5th of July, Sunday

I'm just gonna warn you: I AM NOT IN A VERY GOOD MOOD THIS DAY. Don't even bother to ask about it. I have a feeling I just might break down and lose it.

It started as an ordinarily nice day. I even got to art class early this morning.  Supposedly…SUPPOSEDLY this was gonna be a nice day. I mean, yesterday was the FOURTH of JULY! Everything had been great…all those fireworks. All those good food my mom cooked…and you know-even for once in my life, they didn't even criticize me on anything (Uh-huh. They ignored me instead.). And Fourth of July festivities here in West Palm Beach are ALWAYS so darn good you'd want to come and see it.

Anyway, that was yesterday. TODAY started off pretty well…Parks didn't do anything to annoy me. He was just so excited about this whole Italy trip. Funny-somehow, I don't feel so sad that he was the one going instead of me. I was happy that he was going-it would be almost as good as if I was there. Anyway, he was right when he said 'there's always next year.'

And art class? I was so scared of the test Mr. C was gonna give that I explored every corner of Charlie and Annie's old reference text books and slaved over them (See, even during summer on the Fourth of July, I have to study…but don't worry. I'm not complaining.). As it turned out? I had nothing to be worried about. The test was a breeze. But actually, Jen and Aaron and the others thought it wasn't. Hmm…maybe I studied so much that I covered Mr. C's whole test. And the rest of the day? Pretty great, considering Mr. C didn't ask us to imitate everything he was doing. We were "to work on our own," as he says. Well, you must know what I did-Bugs Bunny and Road Runner. Plus, my favorite place in my favorite city-the Santa Maria Novella and Michaelangelo's David in Florence (These are probably two of the few things close to classical art that I can picture myself working a portrait on). In case you don't know, the Santa Maria Novella is one of the most beautiful churches in Italy-if not the most beautiful (I LOOVE beautiful churches in Italy). And, as for Michaelangelo's David-it's the ONLY work of Michaelangelo that I like AND love (even if you don't like art, you'll like Florence-it's the best).

So, anyway, that's that. I guess since I was extremely happy this morning, I had to be either angry or sad in the afternoon or evening (this is called "Tina's Totally Dry Philosophy." Hmm…maybe I should write a book about this….).  Anyway, after the class, Parks fetched me and the usual. I was so happy that day that I was practically dancing while I walked to the front door to the living room to the kitchen…and guess what surprised me. Sitting comfortably and talking in the dining were my two most favorite people on earth….yeah, you guessed right-Charlie and Annie…….

So, you can imagine how shocked I was to see them. I mean, Mom and Dad hadn't exactly told me that they would be home for the weekend. I only found out later. Turns out, they were SUPPOSED to be home yesterday. But well-that's Charlie and Annie. They'd always have pretty convincing explanations. And since they ACHIEVE so MUCH, Mom and dad just buy their explanations. Since I don't do anything to boost the honor of the family, they give me a hard time. Don't worry-I'm not bothered. I'm kind of used to it.

The minute I saw them, my good mood instantly vanished. Who were they after all but the people I will have to fight with? Plus, the two of them together is a more violent sight than the most violent action movie ever shown. I'm not kidding. If it was the ancient times they'll both be holding swords and fighting each other's heads-with me as the shield.

Anyway, I kind of greeted them-KIND OF. Actually, I just nodded my head and went to my room. I lied down on my bed and took off my socks using my feet and changed into house clothes. I continued to lie down…but I didn't do anything. I just…sort of…lied DOWN and stared at the ceiling. Moments later, my eyes got tired and I fell asleep.

When I woke up, it was already two in the afternoon. I was DARNED STARVING, so naturally I had to go downstairs and eat and well-face them. After all, I can't just stay in my room in the span of time that they're staying…could I?

Might as well go downstairs and get this over with.

"Hey, Loony Toons!" I was greeted by a twenty-two-year-old-turned-five-Charlie Carter. I ignored him. I walked straight to the refrigerator.

"I ate the last of the ice cream, little sister," was the first greeting I got from my twenty-year-old-turned-forty-sister-Annie Carter.

I ignored her and continued to rummage inside the refrigerator. There was nothing inside but some leftover cheese and mustard, and some water. Funny. I could swear that only this morning there was a carton of orange juice in here, plus a pack of ham and sausages. And yeah-the ice cream that Annie was talking about was a whole half-gallon just this morning.

It was at the tip of my tongue to ask them, "so when's the last time you ate anything?" But I kept my mouth closed and looked inside the crisper-the last place where I would look for food. I found two apples that both seemed to be in good condition (you know…crunchy and juicy and all that stuff) and took them out. I was not very happy about this.

