Evan woke up on the first day of school with a deep sense of foreboding, as if he had just awoken from a nightmare or something.  He couldn’t remember if he had dreamed or not, but it was definitely a very bad feeling.

            “This is not going to be a good day.”  He said glumly as he stared at himself in the bathroom mirror.  He shrugged and rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and then washed his face and brushed his unkempt hair. 

            When he got downstairs he found that his mother was already up, nursing his baby sister Chantal.  His toddler brother Carson was busy playing with his toys in his playpen.  Already eating were his older brother Mike and sister Amanda.  Mike was three years older than Evan, and Amanda was in eighth grade.

            “Morning, sleepy-head.”  His mom greeted him warmly.  “Hurry up or you’ll be late for school.”

            He grabbed a bowl and spoon and sat at the table.  He reached for the Rice Krispies, and found that the box was empty.

            “Sorry, dude.”  Mike said.  “You can have Mom’s bran flakes, if you want.”

            Evan managed to bolt down some of the bland cereal, making grimaces of disgust between each swallow, before rushing upstairs to brush his teeth and then running out the door to make it to school. 

            He made it to school on time, but just barely.  As he found a seat near the back of the classroom, he looked around for Dan and Ethan, but couldn’t find them.  He slumped in his seat in disappointment, figuring that they must be in the other class across the hall.  It wasn’t just going to be a bad day:  it was going to be a long year, since it looked like the two best friends he had in school weren’t going to be around to make the days pass quicker .

            Across the hall, Daniel was slumping in his seat in exactly the same way.  He had saved seats for both Ethan and Evan beside him, and eventually had to give them up to people who needed them, because it was obvious that they weren’t going to be there.  He totally toned out the teacher as she began introducing herself and started the day’s lesson.  He was already counting the minutes before recess so he could find Eth and Ev and get to some serious fun.

            When Daniel got outside, it wasn’t long before he found Evan, who had been looking for him.  They grinned broadly at each other, glad to have finally found someone from the group.

            “Where’s Ethan?”  They both said in unison, and then they realized that something must be wrong.  They searched the whole playground, and Ethan was nowhere to be found.  They eventually tracked down Genevieve, who was playing hopscotch with Faith and some other grade ones on the paved play area.

            “Where’s your brother?”  Evan asked.  “Why isn’t he here?”

            “He’s sick.  He caught the chicken pox.  It’s cool, I didn’t get it.” 

“Now what are we supposed to do?”  Evan groaned.

            “You could play hopscotch.”  Genevieve offered politely.

            “I don’t think so.”  Dan said, grimacing.  “Sorry, Evan.  Neal and Ethan were the ones with ideas.  I don’t know, we could go play soccer in the field with the other guys…”

            “You go ahead.”  Evan said.  He could tell how badly Dan wanted to join in the game, but he didn’t really feel like it.  “I think I’ll find Hope and see if she’s heard how Neal and Zoë are doing at their new house.”

            Dan rushed off cheerfully, while Evan shuffled off with his hands in his pockets.  Behind him he could hear the loud shouts of the boys at play in the field as Dan joined in and quickly scored.  Evan blocked out everything, deciding to be alone with his thoughts.  Unfortunately, the only one that came to him was:  This is a really, really bad day.

            He had no idea how bad.

            By the time he got home after school, for he had shuffled slowly all the way there, it was late afternoon.  He went in the front door, kicked off his shoes and hung his knapsack in the closet.  He headed for the kitchen for a snack, and that’s where he found his mother, sitting quietly by the telephone.  In her hand was a wrinkled up tissue, and it looked as if she’d been crying.

            “Mom, what’s wrong?”  He asked tenderly, putting his hand on her arm.

            “Oh, Evan…  It’s just that…” She sniffled and tried to smile, “You’re such a good boy.  You know I love you, right?”

            “Of course, Mom.  What is it?  What’s wrong?”  He was really getting scared now.  Ideas raced through his head:  Did someone die?  Was one of his siblings hurt?  What was going on?

            “Your father…”

            “Is Dad working late in the city again?”

            “You might say that…  He’s not coming home.”

            “Traffic bad or something?”  Evan calmed down a little.  Dad stayed late all the time.  However, it seemed really weird.  Dad staying late shouldn’t have gotten Mom so upset…

            “He’s not coming home, honey.  Ever.  The reason he’s been coming home so late or staying in the city on business, is because he’s…  He’s…”  She choked up, crying again.  “He’s found someone else and he’s never coming back.”

            Evan sank into one of the kitchen chairs, completely stunned.  It seemed as if someone had punched him in the stomach, knocking the wind right out of him.  He heard her continue speaking as if she were very far away, muffled by distance and a thick wall of air between them, air that was stifling him, making his head spin.  She was saying that she’d have to get back her old job and that they’d probably have to sell the house, but he hardly heard any of it.  All he could hear was that thought:  This is a really, really bad day, over and over again.

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