~ Letter ~
Maia threw herself face first on her bed. What a day. Would it ever end? Would spring vacation ever arrive? With a groan, she opened her eyes. Her enormous chemistry textbook glared back at her. She groaned again. At least it was finally April. Only a few more weeks before summer. Freedom.
Sighing, she sat up and reached for her literature book. “The Importance of Being Earnest,” she read aloud, in a sarcastic British accent. Rolling her eyes, she flipped open the tattered pages to her bookmarked page. Only… her bookmark wasn’t there. In its place was a neatly folded note. Curious, she opened it.
My dear Maia,
Please pardon me for interrupting your reading – this is important. I fear I must apologize. That said… I have no regrets. I hope you have an awesome day.
Your loving brother,
“What in the world…?” she muttered. This boded ill.
She darted into the hallway, nearly smashing into her mother.
“Have you seen Daniel?” Maia asked.
“Your shoe’s untied,” her mother interjected.
Maia reached down to tie it, but found herself staring at her sock. “Um, Mom, I’m not wearing shoes.”
“I know,” her mother chuckled. “April Fools.”
“April Fools?” Maia repeated, looking down at the note in her hand. Her apprehension grew. “Where did you say Dan is?”
“He’s at the Petersons’ for the day. Why?”
“Nothing,” Maia murmured, staring at the note. April Fools’ Day… and Daniel was gone… No regrets. She gulped. It was going to be a long day.
“Don’t forget to feed the chickens,” Mrs. Booker reminded her, walking away.
Maia winced. She had forgotten. Remorse welling in her soul for the poor, shriveled hens waiting wearily for their belated breakfast, she scurried downstairs. The fact that under-fed chickens make poor roasts sped her along a bit, too.
She grabbed her boots and stuffed her feet inside. Something… squished. She felt cool mush spread over the underside of her foot. “Ow!” she howled, yanking them off again. Plastered over her sock was a dingy slush of dirty applesauce. She groaned, peeling off her sock. She might as well go barefoot.
But she had barely stepped outside when she heard her mother call, “Maia? Where are your shoes? Don’t go back to the chicken coop without shoes on. It’s all muddy back there.”
Maia sighed and bolted up the stairs to her room. She needed new socks. Yet, when she pulled open her sock drawer, she found it… empty. “Daniel!” she yelled, more annoyed at his absence than the absence of her socks. It is hard to vent feelings when the person responsible for them has – perhaps wisely – made himself scarce.
With groans of annoyance and semi-good-natured threats, Maia returned to her boots and gingerly inserted her feet. She hated wearing shoes without socks, and the sticky goop of mashed fruit only made matters less appealing.
With giggled mutterings and several eye-rollings, she made her way to the chicken coop. She was met by the frustrated chastisement of hungry fowls. “I know, just gimme a sec,” she returned, grabbing the feed sack from the nearby shed. It was nearly empty, but it would be enough for this last feeding.
“There you go, girls,” she said, pouring it out. Feathers and beaks surged towards the feed bowl as the pellets poured out of the bag.
Yet, as Maia looked closer, she realized that it wasn’t chicken feed pouring out of the sack. Rather, it was… cereal. Cheerios, to be exact. “No, wait!” she cried, as the excited hens consumed the tiny donuts of processed grain. But it was no use. There was no way to clean it up before they ate it.
Maia groaned again, stuffing the empty sack back in the shed. “I hope you don’t kill them, Dan,” she muttered, lifting the hinged lid to the nesting boxes.
A single, brown egg rested alone on a nest of straw. She reached for it. It was… oddly heavy. And… rubbery.
She held the rubber egg in her fist and glared at it with all the strength she could muster. She wished it was Daniel. Rolling her eyes, she returned to the house.
“Hey Mum,” she said, as she entered the kitchen. “Catch!”
Mrs. Booker gasped as the very real-looking egg plummeted towards the tile floor… only to bounce back up, unharmed. Maia cackled victoriously as her mother tried to scowl around a grin.
“Daniel’s been having some fun with you, then?”
“Yeah,” Maia admitted. Then, a brilliant idea came to her. “But I think I know how to get him back!”
Bubbling with excitement, she rushed up to the bathroom. She grabbed Daniel’s toothbrush and plunged it bristles-down into a cup of water. Then she trotted down to the kitchen and placed it in the freezer.
She smirked in self-congratulation. Now all she had to do was wait for him to get home.
Hours later, she heard the garage door grumbling up, and Daniel trudged in, dirty and tired.
He grinned at Maia as he sat down to dinner. “Did you have a good day?”
“Eventful,” she answered, rolling her eyes.
A while after dinner, she glanced at the clock. 10:06. Daniel was chatting excitedly with their father, but she could see that he was tired. It wouldn’t be long now!
As discreetly as she could, she slipped to the freezer and pulled out the shivering little toothbrush. In a moment, it was sitting beside the bathroom sink. She looked at it critically. Obviously, Daniel would see in a moment what she had done. But at least he’d have to go to the trouble of thawing it out!
Still, for even that to work, she’d have to get him up soon, before it melted. She stared at herself in the mirror and experimented to see what expression made her look the most tired.
Stretching it across her face, she slowly walked down into the living room and announced, with the best yawn she could muster, that she was going to bed.
“Yeah, me too,” Daniel said, yawning for real.
It was all Maia could do to keep her composure as he followed her upstairs.
He reached for his toothbrush, and then stopped. She couldn’t conceal her grin as he slowly turned to look at her.
“Froze the toothbrush, I see,” he said. “An oldie, but a classic.”
“Well,” she teased, “You went to so much trouble. I figured it was the least I could do.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “Only,” he said at last, his eyes twinkling, “I’m afraid there’s something you didn’t notice.” Deliberately, he picked up the frozen toothbrush and put it into her hands. Then, reaching behind her, he plucked the other toothbrush out of the jar on her side of the sink. She watched in horror as he squirted it with toothpaste and stuck it in his mouth.
“Ye olde switcheroo,” he said with a triumphant gleam in his eyes. “Another classic.”
She blinked, and, looking down at the frozen toothbrush, she recognized… her own. “I guess this is how the Trojans must’ve felt.”
Daniel’s face was split wide with a grin. “I have no regrets.”