Disclaimer: This story,
which features all-original places, events and characters, was written for the
Jellybean Society Auction for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Catherine put in
the winning bid, so I suppose we could say that this belongs to her :-p
Author’s Notes: Deepest
thanks to ivy for beta-reading, and to Catherine for allowing me to share this
story on the Sugar Quill. This story is dedicated to Tapestry and her darling
daughter, both of whom we care about very much.
THE CASE OF THE BANISHED BABY
Petie Holmstrom didn’t think anything was wrong when his parents brought the new
baby home from the hospital. He had known for a long time that the new baby was
coming. In fact, he’d been waiting
for it to arrive.
“When is Mummy
coming home with the new baby?” he had asked every day since she had gone to
the hospital to get it.
so long? The lines at the supermarket can be very long, but you never have to sleep there.”
“Having a baby isn’t like going to the store, little man. We’re talking a whole
new person here, someone who’s very small and can’t take care of herself very
well yet. It takes a bit longer to bring home a baby than a carton of milk.”
what seemed like a very long time, Dad finally went to the hospital to bring
Mummy and the new baby home. Petie was drawing pictures under the watchful eyes
of Tansy, the family house-elf, and Norman, the cat, when he heard a key turn
in the lock.
He jumped up,
scattering brightly-colored crayons everywhere. “They’re here!”
mustn’t run!” Tansy warned as the little boy started for the door, but he ran
anyway with Norman on his heels. They dashed across the living room and Petie
was standing right by the front door when it opened and his parents came
Mummy came in
first. She smiled when she saw Petie. “Hello, darling,” she said, leaning down
to kiss him on the forehead.
Petie stood on tiptoes to give her a hug. She was much thinner than before she
left and she smelled different, sort of like the doctor’s office. “I missed
“I’ve missed you,
too. Were you a good boy while I was away? Really?” she asked when he nodded.
Dad said as he followed Mummy inside the apartment. He shut the door with his
foot and smiled down at Petie. “Hey, little man.”
that Dad was carrying some kind of big basket in one hand. “Is that the new
“It sure is.
Come on, let’s let your mom sit down and then we’ll introduce you.”
cleaned up Petie’s mess, so the family moved easily to the couch, where the
house-elf was waiting with a cup of tea for Mummy. “Welcome home, Sir and
Missy!” she chirped.
Tansy,” Mummy answered. She sat down and took the tea while Dad put the
basket-thing next to her. “Petie,” Dad told him, “this is your sister,
The little boy
crowded close and peered at the new baby inside the basket. She was very small,
and her eyes were closed. There was a little pink hat on her head. “Is she
sleeping?” he whispered to his parents.
“Yes, I think
so,” Mummy told him.
and Petie shushed him. “Who does she look like?” he asked in the same soft
voice. For a long time, his parents had been wondering which one of them the
baby would look like. As far as he could tell, Crystal didn’t look like either
Mummy looked at
the baby. “I think she looks like your father. Her hair will be blonde, like
his and yours, and already her eyes are blue.”
Tansy looked at
the baby, too. “Yes,” she agreed. “Little
Missy will look like Sir.”
“Hey, what can I
say?” Dad joked with a grin. “I’ve got strong genes.”
“Would you like
to give her a kiss?” Mummy asked Petie then.
“OK.” As his
parents looked on, the little boy bent down towards his sister. “Hi, Crystal…”
Crystal chose that very moment to wake up and he suddenly saw stars.
“OW!” Petie stepped back, holding his
nose. The baby, surprised by his exclamation, started to cry.
Mummy said. “What happened?”
“She hit me!”
Petie accused, pointing at Crystal.
Mummy looked at
him and then at the baby, who was crying and kicking and waving her arms,
trying to choose which of them to see to first. Finally, Dad said, “You see to
the baby, Maeve. I’ll take care of Petie. Where did you get hit?” he asked
Petie when the little boy turned to him.
“My nose,” he
turned his face one way and then the other. “Well, everything looks OK. Does
back the tears of surprise that had jumped into his eyes. “No. But I didn’t
think she was going to do that.”
didn’t do it on purpose. Crystal’s too small to know how to hit. She just moved
her arm and you just happened to be in the way.”
