Authors: Jennifer Ann Mann
To Maria Hykin
I was sound asleep when my head itched. Somehow my sleeping brain sent the message to my fingers to go scratch it. And they went. But they certainly didn't expect to find what they did when they got there. I wasn't sleeping anymore. I sat up. Or at least I tried to, but my head was weirdly heavy. And not because I was still tired,
but because my pillow was stuck to it!
You know how you have places for things in your brain? Places like where your favorite breakfast stuff hangs out. Or the place where you keep the memory of
building that cool fort out of old wood and cardboard boxes. Or the corner where you just crammed all the information you need for the gigantic test you have in Mrs. Hull's fifth-grade science class. But nowhere in my brain was there a place for this moment â¦ waking up on a Thursday morning with my pillow pasted to my right ear.
I ripped the pillow off as if it were a Band-Aidâhard and fast. It's a lie, by the way, that pulling something off fast doesn't hurt. It does. But I mostly forgot about my throbbing head when I saw what was stuck to my purple-flannel pillowcase: a big clump of long hair (my hair!) and a giant purple daisy. My hands grabbed my head where that clump of hair had just been, and now my fingers knew exactly what they were feeling â¦ plastic flowers!
I jumped out of bed and ran to the mirror that hung over my dresser. “Holy moly crocatoly!” My head was some sort of Thanksgiving Day table decoration!
I heard the soft pattering of six-year-old feet approach my door. Sunny peeked in. I looked down at her, and she looked back at me, and I knew. I just knew. Maybe it was the roundness of her eyes as she blinked at me. Or maybe it was the way she stood so still, like a deer that had just heard a twig snap. Or maybe it was the sound of her voice when she said, “Good morning, Masha,” like she was some proper little English kid.
And she knew I knew â¦ because she took a slow step back into the hallway.
I lunged but that tiny little toothpick body of hers was too quick, and she took off down the hall toward our mother's room.
“Get back here!” I screamed. “What did you do?”
* * *
I busted through the bedroom door to find Sunny cowering behind my mother. “Masha, what's going on? I'm trying to get ready for â¦” but then my mom stopped and stared.
“She did it!” I screeched, pointing at my little sister.
“Calm down, Masha,” my mother said, but I could see her hiding a smile behind her hand.
Sunny wasn't hiding anything. She broke into ear-piercing giggles as she slid backward into my mother's closet, her tiny body disappearing behind a row of shiny dresses.
“Okay,” my mother said, turning and reaching
through a hundred soft sleeves to retrieve my sister. “Sunny, explain yourself.”
I cut in. “How can you
this cornucopia of horror stuck to my head?”
“That isn't a cornucopia,” Sunny said, pointing at my head. “A cornucopia is a horn-shaped basket filled with fruits and vegetables.”
My mother got down on one knee. “Do you know where the first cornucopia came from?” she asked.
“Greek mythology,” my sister answered.
“WHY ARE WE HAVING SOME SORT OF LEARNING MOMENT WHEN I HAVE PLASTIC FLOWERS STUCK TO MY HEAD?”
I shouted so loudly that I hurt my own ears, and Sunny scampered out of the room like a squirrel up a tree. Then, all out of steam, I flopped onto my mother's bed. The plastic flowers immediately got tangled up in her crocheted bedspread, so even this act of frustrationâflinging myself onto my mother's bedâbecame frustrating. My little sister is the devil!
I know that lots of kids have annoying little brothers and sisters. I've been around; I've seen them. Take
my cousin Suki: she has my little cousin Bruce to deal with. Bruce is always trying to lick people, and my aunt Lila makes us play air hockey with him for hours when I visit. But Bruce also lets Suki have anything she wants out of his Easter basket, and he never tells his mom when Suki pretends to eat her peas but is really just spitting them one by one into her milk.
Sunny would tell.
