Jules, Ellie, and the Gray Girl


One beautiful, wind-swept afternoon, Jules and Ellie met a little girl going gray. Not a comfy, rainy day gray, nor a strong uniform gray, but a sickly-yellow gray.

The going-gray-girl sat boringly on a swing just barely swinging. She didn’t reach for the sky with her toes. She didn’t imagine she flew. See, this was the problem: the going-gray-girl lacked imagination and imaginary friends to share her daydreams with.

Quite differently, completely opposite, Jules bounded around the playground full of energy from the five mini-cupcakes her auntie had bought her for her birthday. Up the slide she went. Or, in her imagination up from the bottom of the ocean (which was the ground) she swam until she burst out into the air (the top of the slide) with a flick of her pinky-diamondy tail. Fellow mermaids, Zalina and Aloha, swam at her side.

(Jules had twenty-one other imaginary mermaid friends, all their names ending in –ina: Tina, Zina, Nina, Bina, Cina, Dina, Fina…etc.)

At the top of the slide, Jules’ tail disappeared and fairy wings (pink-diamondy-sparkly) grew from her back. Jules grasped the hand of Jacey and Lina, her imaginary fairy friends, and flitted about the fairy forest sprinkling fairy dust. Once the dust had been liberally shared, Jules left her fairy friends and rejoined all her mermaid friends with her three human imaginary friends in tow, Joelle, Lunia, and Sally. Jules lived a rich imaginary life. She practically glowed with all the imaging going on.

Ellie, fueled by several cupcakes herself, swung from bar to bar of the jungle gym, rushed up the stairs, two fingers pointing out and the rest wrapped around each other. She made shooting noises before diving down the slide. Or, in her imagination, she infiltrated the base of the evil fairies that only wore black. She aimed her imaginary gun, ready to capture their Queen. No! They spotted Ellie and now millions of evil black fairies were after her. Quick! Down the garbage chute. Ellie escaped only to realize she’d left Ellie, her imaginary fairy friend, behind in the castle.

(Yes, it’s confusing having the same name sometimes, but they don’t mind. Usually Ellie and Ellie just yell their location, instead of their names.)

Rushing around to the start of the jungle gym, Ellie made her way back inside the evil Queen’s lair. Imaginary-Ellie had to be saved.

While Ellie didn’t have the plethora of imaginary friends which Jules did, she did create very elaborate rescue plans every time Imaginary-Ellie was captured, which was often. Her imagination-fed glow equaled her sister’s easily.

While wonderful adventures were being enjoyed by Jules and company, and Ellie and Imaginary-Ellie, the going-gray-girl just sat. She didn’t even push with her feet to swing a little higher. A squeal of laughter from Jules and Ellie as their two imaginary worlds collided in a shower of glitter and explosions didn’t even raise the going-gray-girl’s hanging head. It hung lower and lower with no imagination to lift it up.

It was after they separated their two imaginary worlds and Jules helped Ellie rescue Imaginary-Ellie, that the sisters noticed the going-gray-girl for the first time.

“Oh! Look everyone, that little girl looks so sad.” Jules pointed across the playground. “Let’s invite her to play.”

Down the slide and to the swings everyone slid, swam, or flew.

“Hi!” Jules and Ellie said together, all smiles.

“We’re playing with our imaginary friends,” Jules explained and then proceeded to introduce and describe each of the mermaids, fairies, and just humans gathered around her. As she talked the going-gray-girl only went grayer and droopier. Finished, Jules asked, “Would you like to play with us?”

The going-gray-girl slipped from the swing. “No thank you.” Her shoulders slumped, her head dipped, and her feet shuffled.

“Do you have any imaginary friends?” Ellie bent over trying to look the going-gray-girl in the eyes.

“No,” she whispered.

Jules and Ellie gasped.

“Everyone needs imaginary friends!” Jules exclaimed. “Otherwise, who do you play with when your real friends are gone?”