He rubbed his
nose. “I guess so,” he mumbled.
Dad ruffled his
hair. “Hey, come on, little man, shake it off. You’re a tough kid, and besides,
your nose is still working, isn’t it?” He grinned when the little boy nodded
and gave him a small smile. “Attaboy. Now, let’s see how your sister’s doing.”
“I don’t think
she’s doing too good,” Petie remarked. He didn’t have to look at her to know
that; Crystal was still crying, and very loudly at that.
Mummy had taken
her out of the basket and was now rocking her in her arms, trying to quiet her
down. Tansy was hovering nearby with bottles, diapers and other baby things
that they might need. And Norman had run away.
“Are you all
right, Petie?” Mummy asked. At least that’s what Petie thought she asked; he
couldn’t hear her very well over Crystal’s crying.
“Good. Hex, a
little help, please?”
Dad nodded. “Go
play in your room, OK, little man?” he said to Petie.
answered, but Dad was already helping Mummy with the baby.
* * *
It seemed to
Petie that Crystal hadn’t stopped crying since she got home. She cried all
afternoon and all through dinner. She cried whenever someone picked her up, and
whenever someone put her down. She probably cried when she was supposed to be
sleeping. And she always cried so loudly that Petie could hear her even though
she was in his parents’ room and he was in his room across the hall, and both
the doors were closed.
Dad had already
explained to him that babies were too little to talk, so they cried whenever
they needed something and it was up to the mummy or daddy to guess what it was.
Given all the crying that Crystal was doing, Petie thought, she sure needed a
lot of things.
up onto Petie’s bed. Tansy didn’t like it when the cat did that, but she wasn’t
around so Petie didn’t shoo him off.
out over Petie’s tummy. Dad had once told him that Norman used to sleep on his tummy, too, back when he was still
going to school. Petie thought going away to school was a nice idea. At least
if he were at school, he would be able to get some peace and quiet.
That wasn’t very nice, he scolded
himself then. Crystal was only a baby. She didn’t know how to let people know
what she wanted. She probably didn’t even know what was going on. Maybe she was
crying because she was scared.
Petie knew what it was like to be scared.
Maybe she’d cry
less when she got used to living with them, he thought as he pulled his stuffed
badger over his head. Then they would be able to have fun together, like Mummy
and Dad had promised they would when the baby came. He and Crystal would play
in the park and build sand castles on the beach…Dad would take them to watch
baseball games in Yankee Stadium…Petie would take her for a ride on the toy
broomstick he was going to get for his next birthday…
Yeah, that would
* * *
Well, it sure
was taking Crystal a long time to settle down, Petie thought grumpily during
breakfast a few weeks later.
As he ate his
cereal, he watched his parents fuss over the baby. She had just finished
another crying spell, so now they were trying to make her laugh and take some
pictures. “Come on, Crystal, give Daddy a smile,” Dad coaxed, making funny
faces at her over the camera.
blinked at him.
Mummy, who was
holding Crystal, laughed and kissed the baby. Her long, dark hair fell forward
as she bent her head. “I wonder if you were like Crystal as a baby, Hex. Ouch!” she exclaimed when Crystal
grabbed her hair.
Dad made a face
at her. “Whenever she acts up, you try to pin it on me,” he complained,
reaching over to help Mummy get her hair back. “How are you so sure she didn’t
get her personality from you?”
her hair behind her shoulder. “I’ll have you know that I was a very agreeable
baby,” she told him, and smiled at Petie. “Just like Petie was.”
The little boy
smiled back, happy to be included. Then Dad knocked over his coffee cup and
said a bad word. That made Crystal
smile, and then they forgot all about Petie again.
mustn’t scowl like that,” Tansy admonished him as she cleaned up the spill. “If
he does it long enough, his face will freeze that way.”
Petie went on
scowling. In fact, he scrunched up his face a little bit more for good measure.
Maybe Dad would see him and make faces back at him. Maybe Mummy would notice
and tell him to stop. But they didn’t, because Crystal started crying again.
noisily and left the table without finishing his cereal or excusing himself.
