“Don’t aim that thing at me! OOFF!”
I stare longingly out the window. Some of the neighborhood kids are having a snowball fight in the middle of the street. A light sprinkling of snow fell last night temporarily hiding the dirty snow. Jonathan rushed through his breakfast this morning, and I had a feeling he didn’t want me out there playing with his friends.
One of the girls notices me standing in the window. She smiles to me and uses her hand to beckon me outside. I quickly pull the curtain in front of the window and run away from the window. Moments later I hear the doorbell ring.
“Hello, Phoebe,” I hear Mrs. Willow say when she opens the door, “what can I do for you?”
“I would like to ask that girl if she’d like to join our snowball fight.”
“I don’t know her name. All I know is she sure wants to be out here with us and not cooped up inside.”
I hear Mrs. Willow laugh.
“You’re probably right. VERA!”
I take my sweet time walking to the door. The girl, Phoebe, smiles at me and pushes away a snow covered strand of her Chestnut colored hair.
“Hi, you must be Vera,” She smiles. She offers her hand. “I’m Phoebe Nelson. I was wondering if you’d like to join us? The boys would love to have another target to hit.”
I manage to chuckle at her joke. She smiles at me.
“So what do you say?” Phoebe asks. “Will you join us?”
I can practically feel Mrs. Willow nudge me to go outside.
“For a few mintues,” I answer.
“Awesome!” Phoebe smiles. “I’ll tell the rest you’re coming out. Everyone is curious about you. Jonny refuses to tell us anything about you.”
I feel a like I’m on display as I walk out of the house. All snowball throwing stops and everyone stares at me except Jonathan. He glowers at me.
A tall girl with wild red and green hair is the first to approach me.
“You must be Vera. We’ve heard nothing about you,” The girl says. She shots an angry look in Jonathan’s direction. “I’m Jordan Richardson.”
“SHE’S CRAZY!” All the boys shout.
Jordan sends a glare in the boys direction before turning her attention back to me. She holds her hand out for me to shake.
“Vera Fleming,” I smile as she gives me a strong handshake. I nearly fall into her.
“Sorry,” Jordan laughs. “I have seven brothers. Forgive me.”
“Seven?” I blurt.
“Three older, three younger, and a fraternal twin, Austin,–nobody knows who’s older,” Jordan groans.
“How is that possible?”
“I’ve been asking that question for fourteen years,” One of the bus boys, Austin–I guess, says.
“You’re siblings?” I see Jonathan roll his eyes out of the corner of my eyes.
“Sadly,” Jordan and Austin say at the same time. They roll their eyes at each other.
“Ben is also my brother,” Jordan says pointing to the tallest boy in the group. “He’s crazy, too.”
Ben says nothing but smiles.
“How rude of me!” Phoebe shouts. “Vera, this is my older brother, Han, and my older sister, Amelia.”
Phoebe points to a tall boy with a snowball ready in his hands. Some blonde hair sticks out from under his cap. He smiles and nods at me. I nod back. Phoebe also wants to a girl with long, flowy blonde hair. She smiles and walks toward me.
“Hi,” Amelia says. “Welcome to the neighborhood.” I smile unsure what to say.
“HEY TODD!” Jordan screams all of a sudden. Austin shakes his head. I look to where Jordan is screaming. Jordan is screaming at the window of the only house on the street that’s not decorated. A boy stands in the window looking intensely at Jordan.
“COME ON OUT! WE’RE ABOUT TO HAVE A SNOWBALL FIGHT!” Jordan screams. The boy nods and disappears from the window.
“What’d you do that for?” Jonathan asks. Jordan smacks him.
“Todd’s nice. Not all Stewart’s are murders,” Jordan says.
“Jordan and Todd sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” Austin teases.
“Oh, grow up,” Jordan says rolling her eyes. Todd emerges from his house and stares at me strangely.
“TODD, THIS IS VERA! SHE’S STAYING WITH THE WILLOW’S FOR CHRISTMAS!” Jordan yells. Todd nods. Only as he comes closer do I see a hearing aid popping out from his ear.
“Hello, Vera,” Todd says offering his hand. “I’m Todd–Stewart.”
I shake his hand and smile. Todd is surprised by this response.
“MILKSOP!” Jordan shouts throwing a snowball at Todd’s back. Todd is taken aback but quickly recovers by getting snow all over Jordan’s crazy hair.
Within seconds, the snowball fight is on. I get hit more times than I throw, and most of the balls come from Jordan trying to get Todd. Phoebe gets hit the least, but throws little. Jonathan vainly tries to hit me, but I miss him every time.
“I’VE PREPARED HOT CHOCOLATE!” A woman calls from the Richardson’s house. Everyone rushes over to their house and I follow.
“Hello,” Mrs. Richardson says when I sit down at her table. “I don’t believe you’ve met.”
“I’m Vera,” I say.
“She’s just here for Christmas,” Jonathan quickly adds.
