"I was!" my brother hissed back at me. I glared at him--he'd just tripped over something in the hall. It probably was a laundry basket that someone had left out, but I was too busy being stealthy to care.
Nemesis crawled up to the rail and cautiously peeked over. The dinner party that Mom and Dad were having was still in full swing; naturally, my twelve-year-old self and my siblings had all been put to bed already.
That didn't mean that we were asleep.
Quill snickered quietly as we gathered at the top of the stairs. "Watch out for the basket, Squrrel!" she whispered back at the youngest, who was already the biggest risk of any of us as far as getting us all caught went--she insisted on sleeping in the biggest, frilliest nightgown possible, which wasn't exactly built for stealth in either ease of travel or visibility. There was a muffled thunk as, in spite of the warning, Squirrel collided with the basket anyway. Nemesis, Quill and I were forced to clap our hands over our mouths to muffle our laughter. Squirrel glared at us.
"Shush," I finally managed to croak out.
The others nodded assent. I took another peek through the railing. All that was visible was the entryway and the hall leading to the kitchen, although I knew the entryway also lead to the dining room. I surveyed the landing dubiously. "Think I can make it down there?"
A burst of laughter echoed up from the dining room. Quill looked dubious. "The landing is all the way down there..." (a mere 12 feet or so, but it seemed large to us at the time.) "What if Dad comes out of the kitchen?"
"We run," I reasoned. "But no giggling this time!" It was my turn to throw a glare at Squirrel, who did her best to look innocent. As she was only six and was wearing that stupid white nightgown, she pulled it off rather well. I sighed. "That goes for you too, Nemesis."
He began to protest his innocence, but I was ignoring him and easing down the stairs. OH NO!! I'd forgotten about the squeaky step, which naturally gave out a protest that, to our ears, seemed about as loud as a dynamite blast. It probably didn't carry any further than the kitchen, but unfortunately for us, Dad was wise to our ways and was probably lying in wait. A forbidding shadow appeared on the wall.
"Go!!!!" I hissed urgently and scuttled back to my room on all fours, Nemesis behind me. We shot in through the door, closed it behind us, and dove into our bunks. Yanking the covers up, I closed my eyes and tried to breathe softly.
A couple seconds later, the door opened. I heard Dad walk in and stop in front of our beds. Nemesis let out a loud fake snore, and I tried not to wince, wishing I could smack him. I guess Nemesis's snoring was louder than usual that week anyway, because Dad turned and left without reprimands.
I gave it thirty seconds, then opened my eyes and sat up. "That was close."
"Yeah," Nemesis agreed.
I snorted. "That was so obviously fake snoring."
The sound of the knob turning cut off our whispered debate and sent us diving back into our pillows.
"Hey, guys, the coast is clear!" Quill whispered through the door crack. "Want to try again?"
"Sure!" I bounded out of bed. Nemesis slid down the ladder, and we joined the girls by the rail again. I immediately began slipping down the stairs, carefully avoiding the squeaky step, and alighted with triumph on the landing. Squirrel remained at the top of the stairs, but Nemesis and Quill joined me. Flush with victory, I surveyed the remaining stairs to the entryway. I knew, just around the corner, were the stairs leading down to the basement. I pointed. Nemesis and Quill shook their heads violently and retreated back to the upstairs.
Nothing daunted, I carefully crept down the stairs, silently rounded the corner, and fled at full speed down the steps to the basement. I paused at the bottom of the stairs, listening for signs of pursuit, then began regaining my breath before my trip back up. I was about to mount the stairs when I paused, went over to the game shelf, and grabbed a deck of Uno cards. Then, I carefully sneaked back up the stairs to the entryway and practically ran the remaining flight of stairs to the top floor and the other siblings. Breathless, I told them of my feat.
"No way!" Quill and Nemesis hissed simultaneously, clearly disbelieving.
"Total way!" I retorted proudly, holding up the Uno deck. Quill's and Nemesis's eyes grew wide.
"Dad!" Squirrel hissed.
We hastened to our bedrooms. Again, as before, Dad came in. This time, he delivered a warning.
"I know you're awake; I heard you kids at the top of the stairs. Next one out of bed gets paddled!"
Hmm, the stakes were too high now for further romps. We kept our kiesters in bed and slept the sleep of the just.