Chuckie was in a terrific mood as he hopped off the school bus. He and Kimi had both had the best day ever at junior high.
Kimi removed the house key from her purse, only to find that, for some reason, the door was unlocked. Their parents were working at The Java Lava until supper time most days. For this reason, they were very surprised to see their dad sitting in the living room.
"Dad, what are you doing home so early?" asked Kimi.
Chazz didn't answer.
"Dad, is everything all right?" Chuckie asked worriedly.
Chazz shook his head.
Chuckie and Kimi decided they'd better leave him alone for the time being.
"I wonder if mom knows what's going on," Kimi said.
"I think we should give her a call," Chuckie said.
He picked up the phone and dialed the number of his parents' coffee house. Kira answered it.
"Hello, The Java Lava. This is Kira speaking. How may I help you?"
"Mom, this is Chuckie," said Chuckie.
"Chuckie? Is everything all right?" Kira asked.
"That's what Kimi and I are wondering," Chuckie said.
"What ever do you mean?" Kira asked.
Chuckie explained about Chazz.
"Oh. Well, your father got a letter from your grandparents today -- actually, your natural mother's parents," Kira said.
"I didn't even know my mother's parents were still alive," Chuckie said.
"Oh Chuckie, it's so complicated," Kira said.
"Mom, please! These are my grandparents we're talking about!" Chuckie pleaded.
"Honey, it's probably better that you didn't know," Kira said.
"All right, bye mom," Chuckie said as he hung up the phone.
That night at dinner, Kira told
Chazz that Chuckie had called her.
"Kira, Chuckie deserves to know what happened," Chazz said.
"But Chazz, it was so hard for you to get the news," Kira said gently.
"I know, Kira. But I need to tell Chuckie. Like I said, he deserves to know," Chazz said.
So, after dinner, Chazz and Chuckie went to Chuckie's room to talk.
Chazz explained the situation.
"Chuckie, when your mother died, her parents and I had a huge fight. They didn't think it was right for me to raise you on my own. They thought it was too much for me to handle. They told me to hire a nanny or work out other care options. I kept telling them that this was the right decision for us, but they didn't want to listen. Finally, your grandparents told me that if I insisted on raising you on my own, they wouldn't try to stop me, but they'd have nothing to do with either of us anymore."
"Wow, I had no idea!" said Chuckie.
Chazz continued: "I know you didn't. I was thinking about telling you very soon, though. Then, today, a letter came in the mail. It was from them, your grandparents. They had been thinking about our fight a lot lately, and were wishing we'd never had it in the first place. Bascialy, Chuckie, they want to see you again."
"Dad, I hope this is okay with you, but, well, I'd like to see them. After all, they are my grandparents," said Chuckie.
"Chuckie, of course it's okay with me. I'm glad you want to see your grandparents. I'll call them tonight and we'll make arrangments, okay?" Chazz said.
"Great!" Chuckie said.
By the next day, the arrangments had been made. That weekend, Chuckie would take the train to Chicago, where his grandparents lived, and then stay with his grandparents for a week.
Soon enough, the weekend came. Chazz, Kira, and Kimi took Chuckie to the train station. Chuckie's suitcase had been checked all the way through to Chicago, which would take two days, but he had a carry-on bag with pajamas, toliteries, activities, and pills for his motion sickness.
He said goodbye to his family and boarded the train.
Chuckie was glad when the train finally got to Chicago, as he had to spend most of it laying down to ease his motion sickness.
He had just barely got off the train when he heard shouts of, "Chuckie, over here!"
Before long, he spotted his grandparents.
"Grandma! Grandpa!" he exclaimed.
"Chuckie!" exclaimed his grandma as she threw her arms around him.
Suddenly, Chuckie heard a small, shy voice say, "Chuckie? Is that really you?"
It was then that Chuckie noticed that his grandparents weren't alone. A girl, who appeared to be Chuckie's best friend Tommy Pickles' age, was with them.
"Yes, I'm Chuckie," Chuckie said, utterly confused.
"We'll explain once we're home," Chuckie's grandma said.
Before long, they were all at Chuckie's grandparents house.
"Chuckie, there's something your father didn't tell you when he told you about us," said Chuckie's grandpa.
"What?" Chuckie said.
"Chuckie, you aren't an only child," said Chuckie's grandma.
"I know that, grandma," said Chuckie.
"Oh, I'm not talking about your stepsister," said Chuckie's grandma.
"Chuckie, what we mean is, you aren't your mother's only child," said Chuckie's grandpa.
"Uh, grandpa, I know I don't have any older siblings, and mom died when I was, like, six months old. There's no way she and dad could have had a second baby," Chuckie said.
Chuckie's grandma sighed.
"We never should have had that stupid fight with your father," she said.
"It's our fault that you don't know half of what you deserve to know," Chuckie's grandpa said.
