By Madhuja Ghosh
6th grade, Glenfield Middle School

It started off a day like any other — a warm Saturday morning, with Emilia’s brothers wrestling in the upstairs hallway, banging into doors and furniture. Emilia heard the inevitable bang of the broken playroom doorknob snap and fall to the ground. She groaned and yanked the covers back over her head.

“Emilia! Breakfast is ready!” Emilia’s stepmother, Daphne, called. “And boys, stop wrestling, I made your favorite pancakes.” James and Toby immediately perked up and ran downstairs. How could they not see through Daphne’s sheer evil? She was like the classic stepmother in all the fairy tales Emilia had ever read. Daphne comes in, all sickeningly sweet and perfect, offering to take over all the roles a mother would usually fill. Emilia and her family didn’t need another mother, especially not one like Daphne. Didn’t Daphne understand that she was unwanted?

Emilia sighed and trudged downstairs. The rest of her family was seated at the table, enjoying a breakfast of pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs, and orange juice. Daphne beamed at Emilia and patted the only spot left — next to her. Emilia frowned.

“Um, I’m not really hungry, so I think I’ll just go back to my room, if that’s O.K.” Emilia started heading back toward the stairs.

“Hold on there, sweetie,” her dad called. “Daphne worked so hard to make us this amazing breakfast. The least you could do is sit down with us and try it.”

Dad, don’t you see what she’s trying to do???” Emilia tried to send brainwaves to her father, but receiving no response, plopped back down on her seat. She took a tiny bite of a pancake.

“So, what do you think?” Daphne eagerly asked.

“It’s kinda dry. Mom’s were a lot better,” Emilia said. Daphne frowned. “Oh, O.K. … .”

Emilia’s father glared at her, signaling he was mad. Emilia got up and said, “Well, I tried it, and now I’m gonna go to the park. Bye!” She grabbed her book of fairy tales and her shoes, and ran out the door before anyone could say anything else.

Before Emilia’s mother died, the two shared a special bond with fairy tales. Every weekend morning, they would go to Anderson Park and read together. It was their special thing, and what Emilia looked forward to all week. Even after her mother had passed away, Emilia just couldn’t let go of the tradition, and her family always respected that she needed to do this. But now that Daphne was here, it was a whole new story. Her dad wanted everyone to spend the weekend mornings together more often, and that cut into Emilia’s reading time. It was horrible. Emilia sighed. But for now, at least, she could sit back and relax. As Emilia wandered through Anderson Park, she found the tree she was looking for. It was the special oak tree that Emilia and her mother always sat down against when they read fairy tales together. They had a special book of compiled fairy tales. Emilia had memorized every single one of them, but didn’t mind reading them again. She liked the same, comforting, happy endings they contained.

Emilia had been sitting there for around an hour, when she heard her father’s voice behind her.

“Hey, Emilia. We all decided to come join you for a family picnic in the park.” Emilia groaned internally and plastered on a fake smile.

“Great! I’m coming, just give me one second.” The rest of her family went off to find a good spot to lay down their things. Emilia sighed. For her, Anderson Park had been the only safe refuge she had left, since Daphne had taken over her home. It was the only place where she could experience the comfort and memories of reading with her mother. If Daphne came here as well, there would be no place left for Emilia to go.

She got up and walked over to the checkered blanket that her so-called family was sitting upon.

“Hi honey! We ordered some pizza, and I dug out your mom’s old recipe books, and made her famous fruit salad!” Daphne beamed at Emilia, holding out one of her mother’s books.

“No … no she didn’t … she WOULDN’T!!!” Emilia’s brain raced. How dare Daphne touch her mother’s old recipe books? Emilia’s mother had told her that the recipe books would go to her, not some nosy stepmother! Also, where did Daphne get off calling her “honey”? How could her father allow this to happen? Emilia shakily took the recipe book. She flipped through the pages, when she saw something that made her blood boil.

“Daphne, did you do this?!” Emilia held out a page that had been almost ripped from the book itself. Daphne smiled.

“Oh honey, I’m sorry. I must have done that when I was flipping through the book. But I promise it’s repairable, we can piece it together.” Daphne smiled apologetically, and reached out to take the book from Emilia’s hands. Emilia glared at Daphne and held it tighter.

“No,” she said. “No, you don’t deserve this. You come into my life, trying to take over my mother’s role, you brainwash my dad and my brothers, and now you are DESTROYING what was supposed to be MY MEMORIES OF MY MOTHER! I hate you, Daphne! I HATE YOU!,” Emilia screamed and ran. The last thing she saw was Daphne’s tear-streaked face.

Emilia ran to the very edge of Anderson Park. There, she curled up against a rock. She felt bad about making Daphne cry like that. Then again, didn’t Daphne deserve it? But she was only trying to help out with Emilia’s family. Emilia’s brain argued with itself for a while like that, until her feeling of guilt overwhelmed everything. Why couldn’t she have just told Daphne how she was feeling? Why did she do this? Daphne didn’t deserve what Emilia said. Daphne had been trying so hard to fit in and help out. As Emilia sat there crying, thinking about what she had done, she heard a voice.

“Emilia? Honey? Are you there?” Emilia sniffled and wiped her tears.

“H-hello?” Daphne burst into the little clearing where Emilia was sitting, and wrapped her arms around Emilia.

“Oh, honey, I thought we’d never find you! Oh, I’m so sorry! I never meant to make you feel this way, or ruin your mother’s recipe book.”

Emilia’s eyes widened. “You mean you still care about me? Even after what I did to you?”

Daphne looked at Emilia, confused.

“Of course, Emilia. I was worried sick about you. No matter what you think of me, I will always be there to make sure you’re O.K.”

Emilia smiled. “Daphne, I’m the one who should be sorry. I treated you like garbage when you were giving your all to make life easier for me, my dad, and my brothers. I never should have treated you like that. I hope we can start over.” Emilia hopefully looked up at Daphne.

“Of course we can, honey. Now let’s go find everyone else to let them know we found you.” Daphne held Emilia’s hand and started walking back, but Emilia hesitated.

“Um, Daphne, would you like to maybe read some fairy tales with me at the park later?” Emilia asked. Daphne turned back toward Emilia, silent for a moment, overcome with a flood of emotions.

“Of course I would,” Daphne softly said, smiling gently at Emilia.

Emilia beamed. As they ran off to find the rest of their family, Emilia noticed the sun setting down over the trees in Anderson Park. It was breathtaking. Daphne and Emilia slowed to a walk, as they gazed at the fiery ball descending into the trees.

“You know, maybe Dad and my brothers can wait a little longer,” Emilia said.

Daphne smiled.

“I agree.”