“Who do you tell stories to at night when you can’t sleep or you’re scared?” Ellie asked.

“I don’t need imaginary friends,” the gone-gray-girl said softly. “They don’t exist. I don’t need them.”

The two sisters glanced back at the tangle of slides, stairs, platforms, poles, tubes, and tunnels. To them, the bright plastic had been the ocean filled with glittering fish, sea turtles, and twenty-three giggling mermaids. To them, it had been a forest filled with butterflies, mushroom circles, and fairies. It had transformed to a frightening castle all in black which required a complicated rescue mission to traverse. The playground became so much more than just a playground, they became so much more than just little girls.

“How boring.” Jules shook her head.

Ellie turned. “Ellie’s in trouble again.” She made her hands a gun and took off for the playground, which had reverted back to an evil castle.

“She’s not real,” The gone-gray-girl said flatly, eyes on the ground. “None of its real.”

Ellie stopped. She looked from the playground to the girl and back, frowning.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re real or not.” Jules said. “They’re our friends.”

“That’s just stupid,” The gone-gray-girl said.

Jules and Ellie’s mouths fell open.

“That’s not a nice word.” Jules put her hands on her hips, her eyebrows raised.

“And it’s not stupid.”

“Ellie!”

Ellie clapped her hand over her mouth, awed at her own audacity.

“It is stupid. Only babies play with things that aren’t real.”

“You’re a sad little girl and I’m sorry for you,” Jules said. She took Ellie’s hand and returned to the playground. Through fits and starts they rebuilt their imaginary world. Soon, they were squealing, screaming, and racing around the playground.

Ellie had just completed a daring rescue of the fairy Jacey with the help of Imaginary-Ellie and Jules, who was now a pirate, when she looked out at the swings. The gone-gray-girl still swung like a limp dishrag, but an older girl with a mean smirk headed for her.

As the two girls watched surrounded by imaginary friends holding their breath in horrified fascination, the mean girl pushed gone-gray-girl right out of her swing. Plop! She landed in the sand. The mean girl towered over her waving a fist under her nose.

“To the rescue!” Jules raised her fist to the sky pretending it was a sharp hook.

“Arg!” Ellie agreed in her best pirate growl.

They took the fastest slides to the ground and bounded to the swings.

“Leave her alone, you big meany!” Jules bent down beside the gone-gray-girl.

“Yeah. You go away and leave us all alone, meany!” Ellie, eyes bright, got right in the mean girl’s face.

“Why should I?” The mean girl glared at Ellie.

Ellie made a little fist. “If you don’t, I’ll bop you on the nose.”

“I’d like to see you—”

Ellie bopped her on the nose.

The mean girl gasped and clamped her hand over her nose. Ellie stepped closer. The mean girl roared and ran away.

Jules whooped. The going-gray-girl smiled.

Ellie and Jules helped her to her feet. Jules wrapped her arms around the going-gray-girl. Holding her in a tight hug, she whispered, “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” the going-gray-girl said. “Why did you come save me?”

“Well, we’ve saved Imaginary-Ellie several times today,” Jules explained, “so it was nice to save someone else.”

“But you were so brave. What made you be so brave?”

Ellie smiled. “We have imaginary friends and imaginary stories that we play. We’re brave all the time.”

“You should try it,” Jules said.

The going-gray-girl squinted. She screwed up her face and held her breath. She puffed out her cheeks and her ears turned red.

“Oh,” she whispered. A smile spread across her face. “Oh.”

“What? What is it?” Jules and Ellie said.

“This is my imaginary puppy. Her name is Imagine. She is brown.”

“Nope.” Jules said. “Not brown. Use your imagination on Imagine.”

The grayish-girl sighed and closed her eyes.

“This is Imagine, my white puppy. She has silver wings.”

Ellie cheered.

“Nice to meet you, Imagine,” Jules bent down and held out her hand.

“What’s your name?” Ellie asked.

