I squinted at her with every possible iota of teenage disdain. She stared back with every ounce of attitude an eight year old could muster.
“…and since Dana couldn’t make it, then sent Katie instead, so I’ll leave her with you while we finish up in the kitchen. Don’t just sit in front of the TV. I’m sure you girls have something in common.” Aunt Jeannie’s cheery voice was two ounces too syrupy. With a wave of her plastic-gloved fingers, she retreated to the safety of the kitchen, leaving me with a cousin I knew nothing about.
Her blond hair was curled in perfect ringlets, her nails a soft posy pink, the rest of her outfit reminiscent of a Victorian era with lots of ruffles and lace. She was the complete opposite of my best bud and cousin, Dana.
I’m doomed. I groaned inwardly. “So…Katie, what would you like to do?”
Razor blue eyes laughed at me. “Anything.” She mumbled.
“Okay…define anything?” I tried.
Katie sighed and switched her attention to the TV screen.
I picked up the remote and turned it off. “Aunt J said no TV.” I chewed my pinky nail. “Let’s see…um, do you play cards?”
“I’m eight years old.” Katie scowled. “Eight-year-olds don’t play cards. Dana said you were fun. Don’t you have any real games?”
“No. I don’t.” I closed my eyes for a moment. “Dana and I don’t play games. We go shopping-which is out of the question. I'm broke. Um, how ‘bout hide and seek? I hide, you find.”
Her lip curled into a pout. “That’s not fair…this is your house, you know all the best hiding places!”
“Okay, I’ll count and you hide.” I crossed my fingers behind the sofa.
“It’s still your house-you’ll know where to look!” Her bleached eyebrows wrinkled into a mess.
“What if….I count to a hundred? Would that help?” I crossed my toes.
“I’ll count. You hide.” She crossed her skinny arms. “But-you’re not allowed to hide in the bathroom or the parents’ room.”
“Really…and why?” I mimicked her pose of arms crossed over chest.
“Dana never lets me, ‘cause I’m never allowed in the parents’ room-”
“…and if I have to use the bathroom and you’re in there, you could scare me-”
“…and I don’t want to be scared!”
The pout resumed. “What?”
“I’m counting, okay?. Hide wherever you want!” I circled around the end table and plopped onto the sofa.
“Are your eyes really closed?” Katie followed me. “Dana says you’re not allowed to cheat.”
I grabbed a pillow and hugged it to my face. “Thef wappy?”
“Are you sure you can’t see-”
“Onuf.…wooo….weee….oar…” I counted into the pillow, relieved to hear her footsteps pattering down the hallway.
By the time I reached one hundred, I was out of breath and patience. I tossed the pillow across the room, snickering when it landed perfectly on the lounge. “Ready or not…here I come.”
And so began the hunt.
Downstairs was quickly searched and was upstairs. Mom’s room was obviously occupied, so no chance of Katie slipping in there.
If she’s playing by the rules. I stuck my head ‘round the shower curtain with a grimace. Of course she’s playing by the rules…she’s eight years old!
There was only one last place to check, the thought hit me as I stood at the stairs. Nah….she wouldn’t have…she would. I turned on my heel and bolted for my bedroom.
Happily sprawled on the floor of my urban sanctuary was Katie playing with my new Nintendo. She jumped, guilty, before the console beeped loudly. Her cheeks flushed pink as her attention returned to the screen.
It took a moment to swallow my first impression along with my first words. Then, I forced a smile and crossed the room to look over her shoulder. “Hey…that’s a new level.” I craned my neck to see the tiny screen. “How did you get there?”
Relief radiated from her cherub features. “Dana has one of these…but she never lets me play. I-I just wanted to try it.”
“You’re doing pretty good.” I shoved the pile of laundry to the floor and settled down on the bed, patting the space beside me.
She hesitated. “You’re not mad? Dana always gets mad at-”
“Katie-” My weariness melted away to a real smile. “I’m not Dana. I’m Trish…now c’mon and show me how you got there.”
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