by Stephen Monaco
“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it,” Ethan said.
His sister, Alyssa sat at the kitchen table and ignored him; the hard-boiled eggs cooling on a ragged towel had her attention. Rachel looked at her daughter and marveled at how angelic the girl looked with the spring sun streaming through the window, glistening in her soft golden hair. “Mommy, can I make the eggs more than one color?”
She sat five coffee cups on the table in front of Alyssa. “You can color them whatever colors you want, Hon,” she said. She bent the small copper egg holder into shape and showed her daughter how to use it to dip the eggs. Alyssa tried to balance an egg on the holder but it rolled off onto the table with a crack. “You have to be careful, Honey,” Rachel said. “You don’t want the eggs to crack.”
“Why not?” Alyssa said, trying again to balance the egg.
Rachel picked up the box and began punching the circles out of the bottom to make the drying rack. “Because cracks let the magic out.”
Ethan laughed. “These eggs aren’t magic. They’re just dumb eggs.”
Rachel sighed. They had just gone through this at Christmas time and now he was starting in on Easter. Rachel missed the days when he wouldn’t sleep the night before holidays because he was so excited. Now that he was in third grade he thought he knew everything about everything. When Ethan was little she felt so overwhelmed with a busy preschooler and a newborn that she didn’t take the time to appreciate these kinds of things. She was determined to not make the same mistake with Alyssa. She readjusted the egg that her daughter was trying to balance. “Like this, Honey. Put the little end of the egg down into the holder. See?”
“Alyssa, you can’t guess what’s in my pocket,” Ethan said.
“Shut up, Ethan,” Alyssa sighed, still working on holding the egg with the wire. “Mommy! Look!”
Rachel smiled at her young daughter whose egg balanced precariously atop the wire. “Good job!”
“Wow, you’re dumb!” Ethan said as he climbed up onto one of the tall chairs at the kitchen table.
“Ethan, that’s enough. You don’t have to help if you don’t want, but don’t ruin everyone else’s fun,” Rachel said.
“Well, it’s dumb,” Ethan protested. “The Easter Bunny isn’t real. Easter eggs aren’t magic. You’re a baby if you believe in that stuff.”
“Yes, the Easter Bunny is real! Mommy, tell him not to say that!”
Ethan started to say something but saw the angry look from his mother and closed his mouth. “I told you,” she said, “that you can either stay and have fun or go do something else but quit teasing your sister.”
“But, I wasn’t teasing her! Jenny Barton said that last Easter she saw her mom and dad hiding the eggs and they told her not to tell her baby sister because –“
Rachel stood up and slid Ethan’s chair away from the table. “Go! Go play in your room.”
“Okay, I won’t say nothin’ else. I want to help,” he said. Rachel gave him a good long stare before consenting and sliding his chair back to the table. Maybe she would get to enjoy coloring eggs with both of them after all. Ethan picked up an egg and looked it over. “I’m gonna make this one red, white, and blue.”
“Hmm… that sounds pretty,” Rachel said as she rummaged around the counter looking for the packet of dye tablets. “Have either of you seen a little package with some colored tablets in it?”
Ethan pulled the packet out of his pocket and laid it on the table. “You were supposed to guess. You ruin all my fun!” Ethan struggled to hold back tears and rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes.
Rachel pushed an unruly strand of hair back behind her ear. “Don’t cry. Come on, you want to drop the tablets into the cups?”
“I do! I do!” Alyssa shouted.
“She asked me. Not you!” Ethan said.
“Okay you two, knock it off! There is enough for both of you to do some.” She handed each of the kids two tablets and used the fifth to show them how it to do it.
Rachel poured herself a cup of coffee and got out her phone to take a picture of the kids coloring their eggs. “No! Don’t take my picture,” Ethan yelled, dropping his egg that he had been coloring only half red completely into the dye. “Ughh!!!!! This is dumb!” He slid down from the chair and ran off, slamming his bedroom door.
“What a baby,” Alyssa muttered as she carefully placed a yellow and red egg on the drying rack. “This is my special egg. I want the Easter Bunny to leave this one next to my bed.”
Rachel went to check on Ethan and when she came back Alyssa was plucking a blue egg onto the drying rack; but she looked bothered. “Mommy,” she asked, “is what Ethan said true? Are you and Daddy the Easter Bunny?”
This was like a knife in the gut to Rachel. So badly she wanted to savor these few short years. She chose her words carefully. “What do you believe, Honey?”
“I think he’s real. But I’m not a baby.”
Rachel smiled and kissed her daughter on the head. “No, you aren’t a baby at all. If you believe in him, that’s really all that matters, right?”
Alyssa lifted an egg out of the green dye but it rolled off the wire and fell to the floor cracking, she started to cry. “It’s ok,” Rachel said as she cleaned it up.
“I don’t…want… the magic… to get out,” she said between sobs.
Rachel squatted and looked her daughter in her dark green eyes. “I don’t want the magic to get out either, Honey. But sometimes it happens, or sometimes the magic just gets old and disappears, you know like a puddle disappears in the sun?”
Alyssa wrapped her arms around her mom’s neck and didn’t let go for a long time. Rachel was glad.
Alyssa had a hard time getting to sleep that night. She kept thinking about what Ethan said. She didn’t want people to think she was a baby. Eventually she drifted off to sleep only to be awakened by a noise in her room. The Easter Bunny! She could know the truth right now. She pretended to still be asleep but cracked her eyes open ever so slightly. Her mom’s slippers stood next to her bed. Then she heard an egg drop and crack on her nightstand. “Crap!” She heard a voice that sounded like her mom’s whisper. Her heart sank! It’s just a dream she told herself over and over until she fell back to sleep.
When she woke to the sun shining in her window, she scrambled up to her knees and grabbed the ‘special egg’ from her nightstand. She turned it over and over in her hands, there were no cracks! It had been a dream!
Rachel was emptying two coffee cups of red and yellow dye down the sink when Alyssa charged into the kitchen, her little feet patting on the floor. “Mommy! Mommy! I had a dream last night that you were the Easter Bunny and broke my special egg. But I know it was just a dream because my egg’s not broke! Look!” She said, holding the egg high in the air.
Rachel took the egg and looked at it. “Yep, looks like the magic is still there,” she said with a smile.
Category: Short Story