And Sunny wouldn't stop with just telling on me; she'd take it a step further and
it with my momâlike why she thinks I did what I did, pretending to be some kind of doctor. And you know why? Because she
some kind of doctor! Well, not exactly a doctor, but a genius. She was born brilliant. And
normally I would just be like, good for her, you know, go, genius girl, go, but she also happened to be born evil â¦ making her an evil genius. And I know that the day is coming when she'll invent some poisonous gas that will snuff out the sun and freeze us all into human Popsicles, but until that time, she seems perfectly content to practice her evil schemes on me.
“Okay, Masha, you're right.” My mother sighed as she bent over me and started disconnecting my head from her bedspread. But her tone made me feel like she didn't really believe I
right. I hated when she did thatâsaid something that seemed like she was on my side but actually sounded like she felt the opposite. “Wow,” she whispered as she worked, “these things are really glued in there.”
My cell phone began ringing from down the hall. It was probably Sunny. Sunny always called my cell. When it stopped ringing and then started again, I knew it was my little sister. Only Sunny would do that too! Sunny loves her cell phone, and not because she likes talking to people, but because she loves things
like radio frequencies and voice channels and duplex connections and other tools of her evil trade. I didn't get to have my own cell phone until this Christmas, when I turned eleven years old. And two presents after I opened mine, Sunny opened hersâand she's only six years old! My mother said Sunny's phone was just for emergencies. Yeah, right, like Sunny is going to dial 911 when she blows up the earth.
Just as my mother was finishing untangling the last flower from her bedspread, my cell phone rang a third time. “Sunny,” my mom yelled down the hall, “cut it out!”
Even my mother knew that it was Sunny calling me. We moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey last year after my mom divorced my dad. I'd been going to my new school for almost eight months, but the only person who called me,
, was Sunny. And even though this was the truth, it still completely annoyed me that my mom assumed that the only “friend” I'd made since the move was my very own sister.
“I'm going to bury you in the backyard like a dog bone when Mom's not looking!” I said to Sunny as
she skipped back into the room with her cell phone pressed to her ear.
My mother pursed her lips and turned to my little sister. “Sunny, what did you do?”
“SHE GLUED A BUNCH OF PLASTIC FLOWERS TO MY HEAD!” I shouted.
I shout a lot. I can't help it. Sunny makes me. She sets things up so that even Martin Luther King Jr. would have broken down and popped someone right in the nose.
“Shush, Masha,” my mother said without turning to look at me. Maybe if she did turn and look at me she'd see the big blooming reason I can't “shush”! But she doesn't turn and look. She never does. Her eyes are always too busy focusing on Sonya Sweet.
That is my sister's full name, although we never call her Sonya; we just call her Sunny. My dad started it. It was on the day that Sonya first came home from the hospital, you know, before we knew she was Darth Vader. I don't really remember it because I was just five years old, but I remember the story. And sometimes the retelling of a story over and over again gets
it stuck so tightly in your head that it turns into a real event that you actually remember happening.
My dad said it had rained the entire month before Sonya was born, and then rained all through my mother's giving birth to her, and then through the two days that she and my mom were in the hospital. It rained so much that there was all this flooding and everyone was nervous about water in their basements and dams breaking. I do remember that we didn't have school for two days because the roof of the school was leaking. My dad was the principal and he had canceled school so no one would get hurt. I loved it when my dad called off school. It made me a hero on the school bus the next day. All the older kids would give me high-fives and knuckle punches, like I'd saved the world from zombies.
When the morning came that Sonya and my mom were due to come home from the hospital, the sun burst out so hot and strong that my dad said the whole town sighed a giant sigh all together. He said that Sonya had brought the sun. And after that, “Sunny” just stuck.
My name is Masha Sweet, and I don't know what the weather was like on the day that I came home from the hospital. Masha is Russian for “Maria.” My mom was born in Russia and came to the United States back when she was my age.
“Sunny?” she asked again. “Tell Mommy why you did this to Masha.”
“I wanted to make her pretty,” Sunny answered, her face lit up by the fakest glow of love you ever saw.
“Oh.” My mom sighed, like it was so cuteâas if what mini-Vader did was to help me!