“I’m Emma. Does Imaginary-Ellie need rescuing again?”

The three girls raced to the playground, swam through the ocean, flew through the fairy forest, and arrived at the Evil Queen’s black castle where all the mermaids and Imaginary-Ellie were suffering in captivity. Emma, with Imagine at her side, preformed some very heroic acts which Jules and Ellie loudly applauded. The last little bits of Emma’s grayness floated away as little by little she imagined more and more.

 

The End.

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A Texas Cousins Adventure: Happy Endings

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

Once upon a time the sun didn’t rise. Dark clouds blew in over the flat Texas plains with booming thunder and bright flashes of lightning. The wind shook Grammie and Grandpa’s little house. Hobbes, the Lab, laid his head on his paws inside his dog-house waiting for the storm to pass. Clyde, the donkey, stuck his nose deep in his trough of hay thankful for a place to escape the rain.

Aunt Abby sat in the living room next to the fireplace with four rowdy nephews and five pretty nieces gathered around her. Cups of juice and mugs of hot chocolate and coffee filled everyone’s hands.

A loud clap of thunder made the cousins jump. Remi and Rook screwed up their faces ready to cry.

“Aunt Abby,” Constance said. “Can you tell us a story?”

“I think a story is a great idea.” Aunt Abby sipped from her mug. “Stormy days are perfect for stories.”

“Will it be a scary one?” Bruce asked.

All the cousins turned to Aunt Abby to see what she would say. She pondered for a minute.

“You know Bruce, all good stories have scary parts, but the best of stories have happy endings. The very best story of all time had very scary parts: Jesus had to die to save his people. But! He rose again from the dead. See, it has to be scary before it can be happy.”

Joshua frowned. “Why?”

“Because than the happy ending means more. If it’s just happy all the time we would all take it for granted. Aren’t cookies better after you’ve had to eat all your veggies? Wouldn’t you get tired of cookies if that’s all you ate all the time?”

“No,” all the cousins chorused together.

Aunt Abby giggled. “I think it’s just the way the world is. Christmas is more special once a year in winter than all the time. Jesus could only defeat death if he first died. Aslan could only save Edmond by dying. Nemo only appreciated his dad after he lost him. It’s just the way the world works. Happy endings are best after scary parts.”

“I don’t like the scary parts and Mommy says I have to fast-forward when Aslan dies,” Bruce said.

“Yes.” Aunt Abby nodded. “There are different levels of scary and I promise this story won’t be too scary. Just a little scary.”

Ellie leapt to her feet. “I’ll be brave.”

“Me too!” Imogene jumped up.

“Too!” shouted Remi grabbing Imogene’s hand as she stood up.

Jude growled and joined the girls. Not to be outdone, Bruce, Julie, Constance, Joshua, and Rook all came to their feet.

“Shall we all be brave together?” Aunt Abby asked.

“Yes!”

A loud clap of thunder startled everyone. They looked out at the storm raging around Grammie and Grandpa’s house. Lightning brightened up the dark day for a second. Another crash of thunder shook the windows.

“Shall we all be brave together?” Aunt Abby asked again.

“YES!” Nine cousins screamed jumping up and down, up and down.

“What is going on here?” Grandpa yelled appearing suddenly in the room.

Nine cousins and Aunt Abby screamed in fright and hugged each other.

“You scared us Grandpa!” Jules said.

“I scared you??” Grandpa smiled.

“It is a scary sort of morning.” Grammie came up behind him. “Is Aunt Abby going to tell you a story?”

“Yes,” Constance said, “with only a little bit of a scary part so we can have a happy ending.”

“And I’m going to be brave.” Ellie pointed at herself and grinned.

“Me too,” everyone else said.

“Good.” Grandpa sat down. “I’ll listen to the story too.”

“I’ll hold your hand in case you get scared.” Remi took Grandpa’s hand.

“Do you know what Grammie says about stories with scary parts and happy endings?” Aunt Abby said. “You know, ‘those best of stories’?”

