Authors: Sally Warner
“Eat a little more of your sandwich, sweetheart,” Mom tells Alfie at lunch, after Dad and I have gotten back from doing our Saturday morning chores.
, at least,” my dad chimes in, looking at Alfie’s tuna sandwich, which has been trimmed down to four triangles with the crusts cut off. It’s barely there. “Your friend Suzanne will be here in less than an hour.”
, Warren,” my mom whispers, sounding shocked, as if maybe the dreaded Suzette can hear this terrible mistake from wherever it is she lives in Oak Glen.
On Green and Scaly Lane, maybe.
,” my dad says, trying to be funny. But really, all of us—except for Dad, who I don’t think remembers the story of Suzette’s one other visit to our house—are feeling weird about
Suzette coming over again, but each for our own reasons.
Alfie probably feels weird because she wants everything to go perfectly, so she can spend the rest of her life as a visible human being.
I think Mom feels weird because she loves Alfie, and she knows this playdate is important to her. But Mom also doesn’t want to have a bossy four-year-old like Suzette giving her any grief about snacks, or wrecking everything by demanding to be taken home early if she doesn’t get her way.
And I feel weird because I know what’s really up, that Suzette is basically planning to steal one of Alfie’s best dolls.
because I have a secret two-part plan to keep Alfie from giving in to Suzette, only I’m not sure if I can pull it off. See, I’ve already had some experience with her.
“Alfie, eat something,” Mom is saying again.
Alfie is still drooped over her sandwich. In an instant, I realize what the problem is. Alfie told me once that after she’d brought a tuna sandwich to the “Welcome, Kreative Learners!” picnic, Suzette told kids that she smelled like cat food. Alfie must be worried about smelling like a cat again.
“Can I eat Alfie’s tuna sandwich—because I’m so hungry?” I ask, reaching for my little sister’s plate. “I’ll make Alfie a peanut butter and honey sandwich. She’s way too excited for tuna.”
This makes no sense at all, but no one calls me on it, even though the whole making-whatever-you-want-for-lunch thing goes against family rules.
But this is a special occasion, I guess. Mom seems to think so, anyway. “I suppose you can,” she says, her forehead wrinkling as she looks at my dad, who just shrugs his agreed permission.
Alfie gives me a look so full of thanks—as I cram one of her sandwich triangles into my mouth and get to work—that I feel even madder at Suzette Monahan than I did before, if that’s possible.
And that stinky little dragon hasn’t even gotten here yet!
“Go away. You’re a boy,” Suzette Monahan tells me from Alfie’s shaggy rug, where she and Alfie are lining up Alfie’s dolls like the dolls are in a contest.
I guess they are. Which unlucky doll will Suzette take home?
“Big duh, I’m a boy,” I say. “Do you think I don’t know that already?”
“That’s my brother EllWay,” Alfie tells Suzette, as if she hopes things will calm down after this introduction. “He’s eight,” she adds, trying to make me sound important.
Alfie’s voice sounds different when she is talking to Suzette, I notice at once. Softer, worried, and like what she’s saying is about to turn into a question.
“I don’t care. Make him go away, or I’m leaving,” Suzette says, narrowing her green eyes as she glares at me.
Amazingly enough, Suzette Monahan looks like a regular four-year-old, I think, standing in the doorway and staring at her. She has curly brown hair that is smoother in front than it is on top, as if she only brushes the parts she can see. She is taller than Alfie, and very thin. She reminds me of a grasshopper, crouched on Alfie’s rug that way. She flexes her hands as if she’s about to spring at me and start scratching.
“EllWay?” Alfie asks, giving me the please-please-please look that usually works.
Sorry, Alfie. Not this time.
“Mom wants you in the kitchen,” I tell my little sister. “To help her make a special snack.”
Alfie turns to Suzette. “You come too,” she says, almost begging. “Maybe we’ll get to fwost something.”
Like there’s going to be frosting. No, Mom is making chocolate chip cookies. And Suzette is either going to like them, or she’ll go home hungry. I don’t care.
“I’m busy,” Suzette says, not even looking at Alfie. She picks up two dolls, one in each claw, I mean
, and jiggles them a little, like she’s weighing them or something. “Hmm,” she says, tilting her head.
She’s choosing which doll to steal from Alfie right in front of me!
“Go on. Mom’s waiting,” I tell Alfie, not taking my eyes off Suzette.
And so Alfie hurries down the hall.
It is time for me to begin my two-part plan.
Part one involves talking to Suzette like she’s a normal person.
HA HA HA HA HA!
