GENRE: MG Mystery
There aren't many reasons why a family of four would cram into a bathroom at the same time, especially one as small as ours. But when my little brother Derek found his favorite goldfish floating upside down in the bowl right before breakfast, Mom suggested we have his funeral before the bus arrived for school.
Surrounded by lilac wall paper much too bright and cheery for Gingersnap's royal send off, we crowded around the toilet. Every movement to avoid a towel bar or paper holder sent off a chain reaction of hip pokes and elbow jabs. I barely noticed, all my attention on Gingersnap as his bloated body drifted around the edge of the toilet bowl. Not many people look down at a dead goldfish and wonder if that's how they looked the day they died. Then again, I suppose not many people drown and then come back to life, either.
I held in a shudder. After all, Mom and Dad were watching.
Sniffing loudly, my brother sprinkled fish food into the bowl. Multi-colored flakes swirled around Gingersnap's corpse like street glitter after a Fourth of July parade. No way did I look like that the day I died. First of all, it wasn't like anyone at the public pool had thrown fish food over my body or Maya would have told me about it later. Second, there's a big difference between a dead goldfish and a twelve-year-old girl, even if her hair was sort of the same rusty orange as its fish scales. And third, Gingersnap had a pretty shocked look on his face, kind of like he hadn't seen the end coming. Well, maybe we had that in common. I hadn't seen death coming, either.
"G-goodbye, Gingersnap. I'll never forget you."
Derek dragged a sleeve across his eyes and I gave his shoulders a squeeze. This had to be tough. He loved his pets the same way other four-year-olds loved superheroes and cartoons. Behind me, Mom shifted in the tight space. I didn't need to turn to know her gaze was on me, even though she should have been paying attention to Derek.
"We'll miss you, Gingersnap." I smiled at Derek. "H was a big fish in a little sea, wasn't he?"
Derek nodded and almost smiled back. "Yeah he was."
"One in a million, in fact," Dad added. "The best goldfish ever."
Derek broke away from me to face Dad. "But what about Mr. Balloons?" he asked, his wet gaze burning with loyalty for his other goldfish.
"Oh, he's the best too." Dad flashed a quick smile. "But he's got big fins to fill now that Gingersnap is gone, that's all."
My brother stared at him for a minute, squishing his eyebrows together. Finally, he nodded. "Okay, then."
Mom leaned over my shoulder, one of her loose copper curls tickling my neck. "Are you okay, Lexi?"
I tried not to flinch.
"I'm fine. Really," I whispered back. "It's Derek's fish. Maybe you should ask how he's doing."