“No, what do you say Grammie?” Jules pranced over to Grammie and took her hand. Her eight other cousins gathered around Grammie.

Grammie sat down taking Jude into her lap. Imogene snuggled down on one side of her and Ellie on the other. The older cousins arrange themselves cross-legged in front of her, and Constance pulled Rook close.

“Stories, good ones, let us practice being brave before we have to be.”

The nine cousins looked questioningly at one another and then back at Grammie.

“What does that mean?” Joshua said what they were all wondering.

Grandpa explained. “There will be things in your life that might be hard, or scary, or sad. But if you’ve read the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe you can remember that Aslan beat the witch, ended winter, and Christmas came back. You can remember brave King Peter and brave Lucy and that can help you be brave.”

“And,” Aunt Abby said. “You can remember how even after being so mean and selfish, Edmond was forgiven. That will help you have courage when you need to ask someone to forgive you when you’ve been mean.”

“I want to be High King Peter,” Bruce said.

“I want to be Lucy,” Ellie said louder.

“Yes!” Grammie clapped. “We can practice being brave with them when they go through the wardrobe, and when they have to fight the White Witch, so that when it’s our turn to be brave we’re prepared.”

Bruce stared into the fire for a minute. “Aunt Abby? I don’t mind if the story you tell has a scary part.”

“I promise it will have a happy ending afterwards.”

“Well, tell the story!” Jude exclaimed.

Grammie and Grandpa moved closer to the fire. Jules, Constance, Bruce, Joshua, Ellie, Imogene, Jude, Rook and Remi filled laps and gathered close up on different sides. Outside the thunder boomed, boomed, boomed. The lightning flashed. The wind howled around the eaves. No one gave it a second thought because inside they were warm and comfy. The fire burned brightly. The hot chocolate warmed them, and Aunt Abby began her story:

“Once upon a time . . .”

(To be continued)

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My newest and most beautiful little niece is here! Love you Remit! (Picture stolen from Liz.)

My newest and most beautiful little niece is here! Love you Remi! (Picture stolen from Liz.)

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Being Brave

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

A loud squeal of fear rang through Grammie and Grandpa’s house. All the adults came running. A big green monster growled and stalked up the hallway. Seven cousins huddled together. The monster growled and waved its claws.

“I’ll defend you,” Grandpa said jumping in front of the scary monster.

“Me too,” said Grammie drawing an invisible sword. She tossed it to Grandpa and drew another one.

The monster giggled.

“That’s not a monster,” Aunt Abby said.

“It’s not??” the seven cousins said in unison.

“I think it’s Uncle Jason.”

“Daddy!” said Ellie breaking from the huddle of frightened children to hug the green monster around the knees.

“Are you all okay?” Aunt Abby asked kneeling down in front of the kids.

“I was very scared,” said Bruce.

“Me too!” said Jules.

“I wasn’t,” said Joshua.

“Yes you were,” Constance said poking him in the shoulder. A few minutes of bickering ensued.

“Aunt Abby,” Bruce said once Grammie straightened out Joshua and Constance, “I’m not brave. I was scared.”

“Oh Bruce, you being scared doesn’t mean you aren’t brave.”

Uncle Jason pulled off the monster’s scary head. “They’re not mutually exclusive,” he said.

All seven cousins looked up at him and blinked slowly.

Ellie tried out the two big words without coming any closer to understanding them.

“What does that mean?” Jules asked wrinkling her nose.

“It means what Aunt Abby said. Being afraid doesn’t mean you’re not brave.”

“How about I tell you a story about it,” Aunt Abby said.

“Can I be brave in the story?” Bruce said.

“Is it a Once Upon A Time story?” Imogene asked taking Aunt Abby’s hand and leading her to the couch.

“A fairy tale western,” said Jude plopping down beside them.

“No Jude,” Jules said. “It’s just a western.”

“Actually,” Aunt Abby said. “This time it is a fairy tale western. Ready?”

