"Jaci!" Mama honked the horn in a loud, long blast. "Get your butt out here! We're gonna be late!"
"Coming," Jaci hollered back. She scrubbed her face with the washcloth again, trying to wake up. The sky was gray with the coming morning, and the air was damp and chilly. Jaci wanted her jeans and Elmo sweatshirt, but Mama had made her put this dress on instead. It barely covered her butt. She tugged at the hem, scowled at herself in the mirror, and ran out the door and down the trailer's steps.
Mama revved the sputtering engine and they tore outta there, spraying up gravel that pinged against the side of the car. Jaci slouched against the door. She was sleepy, and she didn't want to be doing this.
Mama looked over at her sharply. "C'mon, Jaci. Wake up and tell me your name."
This was stupid. "Anna."
"Ah-na," said Mama.
"That's not how it's spelled," grumbled Jaci.
"Don't matter, that's how they say it. Anna what?"
"Hastings." Jaci rolled her eyes.
"And how old are you, Anna?"
Jaci breathed a huge, gusting sigh that went down to her toes. "Five and three-quarters. Except I'm almost nine, duh."
"Yeah, well. You're short enough. Say your ABCs for me." Mama frowned as she sped up to get on the freeway. Traffic this early was still bad, and she cussed out a trucker as she lurched ahead to get into the lane.
Jaci crossed her arms. They'd already had this talk before, how Jaci wasn't supposed to be reading chapter books yet, how Anna was smart but not that smart. She stared out the window at the taillights of the car ahead of her. "A-B-C-D-E-F-G..." she sang quietly, trying to ignore the sudden clenching of her tummy. "Mama, I don't think I wanna go."
"Stop that," snapped Mama. "I don't wanna hear that. You got nothing to be scared about." Her voice changed. "Come on, sweetie. You get to stay all weekend in a big fancy house with all the toys you wanna play with. They'll probably let you eat ice cream and stay up late."
Jaci didn't point out that she already got to do that when Mama was working. "Let's just go home," she suggested. "We can get pizza and play Monopoly."
"That's enough," said Mama. "No more talk like that. You straighten up and play the game, and maybe when we're done we can live in a big house of our own." They were passing the mall now, getting into the part of town where you couldn't see the neighborhoods from the highway. "We made a promise to Mr. Hastings. You can't go back on a promise."
Jaci nodded, bit her lip, and pulled down her hem again. "When are you coming to get me?"
"Tomorrow night. Late. You go to bed; I'll wake you up to take you home."
"Are you sure?"
"Stop whining, Jaci. If you whine they won't ask you back."
That sounded just fine to Jaci, but she kept her mouth shut. Mama's mouth was drawing down, with the grooves on either side that said she was close to popping Jaci one. They left the freeway, and soon they were driving down roads that were wide and smooth, so heavy with trees that Jaci could only see bits of houses here and there. She sniffed and wiped her nose on her arm. She wasn't sleepy anymore.
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