Today's Reading

Their sister Parker was pouting on the couch. The girls were getting bored. I was getting bored. My parents were meeting with their parents—Jon and Leah Burfield—so, of course, I was expected to babysit. Usually these impromptu counseling sessions lasted about an hour, but we were pushing two and there was no sign of the adults.

Felix, our giant Labradoodle, rolled around in the blankets. I bent over to give him some good tummy scratches. Emma squatted next to him and joined the scratching. Felix was in doggie heaven.

Then we heard—something. Ainsley looked up at the ceiling.

Someone was yelling—muffled and impossible to understand. I watched Parker's face twist like she was trying not to cry.

"Hey! Let's make up a play!" I said. I put the needle on the Annie record I'd listened to earlier and turned it up so they wouldn't hear the muffled yelling. Parker balled herself on the giant gray sectional couch with her head down, arms wrapped around her body. She was eight, and there was no way she didn't know what was happening upstairs. Her parents had been coming for counseling for weeks, and she'd mentioned the yelling problem before. The other girls were younger though, so they were easily distracted.

"What's that music?" Emma wrinkled up her nose, staring at the record.

"It's from a Broadway show called Annie," I said.

"I don't like it," Ainsley said. "It's too loud." She covered her ears.

I turned it down, then moved the smaller chairs and glass coffee table out of the way. "Look! We can make up a play! And this will be our stage!" I gestured at the area around me. Ainsley and Emma looked unsure.

"A princess play?" Emma asked.

"Sure. A princess play. Whatever." I cringed, still hearing tense voices upstairs. "What will your princess name be?"

"Anna! Elsa!" they both yelled at the same time.

"Let's make up our own princesses. They can have any name you want!" I said.

"I wanna be Anna!" Ainsley said.

"Elsa!" Emma said.

"Fine. I guess we're doing Frozen." I looked around for my phone. Ah. That's right. Ainsley had been trying to open it. When she couldn't get it unlocked, she must have dropped it back into the pile somewhere. I tried to convince the girls to make up their own princess names as I dug through the cushions and the blankets they had pulled out earlier to make a fort.

Emma started singing "Let It Go" really loudly but somewhat in tune. Ainsley joined in, twirling in the open area. Felix joined in the fun. He didn't care what game everyone was playing; he was just certain he had to be a part of it. With them singing and dancing, and Annie playing discordantly, I gave up looking for my phone and went over to Parker.

"Do you want to be a princess?"

Parker scowled. Her hair was blonde rather than red, and she had a little turned-up nose and big, angry blue eyes.

I wondered what you're supposed to do in this situation. Saying, "Hey, sounds like your parents are screaming at each other," was what came to mind. I kept my mouth shut.

"Can you get rid of one of those songs?" Parker gave me a pointed look.

I shrugged. "I don't have a record of Frozen, and I can't find my phone to play it through the speaker."

Parker rolled her eyes and hit some buttons on her own phone. "Let It Go" started playing, and the little girls cheered and joined in. I stopped the Annie record. Much better. Really though, they should know Annie. Everyone needs to know Annie. It was a classic show. But they were both spinning and singing at the top of their lungs to the favored Frozen song. Their voices were loud enough to dull whatever might be happening upstairs.

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