Sally knew the special joys – and sorrows – that come from being a member of a large family. Her friend, Eugenia, had only one brother, and she was born when he was leaving school, so as a brother he really didn’t count. For Eugenia it was like being an only child.
Sometimes Geni put on swank because, being an ‘only child’, she simply had to ask to receive, or, because Laurence had visited and the visit had been a special occasion. When Geni became too impossible, Sally stuck out her tongue and wiggled her ears (a very useful trick she had learned from Danny), and ran away.
Sally had three sisters and four brothers.
At seventeen, Clarissa was the eldest, a usually quiet, fun-loving girl, helper to her mother and confidante of the younger children. Sally, who was an avid reader, thought Clarissa was like Meg of “Little Women” and she regarded her eldest sister with deep affection and respect.
Roberta came next. Fifteen-going-on-sixteen, she was supremely conscious of becoming a ‘grown-up’. So much so you could no longer call her Bobby, or enter her space without a correct demeanor. Sally regarded her with scorn and avoided her whenever possible.
Peter and Daniel, thirteen and fourteen respectively, were close friends with similar interests. Sally, eleven years old, adored Daniel and was his willing slave. Daniel shared his friendship between Peter and Sally, leading them both into many scrapes. When they were called to account for their actions he stood with them, accepting his responsibility, taking the lion’s share of the blame.
Matthew and Mark, eight-year-old twins, were completely dissimilar in looks, echoes of each other in word and deed. Inseparable, they sometimes flowed over and around Sally, enveloping her in their oneness, including her momentarily in their being. Sally loved them dearly, enjoyed being a part of their activities, attempting to outguess their incomprehensible understanding of each other. She taught them things that Daniel and Peter had taught her. While with them she became another boy.
Petula at four years was the baby. She understood her place, demanded her rights, and required constant attention. Her targets were Matthew, Mark and Sally.
Sally read to her for seeming hours, dressed her dolls, drew pictures for Petula to color. On fine days she walked her around the garden, telling her stories of the flower fairies, showing her how to build them hidden ballrooms and secluded boudoirs.
Matthew and Mark did their best to keep out of her way. When they could no longer avoid her, they tied her fingers in cats cradle knots, or shackled her in the hold of their pirate ship – anything to speed her lack of interest in their company. On one occasion Petula tricked them into climbing into a wardrobe, whereupon she closed and locked the wardrobe door and threw the key out of the window. She then tidied the cards and dominoes with which they had been playing, and sat down with a storybook. She ignored the calls, thumps and entreaties from the wardrobe.
Clarissa, coming in with freshly laundered clothes, was the first to realize something was amiss. Setting the clothes aside, she called to the boys to be quiet, and turned to Petula. “Where is the key, Pet?” Petula ignored her, studiously turning the pages of her storybook. Kneeling, Clarissa took Petula’s face between her hands, forcing her to look up. “Petula, where is the key?” Pointing to the window, Petula answered, “I threw it.”
Clarissa jumped up. A glance told her the key would be hard to find. Going to the other wardrobes in the house she finally found a key to fit and released the prisoners.
Petula, unrepentant, refused to help in the search for the missing key. The four boys and Sally searched under Clarissa’s direction. After a weary interval, Matthew and Mark together found the key. It was a long time before they would admit an amusing side to their adventure.
Thinking of the incident Sally chuckled. She decided they had probably deserved it. Being a member of a large family would never be boring. She wouldn’t change places with anyone else. Especially Eugenia.
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