The next morning, I woke up, eager to leave the house early. I was almost ready to head out the door when I heard a big rig coming down our street. There were a few of those in our neighborhood. It could be anyone, I told myself. Then our doorbell rang, and my stomach dropped. It was far too early for it to be any of our friends.
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.

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