"You see, Chuckie, you were actually a year and a half old when your mother died. Your sister was the one who was only six months old," said Chuckie's grandma.
"My sister?" Chuckie said.
His grandma said, "Yes, Chuckie, your sister. You obvisly already know about the fight we had with your father and how we finally agreed to let him raise you on his own, but not have anything more to do with you. What you do not know is that we wouldn't allow him to raise both you and April, your big sister, on his own. We insisted that April live with us. Your father wasn't happy about it, but finally he realized that we weren't going to take no for an answer, he didn't have a choice."
"I didn't know any of this either. Grandma just told me a few days ago," April spoke up.
"We realize now how unfair we were being. We've spoken with your father and with Kira, and we've decided to give custody of April back to your father," Chuckie's grandma said.
"I'm going home with you!" April cheered happily.
Chuckie's grandparents showed him his room and then left him to get settled in. April stayed and helped Chuckie unpack his things. One of the first things Chuckie lifted out of his suitcase was his rock collection. He had actually started collecting rocks when he was a baby, and the hobby had stayed with him.
"What's that?" April asked.
"My rock collection," said Chuckie.
"Oh," said April.
"What do you collect, April?" Chuckie asked.
"Memories," April answered.
"Memories?" asked Chuckie.
"Yeah. They're the only things I have left of mom and dad," said April.
"Oh," said Chuckie.
"Really, I'm going back to live with the dad I never knew," said April.
"You'll like him," Chuckie assured her.
"Of course I will! I just hope he likes me. Most of all, I hope Kira and Kimi like me," she said.
"April, don't worry. Dad will love you! And guess what? I have several neat friends I think you'll like," said Chuckie.
"What are they like? Your friends, I mean," said April.
Chuckie said, "Well, Kimi is our stepsister, but she's also my friend. She's my age, actually, she just turned twelve. I can pretty much guarntee that you'll never meet another person as brave as Kimi. Then there's Tommy. He's your age, April. He's awfually brave, but not as brave as Kimi. He likes science. Lets see, who else is there? Oh yeah, Phil and Lil. They're twins, and I should warn you, they love gross stuff. They're your age as well. Then there's Susie. She's thirteen and is a real indivdual. She's not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. Angelica, well, she's kind of, well, actually..."
"Your girlfriend?" April teased.
Chuckie continued, "Well, actually, she is my girlfriend, April. She's thirteen, like Susie, but one year doesn't matter to us. Oh, and I can't forget Dil. He's Tommy's younger brother. He's ten years old and the rest of us are convinced he wants to be a comedian someday. He annoys the heck out of us with jokes."
"Dil sounds interesting," said April.
"He's interesting, all right," said Chuckie with a groan.
"Honestly, Chuckie, I don't know why Dil annoys you so much. Personally, I like people who can make me laugh," said April.
Several days later, Chuckie and April arrived home. Everbody from Chazz to Dil was there to meet them. Everbody hugged and exchanged greetings. Everybody that is, except Kimi. She hung back, refusing to look at Chuckie.
That night at dinner, the Finsters talked about how their family was changing again.
"Now that you have your real sister, you don't need me anymore," Kimi said to Chuckie.
Chuckie said, "Oh, Kimi! Of course I still need you! And besides, you're my real sister, to. You may not be related to my by blood, the way April is, but you're my sister none the less. And most importantly, you're the first sister I ever really knew."
After supper, Tommy and Dil came over.
"I'm warning you, Dil's in one of his goofy moods," Tommy whispered to Chuckie and April.
"What do you call--" Dil began.
"Not now, Dil!" Tommy interupted him.
"Tommy, it's okay. I would like to hear the joke, Dil," said April.
"Okay! What do you call two banana peels?" Dil said.
"I don't know," said April.
"A pair of slippers!" said Dil.
Then he and April both cracked up. Tommy and Chuckie just groaned.
"Come on, lets get out of here," said Tommy.
Chuckie nodded and the two boys ran off to play a computer game Tommy had brought over.
"Did you really like my joke?" Dil asked once he managed to catch his breath.
"Are you kidding? That was a terrific joke! I like people who can make me laugh," said April.
Then she added, "By the way, what kind of witch lives at the beach?"
"Beats me," said Dil.
"A sandwich!" said April, and she and Dil burst out laughing again.
After that day, April and Dil became nearly as insepreable as Phil and Lil.
And then, one day, there was an annoucement at Jim Jr. Junior High for the annual Secret Valentines to begin. Each kid had to pick another kid to give little gifts and notes to until Valentines Day. To make sure no one had two Secret Valentines, each kid had to write the name of the kid they wanted to be a Secret Valentine for and give it to the school secretary. It took April all of to seconds to come up with the kid she wanted to be a Secret Valentine. Dil Pickles, she wrote on her slip of paper.
To Be Continued
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