Ellie May looks extremely happy when she rushes up to me after school. Which is proof that Samuel is staying true to his word.
"Oh my goodness! He's so nice to me!" Ellie May squeals.
"Yes," I say. "Just as I thought."
"Well that wasn't very enthusiastic," she gives me a fake frown.
"Oh, sorry," I grin. "Oh my gosh I knew he would be!"
"Much better. Hey, d'you want to come to the cinema with us? Treacle's going too and he might ask you out!"
"Ellie May," I sigh. "You know I can't come with you. I have to look after Dad and the twins."
"Yeah, your Dad and the twins. I forgot," Ellie May sighs too.
"Hey, don't forget to give me the spoilers. Have a nice time," I hug her.
"Hey baby! C'mon we're gonna be late!" Samuel's voice calls from across the car park.
"Ooh! Sam, coming! Bye, Heidi!" Ellie May squeezes me and runs over to Samuel, who wraps an arm around her waist.
He grins at me. "Bye Heidi!"
I nod and narrow my eyes at him.
"Hey, Dad. How's it going?" I ask brightly as I close the door, after shoving Milo and Lula through it.
"I'm fine, honey. How are you?" Dad smiles back.
"All right I guess. Could be better but life's life. Lula, Milo, go upstairs and get changed." I shrug as I give both the twins a nudge towards the stairs.
"Oh, Heidi. You should stop stressing so much." Dad smiles warmly. "How can you be a sunbeam if you insist on creating a storm?"
I sigh. "I'm not creating a storm. I'm just trying to do what's best for us."
"Hey, honey, listen. You've basically had to raise your brother and your sister, you have to look after me and you're doing your best to get good grades as well. Heidi, you've basically taken on the parenting role. You should give yourself a break."
I have thought very often that I deserve a break. But how can I? Milo and Lula need to be taken care of. Dad needs to be taken care of. Our whole life and future needs to be taken care of. I haven't got time to take care of myself!
If I go out for just a few hours, all hell could break loose. Something bad could happen to Dad, he might have to be taken back into hospital. One of the twins could wake up and get injured. There could be a burglar breaking in. The possibilities are endless and it's just too risky to take chances.
And I currently have a hungry family to feed. I start searching through the cupboards for pots and pans.
"Now, what happened to good old cheese on toast?" I can hear the grin in my dad's voice. I grin too. The whole family had long suffered with my lack of ability to cook for about a month after Mum left. The only thing I could cook was cheese on toast, and maybe a bacon and egg sandwich. As for sandwiches, well, they were the only things I could make without burning or breaking something.
"It frizzled," I say. "To a crisp. And then the twins ate the crisp. Goodbye cheese on toast."
"I see. So, how's our Ellie May? I haven't seen her in a while,"
"Ellie May. Gosh, where to start?" I gasp dramatically. Ellie May has been like a daughter to my dad for, like, ever. She used to come round every day to help out. Now, she has other things to do, but she still hangs around when she can. And the twins absolutely adore her. She has so much patience with them, it makes up for the patience everyone else doesn't. "That guy asked her out. Samuel."
"Well, let's hope he looks after her good. We wouldn't want her crying,"
"Yes, let's." I frown. Let's hope very much that Mr Samuel Smith does look after my best friend good otherwise he'll have ME to answer to. I think he does care about her, though. He just needs a way of showing it.
"Ih..." I hear from the living room.
"Noo! That's a huh! It makes a huh noise!"
"No! It's a lying down ih!"
"No. It's a HUH."
"It's an H, Milo," Dad says.
"Oh. Huh... huh, ih... Hih isn't a word." I can almost see Milo's confused frown.
"It's not Hih," Lula's voice insists. "That's a huh and that's an I, it's hi."
"Ohhhhhhhhh, hiiiiiii. Hi... mm... mm... mm, ee, ee... yuh. Mm, yuh. Mm-yuh."
It goes on like that for about five minutes, the twins trying to figure out how mm-yuh is a word. It makes me smile, how they help each other, how they learn, how they try. Being me, I don't tell them what the word actually is. I always let them work it out, they eventually do.
I go back to cooking spaghetti while I listen to the news from TV. Another person missing. Found dead. Murdered? No, killed. An accident. Another young girl in hospital. Seriously injured. Abused? Maybe. Parents say self-inflicted.
"So that's definitely abused, then," I mutter grimly to myself. The news moves onto an different story. Drug-takers. Children taken into care. Mother jailed.
It's things like that which I have to consider. If Dad gets taken back into hospital, we'll be taken into care. I'm not legally old enough to look after the twins on my own, I'm still classed as a child.
"Heidi! It says your name!"