Saturday, March 26, 2011
Maximillian Drayson didn't quite like girls, but he figured Annika Britanika was different. She could climb a tree faster than he was able, and she could invent gadgets that actually worked. Heck, if he had to have a best friend, he couldn't think of a boy better than Annika. Even still, she was a girl, and given that fact, subjected to all the strangeness about girls he didn't understand.
For instance, on the day before last, he merely asked her whether Mr. Britanika might have forgotten to send her birthday gift when one still hadn't arrived. It was unlike Mr. Britanika not to send a spectacular present from some part of the unknown world a week prior to the actual event. Max realized he'd gotten himself in a dicey situation when Annika was in no mood to continue their chess game. Her full lips were trembling and her enormous brown eyes filled with tears when she huffed off and wouldn't talk to him. Max decided to put up with the quirky girl bits about Annika because the two of them were more similar than different.
Today was Annika's birthday and he hoped her mood had improved. For it was the day Annika was to make good on the promise she had made to him when they were eight years of age, sitting in the tree house that teetered on the limbs of a large oak tree in her backyard. She had said she'd kiss Max on her thirteenth birthday, and he was determined to collect on it.
Max stretched his body upright and concentrated on not slouching so the knickers on his brother's hand-me-down, gray rugby suit wouldn't fall too far below his knees. He knocked hard on the fancy front door of the Britanika's grand house. Just as the door opened, Max regretted grabbing a bunch of Mrs. O'Hare's flowers that looked like puffy snowballs for Annika when he passed by on his way to her house. He was certain his friends would tease him when he showed up with them.
"G'day Master Drayson," Molly, one of the four servants, said when she opened the door. "Aren't you a splendid young lad to bring hydrangeas for Mrs. Smith, eh?"
Max simply nodded and let her take the flowers, relieved to rid himself of the declaration of love.
"Miss Britanika is in the sitting room with her guests." Molly stepped aside to let Max in. "You may go in and join them."
"Thank you, ma'am," Max muttered as he passed her.
He dragged his feet the entire length of the hall and into the sitting room. The moment he saw Annika his breath hitched against his throat. She looked just like an angel topper on a Christmas tree in her white flouncy dress and a big white satin bow flopped on top of her head. Only, she looked better than any angel could. For she was the earth covered in fresh fallen snow.
The moment Annika's eyes landed on Max, she rushed over and grabbed his elbow. "Pardon us, please, we'll be right back," she said, dragging him out of the room. She pulled him down the long hallway and into the library, easing the door shut behind them.
"Wh--what's going on?" Max's thoughts immediately went to the promised kiss. He straightened and readied himself for it.
"Hush your voice or someone might hear us." Annika rushed over to the bookcases.
Max quickly swiped his sleeve across his mouth, his thoughts going over the rules his brother had given him. Such as, he shouldn't touch any part of her during the kiss, don't slobber all over her, and don't kiss and jabber to pals about it. He decided the whole thing seemed complicated. Heck, he just wanted to kiss her without all the shoulds and should nots.
Annika hurried back to him with a small, tattered brown package balancing in her hands. Scribbled all over the bruised package were the words OPEN ALONE in the darkest ink Max had ever seen. He slouched, letting the knickers fall further below his knees. This wasn't about the promised kiss.
"It came this morning. It's from Ayah." That was the name Annika called her father. She had learned it in Bali, when her family had lived there for a time. She told Max all the children there called their fathers that.
"Well, open it," Max said, disappointed.
Annika removed the twine, tore away the brown paper, and pulled aside the wadded up newspaper.
"Well, what is it?" Max asked.
Annika held up a shiny golden globe--its stand balancing on her palm--for Max to see. "It's a globe of the world."
"Is it real gold?" Max reached a hand out for the globe, and Annika yanked it away from his reach. Ever since he'd broken one of the many contraptions she's always fiddling with, she wouldn't let him touch important things. And the globe sure did look valuable. That is, if it were real gold, Max determined.
Annika tucked a strand of her long brown hair behind one of her slightly big ears and narrowed her eyes as she studied it. "It looks old and used."
"It looks like an antique," Max said. "Well, maybe a little spit shine would pretty it up."
"Yeah, he must've picked it up at an outdoor market." Annika spun the globe with her pointer finger and it hummed as it twirled. She tried to spin it the other way, but it would catch and stop.
"Hey, what's this?" Max asked, bending over and retrieving an envelope from the floor. "It must've fallen out from the package." He handed the crumpled envelope to her.
She opened it and pulled out the letter inside. After reading it, she looked up at Max.
"Gee whiz." Her shoulders crumpled. "He says it's a magical globe that can transport me to anywhere in the world that I ask it to. Doesn't he know I'm too old to believe in his hocus gifts? He could have sent me silks like he had for Fallon's birthday." Her bottom lip protruded. If Max had to pick a favorite thing about her, he'd say it was how her full lips expressed her feelings. At the moment, they were telling him she was clearly upset, but he wasn't sure for what reason. He thought the globe was magnificent.
"Let's try it out," Max said, hoping to change her mood.
Annika crinkled her eyebrows. "It won't work . . . never has."
See the original week one entry here.
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