Sunday morning began with the awful realization that Id made the biggest mistake of my life.
It had all started on Saturday. The weekend began like any other. Mom and Dad were rushing around packing puppets and balloons and facepaints into the van for a party in the afternoon. Theres nearly always one going on somewhere on Saturdays. Theyre party entertainers; the weekends are their busiest time. I used to go along to the parties, but then I -- well, I just dont anymore.
Birthdays, anniversaries, passing your piano exam -- anything you want to celebrate, theyll be there singing, pulling rabbits out of hats, throwingpies at your big brother. Whatever it takes to make you smile.
Everyone thinks it must be great to have them as my parents. They think my home life must be a nonstop party. Um. Not quite.
It used to be fun, I suppose. When I was young enough not to get bored with making dogs out of balloons every week; when I actually liked beingdriven around in a bright yellow VW camper with pictures of clowns and jesters and rabbits on the side; when I didnt know that there was any such thing as a problem that couldnt be sorted out with tickle therapy. I used to think that my parents were the most incredible human beings on the planet.
Now I just think theyre embarrassing.
This Saturday I didnt mind, though. I hardly even noticed them. I was busy putting the final touches on a present that I was making for my bestfriend, Charlotte.
"Philippa, were going now!" Mom called up the stairs.
"OK," I shouted back.
"Theres tofu rolls and veggie burgers for you and Charlotte."
I rolled my eyes. Once, just once, it might be nice to have something normal like grilled cheese or fish fingers for lunch.
"Great!" I replied, hoping I sounded more sincere than I felt.
I looked up as my bedroom door opened. It was Dad. He had a bright orange sun painted on one cheek and a black night sky with a crescent moon on the other.
"Which hands the penny in?" he asked, grinning widely as he held his palms out.
I pointed to the penny in his left hand. "That one."
"Are you sure?" Dad winked. Then he closed his hands, shook them, got me to blow on them, and then -- presto -- the penny had disappeared. It was a good trick. It was probably even better if you hadnt already seen it approximately three times a week for eleven and a half years, and if you didnt already know how to do it yourself.
Still, Id never say anything. It would only upset him, and I did secretly enjoy his magic. I liked it when he showed me how to do a new trick. Id go away and practice it for days afterward. Not that Id ever do it in front of anyone except Charlotte. Just the thought of performing made me tremble. Id never do that again.
"Neat," I said, smiling.
Closing his hands again, Dad reached forward, tickled my ear and opened his palms. "Hey, look where I found it! It was in your ear the whole time," he said. "Now why didnt you tell me?"
I kept smiling. "Theyll love you, Dad," I said.
He leaned over to kiss the top of my head. "Be good, sunshine," he said before leaving me and bounding downstairs to join Mom.
I watched the van drive to the end of the road, and then I got back to the friendship bracelet I was making for Charlotte.
Charlotte had been my best friend since the first day of school. We had even been in preschool together, so wed known each other for nearly seven years -- and this weekend she was moving away. Her parents had bought a farm hundreds of miles away. They were "getting back to nature." All homegrown food and solar panels and no phone or TV. They werent even going to have a computer, and it was so completely in the middle of nowhere that they probably wouldnt even have cell phonereception. They might as well have been leaving the planet.
They were really excited about going, though. Even Charlotte. All I knew was that it felt as if someone were about to chop off one of my limbs.Thats how close we were. Charlotte said she felt the same way, but I knew she was looking forward to her new life, too. She was going to have a pony of her own, and her parents said theyd get a dog and chickens. I was happy for her. Really, I was. But how was I ever going to be happy without her around?
The friendship bracelet! Shed be here any minute. I wiped my eyes and got back to work. It was a really complicated pattern in turquoise, pink, and purple: all her favorite colors.
Id just threaded the last piece of cotton into place when the doorbell rang. Thats the last time shell walk over to my house, a heavy voice said in my mind.
I looked in the mirror, wiped my eyes again, and practiced smiling. Dont think about it. Dont let her see how sad you are; dont make it hard for her, I said to my reflection.