The Wild Christmas of 2018
“MOOOOM!” A scream came from Kristina’s bedroom. “HEEEELP MEEEE!”
Mary Wild, who was in the kitchen cooking, left the stove and raced up the stairs to her daughter’s bedroom.
“What’s wrong, Kris?” she asked franticly.
Kristina was standing on her bed, with her blanket pulled tightly around her feet. Her eyes were wide with fear.
As soon as Mary saw that her daughter wasn’t seriously hurt, she looked around the room in confusion.
“Why did you scream, Kris?”
Kristina pointed to a tiny spider on the wooden floor. “It’s going to kill me, Mom! You’ve gotta get it before it gets me!”
Mary sighed and silently removed the spider. Then she turned to her daughter. “Really, Kristina, you are ten years old. You don’t need to scream every time you see a spider. What if there is a real emergency and I thought you were just fooling around?”
“But Mom, this was a real emergency!” Kris cried. “Mark told me that there are poisonous spiders that can KILL people! I’m sure that this spider was out to eat me!”
Mary sighed and shook her head. “I’ll be having a little talk with your brother. And Kris, next time you see a spider, don’t scream. We don’t have poisonous spiders in this house.”
“I’ll try to remember, Mom.” Kris promised.
“That’s my girl.” Mary kissed her daughter’s forehead. She glanced around the room. “And now you can clean up this mess. When was the last time you cleaned your room?”
“Umm…well…” Kris hesitated. “I can’t really remember.”
“That would explain the half-eaten piece of pie from thanksgiving sitting on your dresser.”
Kris laughed nervously. “Woops, I forgot about that. I think I meant to throw that away a month ago.”
“I told you no food in here, Kris!” Mary sighed. “If you don’t start obeying, your dad and I are going to have to start cracking down.”
“I’ll start cleaning my room right now, Mom!” Kris said promptly. She jumped off of her bed and started to pick up the dirty laundry scattered all of her room. Mary smiled at her daughter’s sudden inspiration to clean. Suddenly, Kris stopped and sniffed the air. “Hey mom, do you smell that? It smells like something’s burning!”
Mary gasped. “Oh no! The cake!” She raced out of the room and towards the kitchen. A few moments later, she was taking a very charred vanilla cake out of the oven.
“Oh no, oh no, oh no!” Mary moaned, looking at the inedible cake. “My parents will be here in an hour and I still need to finish dinner! I don’t have time to make another cake!”
A young boy wandered into the kitchen and joined his mom in staring at the black mound sitting on the counter.
“What is that, Mom?” the boy asked. “I hope we’re not having that for supper.”
“It used to be a cake, Mark.” Mary sighed.
“Really? I thought maybe you were making coal to put in Kris’s stocking for Christmas!” Mark laughed.
“Thanks Mark.” Mary said. “Maybe I’ll put some coal in your stocking this year.”
Mark stepped back a few steps. “I was just kidding, Mom. That thing somewhat resembles a cake. I’m sure if you covered it with lots of icing no one would mind.”
Mary shook her head. “Mark, I want to talk to you about some things…First of all, what have you been telling your sister about spiders?”
Just then the doorbell rang.
“Oh, I better go get that! It’s probably Grandma and Grandpa. They must be early again! Bye Mom!” Mark raced out of the kitchen, happy for a quick escape.
Mary followed Mark to the living room. Her parents, Amanda and John Miller, had just stepped inside. The snow outside fluttered down quietly and covered everything in a thin blanket of white.
“Welcome Mom and Dad!” Mary hugged her parents quickly. “You’re early!”
“Yeah, well we thought we’d get started a bit sooner so that we could spend a bit more time together.” Amanda laid a heavy suitcase down on the floor and shook the snow from her coat.
“That’s great!” Mary said with a forced smile. She glanced around at the half clean living room that was supposed to be fully cleaned. “I haven’t really finished much of the food preparations yet, so you both can just spend some time with the kids while I finish dinner. We’ll eat as soon as Bruce gets home from work.”
“That sounds lovely, dear.” Amanda said. “Do you want me to help you in the kitchen?”
“Oh no, that’s okay.” Mary answered quickly. “You just spend time with the kids.”
“She doesn’t want you to see the cake she burnt.” Mark interjected.
“Thanks for reading my mind, Mark.” Mary sighed and quickly disappeared into the kitchen.
Mark smiled at his grandparents. “I’ll take your suitcases to your room for you!” he picked one of them up. “Wow, this sure is heavy! What’s in this?”
John smiled. “Maybe it has something for you and your sisters.”
“YES!” Mark shouted. “Let me carry this one!”
“Oh wait,” John said, “that one just has clothes in it. This one here that I’m holding has the presents in it!”
“Grandpa!” Mark laughed.
They made their way to a small guest room that was the only bedroom on the first floor of the house.
“So, where are your sisters? I haven’t seen Emily or Kris yet.” Amanda asked when the baggage had been carefully set down in the guest room.
Mark shrugged. “I don’t know. They around here somewhere. Probably in their rooms. I’m surprised they haven’t come to say hi yet. They should have heard you come in.”
“Well, we can go up to their rooms and see what they’re up to.” John suggested.
“Sounds fine to me!” Mark said.
Amanda plopped down on the couch. “If you don’t mind, I’ll just sit here for a while. Driving seven hours has worn me out!”
Mark and John ascended the stairs. A racket played loudly upon their ears.
“What is that?!” John shouted over the noise.
“I have no idea!” Mark stuck his fingers in his ears and advanced towards his older sister’s room, where the loud noises were coming from. “Come on, Grandpa!”
Glancing in Kris’s room as they past, they saw that it was deserted. Emily’s room was at the very end of the hallway. As they approached, the noises grew louder and louder.
Finally, Mark and John reached the end of the journey. Sticking their heads through the open door, they saw a strange sight. Twelve-year-old Emily was sitting on her bed, singing as loud as possible. Kris was standing before her, using two pans as a musical instrument. She was also singing. Both girls had their eyes closed and their heads thrown back.
“WHAT ARE YOU BOTH DOING?!” Mark screamed as loud as he could and hoped that his words would find their way over the ruckus and to his sisters.
Somehow, they did. Emily stopped singing and stared at them with her mouth open. Kris dropped the pans and hid behind her older sister.
A deep crimson flushed Emily’s face when she saw her astonished brother and grandfather standing at the door.
“Oh, hi Grandpa!” she said awkwardly. “I didn’t know you were here yet. How long have you been standing there?”
John laughed and rubbed his ear. “Long enough to see your little…uh…band in action.”
Mark burst out laughing. “What were you doing?” He glanced at the pans that lay on the floor. “Kris, Mom isn’t going to be happy that you’ve been using her pans as drums.”
“I was using them as cymbals, Mark!” A muffled voice said from behind Emily’s back. “You won’t tell Mom and Dad, will you?”
Mark laughed. “I think it’s my duty as a brother to tell them! They’ll think it’s hysterical!”
Kris sighed, remembering the talk with her mother earlier. “I don’t think they’ll think it’s quite as funny as you do.”
“What were you doing anyway?” John asked.
“It was Emily’s idea!” Kris said quickly.
“Kris!” Emily gasped. “Don’t tell them that!”
Emily sighed. “Okay, so it was my idea. I wanted to have a little band with Kris. Maybe we got a little carried away…”
“A little?” Mark laughed. “You got more than a little carried away! And you defiantly need to improve your band. My first suggestion would be to get some real instruments.”
“We already tried.” Kris said, sticking her head out from behind Emily. “We asked Mom if we could buy some but she said that they’re too expensive. So we had to compromise. Hi Grandpa.” She ran over to her grandfather and gave him a big hug. “I’m glad you came! How long do you get to stay?”
Grandpa smiled. “Well, we’ll stay today –”
“Which is Christmas Eve.” Mark put in.
“I always wondered why they call it Christmas Eve. Why not Christmas Adam?” Kris mused. “What were you saying, Grandpa?”
Grandpa smiled. “We’ll stay tomorrow as well and leave on Wednesday.”
“Which is the day after Christmas.” Mark added.
Grandpa nodded. “Yes. We wanted to be here with you for the holidays.”
“I’m sooo glad that you came!” Kris laughed and hugged her grandfather again. “I’m going to go see Grandma! Bye!” She bounced out of the room.
Emily smiled at John. “Can you just erase this whole scene from your mind?”
“I can try, but I’m not sure it’ll work.” John smiled back.
“I certainly won’t ever forget this!” Mark laughed. “This is the funniest thing that you’ve done yet! Oh wait, no, it isn’t the funniest thing. Remember when you and Kris thought it was a good idea to try to unclog the toilets using toothbrushes?”
“That was a long time ago!” Emily cried. “And you were right there with us!”
“Toothbrushes?” Grandpa looked quizzically at his young grandchildren.
“Never mind, Grandpa.” Emily said. “We should probably go see if it is supper time.”
Grandpa laughed loudly. “That sounds like a good idea!”
They all walked downstairs. They saw Amanda and Kris chatting in the living room. Just then the door opened and a man stepped through. He shook the snow off of his hat and took off his boots.
“I’m home!” He called.
“Daddy!” Kris jumped off the couch and into her father’s arms. “Grandma and Grandpa got here early!”
Bruce smiled at his little daughter. “I’m glad they got here safely.” He glanced towards the window. Everything was already dark outside. “They think we’ll have a big snow storm coming through here tonight.”
“Who are they, Daddy?” Kris asked.
Bruce laughed and tousled her hair. “Now that’s what we all wonder, don’t we?”
After greeting his in-laws, he went into the kitchen to see how his wife was doing. He found Mary standing in front of the stove, near tears.
“What’s wrong, Love?” He asked.
Mary started crying. “Everything! Mark scared Kris. Kris screamed about the spider and I went to kill it. And the cake got burnt and then I started supper and added too much broth to the soup and then I remembered that my mom hates soup! And so I got decided to make mashed potatoes and fried chicken, but I didn’t have enough potatoes and I burnt the chicken and –”
“Calm down, Mary!” Bruce said. “I can’t understand a word you’ve said! A spider and burnt food? Calm down and start from the beginning.”
Mary took a deep breath and began to explain her afternoon. After she had finished, she started crying again and added, “And now everyone is hungry and I don’t have anything to feed them!”
“We could call out for pizza.” Bruce suggested.
“You sound like Mark.” Mary managed a smile.
“So that’s where he gets it from!” Bruce chuckled. “But seriously, we could go out to eat tonight.”
Mary nodded wearily. “Might as well. I think today is just a bad cooking day for me.”
“Let’s go make the announcement to the kids.” Bruce took his wife by the hand and led her to the living room. “I don’t think they’ll complain.”
“Hey Mom, are you okay?” Kris asked, as her mother entered the room. “Your eyes look a little red.”
Mary smiled. “I’ll be fine.”
Bruce cleared his throat. “We thought we’d go out to eat tonight, if that’s fine with everyone.”
“YES!” Kris and Emily shouted together.
Mark smiled brightly. Then he looked at his mother and said, “Hey, what were you doing in the kitchen all afternoon? I hope you weren’t playing video games!”
Bruce looked sternly at his son. “Mark, I don’t want you to talk to your mother like that.”
“I’m sorry, Mom.” Mark said, somewhat shamefaced.
“I forgive you, Mark.” Mary smiled and patted his head.
“Where are we going to eat?” John asked.
Bruce shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter. Where do you guys like eating?”
“I want to go eat at a buffet!” Kris said happily.
After much debate, and some angry outbursts from Mark and Kris (when the seafood restaurants were mentioned), everyone finally agreed on going to Culvers.
“Okay kids, let’s head out to the car! We can all fit in our van!” Bruce called.
A few hours later, the family returned home after a nice meal. It had already begun to snow heavily and they were all thankful for the warmth of the house.
“I’ll go make some hot chocolate for our dessert.” Mary said after she had taken her coat off.
“That sounds wonderful, dear, thank you.” Bruce said.
“I’ll come help you, Honey.” Amanda said.
Mary and Amanda disappeared into the kitchen. Bruce and John settled down on the couch to talk. The three Wild children sat down on the carpet to have an in depth talk about the use of the rest of their evening.
“I think we should have a board game marathon!” Kris suggested brightly.
“Nah, I’m looking for something with a little more excitement.” Mark said.
“We could stay up all night and play music and…do fun stuff…” Emily said.
Mark’s eyes lit up. “You know, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea!”
