Getting up in the morning
was always a challenge for Ruthie. It wasn’t waking up that was difficult—it was getting out of bed. She had to scrunch down to the end of her bed and climb out through the narrow opening between her desk and her sister’s dresser. Then she had to be careful where she placed her feet on the floor because the under-the-bed storage bin for her summer clothes didn’t quite fit under her twin bed. It stuck out just enough to trip her or stub a toe. The other difficult part was to avoid waking up her sister so Ruthie could claim the bathroom first. Claire was older and seemed to need much more time in the bathroom before school—or before going anywhere—than Ruthie did. Ruthie didn’t understand why that was but it was an observation she had made many, many times.
Claire was nice enough—not horrible like some siblings Ruthie had heard of. But she took up so much time and space. Mostly space. In their little room, Claire’s stuff dominated by far. She had a computer and a big printer on her already larger desk, all her sports equipment, lots of clothes piled everywhere and a growing mountain of college brochures, SAT study guides and application information. Claire was a junior in high school and starting the process of applying to college. Ruthie counted the days till her sister went away to school. Then she would have her own room.
This morning Ruthie woke up first and made her way through the small path in their bedroom to the doorway without waking Claire. She looked down the hall—great luck! The bathroom was empty and all hers. Among the kids at her school she was the only one whose family shared one bathroom.
Ruthie turned on the shower first to let the water warm up, took her one bottle of shampoo off the wire rack and tried to find a space for it on the shower ledge next to Claire’s and their mom’s gazillion hair care products. It wasn’t easy.
As the warm water ran over her back she stood there for a moment, mulling the fact that the shower was just about the only place in her apartment where she could be alone and think privately. She envisioned the day ahead of her, the field trip and what the chances were of something cool happening today. Why not today?
After a really exciting or unusual thing happens, do people look back and say, “I thought something would happen today”? Probably not. But why not?
Ruthie wondered. Don’t people ever have a feeling,a sign that something great will happen?
Her time alone
was interrupted when the door to the bathroom opened, not once but three times.
From behind the map-of-the-world shower curtain she heard her dad say, “Sorry, Ruthie, I’m just looking for a book I thought I left in here last night.”
“Dad, please!” Ruthie said.
“Don’t worry, I can’t see anything! Now, where did I put it?” He closed the door. Sheesh!
A minute later it was her mom. “Ruthie, have you seen your father’s book on American history?”
“Mom, do you mind? No, I haven’t. He already asked me.”
“Well, don’t take too long in the shower. Your sister needs to get going.”
Right on cue, Claire came in and started brushing her teeth.
“Claire, can’t I have any privacy?”
“Oh, Ruthie. Don’t be a prude. Hurry up, okay?” Six hundred and thirty-five days till she goes to college,
Ruthie groaned to herself. An eternity!From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone; illustrated by Greg Call. Copyright © 2010 by Marianne Malone; illustrated by Greg Call. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.