Ten Rules for Living with My Sister

Ann M. Martin

Square Fish

Ten Rules for Living with My Sister
1
Half an hour ago my sister locked me out of her room. Then she opened her door long enough to hang this sign on it:
Then she closed the door again. It was the sixth time Lexie had hung the NO PEARL sign this month.
When I saw the sign, I went to my own room, put onmy pirate costume, and made a sign that said MY FEET SMELL. I hung it on Lexie's door underneath the NO PEARL sign and waited for my sister to come out.
I had to wait a long time, and I got a little bored. This was nothing new. I never know what to do with myself. Which is one of the differences between Lexie and me. Here are some others:
 
First I waited for Lexie standing up. When my feet got tired, I sat down in the hallway. Bitey came along and crawled in my lap. Bitey's full name is Dr. Bitey McCrabby. He doesn't bite very often, and he's only crabby sometimes, which is why I let him be my boyfriend. I don't know where the doctor part of his name came from. A lot of things happened before I was born. One of them was naming Bitey. Lexie was three when she heard him meowing in the alley next to our apartment building. The vet figured Bitey was five months oldthen, which means he's ten now, which means I'm the youngest person in our family.
Lexie suddenly opened the door to her room and found Bitey and me sitting in the hall. The moment she saw us, she crossed her arms. "Pearl," she said, "do you know why I hung the sign? It's because if you are going to come in my room, I insist that you wear clothes. No more underwear visits. And I have to invite you first."
I shooed Bitey out of my lap, stood up, and removed my eye patch so I could see Lexie better. "How about if I wear my new underwear?" I asked. "It doesn't have any holes."
"No."
"What if you're in your underwear?"
"That will never happen."
My sister has a lot of rules these days, and many of them involve privacy.
Lexie turned around and noticed the MY FEET SMELL sign. She snorted, pulled it off of her door, walked down the hall, and stuck it on my door. Then she went back in her room and closed the door again. The NO PEARL sign was still hanging. I considered removing it, but the last time I did that, Lexie just made another one.
I threw away the MY FEET SMELL sign and changed out of my pirate costume and into a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans.
The doorbell rang, and I ran to answer it. No onewas in the hallway outside our apartment, which is #7F, which means it's the F apartment on the seventh floor.
"Justine!" I called. "I know you did that!"
Justine peeked out from where she'd been hiding behind the door to the service elevator. There are two elevators in our building, the regular one, which is in the hall, and the service elevator, which is behind a door marked SERVICE and is for delivery people and people who are walking their dogs. Almost everybody in our building who has a dog forgets to take the dogs up and down in the service elevator. No one cares about this except for Mrs. Mott, who lives on the tenth floor and is crabby and hates children in addition to dogs.
Justine was giggling. She jumped into the hall, letting the SERVICE door slam behind her. She plays this trick on me about 5x a week. It was funny the first 60x. Now it isn't so funny.
Justine Lebarro is seven years old and my best friend. She's in first grade at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, which is a few blocks away from our apartment building in the West Village, which is a neighborhood in New York City. Emily Dickinson was a poet. I'm in fourth grade at Emily Dickinson. (Lexie goes to a middle school, since she's thirteen-going-on-fourteen and is in eighth grade.)
One interesting thing is Justine is in first grade butshe's supposed to be in second, and I'm in fourth grade but I wish I were in third. Justine is on her second round of first grade since she hasn't exactly learned to read yet. All her last-year first-grade friends went on to second grade and she misses them. If I were Justine I would be thrilled. I would love to have gotten rid of Jill and Rachel and Katie and the rest of my last-year third-grade friends, but unfortunately we all went on to fourth grade together where, once again, I am the youngest kid in my class.
Justine lives down the hall in apartment #7D.
I held my finger to my lips. I had just had a great idea. "Shhh," I said to Justine. "Come on in."
"Why are you whispering?" she asked.
I shook my head and motioned for her to follow me.
We tiptoed past the kitchen and the family room and down the hall with the bedrooms and bathrooms and Mom's office. My bedroom is the smallest of all and it's at the very end of the hall. I closed my door quietly.
"Did you notice anything as we passed Lexie's room?" I asked Justine when we were sitting on my bed. Bitey had crawled into my lap, so Justine had moved to the exact opposite end of the bed since Bitey once almost bit her.
"No. I couldn't see in. Her door was closed."
"Exactly. Did you see what was on her door?"
"Oh. Is the NO PEARL sign up again?"
I nodded. "So I think we should scare Lexie."
Justine brightened. "Okay!"
"All right. You go back out in the hall and stand there and call, 'Lexie! Lexie!' I'll be right outside her door, and when she opens it to see what's wrong with you, I'll jump at her and go, 'Boo!' She hates that."
"Hates it," agreed Justine.
I opened my door and gave Justine a little push. She walked a few steps down the hall and said, "Lexie?"
I flattened myself against the wall by Lexie's door.
