Friday, February 26, 2016


Alicia knew better than to try and reason with him.

The music was pumping. Beer flowing. And two-thirds of his paycheque was unspent.

From her perspective across the room and by the exit, Jason wasn't coming home any time soon.  She slipped her hood up over her head and stepped out into the rain.  The steady thump thump of club music gradually gave way to the relentless splash of rain against the pavement.  Within half a block, Alicia was soaked to the skin.

She let herself into her apartment and hung her coat up on the rack by the door. Water slid off it to drench the hall carpet.  No matter how often she talked to Jason about his drinking, her brother always blew off her concern.  He was young, gainfully employed and free to blow off steam.  He wasn't worried about losing his apartment or going hungry because he had parents and four other siblings. Never mind that most of them were married with families of their own, Jason was the baby. And everyone took care of the baby.

Alicia plugged in the kettle, took down her favourite mug and contemplated how to get through to Jason. He was an adult. It was time he took responsibility for his own actions.  It was time she let him sink or swim under his own power.  She was done looking out for him. Done feeding him, done housing him and done lying to everyone about how well he was doing with his life.

Alicia poured boiling water over the tea bag and set the timer. While the tea steeped, she walked into the bathroom and filled the tub. A splash of soothing lavender bath salts dissolved in the steaming water.  Once bath and tea were ready, she cranked the volume on her tablet, set the mug on the floor beside the tub and stepped in to the hot water.

Pure bliss.  Forget Jason. Forget his crappy attitude.  Forget it all.  She filled her lungs with the scented steam and closed her eyes.

A creak in the hallway caused a frown. She lived alone.

A crash followed by a giggle and Alicia knew exactly who was in the hallway.  "Katie?"

Her younger sister stuck her head in the bathroom doorway.  "Hey, Alicia.  You'll never believe who I ran into at Dev's."

"I have no idea."  She pulled the bubbles up her chest.  "Get out and let me get dressed."

"Hey, Alicia."  A green-eyed blond head joined Katie's in the doorway.  "Nice bubbles."

"Brad." Alicia hooked her foot over the tub's edge and used it to slam the door shut.  So much de-stressing after the bar. Nothing like your ex ogling you to increase your blood pressure and fill you with mortification.

She yanked the drain stopper loose, sloshed herself out of the tub and grabbed her dressing gown.  Wet hair plastered to the back of her neck so she scooped it up to secure with a clip.  A deep breath to fortify herself, along with the reminder that she dumped him, and Alicia was ready to face Brad and Katie.

There was no good reason she'd bring Alicia's ex over unless Katie was intent on giving Jason a run for his money as the family drunk.  Alcohol had clearly destroyed all her brain cells. The audio feed of Thanksgiving played on a loop as Alicia walked down the hall.

Would she ever forget the sound of squeaky bedsprings and impassioned moaning?  Her life was a freakin' cliche.  Not that it was bad enough to catch her fiance pumping away in her bed but to catch him alone was worse. Brad had one hand around himself and another crushed around a photo of Alicia's mother.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Clarissa tugged the bedcovers up to her chin then rolled on to her side.  She wrapped herself around her full body pillow.  There was no where she needed to be today.  Good thing. Her limbs felt like cement and the weather was gloomy, grey and wet.

She shivered.  Raindrops hit the window then raced down the glass. After a few minutes of watching, she was confident that the left side had the faster track.  Her eyelids drifted shut and she let them.

A few minutes later, she opened her eyes. Her head felt thick and heavy as if she'd spent the night crying. She had not.  Her whole body ached.  The barometric pressure weighed heavily upon her. The rain hit the window harder. A quick glance at the clock indicated her catnap had lasted two hours.  She really should get out of bed.

There was no real reason to do so. No work clock to punch, no pressing engagements, nothing demanded her attention.

"This is why you should get a dog."

Clarissa closed her eyes and wished the illusion away.

"Give it up, Babe."  The bed sank beneath Bob's weight as his arms wrapped around her from behind.  "I'm every where you are."

"Go away, Bob." She shrugged off his weight. "It's too Alan Rickman."

