“Hard to believe it’s been five years!” Susan agreed. “I was afraid this would happen when you moved west.”
“Me too! But Jeff jumped at the chance of a job promotion, even though it meant moving two thousand miles away from everyone.” Anne leaned forward to pick up her coffee cup.
A sudden scream pierced the warm summer air. It came from the barn, where the children were playing. The second scream sent both mothers racing to the barn.
A quick look inside revealed two children laughing at the bottom of the ladder to the loft, the taller one holding a kitten at arm’s length over his head. A small girl, eyes wide with obvious terror, huddled in the hay near the top of the ladder. Hunched down beside her was a boy, his arms awkwardly around her shoulders.
“Kylie, Kylie, it’s okay! Honest it is! They won’t really hurt you!” His voice was barely audible above the din on the wooden floor below.
The louder the child screamed, the more the others laughed and taunted her.
“Kylie’s a scaredy cat! Kylie’s a scaredy cat!”
“Brett Jeremiah Hanson, what is going on here?” Susan demanded of her son, who was holding the kitten.
“Nothin’, Mom!” He dropped the kitten, which scampered off and disappeared into the shadows.
“It doesn’t look like nothing to me!” Susan said. She repeated her question with deadly calm.
“Aw Mom, we were just havin’ fun, and she’s such a scaredy cat! Look at her! You shoulda seen her flying up that ladder to the loft! She looked so funny, with her arms and legs flying! I didn’t know a little kid could move so fast!”
“Yeah, Mom, we’re just playin’ a game! It’s fun! She’s so funny! And what a silly thing to be scared of! I never heard of anybody bein’ scared of a little ole kitten before!”
“You should be ashamed of yourselves, both of you!” Susan barked. Leaving Anne to comfort her children, she marched her own two to the house.
“I’m sorry, Mom.”
Susan’s eyes searched the sober faces of her offspring.
“Whatever possessed you to be so mean to Kylie?”
“We weren’t trying to be mean,” said Brett. “We were just havin’ fun.”
“Fun!” Susan repeated. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
Two heads signified the negative.
“It’s only fun if…”
Light dawned and two voices mumbled, “It’s only fun if everyone is enjoying it.”
“Right,” said their mother. “Now there’s something more you need to remember. Can you guess what it is?”
Susan tried not to roll her eyes. “It isn’t funny unless everyone is laughing! Look, kids, I know you haven’t seen your cousins since Kylie was a baby. And maybe I should have told you she was afraid of cats. But in the excitement of seeing everyone again, I forgot about it. But both of you should have known better than to keep on with it, when Kylie gave the first hint of being scared. Cassie, think of how you would feel if Brett stuck a spider in your face.”
Cassie shuddered. “Yeah, and if Brett had to go down cellar after dark–!”
“Okay, okay!” Brett shushed his sister. “I get it now, Mom. We were pretty awful, weren’t we!
“They’ll be coming back from the barn soon,” said Susan. “What are you two going to do to make up for what you’ve done to poor Kylie?”
The two thought for a moment. Then Cassie said slowly, “I’m gonna give her my pink teddy bear. Snuggling her always makes me feel better when I’m scared.”
Brett straightened his shoulders. “First I’ll tell her I’m awfully sorry. Then I’ll be as nice as I can be for the whole time they are visiting us. And most of all, I’ll remember, it’s not funny unless everyone is laughing!”
© Willena Flewelling