Emily blinked. “I was joking, Mark.”
“But I wasn’t!” Mark said, jumping to his feet with excitement. “We need to plan!”
“Plan for what?” Emily asked.
“Our great Christmas adventure!” Mark shouted enthusiastically. “We are going to stay up all night!”
“Define all night….” Emily said unenthusiastically.
“You know, we stay up the entire night. We don’t go to sleep until tomorrow night.”
Kris gasped. “But you told me that people die without sleep!”
Mark scratched the back of his head nervously and hoped that Bruce hadn’t heard. “Kris, we don’t die because we missed one night of sleep.”
Kris still looked suspicious. “Fine, I’ll do it. But if you start looking pale or start fainting, then I’m going to sleep right away.”
Emily interrupted. “Hey guys, I’m sure you both are really excited to stay up all night long, but tomorrow is Christmas Day. If we’re all exhausted and grumpy, then we won’t have any fun!”
Kris nodded and looked at Mark. “She has a good point, you know.”
Mark smiled. “What better way to welcome Christmas in than to stay up all night playing loud music and keeping everyone awake?!”
Emily sighed. “I really don’t think we can stay awake all night.”
Mark took that statement as a challenge. “Watch me!”
Emily sighed again. “Well, I’ll do it. I guess it could be kind of fun! But we still have to ask Mom and Dad.”
“I’ll go ask them right now!” Mark said, jumping up.
“I’ll help you!” Kris said, getting to her feet.
“Wait guys!” Emily held up her hand. “If you want this plan to work, you two had better just sit down. I’ll go ask Mom and Dad.”
A few minutes later she returned with a triumphant smile on her face.
“What did they say?” Mark questioned eagerly.
“They said that we could do it!” Emily squealed with delight. “They asked what we planned to do and they said no loud music.”
“Oh no!” Mark cried.
“They also said no movies.”
“What are we supposed to do for fun?” Mark wailed.
“They said not too many snacks because they don’t want us sick on Christmas.”
Kris gasped. “Not many snacks?!”
“No science experiments. No using the stove. No making a fire in the fireplace. No peaking at the Christmas presents.”
“But they said no to all the fun stuff I was planning to do!” Mark looked distressed.
Emily continued. “They said that we have to be quiet because all of the adults will be sleeping. If we wake them up more than three times, they said that we’ll have to go to bed.”
Mark jumped up and down. “This is going to be so much fun! I can’t wait! I am going to stay up until tomorrow night!!!”
Kris yawned. “Hey, can I take a nap before our big night? I’m feeling kind of tired already.”
Emily giggled. “Sure Kris. Lay down for a while.”
“Thanks Emily.” Kris mumbled sleepily. She grabbed a couch pillow and lay down on the floor. In a matter of minutes, she was off in dream land.
For the next few minutes Mark and Emily talked and planned for the night ahead of them. Then Bruce called everyone into the living room.
Once everyone was settled on various pieces of furniture, Bruce said, “I know that everyone is excited for this Christmas.”
“I know that I am!” Mark laughed.
“Thank you, Mark.” Bruce said, secretly hoping that he would be able to finish his little talk without too many interruptions from his talkative son. “It’s easy to forget what Christmas is all about. We get so wrapped up in the gifts and the lights and the food that we forget why we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Jesus’s birth and his coming to the world to save us from our sins! I want to read about his birth right now.” Taking a bible from the coffee table, he turned to Luke chapter two and proceeded to read it aloud. “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Bruce laid down the bible and looked tenderly at each of his children. “We’ve heard this story so many times that sometimes we forget how important it is.”
John nodded. “This was God coming to earth for us.”
Emily’s face was serious as she said, “I think God really loves us. If he was willing to live in this world and then to die the terrible death on the cross for us, I think that shows that he loves us.”
“I agree with her.” Mark added solemnly. “God really cares about each part of us.”
Mary smiled. “You know, Mark, I’ve never heard you say anything like that.”
Mark smiled. “I think about it all the time, I just don’t let on much.”
“Maybe you could let on a little more!” Bruce ruffled his son’s hair. He turned to John and Amanda. “Well, I think Mary and I are going to head to bed.”
John stood up. “Yeah, I think Amanda and I’ll get some shuteye, too.”
After saying goodnight to their kids and grandkids, Amanda and John headed to their bedroom.
“Goodnight Dad! Goodnight Mom!” Mark said brightly. “We’ll see you after you get up in the morning!”
“Goodnight, Emily and Mark.” Mary said. “I hope you won’t regret this!”
“I never regret my choices!” Mark laughed.
Emily glanced at her brother. “Mark, just about every time you make a choice like this, you regret it.”
Mark hung his head. “Well, I hope this one will turn out better than the last one…or two…or ten…”
“Or twenty!” Emily laughed.
Mark growled. “Don’t rub it in.”
“Goodnight kids!” Mary and Bruce called once more.
As soon as their parents were out of sight, Mark rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
“Let the fun begin!” He shouted.
Emily glared at him. “Mark! Be quite! If we’re too loud, we’ll have to go to bed.”
Emily shook her head and seated herself on the couch. Mark plopped down beside her.
Mark glanced at his little sister who was asleep on the carpet. “So should we wake Kris up?”
Emily smiled at her sister before saying, “No, I think we should let her sleep for now. She’ll probably wake up on her own very soon.”
“You sound so confident in that.” Mark looked at Emily curiously. “Why?”
Emily giggled. “I’m sure of it because I’m sure that you’ll make enough noise to wake her up! But seriously, we should let her sleep. That way when she does wake up, she’ll be happy instead of grumpy.”
Mark nodded. “Good point. So what do you wanna do first?”
Emily shrugged. “I don’t care. I’m not sure what people do on these long stay ups. What do you want to do?”
“I’m not quite sure yet.” Mark sighed. “Mom and Dad said no to all the fun stuff I wanted to do. But I can always compromise. We’ll have lots of fun! But first, let’s find a way to document this night. This is a big thing in my life!”
“We could use that old recorder you have in your room!” Emily suggested.
“Great! I’ll go get it!”
Mark ran to his room and returned a good fifteen minutes later.
“What took you so long?” Emily asked. “I was beginning to think that a monster had eaten you!”
Mark laughed. “Don’t be silly, Emily. Monsters aren’t real.”
“You told Kris they were.” Emily said. “Now she won’t sleep in her own room at night! She either sleeps on the floor right by my bed or she goes with Mom and Dad.”
“I was just kidding!” Mark said. “I didn’t think she would believe me! Anyway, here is the recorder. It was stuck way under my bed and it took me a long time to get it out because it was behind all of the stuff.”
“Does it still work?” Emily eyed the slightly smashed thing with suspicion.
“I hope so. Let’s test it out.”
A test run proved that the recorder still worked.
“Okay Emily, it’s all ready if you want to start narrating our evening. Every couple hours we’ll come say a few words to the recorder.”
Emily cleared her throat and began, “Ten-thirty pm. Christmas Eve 2018. Everything around me right now is dark. Our only light is that of the Christmas tree –”
“EMILY!” Mark said loudly. “CHRISTMAS TREES DON’T GLOW!”
Emily ignored her brother and continued with her recording. “The lights on the tree shine brightly around me. While everyone else sleeps, Mark and I brave the night without sleep.”
Mark grabbed the recorder. “Emily, you’re sounding too perfect. This needs to sound cool. I’ll have to record from now on.” He smiled proudly and turned his attention to the recorder. “Emily and I are going to stay up the whole night tonight. Kris was going to be doing it with us, but she’s already asleep. She’ll probably wake up later. Emily and I are going to document this momentous night in history!” He stopped the recorder and turned to Emily. “This is going to be so much fun!!! It’s time to start havin’ fun!”
“I thought that’s what we were doing, Mark.” Emily said dryly.
“I mean some real fun.”
“Like it’s time to party! Crank up the music, get all the sugary foods out and let’s open our Christmas presents early!”
“No, Mark.” Emily sighed at her brother’s forgetfulness. “Those were all the things Mom and Dad told us not to do.”
Mark jabbed his sister’s arm. “I was just kidding. I’m going to have to make a list of fun stuff to do.”
“Okay.” Emily said. “While you’re doing that, I’ll just go back into the living room and read a book.”
A few minutes later Mark came into the living room, his arms full of board games.
“Let’s have a board game marathon.” He said.
Emily giggled to herself. “Okay, that’s fine with me!”
It was twelve-thirty by the time Mark and Emily had finished their board games.
“I won fifteen out of twenty!” Emily said triumphantly.
“You must have been cheating somehow.” Mark grumbled. “There is no way I actually did that badly on the games!”
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Kris was still peacefully sleeping. Mark yawned. “I’m getting kind of tired. I need something that’ll really wake me up.”
Emily looked suspicious. “Like what?”
A twinkle came into Mark’s eye and he laughed. “Oh you’ll see soon enough!” He left the room and returned a minute later, holding two flashlights.
“Why do you have flashlights?”
Mark waved them in the air. “We are going to go into the backyard and make a big snowman! Won’t Mom and Dad be surprised when they wake up and see a huge snowman in the backyard?!”
Emily nodded. “They’ll be surprised all right.” She sighed. “They probably won’t be pleased that we went outside after midnight.”
“I’m sure they won’t mind.” Mark said. “I’m so sure that if they do get mad at us, you can say it’s all my fault and I will take the blame completely for it.”
“Oh fine.” Emily said. “Let me get my coat on and we can go out.”
Quietly the two kids slipped their coats on. They grabbed their flashlights and hurried out the backdoor, shutting it quietly behind them.
They were met by a rush of cold air and snow that flung itself in their faces.
“Ouch!” Emily cried. “You didn’t say that it was snowing this hard!”
“I didn’t know!” Mark shivered. “We better make the snowman fast. I already feel my fingers freezing!”
Needless to say, the kids didn’t have much fun as they labored in the cold, making a large snowman.
“We finally finished the body!” Mark said, through chattering teeth. “Do you have a hat and something for the eyes and mouth?”
“We forgot to bring that out!” Emily said. “Just take off your hat and use that!”
Mark did as he was told. The snowman soon had a small hat, two gloves for eyes and smile that was hastily drawn with a stick.
“That looks great, Mark!” Emily said quickly. “Now let’s just get inside out of the cold!”
Mark and Emily hurried inside. They kicked their boots off and threw their coats down. They didn’t notice how much snow they had accidently brought inside.
“Ah, that’s better.” Mark rubbed his hands together. “I’m still half frozen, though.”
Emily laughed. “Well, at least that kept us busy for a while. It’s one-thirty now.”
“Just a few more hours until morning!” Mark said. “I think I’ll take a nap around nine AM.”
“That sounds really good.” Emily said sleepily. The warmth of the house was making her tired.
Mark shivered again. “I need something that’ll warm me up. How about I make us a cup of coffee?”
Emily laughed. “Mark, you don’t know how to make coffee.”
“I’ve seen Dad do it with the coffee maker.” Mark protested. “I’m sure I could figure it out.”
“I don’t think it’s such a good idea…”
“Look, you just sit in the living room. I’ll make the coffee. I’ll even let you record on the recorder.”
Mark hurried to the kitchen and Emily grabbed the recorder.
“One-thirty-five AM. I am sitting on the couch freezing right now. Kris is still asleep. Mark and I just came inside from making a very giant and hastily constructed snowman. It’s really cold outside. It’s snowed all night. I think we’ll have a lot of snow by morning time! I hope that we can go sledding tomorrow! Kris would love that! I just hope that Mark and I are awake enough to enjoy Christmas Day. Earlier, this idea of staying up all night seemed so great. But now I just want to go to sleep. Kris looks so cute! She’s just lying on the floor, sucking her thumb and blissfully unaware of anything else that is going on!” Emily paused to yawn. “Mark is making coffee right now. I wonder if he’s okay…there are weird sounds coming from the kitchen…I thought he said that he knew how to use the coffee maker…I’d better go check on him. Signing off for now, Emily Wild.”
Emily set the recorder down and hurried to the kitchen. When she reached the door, she stopped in shock.
“Mark…what happened here?”
Mark was standing by the kitchen counter in front of the coffee maker. Cream, coffee beans and water were splattered and splashed all over the floor, the cabinets and the counter.
“I’m not sure.” Mark stuttered. “I thought I knew how to work this thing, but apparently I don’t.”
“I’d say!” Emily said. “Mom and Dad are not going to be happy when they see this!”
