by Steve Joos
An adolescent girl faces babysitting an infant step brother, among other issues.
Maddie Stevens bounced her basketball slowly and glumly on her driveway one late summer’s evening.
The honey-brown haired adolescent tried to get some shooting drills in before she once again babysat for 10-month-old step brother Ryan while her parents went out for the evening.
It seemed a little strange that Maddie finally had a sibling, but a baby brother in the seventh grade wasn’t exactly the thing she had in mind. Then again, things hadn’t been going all that much according to plan for her lately.
She looked over at the neighbors with a forlorn as Maddie half-heartedly bounced an air ball at the goal next to her family’s garage. Toby’s family was on vacation and she felt lonely for him. He was so excited about the future and Maddie wished she could join in, but she couldn’t.
“Eighth grade is going to be awesome,” Toby had often told her. “We’re going to be on top of whole world!”
“I guess,” Maddie would reply.
Then there was Ryan.
“Aren’t you thrilled to have a baby brother?” she was always asked.
Sometimes. And sometimes Maddie felt she had to be more of a nanny than a big sister.
“The Cranwill's number is by the phone,” Maddie’s step mother reminded her as her parents prepared to leave. “We won’t be that far and, oh, where is your father?”
“In here!” John Stevens called out.
Soon, Maddie’s father appeared, holding the crying infant and speaking to him.
“Look at all these pretty girls,” he said. “Why, there’s mommy and Maddie. After some num-nums, Maddie will read you a story and maybe the other girls will come by and sing for you.”
Maddie’s eyes bulged.
“Oh just something I wanted to say if I ever had a son. If I ever had a baby boy, I wanted to tell him that three beautiful girls would come by after he went to sleep and they’d sing for him.”
Maddie noticed some sadness in her dad’s voice and quickly wondered if something had reminded him of his first wife and her birth mother. They had heard a song on the car radio while coming home one night and she thought there were tears in his eyes.
“Was there something wrong the other day daddy?” she asked.
“Oh no,” her father replied. “Just something in my eye.”
“Just something in your eye?” Sally Stevens asked her husband later that evening.
“When you were talking to Maddie before we left. What happened?”
“I was thinking of Patricia again,” Mr. Stevens confessed. “I heard a song on the radio that she would sing to Madeline when she was a child. ‘The Twelth of Never’ I think it was. That sort of triggered things.”
“Oh,” Sally said quietly.
“Maddie really loves you,” John added. “But there are times,”
Sally nodded slightly as her husband once again explained how his daughter felt, and how she relied on her stepmother to help with things that were necessary while growing up, but that there were times when Maddie missed her first mother.
“And Ryan?” Sally inquired as they pulled into the driveway.
“Oh she loves Ryan!”
As the couple climbed into the kitchen and living room, they were drawn towards a light in Maddie’s room, where they found her holding her baby brother.
“That’s a good boy,” the adolescent cooed as she comforted the infant. “Who do you see? Do you see mommy?”
Ryan seemed to be looking at an oil painting of Maddie’s birth mom as he was smiling.
“No, that was my mommy,” Maddie whispered, choking back emotion. “Do you think she looks like me?”
She then began to quietly sing, rocking the baby gently.
“You ask ‘how much I need you?’ Must I explain?”
Maddie looked over to see her parents.
“He was crying,” she said. “I changed him and everything, but he didn’t calm down until I came in here and,”
“That’s all right honey,” Sally said. “You did fine.”
Sally took Ryan and placed him in his baby bed. After tucking him in, she turned to find her husband with tears in his eyes.
“That song,” he said. “Patricia sang it to Maddie when she was a baby.”