"But I love you. Truly."

"Madly. Deeply. I know."  She sighed and rolled onto her back.  "It was a stupid movie."

"No.  It was a great movie. She wasn't letting go. She wouldn't move on."  Bob slid his hand across her midriff.  "He came back so that she'd stop whitewashing their relationship into this perfect entity that it wasn't. No relationship is perfect. Ours wasn't."

"I remember everything, Bob."  She rolled over to face him.  "You drank the last of the milk then put the empty container back in the fridge. You never emptied the dishwasher or the garbage."

She picked his hand up to examine it. Cancer had eaten his flesh til all that remained was splotchy skin over brittle bones.  Now his hand looked like it hand when he was young and healthy - broad with thick fingers and callouses and burn scars from working at the foundry.

"You left me."

"I tried everything, Clar. Chemo, radiation, drug trials, fad diets, supplements, colonics. I tried everything we could find to beat the cancer and stay with you."

Clarissa dropped his hand.  "Go away."

"I can't until you forgive me."

"Fine.It's not your fault you got cancer and died, Bob. You're forgiven. Now leave me alone."

"Forgive me for the affair."

Shocked, she rolled over to face him.  "You slept with my boss and didn't think I'd find out?"

"I didn't think you'd care."

"So now it's my fault?"

"No." He frowned. "I was the idiot.  I was lonely and afraid of losing you so instead of being a man I flirted with Janet.  She smelled like gardenias."

"She owned a florist shop."

"Yes, she did. And you came home all the time smelling of roses and men's cologne. So instead of being a man and having an honest conversation -" His voice broke.  "Instead of asking you if you were leaving me for him, I slept with her."

"There was no him."

"I know that now."

"Because now that you're dead, you're omniscient?"

"No because Janet told me about the trick of spraying some of the cards with cologne so some women could make their husbands jealous. Juvenile but effective."  He winced.   "How did you find out?"

"When I quit my job to take care of you."

"Why would Janet say anything?"

"Because she was a mean-spirited bitch."  Clarissa stared up at the ceiling.  The stucco needed repainting. There was a streak of colour at the wall's edge.

"I am sorry.  It was stupid.  You're the only woman I ever truly loved."  Bob touched her shoulder.  "Why did you stay?"

"Because I did love love you. Truly. Madly. Deeply." She sighed.  "Because I wanted you to get better so we could fight about it. I wanted you to realize I was worth so much more than to be cheated on, betrayed.  Because I wanted you to beg forgiveness. You never did."

"I am now."

Clarissa dragged herself into a sitting position. The painting at the foot of her bed mocked her with its black and white message. Right and wrong. Good and evil.

She shivered and turned towards her dead husband.  "No, you're not.  This is all me, rehashing the same old argument we never had.  Me, wanting a ghost to tell me all the things you never did. You're not real, Bob."

Her gaze met a blank wall. He wasn't there. He never was.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The mirror

Ally waved good-bye to her friends and pedaled home. This summer was going to be the best one ever. Three days since school ended and they'd already gone canoeing every day, swung off the rope into the cold water and seen Jason Harlen in his cut-offs.

It wasn't dark yet but Mom would have supper ready just as soon as Dad got home.  Ally cycled past the bakery, over the train tracks and up the street.  She hoped it was mac n cheese. Not the best meal for a hot day but still her favourite.

"Hey, Greg." She braked at the bottom of the hill that led to their front yard. Her younger brother hunkered down in the ditch, muttering at himself in a hand mirror.


"Pardon?" She swung off her bike and sat down beside him.

"I'm a freak."

"No,you're not."  Ally put her arm around his thin shoulder and gave a small squeeze.  "Why would you say something like that?"

"Billy Schmidt said I was a freak."  He scowled at his face in the mirror.

"Billy Schmidt is a poppy-head."  Her brother didn't laugh.

"Bobby and Ryan laughed at me.  They said I even looked like a freak!"

"You don't look like a freak."

Greg stared at himself even harder.

Ally tried to take the mirror from him. He had a strong grip for such a little kid. "You're not a freak."