"Lexie?" said Justine again.
"Louder," I whispered.
"Lexie!!"
Lexie flung her door open. "What?"
"Boo!" I shouted.
Lexie jumped straight up in the air, as if her legs had cartoon springs attached to them. "Aughhh!" she shrieked.
Down the hall another door opened. My mother stuck her head out of her office. "Girls? What on earth is going on? Oh, hi, Justine."
"Hi, Mrs. Littlefield."
"Lexie? Pearl? What's the matter? I'm trying to work."
My mother, whose complete name is Adrienne Read Blackburn Littlefield, is a writer. She writes books for children. But all the books just say "By A. Littlefield." We are not supposed to disturb Mom unless it is an emergency.
Scaring Lexie was not an emergency. But that didn'tstop her from saying, "Pearl is being a giant pest. As usual."
"Do you think you can work this out yourselves, girls?"
Lexie glared at me. "Do not," she said, "I repeat, do not bother me again. Can't you see the sign?"
"I thought the NO PEARL sign meant I'm supposed to be dressed when I go in your room." Or was it that Lexie was supposed to invite me in? I wasn't sure. Sometimes Lexie's rules were confusing.
I looked at my mother, but she had already ducked back into her office. Before I was born, my bedroom was Mom's office, but then I came along and she had to move into a closet.
Lexie closed her door again, so Justine and I went back to my room and I found the game of Sorry! and got prepared to play the way I have to play when my opponent is Justine. In other words, I got prepared to remind her what every card means, and to help her figure out every move to make. I don't mind doing this. If I had trouble remembering rules, I would still want someone to play Sorry! nicely with me. We had barely started the game, though, when I realized that I hadn't done my chore for the day.
"Uh-oh," I said. "I forgot to get the mail. Want to come downstairs with me?"
Justine was on her feet in a flash. She likes to ride theelevator without adults so that she can pretend she's nine years old and we're twins.
"Going to the lobby!" I called as I passed Lexie's room. "I have to get the mail." I grabbed the mailbox key and the spare key to #7F, which hang on a hook next to the bulletin board in the kitchen. Those are the only keys I ever get to use. Lexie has her own key to the apartment, Mom has a key to the apartment and six other keys, and Dad has a key to the apartment and five other keys. I have absolutely no keys of my own.
Justine and I rode the elevator to the lobby with Mrs. Mott, who was coming down from the tenth floor and who spoiled Justine's twin game by saying, "Justine Lebarro, where are your parents?"
Justine didn't answer her, and Mrs. Mott huffed away through the lobby and out onto Twelfth Street.
John was standing by the doorman's desk. "Hello, Pearl! Hello, Justine!" He's our favorite doorman. When Justine's balloon from the street fair slipped off her wrist and floated to the lobby ceiling, John got a ladder and rescued it.
"Hi, John," we said.
Just then Mr. Thompson, who is wrinkled and old and reminds me of my grandfather, Daddy Bo, came in from outside, walking his dog, Hammer, and got on the regular elevator, not the service one.
"It's a good thing Mrs. Mott didn't see that," I said toJohn. Then I led Justine into the mailroom, found the box with 7F on it, opened it with the key, and took out three magazines and a handful of envelopes.
We rode the elevator back to the seventh floor and I looked through the mail while Justine said things like, "I am so excited about trying out for the fourth-grade play" and "Tomorrow let's go shopping for matching dresses, okay, twin?"
I let us back into my apartment with the spare key and returned both keys to the hook in the kitchen. I looked longingly at that hook and wished it were a key chain instead. One that was pink and had PEARL spelled out in blue and green gems from the crafts store. Then I sorted the mail into three piles: a pile of magazines for my parents, a little pile of envelopes for Dad, and another little pile of envelopes for Mom.
"Hey!" I exclaimed. "I got a postcard!"
Justine jumped up and down 3x. "Who's it from?" she asked.
"Daddy Bo." I looked at the postmark. New Jersey, so he wasn't on vacation or anything. "Here, I'll read it out loud. 'Dear Pearl, Hi! How are you? Yesterday Will Henderson and I went on a bus trip to Philadelphia.' Mr. Henderson is Daddy Bo's next-door neighbor," I told Justine. I turned back to the postcard. "'We saw the Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross House.'"
"They went on a field trip?" asked Justine.
"A grown-up one, I guess. Anyway, then he writes, 'We didn't get home until ten at night! Love, Daddy Bo.'"
"Ten!" exclaimed Justine. "That's almost midnight."
I love Daddy Bo. He never asks how school is or who my friends are (besides Justine). And when he sees me, he never says how much I've grown. Three other things I like about Daddy Bo are:
1. He chews gum, the good kind, not sugarless
2. On my birthday he always gives me $5 in addition to a present
3. One time he went to Egypt and he rode a camel, which is a desert animal that has a hump and can spit
There was a knock on the door then, and Mrs. Lebarro called from the hallway, "Justine! Time to come home!"
At the same moment, my mother poked her head out of her office and called, "Pearl! Please start your homework."
Justine groaned and left. And I groaned and went to my room. I absolutely hate doing homework.
One good thing was that Lexie had taken down the NO PEARL sign.
TEN RULES FOR LIVING WITH MY SISTER. Copyright © 2011 by Ann M. Martin.