Seven heads nodded.


 

Once upon a time, a chill wind blew over the Texas flatland. It blew through the fingers of the pecan trees and the oaks chasing squirrels. It whistled around noses and ears until they were red and cold. Behind the wind came a white, dense fog. Hobbes, the golden lab, stayed close to the house. Patrolling the property was complicated when it was so windy. Clyde, the donkey, kept his back to the wind. Three pairs of brown cowboy boots sat on the front porch while four pairs of pink, purple, blue, and red cowboy boots covered little painted toes down by the pond.

“Bruce, Joshua, Jude,” Grammie called.

The three boys came tramping through the house with growls, snaps, and stamping feet.

“Ohhh,” Grammie said. “Did a bunch of dinosaurs replace my grandsons?”

The boys roared and showed off their sharp teeth and sharp claws.

“Well, I need my three grand-dinosaur-sons to go outside and find their cousins. The girls went to play at the pond and it’s getting late and dark.”

Bruce, Joshua, and Jude stared out the window at the gray sky, the fog, and the cold wind dashing through the fog.

“Grammie?” Bruce said. “Can we stay inside? It looks scary out there.”

“No,” Grammie said. “It’s just the weather. Besides you wouldn’t want to leave Jules, Ellie, Constance, and Imogene out there all on their own.”

“Yes we would,” Bruce said.

“That’s not good,” Grammie said.

“But we’re scared,” Joshua said.

“Well, you’ll have to be brave,” Grammie said.

“But we’re scared,” said Jude.

“Do you know what being brave means?” asked Grammie.

“It means not being scared,” Bruce said.

“Are we in this story?” Jules said from beside Constance.

“Is this a boy story?” Constance said.

“No, you’ll come in later,” said Aunt Abby. “And besides, sometimes girls have to be even braver than boys.”

“We do?” said Ellie.

“Why?” said Imogene.

“Because we’re usually afraid of more stuff,” Aunt Abby said with a smile. “The more stuff you’re afraid of the braver you have to be.”

“No Bruce,” Grammie said. “It means doing what you have to do even though you’re scared.”

Three sets of blue eyes looked up at her.

“So, even though you’re scared, the brave thing to do is go out and call the girls in for dinner.”

The three boys dropped their snarls and dinosaur growls. They glanced at the front door leading out into the foggy fall weather. Bruce swallowed. Jude took his hand. Joshua sighed.

“Go on boys,” Grammie said. “Go like dinosaurs. Maybe then you won’t be as scared.”

The boys tried to growl as they made their way to the front door. The wind almost whipped it out of their hands as they opened it to go outside. Hobbes greeted them with a wagging tail. The boys petted his head, scratched his ears, and Joshua gave him a big hug. They slipped on their boots and started out into the yard. The wind snatched at their hair and twisted their sweaters. The fog hid the other pasture on the other side of the road. It hid the neighbor’s house. It hid the pond.

Hobbes whined.

“Come on boy,” Joshua said patting his leg to encourage the lab to follow them.

Hobbes wigged his tail but didn’t come down.

“Maybe he’s scared,” Jude said.

“Hobbes,” Bruce said, “it’s okay to be scared. Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared.”

The golden dog cocked his head at the blond-haired boy. He barked in agreement and came down to them. They headed out towards the pond feeling less scared with Hobbes. As they trekked through the pasture, Clyde joined them with a swish of his tail. The pond seemed so far away. It was so far away they couldn’t see it through the fog. But Hobbes and Clyde made sure they didn’t get lost.

Out of the swirling, wet, whiteness they heard a scream.

The boys stopped in their tracks.

Hobbes hair stood on end.

Clyde stamped on small hoof.

“Ellie!” Jules screamed through the fog. “Don’t go in the pond.”

Another splash.

“Imogene!” Constance yelled.

Hobbes barked and trotted off into the white mist. Clyde followed him.

“Hurry!” hissed Bruce.

