The kitchen in the Jordan house had a door on one end that swung both ways. Generally Jay liked to keep the door propped open in one direction or the other to avoid accidents. But invariably his instructions would not be followed and someone would inadvertently swing the door into someone else’s face as they approached. Luckily, there was nobody on the kitchen side of the door this time as Binny shoved it sharply inward as she march determinedly to her parents. Binny entered the kitchen alone. Zach had made himself scarce knowing what Binny was about to do.
It was hard to tell the difference between Binny angry, and Binny angry and scared. At this moment she was clearly the latter. But while her parents were both experts at interpreting (if not addressing) Binny’s various moods, they were both too distracted to notice the subtle difference when Binny entered the kitchen.
“…Tell them.” were the last two words of the sentence Julie Jordan was finishing as Binny arrived with a head of steam.
“Binny, for the hundredth time, can you please open that door gently. You can never tell when someone is on the other side.” Binny’s father admonished her sternly. Binny’s parents stood opposite each other at the far end of the kitchen – a large empty space between them.
Jay’s anger caught her by surprise, but as usual Binny was quick to recover her righteous trajectory.
“Why is the door even closed anyway? You always tell us not to close it.”
“Binny. Please modify your attitude. Now.” Jay chastised.
“And what do you mean, ‘telling them’?” Binny paraphrased her mother’s overheard words. “Who is they, and what will you be telling them?”
“No one, and nothing.” Julie responded, her face making it clear that Binny should get out while the getting was good. Binny ignored the advice.
“What can we do for you?” Jay asked, in a quieter than normal voice.
Binny’s curiosity about the conversation she had interrupted was only slightly smaller than her desire to reveal the day’s events. Binny’s eyes flickered briefly as she considered the path before her and chose, “I need to tell you something.”
This got her parents’ attention. They sat down at the kitchen table together. “What do you need to tell us,” Julie asked. The tiny note of impatience in her voice was almost undetectable amid the genuine concern for her daughter.
“Cassie can make herself disappear.”
There. She said it. She would show Zach that she was the most responsible of the Jordan children. Zach liked to make it seem like he was equal to their parents when it came to telling Binny what to do. But Zach was only two years older, and less mature in Binny’s expert opinion. Now her parents and Zach would have to take her seriously. Her sister was in danger!
Her parents started laughing. “We know. She disappears every time it’s bedtime.” “Or time to do homework.” “Or, for that matter, time to do anything she doesn’t want to do.” They laughed together and the tension between them seemed to dissipate a bit.
“It’s TRUE. Cassie can turn herself invisible. Truly.” Binny’s earnestness was apparent on her face.
“Uh…” was all Julie could muster. Jay just sat there looking puzzled.
Jay took a deep breath, “Binny. We’re both sorry about before. We know you needed our attention and you didn’t get it as soon as you should have. But you can’t always be the center of attention. Sometimes other people are having important conversations. And if you need attention, sometimes, to accommodate the other people in your life you need to have just a little more patience.”
“You think I’m lying to get your attention?” Binny was incredulous.
“Honey, nobody said you’re lying.” Then trying to soften the mood with humor Julie added, “Let’s call it ‘creative passive aggressiveness’.”
Binny closed her eyes and clenched her fists as she tried to collect herself. After a moment Binny opened her eyes and responded as slowly and angrily as her father had a few moments earlier. “Fine. I am trying to get your attention. I’m trying to get you to focus on your chil-dren. But feel free to ignore what’s going on in your own FAMILY!” Binny made a dramatic exit through the swinging door. She stomped up the steps to the sounds of her parents calling after her again for shoving the door too roughly.
Binny was annoyed at how self-involved her parents seemed to be these days. But she had to admit that if someone came to her to tell her that their sister could turn invisible, Binny might be a little skeptical too. Okay, she’d be a lot skeptical. At least Binny had thought to change her pants before confronting her parents. Binny comforted herself by thinking that it could have been even worse.
How was Binny going to get her parents to understand the broader circumstances and the dangerous man without them believing that her sister could make herself disappear? She had hardly believed it until she saw it with her own eyes. That was it! She’d get them to see it with their own eyes.
The door opened inward as Binny sauntered into Cassie’s room. Cassie appeared to sock something under her pillow as soon as she realized Binny was there. Binny almost never came into Cassie’s room except when she was angry. Binny assumed Cassie was hiding some ill-gotten candy.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell on you.” Binny reassured her sister.
“Tell on me about what?” Cassie stole a quick glance at the pillow – she had moved her body between the pillow and her sister.
“Whatever it is you just hid under your pillow.” Everyone but Cassie thought Cassie was terribly unsubtle at subterfuge. But she was only seven and bound to improve. “She’ll be really good at sneaking candy once she gets a handle on that whole invisibility trick.” Binny thought to herself with a smirk.
The look on Binny’s face made Cassie uncomfortable. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Cassie responded, stone-faced.
