Coloring Books

It hadn't been as easy as she pretended it to be. Most days were easier than others, she would admit, but on rare occasions, Tracey De Santa really resented her new adopted little sister, Erica. Amanda and Michael adopted their niece less than a year ago and welcomed her into the family. Tracey had been happy to have a little sister but days like these made her incredibly jealous of her.

Erica wasn't really doing anything other than sitting on her knees in front of the coffee table coloring in her coloring book while Tracey sat beside her father on the couch watching an old Western film. She watched the ten year old girl select a color from the box of one hundred sixty four crayons. Her hand hovered over the pink for a moment but then frowned before happily picking up a light orange. Tracey had to stop herself from screaming when she watched the girl start coloring the ballroom dress that orange color. It wouldn't have been as tacky if Erica hadn't made the girl in the picture have goldenrod yellow hair.

The coloring was apparently part of her therapy. Tracey wasn't even sure if Erica liked coloring. The girl would much rather have read books up in her room. The point of coloring, though, was so that she'd sit in the same room as other people and coexist with the family. Maybe she was trying to make the girl in the picture ugly, especially since she picked up the red crayon and colored her shoes red. The woman in the picture looked like a walking sunset especially since Erica colored the entire background blue first. She kind of hoped that was what she was going for; it was either that or her new little sister had a horrible sense when it came to coloring.

When Tracey was little, she had always made sure the people she colored in her coloring books looked pretty. She always gave the girls blonde hair and blue eyes with a pink dress. The shoes were usually silver or the same pink as the dress. She would make the background very colorful and wouldn't make the walls and the couch the same color like Erica.

Tracey knew she was acting childish. After all, she was a good thirteen years older than Erica and she shouldn't be feeling this way towards a ten year old girl. Normally she wouldn't because she was Tracey De Santa and did she really need any other reason? But there was just something about Erica that she resented. Maybe it was because she was a talented dancer while Tracey knew she herself wasn't very good even though she pretended she was. Or it could have been because Erica could sing a little bit too and she could hit notes that existed. But maybe it was because Erica just chose whatever color crayon she wanted and she didn't particularly care if it made sense for the picture. "Going out tonight, Trace?" Michael asked. She looked over to him surprised that he finally said something since he put in that awful movie. She wasn't entirely sure why she was watching it with him since it was pure torture.

"No," she replied simply. Erica continued to color with a frown on her face before she threw the crayon on the table angrily. Tracey watched her as the girl sat there and stared at the picture she just finished coloring.

"Really? No plans?" he queried. Tracey watched Erica reach over towards her left and pulled up another coloring book on the table. This one wasn't just some random princesses to color. Instead, it was characters from Batman. She must have gotten bored with the other one; leave it to Jimmy to get her into comic book characters. And leave it to Erica to admire the villains the most.

"Yeah, really. Is it that hard to believe I just want to stay home tonight?" Tracey asked in an irritated tone. She was already in a bad mood; it was bad enough her friends bailed on her at the last minute. The blonde really didn't need to be reminded of the fact that she didn't have anything to do on a Friday night besides sitting on the couch with her father wasting away.

"Whoa, don't take that tone," Michael replied and took a gulp of his whisky. Tracey held back a frustrated scream and glared at her cousin turned little sister. What was she doing coloring a woman with red hair and green skin? Was she trying to make her a walking Christmas tree? No, that most definitely wasn't okay.

Tracey couldn't hold it back anymore. She had to say something and maybe teach Erica about the proper way to color. "Erica, what are you doing? Don't you want her to be pretty?" she queried. The redhead frowned and looked at the picture she was coloring. She stared at it intently before responding.

"But she is pretty," Erica replied. "Don't you think so, Michael?"

"Of course she is," Michael said and gave Tracey a look. She ignored it as she always did. She didn't want to fight with her father. "Right, Tracey?"

"Right," Tracey grumbled and crossed her arms after she got that particular look from her father. That particular look meant to keep quiet or else there would be serious consequences. Sure, she was an adult but she knew better than to challenge Michael. If it was Amanda on the other hand, well, she had no problem getting into screaming matches with her.

Tracey heard the front door open. Erica got up from her spot on the floor when she saw Amanda come into the room and put her purse down. The girl ran over to Amanda as fast as she could. Her mother bent down and opened her arms for Erica to jump into.

