This novel was originally published a few years ago, but has been out of print for over a year. I’m currently revising it to submit for possible re-release.
My sister stood at the sliding glass door making dolphin noises. At least, I assumed she intended the noises to sound like a dolphin since she held one of her zillion stuffed dolphins in her hand. This one was blue with white stars all over it. It was one of her favorites. She banged it against the window while she squeaked and whistled.
I groaned and stumbled over to the couch. The noise and thumping were so not what I needed. I’d just dragged myself out of bed five minutes earlier. I needed time to wake up. Apparently Cecilia was having one of her days. I should have been glad she hadn’t made enough noise to wake me. At least she seemed pretty happy. The days when she had tantrums were worse.
She was nine years old and sometimes still acted like a two-year-old. I was pretty sure she was smarter than that; she just didn’t show it. Cece was autistic, which meant sometimes she didn’t even seem to be part of our universe, and she either didn’t know or didn’t care how to act like other kids. She could talk, sort of, but didn’t unless she felt like it. Being her older brother wasn’t easy. I figured being Cece probably wasn’t all that easy either.
“Cece, stop it,” I said. “You’re giving me a headache.”
She turned to look in my general direction then squeaked and banged her dolphin against the door again. The glass rattled. Sometimes I wondered what the heck Mom and Dad had been thinking when they’d moved us into a house with two full walls made of glass, including the sliding door which no longer actually opened. I called them windows, but they ran floor to ceiling, and when Cece started banging on them, I was always worried that she’d break them.
“Cecilia.” Mom shut off the water in the kitchen sink and walked over to take hold of Cece’s hands. “Look at me, Cecilia.”
Of course, Cece didn’t look directly at Mom either. She mumbled something that sounded like “No” and tried to pull her hands free.
“Cecilia.” Mom sounded firm but frustrated. Dad was at work, and I’d slept till noon, which meant Mom had been dealing with Cece by herself all morning. On Cece’s bad days, an hour or two could be too much. “You are not allowed to hit the door. Stop hitting the door.”
She let go, and Cece immediately tapped the dolphin against the glass again. This time, she did it gently. Mom sighed. “Cecilia, away from the window.”
“Let me try?” I stood up. Once in a while, Cece listened to me when she ignored Mom and Dad, which was a problem, because sometimes Mom used that to try to get me to take care of my sister. I didn’t mind offering this time. Mom had obviously pretty much had it.
Mom made a “go ahead” motion with her hand. “She’s having a rough morning. I think not having school today’s upsetting her.”
Anything that messed with Cece’s routine upset her. Every time our school district had a teacher’s workshop day, the kid acted like this, if not worse. She went to a special school for kids with autism, but since that school was in the same town as my high school, they followed the district’s schedule for everything except summer vacation.
I knelt beside her and touched her dolphin with a finger. “Dolphin doesn’t like hitting the window, Cece.”
“Chris, we’ve talked about this,” Mom said. “Don’t encourage her to think of those toys as real.”
I ignored her. If telling my sister her dolphin was upset made her stop beating on the window, I didn’t see any harm in it. I was pretty sure she knew by now her toys were just toys. Otherwise she wouldn’t have treated them as roughly as she did.
She bapped the dolphin’s nose against the glass. “Look!”
That was one of the few words Cece used on a regular basis and just about the only one she could pronounce that clearly, and it caught my attention. I looked out the window and gasped.
Dolphins, stuck in the muddy, low-tide cove below the cottage. At least a dozen of them, maybe more, flopping in the mud. No wonder Cece had been so excited.