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Chapter 1

"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." -Dale Carnegie

I walked past the quote with a mindless annoyance. Mom was convinced that teenage angst was due to poor parenting and not enough self love. Our house was the first to suffer. Uplifting quotes from from Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Henry B. Eyring and multiple others covered every space on the walls and pictures of our family sat on on every counter top available, even the throw pillows on our couches had something to say about loving one another. It was easy to ignore, but I could have done without the one in front of my bedroom door. 

My bedroom. My sanctuary from all the happy madness that engulfed our house. If I could stay inside forever I'd be happy, my window served as a good escape route, and the endless supply of chocolate, marshmallows and gram crackers I kept in my room made good snacks when melted with Mom's clothing iron. But I didn't have water, and I didn't want to ever go to the bathroom in a bucket. 

Delicious smells wafted in from the kitchen, making my mouth water. I sat down at the table to bowl of homemade oatmeal and milk. Ellie was already eating, her tutu framed her little body in sparkly pink ruffles. 

"You can't wear that to school," I ordered. "put some jeans on."

Mom set another bowl down. "If she wants to be a princess let her be a princess, Amelia. I didn't stop you when you were her age."

I frowned. I had no memory of ever being into pink girly frou-frou stuff, but my kindergarten pictures were proof enough I once had dark side. 

"Where's your brothers?" Mom asked. 

I shrugged. Probably still sleeping. 

"Can you go get them? You and Liam are gonna be late if you don't hurry." 

I scooped a heaping amount of oatmeal into my mouth and started back toward the boy's bedroom. I knocked twice, then threw the door open. In our small house the three boys had to share a bedroom, and while I technically shared my room with Ellie, Mom was too soft to make her sleep in her own bed, allowing her to move all her stuff into our parents bedroom. I didn't think it was fair at first, but once I realized I was lucky enough to have a scardy-cat six year old sister, I made it my own personal mission to help her complete her move. All that was left to go was her actual bed, which had become piled with clean laundry I refused to put away. It was the one battle I could actually win without feeling guilty. 

"You're gonna miss the bus!" I shouted. 

I walked over to the spaceman curtains and threw them aside. A painful blaze shot into Dylan's half open eyes, the closest to the window. He pulled his blanket over his face. 

"It's Friday," he complained, his voice muffled.

I walked around the room pulling the blankets off the squirming bodies of the other two. 

"Mom's got oatmeal on the table." I turned to Dylan. "We're gonna be late." 

"It's almost summer," he moaned. "I don't care if we're late. They can't punish me anymore." 

Rolling my eyes, I flipped the light switch and went back to the kitchen. The boys soon joined us, scarfing down the rest of the oatmeal so fast they barely chewed. I stood and turned to walk to the mudroom. 

"Oh wait!" Mom called after me. "Mrs. Harris needs you to babysit for her again tomorrow." 

"What time?" I asked, taking my backpack down from it's hook. 

"She didn't say. But she's leaving at two and needs someone to stay with her son until her mother comes in on Monday. She said something about another babysitter, but she talks so fast sometimes." 

"Okay," I opened the cabinet and found the ugly frog face key chain. "I'll call and ask when she wants me. Dylan!" 

The cocky fifteen year old strode into the mudroom, still in his pajamas. 

With a clueless look plastered to his face he asked, "What?" 

I shrugged as he picked up his backpack and put his cowboy boots on. 

"Dylan," Mom started. 

He held up his hand to stop her. "Wearing my pajamas to school gives me confidence." 

Though skeptical, Mom simply shook her head. "Alright. Have fun!" 

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