The story so far: Opal watches and starts to blend in with the people living with her in this strange house.

One day I got to wondering about the people who lived in this big stone house and their strange way of communicating with each other. They were nothing like my family at home. My family moved their mouth and tongues in peculiar ways and understood what the other wanted. In this big stone house they seemed to have a secret code. They all communicated with each other by making strange faces and odd hand shapes. Then they moved their arms up and down, from side to side and round and round.

I was determined to figure out their secret code!

I watched them from behind trees.

I watched them from behind doors.

One time I saw an older girl frown and wipe a tear from a little girl's eyes. Then the older girl spread out her fingers with both hands. She placed them in front of her own sad face and moved them slowly downward.

Then I saw the woman with the spirals of red sticky-out hair smile and hit her chest upward several times with the palms of her hands.

And I saw the man with the bushy mustache shape his hand like a claw and wiggle his fingers in front of his crinkled-up face.

It seemed that everyone but me knew what they were saying to each other through what seemed to be some sort of strange code. I was going to figure out what that secret code was. I wasn't going to give up either. No way!

Late at night when all the girls were fast asleep, I would practice the odd hand shapes, practice crinkling up my nose, wiggling my eyebrows, and moving my arms about. Even though I didn't know what it all meant I was sure I'd figure out this strange secret code.

Then one night I practiced something I saw the teacher do. She pointed to a picture of a family on the blackboard. Then she spread out her fingers on her right hand, put her thumb on her forehead, and pointed to the picture of the pa. She then moved her thumb on her chin and pointed to the picture of the ma.

So, I stretched out my right hand and put my thumb on my forehead and thought about my pa. Then I put my thumb on my chin and thought about my ma. My eyes opened wide. I looked around at the rows of beds with sleeping girls and smiled.

I had cracked the secret code!

Soon I would surprise them all.

Next week: Sharing the surprise

Author/Illustrator Janie Lancaster

Copyright Janie Lancaster

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