I laughed heartily as my brother made a joke. It was Christmas Eve. My mother, my father, my brother and I were all sitting at the kitchen table eating supper; my brother, Peter, had arrived earlier that day.
I pushed my chair back from the table and looked at my mother as I said, “That was delicious.”
My mother only laughed and said, “If you think that was good, wait until you taste what I’ve got planned out for tomorrow.”
“Ooh, what is that, Mother?” said my brother, raising his eyebrow. “I can’t imagine anything better than this.” My mother merely rolled her eyes and started cleaning up.
“Come with me, Pete. I want to show you my hideout!” I said happily. I hadn’t seen my brother since the beginning of the school year. His job as a vet in New York kept him pretty busy.
I grabbed my brother’s hand and practically dragged him out to the play yard. My brother only laughed good-naturedly and said, “Okay, okay, Kacey, don’t pull my arm outta its socket. Now where’s this hideout of yours?”
I let go of him and ran to the tree house and called back to him, “Here it is. Come on up.” Then I climbed up myself. He followed, smiling.
When he saw it, he gasped, “Wow, Kacey, this is really cool, and I mean cool in both ways.” He laughed and shivered as he said it.
I smiled and also shivered, “Don’t blame me that it’s freezing. Blame the time of year and the place.” Then I scowled. “At least on the farm, we got snow along with the cold.”
Peter sighed, nodding. Then he rubbed his hand across the latch hook rug. “So this is what you did with this old thing. Beatrice looks almost as beautiful as she does in real life.”
I laughed. “Almost, but not quite. And it isn’t old. It isn’t even a year old yet! So you like my hide-out?” My eyes sparkled.
“Yeah, I love it, except for the freezing cold. I don’t mean to make the wrong impression, but let’s go in before we turn to ice-cubes and can’t open presents tomorrow.” I agreed, and we went in.
My eyes opened as a dim light came through the small window near the top of my wall on the far side of the bed from the door.
I got out of bed and hurriedly got dressed. It’s Christmas, at last! I thought excitedly as I tip-toed up the stairs and into the living room.
My brother was already there. He was sorting through his stocking and heard me come in and said, without even looking up, “You’re late, Kacey.”
I shook my head. “You haven’t been in my room. The window is tiny, and I didn’t want to bother with setting my alarm clock.”
“Tut, tut. That’s no excuse, my sister. Oh well though, it can’t be helped, what is done is done,” he said, still sorting through his stocking.
I walked over to the TV and pulled down my stocking and then knelt on the floor, dumping its contents on the floor and starting to sort through it.
Just as I put my last present back in the stocking, my mother and father came in. “Well, hello, our little angels. I see you’ve already scavenged your stockings.” Both Peter and I nodded fiercely.
“Well, then!” said my father, clapping his hands together. “You can help us set up the Christmas morning snacks!”
Peter groaned. “But I’m a guest, your son that you haven’t seen in a long time, and you’re making me work?” He pretended to be hurt.
For once, I was on my parents’ side between Peter and them. “Peter, for once I have to take Mom and Dad’s side in this. There’s no way I’m letting you make me do all the work.”
“Aw, shucks, looks like I’m not getting myself outta this one,” said Peter. We all laughed, including him, and got to work.
The last present
I laughed as Peter pretended to think the kitty on the shirt I got him was real. At first he named it, Jess, then he asked it how it could be so still and to come and play with him, etc.
Suddenly my father handed me a box with holes in it, “Here, I saved the best for last.”
Slowly I took off the lid, and to my surprise I saw a little golden retriever puppy. I could not find any words to express my happiness, so my parents spoke for me. “We knew you’d like him; his name is Honey.”
Finally, my parents told us it was time for lunch, and so we picked up our presents and went to get turkey.
So the rest of the day went uneventfully, until my brother and I went downstairs. Peter said he would be down in a bit, so I had gone on down and started sorting through my toy chest. Honey had fallen asleep, curled up in a ball at one end of a couch.
When Peter did come down, he had his hands behind his back, and his eyes looked more mischievous than ever. I instantly said, “Peter, what have you gotten into this time? Mom’s going kill you.”
Peter sighed. “Am I so little trusted? Oh well, maybe I won’t give you your present after all…” he trailed off and started to toss a box wrapped in blue paper with stars on it and a big silver bow in the middle into a trash can.
I got to my feet and said, “No, no! I was only joking. Now let me see it.” I put out my, hand palm up. Peter gave the best presents — like, he had gotten me a new backpack that had a horse on it and a book cover that was blue velvet with a horse looking out of it.
“Hmm, should I? Or shouldn’t I?” Peter tapped his chin and pretended to be deep in thought. I waited patiently, and finally he handed it over, saying, “All right, I’ll give it to you. But don’t expect me to be so nice in the future.”
I sat down on the other couch, so as not to wake Honey, and ripped the wrapping paper off. Then I opened the box and looked in. The box had one item in it. I pulled it out and it looked like a lumpy brown contraption of bamboo and hinged wood. Hoping it would be more interesting after I unfolded it, I lifted one end of it and let it unfold itself to the floor.
The wooden sides snapped into shape: a door frame, with a sliding bamboo curtain in it. It reminded me a bit of the closet door in my old room back at the old farm, but that was all. He got me a new closet door? I stared at it for a long time, then said slowly, “This is a joke, right?”
“Not at all,” said Peter cheerfully. “Here, I’ll hold it steady while you go through it. One hundred percent satisfaction guaranteed!”
My knuckles turned white and I hoped that I was dreaming. “This is the worst present I’ve ever gotten!” I snapped. “What have you done with my brother? My brother always gives the best presents!” And with these words I shoved it away, wishing I could wake up suddenly and find something I could enjoy.
Peter leaped forward to grab the door frame. The bamboo curtain fell open. He tripped and fell through. Something shimmered, and he disappeared from sight.
It all happened so fast that it took me a little while to recover. Then I gingerly picked up the door and leaned it against the wall. It looked like a normal closet door. I couldn’t see anything through it except the wall. I wanted to know what had happened to Peter, but I didn’t want to disappear like he had, either. Finally I closed my eyes and cautiously stepped through.
I opened my eyes and saw, to my amazement, the bed I had slept on back at the farm — and on it sat my brother, who said, “I hoped that you’d come after me. Not to say that falling through wasn’t an accident.”
[To be continued . . .]