His parents didn’t see that, either, because they had to go change the baby’s
diapers. Tansy went with them, so she didn’t tell him to finish his food or
mind his manners. Only Norman saw it, and Norman couldn’t talk.
Petie went to
the living room, where he sat on the couch with another loud sigh. The cat
followed and curled up in his lap. Petie stroked Norman’s fur. At least not
everyone had forgotten about him, the little boy thought, but he still missed
Mummy and Dad.
His eye fell on
the pictures on the table next to the couch. Lots of them were of Mummy and Dad
and him, but now he saw that there was a new one with Crystal in it.
In the picture,
Mummy was lying in a bed with a sleeping Crystal in her arms and Dad sitting
beside her, leaning close to them. It was a magic picture, so Mummy and Dad
sometimes smiled at each other, kissed, or smiled down at the baby, who
squirmed in her sleep.
Next to it was
another picture a lot like that one, but with Petie in it. The picture was
magic, too, but he thought that Crystal’s picture was nicer. He thought that
Mummy looked prettier in her picture. In his picture, she and Dad were smiling,
but they both looked very tired. Sometimes Mummy would yawn, or blink the way
Petie himself did when he was sleepy.
that his parents looked much happier in Crystal’s picture. They were happier
about having her than having him.
* * *
discovery, Petie began to dislike his sister even more. He wished it were just
him and Mummy and Dad again. He wondered if the hospital could take Crystal
back. Maybe they could give him another baby instead, one who was nicer and didn’t
cry so much. Or, even better, maybe the hospital could give him a cat so both
he and Norman could have someone new to play with.
He didn’t think
Mummy and Dad would like that, though. They loved Crystal. Petie couldn’t understand
why. All she did was drink and wet and sleep and cry. And she didn’t behave
when she was having her picture taken.
His bad mood
improved somewhat when he learned that Grandpa Tiny and Grandma Maggie were
coming to visit. Grandpa Tiny and Grandma Maggie were the coolest. And maybe,
with all the adults around, someone would pay attention to him.
* * *
It was Tansy’s
day off when Grandpa Tiny and Grandma Maggie arrived. Mummy said she was going
to pick them up at the airport, while Dad was going to stay home to do some
work and watch Petie and Crystal. “I want you to be good, all right?” Mummy
said to Petie as she checked her purse.
good, Mummy,” he answered.
and Petie was pleased. He liked making Mummy laugh because it sounded so nice.
“Oh, yes, of course you are. How silly of me to forget. Then you must make sure
your father behaves himself.”
“I heard that!”
Dad said as he came out of the room that he called his “workshop”.
at him, but instead of getting mad, he kissed her. She then kissed Crystal, who
was in her little baby seat on the couch, and Petie. “Be good, all of you,” she
told them before leaving the apartment.
left, Dad said that Petie had to change his clothes so he would look good when Grandpa
and Grandma arrived. “But I like what I’m wearing,” Petie protested, looking
down at his favorite T-shirt with the badger on the front. His Uncle Peter had
sent it to him. Besides Mummy and Dad and Grandpa Tiny and Grandma Maggie,
Uncle Peter was the coolest.
“I know that’s
your favorite T-shirt, little man,” Dad said, “but your mom asked me to make
sure you changed clothes while she was away. And she asked you to be good,
remember,” Petie said grudgingly. Then he looked at Crystal, who was kicking
her legs in her baby seat. “But what about Crystal? Shouldn’t she change clothes, too?”
“Nah. She’s a baby. It doesn’t really matter yet whether she’s dressed nice or
Crystal started crying. Dad carried her into his and Mummy’s room to change her
diapers. Petie helped and tried to calm the baby down by talking to her and
making funny faces at her, but it didn’t work. Crystal didn’t stop crying.
decided to change her clothes, too. That didn’t make her stop crying, either.
Dad brought out
a bottle of water for her to drink, but then the phone rang. “Keep an eye on
Crystal, will you, little man?” he asked Petie as he went to answer it.
Petie answered just before Dad closed the door, leaving him and his crying
He edged closer
to the baby seat. Wouldn’t it be nice surprise for Dad if he made Crystal stop
crying? “Don’t cry, Crystal,” he said to her.