Erica was that perfect daughter Amanda always wanted. Tracey had been and still was incredibly difficult to deal with while Erica did everything that she was told. If Amanda told her to clean her room, Erica nodded and stopped what she was doing to clean it immediately. If Amanda asked her to set the dinner table, Erica would say that she was on it and do it without being asked twice. If Amanda told her that she couldn't go over her friend's house, Erica would say that she understood and tell her friend that she was sorry and still be happy for the rest of the day. If Amanda told Erica to jump off a bridge, the kid would probably do so with a smile on her face.

The way the ten year old ran over to Amanda, one would think she just got back from a week's vacation when in reality she had only been gone for four hours. The two exchanged a few words before Erica went back to her spot in front of the coffee table and resumed coloring the Christmas tree lady. Tracey leaned further back into the couch just knowing that Erica was the favorite and Jimmy was just too stupid to realize that. "Is this enough family time?" Erica asked Michael and Amanda. She eyed Tracey nervously before darting her blue eyes back to her new parents.

"How long has she been down here?" Amanda queried.

"A good hour and a half," Michael said as he checked his watch. Tracey wondered when he would start looking at the cable box for the time rather than the thing on his wrist. Even though he was an excellent thief, he was still old and that made her roll her eyes.

"Well, I just got home," Amanda said to Erica. "Don't you want to sit down with me?" Tracey knew her mother was trying desperately since Erica was kind of regressing to the loner she had once been; she was always a loner and antisocial, but she had been getting better until about a week ago when she decided her room was the best place to hide and her e-reader was her best friend. Erica looked up at her and quickly looked down at her feet nervously. "Okay go ahead," Amanda relented.

"Thanks," Erica said quietly and gathered up her coloring book and crayons. Tracey heard the little thumps as she ran up the stairs and the click of her door shut. Amanda and Michael eyed the exit of the living room anxiously. Tracey noticed this and gave her parents an odd look. Michael saw this and cleared his throat followed by finishing off his whiskey.

"I'm worried about her," Amanda sighed. She sat beside Michael and put her head on his shoulder. Her husband put his arm around her to pull her close. Tracey looked where Erica left and she wondered why Amanda would be worried about her. After all, Erica was the perfect child and there was no denying it; she doubted her parents would tell her otherwise. Sure, she could be socially awkward but everyone thought she was precious and that she'd grow out of being a shy little girl.

"She'll be all right," Michael assured his wife.

"Yeah, mom, she's just a little weird. I mean, Jimmy's pretty weird and you don't, like, worry at all about him," Tracey pointed out.

"Not funny," Michael said sternly.

"Not trying to be," Tracey replied with an annoyed tone to her voice. "But you guys worry about her more than you've ever worried about me," she pointed out. Or at least this was what she felt. She really had no way of knowing if this was true, but she never was fussed over nearly as much as Erica was.

"Instead of being insulted over that," Amanda started. Ah ha! So, it was true! Her mother just admitted it! "Maybe it isn't such a good thing."

"Whatever," Tracey crossed her arms. "I'll be in my room." Blocking out her parents' protests and how they were most likely about to start an argument, Tracey didn't feel like arguing. This was actually rare for her because she was quite an argumentative person, a trait that was passed down to her from both of her parents. There really wasn't any hope for her otherwise. The entire family had an argument going on every single day with one another and Tracey thought it healthy to vent and get out all of their frustrations. She and Amanda had no problem speaking their minds and Michael and Jimmy had no problem with throwing things across the room. Screaming matches were a common occurrence and it didn't really matter. Just that afternoon she and Michael got in a pretty heated argument-Tracey couldn't remember what it was about-and things were screamed, yelled, and insults were thrown. But at the end of it, they were okay.

Tracey even got in an argument with Jimmy over him leaving old food in his room. Since the maid was on vacation, he was doing a spectacular job of stinking up the house whenever his bedroom door was left open. Tracey swore he was going to end up on Hoarders once he got his own place.

As Tracey climbed the stairs, Amanda and Michael were getting into an argument of their own. Sure their marriage was fixed, but the two were hot-headed people and it was bound to happen often. Tracey shook her head and smiled; if people weren't yelling in the house then there was a problem.

But then she thought of something as she peaked into Erica's room and saw her reading a book curled up on her bed. She couldn't remember Erica ever really yelling at anyone over nonsense like the rest of the family did on a daily basis. Sure, Erica got into a few arguments but it wasn't to the extent that things got thrown across the room or her throat was raw from too much shouting.