I don't think the two of them can tell. I think they were both too involved in making me uncomfortable and, well-too busy ignoring each other. As much as possible, they try to ignore each other to avoid much trouble. And "trouble" I mean almost hacking each other with a knife-okay, I might be exaggerating, but when we were younger and they used to fight, either or both of them get hurt badly. Most of the time it was Annie. And me? Well, I kind of stayed behind the shadow. As time passed by, the wars between them subsided. Uh-huh. They engrossed themselves to making me suffer instead. Two reasons: one, I was too nice to talk back so hard; and two, even when I talk back, most of the time I end up breaking down and I don't hurt them by kicking or something. Instead, I start throwing things (somehow I've never broken anything) and I end up getting seriously scolded by Mom, and I end up hating them all…fact is, I still do-I just don't show it much.

So what's the next thing my dear darling brother and sister did?  Actually, good news! They ignored me the whole time I was in the kitchen and getting my lunch consisting of two apples and a glass of water.  Hmm…I just wonder if they are concocting some scheme to make me cry later.  I sound so bitter, don't I? Well, in my opinion the least I could do is expect they'd DO SOMETHING.  I'm just so sure they missed hearing me cry and scream 'coz they've been away too long.  If it so happened that I WISHED to God they wouldn't do anything, that's when they do.  Anyway, I think bitter kind of as insurance.  You know-reverse thinking kind of like reverse psychology only much more complicated?  Anyway, you get the point.

So I escaped from their much-worse-than-evil-crutches (fortunately) and went up to my room.  Anyhow, I was talking about how they made my good mood fade away?  That started when I got home. How did it get worse?  That comes later.

As I was saying, I went up to my room.  A brief description: its walls are covered with forest-green wallpaper whatchamacallits, drawers and cabinets that are marble-veined green (one of them is glass-doored) a vanity table that looks more like an mini-art gallery because of too much Bugs Bunny and Dexter and Rugrats sketches all over on the right side near the door.  On the very top above the vanity mirror, I had made a drawing and lettering of my whole name (out of compliance to my mother's orders).  On a sheet of extended eggshell paper, over a splash of bright illustrations of my precious cartoons (to my mother's horror) I printed: Argentina. Don't get me wrong-I'm not obsessed with Argentina or anything like that.  Truth is, it's my real name.  Great, huh? Just heed my warning: if granted that you could choose your parents, choose someone who aren't insane enough to name their children Charlesville or Antonia or Argentina or something.  You get my meaning.  Choose people who haven't lost their minds-those who still have enough sanity to name their kids Joseph or Jennifer or David-you know, normal names (I'm not actually saying that Antonia is not normal).

SO I went up to my room, right? I started eating my apples and drinking my water. Just a thought: You think that maybe if I ate apples and ONLY apples EVERY day, I'd end up looking like Cindy Crawford…? Nah. My kind never gets to look like a supermodel anyway. I finished my food hastily, and while waiting for Charlie and Annie to disappear from my life, I started to sketch some stuff. Actually, this is as far as I go in seriousness…er,…seriousity…uh-being serious. I had taken a picture of Parks and started sketching him. Don't get any weird ideas-it's not because he's cute-well, he IS, but not in the way that I think of him(that doesn't make any sense…). Honestly, he's the best model I could ever get. His features are so perfect for portraits.

Don't you just hate people like that? They are so picture perfect you want to punch them or something.

Anyway, I kinda got it finished just as Mom called me down to dinner. Pretty good, if I do say so myself, and I thought, I have to show this to Parks.

So I went down the stairs and faced my greatest nightmare with my family. Dinner started okay…until Annie had the very first accident she's ever had in her whole life. She spilled the extremely hot soup all over herself. Charlie snickered. Mom sighed. Dad tsk-tsked. And me-I, uh…sat down.

I started eating my soup as if nothing happened. It was cream of chicken from Campbell's, by the way. And pretty good, too. Annie sat down and tried to ignore Charlie's snickers.

I said tried.

And I feel so sorry that it just goes against her nature to ignore insults. We're different that way. I can take anything anyone dishes out no problem. She couldn't.

Mom started to wipe the floor and part of the table with spills. Charlie continued snickering. I continued eating my soup. Then Charlie stood up and went to Mom.

"I guess she's thinking that maybe you shouldn't have placed the handle near the bowl so it wouldn't have knocked over the bowl when the revolving whatsisname turns," he whispered loudly to Mom.

Annie heard that. "I didn't say anything!" she said defensively.

Charlie snickered again. "Yeah, right." He muttered.

She glared at him. "I really didn't!" she retorted.

"Hmm, hmmm…" he commented in a singsong voice, smiling at me. I ignored him.

That was me-Miss Ignoramus.

She started stabbing her chicken. Charlie continued his insults.

"WILL YOU SHUT UP!" She finally shrieked.

"Don't shout, Annie," Mom warned.