"Yes, I am. Look!"  He turned his face up towards her.

"Where did you get the mirror?"  She gently pried it out of his hands, one finger at a time.

"I snuck it out of Mommy's purse."  His bottom lip quivered.  "I'm a freak and a thief."

"You're not either one of those things."

"Yes, I am."  He grabbed the mirror back from Ally.  "They said I had big round eyes just like a freak.  They said Mommy and Daddy are going to lock me away. That freaks don't belong in school."

"I'm going to punch all three of those boys."  She leaned over Greg's shoulder so that both of their faces were reflected back at them.  "Look.  My eyes are the same as yours. Same shape.  Round.  We are not freaks."

"Yes, we are!" Tears flowed from Greg's eyes. "We're both freaks and some guys are going to take us away from Mommy and Daddy and make us live in square rooms with padded walls and we'll never be able to see each other again."

"We are not freaks."

"Yes. Yes, we are. We have big round eyes."

"Oh, for pity's sake!" Ally grabbed the mirror from Greg and threw it into the ditch.  It broke into several big pieces. She'd come back and clean the mess up later. Right now, she had a bigger problem.

"Let's go inside and talk to Mommy.  She has big round eyes just like we do and she's not a freak. She didn't get taken away from Grandma and Grandpa.  C'mon."  Ally tugged Greg to his feet.  "Let's go inside."

"Mommy's going to be mad that you broke her mirror."

"I don't think so, Rusty.  I don't think she'll blame me at all." She hugged him tight.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Nothing good ever follows the statement "things couldn't get worse". I learned that in spades the day we buried my brother.

My heart ripped in half by the loss of my twin. Grief was a living throbbing pain. Son of a BITCH, it hurt to breathe. I sank to my knees beside the grave and considered tunneling in.‎

The bizarre thing was we'd never been particularly close. We didn't have a secret twin language, finish each other's sentences or have similar tastes. We didn't even live ‎in the same country.

Our parents Split when we were twelve years old, on the cusp of puberty. Naturally, they decided they should each take on of us to be raised by the same gender parent.  Of course, they swapped kids for two weeks every summer. My brother and I barely knew each other.

Not much changed when we grew up, moved out and forged lives of our own.  We met up every summer for two weeks with the parents and got to know each other as much as possible. It was a bit like a science experiment.

He was an engineer. I was a pharmacist. There was so little for us to talk about.


Someone had shredded my heart and buried it with him.  

No matter how estranged or distant we'd become no one had the right to diss family than family.  No one had the right to kill my brother.

Except me.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Ally the adventurer

Ally stared out her bedroom window. It was kinda cool to be the only one awake in the house. Everything was quiet except the steady clip-clop of the horse pulling the milk truck down the street. It reminded her of the Olden Times that grandpa talked about when most things were delivered to the house, the phone was usually only used for emergencies and children respected their elders.

The horse and buggy passed out of her view and her gaze dropped to the side of the house. Her bicycle was propped against the front porch right where she'd left it yesterday after school.  Ally didn't waste any time changing clothes, her pjs were warm enough.

She raced down the stairs as quietly as possible, made sure to skip the third step from the bottom because it squeaked. Once outside, she mounted her bike and pedaled down the street. There wasn't very much traffic but the sun was up.  She could smell fresh bread from the bakery. It was on the other side of the railroad tracks though so she didn't pedal that way. Instead, she turned the corner on the right side of the tracks and followed along beside them.

A car's muffler backfired and startled her. She weaved and fell from her bicycle and landed in a pile of clover.  A small buzzing sound made her look down at a honeybee gathering pollen. She lowered her face as close as she dared to watch it extract energy from the flower. Last week, they studied bees in school.  Bees made honey. Ally loved honey. Ally loved bees.

She grinned as it flew from one clover to another further away from her.  Ally hopped on her bike and followed the bee as it danced from flower to flower then away from the clover patch all together. It flew faster and further away.  Ally had to really pedal to keep it in sight. It was such a tiny speck. It was a good thing there wasn't much traffic to distract her. Maybe the bee was flying back to its nest.

