We stopped going to school after our parents died. Grieving would distract us from our lessons, we reasoned. Who could be expected to learn cursive while under such duress? And because evading the army of replacement parents occupied much of our time, no one could reach us to prove otherwise.
Friends were the new enemies. We spent our evenings locking the deadbolt, checking the peephole, latching the chain. People came by often, and when they did we pretended we were sick or dying or dead or gone. The house we lived in smelled like moist shag carpeting, and we scrubbed it without mercy. Sponges shined up the cakey floors. Our wrinkly fingers paled from the soak of bleach water. The old and moldy furniture smelled like itself, so we moved all of it onto the front lawn, where it looked lovely. And after eating in our new sunlit dining room, we stepped inside to sniff out our work. Nothing had changed. The smell remained, full-fledged and fetid, and it grew stronger as we walked from room to room.