Mama says I’m still too young to come to the party.
Bethie isn’t too young, though. She’s 10, and she tells me that 10 is when you’re really grown up. You won’t understand ‘til you’re 10, Sadie, she always says. Bethie says that when you’re 10, you have to stop playing with toys, and you have to take baths every day and you have to brush your hair and eat kale salad and use perfume.
Being 10 sounds awful.
But Mama says that you have to be 10 to come to the party. It’s a rule, she says. It’s a rule that she can’t break. So I have to wait two whole years, and tonight I have to stay in my room all alone and watch SpongeBob Squarepants while everyone else gets to dress up in fancy costumes and eat fancy cake and drink fancy drinks and listen to fancy music. Last year, Bethie and me tried to sneak down the back staircase to spy, but Mrs. Nelson caught us and sent us back up with a cupcake each and a stern lecture about how important it was that kids our age got enough sleep.
I’m dressed in my comfy jammies when Bethie flings my door open. She’s wearing the glitter witch costume Daddy bought her for Halloween before he left for the airport. Daddy says that he’ll take me to pick out my own Halloween costume when he gets back from San Diego, so I have to wait a whole ‘nother week.
“Don’t I look beautiful?” Bethie spins in circles, and the pink glitter on her skirt twinkles and shines under my bedroom lamp, making her look more like a fairy than the scary witch she thinks she is.
“Yeah, I guess.” I turn on the TV. I don’t want her to see how jealous I am, because she’ll tease me for days about it. There’s a commercial for Frozen dolls on. I stare at Elsa’s Ice Palace and try really hard not to pay attention to Bethie.
“Mama says that the party’s starting soon. Mama says that everyone’s on their way. Any minute.”
I look over at Bethie in her pretty costume and it’s just not fair. I can’t help it. I burst into tears. Bethie stops twirling and sticks a piece of hair into the corner of her mouth. That’s what she does when she’s nervous.
“Aw, Sadie. It’s okay.” She sits down beside me. Some of her skirt glitter flakes off onto my blanket, and that just makes me cry harder.
“Sadie, don’t cry. I’m sorry you’re not old enough. I promise I’ll tell you all about it, okay? Every little thing. And I bring you a cupcake. No, two cupcakes. Pinkie swear.”
I wipe my eyes on my sleeve. I still don’t want to look at her. “Okay.”
Mama opens the door. She is also dressed like a witch, but her costume is much, much better than Bethie’s. Her long skirts make a swooosh swiiiish sound as she comes to sit in between Bethie and me.
“Why are you crying, my sweet girl?” Mama says. “Is it ‘cause you’re sad you’re going to miss the party?”
I nod as I bury my face in Mama’s long black hair. It smells like green apples. Mama puts her arm around me and pulls me tight.
“Oh, Sadie. I know it’s hard. I know it’s not fair. But you’ll be old enough someday, I promise. Tonight I need you to be my brave little one.”
The doorbell rings downstairs. Bethie jumps up and claps her hands. “Mama! It’s time! They’re here!” She runs through the door without even looking back,
Mama kisses my forehead. “I love you, Sadie. Now go to sleep and dream dreams as sweet as you.”
Mama follows Bethie. Her cape flutters a little bit. Now I’m alone. Downstairs, people are arriving. I can hear Mrs. Albertson’s screechy laugh. It always makes me a little scared, but I’ll never tell that to Bethie, because she’d just call me a little baby. Mrs. Albertson lives down the street in the house with the green door, and she has a really old weiner dog named Blue that she never lets me and Bethie pet. Maybe she’ll let Bethie pet it now that she’s 10 and old enough to go to the party.
The party noises are getting louder. Now the music is on, too, and the music always makes me a little sleepy. I can just picture Bethie down there, laughing with everyone and eating so many cupcakes that her tongue will be bright green tomorrow morning. I bet everyone’s telling her how pretty she looks in her costume, and she’s probably twirling around and telling dumb jokes, and everyone’s probably telling her how funny and smart she is. Just like at the Nicholson’s pool party this summer. Bethie told everyone the cow joke that I told her, and everyone laughed really loud and patted her on the head and Daddy gave her the last slice of watermelon.
It’s no fair!
Now I’m really mad. Maybe it would be okay to just peek through the stair railing? I think it would. Very very carefully, I get up and put on my fuzzy blue socks. I’ll just tiptoe over to the landing and be so, so quiet.
I open my door and listen. The sleepy music is still on, but now it sounds like the people are quieter. They’re all talking about something. No wait. They’re all saying the same words all together.
It’s probably okay if I go down a few steps. If I stay on the third one from the top, no one can see me. That’s what Bethie says, anyway, every Christmas Eve when we try to spy on Santa.
I crouch down and try to make myself as small as I can. From the third step, I can see a little corner of the living room. It looks like all the people are standing around in a circle. There’s a lot of them, but not as many as I thought there would be. I can smell cinnamon and vanilla and a little bit of smoke, too. It reminds me of when Mama and Daddy and Bethie and I went camping at the state park last year, and Daddy let us hold the marshmallow sticks in the fire.
Now the people are saying something else, and I can see Mrs. Nelson lighting one of the skinny white candles that Mama keeps on the mantle and never lets us touch. And she’s handing it to Bethie! Bethie’s in the middle of the circle!
I start to cry again. I don’t want to watch the rest. Not only does Bethie get to dress up and go to the party and eat cupcakes, but she also gets to hold the pretty candle and have everyone say the magic words to her!
I go back to my room and sit on the bed. I wrap my blanket around my shoulders like a cape and look out the window. The full moon-Harvest Moon, Mama calls it-shines through the bare tree branches. I watch and wait, because I know that any minute they’re all going to come out onto the back porch, and Mama is going to let Bethie ride on her first broomstick ride across the Harvest Moon, and then Bethie is going to spend all week bragging about how she got to take her first flight and she got to get her special powers and now she’s a real witch like Mama. And I have to wait two whole years.
It’s no fair. It’s really no fair.