“Oh, yes. That sure was nice of your parents to take Vera in. I would have done it, but I got eight of my own,” Mrs. Richardson says.
“It would have been cruel to put Vera through this rowdy bunch,” Jordan says. Just after she finishes, two boys run into the kitchen wearing nothing but their underwear.
“JOEY! SHAUN!” Mrs. Richardson shouts. She looks embarrassed at her sons lack of clothing.
“We wanted some hot chocolate,” A boy with red hair says. “But we weren’t cold. So we TOOK OFF OUR CLOTHING!”
I try to hide a snicker, but I can’t. The enter table burst out laughing.
“What?” The little boy asks–not getting that he’s what’s so funny.
“Baby, go put on some clothes,” Mrs. Richardson says. “Then you can have some coca. Ok?”
“All right,” The boy says sadly. He runs out of the kitchen with his brother not far behind.
“Please, excuse them,” Mrs. Richardson says shaking her head.
“We’re used to it,” Han laughs. These are the first words I’ve heard him say. His voice has a hint of British accent in it. He catches me looking at him and smiles.
“Well you SHOULDN’T,” Mrs. Richardson shouts.
“Now we know were Jordan gets her noise from,” Todd says under his breath.
“HEY!” Jordan shouts. She splashes some hot chocolate in his face. Todd smiles and licks his lips. Mrs. Richardson looks at the two of them for a couple seconds longer than the show before going back to preparing coca for the other boys.
“MOMMY!” A little red haired boy runs into the kitchen. I’m shocked he actually has clothes on.
“Yes, Levi?” Mrs. Richardson asks.
“Joey just told me that you made coca and that you weren’t going to give me any!” Levi cries.
“Oh, baby, Joey was just being a brother,” Mrs. Richardson says hugging Levi. “Brothers play lie with each other some time.”
“He shouldn’t get any hot chowote!” Levi shouts.
“Chocolate,” Mrs. Richardson corrects before going on. “He really shouldn’t. But neither do you. None of us deserve coca, but Mommy gives mercy and lets you have some any way. Give your brother some grace. Sit down.”
Levi sits down next to me smiles.
“Hi! I’m Levi!” He shouts. “Jordan says I’m the baby. I don’t know what that means, but I’m three and can brush my teeth by myself!”
“Hi, Levi,” I smile. “I’m Vera. And being the baby just means you’re the youngest.”
“Oh,” Levi says. “THANK YOU!” He shouts as Mrs. Richardson places a small cup of coca in front of him.
“BOYS!” Mrs. Richardson shouts as two tall boys run into the kitchen passing a basketball between them. “NO PLAYING BASKETBALL IN THE KITCHEN!”
“I must have learned to yell in the womb,” Jordan mumbles.
“We’re going to play Snow Ball,” The oldest looking says.
“Oh, no,” Mrs. Richardson says. “Not wearing that.” Both boys aren’t wearing coats.
“Mom, We;re in college now. We can take care of myself,” The boy says.
“You guys weren’t going to play ball without us?” Austin asks slurping his coca.
“Ya,” The other boy says. Austin steals the ball from his hand and runs out the door.
“COATS! BOYS! COATS!” Mrs. Richardson shouts running after them–without her coat.
The rest of the boys join them outside leaving us girls to stare at each other.
“SO….,” Jordan shouts. We burst out laughing.
“Vera, I’m having a sleepover tonight,” Jordan says. “Austin’s having the boys over just to drive me crazier, but whatever. What I’m trying to say is would you like to come?”
“I’d have to ask Mr. Willow,” I say cautiously, “but if he says, yes. Yes.”
“Just let me ask him,” Jordan says. “He can’t stand me. So every time he sees me he just says ‘YES’.”
This gets a laugh out of us and we giggle through the rest of our hot chocolates.
“Should I do my nails SILVER or RED and GREEN?” Jordan asks.
“SHOULD WE GO THROUGH WATER BALLOONS ALL OVER THE GIRLS!?” The boys shout from the room next door.
“NO!” We shout back.
“Is your life goal to annoy your brothers?” Amelia laughs.
“Tell the truth. You like to make Han go mad,” Jordan says.
“She actually doesn’t,” Phoebe says. “And that’s what drives me CRAZY!”
“YES, PHOEBE, YOU ARE CRAZY!” Han shouts back.
“LOOK WHO’S TALKING!” Phoebe shouts. Her voice slips into a strange short of British accent.
“AHA!” Han shouts bursting into the room.
“Get out!” Phoebe shouts. She starts throwing popcorn at him. We all pick up an object in Jordan’s room and throw it at him.
“Not you too, Vera!” Han shouts with fake hurt as he retreats back to the boys’ room.
“We need to play a prank on them,” Jordan says after she’s closed the door.
“What kind of prank?” Amelia asks. Jordan puts her finger over her mouth and leaves the room. Moments later she returns with silly string cans.
“Surprise attack,” She smiles. She hands one can to everybody and keeps two for herself.
