He squirmed. Ada looked over her perfectly positioned camera and narrowed her eyes at him.
"Stop moving, and let me take the picture, Ricky! For the last time!"
Ricky laughed at her, falling off his chair and rolling on the floor, his laughter booming across the room.
"Can we stop now?"
Ada flinched as Alistair crept up behind her. He flipped his black hair and straightened his tie, dressed like a funeral mourner.
"Just tell Ricky to stop being a big bald-headed baby!"
Shaking her head, Ada let her eyes wander to Ricky, who was sporting a brown sweater and rolling on the floor, to Alistair, who was now scowling at Ricky, and to herself, wearing a light pink dress that she had sewed herself. She hugged herself. Why did she not sew long sleeves?
Alistair had apparently kicked Ricky, and Ricky was groaning on the floor.
It was always the same. Ricky was a teen who behaved just like a teen. Except on the days that the family got together and the great Santa(bless his heart and hope that he stays safe) came around. Then he would shriek, throw tantrums, and cry when he didn't get his way. Laughing fits were his life that week, and so was never sitting still for a picture. Soon Ada began to dread Christmas day. She knew that her dear little brother would make a fool of himself for 7. Whole. Days! Ada could not wrap her head around why. He could behave like a butler for the whole year for her sanity’s sake. He ran away screeching when she tried talking to him about it.
“Can you please stay still FOR THE LAST TIME?!?!”
Ricky and Alistair looked at her. They were clearly brawling, with Ricky sprawled on the floor and Alistair grabbing him in a headlock.
“Just- forget it. We have to go up.”
At the mere thought of going up to his family, Ricky started bawling.
“Nooooo! I! DON’T! WANT! TOOOOOOOO!”
Alistair stood up and walked towards him, paused, them turned around to Ada and whispered:
“Help me get this crap up the stairs.”
Ada glanced at him, then motioned with her arm at Ricky. Bowing low, Alistair proclaimed:
“After you, my dearest cousin!”
Making a disgusted face, Ada took Ricky's left arm and braced for thrashing.
She did not know what the everloving hell hit her.
Ada gasped as Ricky’s flailing leg caught her and threw her onto the floor, and all the air was knocked out of her. She covered her face as she was hit again with a flurry of punches. Scrambling to get out of the tornado, Ada was tackled to the floor and slammed into a pile of wrapping paper. She thought she heard incoherent swearing as Alistair socked Ricky, but she was trying to recover from her own wounds to even care about him. But she did want to care. For Alistair. Grimacing, she tumbled from the papers and kicked Ricky as he hissed at her. That was the exact moment Ada’s aunt, mother, and dad chose to come through the basement door.
“ADELINE HERRYC! WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE YOU DOING?! AND WHY IS ALISTAIR’S NOSE BLEEDING?! WHAT HAPPENED TO RICKY, FOR PETE’S SAKE!?!”
Of course her mom was screaming. Of course her aunt was staring like she had laid an egg and danced with a banana. Of course her dad was overreacting and yelling“What happened? Why? Why? WHY?”
Ada was sick and tired of Christmas being like this, but something about it was fun, weird, and had awoken her wild side. She pushed off the thoughts of dolls and crackers. She was a fresh just-turned fifteen year old, after all. Opening the door to her blasted reality, Ada turned to Alistair for comfort.
She got her wish.
“Can we just calm down? Auntie- lay off! I’m fine, okay? Ricky’s just been annoying, and we just wanted to get him upstairs! Auntie! Stop! I’m fine! Really!” Alistair swatted his Aunt’s hand and stared at her sweetly. He patted his dad’s back, grinned at his (other)Aunt May, then started up the stairs. He reached out a hand towards Ada and pulled her up.
“Nice of you to be the charmer for once.”
Ada teased Alistair.
“Like you weren’t before.”
Ada could not stop her cheeks flushing bright red. She turned up the stairs and, giggling, dragged Alistair with her. They passed several relative’s rooms in the house, like grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, with some friends in the mix, like their mom’s best friend or grandpa’s old pal. They were a large family, with tons and tons of people in her family, but this was not her house. It was the rich Aunt May’s house, the very same one who stared at Ada. As charming as she was, Aunt May was a widower who never knew what a burden kids could be. She had dozens of houses, millions of dollars, and an award-winning smile. But not one kid. Ada could never get over why she hadn’t remarried, but right now she could not resist from flirting with her half-brother/ cousin. At the moment both knew where they were going- to Ada’s sanctuary. Her conjoined rooms. She pecked Alistair on the cheek, flushing maroon this time, and jumped on her bed, her child side finally winning her over. Alistair looked delighted rather than the usual ice cold seriousness. They were wretched from this fantasy as Ada heard her mom calling. Reluctantly she told Alistair. They trudged to the living room, and slumped on the couch. Then Ada noticed. Christmas dinner was coming. She had not noticed that the couch she was on was at a table, or that Alistair was next to her.
“Fancy meeting you here.”
“My pleasure, beautiful.”
She laughed as Alistair kissed her hand. Suddenly she was getting lost in her daydreams and bidding reality goodbye when-
Ada gave a start and once again was wretched from her dreams as everyone at the table stared in horror as Ricky, Ada’s crazy, childish brother raced down the hall, and collided into the people carrying the food with the force of a two ton elephant, causing the poor helpers to topple like dominos. Ada stared. And stared. And stared.
Did just that happen?
She looked at her brother, the source of the trouble, who was on the floor and crying about “THEY WERE IN MY WAYYYYYYY! I WAS FLYING! WAAAAH!” Then she peeked at Alistair, who was grinning ear to ear. He answered her unspoken questions with a kiss. Right on the lips. Ada kissed back.
Wow. I needed that.