The three boys ran after the dog and the donkey afraid of being left in the fog and trying to be brave.

Jules stood on the edge of the pond staring down into it. Constance, her hands muddy and full of sticks and rocks was a little deeper down. The boys hurried up beside Jules. Deep down in the pond, Ellie and Imogene waded. The water sloshed over their boots kicked up by the chilly wind.

“It’s cold!” Imogene shrieked. Her red hair glowed in the foggy darkness of the fall evening.

“I’m gonna tell Grammie. You’re not supposed to get wet,” Jules said.

“You’re going to get too cold,” Constance said.

Ellie and Imogene started back towards the bank. They tried to pull their boots up out of the water.

“Help!” Imogene said. “I’m stuck.”

“Me too!” said Ellie

Everyone ran down to the edge of the water but couldn’t reach Ellie and Imogene.

“We need a big stick,” said Jules.

Constance held out the stick in her hand.

“No,” Joshua said. “That’s not big enough.”

Hobbes ran up with a log in his mouth.

“Good dog,” Joshua said patting him on the head.

The three boys and two girls held out the log to Imogene and Ellie. They caught hold of it and with a mighty tug were jerked free of the cold pond. After much splashing and a vain attempt to wash their hands, boots, and faces of mud, the seven cousins headed back to the house with Hobbes and Clyde.

Grammie jumped as the seven muddy and cold children stamped in the door.

“I should take you back outside and hose all y’all off,” Grandpa said.

“It’s too cold, Grandpa,” Jules said.

Grammie carried them all to the bathroom where she cleaned them up while Grandpa wiped up the mud. Dinner was a little later than usual.

“We did it, Grammie,” Bruce said as they ate.

“What?” Grammie said.

“We were very brave even though we were scared,” he said.

“We went all the way out to the pond,” Jude said.

“Hobbes helped us rescue Ellie and Imogene,” Joshua said.

“You’re all very brave little children,” Grammie said. “I love you very much.”

“Boo!” said Grandpa.

The seven cousins jumped.

“Got you!” said Grandpa.


 

“The end,” said Aunt Abby. “Now do you understand that being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared? It means you do what you have to do anyway?”

“I was very brave,” Bruce said.

“Me too!” shouted Joshua.

“I jumped in the pond!” Ellie said with delight.

“Me too!” said Imogene.

The End

Jules and her Daddy, Jason!

Jules and her Daddy, Jason!

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Jude, our littlest man!

Jude, our littlest man!

One of my favorite faces!

One of my favorite faces!

Constance and Joshua!

Constance and Joshua!

Texas Cousins Adventure: Here there be Dragons (Part 4)

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

Spread out under the big Texas sky, seven cousins waited with bright eyes and perked up ears to see if they were safe or dragon dinner. Aunt Abby took her time settling in on Auntie Janet’s quilt. First, a drink of cool water, then she fixed Ellie’s hair, kissed Imogene, growled at Bruce, hugged Jules, seriously examined Joshua’s cars and trucks, tidied Constance’s braid, and at last, after spinning Jude through the air, sat down.

“Aunt Abby,” Jules said. “What about the eyes glowing in the dark.”

“Blue and green,” Imogene said.

“And Max,” said Ellie.

“I’m carrying him,” said Bruce holding out his hands cupped together.

“He’s so cute,” Constance said pretending to pet Max.

“Boys aren’t cute!” Joshua, Jude, and Bruce said all together.

“Well, we better start the story,” Aunt Abby said.

“Once upon a time…”


 

“Who dares to enter my chamber?” a deep, dark voice said.

“Well, it’s really more our chamber,” said another voice.

“Oh right, sorry,” said the deep dark voice sounding less deep and dark. It cleared its throat while the green eyes blinked away and then reappeared. “Who dares to enter our chamber?”

“Quick!” said Max. “Make animal noises. It’ll frighten them away.”

“No it will—” the dark voice started.