Of course, she
about picking her up and carrying her around the way his parents sometimes did
to get her to stop crying, but they didn’t let him do that yet. He tried
talking to her again, played her some music, waved toys at her and shook a
rattle over her head, but none of those things worked. He tried to get her to
drink some water, but she refused and just went on crying.
his ears ringing and his blood boiling, Petie lost his patience. “STOP IT!” he yelled at her. “GO AWAY!”
crying stopped. He thought he had finally gotten Crystal to quiet down, but
when he took a look at the baby seat, he found that she was gone.
She had disappeared!
said in a small voice. Babies weren’t supposed to go anywhere. They were too
small to get around by themselves, and no one had carried her out of the room.
Where did she go?
Maybe he had
yelled so loud that she tumbled right out of her baby seat. Petie dug around in
the blankets and pillows on the bed, and then looked all around the bed and
even under it, but couldn’t find Crystal.
He looked in
the closet and in all the drawers. She wasn’t there.
He even looked
inside Dad’s shoes. She wasn’t there.
Dad came back
into the room just as Petie started in on Mummy’s shoes. “Hey, what are you doing
there, little man?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Petie dropped a
shoe with a clatter and stood up. “Uh…nothing.”
nervously as Dad took a look around the room and found that Crystal’s baby seat
was empty. “Where’d you put the baby, Petie?”
the little boy answered. That was true, he thought. He didn’t put her anywhere.
couldn’t have gotten up and walked off by herself.”
“I didn’t touch
her, Dad. You said I couldn’t pick her up yet.”
starting to sound worried. Petie’s heart began to pound. “Well…I guess I sort
of told her to…go away,” he finally admitted.
“Oh, no,” Dad groaned. Then he straightened
and gave Petie the look that Petie usually got whenever he was caught messing
with the things in Dad’s workshop. “We’ll discuss this later, young man.”
He got The Look and was called “young man” — he was in real big trouble.
* * *
Dad made Petie
sit on the couch while he went all over the apartment looking for Crystal. He
looked inside all the rooms, even inside the refrigerator and the garbage. He
looked out the windows at the street below and then walked around the hallway
outside, trying to hear whether the baby was inside one of the other
Dad made Norman
stand guard over Petie and tried the other floors of their building, too. “When
you made her go away, did you have any idea of where you wanted her to go?” he
asked when he came back, still without Crystal.
Petie shook his
head miserably, his hands clenched together in his lap. “I just…I just told her
to go away.”
Dad muttered a
bad word. “She could be anywhere.”
“Anywhere. Anywhere in the city, in the
country, even anywhere in the world, and she’s too small to take care of
herself. Anything could happen to her.”
Then Dad took
out his wand and tried all sorts of spells to get Crystal back. He tried to
Summon her, to find out where she was, even to make her cry so he could try to
follow the sound of her voice, but nothing worked. “They ought to invent some
kind of GPS Charm that parents can put on kids,” he complained, “or at least a
general ‘Undo’ spell.”
because he had no more choice, Dad picked up the phone and dialed 3-1-1 to
report that they had a magical emergency.
was filled with police-wizards and magi-medics when Mummy came home with
Petie’s grandparents. “Hey, are you having a party?” Grandpa Tiny asked.
“You were the
only guests we were expecting today,” Mummy answered him, peering at all the
people milling around the living room. “What is going on? Why are there so many
One of the
police-wizards spoke up. “We are from the Magical Emergencies Response Team,
ma’am. Please stay out in the hallway; this is a restricted area.”
“This is my home,” Mummy answered back, walking past with Grandpa Tiny and
Grandma Maggie. “Hex? What is going on here?”
forward with a big fake smile on his face. “Maeve!” he greeted Mummy. “You’re
back quickly. Guess there wasn’t much traffic. Nice to see you again, Tiny,
Maggie. How was Scotland?”
Maggie told him. “Now, where are the children?”
Dad nodded at
the couch, where Petie still sat with Norman. “Petie’s right over there. Say hi
to Grandma and Grandpa, little man.”
