Pacing is for drama queens. People only pace when they want the world to know they’re nervous. At least that’s what I used to think. But it’s something to do while I think. Because I have to do something and I have no idea what that something is.
My fluffy carpet cushions my feet. My old stuffed animals smile at me from the far corner. Sit down, they say. Rest. Be comfortable. But there’s no being comfortable right now. My hands shake if I unfold them and my stomach turns sour like I drank old milk. What do I do?
There has to be something I can do to protect my brother. But I know there isn’t. He can’t have an emotional attachment to anything. He can’t cling to anything. But that’s what kids do. Kids have binkies and blankies and favorite toys. The whole house is going to be full of things that can invite a pixie to come in and take him away. And I wouldn’t put it past that little winged bag of crap to take a baby.
I try to imagine the thin, red mouth and squinty, sparkly eyes. Yeah, he’d do it. Even if all he wanted to do was mess with me, that pixie wouldn’t hesitate to grab my baby brother from his crib and toss him in front of a hungry dragon.
My knees wobble and I plop onto my mattress. The springs creak happily beneath me. I hate them. I hate my bed for being so normal, for being comfortable and for making me happy every time I got the chance to take a nap. How could I have let my guard down? How could I have missed this possibility? It should have been obvious. If the pixie can’t get to me, he’ll get to someone else, someone I care about.
Maybe I can go in his place? But it’s not like the pixie plays fair. He’s kidnap me every other week and if I refused, bang! My brother would be gone. Or he might just take both of us.
Unless I make him promise. Pixies can’t lie. At least, I don’t think they can.
The idea grabs onto my brain and pushes out every other crappy idea I’ve had. It’s my only chance. And like that, I’ve made up my mind. I’ll do it. I’ll take my brother’s place and make the pixie promise to leave him alone. I inhale deeply and feel some relief. I have a plan.
But as more questions creep up, the relief doesn’t last long. What if I contact the pixie and he uses the opportunity to snatch the baby before I can stop him? I picture the creepy imp hovering over the crib, smiling down at the sleeping infant. I won’t let that happen. I’ll end this. Before the baby is even born. The pixie won’t get the chance.
I kneel in front of my dresser and open the bottom drawer. One of the knobs came off during one of our moves. I don’t use it much any more. But as I wiggle it open, using the remaining knob, the gold handle of the magic mirror reflects the light from my ceiling fan. Fortunately, Dad left the mirror behind. He said he forgot to take it with him when he went overseas, but I have a feeling he wanted me to have it while he was gone. He kind of gave himself away when I offered to ship it to him. He wouldn’t let me, no matter how much bubble wrap I promised to send with it. Dad never refuses bubble wrap.
I grasp the handle and slide the mirror out of the half-open drawer. The cool metal behind the glass rests in my palm. I inhale slowly, then bring the glass close to my face. I breathe hot air until my reflection clouds up. “Show me the pixie.”
The fog thickens to a solid white, but doesn’t clear away. The mirror’s glass fills with white static, like it’s looking out into the middle of a blizzard. I’d forgotten the mirror doesn’t work on my pixie or the white lady I met in the forest. Is there any way to find that little punk?
It was easy to get him to come to me, when I was in Fairy Tale Land. He kind of just popped in to taunt me whenever he felt like it. But in the real world, there are rules. I’m just not sure what those rules are.
Except one. There’s one rule I know for sure, and I’ve used it. Boy, have I used it.
The photo album seems to stick out from my bookshelf a little more than the rest of my books. Its pink spine practically glows next to the brown and navy textbooks I never use.
My feet drag against the carpet. In the corner of my brain, a tiny voice screams at me, begging me to reach for a different book. But then I think of that belly poking through Mom’s shirt, about the little somebody living inside. I think about the nursery and how I can help Mom paint it blue, of little hats and tiny shoes and about how happy everyone’s going to be. And about how devastated they’ll be if the baby disappears one night.
I pull the photo album from the shelf and take it to my bed. My fingers find the picture without any trouble. The picture. The one of Dad after his race. I focus on the bib number: 2504.
And there’s a small chuckle behind me.