Margo sat on her bed, highlighter in hand, marking up her history notes in preparation for her test tomorrow. She had reread the chapter four times tonight, had made up flashcards of the important people, dates and events, and had attended an after school study group. Still, she wasn't sure that she was prepared for the test. She has a grasp on the material, sure, but did she know enough to get a perfect score?
She had been studying all evening, taking only a fifteen minute break to eat a sandwich and go to the bathroom. Also, her mom had interrupted her briefly to ask if she had any thoughts as to what the family would do for Christmas in light of recent events. The recent events being her parent's separation. Margo honestly had no opinion on the matter; she would simply go along with the rest of her siblings like she always did. It didn't really matter what they did anyway; her main plan for the entire Christmas break was to study as much as possible for the examinations that would be administered upon returning to school in January. She had to perform to the best of her abilities on these tests, as they would in part determine her placement in her high school classes for next year.
Her parents, or her mom anyway, were always asking her opinion on these type of things. It seemed like everyone was trying so hard to pretend that their family was really no different even though it was being ripped apart in a divorce. Margo didn't really care. She visited her dad's apartment occasionally, but it was really just another place to do her homework. She didn't have much in common with him anyway, and refused to spend the night because she liked to be in her own room, with everything arranged just so.
She really liked it when Claire would spend the night at their dad's apartment so she could actually have some piece and quiet. The rest of her siblings mostly left her alone, besides Byron, but Claire was always around. It was weird; Claire was easily the most popular girl in the sixth grade, but she rarely did anything with her classmates or friends outside of school. Margo knew that she wasn't happy, despite the fact that they had never really talked about it. Sometimes Margo tried to help Claire with her homework, thinking that getting good grades would help make her happy, but it never worked.
Margo was forever concerned with weather or not people were happy, even though she would never talk about this with anyone. Judging weather someone was happy or not was just something that she did. She knew that Mallory was happy, because she had been able to leave Stoneybrook to go to Riverbend Hall in New Hampshire. Adam was happy sometimes, and Byron had the potential to be happy, but rarely was, because he was only happy when everyone else in their family was happy as well, which was never. Jordan didn't have enough room inside of him to be happy, because he was so angry with everyone and everything. She wasn't sure about Vanessa who mostly kept to herself. She knew that Nicky couldn't be happy, because he was barely passing any of his classes. And of course she knew that Claire wasn't happy. Everyone knew that.
She wondered if her parent's were any happier now that they had become separated. She wasn't sure. Her dad seemed somewhat relived, if that counted, but she could tell that was because he didn't have to really ever deal with all of the kids at once anymore. She didn't think that her mom was happy with the way that things had turned out, but she didn't think that she had been very happy before, either. She pretended that she was, but sometimes, when Margo got up in the middle of the night to study, she could hear her crying.
Margo wasn't even really sure if she was happy. She generally measured her happiness by her grades: nothing was as satisfying as an "A" on a paper or a perfect score on a test. However, this quickly faded and she was left only with her almost constant feelings of inadequacy. If she wasn't happy, she wasn't sad either. She was somewhere in between, just trying to move through life without drawing any extra attention to herself.
She knew that her mom didn't think that she was happy. She didn't come right out and say it, of course, but she was always praising her for her grades and how well she did in school. She was always offering to make her an appointment to talk to a counselor as well. Her mom didn't understand that no matter what happened, as long as she was getting the highest scores possible, things would be okay. As long as her grades were perfect the world made sense and she was able to breathe. That's why she worked so hard on her schoolwork in the first place!
Aside from that, nothing ever really made her that happy. Sometimes Byron forced her out of her bedroom, and she had fun hanging out with her brothers and sisters. Her family really was fun, especially when they were all together. She just didn't have that much time to spend with them, because she always had so much work to do.
It wasn't just her; all of her brothers and sister's had something that they escaped into. Maybe this was how they all made themselves happy, when it was possible. Mallory had her boarding school, the triplets had sports, Vanessa had the school paper, and she had her schoolwork. Nicky and Claire didn't really have an escape, as far as she could tell. Claire especially, just retreated into herself.
Margo didn't really care where she was for Christmas, or which parent she spent it with. What she really wanted was for her entire family, herself included, to be happy, Even if it was only because they had each other.