“Okay. Whatever.” Cassie’s shoulders relaxed – a little. “I just needed your help with something.”
Cassie perked up at the request. Whatever resentments she had towards her big sister, she was still excited at the prospect of being included in her plans. “What can I do?”
“I want you to show Mom and Dad your trick.”
Cassie’s excitement faded a little when she realized what she was being asked. “Why?”
“Don’t you think they’ll be impressed? I know I was.”
Cassie made a sound indicating she was thinking it over.
“Why do I have to show them. Can’t we just tell them?”
“I tried. They didn’t believe me. Sometimes people have to see something with their own eyes to believe it.” Binny started to worry that Cassie was not going to go along and added speaking quickly, “I can’t turn myself invisible. Zach can’t do it. You’re the special one.”
This line of reasoning clicked with Cassie. “Yeah. I am special.” But then, frowning, “But I couldn’t just do it before when you asked. I think it just happens.”
“I know. You know what I think? I think it happens when you need to hide.” Binny said, answering her own question.
Cassie looked puzzled. Binny continued. “How about if I yell at you in front of Mom and Dad. I bet if you get scared enough, you’ll disappear.”
Cassie backed up a step, not liking the sound of this at all. Binny immediately reassured her that it would be pretend yelling. They’d be putting on a play of sorts for their parents and Cassie would be the star. Binny’s proposal was starting to sound fun to Cassie.
When Binny reappeared in the kitchen with Cassie in tow, the swinging door had been propped open again and her parents were putting away the dishes.
“Ah Binny, I see you’ve brought Invisible Girl.” Jay said in a mock serious voice.
“Normally I’d insist that her name would be Invisible Woman” Julie added getting in on the teasing of Binny. “But since Cassie is just seven we’ll stick with Invisible Girl – for now.”
Binny rolled her eyes but willed herself to ignore her parents teasing. “Cassie’s been taking my stuff.”
Now it was Binny’s parents’ turn to roll their eyes. In their frustration they didn’t notice the unsubtle wink Cassie gave Binny. Cassie came in right on cue with, “No I didn’t.” Her acting wasn’t particularly noteworthy, but Jay and Julie assumed that a standard bout of sibling bickering about to break out.
“What didn’t you do?” Zach interrupted, entering the room and offering his opinion with a smirk.
Binny gave him a look intended to keep him quiet, and continued. “She keeps sneaking into my room and taking stuff. She took the mirror and left it outside. Promised she wouldn’t do it again and then did it anyway. I found it on her again. I’m sick of this.”
“I’m sick of you!” Cassie responded, raising her voice but having trouble stifling the giggles.
“That was pretty funny.” Zach added.
Now Binny was getting genuinely frustrated. What she’d intended to be a carefully orchestrated effort was getting away from her.
“Yes. That was funny.” Julie agreed. Binny flashed her an angry look. Julie hastened to add, “But Zach, please stop adding on, and Cassie, is it true that you’re sneaking into Binny’s room and taking her stuff?”
“No.” Cassie crossed her arms with a look of smug satisfaction.
“Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes you ARE!” Binny screamed. Now even Binny wasn’t sure whether she was acting to try and get Cassie to disappear or was genuinely upset that her sister was lying to their parents.
“Whoa. Please stop yelling, Binny,” said Binny’s father in a steely tone.
Despite the yelling from the fight that she’d manufactured, Cassie was nowhere near disappearing. In fact, she seemed to be enjoying this little drama. Maybe she’d be a star someday after all.
Perhaps it was Cassie’s smile. Or maybe it was the look on her brother’s face. Zach hadn’t wanted her to tell her parents, but Binny knew it was the right thing to do. Binny decided to shift tactics. Yelling at Cassie to get her to turn invisible wasn’t working. Maybe the more direct approach would yield results after all.
“Cassie not only keeps sneaking into my room and taking my stuff, but she’s even done it when I’m sitting in my room.”
A puzzled look crept across Jay’s face. A worried one crept across Zach’s.
“How does she pull that off?” Jay inquired.
“I told you. She can turn herself invisible.” Binny crossed her arms.
Silence in the Jordan kitchen. It lasted for several long seconds. Jay and Julie exchanged looks of concern and then Julie finally responded, “Honey, what’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong is that nobody will listen to me. I told you and you didn’t believe me. So I brought her down here to show you.” Binny said.
“OK. Show us.” Jay was willing to play along. And the thought that one of his kids had a super power was a fun one.
Cassie scrunched up her face, and for a moment the entire family held their breath. For a brief instance Jay and Julie actually wondered if maybe it wasn’t impossible. But that didn’t last long. As the seconds passed, and Cassie remained scrunched but clearly visible, the idea that she might actually have a super power exited their minds as quickly as it had appeared.
“Ugh!” Binny uttered in frustration. “She can’t make herself do it on purpose. It only happens when she gets stressed out. Ask Zach, we both saw it happen in front of the house.”
All eyes in the room turned to Zach. He seemed to back up in his chair a little as he felt the pressing stares. He swallowed for a moment before he answered. “I don’t know what she’s talking about.”