That’s funny because—would a normal person mess up another person’s bookcase, and then put a tutu on his soldier action figure? That’s not just rude, it’s unpatriotic! And would a normal person talk back to another person’s mom the way Suzette did that time? Not to mention what she’s doing to Alfie at Kreative Learning? And doing here, now, in our very own house? But I should at least try.
“Look, Suzette,” I say. “You have to stop bullying my little sister. Period.”
“No, I don’t,” she says, sounding calm as she examines two other dolls. “Besides, bullying’s against the law.”
“You’re doing it anyway,” I inform her. As if she didn’t know.
“You’re not the boss of me,” she says.
I think that must be four-year-olds’ favorite thing to say, and it’s
not true. Nearly everyone is the boss of them. Or they should be.
“You’re a bully if you hurt other kids’ feelings for no reason,” I tell Suzette. “And also if you make
other girls go along with you. Girls like—like Moany and Gnarly,” I say, wishing for the first time in my life that I’d paid attention to Alfie’s babbling so I could remember her other friends’ real names.
But Suzette must get the idea.
Mona and Arletty
,” Suzette corrects me, a tiny smile turning up at the corners of her skinny dragon mouth for the first time. “You just made fun of them! They’ll be real mad, Alfie’s Brother. Even at
And—she reaches for another doll. The doll who has the pink plastic pony.
“This is your last chance to stop bullying Alfie, Suzette Monahan,” I say, lowering my voice the way Dad does when he means business.
“Go away, Alfie’s Brother, or I’m gonna take
dolls,” Suzette says, not even looking up. “Or Alfie’s new pink jacket.”
The pink jacket Alfie won’t even wear anymore.
It is time for part two of my plan to protect my little sister.
“Too bad about that bed-wetting thing you do,” I say, trying to sound as bored as she does. “That’s so babyish for a four-year-old. Ooh, smelly little baby.”
I have totally made this up.
Suzette finally looks at me, her hands still. “What?” she asks, frowning.
“I’ve heard all about it,” I say. “Not from Alfie,” I add quickly. “She’s too nice to say something that personal about a friend. But other kids might find out,” I tell her, shrugging.
wet my bed,” Suzette says, her cheeks turning just pink enough with anger to tell me that she might. Every so often, at least.
“Sure, you do,” I say.
“Don’t say that,” Suzette says, throwing down Alfie’s doll and covering her ears.
“Okay,” I tell her real loud, shrugging again. “But that just proves it’s true. So
,” I say again.
Suzette’s mouth is just a straight pink line. “
,” she finally tells me, but her voice wobbles. “Who cares what you say?”
“Lots of people,” I say, lowering my voice. “Starting with my friend Corey’s little sister, and Jared’s little brother, just to name two. They both go to Kreative Learning, and I’m sure they’ll spread the news all around.”
“They’re just babies,” Suzette says, her green eyes flashing with anger. But she’s relaxing a little, probably thinking my threat is pretty weak. “They can barely talk.”
“Ah. But you’ll be going to Oak Glen Primary School pretty soon,” I remind her. “Next year, right? For kindergarten? And that news will be waiting for you, because I’m gonna tell
. Unless you stop bullying Alfie, that is. ‘Here comes Suzette-Monahan-the-bed-wetter!’ they’ll all say,” I tell her, as if making an announcement.
Now, I have her complete attention.
Do I feel mean? Yeah, a little. Maybe a lot. But I have to defend my sister.
“It’s a big fat lie,” Suzette says, the words almost exploding out of her mouth.
I shrug again. “So is telling other kids that Alfie’s invisible,” I point out. “That’s a lie too, isn’t it?”
“Huh,” she says, almost snorting out the word like a stinky puff of dragon smoke.
“I guess some people tell lies,” I say, shrugging for the third time. “But at least I have a reason for lying, Suzette. Unlike you.”
“It’s still not right,” she mutters, and I guess she’s correct about that.
But I can live with being a little wrong. It’s for a good cause.
The sweet smell of baking cookies floats down the hall, which seems weird, given the sour things going on in Alfie’s pink and purple room.
,” Suzette says, trying to sound like the queen of good behavior. But her pointy chin is wobbling just enough to remind me that she is only four years old, and I feel kinda bad again for a second.
She’s been picking on Alfie since forever, though, hasn’t she?
“I know it’s wrong,” I say quietly. “So I’ll quit lying if you will.”
“You’re still gonna tell,” Suzette says, narrowing her dragon eyes once more. “Just for the fun of it. Mean
“Is that why you lied about Alfie being invisible?” I ask. “For the fun of it?”
Now, Suzette is the one to shrug. “I don’t know,” she mumbles.