“Hi, Grandma and
Grandpa,” Petie said obediently.
Petie.” Grandpa Tiny reached down to ruffle his hair. He patted Norman, too.
“Where’s your baby sister?”
“And what is
the M.E.R.T. doing here?” Mummy asked Dad.
Dad glanced at
Petie. “Well, uh, the answers to those two questions are sort of mixed
together,” he began.
Mummy looked at
Dad, then at all the other people in the apartment, and her eyes widened. All
the color disappeared from her face. “What happened?” she asked, her voice
shaking. “Is Crystal hurt?”
“No! No, she’s
not hurt,” Dad said quickly. “At least, I don’t think she’s hurt. I’m really
not sure — she sort of…disappeared.”
“Disappeared?” Mummy made a weird noise
and pressed a fist to her mouth. “Oh, no. Oh, my poor baby.”
held Mummy’s arm and led her gently to the couch. “I think you need to sit
down, dear. I’ll go make some tea.”
Mummy sank down
next to Petie as Grandma Maggie went off to the kitchen. She looked shocked and
awfully scared. (Unfortunately for Petie, he was going to remember that look on
her face for the rest of his life.) “Have you tried to get her back?” she asked
in a small voice. Norman climbed into her lap to make her feel better, but she
Dad told her. “I searched the whole building, even outside. I tried every spell
I knew to find her.”
“And now these
people are on the case,” Grandpa Tiny added, nodding at the M.E.R.T.
working on it,” Dad said. He sat down next to Mummy and gave her a hug. “It’ll
be OK, Maeve. They’ll get Crystal back.”
asked the question Petie was hoping she wouldn’t ask. “How did this happen?”
Dad looked at
Petie again. “It was an accident. Some magic went wrong.”
raised her head off Dad’s chest to look up at him. “You were doing magic on the
The words burst out of Petie before Dad could say anything. “I did it. I told
her to go away. And she did.” He quailed when his parents and Grandpa Tiny all
looked at him, but he knew he had to keep talking. “I’m sorry I did it, Mummy.
I tried to get her back. I looked for her everywhere but I couldn’t find her.”
Mummy was quiet
for a moment. Then, finally, she said, “Petie, please go to your room.”
shout at him. Petie wished she had. It would have been better if she had
sounded mad instead of hurt and tired and sad like she did right now, but he
was glad for the chance to get out of everyone’s way. “Yes, Mummy.”
and Norman walked Petie to his room. Just before Petie went inside, his grandpa
knelt down and gave him a hug. “It’ll be all right, son,” he said. “Once they
find her and your parents have the chance to cool down, everything will be OK.”
know how Grandpa Tiny would know that since he didn’t know how to do any magic,
so he just nodded. “OK, Grandpa.”
Petie into his room and both boy and cat sat on the bed. Petie placed his hands
in his lap and stared at the magical pictures on his wall, wondering where
Dad had said
that she could be anywhere. Anywhere in
the city, in the country, even anywhere in the world, and she’s too small to take care of herself. Anything could happen to
made Petie feel terrible. He’d gotten lost before and remembered what it was
like to feel as though he were alone in the world. It was a scary, lonely
feeling. Everything seemed so strange and big and dangerous. Was Crystal scared
and lonely, too? Was she hungry? Maybe she was in danger!
Tears welled up
in Petie’s eyes when he thought about his baby sister being alone and scared
and in danger. She was a pain, but he didn’t want those bad things to happen to
her. “I’m sorry, Crystal,” he sniffled, wiping his nose on his arm. Beside him,
Norman mewed in sympathy. “I’m sorry I made you go away. Please come back. Please.”
was a loud, familiar bawling. Both Petie and Norman jumped. When he turned
around, he saw the squirming, squalling baby right in the middle of the bed.
“Crystal!” Petie cried.
He burst out of
his room and into the hallway. “DAD!
MUMMY!” he shouted, loud enough to be heard over Crystal’s screaming and
Norman’s meowing. “CRYSTAL’S BACK! SHE’S
IN MY ROOM!”
Petie was so
happy that the baby was back that he didn’t even mind that she had wet his bed.
