You are nine years old. You stick your head out your bedroom window and take it all in: the sharp bite that edges the wind—hints of cinnamon and rotten leaves at the back of your tongue—the trees that have shed their leaves like a woman discarding her party dress when the evening is done, leaving piles of red and gold littering the street; and you grin into the night, for this is October. It is October, and the family reunion is almost here. And this year, you can contribute, since you are nine.
You can hardly hold yourself together with the excitement. Casting a last glance over your shoulder, you slither out the window, across the back yard and over the fence, landing in the ever-shifting shadows of the alley-way. You creep on tip-toe (for this is October, and this kind of sneaking requires tip-toes) along the side of your house. You pause, and stretch up to peer in the kitchen window. You see your mother at the counter, her back to you. She is making something, her contribution to this year’s reunion. Everybody’s is different. She raises her arm, a meat cleaver held firmly in hand, and then she brings it down—WHAK! Your mouth starts to salivate, because nobody makes a better stew than your mother. And since this is reunion time, it will be even better.
You wave to her back, the shivery thrill of knowing there is nothing but a piece of lace between you and her, knowing should she turn around you will be caught. But she does not turn around, and so you sink down beneath the window ledge and slink along the side of the house,
At the porch, you take a deep breath and pause, shivering with a little bit of fear, a little bit of chill but mostly excitement. This is, after all, the dangerous part, for Grandma likes to sit on the porch on nights like this and tempt the neighbors’ pets into the yard. Grandma makes sculptures of little animals, and you asked her once if they were supposed to be the neighbors’ missing pets, but she told you not to be silly, that would attract far too much attention. But she never brings them out except at family reunions you’ve noticed.
You poke your head up over the railing, and luck (and maybe some of that October magic) is with you. Grandma’s chair is empty, rocking slowly back and forth, as though you have only just missed Grandma. You should feel relieved, but you are nine, and all you feel is giddy.
Since the way is now clear, you race across the yard, too quick for anyone to see you, for anyone to ask What are you doing out here at this hour? To which you would reply you are going shopping. And then they would say, But the stores are all closed. And you would giggle, and tell them it is not that kind of shopping. But you make it unseen, un-accosted, and since no one asks you merely let the giggle bubble up and burst out as an enthusiastic WHOOP! that echoes down the empty street and rustles leaves and sends the neighbors’ pets into hiding. And in the kitchen, your mother lifts her head and smiles, for of course she knew you were there and let you go, because you are nine, and oh so grown up now.
Your feet slap the pavement as you race through the neighborhood, flirting with the moon that peeks out as the clouds slip past then race to cover her face as though she is embarrassed to be seen playing. And as you run you wonder what everyone else is bringing to the family reunion this year. One of your uncles brings home-made leather masks; others prefer jewelry, or clothing. It all depends on what they collect. You have wondered for years what you would collect when you were old enough, and this year, you knew! You could spend hours leafing through the catalogue from the toy store, seeing the dolls in their fancy dresses. So that is what you will bring to the reunion this year, since you are nine, and a grown up now.
You have spent weeks constructing the doll, and now you are down to only one thing. One thing it needs to be ready, and you know where to find it. And here you are, at your friend’s house. You have tried for weeks, and nothing was right. But today, you realized. The answer has been in front of you every time you came over to play.
So, you slip in her open window and snuggle down under the covers. Her doll collection stares down at you with glass eyes. So flat, such a lifeless stare. The doll you made will be so much prettier; it looks like your friend. You can’t wait to share the first piece in your collection at the family reunion. Because you are nine, and old enough to participate now.
Your friend opens her eyes and smiles to find you here, and you grin back as you pull the melon scooper from your pocket. You always thought she had the most beautiful blue eyes.
Author Bio: Having been writing since 5th grade, I decide it was time to start sending out my work. After several pieces of poetry were published in various anthologies, Liquid Imagination published my first story, "Kyra". This was followed by a piece in "Mausoleum Memoirs", "Come Play With Me." Much of my poetry may be found online at The Open Mic Project. I recently placed second in the Steampunk Poetry Slam at Steampunk November.