“WHAT???” Binny erupted. Zach had just flat out lied to her parents. He didn’t want her to tell them, so when it came time to confirm her story he had just completely betrayed her. Binny got mad at her brother a lot, but she didn’t think she’d ever been this angry. She was experiencing a new level of absolute fury.
“Binny, calm down.” Jay insisted.
“He’s lying! She disappeared in front of the house. And that’s why the man with the dog keeps walking by. He saw her disappear and now he wants to dissect her to find out about her powers.”
“Wait. What man?” Julie interrupted.
“The man with the big dog.” Binny said.
Zach rolled his eyes. “It’s just one of the neighbors walking his dog. He stopped to let Cassie pet the dog. It was harmless.
“Cassie, what happened?” Julie addressed her youngest.
“He’s a nice dog.” Cassie said.
“Did the man ask you to go with him?” Julie probed gently.
“No. He just stopped to let me pet his dog.” Cassie paused and grinned. “He’s a really nice dog.”
This had turned into a complete and utter failure. Binny hadn’t expected Zach to stab her in the back so completely. And what did she expect from Cassie? Cassie couldn’t show up for dinner reliably, much less be expected to play her part effectively in this demonstration.
Lost in thought, Jay was staring at some spot beyond the people directly in front of him. Still focused on that faraway place, Jay asked, “Binny, were you listening to us watch E.T. the other day? Did it give you nightmares about your sister?”
Not only had Binny failed to alert her parents to the very real dangers presented by her sister’s power and the man’s interest, but now her father was treating her like she was the seven-year-old.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not a baby.” Binny said.
“Neither am I.” Cassie chimed in.
“Nobody was talking to you.” Binny snapped.
Jay ignored the bickering and continued with Binny, “Honey, why are you worried that someone wants to dissect your sister then?”
Binny thought to tell her parents about the conversation she and Zach had overheard at the man’s house. But what had they really heard? Fragments really. If she revealed they’d been eavesdropping, her parents might freak out on her for snooping around the neighbors’ houses. And besides, Zach would just deny it had happened anyway. This was an absolute disaster.
“I’m not.” Binny surrendered. “I just want her to stop taking my stuff.”
Binny could see the concern on her parents’ faces about why their daughter was making up fantastical stories about super powers. But based on their expressions they seemed to have resolved to address that issue later. Instead Binny’s parents focused on things they could understand – things like Cassie taking Binny’s stuff. “Cassie, you wouldn’t like it if Binny snuck into your room and touched your stuff, would you?”
“No.” Cassie seemed to have already moved on to some other thoughts that interested her more than this conversation.
“Please don’t do that again, okay?” Julie asked Cassie.
“OK. Can I go now?” Cassie responded, already exiting the kitchen without waiting for a response.
“Thanks.” Binny offered as if she was satisfied that the issue she had raised had been addressed, and left the room.
Zach had sidled out of the room just before Binny and was waiting for her around the corner. To the casual observer Zach would have looked like he regretted something. Binny was too angry to notice. “I’m…” he mouthed to Binny, almost whispering.
Before he could complete his sentence, Binny raised her index finger toward her brother, and just said “No.”
Normally when Binny was angry at Zach she would scream until she was hoarse. But her anger was so white hot that even that wouldn’t do now. Binny’s single word response did the trick. It stopped Zach mid-sentence. Her “no” hung in the air for a moment before she turned on her heel, headed up the stairs to her room, and closed the door behind her.
Binny sat on her bed and stared out her window brooding.
She wasn’t sure what was worse – her failure to convince her parents that she was telling the truth? Or that Zach was being a complete lying jerk? Cassie hadn’t really helped much either, but that was pretty typical when it came to Cassie.
Binny knew that Zach had been against telling her parents. But she didn’t expect him to so effectively stop her from telling them herself. And even worse, it seemed that her parents now thought she was insane, getting nightmares from watching kids’ movies. Binny’s mission to get her parents to understand the truth had just gotten much more difficult.
Binny was so lost in thought that she almost didn’t notice the girl across the street. The girl seemed up to something in front of the gray house where she lived. If Binny sat in just the right spot on her bed, she could see past the nearby tree branches and get a clear view of the front steps of the gray house. What on earth was that girl doing now?
Zach was sitting at the bottom of the stairs, right where Binny had reproached him, trying to sort things out. He almost didn’t notice his parents pass by.
“You okay honey?” Zach’s mom asked him.
“Yeah, yeah. Fine.”
“You look a little bummed out.”
“I’m good.” Zach tried to sound reassuring.
“Can you keep an eye on the girls for a couple of hours. Your father and I need to run some errands.”
As they walked towards the door, Jay added, “And especially keep a careful eye on Cassie. We wouldn’t want her to disappear.” When confronted with a bummed out child Jay’s first instinct was always to try and make them laugh.
Zach tried hard to make his laugh sound convincing.