Ally crossed the train tracks then pedaled down to the canal bank.  There were lots of apple trees along the water's edge. Maybe one of them was home to the bee.  She couldn't see it any more.

She coasted to a stop. The sun was hot on her bare head and her breathing was labored. Even her legs felt tingly.

 Ally took a good look around. Zoiks. She was a long way from home. Too close to the water, on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. She'd be grounded for life if Mom found out.

She turned her bicycle around and headed for home as fast as she'd left it. Mr. Dumas waved at her front the back of the bakery as she flew past. Mrs. D'Amico yelled at her as she passed the old lady hanging up her morning wash. Yuck, was that a brassiere?

She raced up the street to her own house. Daddy's car was still in the driveway so maybe Ally hadn't been gone too long. She dumped her bike on the front lawn and snuck up onto the front porch. If everyone was awake, they'd be in the kitchen by the back porch eating breakfast.

Ally's stomach growled.  The front door opened with a screech and Mommy stood there.  "Exactly, where have you been, young lady?"

"I went for a ride around the block."  Ally hated lying but she hated  being grounded even more.

"Really?  Did you want to reconsider your answer?"  Mommy held the door open for Ally to walk through.

"I went around a couple of times.  It is a really nice day out."

Mommy squatted in front of her and plucked a clover leaf from her hair.  "Were you near the train tracks?"

"Yes. I watched a bee gather pollen. We learned all about pollen last week.  And how important bees are. It went from one flower to another.  Mr. Donnelly says pollination is the most important role a bee carries in life."

"Did you follow the bee?"  Mommy skimmed her hands down Ally's pjs.

"Oh, yes, it was very inter-" Ally slowed down.  Oh boy.  She was in big trouble. She could tell from the look on Mommy's face.

Mommy plucked a leaf from the top of Ally's sneaker and held it up. "Did you go down to the canal?"

"How can you tell from a leaf where I went?"  Ally slumped onto the bottom step of the staircase.

"Mr. Dumas, Mrs. D'Amico and Mrs. Sullivan all called to tell me they'd seen you race past on your bicycle. They all said you weren't paying any attention to traffic. And Mrs. Sullivan wondered what kind of a parent would let her child out to play in her pajamas at six o'clock in the morning."

"Mrs. Sullivan saw me?"

"Well, Ally, she does live in the largest house in town - overlooking the canal."  Mommy pulled Ally in for a quick hug. "Go to your room.  You're grounded. Twice."


"Yes, twice. Once for lying to me. And once for crossing the train tracks. Just be grateful I don't ground you three times for going down to the canal.  You know you're not allowed anywhere near the water without Daddy or me."

"It's the first day of summer vacation.  What am I supposed to do?"

"Sit in your room and be grateful the neighbours called me and not Daddy."  Her mom slapped her lightly on the butt and sent her upstairs.

Ally slammed her door shut and flung herself onto her bed.  She grabbed her pillow into her arms then rolled towards the wall.  Fine. She would just stare at nothing all day. It's not like she'd gone swimming or stolen bread or gotten hurt.

It wasn't fair. She was eight years old. Not a baby. It was her first day of summer vacation. She should be out there exploring the world!

She sighed. Nancy Drew wouldn't get grounded for following clues.  Maybe if Ally had come home with some honey...her eyes drifted shut.

It was going to be a long summer.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ally to the rescue

"Mommy, Mommy. Come quick!" Greg burst through the front door open to let in a spring breeze.  "You have to help Wyatt. He's stuck in a tree."

Ally and her mother ran to Greg's side. He was smaller than most of the five-year-olds in the neighbourhood, and often slower to understand things.  "Where is Wyatt's mommy?"

"I knocked and knocked and knocked but she didn't answer."  Greg threw himself into his mother's arms and wailed.

"She's having a nap with Mr. Miller." Ally stepped into her sneakers and laced them up.  "I'll get Wyatt."

"Be careful, Ally."

She raced over to the park.  She could hear Mommy and Greg behind her.  It was reassuring to have an adult as backup but she would be fine. Ally had been climbing these trees for as  long as she could remember.