Just then they heard someone clear his throat behind them. Mark and Emily jumped and whirled around. They saw John standing in the kitchen door way.
Mark jumped in front of the coffee maker and did his best to hide it.
“Hi Grandpa!” Emily said nervously. “What are you doing up at this time of night?”
“I was getting a drink of water.” John said. “Apparently you two were trying to drink something else?”
“Coffee, Grandpa!” Mark said. “We were just trying to get a nice cup of coffee but something went wrong with the machine.”
“Do your parents even let you drink coffee?” John asked sternly.
“Not normally…” Mark said. “I’ve had it two or three time.”
“We were cold and we needed something to warm us up.” Emily offered.
“It’s plenty warm in the house.” John looked suspicious. “Why were you cold?”
Emily started to answer, but Mark cut her short. “We were just, umm, feeling really, umm, cold because…”
John shook his head and sighed. “I’m going back to bed. I suggest you kids do the same.” He got a glass of water and then returned to his bedroom.
Emily and Mark stood still and silent for a moment.
“We’d better get this cleaned up before someone else comes in.” Mark said.
Emily nodded. They both grabbed rags. Mark started cleaning the counter while Emily worked on the cabinets.
“What are you doing?” There was a little person standing at the kitchen entrance.
Mark and Emily both screamed. When they saw that it was just Kris, they sighed with relief.
“Why did you scream?” Kris looked confused. “And why is the kitchen a mess? And the entry way by the backdoor is soaking with water. It looks like someone brought a whole bunch of snow inside! I wake up and find the house a wreck! Mom and Dad aren’t going to be happy!”
“Oh no!” Emily moaned. “The snow must have melted from our boots! I’ll go clean it up. Kris, grab a rag and help Mark clean up the floor.”
Forty-five minutes later, Emily, Mark and Kris sat in the living room.
“That was a big disaster.” Mark sighed. “And I still don’t have my cup of coffee.”
Kris looked at Mark. “Mark, why did you use the coffee maker when you could have just used the instant coffee we have?”
“I forgot about it!” Mark banged hand down on the side of the couch. “Come to think of it, Dad hasn’t used the coffee maker ever since it started malfunctioning a month ago.”
“Why didn’t you think of that before you made a huge mess?” Emily asked with annoyance.
“I don’t know.” Mark moaned. “I think I’ll just go sit by myself for a while and stare at the Christmas lights.” He got up and sat down in front of the Christmas tree.
A few seconds later, the lights blinked and then the Wild children were sitting in complete darkness…and silence. They didn’t hear the normal hum of the fridge or the computers. Kris, who was terrified of the dark, grabbed Emily’s arm and clung to it for dear life.
“What happened?” Emily asked hastily.
“Did you do something, Mark!” Kris asked in a trembling voice. “Because it isn’t funny! Make the lights come back!”
“I didn’t do it!” Mark said quickly. He didn’t want to get blamed for something that wasn’t his fault. “I was just sitting there and then the lights just went away!”
“The power must have gone out.” Emily said. Her eyes were starting to adjust to the darkness. Mark found a flashlight and turned it on. Kris breathed a sigh of relief.
Emily walked to the window and looked out. She couldn’t see much. She turned to the others. “It must be because of the snow storm.” She concluded. “I’m sure they’ll get the power back on soon.”
“Should we tell Mom and Dad?” Kris asked.
Mark shrugged. “They’ll find out when they wake up. We don’t want to bother them right now.”
Emily glared at her brother. “Or you just don’t want them to find out about your coffee idea. You know they are going to find out. It’ll be better for them to hear it from us than from anyone else.”
“I’ll tell them.” Mark promised. “In the morning.”
“What do we do while we wait for the lights to turn on again?” Kris asked nervously. “I wish I had just kept sleeping!”
“We can have just as much fun as we would with the power on.” Emily said. “First, let’s go to our rooms and get a bunch of blankets. I’m still cold from our snowman adventure. Then we can get some books and read with our flashlights.”
Mark was too mortified by his experience with the coffee maker to suggest anything else. Kris readily agreed with just about anything her older siblings wanted to do. For an hour, the three children read books. Kris quickly fell asleep again.
“What time is it?” Mark asked, setting his book down.
“It’s five-twenty.” Emily said with a yawn. “We’re almost there. It’s only two hours and forty minutes until sunrise.”
“That’s too long!” Mark wailed. “I am so tired! I don’t care about anything other than sleep right now!”
“Me either.” Emily yawned again.
“I think we should just fall asleep for the last couple hours. We stayed up until after five. I’d say that’s enough.” Mark mumbled.
“I’d say you’re right.” Emily said. She closed her eyes and was asleep immediately. Mark joined her in dreamland a few seconds later.
Around eight, Bruce woke up. He was surprised by the absence of noise from the downstairs. He dressed and went down stairs for his morning cup of instant coffee. He smiled at the sight that met his eyes. His three children were curled up in a pile of blankets. They were all fast asleep.
“I’m glad they got some sleep.” Bruce said to himself. “The power went out last night. I hope the kids weren’t scared.”
He went into the kitchen and a strange expression crossed his face. “What happened in here?”
There was a pile of dirty rags sitting by the kitchen sink. The floor and counter still had cream and coffee beans on them, from where Mark had missed.
“I hope the kids didn’t try to use the coffee maker.” Bruce sighed. “I knew it was a bad idea to let them stay up all night. What is that?!” He had caught site of a large white thing in his backyard. Looking closer he saw that it was a roughly made snowman with gloves for eyes. Mark’s hat lay on the ground beside it.
Bruce shook his head in disbelief. “They went outside last night! I’ll need to have a talk with them when they get up!”
A little later Mary, Amanda and John woke up and came into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Sadly, the power was still out and their stove wasn’t working, so they couldn’t boil the water to dissolve the coffee. No one really wanted a cold cup of coffee. John related what he had seen from the night before. Despite himself, Bruce couldn’t help chuckling at Mark’s coffee disaster. Around ten, the kids began to wake up.
Mark rubbed his eyes. “What happened? Why aren’t we in bed?” Quickly he remembered the events of the previous night. Hearing his father chatting in the dining room, he quietly lay down again. “Maybe I’ll just sleep until Dad makes me get out of bed. I don’t want to have to tell Dad and Mom about the coffee incident.”
Kris woke up a minute later. She shouted, “CHRISTMAS DAAAY!”
The noise woke Emily and brought the parents and grandparents into the living room.
“So you finally woke up, sleepy heads?” Mary smiled. “I thought you were going to stay up all night!”
“We tried.” Emily yawned. “We made it to five-thirty and then we fell to sleep.”
Mary tousled Kris’s hair. “Well, I’m glad you all got at least a little bit of rest.”
Kris stretched. “Me too. I’m ready for our special Christmas pancake breakfast…” She stopped and smelled the air. “Hey, I don’t smell the pancakes cooking. Did you guys eat already?”
“Sorry kiddo, we won’t be having pancakes today.” Bruce said. “There is a power outage from the storm last night. We don’t know when the power will come back on. But until it does, our stove won’t work.”
Kris’s eyes widened. “But how will we cook our food? Will the power ever come back?! How will we stay warm?”
Mary smiled. “We’ll just have to eat food that doesn’t need to be cooked. And yes, Kris, the power will come back on.”
Kris sighed with relief. “Good.”
Never worried about one thing for more than five minutes, Kris grabbed a board game and rushed to her grandparents to see if they wanted to play.
Bruce cleared his throat. Emily and Mark knew they were in trouble. “Did you kids try to use the coffee maker last night?”
Emily looked at Mark. He sighed and said, “Yeah, we forgot that it was broken.”
“We’re really sorry.” Emily added.
“How did you find out about it?” Mark asked curiously.
“The counter was a mess!” Bruce laughed.
Emily glared at Mark. “I thought you said you cleaned it up!”
“I thought I did.” Mark said. “I guess in the dark I missed some of it!”
“And we’ll talk about your punishments later.” Bruce added. “For now, let’s go to the table. We have cereal and milk for breakfast. We have to eat up the perishable stuff before it perishes!”
“We could always set it out on the patio.” Mark suggested. “It’s probably cold enough there to stay frozen for a month!”
After breakfast and meal cleanup was over, the kids, parents and grandparents went into the living room.
“Is it time?” Kris asked eagerly looking towards the Christmas tree with a few presents sitting under it.
Everyone settled down and opened fun gifts.
“Oh wow!” Emily gasped. “Grandma, Grandpa, these earrings are so pretty! Thank you!”
“COOL!” Mark yelled. “This is the remote control car I wanted!”
“Oooh!” Kris cooed. “This is the cutest doll ever! Thank you!”
For the rest of the morning the kids played with their new gifts. John, Amanda, Mary and Bruce chatted. By one o’clock, everyone was hungry. The new toys seemed to have lost some of their charm. Mark and Kris were sitting against the wall, looking bored. Emily was sewing a doll blanket with Amanda.
“What do you want to do for lunch?” Bruce asked.
Mary shrugged. “I can probably put something together. It’s too bad that the power hasn’t come back on yet. We won’t be able to get the turkey cooked for supper!”
Mark moaned. “We won’t be able to have a Christmas dinner?! Why did the power have to go out on today of all days?” He slumped back against the wall and sighed.
“We shouldn’t mope.” John said. “I recall, Mark, that earlier you said something showing me your model airplanes?”
Mark stood up. “Okay, let’s go look at them!”
“I’ll come, too!” Kris said happily.
The power didn’t come on for the rest of the day. The family, however, had a fun evening eating crackers and playing board games around the table. Later that night, when the children were curled up in bed, Mary went to wish them all a goodnight. She went to Mark’s room first.
“Goodnight Mark.” She whispered.
He nodded. “Goodnight Mom.” He rolled over. As Mary was leaving the room, she heard a voice say, “It wasn’t the day that I had in mind, but it ended up being a really good day. Family memories are the best.”
Mary smiled and silently agreed. Much in the life of the Wild family had not been what was expected. But they all agreed that it was the best life they could ever ask for.
A New Friend
“Are you ready to go, kids?” Mary Wild called loudly from the living room. “Your dad is already out in the van waiting for us!”
There was a scrambling of young feet and then three children stood in the living room before their mother.
“I’m ready, Mom.” Mark said, as he slipped his flip-flops on his bare feet.
Mary shook her head and pointed to his feet. “Mark, you can’t wear those shoes.”
Mark glanced down at his black flip-flops. “What’s wrong with them, Mom?”
“Besides the fact that there is three inches of snow outside and that those flip-flops were supposed to be packed away months ago, nothing’s wrong.”
Mark sighed and quickly put his boots on. “They’re just so hot.” He complained.
Emily and Kris put their own boots on and hurried out to the van, where their dad was waiting.
“What took you guys so long?” Bruce asked, turning around and eyeing Mark suspiciously.
“Don’t look at me, Dad!” Mark squirmed. “I had to help Kris get the gum out of her coat!”
Bruce backed the car out of the drive way and the Wild family was off on another adventure…this time, it would happen in the least expected place.
“Okay, we’re at the thrift store.” Bruce said, as he stopped the car in front of one of the two thrift stores in their small town. “Mary, you, Emily and Kris can start clothes shopping here. Mark and I will get the stuff from the hardware store and then meet you back here in an hour.”
Mary nodded. “Sounds good. Come on girls.”
Mary, Emily and Kris walked inside and looked around at the dirty floors. Kris sneezed in response to the dust that met her.
“Why do we have to buy all of our clothes here?” Emily wailed. “All the other girls at church have fancy, brand-new clothes and here we are buying old clothes from a dirty shop. It’s embarrassing!”
Kris put on her saddest face and added, “It’s because we’re soooo poor.”
“We’re not poor.” Mary said quickly. “We just don’t have extra money to spend on things like brand-new clothes. Have you seen the prices on some of those things?”
“In other words, we’re poor.” Emily sighed. “I just hope no one sees me shopping in here.”
“We always shop here and it hasn’t bothered you so much before.” Mary started walking towards the ladies clothes section. “I’ll look over here, girls. You check out your sizes and we’ll meet back later.”
Emily reluctantly walked towards the girls clothes muttering something about living off the leftovers. Kris went in the opposite direction to look at the toys.
Emily soon had her hands full of shirts and skirts. As she was walking to find Kris, she bumped into someone and her “new” clothes fell all over the floor.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Emily muttered, as she glanced at the person with whom she had collided. It appeared that she had run into a girl who was about her age. Her hair was bright red and frizzled. No one would call her pretty, but there was something very attractive about her.
