Chapter 19: Back at the Wonderland
4 things that have landed Zoe G. Reindeer in trouble
1. Throwing a shoe at Harper which missed him completely but went through the living room window instead, shattering it. That was last year.
2. Telling my third grade teacher and class that our entire family had taken a three month summer vacation all over Europe and Africa, when actually we’d only spent a week at Pismo Beach. That was a couple of years ago.
3. Trying to make donuts with Quincy from scratch and winding up with greasy dough plastered on our kitchen walls, cabinets, and ceiling. That was just this past summer.
4. Becoming a truant. That was today.
As quietly as I could, I crept into the Wonderland. A police car was parked in the driveway. Was that for me being a truant? They can’t put me in jail, can they? If Quincy was here he’d have the answer.
But I was on my own and I was getting scared and I didn’t know what to do. And so, I decided to hide.
I snuck into the greenhouse, slid under one of the tables, used my backpack for a pillow, and put my head down to rest.
“Wake up, Miss!” A bright light was shining in my face. A flashlight. It was night time.
It took a few seconds but my sleepy eyes zeroed in on the policemen’s brass badge. Terror got inside of me. My heart pounded fast.
“Are you going to arrest me?” I asked the officer.
“Nope, not going to arrest you, miss. Are you ok?”
I nodded yes and crawled out from where I’d been hiding.
The policemen helped me up, looked me in the eyes, and made me promise never to run away again. “You could have become a statistic.”
I didn’t know what a statistic was but from the way he’d said it didn’t sound like something anyone should become, so I promised him.
“Found her!” the policeman yelled.
Suddenly, I was surrounded by other people all pointing flashlights in my direction, including some neighbors, my mom and daddy, Nana and grandpa, Harper and Jade, Mr. Summers, even our school principal.
“But we checked in there twice!” someone shouted.
Jade scowled, “You are such a time vampire!”
“You just sucked up a massive amount of everyone’s time, including mine.”
Of course, Harper had to put in his two cents. “You’re gonna receive a life sentence . . . grounded until the end of time.”
“For real!” Jade agreed.
Remembering the policeman’s warning, I attempted to get their sympathy. “I could have been a statistic,” I said as pathetically as I possibly could.
Jade must have known what that meant because she patted me gently on the shoulder and I saw a glimmer of niceness in her eyes, something I hadn’t seen in a really long time.
Seeing Jade turn nice to me made Harper get that question mark look in his eyes. “What’s that mean . . . been a statistic?” he asked.
“Kidnapped or . . . dead,” Jade replied. “Don’t ever do that again!” she warned, “Grandpa even had to take his heart pills.”
For once, Harper wasn’t smirking.
Over and over, I said sorry. Sorry to my parents, sorry to Nana and Grandpa, sorry to the school principal, and sorry to Mr. Summer.
Mr. Summer sighed loudly. “See you tomorrow, Zoe.”
I frowned. Oh, no. School—Zena—UGLY me. I didn’t ever want to go to school again.
Mr. Summer must have seen the look on my face because he informed me that because our school has a zero tolerance for bullying and name calling, Zena had received a one day suspension and that he had spoken to the rest of the class. “Don’t worry, Zoe, there won’t be any trouble.”
I hoped he was right.
And probably thinking I couldn’t hear her, Nana leaned into daddy and told him, “Don’t be too hard on her Darrow . . . she’s a delicate girl.”
Daddy looked at her for a minute as if she had told him something he didn’t know. He glanced my way then nodded in agreement.
In my room later that night, Daddy mostly listened while Mom nagged me--on and on and on until, like a car out of gas, she finally came to a stop.
Right before midnight I climbed into bed. “I promise I’ll never do it again. I just didn’t want anyone to see me cry. I’m really sorry.”
“You’re grounded for a month, Zoe,” she said.
A month but not for eternity. My sentence fit the crime.
Mom hugged me and Daddy kissed the top of my head. “G’night, Zoe . . . love you.”
“Ok . . . sorry,” I said one last time.
Mom left but Daddy Reindeer lingered in my doorway. “G’night, my Zoe,” he whispered.
My Zoe? He’d never called me that before. I liked it. Must be connected to being delicate, I thought.
“Daddy, what does delicate mean?”
He stared up at the ceiling, took a deep breath, and replied. “Something that you shouldn’t be too rough with because it might get damaged. Like a flower that needs to be protected from the sun or cold weather . . . so it can grow and bloom.”
“Oh. Am I like that?” I asked.
“Yes, my Zoe. I love you. G’night.”
And then the light was out, the door was closed, and Daddy Reindeer was gone.
I wanted to holler come back! Come back so I can ask you another question.
Am I ugly?
Copyright © 2016 by Brenda Woods. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.