By the time Aunt Agnes thrust her beak into the girls’ room seconds later, eyes narrowed like a bird ready to spear any unwarned worm, everything was back in order and Kiva was calmly fastening her tool belt. She could hear Agnes’ lungs deflate with frustration as all the wind she had saved up for a full tongue-wagging leaked out. Kiva looked over her shoulder with mock surprise.
“Oh, good morning, Aunt Agnes. How are you?”
“Hmph!” Agnes grunted unhappily. “So you’re already up. Where’s your sister, then?”
“She must be downstairs getting breakfast,” Kiva replied innocently, turning to show the just-straightened lower bunk. “You can see she already…”
Kiva didn’t need to finish the sentence because the sound of her aunt’s flattened slippers on the stairs meant her act had worked. She breathed a sigh of relief and tried to smooth out some of the wrinkles in her shirt. Going to bed fully dressed was sometimes hot and uncomfortable, but was well worth the shouting it spared her. While plugging a hole in her tool belt pocket with one of the many socks DeeDee left everywhere, she counted the seconds since her aunt’s departure.
“...25, 26, 27, 28, 29... Coming!” she called down just as her aunt was yelling at her to hurry up, finish getting dressed, and not leave anything lying around. Hearing the familiar noise of rattling metal, Kiva allowed herself a deep breath, knowing she had at
least a couple of minutes while her aunt was busy lighting the stove fire. Now fully awake and a little sweaty after her half-conscious flurry of activity, Kiva inspected the room for anything that might spark Aunt Agnes’ temper.
And she’d found out the hard way what would set her aunt off. These past few cycles, she’d learned that the fastest way to get pulled out of bed by her ear was to mumble “Just a few more minutes?” She’d learned that the only way to survive living with Aunt Agnes as their Move Up Motivator, or M.U.M., was to think like Aunt Agnes.
Knowing Agnes would see the dirty socks, the scattered Destinator cards, and the hairbrush she was now scooping up as reasons to assign extra Guild prep-work exercises when they got home, she stuffed them under the far side of her pillow, where they joined a growing pile of clothes stuffed there other mornings.
Satisfied that she had taken away a few reasons for her aunt to Motivate her, Kiva breathed a sigh of relief and headed to the bathroom to splash a little water on her face.
She was swinging the old door-pump hard to get better water pressure when something on the floor turned her smile to a scowl. Squaggles!
Stifling the rage that was boiling up her throat, she hurriedly scooped up the tangle of fence vines her sister had used to create yet another version of Squaggles that she must have propped up