By Kevin Bailey

[Catch up on previous chapters: A Time of Dying]

Everyone thinks Isobel’s the strong one, but she’s not.

You see, she left her diary under the trees, in the fort Daddy built there. It was on top of the tree stump in the corner of our fort. I read it when she left it there after she finished her homework. Since we’re home-schooled, the big girls like doing their work by themselves. I know the feeling.

Lately, I go off by myself a lot, too.

Well, today when I found her diary I had taken my Colton-book and was going to write in it. I don’t like to write with lots of people around. I shouldn’t have read her diary. I almost took it in the house and gave it to her. But she was at Liz Pickering’s house, working on a research project for American history. If you ask me, she was just there seeing Richie, who was Liz’s twin brother!

When I opened the diary, I felt guilty. But if there’s anything little sisters like to do, it’s read their big sister’s diary, so I did.

All my life I’ve always thought Isobel was the coolest big sister a girl ever had. She wasn’t always nice to me (that’d be kind of weird!), but she usually was. When I was little she would play stuff with me that must have seemed babyish to her. She and Emily would set up tea parties for me, and we would pretend to be the girls in Little Women, which is a great book Mama read to us when I was small—like five or so.

I’m telling you this just so you know, it’s not like I read Belle’s diary to get back at her. I think she’s great. It’s just that I was… well… curious!

The first things I read were just normal. She has only written in this book since last Christmas, so it had stuff about that, and how she wanted to go to regular school. I already knew that, because I heard her and Mama fussing about it.

I also found out she kissed Richie! That was something I didn’t know.

I mean, yuck!

Richie is nice and all, but to kiss him? I don’t think so!

Isobel didn’t write in her diary every day, so I got to June 30 quickly. It was page 19 to be exact. (Belle numbers her diary pages. I should do that in my little book.)

That’s when I found out my big sister wasn’t really the strong one. She wrote so much stuff I can’t tell you about all of it. She was real worried about Daddy for awhile. (Sometimes she calls him “Dad” which I think sounds kind of funny.) She was worried because he got mad at Garrett that time for almost nothing, and also because he doesn’t seem to laugh anymore.

She told Mama that she heard me talking to myself in my bedroom one time. I didn’t write about that. It’s just something I do sometimes. I pretend I’m telling Colton stories about different things.

She wrote about worrying that I was making myself sick. She was worried that I was losing weight and seemed to have a lot of headaches. I didn’t mean to worry everyone. That’s just how things are now. I’m never hungry and my head hurts a lot.

The scariest things she wrote, though, were about God.

She wrote about wondering if He really exists. I know I told you about me wondering about that, but I never thought Belle would! She sings in church, and even teaches some of the littlest kids in Sunday School. She might be the best girl I know! When I read that, my heart started beating real fast.

Sometimes she wrote her prayers. That might seem weird, since she wrote about wondering if there was really a God, but it’s not. It’s how I feel sometimes. I still believe in God, but I get confused. Isobel does too, I guess.

She wrote lots of other stuff, too. About how she and Emily cried themselves to sleep after Colton and Kayleigh’s birthday party. (She tells Emily lots of stuff. I think they’re best friends. Like me and Garrett.) About how she gets mad at me sometimes for being so sad—getting mad at me made her feel guilty. She wrote about Kayleigh, Mama, Garrett, and, well, all of us. She hates that everyone thinks she’s so good. She doesn’t think she is.

She wrote other things I can’t tell about. It’s private—girl stuff.

After I finished reading, I felt like I knew her better than I’ve known anybody else. I’ve always loved Belle, but reading all her feelings changed everything. She’s more like a real person to me now. I think I like it this way better. I like knowing I’m not the only one who feels the things I feel. I know Belle’s not really the strong one.

My sister is a lot more like me than I thought.

##

 

Halloween was yesterday. Kayleigh went as a little princess. She used my costume from when I was her age. It was pretty, and Kayleigh did look like a real princess. She’s prettier than me. I went as a pirate. I had this poofy shirt, a black eye-patch, a fake old-time-style gun and a plastic sword. Mama braided my hair real tight, so I would look more like a real pirate with my black and silver bandana on.