Quick as a whip, Constance started making a high-pitched, very demanding guinea pig squeak. It echoed through the cavern. Max shone just enough for all six of her cousins to turn and look at her. Joshua laughed and began barking like a dog. Jules meowed loudly like a very annoyed cat. Ellie trumpeted like an elephant. Imogene cawed like a crow. With each noise, Max glowed brighter and brighter. Bruce growled like a big lion and Jude mooed like a big angry bull.

“I’m not cawing like a crow,” Imogene said.

“Oh, you’re not?” Aunt Abby said.

“Yes, I am,” she said with a smile.

Aunt Abby shook her head.

“I sound like this,” Bruce said with a wild growl.

“Very good. You sound very big and brave.”

Everyone clamored to make their animal noise as big and brave as possible. It took several demonstrations.

The chamber vibrated with the sound of wildlife. Max’s blue glow shined. Suddenly, a scaled, smoking, green nose stuck right into the circle of light.

“Enough!”

The cousins shrieked and huddled together.

“Must you really be so loud? The eggs are sleeping, you know,” said another nose, this one a sky blue, appearing in Max’s blue circle of light.

“Wait! Eggs!” Jules said.

“Do you have Alchemist and Oceana’s eggs?” Bruce said stepping forward and holding Max high.

The light from the glowworm reflected off the green and blue scales of the two dragons somewhat smaller than Alchemist and Oceana. Their wings were not quite as wide and their heads were rounder and less pointy.

“Who are you?” asked Constance.

“Us?” said the green dragon. “Why I’m Cosmos and this is Zephyr.”

“Do you have their eggs?” Jules demanded stomping one foot.

Jude rushed to Bruce’s side raising one eyebrow in an intimidating glare.

“We’re here to rescue them,” said Joshua.

“It’s not nice to take people’s eggs,” said Imogene.

“We’re not afraid of you,” said Ellie.

Cosmos and Zephyr stared down at the line of seven brave children, who despite being smaller than them, much smaller, still courageously tried to help the parents waiting outside the cavern.

“Why should you be afraid of us?” said Zephyr. “We wouldn’t hurt you.”

“You wouldn’t?” Jules said with a frown. “Then why’d you take the eggs? Aren’t you bad?”

The others nodded and growled in agreement.

“Bad? Us?” Cosmos said. “No. These are our cousins. Alchemist and Oceana are our uncle and aunt. We brought the eggs in here to protect them from the evil boy who was throwing rocks at them. When we stepped in here we got trapped.”

“Then why’d you use your scary voice?” Imogene asked.

“Because we didn’t know you were seven brave children. We were afraid you were that mean boy again.”

Someone in the deep part of the chamber where Max’s light couldn’t reach laughed. He laughed a big, evil laugh.

“Mwahahahahah! Mwahahahahah!”

The cousins hurried to the dragons huddling around their knees. Cosmos and Zephyr turned to face the laugh protecting the eggs behind them.

“Now I have all of you right where I want you,” said the laugher. He stepped into the light.

The cousins gasped. He was the biggest little boy they had ever seen. Twice as tall as Bruce with black hair and a snarling face.

“Give me the dragon eggs!”

“Never!” shouted Cosmos.

“They’re not yours.”

“They will be mine!”

Jules counted heads. “Bruce,” she whispered. “There are seven of us and only one of him.”

Bruce counted heads. He nodded. Very carefully he set Max on Cosmos’ shoulder. “Jude, count to three.”

“Jude can’t count yet,” Bruce whispered.

“In the story he’s a little older,” Aunt Abby whispered back.

“Am I older?” Bruce said.

“Older and a little taller.”

“Me too?” Jules said.

“Yes you, too.”

“One. Two. Three,” Jude said.

“Charge!” shouted Ellie.

Constance, Joshua, Jules, Ellie, Bruce, Jude, and Imogene rushed the big, bad boy. They knocked him over onto the floor, kicking and punching him.