The girl grabbed Emily’s hands and said dramatically, “Oh I am terribly sorry! What an awful person I am! I should have been more careful! Now through my thoughtlessness all of your brand-new clothes are scattered on this bug and dirt infested floor! Forgive my clumsiness, darling! Don’t say that you hate me or I will cry myself to sleep for the next ten years!” Here, much to Emily’s surprise, she fell on her knees, clasped her hands together and looked up with imploring eyes.
Emily stepped back a few feet and tried to recover from the dramatic nature of the girl kneeling in front of her. “Umm, sure, I’ll forgive you…”
The girl jumped up. “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you! You have no idea how good it feels to be forgiven – or how great it feels to get my knees off that floor. It sure it hard!”
Emily tried to smile politely. “Umm…I’m Emily Wild. What is your name?”
The girl twirled around and then bowed. “My name is Miss Jessica Hunter. I’m thirteen years old. You say that your last name is Wild? What an interesting last name! Are you a wild kind of family?” Without waiting for Emily to answer, Jessica continued. “I think that my last name, Hunter, is cool. I mean, I could be seen as soooo many different things! There is such possibility in that name! A hunter of animals, a hunter of beauty, a hunter of clothes and even a hunter of people! Isn’t that amazing?” Jessica paused for a breath.
Emily nodded in a confused way. “Sure. You sound…full of potential.”
“Oh I am!” Jessica gushed. “My life is an empty canvas, a blank book, a clean slate!”
“That sounds lonely and…blank…” Emily said. She had finished picking up all of her clothes and was hoping for a quick escape.
Jessica looked into the distance and said, “Oh, my life is lonely.” She managed to squeeze a tear into her eye. “No one understands my sense of humor, my sense of beauty, my sense of love or my sense of taste for that matter. My darling mother, bless her heart, makes me eat this gross liver pâté sometimes. It’s tragic!” She fell to her knees again and sighed.
“Did the liver pâté do something to damage your brain?” Emily whispered under her breath. Aloud she said, “Well, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find my sister.”
Jessica gasped. “You have a sister?! I always wanted a sister but I’m an only child. Isn’t life tragic?!”
“My life became tragic about five minutes ago.” Emily sighed. “Before then, my life was great.”
Just then Kris, who had finished looking through the toys, walked up. “Hi Emily, who are you talking to?”
“Save me, Kris!” Emily hissed in her sister’s ear. “You’ve gotta get me away from her! She’s driving me crazy!”
Kris glanced at Jessica, who was pretending to be examining clothes, and then whispered back to Emily, “She looks nice!”
“Looks can be deceiving!” Emily whispered back. “Now I have to get out of here! You talk to her!”
Emily shoved her sister forward and then took off at full speed away from Jessica. Kris and Jessica eyed each other for a moment.
Then Kris said, “Hi. My name is Kristina, but everyone calls me Kris. That girl that just ran away is my sister Emily.”
Jessica smiled. “I’m Jessica. Why did your sister run away? I thought that we were having a nice little chat!”
Kris shrugged. “I think Emily’s scared of you.”
Jessica looked surprised. “Why would she be scared of me? Oooh, maybe she heard that I put that kid in the hospital!”
Kris gasped and quickly hid in the clothing. She stuck her head out and asked, “You put a kid in the hospital?! Are you carrying a knife right now? Because if you are, I’m getting away right now.”
Jessica laughed and pulled Kris from her hiding place. “No, silly, I’m not carrying a knife.”
“Then how did you put a kid in the hospital?”
“I was visiting my grandparents one year and my cousin and I both fell down the stairs and got hurt.” Jessica explained. “We both got put in the hospital together. My other cousin likes to say that I put James in the hospital, but I didn’t. We both just tripped on a toy at the top of the stairs. My grandparents have really tall and hard stairs, by the way.”
Kris breathed a sigh of relief. “So you’re not naturally a violent person?”
“Not at all, darling. Well, at least I’m not violent to other humans. I am very violent to my food. No delicious thing stands a chance near me!” Jessica laughed.
“I have one more question.” Kris said. “Do you think I look delicious?”
Jessica laughed again. “No! I’d never eat you! So tell me about yourself! I’d love to have a nice long chat with you.”
Kris nodded eagerly. “I’m ten. My sister Emily is twelve and my brother Mark is eleven. We live in a nice house. Are you homeschooled? I am.”
Jessica nodded. “Of course! Being homeschooled is soooo wonderful, isn’t it?”
Kris smiled. “I’m glad you think so. We’re shopping here because we’re poor. At least Emily says that we’re poor…but my mommy says that we aren’t. Who do you think I should believe?”
“I’d think that your mom would know more about your finances than your sister, so I’d believe your mom.”
“That’s what I was thinking.” Kris said. “I’m glad that you agree. Tell me about what you like to do and where you live.”
Jessica said, “I love reading any tragic books. In the summer I go on loooong walks alone and I often cry over the sorrows of the world. Oh what a tragic place this is!”
“Is ‘tragic’ your favorite word?” Kris asked.
“It could be.” Jessica said and then quickly changed the topic. “My family and I are actually just visiting this fine little town of yours. But we will be moving here soon! We bought a house in the cutest little neighborhood. We’ll be moving in in two weeks.”
“That’s great!” Kris exclaimed. “Which neighborhood is it?”
Jessica pulled a piece of paper out of her shirt pocket and glanced at it. “I wrote it down here so that if I get lost or stranded somehow, I can just go to that address and look around the house while I’m waiting for my family to come save me.” Kris looked confused at this but kept her mouth closed. Jessica said, “Ah, the street name is East Fox. Do you know it?”
“Uh oh…” Kris said, glancing in the direction that Emily had run away. “I know that street very well…we live there…”
Jessica squealed and jumped up and down. “That is wonderful! We’re going to be living on the same street!”
Kris nodded and tried not to look worried. “What is the house number?”
Jessica looked at the paper again. “It’s 12302.”
Kris gulped. “That’s the house right next to ours! Come to think of it, the house next to ours has been for sale for a while. I guess I never really noticed…”
Jessica, in sheer delight, hugged Kris tightly. “Oh this is more than I could have ever dreamed for! We’re going to be next door neighbors!!!”
“It’ll be fun alright.” Kris sighed and tried to imagine Emily’s reaction when she heard the news. “Now if you don’t mind, Jessica, I need to go find my mom and sister. It’s probably about time for us to leave.”
Jessica nodded brightly. “Of course, darling. I need to find my mother and leave as well. I look forward to seeing you again!”
Jessica waved and then danced away. Kris stood still for a moment. “I’ll have to find a gentle way to break the news to Emily…otherwise, she’ll do…I’m not sure what she’ll do! This is bad. Really big and bad.”
With slow steps, Kris made her way over to Mary and Emily.
“Hi Kris, are you ready to go?” Mary asked.
Kris nodded. “Yup.”
“Where are the clothes you wanted to buy?” Mary asked, looking at her daughter’s empty arms.
Kris smiled nervously. “I don’t need clothes this time. I had something more, umm, important to do.”
Mary shrugged. “Okay. Grab your things, Emily, and let’s check out.”
On the way home, Kris broached the subject of Jessica. “Hey Emily, that Jessica girl said that she and her family are visiting from out of town.”
Emily raised her hands and a huge smile flooded her face. “Oh that is so wonderful! So you’re telling me that she doesn’t live anywhere in our little town. What a relief! I couldn’t stand to live in the same town as her!”
“You’ll be living way closer than that.” Kris mumbled.
“What did you say, Kris?” Emily asked.
“Oh nothing.” Kris said. “I’ll tell you sometime later.”
“Who’s Jessica?” Mark asked.
Emily sighed. “She’s this really annoying, overdramatic, weird girl that we met in the thrift store. I can’t stand her!”
“I actually thought she was nice.” Kris said.
Mark glanced at Emily. “Don’t you think it’s a little early to judge someone so much? You hardly know her and you already dislike her.”
“Exactly!” Emily said. “If I hardly know her now and I dislike her this much, I can’t imagine how much worse it would get in the future. But thankfully, I won’t have to worry about Miss Hunter anymore. She doesn’t even live near us.”
Bruce, who had been listening to his children talk, said, “Emily, it’s not right to dislike someone as much as you do – especially after you’ve just met her. People often aren’t what they seem like on first impression.” He sighed. “When I was younger, I knew this kid who drove me crazy. He was always upbeat and happy and he had to participate in every single thing that ever went on. If my friends and I went fishing, he was there. If we went for a hike, he was there. If we did anything, he always tagged along. He was always willing to do crazy things and he never seemed to stop talking. Later, though, I learned that the reason he did all of those things was to hide some deep hurts that he had. He thought that if he stayed busy enough and if he made enough friends, he would never have to face those hurts. But he eventually had to face them and once he did, he found healing from them.” Bruce was silent for a moment and then he said, “The moral of the story is, people may act a certain way to hide something that is really bothering them.”
“Or they might just be naturally annoying people who think that their world is tragic.” Emily mumbled.
Mary shook her head. “Emily, honey, God wants us to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.”
“I can love my neighbors.” Emily said. “But Jessica is not my neighbor.”
“She soon will be!” Kris giggled to herself.
“No matter how annoying people might be, Emily, we need to show them the love of God and we need to be kind to them.” Mary said.
Bruce parked the van in the driveway and the kids jumped out.
Emily shut the van door. “Maybe you can love annoying people, but I can’t.” Without another word, she walked quickly inside the house and up to her room.
Kris turned to Mark. “Hey Mark, I need to tell you something about Jessica. But you can’t tell Emily about it yet…we have to break the news to her gently.”
Half an hour later, Mark and Kris stood in front of Emily’s closed door.
“Do you think we should knock?” Kris asked nervously. “It seems like we’re trespassing on forbidden land.”
Mark shrugged. “It’s just Emily’s bedroom. Let’s just open the door.”
They opened the door and found Emily staring absentmindedly out of her window. She turned around when her siblings came into the room.
“What are you guys doing here?” Emily asked. “And why do you look so nervous, Kris?”
“You talk first, Mark.” Kris whispered.
Mark nodded. “Emily, Kris and I need to have a talk with you. It’s about Jessica.”
Emily turned around sharply and sat down on her bed. “What about Jessica?”
Kris nervously picked at the buttons on her shirt. “You know what I said about Jessica being out of town and just visiting?”
“Well…” Kris hesitated. “The reason she’s visiting is because she and her family just bought a house here in town and they’ll be moving here.”
“Well…” Kris hesitated. “The reason she’s visiting is because she and her family just bought a house here in town and they’ll be moving here.”
Emily gasped and turned pale. “Oh no! This can’t be true! Jessica and I living in the same town! What if she ends up going to the same church as me! I’ll be doomed! I hope that she lives on the opposite side of town!”
Mark laughed fearfully and scratched the back of his head. “You know the house right next to ours? The one that is for sale?”
“Well, it’s not for sale anymore. Someone bought it.”
Emily’s face turned whiter and whiter. She finally screamed, “Jessica is going to be my neighbor?!”
Kris and Mark nodded silently.
“She’s coming in two weeks.” Mark said.
The next few minutes were not pretty. Emily stormed around her room shouting and screaming. Kris and Mark slipped out unnoticed and closed the door behind them.
“Phew!” Mark wiped his forehead. “She gets mad.”
“I know!” Kris said. “She was throwing her bedding all over the place! It could’ve hit me! Do you think she’ll ever be happy again?”
“Oh yeah.” Mark said confidently. “She might be mad now, but she’ll get over it.”
“Soon, I hope.” Kris added.
The two week was not happy for the Wild family. Emily was grumpy and angry the entire time and that cast a dark shadow over the whole household. Bruce and Mary both tried talking to her but she ignored them both. Whenever Mark or Kris came near her, she yelled at them. Kris was terrified of her older sister and Mark was annoyed at being treated in such a poor manner. By the end of the second week, Mark was thoroughly tired of Emily’s behavior. He and Kris met in the living room to discuss the problem.
“We have to do something.” Mark said firmly. “I don’t care what it is, we have to fix this!”
Kris nodded. “I totally agree! Earlier this morning I saw a U-Haul truck pull up in front of the house that Jessica’s moving into! That means that Jessica and her family are here now. We shouldn’t tell Emily yet, but she’s going to find out sometime soon…”
“Let’s go outside and see if Jessica can talk.” Mark suggested. “I’m very interested to meet this girl who Emily hates!”
