Taylan glanced at the slim, pink fitness watch on her wrist yet again. They had been in line for over forty minutes. And it wasn’t even as though she were waiting in line for something good like Bulletspeed.
“Dad,” she said, identifying who she thought would be more likely to give in. “Can we please just go ride something cool while Judy gets her picture? I mean, we could have done the go-karts or Acme or something.”
“That’s enough, Taylan,” Dad said, his face devoid of emotion. “We are waiting in line until we get to the front. We are going to take a family picture, and you are going to be happy about it.”
Taylan pasted a cheesy grin on her face for a few moments before letting it drop back into the frustration she actually felt.
“How long is it gonna be?!” Five-year-old Judy whined. “We been here forever!”
“It shouldn’t be long now,” Mom responded in a fakely cheerful voice.
“But I’m so hungry!” Judy’s whining went up an octave or two.
Taylan gritted her teeth. Her little sister could be so annoying at times, er, most of the time. Mom and Dad dug through the backpack for a snack, but as they did, a security guard informed them that there was no eating in the meet and greet line. Judy plopped onto the floor in protest.
“Just chill, Judy,” Colby interjected. “We don’t want to hear it.”
“Yeah, we’re wasting time here because of you, so you better be enjoying it.”
“That’s enough,” Dad said. “Enough whining from everyone. We are going to take a picture, and you are all going to love it. Stop the whining.”
“They aren’t going to change their minds,” Colby said to Taylan. “They’ve decided we’re going to take some dumb family picture, so we just have to get over it and do it.”
“I think it’s stupid. I mean, if you want a family picture, there are plenty of places anywhere in the park that don’t include waiting in line for an hour.”
Colby shrugged. “Yeah, it’s dumb, but Judy wants to meet Princess somebody, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
“It’s Cinderella!” Judy crooned, excitement lighting her face. “How can you forget her name? She’s the prettiest princess in the whole world.” She got up from her grumpy position on the floor and began spinning in a circle as though she were wearing a flowy, princess gown.
Taylan rolled her eyes again. “She’s not even real, Judy. It’s just some girl dressing up in a costume and taking pictures like she’s the real deal.”
Judy’s eyes filled with tears. “That’s not true! She’s real! I saw her on TV, and now, I’m going to see her here. So there!” Judy turned her back on her brother and sister as though turning away from them would make them shut up. But Taylan, feeling a little bit mean and not able to stop herself, bent down so that she was right next to Judy.
“It’s true, Judy. I’m your big sister. Would I tell you a lie? I mean, come on, think about it. How could Cinderella really be here? There are, I think like, a hundred parks all over the world, and all the kids want to meet Cinderella. She’s a made up story. It’s fun to watch, but it’s not real.”
Judy started really boo-hoo crying then, and Taylan backed away as though putting distance between herself and her sister would take the blame off her. Colby looked at her with big eyes.
“Dude, you are so gonna get in trouble.”
“Momma, Cinderella’s real, right? You said she was! And I can see her right there!” Judy pointed through the line of amusement park guests who were now turning to watch the crying child. (It really was boring in that line.) “She’s real! She’s real! She’s real!”
Mom turned toward Colby and Taylan with fire in her eyes. “Can you two not leave her alone for five minutes? This is supposed to be a fun vacation, not a time to annoy each other.” Dad placed a hand on Mom’s arm, and Mom closed her eyes for a few moments as she patted Judy on the back.
Taylan’s stomach suddenly turned over. What would Mom do? If they were at home, Mom would take her phone away for a few days or make her clean the bathroom or something. But here. . . .what if Mom said she couldn’t go on any more rides?
“I am tired of you two and your pranks-”
“Me?!” Colby protested. “But I didn’t-”
“Time for you to be quiet,” Mom said, her voice low but threatening. “I don’t want to hear your excuses. You two are done for the day. We are going to wait in this line. We are going to take a picture, and then Dad is going to walk you back to the hotel room. No more rides.”
“No,” Mom interrupted them. “No ifs, ands, or buts. That’s it. And maybe next time, you two will think about what you’re saying before you stir the pot.”
Taylan huffed and crossed her arms, barely keeping herself from stomping.
“Thanks a lot,” Colby said. “I didn’t even do anything, and I’m in trouble.”
“Nobody deserves to be in trouble,” Taylan responded, feeling full of venom. “I mean, we were just telling the truth!”
Fairy tale creatures weren’t real. So why was she getting in trouble for telling the truth? Was she supposed to lie now? The more Taylan thought about it, the more unjust any punishment felt. What were they trying to teach her? That she should lie to keep her little sister happy? The thoughts boiled inside her until she couldn’t hold them in any longer. There were only three more families between them and Cinderella, so she had better make this fast if she had any hope of getting out of trouble.
“Mom,” Taylan said in her sweetest voice. “Can I ask you something?”
Mom turned around, clearly not in the mood for bartering, but Taylan had to do something. “Can we talk over here?”
Everyone wiggled around so that Taylan and Mom could talk face-to-face and Colby, Judy, and Dad were at the front of the group.
“All I did was tell her the truth. How come-”
Mom didn’t let her finish. “Taylan, you know that’s not what you were doing. You were bored, so you decided to make trouble. Telling the truth is answering a question honestly. What you did was try to make her cry because you were bored. I won’t have it. There is a time and place to talk about it, and this is not it.”
“But they’re not real, and you know that, and I know that, so how come I’m in trouble?”
“Enough, Taylan, I’m not on trial here, and I don’t have to answer questions. We are done talking about this.”
Basically, Mom was admitting that they weren’t real, but Taylan was getting in trouble for saying so. Well, that seemed completely fair. There was only one family in front of them now. One more family until she was shut into the hotel room for the rest of the afternoon. Unless . . . unless she could convince Colby that they had to prove these people weren’t real. She looked at him sideways. He might go along with her plan. After all, if they were going to get in trouble, she might as well make it worth it.