Alyssa's BIG Birthday Wish


"It's silly," Alyssa thought. "There's no such thing as magic, so I shouldn't be disappointed."

Although she'd more than half suspected that Joshua had just been playing with her, Alyssa had gone straight to the window upon waking up. Of course, there was no pony in the yard. She sighed and turned away from the window as she heard Daddy moving quickly down the hall. He had Johnny on his shoulder.

"Off to our first dental appointment!" Daddy spoke cheerfully so that Johnny wouldn't be frightened, which he wasn't. "Hooray! I have lunch with Daddy!" Johnny crowed.

Daddy spotted Alyssa. "When I get back tonight, Sis, I'll get your locket for you," he promised. He kissed Alyssa quickly and headed down the stairs.

Then Mommy came in, looking a bit distracted. She had some material over her arm she was using to make Emily a new dress. "Peanut, would you help Mommy out by keeping an eye on A.J. for me? I want Em to be able to wear her new dress tomorrow, so I'll have to do a lot of work on it today. Come on, Emmer," Mommy said without waiting for Alyssa to answer. Emily, looking a bit pouty at the thought of having to stand still for a bit, followed. On their way downstairs Mommy knocked on the boys' bedroom door. "Hurry up, Josh! Eric's Mom is going to be here any minute!" Josh was spending the day with his friend Eric. "All right, Mom!" Josh yelled. Alyssa heard the door bang open, Josh call out, "See ya, 'Lis!", a horn honk downstairs, the front door open and close, then all was quiet again. She knew Mommy was in the den with Emily.

With a sigh, Alyssa headed for the bathroom. She loved to mind A.J. for Mommy - it was like playing Mommy herself - but she was still a little disappointed about the pony, and angry with herself that she should be. She guessed she wasn't too upset with Josh, she thought, opening the bathroom door, but still, it wasn't very nice to-

"Hey!" Alyssa jumped, startled, at the strange voice. There was a tall boy in the bathroom, wearing only blue-striped pajama bottoms. He looked annoyed. Looking right at her, he said sharply, "Sissy, I wish you wouldn't just barge in like that! You didn't even knock; sheesh!" He was rubbing his dark brown hair with a towel.

Alyssa was astonished! Who on earth was this young man or boy who knew her nickname? For she wasn't sure which he was, man or boy - he looked young, but old enough to drive - maybe even old enough to go to college, she thought. She was sure she'd never seen him before, but he looked somehow...familiar. His direct blue eyes reminded her of Grandma's, and his hair color was just like Mommy's. He looked like Daddy, sort of, but she was sure that Uncle John was Daddy's only younger brother.

Then the tall boy smiled at her reassuringly...the way she was standing, staring at him open-mouthed, he must have thought she was afraid she'd angered him, and he was smiling to make her feel better. It was the sweet smile that did it. "A.J.!" Alyssa gasped.

Instantly, the boy stopped smiling. He groaned, "Sis, come on...initials are too me Austin..."

But Alyssa was already running up the hall to the boys' room, to see for herself. She threw open the door, looked in the crib - empty. She ran to the closet, where A.J. sometimes liked to play - empty! She ran to the stairs, yelled down, "Mommy! Is A.J. with you?"

Concerned, Mommy called back, "Honey, he's upstairs! Don't you know where he is?" Her voice sounded muffled, as though she was holding some pins in her teeth on one side, and Alyssa imagined she was pinning up the hem on Emily's new dress. She called back hastily, "Never mind, Mommy, he's the bathroom!" Well, it was the truth. She supposed she could have said, "Mommy, come quick! A.J. got big and he wants me to call him Austin!" But then she was afraid that maybe Mommy would take her to the doctor, and that this time the doctor's assistant, Teresa, really would see monkeys in her ears.

Alyssa went to her room and sat down on the bed for a moment, panting like she had been running a long way. How had this happened? She thought and thought...A.J. had been fine last night, cheerful as anything, even when he'd dropped her mad that had made her! Then suddenly she remembered:

Grandma: "Try not to be angry...he'll be big someday, you know..."