They put on their boots and coats and walked across their yard to the house next door.
“You knock, Kris.” Mark commanded. “Jessica knows you, so she’s more likely to let us in.”
“What if her parents open the door?” Kris looked worried.
Mark shrugged. “That isn’t likely to happen. In all of those movies we watch, the kids always open the door – especially when something like this is about to happen.”
“Our life isn’t a movie, Mark.”
“Just go knock.”
Kris knocked on the door and a few minutes later it was opened by a very tired looking woman. Kris shot Mark an I-told-you-so look and then turned back to the woman.
“Can I help you?” The woman said in a very exhausted voice.
“Hi, I’m Kris and this is my brother Mark. We live next door. We want to talk to Jessica.”
“How do you know my daughter?” Mrs. Hunter asked.
Kris smiled. “We met her two weeks ago in a thrift store. She made my sister mad!”
“Kris!” Mark gasped and quickly pushed her behind him. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, Kris tends to be a bit hasty in a lot of her speech. We just want to talk to Jessica for a while.”
“And to welcome her to the neighborhood!” Kris added. “And of course, we want to welcome you to the neighborhood. Mark and I should have brought cookies, but we forgot.”
Mrs. Hunter giggled and then turned around and called loudly for her daughter. Jessica appeared a few minutes later. Her red hair was disheveled and her face was red and sweaty.
“I’ll leave you three to talk.” Mrs. Hunter smiled and quickly went back into the house.
Jessica sat down on the porch steps. The Wild children followed her example.
Kris broke the awkward silence by saying, “Hey Jessica, it’s great to see you again! You look tired!”
Jessica ran her hand across her forehead. “Alas, I am quite exhausted. My parents and I have been moving boxes from the truck all afternoon. I never realized what a burden wealth could be!”
Kris’s eyes widened. “So you’re rich? Are you a princess or something like that?”
Jessica laughed. “I wish that I was! Sadly, I’m not really what anyone would call rich.”
Mark wrinkled his brow in confusion. “But you said –”
“Oh I know what I said!” Jessica giggled. “I meant that we have a lot of sentimental stuff. Most of it is not worth anything.”
Mark nodded and said under his breath, “I can understand how Emily could be annoyed by this girl. I myself don’t see what’s so bad about her.”
“Where is your sister Emily?” Jessica asked.
“Oh she’s mad –” Kris began but Mark cut her off.
“Emily is…umm…not feeling so well right now. She’ll probably be fine soon.”
“Oh poor darling!” Jessica said sympathetically. “Maybe I should go up and see her and try to cheer her up! Being sick is such an awful thing!”
Kris shook her head violently. “I think what Emily needs is to be left alone for the next six years. By that time she’ll be eighteen and she can go off and keep her anger to herself.”
“She’s angry?” Jessica asked with concern. “Why is she angry? You know I get angry sometimes and oh it is pure misery until I let go of my anger and accept joy.”
Mark said, “Oh, Emily is just mad at someone.”
“Who is it?” Jessica questioned. “I would absolutely hate to be that person! Wouldn’t it be dreadful to have such a sweet girl as Emily mad at me?!”
“I think it’s time to change the subject!” Kris said quickly.
A few hours later Kris and Mark returned to their house.
“Jessica is so great!” Kris exclaimed.
Mark nodded. “Her dramatic nature is kind of annoying sometimes, but I think she’ll be a great neighbor!”
“Let’s go bake some cookies for the Hunter family!” Kris suggested.
They walked inside their house and saw Emily sitting on the couch. She was scowling as usual.
“Where have you two been?”
“Mark will tell you!” Kris said, eager to avoid getting yelled at. “I have to go ask Mom a question.”
“Well Mark?” Emily asked when Kris was gone.
Mark sighed. “We went to visit Jessica. I think you’re mistaken about her. She’s a really nice girl.”
Emily rolled her eyes. “Oh of course she seems nice to an uncivilized boy like you.”
“Uncivilized!” Mark gasped. “I’m a very civilized person! And so is Jessica.”
“I’ll be in my room.” Emily said. She got up and walked away.
Mark groaned and plopped down on the couch. “Emily will be Emily to the last.” He said to himself. “She can be soooo stubborn! When she makes up her mind about something like this, she won’t change it for the world.”
Kris walked into the room. “Mom said that we could make cookies!” She giggled. “And guess what?”
“You’re supposed to guess!” Before waiting for Mark’s guess, Kris said, “Mom is going to make Emily deliver the cookies to Jessica tomorrow!”
The next day Emily walked sulkily towards the Hunter’s home. In her hand she held a paper plate piled high with homemade chocolate chip cookies. She knocked on the door and stepped back. The door was answered by Jessica’s father.
“Yes? Can I help you, young lady?”
“Here.” Emily shoved the cookies into the arms of the surprised man. “Take theses. My siblings made them.”
She turned and walked away, leaving Mr. Hunter to wonder what had made the girl so grumpy. Mary, who had been watching from her front porch, sighed and prepared yet another lecture for her daughter.
Later that week, something happened that changed Emily’s perspective on Jessica. It was a Wednesday. Bruce was at work like normal. It was late afternoon and the children had completed their studies for the day. The Wild family was having dinner guests and Mary was busy in the kitchen. She started making a chocolate cake, but part way through she realized she had run out of flour. She walked into the living room where Kris and Mark were chasing each other.
“Kids, I’m going to have to run to the store to get more flour.” Mary said. “Kris, how about you come with me.”
“I want to go, too!” Mark shouted. He and Kris grabbed their coats and raced out to the van. Mary went up to Emily’s room and found her lying on her bed, staring at the wall.
“Emily, honey, I’m going to run to the store. Get your coat on and let’s go.”
“Can’t I please stay home?” Emily begged. “Just this once? Dad should get home from work soon and you won’t be gone for long.”
Mary was in a hurry and wasn’t in the mood to argue with her daughter. “Alright, Emily. Just be careful!”
Mary grabbed the keys and quickly left the house. A few minutes later, Emily got out of bed and walked to the window.
“It’ll be dark in an hour or so.” She said to herself. “I wish that it stayed light longer. I haven’t been outside for a while. I should go on a little walk around the neighborhood.”
Slipping on coat, Emily stepped out into the cold air. She started walking and at once noticed the beautiful sunset colors that were already streaking the sky. She was admiring them, and wasn’t paying attention to her steps. She tripped and fell down hard on the concrete.
“Ouch!” Emily exclaimed. She tried to stand up, but found that her ankle hurt terribly when she moved it. “I might have broken my ankle!”
Emily began to sob. She tried crawling back to her house, but after a few minutes, she gave up in exhaustion.
“Mom or Dad will come home soon and see me out here.” Emily cried. But after thirty minutes, still no one had driven by. Emily began to panic in earnest. Crying tears of pain and frustration, she sat on the cold concrete.
Suddenly, Emily saw, coming down the street, a car! She waved her arms wildly and the car stopped. To Emily’s great dismay, she saw Jessica and Mrs. Hunter get out of the car and run towards her.
“Oh are you alright, Miss?” Mrs. Hunter asked.
“I hurt my ankle!” Emily sobbed.
Jessica gasped. “Is that you, Emily Wild?”
“Yes.” Emily said sadly.
Mrs. Hunter turned to Jessica and said, “Jessica, run into the house and bring me a flashlight. It’s getting dark out here and I need to be able to see. Get a couple of blankets, too.” She turned back to Emily. “Where are your parents?”
“I have no idea!” Emily wailed. “They should have been home by now. My dad is usually home from work by now. My mom and siblings went into town to get something from a store, but it shouldn’t take this long. I live in the house next to yours.”
“What are your parent’s phone numbers?” Mrs. Hunter asked. Emily gave them to her. The woman said, “Alright, Emily, I’m going to go inside and call your parents. I’ll also call an ambulance. I think that you broke your ankle.”
Still crying, Emily nodded. Mrs. Hunter went into her house and Jessica came out a minute later. Her arms were full of blankets, she had a flashlight balanced in her mouth and in her hands she held two cups of steaming hot chocolate. She sat down beside Emily and draped a blanket around her shoulders.
“Do you want a cup of hot chocolate, dear?” Jessica held out the mug to Emily. “Whenever I get hurt, hot chocolate makes me feel better.”
“I don’t want any.” Emily said crossly.
“Suit yourself.” Jessica took a sip from her own mug. “What were you doing out by yourself at this time of night?”
“I’m not a baby!” Emily snapped. “It isn’t even night yet and I don’t have to have someone go everywhere with me all of the time!”
Jessica looked surprised. “I was just curious. I didn’t mean to upset you!”
“Well, leave me alone.” Emily crossed her arms.
Jessica stared at Emily for a minute and then said, “Emily, I’m not drawing conclusions yet, but are you mad at me for something? I can’t imagine what it would be, since I only saw you once but you seem…angry.”
“YES!” Emily yelled. “You are an annoying, weird, overdramatic girl. I can’t stand you and I wish that you had never moved to this neighborhood!”
Jessica’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “I – I never knew you felt that way.” Poor Jessica faltered. “I’m sorry, I…I have to go.” She jumped up and ran back into her house. Emily could hear her crying as she ran off.
At once Emily’s conscience smote her. She knew that she shouldn’t have said those things to Jessica. With her conscience bothering her, as well as the pain in her foot, Emily sat in misery for the next few minutes. Soon her parents pulled up in their vehicles and jumped out.
“Emily!” Mary cried, running to her daughter.
Bruce squatted down next to her. “Are you okay, sweetie?”
“Not really.” Emily mumbled. “What took you so long to get home?”
“I had to work later tonight.” Bruce explained. “I was just about to head home when Caroline Hunter called.”
“I’m so sorry, Emily!” Mary apologized. “I should have been home sooner, but when we were in the store I bumped into an old friend and…”
“We called an ambulance and it should be here any minute now.” Bruce said.
A few days later, Emily was sitting miserably in the dining room, reading a book. Her ankle was broken, but she was glad to be home from the hospital. Kris and Mark had been her servants ever since she had come home. They had waited upon her like she was a queen. They were rewarded by her kindness to them.
Emily was contemplating the events of the past few days. Her conscience was still bothering her about what she had said to Jessica, but she couldn’t bring herself to ask for Jessica’s forgiveness.
“You have a visitor, Emily.” Mary said, breaking through Emily’s thoughts.
Emily looked up and saw Jessica standing sheepishly beside Mary.
“I’ll leave you two to talk.” Mary said, quietly. She left the room.
“Hi Emily.” Jessica said sadly. “I thought that I’d bring you a little something. I hope that you get better soon.” She set a small gift bag on the table and turned to leave.
“Wait, Jessica!” Emily said. “I want to say –”
“Don’t bother apologizing.” Jessica said in a sorrowful voice. “I’m used to people disliking me because I’m different and ‘dramatic’. It’s nothing new. You were honest and I guess I can accept that.” Without another word, Jessica left the room and returned to her house.
Emily opened the bag and found a music CD. There was a little piece of paper. Emily read it aloud to herself. “Dear Emily, I hope that this helps you pass the time as your foot heals. I’ll be praying to Jesus for you. Love from your neighbor, Jessica.”
Tears filled Emily’s eyes. Soon she was sobbing loudly. Mary rushed into the room to find out what was wrong.
“Mom, I’ve been awful!” Emily sobbed. “I was horrible to Jessica! But look what she gave me!”
Mary looked at the little gift. She said quietly, “I think Jessica could be a good friend.”
Emily sobbed harder. “She said that most people dislike her because she’s different! I call myself a Christian, but I was so cruel to Jessica! She was kind back and…and…” Emily’s voice was lost in her tears.
Mary rubbed her daughter’s back. “It’s not too late to make up with her, Emily.”
Emily nodded and wiped some of her tears away. “I know, but I can’t face her after what I’ve said.” She thought for a moment and then said, “I’ll write her a note, Mom. Can you give it to her?”
Mary smiled. “I’d be honored to, Emily.”
Kris and Mark, who had been quietly watching everything from the entrance of the dining room, looked at each other and smiled.
“I think we’ve got our Emily back!” Mark said excitedly.
“Yay!” Kris exclaimed.
Half an hour later, Mary stood in front of the Hunter’s door. When Caroline answered it, Mary said, “This is for Jessica from Emily. How is the poor girl?”