“Animal noises,” Max said.

Growling, barking, mooing, squeaking, meowing, cawing, and trumpeting filled the chamber.

“I surrender. I surrender,” moaned the bad boy who didn’t seem so big anymore.

“Huzzah!” shouted Cosmos in triumph.

“Hip, hip, hooray!” said Zephyr.

“We did it!” said Bruce.

“Hurry, we need to take the eggs back to Oceana and Alchemist!” Jules said.

Cosmos and Zephyr took the bad boy by the arms. Jules and Constance grabbed up one black egg, while Imogene and Jude gathered up the other one. Bruce took Max back to light the way while Ellie and Joshua kept an eye out for any other bad children who might spring from the shadows. Max led them out by a different tunnel even the young dragons could pass through. They reached the cave entrance where they had to come through in cousin pairs instead of sibling pairs and stopped.

“How do we get out?” Ellie asked.

“Just asked the cave nicely to open,” said Max. “It’s always better to try being polite first before breaking things.”

“They weren’t polite to me,” grumbled the bad boy.

“Because you, sir, were already being bad,” Max said glaring at him. Turning to everyone else he said, “Now dear friends, I must remain here in the cave. The outside world with all its sunshine is no place for a glowworm. Come visit any time.”

Bruce set Max on a little ledge in the cave walls. Each of the girls kissed him on his cute little head.

“Off with you now,” he said gently.

“Mr. Cave sir,” Jules started. “Please open.”

“What if it’s a girl?” Constance whispered.

The Cave opened wide, wide enough for even Cosmos and Zephyr to get out.

“I guess it was a boy,” Joshua said with a smile.

Oceana and Alchemist rushed forward with shouts of joy. They took their eggs and resettled them in their nests before kissing and hugging their nephew and niece.

“You two,” Alchemist said staring down at the bad boy who looked even smaller out in the sunlight, “take this boy home to his parents, and tell them the trouble he’s in.”

Cosmos and Zephyr told the seven cousins from Texas good-bye and marched the bad boy off into the forest.

“Well children, it’s time I take you home to your own beds,” Alchemist said.

“We can never tell you how grateful we are for all you’ve done,” Oceana said. She kissed each of the cousins on the head, even the boys.

“Now! Home,” Alchemist said. He gathered the children on his back, and, with a few beats of his mighty wings, took to the sky.

The door to their room opened quietly. Outside Jules’ window the street light still shone in the warm night. The cousins all kissed Alchemist nose in farewell and climbed into their respective beds and sleeping bags.

“I’ll leave you each seven pieces of paper with a door drawn on them. If you ever need me and my help, all you must do is tap the door with your finger and say my name. I will come on swift wings.”

They all quietly hugged Alchemist again as they soberly accepted the drawings of vine-covered doors with dragon doorknobs.

“Sleep well,” Alchemist whispered and disappeared.

The seven Texas cousins stared up at the ceiling each silent, thinking, none of them sleeping.

Suddenly Ellie sat up with a wide grin. “That was awesome.”

Laughing, they all agreed.


 

“The end!” said Aunt Abby.

“That was awesome,” Bruce said. “We took down that bad boy.”

“Yes, we did!” said Jules emphatically.

“We got Oceana her eggs back,” Constance said.

“We’re heroes!” Joshua exclaimed leaping to his feet and swinging an invisible sword.

Jude and Imogene joined him in the pretend sword fight squealing and laughing.

“Tell us another one,” Ellie said.

Aunt Abby groaned. “Don’t you ever get tired of stories?”

“Nope.”

The End

 

This is Jules and her Jaguar. Behind her is the picture of a dragon that I drew for her sparking this story.

This is Jules and her Jaguar. Behind her is the picture of a dragon that I drew for her sparking this story.

Constance and Joshua!

Constance and Joshua!

One of my favorite faces!

One of my favorite faces!

Jude, our littlest man!

Jude, our littlest man!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Imogene testing out her first lemon.