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Katie Bird

We watch television, my sister and I. She holds my hand loosely. She hasn’t let go. In the five years she’s been on this Earth. She drags me through malls, apartment buildings, and fields of grass. If she decided to go running in a minefield, she’d drag me through that, too.

My sister, her name is Kaitlyn, leans against me, filling me with her smell. Baby powder and strawberries. She looks up at me, her smile innocent. “Hannah, can we go to Mars someday?” I say yes. Who wouldn’t? “Of course, Katie Bird. Mars, Mercury. You name it.” She crinkles up her nose. “What’s Mercury?” I laugh. I’m always laughing at her. I can’t help it. She’s always doing something funny.

She asks me questions about our parents sometimes. About where they are. I don’t tell her the truth. She simply wouldn’t understand. So I tell her they went away. Far away. And they’ll never be coming back. She pretends that this is enough, but I see the small frown on her face every time one of her friend runs and hugs their mother after school. She hugs me. Always me. Then we go home to Grandpa and Grandma, and eat cookies, and take the dog for a walk. While the other kids go to Disneyworld, and Asia.

Perhaps this is where the Mars thing comes from. Almost every day, she asks me if we can go to Mars, and almost every day, I say yes. Of course. Why not? She builds things, with her five year old hands. She builds fantastic cities out of Legos, and asks me if we can go there. Then we cover our eyes, and pretend we’re there. In that city. With our parents, living in a house with a white picket fence. When she sleeps, she dreams of that place. I can tell, by the small smile on her face, and the girlish giggle that escapes her lips every few minutes.

A knock on the door startles me. I get up, Kaitlyn latched to my hand, and I open the door. I am greeted by a giant smile. Kaleb Crocker stands at my door, holding a piece of rope, and stomping snow off his boots onto our salted porch. “Hey Hannah. You and Kate have GOT to see this. You got five dollars?” I glance behind me. Kaitlyn is digging through her pockets with her free hand, as if she has all the money in the world. “No, Kaleb. I don’t have five dollars.” He shrugs. “It’s okay, I do. Come on. It’s five dollars per person. I can get ten from my mom.” I sigh, and look down at Kaitlyn. Her nose is already red from the cold outside, and she’s smiling wide enough to put angels to shame. “Alright, Kaleb. But let’s make this quick.”

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The place is called Lucky’s. It’s a year round amusement park of sorts. I do not take Kaitlyn there though. I don’t trust the rickety rusty rides, and smelly food. The last time I took her to Lucky’s, she had stomach cramps for two days because she ate one hot dog and a handful of popcorn.

Kaleb leads the way, practically skipping. I hug my coat tighter around me. “Where are we going? It’s cold.” He rolls his eyes at me. “Really? I haven’t noticed.” He skids to a stop, causing me and Kaitlyn to slam against him. “Here we are. Lucky’s Solar Extravaganza.” I got up, brushed snow off Kaitlyn’s coat, and spun around. “What are you talking about?” Then I saw.

A giant blue building sat right in between the Ferris Wheel and the ship ride. It was peppered with small peeling stars, and the name, Lucky’s Solar Extravaganza, was painted in green above a crooked doorway. I didn’t like it. Not at all.

But Kaitlyn looked interested, so with some misgivings, I walked up to a bored looking guy sitting behind a podium by the door. “Welcome to the Solar room. Fifteen dollars, please.” Kaleb threw a ten and a five onto the podium. Without a change of expression, the guy stamped our hands and waved his hand towards the door. With a happy laugh, Kaleb leapt in. I followed, with much less enthusiasm.

Inside, it was just one long hallway. On either side of us, giant peeling pictures if planets covered the walls. Blinking lights above us were meant to look like stars. Quiet music that sounded suspiciously like techno played in the background. Unimpressed, I dragged Kaitlyn’s still body over to Kaleb and hissed, “What the hell is this?” He grinned. “Look at Kaitlyn.”

I looked down at my sister, who’s hand was still tightly gripped in mine. Her mouth was slightly open, and she was slowly turning her head to look at all the pictures. She slipped her hand liquidly out of my grip, and walked to one of the walls. “Is this Mars, Hannah?” I followed her, and smiled. She was pointing at Pluto. “No, Katie Bird. This one is.” I pointed at the dusty red planet, which for some reason, was bigger than the rest. She placed her palm on the picture. “It’s pretty.” I nodded. “I guess you could say that.” She glanced at me. “We’ll never go, will we?” I remained silent, staring at her face. She looked more serious than she had ever been in her life. “Hannah! Answer me!”

I turned to look at Kaleb, but he looked blank. I glanced at her, then looked at the floor. “No, Kaitlyn. We…can’t.” When I looked back up, the five year old was smiling. “Okay. That’s okay, Hannah. I don’t need to go to Mars.” She walked over and slipped her hand into mine. “I wouldn’t wanna leave you behind anyway.” Then she promptly stuck her thumb in her mouth and smiled.

All I could do was stare.

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Grandpa was cooking dinner when we got home, leaving the house smelling like pot roast. The minute her coat and boots were off, Kaitlyn ran to him, wrapped her arms around his legs, and said, “Hannah and I went to Mars today.” He smiled at her, and handed her a small piece of roast. “Oh? Did you now?” “Yep”, she responded. Then, with a small wink in my direction, she ran upstairs.

Grandpa put a plate down in front of me. “What a wonderful child…she’s so creative.” I smiled and stared down at my plate. “Yeah, Grandpa. She sure is.”





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