Night was falling fast; it was already dusk, and frogs began to warble, and the crickets chirruped their pleading, dissonant chant. The moon was slowly rising above the little hill, and the field of wild sunflowers was slowly shrinking into the shadows as each pretty head drooped downwards for a pleasant rest. As the oldest of the six brown-haired kids clustered around the murky pond, I reckoned that it was my responsibility to give them the ending signal.
"Come on guys,” I said, breaking through the night’s enchanting sounds. “It's time to go in.”
“Aw, please Amy? We only got three tadpoles,” Joe, eleven years old, protested.
But I stood firm, and soon had them all herded into the house—quite a feat actually. Mom was waiting for us. She efficiently whisked the protesting young ones away to bed, and stillness soon blanketed the house.
I had the unspoken duty of taking care of the tadpole triplets, so I poured the squirming bodies into a bowl full of creek water and placed it on the counter. Eventually, I made it upstairs to the attic-style room that I shared with the second oldest, Beth. The hot room smelled of nail polish and bleach, so the window was wide open, filling the room with a glorious night-time perfume. Beth was already asleep, her chest moving up and down with each deep, loud breath.
I was just falling asleep myself when I felt a startling jab on my back. I jerked around to see what it was, only to find Sam, my three year-old brother; he gazed up at me precociously, his eyes rounder than any I had ever seen before.
“Can I sleep wif you?” He asked, climbing into bed without waiting for an answer. I sighed, and then smiled, resigning myself to company for the evening.
“Come on Sammy. Snuggle under.” I tucked my blankets around him and me.
A few seconds of blissful peace ensued, during which my energetic thoughts became increasingly more fuzzy and incoherent, and my heavy eyes began to droop. Instantly they shot open again when Sammy’s voice rang out. “Tell me a story,” he commanded.
My older-sister instincts kicked in. “No hon, not now,” I soothed. “Right now is bedtime, not story time.”
Sam didn’t like that very much; he begged, pleaded, berated, and abused, becoming so loud and downright annoying that he woke up Beth. But I finally managed to get him to settle down, threatening him with every applicable punishment that I could think of. Again the room was quiet, but now I couldn’t sleep. My thoughts persisted in rolling around each other, like the numbers in a bingo spinner.
“Sammy,” I whispered at one point, “are you still mad at me?”
“Yes,” came the brusque answer.
"Don’t you love me anymore?” I continued, trying to get him to break down and forgive me.
“No. And I won’t pick you any more flower, ‘cause you won’t tell me a story,” he replied, in a shrill voice.
I knew that he would forget the whole thing by morning, as he always did—but I still wished that he wouldn’t get so angry with me. In the end I gave up and rolled over onto my stomach to try and get some sleep. Sammy had crept all the way on the other side of the bed with his back to me; now he pulled all the blankets on top of him, and I was left shivering in the cold draft coming from the window.
For the third time that night, I was almost asleep, until a little hand crept across my back, encircling me in its embrace. This time I forgot any annoyance and was instead filled with elation.
“I love you,” I whispered hopefully into deep blue darkness.
“I love you too.”
“Are you still mad at me?”
I lay there for a while, grateful for a brother, however young, who loved me. I thought about my girlfriends, some already flirting and going out with boys. Why did I need to, when I had a cute boy who would put his chubby arms around me, stroke my long brown hair, and tell me that he loved me? I decided then and there that if I ever married someday, it would be to the same kind of a man: warm, friendly, comfortable, and unconditionally loving. Someone that you didn’t have to flirt and put on a show for. With a peaceful darkness enveloping the room and the stars shining through the window like glistening glass shrapnel on velvet, I leaned over and softly kissed Sam, assuming that he was asleep by then. But he opened one bright eye to look at me.
“I’ll pick you a flower t’morrow, Amy,” he mumbled. I smiled, sleep forgotten; that was the icing on the cake.