OneThe New Normal
April had never been a normal girl. It wasn’t like that made her special. At all. Seriously. There wasn’t anything special about not having parents or a last name or a birthday—even a really anticlimactic birthday like Christmas or the Fourth of July. No. April wasn’t special, you see. She was simply not normal.
After all, you can’t possibly be normal when you don’t have any money, but you also live in a mansion. When you don’t have a family, but you’re part of the Winterbornes. And, most of all, it’s totally, absolutely, completely impossible to be normal when your roommate is Sadie Marie Simmons, inventor extraordinaire.
“Are you ready?” Sadie asked in a way that April had come to dread. Because Sadie had the Sadie gleam in her eyes and her hands were practically vibrating with glee and anticipation.
So April’s hands started vibrating too. Just for completely opposite reasons. Her voice even cracked a little when she said, “Maybe we should wait on . . . someone.”
But there was no one to wait on, and that was something even April didn’t dare to mention.
“Gabriel’s going to love this,” Sadie told her. “You’ll see. It’s going to be such a big help until Smithers comes back. Or Ms. Nelson.”
She looked sheepish at that last part, and April couldn’t blame her. After all, Smithers had been gone for four weeks. First, to the International Association of Butlers convention, where he’d won the annual—and hotly contested—Buttle-Off (which was a good thing). But the grand prize was a cruise around the world (which was a bad thing). When he called to tell them the news, he swore he’d be home as soon as possible.
But Gabriel . . . Gabriel just swore.
April strongly suspected that had less to do with Smithers’s extended absence and more to do with the fact that it had been three months since Isabella Nelson had fallen into the sea. Sure, Izzy had sent a note, telling them she was alive and well. But she hadn’t come home. And now she’d been gone for twelve weeks. Eighty-four days. Not that April had been counting. (But April had totally been counting.)
Every day, the residents of Winterborne House woke up and hoped she’d be there, telling the kids to stop running on the stairs and Gabriel to shave and tuck his shirt in. But it was starting to look like Isabella Nelson might be gone for good.
Which was almost as scary as the look in Sadie’s eye when she said, “Okay! Goggles ready?”
April didn’t answer. She just grabbed the plastic safety goggles that Smithers bought in bulk and were a standard part of the Sadie Marie Simmons Friendship Package.
No sooner were April’s goggles in place than Sadie was saying, “Now!”
Then she pulled a cord. A moment later, Smithers’s big, fancy stove sprang to life. Flames sparked underneath a heavy cast iron griddle, and a mixer turned on and started stirring batter in a giant bowl. It all seemed harmless enough until the bowl began to slide down a track.
No! April wanted to cry, but the bowl couldn’t have been more stable as it dripped batter onto the hot griddle in perfect little puddles of future pancakes.
“Wait for it . . .” Sadie said a few moments later, and April remembered to be scared. “Now!” Sadie exclaimed just as the piping-hot griddle popped up. The pancakes flipped. And every last one of them landed back on the griddle, perfect as you please.
“It worked,” April said, equal parts stunned and relieved.
“Of course it worked.” Sadie wasn’t mad, and she wasn’t defensive. It was just a data point in a long line of data points—every one of which said that the newest SadieMatic was ready for business.
April’s heart rate was just starting to return to normal when Sadie grabbed a knife and said, “Now it’s time to try bacon!”
But before April could even start to panic, someone said, “I’ll do that, Sade!” and Tim swept into the kitchen. He snatched the sharp knife out of Sadie’s hand before she could attach it to the SadieMatic Twenty, because it was the unwritten rule of Winterborne House that SadieMatics and knives should never, ever mix.
A moment later Tim had the bacon open and a second pan was sizzling on the stove and the whole room smelled like the best thing ever: breakfast. Seriously, April thought. I ought to make a perfume that smells like breakfast. She’d be richer than Gabriel if she did.
But that just made April think about Gabriel. Which made her glance at the clock: ten a.m.
Mornings were coming later and nights were lasting longer, and April had to wonder if it was the time of year or something else that was keeping Winterborne House more and more in the dark.
“Is he up?” April asked, but Tim just looked at her.
“I thought he was down here.”
“I haven’t seen him,” she said, and they both glanced at Sadie, who beamed.
“I’ll get him!” Then she ran to a small panel on the wall that had about a million buttons. They were old and brass, and had no doubt hung there, unused, for decades, but Sadie had recently made it her life’s mission to resurrect the old intercom, and when she pushed the button, there wasn’t even a hint of static as she said, “Gabriel! Kitchen to Gabriel’s room. Gabriel, are you there?”
“He’s not gonna answer if he’s in a mood, Sade,” Tim told her.
But that just made Sadie hold the button down a little more forcefully and yell a little louder, “Gabriel! Gabriel! Gabriel! Gab—” Then Sadie stopped abruptly and looked at Tim and April. “What if he’s not ignoring me? What if he’s gone?”
Tim glanced at April, then back at Sadie. “What do you mean, gone?”
“What if he’s not in his room because he’s . . . you know . . . out there.” Sadie jerked her head toward the windows. “What if he’s . . .” She dropped