Herself: "I wish he was big now."

Alyssa's gaze went to the dresser, where Josh's candle lay on top of her little jewelry box. Good grief! Was the candle a magic candle, after all? Suddenly she realized that she might be stuck with this tall boy all day...what would she tell Mommy and Daddy? And what if Josh was wrong, and A.J. stayed big when the sun set?

Alyssa jumped up and ran to the bathroom again - but no, it was no dream. There stood A.J. - excuse me, Austin - dressed now in some of their father's smaller clothes. "Which are still a bit too big for me," he confided in Alyssa mischievously. "But I can't think what I've done with my own clothes." Whistling, he combed his hair, then reached over and turned off the light over the sink. He frowned. "I wish Mom and Dad would quit buying this bubble gum toothpaste," he complained. "That stuff was OK when I was little, but now..."

"A.J.- I mean, Austin, where are you going?" said Alyssa, when she saw he was getting ready to pass her. He looked down at her tolerantly (think of the baby looking down at her!) and said, "Why, down to breakfast, of course, squirt!" He brushed her aside and started for the stairs.

Panic-stricken at what would happen if Mom should see him, Alyssa dashed to her room to dress. She rushed to swap her pajamas for play-clothes - almost getting her sweatshirt backwards in her hurry to put it on - jerked a comb through her hair and tore down the stairs after her little-but-now-big brother. He was in the kitchen, going through the cupboards looking for cereal.

"Austin," Alyssa began nervously, but he interrupted her. "Here, want some bubble gum, Sis?" he asked, and, reaching up to the highest shelf quite easily he pulled down the bag of treats that Mom kept for them and tossed it to her.

Alyssa pulled out a piece of pink, peppermint-flavored bubble gum. "Hmm," she thought. "This might not be so bad after all." Then she shook herself - what was she thinking!

Just then Mommy called from the den. "That you, Peanut? What are you doing?"

"Um...just getting Austin his breakfast, Mommy!" Alyssa said nervously.

"That's my good girl...was someone out there with you? I thought I heard a voice!"

"That was the TV!" Alyssa called back. At that moment Emily suddenly yelped. "Ow! Mommy, you stuck me!" Mom's voice: "Well, Em, if you could just hold still a sec..." Alyssa ran to turn on the TV. A.J. was sitting at the kitchen table when she got back, and she was terrified that Mommy would hear him...or look out and see him! He was munching Cheerios quite happily. "Don't you want any breakfast, Alyssa?" he asked. Alyssa smiled weakly. "I'm not hungry."

Austin pushed his chair back, picked up his cereal bowl and took it to the sink. Then he went to the closet by the front door and began to put on a pair of Daddy's shoes! "Where are you going?" Alyssa cried. He looked up at her, surprised. "Out for a bit of a walk, nosy!" "No, don't!" Alyssa told him. Austin looked impatient. "Lis, don't be silly. What's with you? You're a nervous wreck!" He finished tying his shoes, then got up and reached for a coat of Daddy's.

The terrified Alyssa ran to the den and yelled through the door: "Mommy, is it OK if I take A.J. and me outside for a little bit?"

Mommy was distracted. "Um...yes, Peanut, but stay close, OK?"

"OK!" Alyssa ran to put on her own coat and shoes. By the time she got them, Austin was already walking out the back door! "Austin, wait for me!" Alyssa called. She flew after him.

He was walking off the deck, and Alyssa heard a familiar rattle in his hand. "Austin, what are you doing?" she asked nervously.

He held up the keys to Mommy's car. "Thought I'd take a drive, sis!"

Alyssa thought she might pass right out, then and there.

"Austin, no!" she cried. Then, realizing she couldn't stop him, she said nervously, "I mean, can I come?"

He looked peeved for a moment, then sighed and said, "Well...OK. But you'd better button your coat up, Sis. You sure it'll be OK with Mom?"

Alyssa was horrified. She didn't have to check to know that this decidedly would not be OK with Mom. How on earth was she going to keep an eye on her baby brother, who was bigger than her, stronger than her, and seemed to think that he was the one doing the babysitting?