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Whoever invented Mondays deserved to die a slow and painful death, Zelda thought as she dragged herself out of bed and headed for the kitchen

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Whoever invented Mondays deserved to die a slow and painful death, Zelda thought as she dragged herself out of bed and headed for the kitchen. Her eyes felt like someone had rubbed sand in them, and she knew without looking in the mirror that they were bloodshot after a late-night spent doing homework. Thanks to a wasted Saturday at the dragon park, she'd been forced to get all her work done on Sunday.

"Never again," she mumbled under her breath, stumbling into the kitchen like a zombie and reaching for the coffee pods.

In less than a minute, she had a steaming cup of delicious caffeinated liquid. If her mother had been home, she would have gotten a hypocritical lecture about drinking coffee, and how she shouldn't rely on a stimulant, but thankfully, she'd already gone to work.

Zelda held the mug up to her face, not bothering to add cream or sugar, and inhaled the beautiful scent. Already feeling better, she turned towards the kitchen table and caught sight of someone slumped over it.

Her pulse kicked into overdrive before realizing it was only Amory. At least now she was fully awake.

"How long have you been there?" she demanded.

He didn't answer.

That's when she noticed he was still in his pajamas, and there was no sign he had eaten breakfast.

"What's wrong with you?"

"Ughaag," he said without lifting his head.

"Alright, then." She took a sip of her coffee, delicious bitterness dancing over her tongue. "Are you going to be ready for school? I don't want to be late again. I already have enough tardies thanks to you."

Amory grunted but still didn't move.

"Whatever. I'm going to get ready." She turned on her heel and left her brother to his moaning.

When she returned twenty minutes later, sufficiently caffeinated and dressed for school, Amory was still slumped over in the same spot.

"Amory, seriously, this isn't funny. I can't be late. We have to leave in five minutes."

He finally lifted his head. "I don't feel good," he complained. "My head hurts."

"Did you tell Mom?"

"No." Amory put his head back down on the table.

"Okay, well, call her at work, and tell her you're sick. She needs to excuse you from school."

"I will," he said, the words muffled by his arms.

"And go back to bed. I don't want to catch your germs."

Amory grumbled again, but got up from the table and stumbled down the hall to his room.

Zelda shook her head as she watched him. He better not get her sick. With midterms coming up, the last thing she needed right now was to miss any days of school. She gathered her things and headed out the door, all thoughts of her brother fading away.


***


When Zelda returned later that afternoon, her mom's car was already parked in the driveway.

"I'm home," she called as she walked in the front door. Ever since that one time her mom had mistaken her for someone breaking in and almost taken her head off with a lamp, she always made sure to let everyone know it was only her.

She waited a beat, but no one responded. Weird.

"Hello?" She headed into the kitchen and dropped her bag next to the table. "Is anyone home?"

"In here, Zelda." Her mom called from down the hallway. It sounded like she was in Amory's room, so he must still be sick.

Zelda slipped her shoes off and padded down the hall. Amory's door was barely cracked. She pushed it open to find the curtains drawn, so the room was almost pitch black. Her mom was sitting on the bed next to Amory, wiping his forehead with a washcloth.

"Does Amory have the flu or something?" Zelda asked, unwilling to step any further into the room lest she catch it.

"I'm not sure," her mom said. "I think it might be a migraine. He keeps complaining his head hurts, but he doesn't have a fever or anything. If it isn't better by tomorrow, I'll take him in to see a doctor."


***


The next day, Amory still wasn't better. If anything, he was worse. When Zelda checked her phone as she was leaving school, she found a voicemail from her mom.

"Hi, Honey. You're going to be on your own tonight for dinner. Amory has been admitted to the hospital, and your father will be coming here after work. I'm not sure what time we will be home, but there are leftovers in the fridge. Call if you need anything. Love you."

Zelda had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk as she listened to the message. Once it was over, she stared blankly at her phone as the robotic voice asked if she would like to replay the message, delete, or save it.

"Hey!" Harper said, coming up behind her. "I've been calling your name. Didn't you hear me?"

"What? Oh no. Sorry." Zelda ended the call and shoved her phone into her pocket.

"Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, yeah. Everything is fine. I just have to get home. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" She waved absently to her friend before darting off to the parking lot. She wasn't sure why she had lied to Harper and told her everything was okay. Everything clearly wasn't okay. Zelda's stomach twisted as she pulled out her phone again and replayed the message.

Amory had been admitted to the hospital. Her brother was in the hospital. The hospital. Why was he there? He had a headache. Nothing more. Not a fever. Nothing. Why would they put him in a hospital?

Zelda unlocked her car and threw her bag into the passenger seat. After she had settled herself behind the wheel, she took a moment to breathe. It would be fine, she told herself. It was probably a routine thing to make sure everything was okay, and Amory would be home soon. Her mom hadn't sounded worried on the phone, so everything was going to be fine.

She started the car and headed home. By the time Zelda pulled into the driveway, she almost believed everything would be okay.

Neither Amory nor her parents came home that night.


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