Caroline smiled sadly and said, “Jessica is a very sensitive child. She always has been. She feels like no one understands her or loves her for who she is. She’s been rejected and told she’s ‘weird’ by so many people. She tries to ignore the remarks, but they hurt her a lot.”
“Poor girl.” Mary said tenderly.
Caroline nodded. “Yes, poor child. My husband and I had hoped that a move to this neighborhood would give Jessica a fresh start, but…”
“I am so sorry.” Mary said fervently. “Emily expressed deep regret for her words today. I think that she might want to get to know Jessica better.”
“I’ll give Jessica the note.” Caroline promised.
“Thank you.” Mary said and then turned and went home.
“Jessica, I have something for you!” Caroline said. Jessica walked slowly into the room. Her smiled was gone and her eyes were red from crying. “It’s from Emily.” She handed the girl a small envelope.
“Thanks Mom.” Jessica said. She walked to her room and sat down on the bed. She opened the envelope and pulled out a card and read it aloud.
“’Dear Jessica, I am so sorry for what I said to you a few days ago. I know that this won’t make up for my hurtful words, but I beg you to forgive me. I was completely in the wrong. I should never have called you weird. You are unique and I think that is neat. You have been much more of Christian than I have been. I don’t expect you to forgive me for what I have done. But if you can stand to be around such an immature girl like me, I’d really love to be your friend. Think about it, please, Jessica. Thank you for the CD and for being kind to me, even when I was so mean to you. Love, Emily W.’”
Slowly a smile formed on Jessica’s face. It grew bigger and bigger. Laughing, smiling and crying all at the same time, Jessica raced out of her room and to Caroline.
“Mom!” Jessica cried. “Emily wants to be my friend!”
That was the beginning of a deep and wonderful friendship between Emily Wild and Jessica Hunter. They didn’t always get along, in fact they argued a lot, but they were able to love each other and to embrace their differences instead of disliking them.
A Visit From Jordan
“When are they coming, Mom? Will they be here to eat lunch with us?” Kris asked for the hundredth time. She was standing at the front window of the little cabin the family was staying in, eagerly watching the street. Snow was gently falling atop the ice that seemed to cover everything.
Mary sat down on the couch and sighed. “They’ll be here in half an hour, Kristina. If you ask every three minutes, it’s going to seem like a lot longer. And yes, they will eat lunch with us.”
“We’re going to have so much fun!!!” Kris said enthusiastically bouncing up and down. “I can’t wait to see Aunt Marisa and Uncle Jack and of course Jordan!”
“I’m sure you all will have fun.” Mary said, glanced at the clock. Ten thirty.
“I haven’t seen Jordan since I was seven!” Kris chattered. “I can’t wait to see her! It’s going to be so much fun!”
The Wild family had chosen to take a little trip. They had decided to spend the weekend at a little camp about an hour from their home. Mary had invited her brother and his family to spend the time with them as well. They had rented two little cabins that were right next to each other. The cabins each had two bed rooms with four bunk beds each. Emily, Mark and Kris shared a room. There was also a tiny living room, bathroom and a kitchen with a microwave and stove.
Emily wandered into the living room. “Are they here yet?” She asked.
“Nope.” Two voices answered unanimously.
Emily joined her sister at the window. “Oh it’ll be wonderful to see our cousin again! How old would she be now? Around fifteen?”
Mary nodded. “Yup.”
Emily smiled. “I’ve always admired her. She’s so brave and…strong.”
“Bravery and strength aren’t everything, you know.” Mary said quietly. “I’ve known some people who were weak in body, but their faith in God was so strong because they were physically weak.”
Emily and Kris looked at each other and then shrugged.
“Well, it doesn’t matter.” Kris said. “Jordan is certainly not weak physically.”
Mark raced into the room. “What are you all doing here? Did they come?”
Three voices answered, “Not yet.”
Mark sighed and joined the girls’ at the window.
“Where is Dad?” Mark asked, after a few minutes of staring out at the cold landscape in front of them.
“Oh, he just ran to the store to get some more bread. Someone didn’t pack the buns like I told him to.” Mary sent a meaningful glance towards Mark. “But he should get here in time to say hi when my brother and sister-in-law come.”
“And Jordan!” Kris added.
“I can’t wait!!!” Mark shouted excitedly. “This is going to be the best weekend ever!”
Just then a car pulled up in front of the cabin.
“They’re here!” Kris screamed and threw open the door. Mark and Emily raced out into the snow, barefoot and stood hopping from foot to foot, vainly trying to keep warm.
The car doors opened and Marisa, Jack and Cousin Jordan jumped out.
“Jordan!!!” Emily screamed. “Hi!”
Jordan hugged Emily and then laughed as she saw Mark and Emily’s unshod feet. “What are you two doing out here in the snow without shoes?”
“We were too excited to see you!” Emily said, trying to ignore the pain as the freezing ice pierced her feet.
“Yeah, putting shoes on takes too long.” Mark added. He bounded over to his uncle and aunt.
Kris pointed to a van that parked behind Jack’s car. “Dad’s back!”
After lunch in the Wild’s cabin, while Mark and Kris were occupied, Emily decided to chat with Jordan.
“Hey Jordan, what are you doing?” Emily looked up at her cousin in secret admiration.
Jordan shrugged. “Eh, I was just sitting here by the window. What do you like to do for fun normally?”
Emily sat down beside Jordan. “Oh, I read or sing with Kris or play outside.”
Jordan snorted. “Really? Is that all you do for fun?”
Feeling self-conscious Emily quickly added, “When it’s warmer we’ll go for walks and hikes. Sometimes we’ll even do some camping! Mom is planning a really fun trip for the spring. We’ll hike and camp and eat lots of trail mix!”
Jordan shook her head. “You poor kid! You don’t know what real fun is.”
“I do too!” Emily said indignity. Out of curiosity she asked, “What do you do for fun?”
A mischievous smile played around Jordan’s lips. “Well, we’re at a camp, right?”
Jordan laughed. “Good. Tonight I’ll show you what real fun is.”
Emily was already feeling uneasy, but not wanting to disappoint her cousin, she silently nodded and waited nervously for night to arrive.
Later that evening, Emily sat on the lower bunk bed, reading her bible, just like she did every night. Jordan popped her head into the room and quickly walked over to Emily and sat down beside her.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“I’m just reading.” Emily smiled.
Jordan glanced at the book Emily held. “Is that a bible?” She asked with disgust in her voice.
“Well….yeah…” Emily answered slowly, confused by the reaction of her cousin. “I read it every day.”
“And you actually like reading that junk?”
“It’s not junk!” Emily looked in shock at her cousin. “It is the words of God!”
“Whatever.” Jordan shrugged. She stood up and began poking around the room. “I just came in here to talk about our plans for tonight. But if you want to read that, I’ll leave you alone.”
Emily closed her bible and set it down beside her. “What is your plan?”
Jordan smiled. “Now you’re thinking, girl! How can we get out of this cabin?”
“Umm….we just use the front door…?” Emily said, blinking in confusion.
Jordan snorted. “I mean how can we get out of here without being noticed? Can we jump out of the window?” She walked over to the tiny cabin window.
“No way, Jordan. It is way too small to squeeze out of. It doesn’t even open anyway. Mark checked. He likes to know all of the ways to escape danger.” Emily wrinkled her brow in question. “But why would we want to sneak out of the cabin unnoticed?”
“You really aren’t that smart, are you?” Jordan sighed. “We sneak out of here so we can have fun. Our parents would, uh, worry for no reason.”
“Then we shouldn’t do it.” Emily said firmly. “I don’t think it’s right to leave the house without our parents knowing.”
Jordan rolled her eyes. “You really are one of those goody Christians. I shouldn’t have expected you to do anything other than read your bible and go to church. Having fun is too sinful for you, right?”
“No!” Emily cried jumping to her feet with anger. “Christians have lots of fun!”
“Oh really?” Jordan said mockingly. “Prove it. Meet me in front of your cabin at twelve tonight.”
“I don’t know if I should…” Emily hesitated, staring down at her red and white socks.
Jordan stepped towards the door. “I knew you weren’t up to it. You Christians are so weak. You can’t live like the rest of us.”
“That’s not true!” Emily said, clenching her fists and looking up in anger. “I’ll show you that I’m not weak! I’ll see you at twelve.”
Jordan smiled. “Good.” Without another word, she turned and left the room quickly.
Emily, near tears, sat down on her bed. “Why is she so mean?!” She asked aloud. Angry at her cousin for her words and angry with herself for giving in, Emily picked up her pillow and threw it across the room. “What was I supposed to do? Just say no and get teased for being weak?! I’m sure this is no big deal. Whatever Jordan has planned can’t be so bad. I’ll just go along with it to prove to her that Christians aren’t babies.” Try as she might, Emily could not reassure herself. She lay down with a sick feeling and watched the time tick away.
At last the numbers on her alarm clock changed to 11:56. Getting up, Emily silently dressed in warm clothes. She glanced at Mark and Kris who were sleeping peacefully. She tiptoed quietly to the room door and opened it. It creaked slightly, making Emily fear that Mark would hear and awake. Somehow, she made it to the front door without causing any loud noises. She slipped her hand up to the lock and turned it. Then opening the door just wide enough for her to slip out, she stepped into the darkness.
“I’m here, Jordan.” Emily said into the darkness.
“Look you long enough.” A voice snorted. “I thought you’d chickened out.” A tall teenager stepped out of the shadows and smacked the back of Emily’s head.
Emily opened her mouth to respond, but quickly closed it again.
“Follow me, baby cousin.” Jordan said, holding tightly a small brown bag. With long strides, she began to walk into the darkness.
Emily tried to swallow her secret fear of the dark and walked quickly after her cousin. “Umm, Jordan, where are we going?”
“Just follow me.”
They walked in silence towards the paths in the woods. Emily, who was not used to being out in the dark, began to panic as they stepped into the trees.
“Jordan, do we have to go here? I mean, why do we have to walk in the dark to the woods?!”
Jordan didn’t answer. Emily bit her lip and tried not to scream as the small branch of a tree came crashing down close to her. Jordan didn’t seem bothered at all.
They walked for what seemed like an eternity for the young girl. “Jordan, at least tell me where we’re going!”
Jordan sighed in frustration. “Fine. I happen to know that if we follow this path that on the other side of these trees, there is a big building there. That’ll serve our purposes well.”
“How could you possibly know that there is a building back here?”
“Duh.” Jordan pushed aside an overhanging bow that blocked their path. “The internet has everything!”
At last they made it to the building. It was a big gymnasium with bright lights around it.
“Jordan, what are we doing here?” Emily moaned, wishing with everything in her that she was back in her bed, asleep.
“Oh seriously?” Jordan kicked a rock towards the building. “Why do they have to have such bright lights? It doesn’t really matter anyway; we’ll just have to be more careful.”
“What is going on?!” Emily nearly screamed.
“Oh stop whining.” Jordan set her bag down on the ground and opened it. “I want to see what you’re made of, girl.”
“What I’m made of?” Emily asked with fear and confusion.
Jordan turned on a headlamp and pulled out two cans of spray paint. She held one out to Emily. “How ‘bout we go do a little redecorating?”
“You mean vandalize?! You want me to go up and damage that building?! What will your parents say?!”
Jordan smirked. “They won’t say anything because they won’t know. Come on, Emily, let’s go have some fun.” A mocking look filled her eyes. “That is, if you aren’t too holy.”
“Are you kidding?!” Emily suddenly forgot her fear of the dark. “Do you have any clue how much trouble I would be in if my parents found out?! I’d be grounded until I’m thirty!”
“Then don’t let them find out. My friends and I have done this a few times and we’ve never been caught.”
Emily hesitated. “It’s still wrong, Jordan.”
Jordan rolled her eyes. “Oh, here we go again. Look, I brought you out here because I thought you were ready for the real world. But it turns out I was wrong. I should have left you back at the house with your Sunday school teachers. You just don’t have what it takes to be cool.”
“I do too!” Emily yelled angrily. “And I won’t vandalize someone else’s property! And you shouldn’t either! I’m going back to the cabin right now and I am going to tell my parents everything.”
Emily turned away and would have started home alone, but Jordan grabbed her arm.
“Oh no, Emily, you won’t tell your parents anything.” Jordan smiled cruelly.
“Why not?” Emily’s momentary bravery was quickly failing.