"Tell him to shut up." She begged Mom.


Charlie groaned. "Jeeze. I never get to have any fun."

"SHUT UP!!!" Annie screamed.

"Make me." He challenged.


"MOM!" Charlie imitated in a singsong voice. I rolled my eyes.

That was my brother-the teaser.

"Go to hell!" Annie screamed again.

"Same to you!"

"Stupid fool!"

"ANTONIA CARTER! STOP THAT! How old do you think you are?" Mom demanded.

Annie stomped out of the dining room up to her room. She slammed her door forcefully. I could hear her crying.

That was my sister-tantrum thrower and crier extraordinaire.

Anyway, we finished dinner in silence. In my opinion, if Annie wasn't guilty of Char's accusations, she shouldn't have to feel so defensive.

I guess that's what I would've done-but I'm not her.

Anyway, she never came back down to finished her dinner. Mom started clearing the table afterwards. Char went to the living room to catch up on American TV shows. I sat down and did some last touches on my sketch of Parks. Char sat down beside me. I ignored him. He peered over my shoulder.

He gave another one of his famous snickers. "Pure amateurish attempts." He muttered. I still ignored him. I think that was part of why he never gave up teasing me. I was stone-cold, Annie was always fiery. I was calm, she was always in panic. I was, in his opinion, a challenge to tease.

"Ugly hair." He remarked. I ignored him again. Parks always told me I have gorgeous hair.

He sniffed me. "Smells like dogs." He said with one of those annoying laughs. I started to move to another place. He took hold of my sketch. He must have pulled it a little too energetically because when I moved to the opposite side, I grabbed it away from him.

It tore in half.

My precious sketch. One I worked so hard on.

Tears started to flow out of my eyes. "WHY'D YOU HAVE TO DO THAT?" I shouted at him angrily. "Do you know how hard it is to produce something like this?"

He just shrugged. "You can make another one even better."

That did me in. I threw the TV remote. It hit him squarely on the face. Then I stomped into my room, tears still on my face. That was difficult to make, didn't he realize that? I cried on my dresser. Then I wiped my tears away and went to Annie's room. We've always gotten along better than Charlie and me, or Charlie and her.

"Annie?" I said softly.

"Leave me alone."

"Can I just show you something?" I held my sketch to her face, joining the two pieces together. "What do you think?"

She glanced at it disgustedly. "It's not very good."

That hurt me more than anything. She could've done and said THAT in a much NICER way. I started crying again.

"I'm sorry I bothered you." I whispered.

"Yeah, as if. GO AWAY, OK? " She threw a pillow just as I closed the door.

I ran towards the back door to the adjoining fence next door-the Parks' residence. Before I was able to knock, someone burst out from the back door and collided with me.

Thank goodness it was Parks. "God, Carter, what happened? Why are you crying?" he put his arms around me and hugged me close. I hugged him back.

"Charlie and Annie." That was all I had to say. Now the tears were flowing freely. He wiped them away softly. He didn't say anything for a long while. He just allowed me to cry on his shoulder.

"They're home, huh?" He finally said after a long while. I wiped my tears away and told him the whole story. He let me finish without saying anything. He was thoughtful for a little while. He was still holding me in his arms. It felt really good to be held like that.

"I'm sorry, Carter," he told me softly, brushing a stray lock of hair out of my face and wiping the last of my tears away. I couldn't even make myself smile at him. Damn Charlie and Annie, I thought.

"C'mon, It's gonna be OK. You'll see." He gave me a reassuring smile. "Now how about a smile?" He teased with a grin.

I am sorry, but I really wasn't in any mood to smile.

His grin faded. "Come on, Carter. I hate seeing you like this. What do I have to do to make you smile? Want me to run both of them over with one of those big Whatchamacallits???" He raised an expectant eyebrow at me. I burst out laughing in spite of myself.

"That's better," he said softly. He wrapped his arms tighter around me. There was no hidden meaning in that hug, whatsoever. Since Parks and I were little, we've always been very close, and that never changed even now that we're practically adults.

"I'm really going to miss you when you're gone," I whispered softly, hugging him tighter.

He gave me a soft kiss on my forehead. "Me too, Carter," he murmured. "I love you, you know."

I gave a little laugh. "Yeah, me too. I love you, Parks." I kissed him softly on his cheek. "Thank you. I feel so much better now. Goodnight." I ran back to our house, comforted  in the memory that although I do not feel my family's love for me, I feel someone else's love.

Joey Parks' love.

That was us-Parks and Carter, the dynamic duo who can say "I love you" without any hidden meaning. The dynamic duo who can kiss each other without any hidden meaning.

And the dynamic duo who will always be a dynamic duo.

With that thought in my mind, I lied on my bed and fell asleep, feeling that tomorrow was going to be a bright new day for me.

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