After hunting all over the house, I found my little sister Jillian out front, playing in puddles on the sidewalk. She’d splashed mud all over her pink shorts and her ruffly white blouse. Mom was going to be ticked.
“Jilly-bean, come on, it’s time for dinner!” I shouted from the front door.
She didn’t listen to me, but made another big splash.
“Cut that out!” I said. “Get out of that puddle. You shouldn’t be doing that anyway” I said.
She pouted at me. “Why not?”
“Because,” I said. “You might fall in.”
She stared at me, her face all scrunched up, as if she was trying to figure out what I meant.
I walked out onto the sidewalk to stand beside her. “See, look down there. There’s another world in there. Every puddle has another world inside it. And if you’re not careful, you’ll fall right through into it.”
She stamped her foot a couple of times, as if to test how sturdy the sidewalk was beneath her.
“It won’t happen unless you stand really still. If the water’s moving at all, you won’t fall in. But if ever the water is perfectly, absolutely still… zoop!” I said. “You’ll plop right down into that other world and be stuck there.”
She squinted her eyes at me. “You’re lying,” she said.
I shrugged. “Maybe.” I snatched at her hand, but she pulled it away. “Come on in, Mom says it's time for dinner.”
Jillian stared down at the puddle beneath her feet, as if trying to see her way into that other world I’d told her about. Great. I’d only made it up to scare her out of the puddle. Now all she wanted to do was find out if I was telling the truth.
“Hurry up, Jill-pill.” I turned and walked back toward the house.
I didn’t hear Jillian’s footsteps behind me, but I kept hoping she’d come on her own if I just kept walking. I didn’t want to have to pick her up out of that puddle and get muddy water all over my clothes. When I reached the porch step I turned to look back.
She was gone.
“Jilly?” I called. “Where did you go?”
There wasn’t any answer.
She had been right there behind me, in the middle of the sidewalk, just ten seconds ago. I held my breath in the still air, listening for her. It was a little dark outside, with the clouds overhead, but I could see the front yard perfectly clearly. She wasn’t anywhere in sight.
“JILLIAN!” I shouted, then waited for her to pop out from behind Dad’s car parked there on the street, or maybe hear her giggling from the front door because she’d somehow gotten around me. But no, she wasn’t anywhere.
I screamed her name out, angry and frightened, but nothing answered me, not even a breath of wind.
It was crazy, I know, but I had a horrible feeling that maybe she had fallen through the puddle. I’d just made that up! It couldn’t be true. I stepped to the puddle’s edge and looked down into the water.
I saw my reflection, and the dark gray clouds in the sky overhead, and the electrical wires, and the maple tree. As I watched, Jillian’s reflection came to stand next to me.
“There you are, you brat!” I said, and glanced up, reaching out to grab her arm before she could get away again.
There was no one in the yard with me.