“If you tell them anything at all, I will make you regret that you ever lived. Is that clear?” Jordan’s eyes flashed.
“Very clear.” Emily gulped.
“I just want to go home now.” Emily said in a low voice with her head hung low.
“Fine, go.” Jordan said, waving her hand towards Emily.
Emily glanced ahead at the long, dark path through the woods. “Aren’t you coming?”
Jordan snickered. “You know what, I think I’ll just stay here. You go walk home alone, kid.”
“Can I at least have the headlamp?”
“You know my answer, scaredy-cat.”
Emily bit her lip and took a step into the darkness. As soon as she was out of Jordan’s sight, Emily began to run as fast as she could towards the cabin. Several times she tripped on roots or wet logs that stood above the layer of wet, slippery snow. She scraped both of her knees and her face several times. But she didn’t care. All she wanted to do was to get back to her bed and forget everything that had happened that night.
After what seemed like an eternity to Emily, she reached the front door of the cabin. Silently, with shaking hands, she turned the handle and stepped inside. As quietly as she could, she crept to the bedroom. Without stopping to take off her wet clothes, she lay down on her bed and silently cried herself to sleep.
Early the next morning, Mary got up to make breakfast. Mark, who was an early riser, met her in the kitchen.
“Hey Mark.” Mary smiled at him.
“Hi Mom.” Mark yawned. “What are we having for breakfast?”
Mary measured out some flour and poured it into a large mixing bowl. “Oh, I thought I’d make something everyone would like. Pancakes!”
“Yes!” Mark yelled happily. His face took on a more serious look as he said, “Hey Mom, something weird happened last night.”
Mary looked quizzically at her son. “What was it?”
Mark wrinkled his brow. “I’m not exactly sure, but I think Emily and Jordan might have snuck out of the cabins.”
Mary stopped mixing the pancake batter. “What makes you think that?”
Mark hopped onto the counter and sighed. “Well, I laid down in bed the same time as everyone else last night, but I couldn’t get to sleep. You know it takes me way longer when we are in strange places.”
“It was around twelve and I was finally starting to drift off to sleep, when Emily got out of bed and left the room….” Mark ran his hand over his face. “Maybe it was just a dream, I don’t know.”
Mary was concerned. “Why would she sneak out? Is she back?”
Mark shrugged. “I fell asleep a couple minutes later so I didn’t hear her come in. But I think she’s back now. I saw a big lump under the blanket on her bed, so I guessed that it was her.”
“Why didn’t you come get your father or I?” Mary demanded. “Never mind, I’m going up to see Emily right now and I’m going to sort this out!”
Mary quickly left the kitchen and to the bedroom. She flung open Emily’s door. There, asleep on her bed, was a pitiful looking Emily. She was covered in mud and her clothes were all wet. She had numerous scratches and dried blood clung to her face. Mary gasped and quickly sat down beside her daughter.
“Emily, honey, are you okay?” Mary asked as gently as her voice would allow.
Emily woke instantly and looked around. “Mom!” She gasped. “What are you doing in here!?”
“And what were you doing sneaking out last night?” Mary demanded angrily.
Terror flashed over Emily’s face. She stuttered, “I – I just – I mean –”
“I want the truth and I want it right this minute, Emily.” Mary said sternly.
Emily began to cry. “I’m sorry, Mom.”
Mary waited until Emily calmed down before repeating her earlier command. Emily turned away from her mom and continued to cry quietly.
“This conversation is not finished, young lady.” Mary said. “We are going to talk about this. And I have to tell your dad. Get some clean clothes on before you catch a cold.” She laid her hand on Emily’s forehead. Emily already had a fever.
“Alright Emily, just get into some dry clothes and then lay down in bed again.” Mary said quietly. “Rest and I’ll bring you breakfast.”
“Thanks Mom.” Emily whispered miserably.
Emily spent the rest of the day in bed and in pure misery. She was sick and, what was worse, her conscience was bothering her terribly. Jordan came to see her once that day and it was not a pleasant conversation.
“Emily, you told!” Jordan said angrily. “This morning my mom came up to me and asked me why you and I had snuck out last night! And now I’ll be grounded for five weeks when we get home! Five weeks! Do you have any idea how long that is?! And it’s all your fault.”
“I didn’t tell!” Emily whispered. Her throat hurt too bad to talk loudly. “Someone must have seen or something, I don’t know. But I promise you, I didn’t tell!”
“Like I’d believe anything you say.” Jordan said. “It’s good for you that we are all leaving this wrenched place tomorrow. Otherwise, you’d be in more trouble than you know.”
“Oh lucky me.” Emily moaned.
“Just remember what I told you, Emily. No one knows about last night.” Jordan turned on her heal and walked out quickly.
Emily lay back on her pillows with a groan. “Why me? Why was I stupid enough to go out last night? Now I have a mortal enemy in Jordan and a guilty conscience! What is worse than that?”
Later that afternoon, while Uncle Jack and Aunt Marissa took Jordan, Mark and Kris out for lunch, Bruce and Mary stayed at the cabin to talk to Emily.
“Emily, why did you sneak out last night?” Bruce asked gently.
“Jordan said Christians were weak and babies. I wanted to prove her wrong.” Emily whispered. Her throat still hurt terribly.
Mary sighed. “What did you do after you left the cabin?”
“Oh, we just walked around in the dark for a while.” Emily forced a careless voice.
“Why don’t I believe that?” Bruce asked.
“But we did walk around in the dark.” Emily insisted, and gave a pitiful smile.
“What else did you do, Emily?” Mary asked sternly.
Emily hesitated. She wanted to tell her parents the truth, but as she opened her mouth to do so, Jordan’s warning came into her mind.
“I promised not to tell.” Emily said quickly.
“Emily, there are times when promises like that shouldn’t be kept.” Bruce said. “Such as, if you knew someone was doing something wrong that was hurting them or someone else. That is a time to speak the truth.”
“Why don’t you ask Jordan?” Emily suggested.
Bruce shook his head. “Her parents already tried. She is one stubborn girl.”
Emily turned her head away from her parents. “I’m sorry. I promised not to tell.” Closing her eyes, she hoped that her parents would go away soon.
Bruce, seeing that they were getting nowhere, said, “Alright Emily, we’ll leave you be for the moment. When you are feeling better, we are going to get to the bottom of this. Is that clear?”
Emily nodded and wished that the events of the last twenty-four hours had never happened. As soon as her parents were gone, Emily struggled out of bed and grabbed the laptop she and her siblings shared.
I need to email Jessica. I wish she was here. She thought. She always knows what to do in times like this.
Emily crawled back in bed and set the laptop on her lap and began her email.
Help. You’ve gotta save me! I am in so much trouble. Can you convince your parents to come and pick me up today? I want to get as far away as possible from my family – especially my parents and my cousin, Jordan.
Let me speak hypothetically for a moment. So I know this girl named, let’s say, Lucy. So Lucy did something that she wasn’t supposed to do, in an effort to prove something to a really nasty person. Lucy knew the thing was wrong and didn’t actively participate in the very wrong part. She threatened to tell her parents but the really mean person told her not to – or else she would regret that she ever lived. (See what I mean by nasty?) Lucy’s parents found out about part of the wrong thing. Lucy wants to tell them everything but she doesn’t want to get killed by her cousin the mean person. What should Lucy do?
Miss you as always and I can’t wait to get back home,
Emily sent the email and then lay down to contemplate her misery. About an hour later, Emily received a response from Jessica.
I am so terribly sorry that you are having such a rough and stressful day! My, it sounds so tragic! I wish I could save you in some way! I tried asking my parents about picking you up, but they immediately said no! So sorry, darling, I wish I could have done that for you!
Oh wow!!! Poor Lucy! Tell me more details about what wrong thing Lucy did and what thing she can’t tell her parents! I would give Lucy the advice to tell her parents everything, even though it might be hard. I know from experience that keeping dark secrets is never good. They eat you up inside and make you soooo miserable. But the truth will set you free, Emily. I mean, Lucy.
Your friend for as long as we both shall live!
Emily chuckled slightly at her friend’s reply. Even her emails sound like her! She sighed. I have to tell my parents the truth – the WHOLE truth. And I will….just as soon as Jordan goes back home. Tomorrow morning can’t get here soon enough.
The rest of that day dragged on and on…and on. Emily, who felt terribly sick, spent the afternoon alone, except for the occasional visits from her parents. Finally night fell and Emily spent a restless night tossing and turning.
The next morning, Jordan and her parents drove away towards their home. Emily, who was feeling a bit better, sighed with relief.
“You look happy, Emily.” Kris noted during lunch as the family ate together.
“I’m happier than I have been for the last couple days. I just want to go home, though.” Emily sighed. “But Mom, Dad, there is something I need to tell you after lunch.”
Mary smiled. “Of course, honey.”
“Can I stay and listen?” Kris asked mischievously.
“No.” Bruce said sternly. “You and Mark can pack your stuff and then watch a movie while we talk to Emily.”
After lunch, Emily, Bruce and Mary gathered in the deserted bedroom for the long awaited talk.
Emily took a deep breath. “Umm…I guess I should explain to you guys everything.” Taking another deep breath, she began her story.
“I’m glad you told us.” Bruce said soberly, when Emily had finished.
Mary nodded. “Yes. We are proud of you for telling the truth – and for not vandalizing, even when Jordan pressured you to.”
“However…” Bruce began. Emily groaned. “There are consequences for your wrong actions. For the next week, you are grounded.”
Emily nodded miserably. “I’m really sorry, Mom, Dad. She just made me so mad!”
“I know, honey.” Mary said. “But we are responsible for our own actions. No matter what others do, we are still held accountable for what we do.”
“I know.” Emily sighed. “I’ll try to do better next time.”
Mary kissed her daughter’s forehead. “Try to rest until it’s time to go. You’re still sick.”
“Your grounding begins now, Emily,” Bruce said, “so no emailing or anything like that.”
A few days later, once they had arrived safely back home, Emily went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. The house phone rang, so she picked it up and answered it.
“This is Emily Wild, how can I help you?”
“HOW COULD YOU DO THAT, EMILY WILD?!” The voice on the other end of the line screamed. “YOU ARE AN AWFUL PERSON! You told your parents about what we did! And now my parents know everything! I should wring your neck! And believe me, if I ever see you again, I WILL.” Jordan hung up.
Emily stood stunned for a moment and then sighed. “Oh boy…well, if that is the worst she can do to me now, I’ll be okay. I just wish that I had never gotten involved in any of this.” Clasping her hands together, Emily closed her eyes. “Oh Lord, help me. Please give me grace to forgive and to love Jordan, like you have done for me. Help her to one day come to the realization that you are God and that you are the only one who can really help us. You alone can bring us hope and comfort in hard times; not destroying stuff or whatever else people use to numb the pain. And….and help me to share this message with the world. Amen.”
The Babysitting Disaster
“Mom, no!” Mark wailed, flinging himself down on the couch in fake horror.
“It’s not that bad, Mark.” Mary said, quietly smoothing her dress. “You’ll have fun.”
Mark’s eyes disagreed. “Fun? There is no way that I can have fun when I’m being babysat!”
“Sure you can!” Bruce said. “The babysitter will be here in ten minutes. You and your sisters will listen to your babysitter. We’ll be back in three hours.” Bruce’s eyes spoke more than his words. Mark sighed and groaned.
I guess I’d better behave….maybe.
Five-hundred-and-fifty-nine seconds later the three Wild children were waving goodbye to their parents.
“Alright children, let’s have some dinner, shall we?”
The babysitter, Marla Kinsia, was a kind looking woman with grey hair and delicate wrinkles lining her face. She nodded towards the kitchen and the children silently made their way towards it.
“What are we having for supper?” Kris asked. “Food is the most important part of the day, so please make it good.”
Marla smiled down at Kris. “Your parents left a potpie in the freezer for you. I’ll warm it up while you all set the table.”
“POT PIE?!” Kris wailed. “But it’s so gross! It has all those…vegetarians in it!”
“You mean vegetables.” Marla laughed.
Mark smirked. “Well, it’s what we’re having, so quit whining.” He hopped towards the living room. “I’ll be watching a movie while you ladies get my food.”
Mark’s proud smile was washed away by Marla’s next words.
“Mark, you parents said no movies until you finished dinner and all of your chores.”
“What?!” Mark yelped. “That’s not fair!”
Emily giggled. “You’ll never watch a movie tonight!”