Now that she thought about it, Erica had been acting a little more strange than usual lately. She was actually regressing back to how she was when she first moved in. She was reading more than usual and she wasn't talking too much. "I know you're there," the red head said to her. "If you're gonna stand there, please close the door. They're being really loud down there."

"Sure," Tracey replied startled. She entered the room and shut the door behind her.

"Why'd you follow me?" Erica queried. Tracey watched the girl put her bookmark to hold her place and put the book down on her nightstand.

"I wasn't planning on it," the blonde haired woman replied truthfully. "We were talking about why you're acting so weird, you know."

"Enlighten me," Erica rolled her eyes.

"Enlighten? Really?" Tracey laughed.

"I read it in this book," she shrugged. "Enlighten. I like that word. It reminds me of…umm…brightness I guess."

"Why'd you want to come up here anyway? You were coloring and then you were like I'm so out of here."

"I felt the tension in the room," Erica replied. "I didn't want to be there when another fight broke out." Tracey sat down on Erica's bed and realized that the reason why Erica was regressing was because of all of the fighting going on in the house! Why had it taken her so long to realize this? Why didn't Amanda or Michael realize it? After all, they were the parents and they should have been aware of it. But the fighting never really bothered Tracey and Jimmy growing up even before they moved to LS. It was just part of life! They were a happy and hot-headed family. Things really only started to get bad when they found out about Michael's cheating followed by Amanda bringing home a handful of different men a month for years.

But Erica was different and there was just something so fragile about her that Tracey wasn't really jealous of. "You just don't like all the yelling at each other. Is that it?"

"I don't like it," Erica said and scooted towards Tracey on the bed.

"You can't take it seriously. We're just a bunch of freaks who enjoy screaming at each other for a little while and then we go get pizza or something."

"I don't try to," Erica replied and Tracey couldn't stop herself from putting a protective arm around her annoyingly perfect little sister. She truly was the purest one in the family as much as she wanted to deny it. "It just bothers me."

"I see how it could," Tracey nodded. But she really couldn't because it never really bothered her. However, she was never as frail as the small girl who was happily cuddling against her as Michael and Amanda screamed about whatever it was they were fighting about in the living room. "Don't let it bother you so much. We're just super loud. But if it does bother you, you could totally tell us and we'll do our best not to yell when you're around," Tracey said. She watched Erica's blue eyes light up when she looked up at her. That girl looked up at Tracey as if she had all of the answers to the world; as if she was the most amazing person to ever walk the Earth and was proud to be her little sister. Tracey wouldn't argue with her about any of that because she thought she was pretty fantastic.

"I guess I gotta use my words," Erica said, probably using the words her therapist used.

"Yeah," Tracey nodded. "Unlike normal people, we totally suck at reading people. You'll learn to be just as loud as the rest of us someday. But until then, let us know, okay?"

"You're the best," Erica said to Tracey and hugged her. After their brief embrace, Tracey looked down at her and smiled.

"Go grab those coloring books and crayons."

"Why? I thought I was coloring wrong," Erica said and looked down at her feet.

"Never mind that. You looked like you were enjoying yourself downstairs and I ruined it. Sorry about that." Tracey wouldn't admit being capable of apologizing and she'd deny it if Erica ever brought it up at the dinner table. If she was found out to have a soft spot for someone that lived under the roof, she'd be expected to respect everyone else all of the time and she wasn't about to do that.

"It's okay," Erica replied and grabbed two coloring books and the box of crayons. She and Tracey laid down on their stomachs on the floor. Tracey didn't think twice about grabbing the princess coloring book and didn't even think to ask which one Erica wanted. The younger girl seemed happy with her Batman one and she immediately opened it up to start coloring. Tracey was going to comment that she shouldn't color the girl's costume all black with a yellow belt because she'd look like a bumble bee and what was attractive about that? Tracey decided to keep this to herself and grabbed the tickle-me-pink crayon and began to color the princess dress pink.

Tracey didn't notice when Erica eyed her as she colored, but she heard her mumble, "She's making her look like chewed up bubblegum."

Erica is back! Because my readers seem to love her so much, I thought why not start a collection of short stories with my OC in here? The idea here is to focus on the family rather than her friends and outside life of the De Santa house. If you guys want to see her with a particular character, scenario, etc. either review or send me a PM and I'll definitely consider them. If you haven't read Awkward Child and/or Please Stay you may be confused as to who Erica is and I suggest you read one or both of them. But you definitely don't have to! Just know that she was adopted by Michael and Amanda. Thanks to everyone who reads and reviews!