Although the sun had tucked itself below the horizon nearly four hours ago, Aurelie refused to let her mind escape into its dreamy abyss. She had gone through the motions of her bedtime routine merely because her parents had expected her to, but she had no intention of shutting her eyes - not for a second.
“The day’s not over. It cant be,” the small girl whispered to her favorite stuffed rabbit.
Her mother had told her that today, March 20th, was the day the doctors said she would meet her new baby sister. She had then gone on to say something about how no one could be sure when the baby would come, but Aurelie had stopped listening by then. For eight months, she had counted the days until the day her sister was supposed to arrive. She even made sure her parents knew how much time was left by announcing the number as soon as she sat down for breakfast each morning.
“Don’t forget - today’s the day the baby comes!” she had declared.
They couldn’t have forgotten, so what was the hold-up? Did the same rules apply here as they did at Christmas? Had she not been good enough? Would she wake up to find a lump of coal instead of a baby in the crib she had helped her parents put together? Was she the reason her sister wasn’t here? What if the baby had decided she didn’t like her before they had even met each other? What if she found a new family to be a part of? So many questions raced through Aurelie’s mind, and she found that even if she had wanted to fall asleep, her mind wouldn’t have let her.
After a few minutes of staring, eyes wide, at the stars that glowed from her ceiling, the six-year-old decided to consult her committee of stuffed animals. She threw off the covers her mother had softly tucked below her chin and swung her legs off the bed.
“Cold feet, cold feet, cold feet!” she muttered to herself until she managed to find the slippers hiding under her dresser.
Aurelie didn’t dare turn on her light for fear her parents might barge in on her confidential meeting. She made her way over to the trunk below the window, only stubbing her toe once. After placing ten of her most-trusted toys in a row, including the rabbit, she called the meeting to order.
“Thank you all for being here today. You probably noticed that my sister isn’t here yet - even though she’s supposed to be. I don’t know why, so I’m calling on you to help me solve the mystery. Any ideas? Anyone?”
Aurelie leaned forward to raise her bunny’s paw. If any of her stuffed animals knew what was wrong, it would be her.
She cleared her throat and, from the side of her mouth, said, “I have an idea, Aurelie! Maybe the baby was almost here, but she got hungry so she had to go back to get a snack.”
Aurelie considered this. Her mother had told her once that babies need to eat a lot, so the bunny’s explanation made sense, but she wanted another opinion.
“Bananas, what do you think?” she asked the pink monkey as it slowly slumped to the side.
Aurelie sighed before shuffling forward to reposition the toy.
“Silly monkey, maybe I should just go with Floppy’s advice,” she said, jabbing her thumb in the rabbit’s general direction.
Aurelie crossed her small, lavender-themed room and plopped down right in front of the door. She squirmed onto her belly and peeked through the crack above the carpet. The lights were off, and she didn’t sense any movement - all clear. Aurelie thought of the stuffed mouse at the bottom of her chest. The toy was her least-favorite (admitting it filled her with guilt), but it served as inspiration for this moment. As quiet as a mouse, the girl thought to herself as she slowly turned her doorknob. Aurelie made sure not to open it more than a foot as it was at that point that the hinges creaked in protest.
Her slippers helped to disguise her footsteps as she tip-toed down the stairs and through a long hallway to the kitchen. I’ll call these my ninja slippers; she thought excitedly after making it to the fridge.
Now, what to make…hmmm…I should have brought Floppy with me! She would know. Aurelie desperately wanted to ask her mother what snack would make the baby want to come to their house, but she knew she would get in trouble for being out of bed. So, after nearly a minute of intense deliberation, Aurelie came to the conclusion that no one could resist fruit snacks - especially if they were shaped like princesses. She opened the door to the pantry only to find the box of snacks to be hopelessly out of reach. Fortunately, a step-stool plastered with the face of Elmo waited in the corner. Unfortunately, moving it was sure to cause a raucous. Aurelie attempted to lift the thing, but it was half her size and much too heavy.
“Well, here goes nothing,” she whispered to herself. She had heard her dad say the phrase before attempting to tie her hair up in even pig-tails. Aurelie winced as the stool’s legs screeched against the wooden floorboards of the pantry. She had covered just over half the distance when she heard footsteps.
“Aurie?” a deep voice whispered from the black hallway.
It was her father. Aurelie’s eyes filled with panic. Her heart began to pound so hard; it was all she could hear. She was sure it was all her father could hear, too. There was nowhere to go - nowhere to hide. Aurelie had just one option.
“Dad?” she called back.
Mr. Laurent couldn’t help but smile at the tiny voice coming from behind the pantry door.
“What are you doing in there?” he asked softly. There was a pause, “Aurelie?”
“I’m getting fruit snacks for the baby,” the little voice whispered back.
Mr. Laurent’s smile widened, “But the baby isn’t here yet, and it’s going to be a while before you can share your fruit snacks with her. She’ll be too little to eat big-girl food like you.”
“But what if another family has better snacks, and she goes there instead?”
“I promise she’ll choose our family no matter what. You just have to be patient a little while longer, okay?”
“Now come on out of the pantry. We’ve got to get you back to bed before mamma wakes up.”
Aurelie took one last look at the box of fruit snacks towering above her.
“Can I have some fruit snacks first?”