Mark scowled. “It’s not fair that I have all of those extra chores to do.”
“It is kind of your fault.” Kris said. “You did almost break the lawnmower.”
“It wasn’t really that bad! I just set it on fire….”
Marla loudly cleared her throat. “Mark, set the table, please. Emily, will you show me where the kitchen utensils are?”
Kris hurried out of the kitchen before she could be assigned a job. She wandered around the house and was just about to return to the kitchen to state how bored she was, when something caught her eye. The basement steps. Normally Kris avoided the basement because many strange and creepy things, like spiders and the occasional mouse, lived down there. But there was something else in that avoided place that Kris wanted. Gathering her courage, Kris slipped down the steps into the dark basement.
“Find the light, Kris, find the light.” Kris tried to avoid looking at the spider webs that hung from the ceiling. Once the light flickered on, the girl saw the reason that she had braved Scary Basement.
It stood alone in the middle of the room. Kris has long begged and pleaded with her parents to let her use it, but she had always been refused the pleasure.
“Mommy said that it could hurt me!” Kris said to herself. “Ha! I’m sure I can handle it!” She stepped up to the machine and ran her hands over the cold metal. “I’m sure I can just use this for a couple minutes. Nobody will know and I’ll have the thrill of running on a treadmill!!!”
Kris stepped up to the treadmill and randomly pushed the settings. Then she jumped on and pushed start. The machine went much faster than Kris had imagined. She raced along, as fast as her legs could go, panting and franticly pushing every button, trying to shut the thing off. For all her efforts, the treadmill only sped up.
“OH NO!” Kris screamed. “I CAN’T FIND THE OFF BUTTON! WHERE IS IT! HEEEEEEEEEEEEEELP!”
Meanwhile, Marla was just taking the pot pie out of the oven. She set it on the table.
“Kids, supper’s ready!”
Mark and Emily raced in and slid into their seats.
“I love pot pie!” Mark scooped a huge piece onto his plate.
Marla looked around. “Where’s Kris?”
Emily shrugged. “Eh, she’s probably hiding. She doesn’t like pot pie.”
Mark cut another piece of potpie and added it to the one already on his plate. “Just let her be. If she wants to miss supper, let her.”
Marla looked unsure of the advice.
“Mom let’s her skip out on pot pie sometimes.” Emily assured Marla. “She’ll be fine.”
As Marla, Mark and Emily ate (Mark eating over half of the pot pie by himself), Kris continued to try to get off the treadmill. She tried screaming again for help, but her lungs were so out of breath that no one could hear her. Finally, too exhausted to keep running, she attempted to jump off of the treadmill. She fell with a thud on the floor.
“Ouch.” She groaned. Normally, the pain she felt would have caused her to scream, but her lungs were so air-deprived that she just lay on the cold cement panting. “Now I know why Mom and Dad said not to run on there….”
Fifteen minutes later, Kris finally stood up and dragged herself upstairs. (She didn’t notice that she had left the treadmill running.) She saw that the table was nearly cleared and that Marla was washing the dishes.
“Ah, there you are, Kris!”
“Hi Marla.” Kris said. “Hey…can I eat? I’m SO hungry! I haven’t eaten anything since LUNCH! That was like HOURS ago!”
Marla pointed to the fridge. “There is a bit of pot pie leftover.”
“Oh.” Kris wrinkled up her nose. “Uh….can I just skip supper and go straight to dessert?”
“What do you think?”
Kris sighed. “Fine, I’ll eat some pot pie.”
She opened the fridge and stuck her little finger into the pot pie and licked it. Then she grabbed a pea from the container and quickly swallowed it. She ran out of the room before Marla would tell her to eat any more. She found Mark standing in front of the DVD rack.
“What are you doing?”
Mark stroked his chin in a very grave fashion. “I’m trying to decide what movie to watch.”
“Did you finish all of your chores?”
Mark nodded proudly. “Yup.”
“Even picking up the dog poop in Mr. Henderson’s yard?”
“Eh….” Mark glanced towards their neighbor’s house. “Well, he wasn’t home. So I thought, ‘hey, I’ll do double tomorrow.’”
“But Mark, that was part of your punishment, remember?”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. But who will notice if I miss just one itty bitty day?” He turned back to the movies. “Now let me see…I was thinking about watching this one.”
“Let me see!” Kris grabbed the movie and glanced at the rating. “Uh, Mark, this is rated PG-13… Mom said we couldn’t watch anything that’s not rated G.”
“Ah come on! I don’t remember her saying those words EXACTLY.” Mark rubbed the back of his neck. “Besides, Mom and Dad let us watched Unplanned and that was rated R.”
“Mom said that was different and that that was a good moral film.”
“I’m sure that Monster Aliens from Planet Smudge is a moral film.”
“Uh hu…” Kris shrugged. “Well, have fun being scared! And turn down the sound so that I don’t hear it….”
Emily wandered into the living room. “Hey guys, I’m about to make some dessert. Do you want to help me?”
“Sure!” Kris ran ahead to the kitchen.
Mark shook his head. “I think I’ll watch a movie. Just bring my dessert in here when you’re finished.”
“Mom said no eating in the living room. We just replaced the carpet, remember?”
“I’m sure she won’t mind.” Mark blinked. “I’ll be more careful this time.”
Emily went to the kitchen and found that Marla was just finishing the dishes.
“Hey Marla, why don’t you sit down and rest? Kris and I will make a nice dessert for us all.”
Marla smiled. “Well, I don’t want you to bake unattended. I’ll sit at the kitchen table and watch you.”
“Oh…uh, sure, Marla, that sound great.” Emily motioned furiously to Kris. “Come help me find a recipe.”
Once they were alone, Emily said, “Kris, I want to make something with tons of sugar. But I’m sure Marla will stop us! So you keep her distracted while I make the dessert.”
“How am I supposed to keep an adult distracted?! Adults don’t listen to me!”
“Just talk to her and show her your room and your toys and stuff. She’ll have to listen to you because Mom and Dad are PAYING her to babysit us!”
“I’ll give it a try…” Kris shrugged. “What are you going to make?”
Emily stared unhappily at the almost non-existent Google search results for highest sugar desserts around recipes.
“Eh, I was thinking something like double fudge caramel brownies.” Emily typed the chosen dessert into the search bar.
“Do you know how to make caramel?” Kris asked.
“Well, no. But that’s why I’m looking for a recipe.” Emily clicked a link. “Perfect! This looks great. Look at that picture, Kris! The chocolate and caramel are melting all over the whipped cream and the brownie!”
Kris pretended to cry. “It’s beautiful! I’m in love!”
“Go distract Marla while I make it. I’ll sneak into the kitchen once she’s out.”
Kris ran back to the kitchen and found Marla sitting at the kitchen table.
“Marla!” Kris bounced up and down. “Come here! I want to show you my room! Mommy and Daddy just gave me these really cute little dolls! Can you play with me?”
“Shouldn’t we wait here for Emily? I thought she was going to make dessert.”
Kris tried to look innocent. “Uh….she’s not here right now! Now can you please come and see my dolls?!”
As soon as Emily was sure that the kitchen was empty, she crept inside and started grabbing things from the cabinets. Meanwhile, Mark was sitting in front of the TV, watching the movie.
You know… this IS kind of scary! Maybe I should watch a different one….No…no, I won’t….Emily and Kris will make fun of me and say that I’m a scardy cat! I’ll just keep watching the scary monsters….
Fifteen minutes later, everything fell apart. Emily, who was in the kitchen attempting to make caramel, was boiling a huge pan of butter and sugar. The hot liquid was rapidly reaching the edges of the pan. Emily, who was an inexperienced cooker, didn’t know to turn the stove down. The burn caramel bubbled over and covered the stove. Emily screamed.
Mark, meanwhile, was trembling with fear over the movie. He heard Emily scream and thought that it was an alien coming for him. He started shrieking and wailing, “I’m too young to be turned into a milkshake for an alien! I don’t want to die!”
Kris and Marla raced towards the screaming. Everyone ended up in the kitchen. Emily was yelling about the hot molten liquid that was still bubbling out of the pan and burning on the stove top. Marla bravely shut the stove off and carefully yanked the hot pan off of the burner. After a moment of continued screaming, everyone stood silently surveying the mess.
“Oh no.” Emily groaned. “I am in so much trouble!”
“Mom and Dad will be home in like an hour!” Mark said, hoping that no one had heard him screaming.
Marla cleared her throat. “Emily?”
“I’m sorry –”
Marla sighed. “Let’s get this cleaned up. Emily, get a bucket of warm water and a towel and start trying to get the caramel off of the stove.”
“Where do you keep the mop?”
“It’s in the basement.” Kris pointed to the dark door.
“Go get the mop, Mark.”
Mark groaned and headed for the stairs. The light switch was at the bottom, and he was beginning to feel panicked in the darkness.
“It’s just a basement…just a basement….JUST LIKE THE ONE IN THE MOVIE!” Mark gulped. It was then that he heard a strange humming noise. Trembling, he groped along the wall, looking for the light switch. The noise continued and Mark totally lost his nerve. “ALIENS!” He shrieked, racing back up the stairs as fast as his legs could carry him.
“What’s wrong, Mark?” Kris asked, as he burst through the door, panting.
“Monsters! Aliens!” Mark gasped. “Down in the basement! Humming!”
Kris turned pale. “Oh no! The treadmill!”
“Treadmill?” Emily asked. “Did you try to use the treadmill, Kris?!”
“Uh….” Kris tried to look innocent. “I mainly just fell off of it.”
“Is that where that bruise on your face came from?” Emily asked, pointing to the large purple bruise on Kris’s cheek.
“Wait…” Mark’s face flushed. “You mean….those noises were just the treadmill? Not invaders from Planet Blood?”
Marla looked like she was about to cry. She held up her hands and opened her mouth, but no sound came out.
Just then everyone heard the sound that they dreaded most. A key being put into a lock. The front door opening. Bruce’s voice, “We’re home!”
“OH NO!” Emily shrieked, rubbing the stove with fresh vigor.
“They’re home early!” Mark yelped. “And I left the movie running!”
Mark raced for the living room, but it was too late. Bruce stood with the TV remote in hand, glaring at his son.
“Mark, would you explain to me what this is on the TV?”
“Uh….” Mark giggled nervously. “I can explain!”
“I sure hope so.”
Mary looked around, her forehead wrinkled in concern. “What’s that smell? It’s like…burnt sugar!”
A few minutes later, three disheartened children and one miserable babysitter sat on the couch, waiting for the lecture.
“First of all, I’d like to know what happened here.” Bruce said, glancing at his children.
“I’m sorry, sir.” Marla said, standing up. “It’s my fault. I should have kept the children in line.”
“It’s not all your fault.” Mary said quietly. “Our children are old enough to know how to behave.”
“Yes.” Bruce nodded. “You can go home, Marla. I am sincerely sorry that the kids didn’t listen to you.”
Marla left and Mark and Emily glanced at each other.
We’re dead. Mark moaned to himself.
Bruce cleared his throat. “Kids? Care to explain what happened here tonight?”
“What did happen?” Mary asked.
“Kris ran on the treadmill!” Emily said quickly.
Kris gasped and looked betrayed. “Emily tried to make caramel without Marla and it spilled EVERYWHERE.”
The room erupted and everyone started screaming and arguing.
“QUIET!” Bruce yelled above the noise. Once everything settled down, Mary and Bruce dropped into chairs. Mary put her head between her hands and sighed.
“Kids….before we left earlier, you told us that you wanted to stay home alone – that you didn’t need a babysitter! But tonight you have proven to us that you can’t be trusted with more responsibility! Why would you all behave like that?”
Emily raised her tear filled eyes. “Mom…Dad…I’m really sorry. I was wrong. I promise to take any punishment you give me, without complaining.”
Mary stood up and hugged Emily. Bruce looked at the two kids who still sat on the couch, eyes glued to the floor.
Mark sighed and stood up. “I’m sorry, too. I shouldn’t have watched that movie. But hey! Couldn’t the nightmares that I’m sure to have for the next ten years be punishment enough?” He smiled hopefully.
Kris blinked. “Well guys, I don’t know what to say. I am really sorry for running on the treadmill. My face hurts like crazy…”
Despite his best efforts, a smile crossed Bruce’s face. “Well kids, it’s safe to say that we won’t be leaving you unattended again for a while.”
The kids managed weak smiles.
“Now let’s talk about your punishments!”