom begins. That sends a whisper through the gazebo. Everyone is here? That's a first. "We should begin our usual Homeschool-Crew activities!" That sends a groan through the gazebo.
"What are we gonna do? Play duck-duck-goose?" Jackie mutters to me. I burst out laughing, which receives a stern look from my mother.
"Sorry, Mom," I say after taking a deep breath.
"Becca, do you have something to share with the rest of the Crew?" Mom says with that calm and collected teacher voice. I once told her that she should become a teacher, and now, let's just say she's been a classroom assistant for two years. My suggestion was succesful. She keeps talking about looking for a full-time-teacher job, but I don't know if she ever has the time to look for one.
"No, I don't," I sigh inwardly.
Mother nods and looks out towards the rest of the crew. "Okay. So, I'm going to let you guys pick the game you want to play today! Does anyone have a suggestion?"
Everyone shrugs. Last time we had a vote, she turned down all our ideas because Killer Frog was too "voilent" for little Lily. I think we're all still interested to know how sticking your tongue out at someone could be considered voilent, but that was the verdict.
"Mafia!" Johnny Merrick shouts after a long silence. I raise an eyebrow. Does he actually think that my mom would let us play that? I doubt she even knows what the game is, but it's called Mafia, so I'm pretty sure that's not allowed. I'm also pretty sure that Johnny is smart enough to realize that. I look over
"Isn't that a little, um, mature for you, Johnny?" Mom asks sweetly. She couldn't yell at a nine year old, especially when that nine year old is her daughter's only friend.
"No! Haley plays it all the time with me and my brothers!" Johnny crosses his little arms. The kid's defensive, I have to give him credit for that. I, along with the rest of the Crew, look over at Haley. She just nods and goes along with what he's saying. It's clear though that she doesn't ever play that game.
"But your brothers are a lot older than you. Maybe that's not a very nice game to play," Moms suggests, using the older-brother-excuse. Haley and Johnny have six step-siblings that are a lot older than them. (The oldest, Eric, graduated from law school three years ago, and had his first kid right after he graduated college. Since then, he's had three daughters: Wanda, Meredith, and Betty.)
"They invite me to play with them. And Wanda and Meredith are allowed to play too," Johnny pouts. He does have a good point though. Wanda is seven, and Meredith is five, I think. If they're old enough to play, then Johnny is too.
"Okay, I guess if the rest of the Crew agrees on Mafia, then we can play Mafia. Does anyone else want to play Mafia?" Mom sighs, giving in to the battle. She looks around, waiting for someone to raise their hand in agreement. Evan Carlton and Joe Darlieng are the only two that raise their hands.
Next to me, Jackie jumps up and runs across the gazebo, sitting down next to Chloe Sanzer. The twin whispers something into the other one's ear, and raises her hand.
"Yes, Jackie?" Mom smiles, looking over her left shoulder.
"We could play basketball. Chloe has a ball with her," my friend suggests. Next to Chloe is a drawstring bag. She wears her bright orange jersey underneath a black hoodie.
"That would be fun, but where could we play that?" my mother asks. Everyone practically bursts out laughing due to her sudden burst of stupidity.
"Um, the court," Jackie points out, gesturing to the basketball court on the other side of the field. She acts as though it's the most obvious thing in the whole world.
"Oh! Of course! Does anyone else want to play basketball?" Mom, now blushing from her obvious mistake, asks. I raise my hand, along with the rest of the Crew. Everyone but Johnny, that is. But he has his mind set on a silly game of Mafia, and we all know that he'll join the big kids.
We all stand up and run to the courts. We split into two teams. I end up with Chloe, Lily, Jackie, Evan Carlton, Chris Como and Danny Sportles. The other team consists of everyone else, including Johnny. Danny and Joe Darlieng tip off the ball, and the game is in action. We're able to play for a long time, with a million breaks of course. And it's actually fun, which usually isn't a term used to describe the Crew. At twelve o'clock, Mom calls us back to the gazebo. She's standing there with Mrs. Lanzer, Chloe's mom.
Once we're all seated, Mom takes a deep breath, "Kids, I have an announcement to make," she looks towards me and Lily grimly. I don't know what to expect, "I got a job in Michigan, and Becca, Lily and I are moving."
Everyone gasps, I don't even breathe. How could I? I'm moving? What? Mom keeps talking, but I don't listen to a word she says. All I can think about is that I'm moving. And why would she keep that secret from Lily and I until she reveals it to the rest of the Crew. Once her speech is over, and I'm not even aware that it ends, a large section of our group comes to hug me. They're hugging me goodbye. These kids I grew up with are hugging me goodbye.
I pinch myself, this can't be real. My mother couldn't have gotten a job, I mean, she wouldn't actually take time looking for a full-time job and end up so desperate that we need to move, right? And what about Alaina? She probably doesn't know, and if I or Lily were in charge of telling her, there's no way she would listen. She would just assume it was an attempt to get her to leave her room or something.
Every one keeps talking, but I'm frozen in place. The world is just a mess of noise and color. I can't hear what anyone is saying.
"Earth to Becca," I hear someone say. I'm snapped back into reality. It's funny how that saying actually works. Looking up, I see that it was Delaney.
"What?" I ask. I don't even know who I'm asking it to. Mom? Delaney? The world?
"Are you okay?" she puts her arm around my shoulder. By now, most of the Crew is saying goodbye to Lily. From what I can see, she's just smiling, enjoying the attention. Does she not get that we're never going to see them again?
"Yeah, yeah. I'm fine," I lie, choking on a breath. I can feel the pressure pushing from behind my eyes, the tears just starting to well up.
"Come on," Delaney helps me stand up, I hadn't realized I ever sat down on the bench. We walk over to Jackie and Haley, who both hug me.
"Will we see you before you move?" Haley asks, squeezing her nose bridge to hold back the tears.
"I don't know," I sigh, because in all honesty, I really don't know. "I didn't even know when we're leaving."
"I'll miss you," the blonde Merrick squeezes me for the last time before Mom calls that the Crew is dismissed, and that us Kingsers have to leave. This was the last time I would ever see Haley Merrick.