"Marcus! You do not do that! Do you hear me?!" My sixteen year old sister, Bethan, yells at my seven year old brother. And that's just two of them. There's also George and Nathan, who are seventeen year old twins. Oh, and Natalie, my nine year old cousin. Did I mention Aggie who is one year old and another one of my sisters? No, I guess not. Oh yeah, then there's my parents and me. That makes nine of us. All under the same roof. Happy days. Happy, happy days.
"Beth, don't yell" George walks past, heading for the door.
"Addie doesn't like it" Nathan adds, close behind him.
"Where are you two going?" Mum never misses a trick.
"Out" they say together, grinning at me as George closes the door as quietly as he can.
"Stop it!" Bethan yells again. I wince. Seriously. This is just lunch time. You should see it when they all want to watch a different program on TV. I just concentrate on feeding Aggie.
"MUM! BETHAN IS DIGGING HER NAILS INTO MY ARM!" Marcus screams. I put down Aggie's spoon and cover my ears.
"Marcus, what have we told you about yelling? Let go of him Beth, he's younger than you" she says calmly, lifting Aggie out of her high chair.
"Auntie Sue-" Natalie starts, looking at me.
"Not right now, Natalie. I'm busy. I have six of you here all wanting something to eat"
"MUM! She's doing it again!" Marcus shouts. I press my hands closer to my ears.
"Aunti-" Natalie tries again.
"Bethan, please" Mum sighs, juggling Aggie and a plate of cheese on toast.
"He's pinching me!" she complains as Dad leaves, slamming the door as he does so. I close my eyes and wish it would all go away. Then Aggie starts screaming because Mum just put her back in the high chair. Marcus and Bethan are still fighting loudly. Dad has turned the volume on the TV up.
"Auntie Sue" Natalie says slightly louder than she has been but not so loud that I would mind it. I open my eyes.
"What is it, Natalie?" she asks. Natalie nods at me.
"You can go" Mu says to me. I smile my thanks and then run upstairs and lay on my bed. After a while, I notice it's unusually quiet so I look up.
"Don't scream" the deer says softly.
"Uh, I wasn't planning on it" I whisper. "It's just not very often I see a talking deer in my bedroom"
"I realise this. I am Ayala, your spirit guardian"
"Um, OK. I'm Adelaide" I say.
"Hello Adelaide. Come with me" Ayala leads me through my empty house (empty?) to a hotel. She nods at the deserted reception so I take a random key. Then she leads me to a room full of people. And spirit guardians. She goes in. I freeze in the doorway. I can't scream because I hate loud noises. I'm terrified. And I can tell it shows on my face because the wolf who I'm scared of says
"You must be Ayala's. Not surprising that you're frightened"
I just stand there silently.