I squinted as the hazy lights from a car slipped between the blinds and scanned across the wall. I was able to see my brother, Skylar, across from me. He sat with his back against the wall, head slightly tilted, as he wondered what I would say next. I glanced back at the bed behind me, where my brother Derek was, curled up on his side with his stuffed panda squashed into his bony chest. His eyes were shut but I knew he was listening.
When the lights went off downstairs and nothing could be heard except for the hum of the refrigerator, I scuffed my way into my brothers’ room hugging a pillow, my sleeping bag trailed behind my feet. We were excited, we wanted to share our thoughts. We sat up, legs jumbled in blankets, and talked about where the Easter eggs would be hidden by the morning, what kind of toys and candy would be burrowed in our Easter grass that overflowed from our pastel, straw baskets, and whether the Easter bunny was real or not. I had mentioned that I knew that he wasn’t real after Skylar said he wanted to see him in our living room. He didn’t know whether to believe me or not. Derek had no say in the conversation. He just flipped his pillow to the cold side, buried his cheek in it, and told us that we should sleep.
I adjusted myself in my sleeping bag on the floor in between their beds and turned around.
“I think I have double A batteries in my Furby that we can use,” I said.
Skylar sat crossed legged beneath his comforter as he fumbled with the back of his battery-less Star Wars stormtrooper toy. It was equipped with a motion sensor on its white belt. Its plastic legs were stiff and its flexible arms hung down; one hand clutched a black gun. When something moved in front of it, the tip of its gun would flicker red and the sound of a laser would electrify the room. It was the perfect way for me to prove to Skylar, the youngest of the three of us, that the Easter bunny really was Mom and Dad. We just needed batteries.
Earlier that night, I commanded Skylar to search the room for it as I stood guard by the door that I opened just enough to peek my head out. I sat on my knees, alert for any movement that might have echoed up the stairs. Skylar tore apart the room as he felt around in the dark. Derek whined that Skylar was making too much noise as he tripped over the toys that were scattered on the floor, but he didn’t want him to turn on the light. It would be a give-away that we were still awake. In his raspy voice that he always developed when he grew tired, Derek said, trying to sound like Dad, “Nora, Skylar, the quicker you fall asleep, the faster morning will come.” He had recently turned eight and thought he was mature. I rolled my eyes. I was nine.
I didn’t think it mattered when we fell asleep, Easter morning would come at the same time, and I told Derek that. All I knew was that I needed to prove to Skylar that there was no such thing as an Easter bunny. Skylar always seemed to believe Derek rather than me or side with him during arguments. I was always sure that it was just because Derek was an older boy. Skylar looked up to Derek instead of me, the oldest. Even though Derek knew the truth about the Easter bunny, he chose not to say anything about it.
A few days before the past Christmas, Derek and I quietly crawled downstairs after Mom, in long sleeved pajamas, hidden under blankets, and we saw her open the closet full of presents. Thank goodness for third grade; we knew how to read script. Our names bounced off of the nametags. The glistening of the wrapping paper reflected in my eyes.
If Santa wasn’t real, neither was the Easter bunny, and the same went for the tooth fairy. I had one night to prove it to Skylar, I couldn’t wait another year, and I didn’t feel like yanking one of his teeth out.
Derek tossed around in his sheets and muttered things I didn’t try to understand as Skylar followed my orders. My anxious eyes swung from the space between the door and the wall to Skylar, who dug through boxes of random toys, climbed through the congested closet, kicked up the dirty clothes that were shuffled within the clean clothes on the carpet, all in search for the concealed possession that happened to be on the bookshelf in the hallway. I found it there when I opened the door to cast my eyes into the distance, paranoid of one of my parents stealthily approaching my brothers’ room.
“Don’t do it,” Derek said as I snatched the stormtrooper toy from Skylar’s grasp.
I turned to face him. His chin rested in the palm of his hand and one of his legs dangled from his messy sheets.
“Imagine their faces when they get caught!”
“I’m not going to be a part of it. I don’t feel like getting in trouble.”
“You’re a whimp,” I snickered. I turned back to Skylar and stood up. “I’ll check to see if I have the batteries.”
The door squeaked as I opened it. I looked across the hall into my room, then down the stairs. I hesitated before motioning toward my door. After a few seconds, I darted into my room, shut the door, and flicked my light switch on.
I looked through my shelves of stuffed animals. Once I set my eyes on my brown Furby, I set the stormtrooper toy down, crawled over my unmade bed, and dug my chewed up nails into its crusty fur. I flipped it upside down and clawed at the bottom of it until the plastic cover came off and revealed the batteries. I spilled them into my hand, threw Furby on the shelf, and made my way to the door. Then I saw the door knob slowly turn. I froze and tightened my grip on the batteries. My instincts told me to leap into bed and pretend to be asleep, and I did. I felt the warmth of embarrassment engulf my body when I peered out of a squinted eye. It was Derek.
“Who sleeps like that?” he laughed as he shut my door.
I giggled at my awkward, uncomfortable position and sat up. “What are you doing?”
He yawned. “Trying to sleep. But I can’t with you two making all of this noise. Mommy and Daddy know that we’re not sleeping. They’re going to wait until we’re asleep to do everything.”