Not Wyatt, though. He wasn't much bigger than Greg. The two little pipsqueaks went everywhere together, looking out for each other. Last week, Wyatt the accident-prone little monkey had fallen off the merry-go-round and hurt his arm.

"Up here, Ally." The very scared voice of her brother's best friend drifted down from the top of the highest pine tree in the park.

"Don't worry, I'm coming to get you."  Ally scrambled up the tree bark then boosted herself to the lowest branch. How had Wyatt managed to get off the ground with a splint on one arm.  She climbed the tree,  hand over hand, foot over foot, branch to branch and asked herself that question over and over again.

"Hurry, Ally."  His voice was quieter than before, almost as if he was scared speaking would make the branches move.

"Can you move at all, Wyatt?" She climbed quickly, closer and closer.

"Noooo." His voice trailed off.  "I think the branch is gonna break."

"No, it's not, Wyatt."  Ally could see his skinny white legs wrapped around the branch above her.  "This tree is tough. Strong. Just like you."

"No, I heard it creeeaak," he whispered.

"Look at the cloud, Wyatt." Ally slowed to follow her own advice.  "Are they moving?"

"Nooo," his voice wavered. Poor kid was going to start crying any minute now and then how would she get him down?

"That's good. It means no wind.  Definitely not hurricane weather.  Right?"

"I wouldn't climb trees in a hurricane."

"That's a smart boy."  Ally pulled herself up level with Wyatt.  The hand on his good arm clung to a tiny sprig on the tree trunk above his head.  "Shimmy back towards the trunk."

His tiny bum wiggled until his back hit the tree.  "Good man, Wyatt. Now slowly stand up."

"I can't Ally.  I'll fall."

"Don't look down."  As soon as she said it, he did.  His lip quivered.

"Don't cry, Wyatt.  Look at me." She stepped around him and out onto the branch.  With one hand holding the branch above her, she held her other hand out to Wyatt.

"Take my hand, buddy." He shook his head.  "Let go of the tiny branch." He shook his head again and his eyes filled with tears.

"Okay."  She squatted down in front of him.  "Slowly lift your leg up and stretch it out in front of you.  I'll show you."

Ally dropped down so her butt landed on the tree branch then dangled her legs over the side. She scooted back a bit, further out onto the narrower part of the branch. Wyatt's eyes were huge and his lip trembled.

She slowly lifted one leg up and stretched it out on the branch.  Then lifted the other.  "C'mon.  You do it."

Wyatt  nodded then followed Ally's example. It took twenty times longer for him to do it than for her but all that mattered was his back against the tree and his legs in front of him.  "Do your legs tingle a little bit?"

He nodded.  Ally bent forward and rubbed some life back into his legs.  "That happens to me sometimes when I sit too long."

She reached up and grabbed a higher branch then pulled herself up.  "You can do it, Wyatt. Use that hand to pull yourself up."

He shook his head.

"Don't be scared. I'm right here. I can help you." She grabbed his elbow above the splint and held on. Not too tight, she didn't want to hurt him, but enough to steady him as he pulled himself up.  He clung to the tiny branch and did just that.

"Good job, Wyatt. Ready to climb down?"

"How?  I'm scared. What if I fall?"

"You won't fall.  I'm right here with you. Do you want to go first or do you want to follow me?"  Ally reached around him so that he was pinned between her and the trunk.  "How about we do it together. You put your feet where mine are."

It took a long time to reach the ground that way but they made it. There was a crowd waiting for them when their feet touched dirt.  All the kids cheered. Greg ran over and congratulated his friend on the adventure.

Ally's mom gave her a big hug. "That was a brave thing to do."

She hugged her mom back.  "I don't know how he got up that high only using one hand to climb."

"Not well."  Her mom laughed.  "It took three hands to climb down."

She turned and swept the two boys into the hug.  "What a good job you all did.  I'm so proud of all of you."

Greg wriggled free.  "Can we go play on the swings now?  I want to swing as high as Wyatt in the tree."

The two boys ran off, neither scarred by the climbing mishap.  "Boys!" Ally rolled her eyes and her mom laughed again.

"Girls will give you just as many sleepless nights, young lady."

Ally laughed, ran and tumbled forward into a carwheel.  "Ta-da!"

"Ta-da, indeed." But her mother smiled and sat on the bench to watch all of them play with their friends.  Wyatt's mom never did join them.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Surprise for Ally

After Daddy left for work, Mommy took Ally to the park. There were other Mommies there but her Mommy pushed Ally on the swing, so high she could touch the sky.  Then they climbed a tree and watched the Nelsons' dog chase a ball.  The dog had big floppy ears and a tail that swished the ground.  It always ran over when it saw Ally then flopped so she could rub it's belly.

"Now that I'm four, can we have a dog, Mommy?  I'll take very good care of him.  I will feed him and take him for walks and play fetch. I'll rub his belly and give him baths when he's stinky. I'll share my Mr. Bubbles with him."

Mommy laughed. "You are a big girl now, Ally."

"Does that mean I can get a puppy?"  Ally jumped off the branch and did a somersault just like the Bionic Woman.  She had a dog. A bionic dog with supergood hearing.  "He doesn't have to be bionic like Max.  I don't have six million pennies."

"We'll talk about it later when Daddy gets home.  He and I have a surprise for you."

The rest of the day was slow. Ally filled three colouring books, watched Sesame Street and took a nap and it still took FOREVER for Daddy to come home from work. Then it was supper time, her favourite mac and cheese with cut-up hot dogs, and Daddy talked about Mommy's day. "I hope you didn't overdo it, Helen."

Mommy rolled her eyes and Daddy laughed. He didn't like eye-rolling but tonight he seemed pretty happy.  He and Mommy laughed at every little thing.  Some times grown-ups were so silly.

After dinner, Mommy poured a big glass of Daddy's favourite beer. "No Magners for you," he said.

Mommy giggled then pulled Ally onto her lap on the couch. "Daddy and I want to talk with you about our big surprise. I hope you'll like it."

"I know you'll love it as much as we do, Chief."

"I knew it. We're getting a puppy." Ally hopped off her mom's lap and raced to her bedroom. She rooted through the toy chest until she found what she was looking for on the very bottom.

"He can sleep with Jerome."  Ally handed over the old stuffed giraffe.  "Just like I did when I was little."

"Oh, Ally."  Mommy held Jerome close to her chest and breathed deep. She choked.  "He's a bit old and dusty."

"That's very nice of you to share him."  Daddy lifted Ally up into his lap on the couch beside Mommy.  "We're not getting a puppy.  We're going to have a new baby brother or sister."

"But I want a puppy."  Ally's chin started to quiver. She wrinkled her nose to hold back the tears. She was four years old, not a baby. Everyone knew only babies cried.

"It. Will. Cry. All. The. Time. And. No. One. Will. Be. Able. To. Sleep." Ally hiccupped.

"It's okay, Chief.  It won't cry all the time. It needs to eat, too."


"We don't know if it's a boy or a girl yet. What am I supposed to call the baby?" Daddy hugged Ally.  "Babies grow pretty quickly and then you'll be able to do things together.  It will be better than having a puppy."



"We can call the baby, Rusty, until we know its real name."  Ally sniffled.  "I was going to name the puppy Rusty."

"Aw, Chief, Rusty will be a good brother or sister. You'll be able to do lots more with this Rusty once it - he or she - gets older."

"Like catch and fetch?"

"Yes, and you'll be able climb trees with this Rusty.  Puppies aren't very good tree climbers."

"Do babies like to snuggle like puppies do?"


"Will I have to clean up after him like I would a puppy?"

"No, that's Mommy's job."

"Will Baby Rusty love me like Puppy Rusty would?"

"Of course."

Ally wrinkled her nose. Her eyes were wet again.  "Will you love Baby Rusty more than you love me?"

"Definitely not, Chief."  Daddy pulled Ally in tight for a bear hug. Mommy kissed the top of her head.

"Okay."  Ally snuggled in deep for a moment and enjoyed her parents' attention.

"Wizard of Oz is on tonight."  She wiggled free.  "Can we watch it?"