* * *
After the M.E.R.T.
made sure that Crystal was OK and the sheets were changed on Petie’s bed,
things became a bit quieter in the apartment. Grandpa Tiny was right, Petie’s
parents were too happy to have Crystal back that they weren’t too mad at him.
They let him come out of his room to visit with Grandma and Grandpa, but he
couldn’t get his presents from Scotland until tomorrow. Petie thought that was
after Petie had said good night to Grandma and Grandpa, Mummy and Daddy came to
his room to tuck him in. “She’s not crying,” Petie noted when he saw that Dad
was carrying Crystal.
it for later,” Dad told him with a chuckle.
Mummy drew the
covers over Petie and his stuffed badger. “You both had quite a day today,” she
said. She didn’t sound hurt or sad anymore.
Petie nodded as
Norman padded over to flop over his feet. “I’m sorry about what happened,” he
said. “I just got so mad because Crystal wouldn’t stop crying.”
“Was that the only reason you wanted her to go away?”
The little boy
turned red. “And…and I guess I sort of wished I was the only kid around here
again,” he admitted, picking at his badger’s black-button eye. “Now that she’s
around, everyone’s forgotten about me.”
“Aw, come on,
little man,” Dad said. “We’ve already told you that she’s still too small to
take care of herself, right?”
mummy and daddy, we’re the ones who have to take special care of her,” Mummy
“You’re my mummy and daddy, too,” Petie pointed
“Yes, we are, and we took special care of you, too, when you were a baby and
too small to take care of yourself. Now that you’re bigger, we don’t have to do
so many things for you anymore.”
that, we’ve become Crystal’s mom and dad, too,” Dad went on. “The two of you are
going to have to share us from now on. And we’re going to have to learn how to
be a mom and dad to two kids now instead of just one, right, Maeve?”
Mummy agreed, smiling at Dad. “I’m sorry you feel as though we’ve forgotten
you, darling,” she said to Petie. “We certainly didn’t want that to happen, but
things have changed for all of us. Like you, your father and I are also
learning to get used to these changes.”
“From now on,”
Dad added, “your mom and I are going to try harder to make sure that we’re
taking care of both you and Crystal. But we’re new at this, so we might make
mistakes sometimes, all right?”
“And if we do,”
Mummy said, giving Petie a hug, “remember that we love you very much, as much
as we did before Crystal came along. All right?”
Petie answered with a smile.
too. “Feel better?”
“Yes.” He was feeling much better than he had in a long time.
Dad looked him
straight in the eye. “No more Banishing the baby to goodness-knows-where when
we’ve got company coming?”
embarrassed again. “No. I’m sorry I did that,” he said. “I know it isn’t nice
to want someone to go away, but I was just so mad and the words just sort
of…came out. Besides, I didn’t think I could really make her go away.”
“Well, you did,
little man; and you know what that means?”
“It means your
powers are starting to come out, darling,” Mummy told him, smiling. “That was
your first sign of magic.”
widened. “It was, wasn’t it?”
said, reaching over to ruffle Petie’s hair with his free hand. “My little man’s
going to be a wizard, and from the looks of things, he’s going to be a pretty
little boy asked.
“Yes, really,” Mummy
told him. “After all, you made Crystal disappear, didn’t you?”
brought her back,” Dad reminded her.
“Yes, thanks be, he also brought her back.”
fell back against his pillows, his eyes still wide with surprise. Suddenly, he
felt very big inside. “Wow,” he said
right,” Dad said, grinning at Petie. “You’re really something, little man. I
think we’ve got two very special kids; don’t you, Maeve?”
“Yes, we do,”
Mummy agreed, smiling at Petie, too. “And I believe it is time to finally say
good night to this one.” Both she and Dad leaned over to kiss Petie’s cheeks.
“Good night, darling.”
Mummy and Daddy,” Petie answered, and then decided to say good night to his
baby sister, too. “Good night, Crystal.” Moving quickly, he bent to plant a
cautious kiss on his sister’s forehead.
The baby in
Dad’s arms squirmed at the kiss. She blinked sleepily a few times and something
that looked a lot like a smile flickered over her face before she opened her mouth
to start crying again.