Nicky heard Michelle crying. He peeked his head out the door. “Michelle? What's wrong?” Nicky wondered.
“I guess I don’t mind them seeing me cry. It’s not like any of my classmates saw me.”
She entered the bedroom and gazed at the worried faces. “Seeing me like this may help them listen.” “Come here, guys.”
They walked over to her. The three embraced. She closed her eyes. She lowered her head for a moment. She needed help. Things had gotten so crazy. There were dozens of things to consider. This was probably true of even simple adult things. Like going to the mall. She certainly couldn’t spend her whole time playing. Here, she’d had no time for herself at all!
Michelle spoke sincerely. “I love both of you very much. But we need to talk.”
She instructed them to sit on a bed. She grabbed a chair and sat in front of them. Michelle tried hard to sound like a grown-up. “Nicky. Alex. We are going to have a very long talk about why we obey the rules. Because your disobedience really hurt me today.”
“Is that why you were crying,” Alex inquired. He was visibly concerned.
“Yes,” she stated emphatically.
The twins looked at each other. They were very sad that they'd made Michelle cry. They knew they needed to act better. “Okay, we'll be good,” Alex said remorsefully.
His brother agreed. “Yeah, we don't want you to cry.” Both hung their heads in shame.
Michelle was excited. “They sounded sorry. I sure hope that helps them behave.”
Her warm, affectionate smile returned. She told them to look at her. They looked with their eyeballs alone. “I want you to behave better for everyone. So they don't cry, either.” They promised they would. “Now I need to explain something.” Something she didn’t understand until now. “I don't make rules. I never did. They come from even higher than your mom and dad.”
“You mean the President,” the two asked together.
“Higher than that. They come from God. They're everywhere. And, your Mom and Dad and I and everyone has to obey rules. People make rules for us so we can be helped and protected. But it doesn’t matter whether it’s a normal day with your parents. Or a really freaky day like today.” She chuckled. Saying it that way relieved her a little. At least she could still laugh about things. “No matter what, the rules are always there.”
She struggled to think. What else had D.J. suggested? “I love you very much. What I’m going to do because you disobeyed so much, I’m only doing because I love you. You have had a very bad attitude today. You know that you’re supposed to listen. And, you haven’t.”
“Saying that was easy. It always was. But, what do I do? Dad’s right; this is really tough. And he can’t enjoy this any more than I do. I sure owe him an apology.” Knowing what to say wouldn’t make it any more fun.
She put off telling Nicky and Alex what would happen. Her dad would be home any second. He could tell them. Plus, something very important popped into her head.
“There’s something more important right now. I need to explain the ‘freeze’ command. You disobeying that was the worst thing you did today. Do you know why we have it?”
“Why,” Nicky asked. The twins lifted their heads.
“Because it could save your life. It’s good to say it nice for little things. That helps you practice for dangerous things. Like when I yelled it today.”
“We weren’t doing anything dangerous,” Alex told her.
Michelle leaned closer. If they learned nothing else, she wanted them to learn this. “But you could have been and not known it. If you don’t stop all your muscles when someone yells ‘freeze,’ you could die and not be with us anymore. Or, you could lay hurting in a hospital for a long time. We would all cry so hard then!”
“Okay,” came the tots as they started to rise.
Michelle quickly shoved them down on the bed. “Guys, this is important!”
They plopped back onto the bed. Unfortunately,,she could think of nothing else to say. Finally, she held out her pinky fingers. “I want you to pinky swear you’ll obey whenever anyone says freeze.” She didn’t know if that sounded like a mom. But, she had to make them obey somehow.
Each boy wrapped a pinky finger around hers. The twins didn’t quite understand. But they could tell she really meant business. “Okay, pinky swear,” said Alex.
“Pinky swear,” came Nicky. The tot quickly asked “what now?”
“Now, I have to decide your punishment.” Boy, that sounds so strange coming from me.
She sighed, lowering her head. She hoped they understood she wasn’t being mean.
“My dad and the others have talked things out with me. They’ve always just taken privileges away. I should do that. I need to honor them. Besides, that’s what I would want done to me.”
“I love you each very much. I want you to remember that. Just thinking about this hurts. Guys, you are not allowed to ride your tricycles for one whole week. Not only that, but you have not obeyed or behaved near well enough to go to that carnival this weekend.” She wept as she hugged Nicky and Alex. “Is this what Dad feels like, except he’s so big he doesn’t cry?”
“Have mercy,” wailed the stunned twins.
“I want to make sure you understand rules are to be obeyed.” Michelle hoped their folks let them go to part of it. Still, she didn't know what else to do.
Her cousins walked downstairs. She slowly followed them. She leaned against the wall. “This is, by far, the toughest day of my life.” The girl muttered to Comet. “Make that gray hair when I'm twelve. By fifteen I'll probably be bald.”
Stephanie and her friends piled out of the car. They carried their purchases into the Pfisters' home. So many great things were on sale after Christmas.
Stephanie heard that she was to phone home immediately. A tinge of worry hit her as she dialed.
Michelle glanced at her watch. Her dad should be home any second. She gazed at the downed Christmas tree. The dog stood behind her. “Macaulay Culkin had it made in those movies. He never could have handled two four-year-olds.”
She answered the ringing phone. Her frustrated look gave way to relief. She heard her sister's voice. “Oh, Steph, finally, it's you. Where have you been?”
“Michelle, what's going on,” Stephanie wondered. “I just got in, and I heard I was supposed to call home right away.”
“Steph, Dad's not here. His flight was delayed. Uncle Joey left, and Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky weren’t coming back till tomorrow. They still won’t be here for a few hours.”
“I thought...wait a minute...” The schedules jumbled in her head. Who did that leave? “Then that means...”
“You got it, dude. I'm here alone with Dennis the Menace times two!”
“Nicky and Alex, too? Okay, look, sit tight, Michelle.” Stephanie sounded anxious and excited. “I'm gonna have Mrs. Pfister drive me home right now. I'll be there in less than thirty minutes. I remember the code, and I have my key.”
“Thanks.” She let out a whistle as she hung up the phone. “I never thought I'd be happy to see the end of my responsibility.” She leaned back for a moment. “I know I made mistakes. But the worst part was, I’m the one who made the decisions. Those were so rough I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think I’ll ever want to go to the mall or the park alone! Even if it’s only a tenth this bad.”
She clapped her hands and grinned. “No more worrying now, I can relax.” She walked toward the kitchen. “Okay, guys. Stephanie's coming to relieve me in...”
The moment she opened the kitchen door, her eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets. Her mouth flung open. Her heart skipped a beat. She screamed. “Freeze!”
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