I had a headache—a bad one!—so it hurt awful when Mama braided my hair. I didn’t say anything, because I was afraid they wouldn’t let me go if they knew my head was hurting so much.

They’re protective that way.

Garrett was a football player. He’s always a sports guy. Last year he was a Yankee—they’re his favorite baseball team—and the year before, he went as a basketball player. This year he was a Patriot: Tom Brady, their cute quarterback.

I should say it’s not Garrett that thinks Tom Brady is cute. Isobel said that, and I agree: he is kind of cute!

Where Garrett hid his soap was funny. There aren’t pockets in a football uniform, but there’s this place in the pants for a pad to go to keep you from hurting your butt-bone. That’s where Garrett put his soap. Imagine that–a bar of soap for a butt-pad!

We visited a bunch of houses, but I won’t tell you about all of them. Aunt Grace (Mama’s little sister) and her husband Scott live in our same neighborhood, and they give great candy. Uncle Scott is a writer like me. He has stories in the Hartford Courant. Aunt Grace is still in her twenties, so she’s like a big sister to us. We went there last, because they have a new baby named Emma, and Kayleigh and I wanted to see her.

After we played with Emma for awhile, Garrett started making faces at me, trying to get me to leave. I had almost forgotten our “tricking” plans!

“Micki, we need to go!”

He whispered it, but I think Aunt Grace heard, because she said, “Well, we need to put Emma to bed, so we’d better say good night.”

We left and made our last stop of the night.

Poor Mrs. Canasta.

She must think she lives in a neighborhood filled with little demons! We walked onto the Canasta’s front lawn; I was holding Kayleigh’s hand. We had let her in on our secret, and she looked pretty excited. Normally we don’t include her in secrets like this, so it was a big deal. Garrett took his soap from the butt-pad holder, and I broke off a piece of soap for Kayleigh. While Richie and Isobel stayed at the curb talking, we pounced.

Garrett’s job was the front part of the house. Kayleigh and I did the windows on the side away from Big Al’s pen. Kayleigh just wrote “Hi” and drew a picture of a cow. Well, I think it was a cow. I love my sis, but she’s no Picasso! (I did a report on him once—never mind, that’s not important really.)

I tried to be more creative, writing, “A trick for no treats.” The Canastas never give out treats on Halloween. The porch light is like a signal for kids to come. If the porch light is on, it means there were treats inside. The Canasta’s porch light was always off. Garrett’s funnier than me, so I’m sure he wrote something hilarious.

Whatever it was, though, he got caught.

Kayleigh and I were just coming around the edge of the house, when I heard Garrett yelp, and then shout.

“Run!”

We did.

Isobel and Richie looked spooked, and I thought something terrible had happened. As Kayleigh and I ran, I looked back. Isobel and Richie were still standing in front of the Canasta’s house. I couldn’t let Garrett get in trouble by himself.

I stopped running, and Kayleigh did too. She was confused.

Two things happened last night:

When Daddy heard what happened, he took us back to the Canasta’s house. We sat in their living room, and I saw Big Al for the first time in awhile. The Canasta’s explained to us why they haven’t done Halloween for a long time.

I don’t hate them anymore. It was really sad.

The other thing is, Daddy didn’t spank us when we got back home.

He was so mad last night that he didn’t want to spank us yet. When he did, he got his money’s worth, though! It’s the worst spanking I ever got. I know it hurt the most, but Daddy also said how he trusted us, and we had let him down. I didn’t mention to him that we had been “letting him down” every Halloween for quite awhile!

Isobel’s too big for spankings (She turns 15 this February), so she was grounded for like a month.

Garrett got spanked too, and even Kayleigh got one. She never gets spankings, so I felt bad about that, because she’s such a good girl. But Kay wasn’t mad at all. It was like she thought it was cool to get a spanking like her big sister.

Strange, huh?

One good thing about the spanking: my bottom hurt so much I forgot about my headache for awhile.

And for the first time in a long time, I had lots of fun.

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