“What is THIS supposed to mean?” my father demanded as I followed my brother through the front door, our arms full of boxes. My father stalked across the entry hall, waving a slip of paper at me with his good hand.
Hatcher flashed me a sympathetic look and vanished upstairs. I didn’t blame him; I’d have done the same thing in his place. No one wants to face the wrath of Lieutenant Colonel Jericho T. Lovejoy.
“An F plus in pre-algebra?” The chill in my father’s voice could have single-handledly reversed global warming. “F plus, Truly?”
Yes, that’s really my name. It’s a family thing.
“Does that mean you almost passed, or that you failed spectacularly?” My father pinned me with one of his signature glares.
I hadn’t counted on this—I thought it would take at least a week for mail from Texas to reach the East Coast. And I’d
counted on being able to snag this particular envelope from the mailbox before anyone else spotted it.
“Um,” I said.
“This is unacceptable, young lady.”
Silence is the best strategy when my father gets like this.
“I don’t understand it,” he continued, pacing back and forth. “Not one bit. Lovejoys can do anything! We’re naturally good at math.”
Actually, there’s a whole long list of things I can’t do and that I’m not good at. Usually, though, math isn’t one of them. It’s one of my favorite subjects, in fact. But how was I supposed to concentrate on stupid pre-algebra when my world had been turned upside down? The F plus wasn’t my fault; it was his, and I said so under my breath.
My father stopped midpace. “What was that?”
“Nothing, sir,” I mumbled.
My father isn’t one of those hypermilitary dads—when we lived on the base in Colorado, I had a friend whose father used to do actual room inspections for her and her brother every Saturday morning in full dress uniform, white gloves and all; still, all of us Lovejoy kids have been trained to add “sir” to the end of our sentences when we’re talking to our dad, especially when we want to be on his good side.
And with a math grade like mine, that was definitely the side I wanted to be on.
My father grabbed his coat from off the banister. I resisted
the urge to offer some help as he swung it awkwardly around his shoulders. No point adding fuel to the fire. “Wait until your mother hears about this.”
That wasn’t a conversation I was looking forward to. When my father’s mad, at least everything’s out in the open and you know where you stand. With my mother, whenever one of us messes up, she just looks at us sorrowfully and shakes her head, like we’re the biggest disappointment in the history of the world. Which I probably am.
“Finish unpacking the car,” my father said. “I’m heading back to the bookstore. And don’t forget, you and Hatcher have Kitchen Patrol tonight.”
And with that he left, slamming the door behind him.
I slumped down on the hall bench and banged my forehead against one of the boxes I was holding. It was so unfair! The math grade, the move—everything! Why couldn’t we have just stayed in Texas?
This time, there wasn’t even the prospect of moving someplace decent again in a year or two either. This time, I was stuck. Forever. In population you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire.