“Okay…” I sighed as I Sauntered down the toys aisle at Walmart with my little brother in tow. “Where can I get her a gift?”      

           We were shopping for the third time today Cassandra’s mother had announced they would be holding her birthday party tonight. Of all times, Conner and I had to rush to get the bratty little girl a gift tonight. Like it couldn’t be next week or even tomorrow night.

           Tonight.

           I sighed again. Just knowing Walmart—the third store, since Conner just said No! over and over again as we searched high and low at the Target and Sam’s Club toy department. After denying every toy I picked out, we then trekked our way to Walmart.

           Let’s hope this place is the last stop.

           But the most important part of this story is not just finding a birthday present; it’s trying to find one for Conner’s classmate, Cassandra. Oh, she didn’t need just a gift; she needed the perfect gift for her birthday. It couldn’t just be a new bike or new set of headsets. No, this five-year-old needed something like… something that was—

           “Here!” I jabbed my right finger at a bunch of glittery-maned unicorns as my brother whined behind me.

           “Why can’t we do this later?”

           Conner’s wrist wrestled in my hand as I bent down in front of him, restraining my impatience.

           “Conner, I know you know Cassandra doesn’t deserve a birthday present, but you need to behave. Please cooperate with me for at least five more minutes.”

           “No!” Conner yanked his wrist out of my hand and whipped around. “We can buy that. Cassandra will be happy.”

           I looked past him at a little kid-sized set of sunshine yellow chairs and a milk-white table. It showed its colors off in front of those bedroom models someone would see at Bed, Bath & Beyond or Kohl’s. Suddenly, I heard a little racket going on below and saw with utter amazement that Conner would sit down on something that wasn’t his to even touch.

           “Conner!” I hissed and then marched angrily over to the set. “How dare you run off like that?”

           “But, Alecia,” he said innocently, turning his head around to look at me. “Could we get this set for Cassandra? I’m sure this gift will convert her from a spoiled child to a sharing, caring classmate!”

           I opened my mouth but closed it again. Harmless Conner, coupled with the fact that he too wanted to get out of here after having to go to two other stores just to find a birthday gift, made me just survey the set and say apologetically, “No, Conner, we can’t. It’s too much.”

           I glanced at the price tag dangling in front of the chair diagonal from Conner and then switched to his brown wavy hair. “$224.94. I’m not spending that much on a girl who doesn’t even appreciate what she eats for breakfast!”

           “Okay.” He sounded mournful like he had just lost someone dear to him. He got up off the chair, pushed it in and then looked up at me. “So, where’s the toy?”

           “Over here.” I walked back towards the unicorn set I had seen before and picked up off the shelf. Grabbing Conner’s hand once he had made it over here, I scooted ourselves out the store and down the road towards my yellow Punch Buggy as fast as we could go. This gift wasn’t perfect as in little-girl-gets-girly-toy perfect. It was perfect for Cassandra, as she needed to readjust her bratty attitude. Maybe something as small as these lime green, magenta and royal blue maned unicorns would humble her a bit. She didn’t need a huge anything to inflate her ego even more. This toy would make her a gracious person yet!               

           

           “I don’t want that toy! I want a real unicorn!”

           Cassandra round her arm back like that of a baseball pitcher and hurled the unwrapped toy set straight across the living room until it hit the pale green painted wall opposite the living room’s Loveseat Sofa and a few aghast parents and me. A bruise-colored mark exploded onto the pretty green, making someone retort, “Good one, Cassie! Maybe you should do it again and mark the whole wall up!”

           “Cassandra!” I shot out. I half-stomped, half-marched over to the toy, grabbed it and then shoved it in the raging five-year-old’s clawed hands. “Take it! I spent good money on this so you could have it, not throw it away!”

           “Alecia!”

           That shrillness came from someone I knew extremely well. As I looked up at the horseshoe-shaped circle outlined by four first graders and five kindergarteners, I marched intrepidly up to Conner, let everyone know we were going home and gathered our things. As Conner was putting his shoes on over by the door, I ignored all the parents’ staring faces and kids’ leers I saw a second ago. I wasn’t going to join their little Kumbaya. If Cassandra didn’t like it, then she would have to live with it. I wasn’t going out to get a different toy.

           On the drive home, Conner asked whether he could get another set of robots to add to his missing collection. “It’s the last collection set. I mean when we have time…”

           “No, it’s okay. We can make the trip.” Sensing his mood, I didn’t want him to go without something he needed. So I stopped by the local Walmart again and jumped out. Good thing Cassandra’s birthday was in July, or we’d be in the dark.

           As we walked in, me pushing a cart I had grabbed from the nearby cart pickup and Conner riding in the basket as description of robots came streaming out of his mouth, I headed straight for the toy department.

           Okay, so, black and red ninja robots. Here I come… I wheeled the cart around an aisle end decorated with little shiny kitten keychains and was about to grab two or three big plastic boxes of Conner’s desired toys so he could complete his robot collection when I saw the hugest unicorn—stuffed, of course—anyone could ever sell in a store.

           “Conner, look!” I whipped my head to and from the unicorn, causing my brother to snap to from staring admiringly at the robot collection. “What do you think of this?”

           Conner looked at the monstrously big stuffed animal and studied it. Then he turned to me with a great big grin on his face and said happily, “Maybe we can get it and give it to Cassandra tomorrow! That’ll make her smile!”

           Yeah his hands were all curled up in excited little balls and his face shone like the sun when he jumped up and down, but I looked back at the unicorn. Hope this plush doesn’t cost more than that table and chair set.

           “Okay … we’ll see.” I walked forwards, Conner skipping as if I said yes to buying it. It didn’t feel like a long walk as I rounded the corner and came to the huge unicorn.

           “Wow, Alecia!” Conner exclaimed. Any more exclamation marks on this kid’s face—I looked down and saw eyes shining probably brighter than the stars at night—and he’d have me buying this thing!

           I looked at it again, then ran my eyes down to the price tag. If there was one. I ran my eyes to the right and saw it: $55.35. Wow. That’s it? There should be a mistake!

           I blinked. The price tag still stood right where I was staring at it. And $55.35 still stared back at me, making me feel as if the unicorn was going to spring up and ask whether I can permanently adopt it.

           I didn’t want to spend so much money, but Conner didn’t deserve the stupid treatment he had received at the birthday party. So I looked at him and said, “Conner, we’ll get it for Cassandra. But—”

           He let out a whoop complete with a fist that rocketed through the air. “Yes!”

           I laughed for Conner’s sake and then took it off its platform. Heading to the cashier with an elated sibling galloping along the way behind me, I quickly told him to calm down and then set the huge toy right in front of the checkout belt. Conner had settled down but his wide smile seemed to stick the way he never let it move from his face.

           “Here you go, ma’am!” I instantly apologized when the light-haired lady jumped and then looked right at me.

           “Such a toy! You’re going to buy that?” She remarked as she bent the scanner down to beep the price onto the computer in front of her. “$55.35.”

           “Yes, ma’am! It’s for a birthday present I’ve been searching for.” I dug in my pocket for my credit card. “I also have four Walmart coupons. I’ll use those.” I pushed the unicorn aside as I handed the paper slips to the cashier. The woman responded demandingly, “You better!” and took the coupons, scanned them and then tossed them in a trashcan I saw in front of her.

           “Thank you.” Seeing her nod after I had slid the credit card into the slot for the machine to take my money yet again, I then had taken it out at the second beep, announcing, “Okay, Conner, ready?” I bent over the unicorn and wrapped my arms around its stomach and then flipped it towards me as I lifted it, its four legs now raised to the sky, making me stand between them.

           “Yes, Alecia.” We exited our little journey through the ugly black double doors and then out to the parking lot where my Punch Buggy waited patiently in the now dark atmosphere. I told Conner to stay right beside me or walk in front. He did so, his steps telling me he chose the latter.

           Okay, unicorn. You’re going in, no matter what! I hustled our way to the car, it being dark and, more importantly, I had to get Conner home, fed, bathed and ready for tomorrow’s big sleepover with his best friend. Once I clicked the ‘on’ button and the Punch Buggy answered with its lights, I flipped the trunk open and tossed the unicorn in. However, when I pushed it in, it wouldn’t go all the way. I tried shoving. Still it resisted.

           “Conner, why don’t you help me with this chore, okay?”

           “Okay.” I heard steps and then, thanks to the light above on the cart pickup sign that had just turned on, jerked back. “Whoa! Watch out, Conner!” I threw my hand out to keep him from the Buggy’s trunk any longer and jerked down to see whether he was okay. He zoomed around from behind me and used the cart pickup bars to hide himself.

           “W-what’s h-happening, Alecia?” He cried out.

           “I … don’t … know.” For the unicorn was not a plush toy anymore that Conner could give to help Cassandra overcome her bratty attitude. No, this toy was … alive. I mean, it responded to my pushing, complete with a neigh of “Whoa there, friend! What are you doing?” and “Hey! I can get out and run free! Thanks!”

           As Conner and I stared, dumbfounded, at the creature, the unicorn almost fell as it maneuvered itself probably painfully down off the trunk and onto the road. “Yes!” It danced in place, its shiny hoofs prancing a little back and forth until it stopped and looked at us as if it had been trapped for so long and we finally rescued it. “Thanks, guys! I really needed someone to get me out and about!” It stretched, me stepping backwards despite my frozen state before and Conner’s now gaping mouth and saucer-wide eyes.

           When it was done doing whatever it needed to so we would be thanked yet again, it looked directly at me. “You can have me as a pet. Or I can go to the zoo. You never know what friends are there for me to make relationships with!” It shook its wispy tail where I saw a hint of gorgeous chocolate-brown and royal blue showing off from the tail’s start down to its, well, wispy end.

           “Uh, sir, we’d like to take you home. That was our plan before you came alive.” I wasn’t going to let my guard up, but I had my brother with me so I was going to take it easy. “If you can find our home that is.”

           How the unicorn would follow us home I had no idea. Nevertheless, I lunged for Conner and scooped him up. Slamming the car’s trunk down, I ignored the unicorn, wanting this little event to be a dream. Telling Conner to buckle up, I turned the engine on and didn’t look back until we were home.  

           

           “Where do you think that unicorn is, Alecia?” Conner asked, putting toothpaste on his toothbrush.

           We were home—at last—in Conner’s bathroom. I didn’t check to see whether the unicorn had made it. All I wanted was for tomorrow to be the same as before I had promised Conner his new toy.

           “I don’t know, buddy.” My words sounded garbled as toothpaste now leaked onto my lips from foaming up inside. “Maybe…” I usually brushed my teeth in Conner’s bathroom as he was too nervous to be in here all by himself at night. So as soon as we had gotten onto our driveway and parked the car, I had grabbed my toothbrush and toothpaste and had ran into the bathroom to be with him.

           “What?” Conner’s question volume mixed with the water he stuck his toothbrush under to clean his brush. He pressed his palm firmly on the handle, shut the gushing waterfall off and then asked the question again as he put his toothbrush away and changed into his pajamas.

           “Nothing.” I was really tired and didn’t want to possibly put Conner in a position where he would have to stay up late wondering whether I was right. So I just told him to drop it. He did and then ran to the left, clambered up onto his rocket-decorated comforter and crawled under the covers. Once I was done, I switched on the light that stood on his bedside table and stood in front of the four-year-old who would hopefully wake up without any sign of that unicorn anymore.

           “You’ll be in the room next door, right?” Conner’s close-together eyebrows told me he wanted someone to be there should he get nightmares or just get scared of the dark.

           “Yes, Conner. I’ll be here.” I curled my hands so I could just slip them under his covers and tucked him into bed. “I’ll be right over there. Across the hallway, as you know.”

           “Okay.” His agreement was less than sure. Still, I convinced him and then he slowly closed his eyes to go to sleep.

           “Goodnight, Con.” I whispered gently and then made the room go dark. Slipping out the door, I let it hang a little open and then went to check if all doors and locks were secure. Once done, I heard a galloping and a small whinny.

           No, not tonight! I walked firmly over to the sliding glass porch doors and looked outside. Above me was the unicorn but there were two things supporting him. I flicked the back porch lights on and saw with a loud gasp that those supporting things were his wings! So that’s how he got here. Flying behind us I assumed.

           “Hey, man!” His voice trailed right through the glass to my ears, making me wonder how he could act like it was the middle of the day when—I looked at the clock—it was two hours before midnight.

           I looked back and then slid the left door open and then closed it. Still in my clothes, I ran quickly upstairs, donned my pajamas and a robe on, and rushed back down. Pushing the sliding glass doors open, I stepped out into the warm air. I shut them quietly so Conner didn’t wake up and start acting like it was his birthday.

           “Hey!” I told it loudly. “How about you come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about what we need to do regarding being our pet.”  

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