"Absolutely!"  Daddy crossed the room to turn on the television so it could warm up.

"Can we make jiffy pop?"  Ally ran to the kitchen pantry and pulled one off the shelf while Mommy laughed and followed her into the kitchen.

Later, Ally snuggled between her parents on the couch and watched Dorothy follow the yellow brick road.  Would there still  be room for her when Baby Rusty came to live with them?  Ally's friend Shelly said having a baby sister was the worst thing ever. She had to share her room, her toys, even her clothes.  Worst of all, Shelly's sister was allergic to animals.

Ally watched Toto prance along beside Dorothy.  Dorothy didn't have a brother or sister. She had the Cowardly Lion, the Tinman, Scarecrow and a little dog.  Ally would like to be more like Dorothy.

"Can we send the baby back if we don't like it and get a puppy?"

Her parents laughed so hard she didn't hear the wicked witch scream at the flying monkeys.  A dog would have been a nicer surprise.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Ally's brother

"Ready to meet your baby brother, Chief?"

Ally clutched the vase of blue daisies close to her chest and nodded at Daddy.

He pushed on the door to Mommy's hospital room then stopped in the open doorway to crouch down and stare her in the eyes.  "Mommy and I are very excited your baby brother is finally here."

Ally wanted to roll her eyes but didn't.  Daddy hated it when she did that. He said five year olds should behave like smart girls instead of smart alecks.  Besides, he was wearing his serious I-mean-business you-better-listen face.  He placed his big hands on her small shoulders.

"There will be some changes in our lives and how we do things but you'll always be my special Chief.  Ok?"  He looked in to her eyes and waited.

"Ok, Daddy.  Can I see him now?"

"Absolutely."  He her her hand in his and led her to the side of Mommy's bed.  Mommy's face was read and shiny and her hair stuck up in lots of different directions  but she looked happy. really really happy.  In her arms she held a long white bundle. "He looks like a pig in a blanket!"

Her parents laughed and the little hot dog opened his eyes.  They were blue! Just like Ally's and Mommy's eyes. Poor Daddy. His eyes were green like grass and his favourite football uniforms.

A little hand moved at the top of the blanket.  "Ten fingers and ten toes," Mommy announced.

Her baby brother turned his head towards Mommy's voice.

"Look how he tracks who's in the room."  Daddy chuckled.  "Do you want to hold him, Chief?"

Ally couldn't hold back a grin.  A baby brother was way better than a new doll.

"Be careful.  Hold his head.  Like this."  Daddy slid his arms beneath Ally's to help her support the baby's head.

Mommy gently lay him in her arms.  "Got him?"

Ally nodded.  Daddy pulled his arms away.

"I'm doing it! I'm holding my baby brother!"  Ally turned her head to look up at Daddy.

The baby squeaked like a little mouse and Ally dropped him. She stood there holding the blanket as he tumbled from her arms straight to the hard floor.  The heaviest part of him, his head, hit the floor with a wet thud.

Ally and Mommy both screamed.  The baby just lay there, quiet and not moving.

Ally covered her mouth with her hands and hiccupped until the screams stopped. Big tears filled her eyes and made it hard for her to see him.  She pretended she was a fort and the gate was closed. Nothing could get in or out. The screams and tears stopped.

A nurse ran in and scooped up the baby.  "What happened?"

Daddy used his Big Boss voice to explain the baby fell. He didn't tell her Ally dropped him.

"I have a pulse."The nurse took him from the room.

Mommy started to cry quietly, like she didn't want to make any noise.  Daddy held her by the shoulders. He didn't say everything would be okay.

Ally stood by the fort gates.  Afraid to move. Afraid to make a sound.  It was an accident but that didn't matter. She hiccupped back another scream.

Daddy held out his arms and Ally ran to her parents.  With his arms around both of his girls, he told Ally it wasn't her fault.  He didn't call her Chief.

But Ally knew he was wrong.  It was her fault.  Her baby brother was going to die and it was all her fault.

Both Robin Berkley and I wrote about brothers today, despite the fact that it wasn't one of our prompts.