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Sleepover by Toni Roman

Novel By: Toni Roman
Young adult

The problem with an invitation is that you might not get a second. View table of contents...


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Submitted:Mar 21, 2011    Reads: 15    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

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4. The Art of Craft

" . . . otherwise, upstairs is off-limits and you are confined to the basement . . . " (she led on) " . . . until morning when I will serve you breakfast. This is the kitchenette. Small sink, mini-fridge, and microwave. Please twist tie close the garbage bags." She turned and pointed. "This is the rumpus room. It's for noise and night owls. There is a night light outside the bathroom in this basement and one on the stairs and outside the half-bath on the ground floor. Heaven forbid but if you can't wake Beth and there's an emergency, then you can find Mr. McCall and me in the master bedroom, top of the stairs, left, all the way down the hall. Don't sleepwalk and go outside because you will set off the alarm, bright lights in your face, police report. See you in the morning."

As Mrs. McCall went up the stairs, Beth's friends looked at the simple decorations. Nearby were a party table and a big blue box tied with a big red ribbon stuck with a big silver-lettered sign: 'Box of Fun'. Behind this, taped along the wall was yard-wide white poster paper, the thin kind not the card stock. It was a doodle sheet for graffiti without the defacing spray paint and property damage. There were magic markers on the party table. An old parachute was draped from the center of the ceiling like a tent. Under the shroud of the "tent" was the world's thickest rug, round and circled by cushions. As if it were a pile of autumn leaves or a swimming pool, Beth did a cannonball into the foam. The others jumped into the cushions. Cozy!

With Mrs. McCall out of earshot, Beth said: "I'm sorry my mom is so uptight."

"Ingrate." Cameron snorted. "You don't know what uptight is. I'll trade you moms right now."

[Cameron was warmly remembering how Mrs. McCall caressed her cheek. The only time Sarah Connor had touched her face was to pistol whip her.]

"Hey don't get me wrong. I love my mom. But I guess every home is different." replied Beth as she got up and led them over to an arts & crafts table on the far side of the room in front of a bookcase.

"My family is dysfunctional." said Meg.

"Every family is dysfunctional." said Grace.

"If that's the case, then no family is dysfunctional. Abnormal is the new normal." said Lisa.

"Speaking of which, I don't have any movie about Ma Barker and her family but I do have a book about them," said Beth pulling it out of the bookcase, "and the movie Bonnie and Clyde." Beth slipped it into the player. "Anybody's family like Clyde Barrow's and Bonnie Parker's?" Beth asked looking directly at Cameron.

Cameron looked away. Her family was worse than Bonnie & Clyde. If she said the truth, yes, then she would betray her family. If she lied and said no, then she might as well have stayed at home. She was tired of bearing the Resistance myth of "The Great John Connor and The Great Sarah Connor, Saviors of Humankind." In the history she had lived and experienced, they were not great. John was not much of a leader but as his brainwashed and reprogrammed right hand, she had not the heart to tell him. John was no messiah. He didn't even believe in God. Sarah was a hateful mother to her and, though a loving mother to John had not prepared him to prevent the development of Skynet. The Connors had not saved the world from nuclear judgment day. In the rise of the machines, some machines (like John-Henry) were not bad. And she was no longer a terminator. In fact, Sarah forbade Cameron to kill humans but Sarah saw machine lives as not worth saving. Cameron included. A real double standard that bothered Cameron. Machines were logical and there was nothing logical about her new life among humans. She looked at the movie with Bonnie and Clyde being riddled with bullets. If Cameron wanted to see bullets flying, then all she needed to do was spend time with her mother-figure. Her surrogate mother. Her mother. She grabbed the remote and turned it off. The sound volume was on mute and no one was watching the movie anyway as each was busy bragging how their family was far more f-cked up than that of the other four girls. Their situations were trivial in comparison to hers. Bratty kid brothers. Being grounded. No pony. No riding lessons. Gimme a break! Although most kids at school knew of drive-by shootings and teen gangs, Cameron was sure none was involved in demolition of buildings, shootouts with police, Russian Mafia murders, and robot killers from the future. On the other hand, her parents were not rich from investments in defense companies that made a profit by screwing whole nations -- including the USA. The families that owned Cyberdyne stock for instance. Or the stockholders in companies that built Predator and Reaper drones -- flying robots -- machines that killed people in Africa and Asia. If you called it national security, then you could commit any outrage. You could even trash the Bill of Rights. Sarah Connor was smalltime compared to that.

No one noticed that Cameron had turned off the movie. Beth noticed.

"You're quiet."

Cameron had hoped that by keeping silent she could dodge both betraying her family by telling the truth and being part of a lie by telling a lie.

"My family is not perfect."

Surprisingly, the group did not give her the third degree. They did not pry. Beth never asked a follow-up question. They respected her limits.

They respected HER.

It wasn't the Yada Yada Yada Sisterhood of the Traveling Panties but it was a turning point. Cameron was now part of the human race. Or at least in the unofficial sorority of teen girls. Her moistened eyes blurred her vision.

They were doing arts and crafts, embroidering each other's autographs on the plain white pillowcases that Mrs. McCall had given them. Meg got her name the way she wanted by backing out the A and N on her pillowcase. Megan was her formal name. She preferred her friends to call her Meg.

Before autographing pillowcases with a sewing machine, they practiced on the doodle wall. Lisa opened the Box of Fun and seemed disappointed that no jack-in-the-box popped up. She pulled out some game named 'Boredom Buster' and laid it on the party table. The 'Icebreaker' game did not seem needed with this group and was left in the box. Grace joined Lisa and pulled out a card game -- 'Old Maid.' Cameron leaned over to Grace's ear and confided: "I'd really appreciate it if you hid that game. Maybe Rook instead."

Grace obliged.

The thought that no matter how skillfully she played, she might end up being The Old Maid, an unmarried spinster, all alone and still a virgin, was intolerable to Cameron. It did not matter that it was only a game and a possible loss was only symbolic and not real. Her family did not treat her as real either.

The irony of a bunch of old crows or a crone picking on carrion was lost on Cameron as they played Rook.

"Snacks anyone?" asked Beth as she handed a can to Lisa to open.

A snake jumped out and Lisa squealed. That was more like it.


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