“Let’s roll,” Jordan says like we’re in a movie.
We burst into the boys room and surprise them with string.
“AH!” Austin shouts as Jordan covers him in string.
“SERIOUSLY!” Ben shouts as Amelia makes a swirl on his hair.
I make Jonathan my target. He tries not to scream like a little girl, but he fails.
“MEN!” One of the older Richardson boys, Tyler–as I have learned, shouts. He throws whipped cream cans to each guy.
“STOP!” I scream as Han attacks me. I start to laugh as we just stand there repealing power at each other..
“WHAT IS GOING ON IN HERE?” Mrs. Richardson shouts. Everyone stops.
“It’s not what it looks like,” The other older Richardson boy, Josh, says.
“Wait…what does it look like?” Austin asks.
Mrs. Richardson shakes her head.
“So what should we talk about?” Jordan asks after we’ve cleaned up and Mrs. Richardson has turned off the lights.
“Boys,” Phoebe tries to whisper.
“Nah, we should play a game,” Amelia says.
“Destroy a Wish?” Phoebe asks.
“No, we should play Truth!” Jordan asks.
“Don’t you mean Truth or Date?” I interrupt.
“We’re not allowed to play Truth or Dare anymore,” Jordan says.
“Why not?” I ask.
“Let’s just say we were all grounded for a month,” Amelia says.
“All but you,” Phoebe huffs.
“What do you think we should play, Vera?” Jordan asks.
I’ve never played Destroy a Wish before so I opted to play Truth.
“All right,” Jordan says with mischief in her voice. “I get to ask the first question. Phoebe, who do you have a crush on?”
“No one,” Phoebe answers.
“Come on!” Jordan shouts. “None of my brothers impress you? Jonathan Willow doesn’t suite you’re fancy?”
The room is silent for a moment, before everyone, even me, is laughing.
“Phoebe doesn’t do ‘jerk’,” Amelia giggles.
“GO TO SLEEP!” One of the boys shouts.
“YOU GO TO SLEEP!” Jordan shouts back.
“WHY DON’T YOU ALL GO TO SLEEP?” Mrs. Richardson shouts.
“I’m not sure if I want to meet your dad,” I blurt. Jordan was the only one that went downstairs to greet him when he arrived him.
“Oh, my dad is really quiet,” Jordan says. “Seriously.”
I feel like headed.
“Now, I get to ask a question,” Phoebe says. “Jordan, do you like Todd Stewart?”
“Oh, not you too!”
“I think your mother thinks you like him,” Amelia says.
“Well, I don’t. Not like that anyway,” Jordan lies.
“Jordan?” I ask.
“Are your pants on fire?”
“Why do you–HEY!”
We all burst out laughing.
“Just spill, girl,” Amelia says. “You like a Stewart.”
“I refuse to admit something that I haven’t done.”
“Face it,” Phoebe says. “She’s impossible.” I can just see her shake her head. “I’m pretty sure he likes you too.”
“And I’m pretty sure Austin likes you,” Jordan says. I can’t tell if she’s being sarcastic or not.
“You better be joking,” Phoebe says.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Jordan says mysteriously. “Since you countered by question, I get to ask a question. Amelia, do you like any of my brothers?
“Somebody’s determined to play matchmaker with her brothers,” Amelia says.
“If you must know,” Amelia sighs, “I like Tyler.”
“WHAT!” Jordan shouts.
“WHAT!” Someone from the other side mimics.
“BE QUIET!” Jordan screams.
“IF YOU KIDS DON’T GO TO SLEEP, YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO HAVE ANOTHER SLEEPOVER AGAIN!”
“What!” Jordan whispers.
“What’s wrong with that?” Amelia asks. “He’s only nineteen.”
“Still! Nobody’s ever liked Tyler before!” Jordan shouts.
“YOU TALKING ABOUT ME?” Tyler shouts.
“MAYBE!” Jordan shouts back.
“It’s just…Tyler’s a genius. He started college at sixteen,” Jordan says.
“So I’m not smart enough for him?” Amelia asks.
“NO!” Jordan shouts. “It’s just…I like you better with Ben.”
“EW!” Amelia shouts.
“Ok, now its my turn to ask a question,” Amelia says. “Vera, what do you think of my brother?”
“I…I…don’t know,” I say. “I just met him like twelve hours ago!”
“Do you find him handsome?”
“Stop teasing her!” Jordan laughs.
“Look, who’s TALKING!” Phoebe shouts.
“STRIKE TWO AND A HALF!”
“Look, what you’ve girls done!” Jordan whisper shouts. “We’re half a strike away from never ever having sleepovers again! Why are you guys so loud?”
This causes us to burst into laughter.
“STRIKE TWO AND THREE FOURTHS!”
“We better put duck tape on Jordan’s mouth,” Phoebe whispers.
I smile. For the first time coming to Willowfield Falls, I’m happy. But it won’t last. Cause I can’t stay.