I heard my mother open the door and be greeted by a large, joking laugh.
"Hey!" said my father with a huge amount of excited energy, "are the kids still asleep? I wanted to surprise them!"
"They're getting ready for school," my mother said. I heard Jason's door being thrown open with a thud and Carrie jumping out of the bathroom and running to him. Forcing myself to breathe normally, I stayed in my room for as long as I could until I knew he would begin asking where I was.
Just pretend everything is fine, I told myself as I took one more deep breath and went to the living room. "I told you Dad was coming!" I turned to my mother. "You never believe me." She turned and looked at me, just like last time and said, "Well, now I will pay more attention."
She smiled. I could tell it was a relief for her when Dad came to town. He would mitigate the stress of caring for us, at least for a few days. On top of entertaining us, I think she was grateful to him for providing the things we needed and filling the cupboards with food that would last for at least a week after his departure. But this visit was a little different.