I shrugged. “Probably.” I glanced into my sweaty palm, at the batteries. “That’s why we’re setting up the motion detector. It’ll wake us up when they go into the living room.”
“We’re going to get in trouble,” Derek said. He was always so cautious.
I stared at his skinny body, his brown hair danced with static; he had bags under his caramel eyes.
“Besides, Nora, why do you want to ruin it for Skylar?”
“Ruin it? We know, he should know. He doesn’t believe me!” I stood up.
“It’s going to be so funny,” I said. I couldn’t think of a better comeback. Derek always made sense when he argued. I wished I could be more like him sometimes, but I’d never let him know that.
“Let him figure it out on his own.”
I glared at him. “I’m going to do it. Especially after looking around for that stupid toy for hours. And it’s up to Skylar if he wants to watch or not.”
Derek yawned. “Don’t blame anything on me.”
Derek almost shut my door on his way out, but I snapped at him and told him not to shut it because I was going to go back to their room. He told me to stop being a grouch and to get some sleep. I called him an idiot. I was just mad because he always made a better argument.
After I squeezed the double A batteries into the stormtrooper’s back, I went back into my brothers’ room. Derek was on his back with his arms folded behind his head and Skylar was still sitting up. He was waiting for me.
Skylar’s hands reached for his stormtrooper toy but I clutched it to my chest and pretended that I didn’t see him grabbing at it.
“Are the batteries in there?” he asked.
I didn’t answer.
“Be quiet!” Derek said.
“Shut up.” I pushed back my bangs and sighed.
“Just go to bed already,” Derek said. “Both of you guys, because I can’t sleep with all your talking.”
“What are you gonna do, Derek, tell on me to the Easter bunny?”
Derek launched a sock at my face.
“The Easter bunny is here?” Skylar asked.
I threw the sock back at Derek.
Skylar went to get out of his bed but crashed on the floor because his legs were intertwined with sheets.
Derek and I exploded with laughter.
Through foggy eyes, Skylar whimpered, “It’s not funny.” He became frustrated as he kicked around on the floor as he tried to free himself from his sheets.
“Alright, alright,” Derek sighed as he knelt down to help Skylar free himself. I was about to do so but withdrew once Derek decided to.
Once Skylar was free, he blurted out an overly loud “Yay!” and jumped up and down. I whipped my head around and slammed a hand over his slimy lips. He laughed and licked in between two of my fingers. The smile that I tried to hold back evolved into laughter as well and I drew back my slobbered-on hand. Derek’s bed squeaked as he got comfortable beneath his covers. I heard him giggle too, before he said in a high whisper, “Go to sleep.”
We remained quiet for a few minutes. I rested on my back and counted the five petals shaped like baseball bats that sprung out of the baseball shaped light bulb on my brothers’ ceiling fan. I rolled over onto my belly and looked up at Skylar’s bed. I tugged on his oversized comforter that hung down.
I turned my head and stretched my neck up to glance at Derek. I watched the rise and fall of his chest underneath his oversized t-shirt. I smirked and turned back to Skylar.
“Want to set up the motion detector now?”
Skylar sat up, his messy strawberry-blond hair in his eyes. “Okay.”
Skylar followed me down the stairs. We squatted as we made our way down and we moved slow to make sure the stairs didn’t creak. I was impressed by Skylar’s sneaking-down-the-stairs skills. When my foot hit the tile beneath the first stair, I stood up and looked around. Skylar copied me. I led him to where the living room met the hallway, where my parents would make their entrance.
“I’m gonna put it here and turn it on,” I whispered and pointed down.
Skylar nodded and watched as if I were performing a magic trick. His small jaw hung open.
I placed the stormtrooper toy in its position. I glared up at Skylar. “Okay Sky, now go that way and wait for me,” I said and pointed my nose to where the staircase began.
“Why?” he said.
I threw a finger to my lips. “Just do it. I’m going to turn it on. You’re in the way.”
He smiled at me with his mouth open as he walked backward, bobbing his head. He looked goofy, but as long as he listened to me, I was happy.
I fingered the back of the toy in search of the switch and held it tight with my other hand to keep it from falling over. When I got it, the beep that came out of it sounded louder than ever.
Skylar stood on the bottom stair and his tiny head peeked over the ledge. I waved my hands at him and mouthed “Go!”
He knew to crouch low and to silently conquer the stairs. I made sure to stay as far away from the stormtrooper toy as possible and followed my brother.
Skylar grinned so much that his dimples appeared deeper and he wiggled around when I made it to the top of the stairs to meet him. I pat him on his thick-haired head and led him back into his room.
I groaned and lifted my groggy head from my pillow that was soaked in drool. The sun’s rays stretched through the blinds and the birds chirped in the trees. I wiped my moist cheek with the back of my hand, then turned over onto my back and rubbed off the hair that was stuck to the side of my cheek. I inhaled deeply and stretched my arms into the air. I felt my eyes expand as I remembered that it was Easter. I pounced to my feet and had a look around. Skylar was tucked into his blankets with a smile on his face. Derek was on his side. His knees were pulled up and his arms were wrapped around them. In between his chest and knees was the stormtrooper toy.