Braelyn looked with envy at the pretty girl’s dresses. Today was Anna Atherne’s birthday party. Everyone adored Anna. She was the rich girl; her parent’s bought her anything she wanted. Anna was turning eight years old, and her parents had hired a tailor to design and sew a special dress just for Anna. And there she was, pivoting gracefully in her beautiful, puffy, aquamarine ball dress. Braelyn was immediately jealous. Anna’s friends, Mary and Sophie watched as Anna unwrapped pretentious, exquisite boxes of present after present. The girls laughed with delight at the baby dolls with golden, silk hair and blue eyes, the doctor kit, the boxes of little sweets, and the fragile porcelain tea sets. Braelyn watched from the side. She wasn’t invited to the party. No one wanted to invite odd, red-head Braelyn to their party. Then Anna’s three-year-old brother, Jacob, came whizzing around the corner with his remote-control-car. Braelyn’s eyes widened. She had heard about these remote-control-cars, and only the richest people could afford the newest entertaining toy. Anna, Mary, and Sophie squealed as they chased the car around. Jacob grinned at all of the attention. Braelyn felt sad and left-out as she watched the festive activities go on without her. Just then, Anna happened to catch sight of Braelyn standing at the neat, white-washed fence. Anna pointed at Braelyn. “Oh, look! It’s Braelyn!” Anna jeered in a shrill voice. “Poor Braelyn can’t come to any birthday party, she doesn’t have enough money!” Sophie and Mary burst into giggles. They started chanting, “Poor Braelyn! Poor Braelyn!” Braelyn smoldered with fury, and she felt her face getting hot. She yelled defiantly, “We are not poor! Stop being such a meanie you liar!” Braelyn felt satisfied, and when Anna burst into tears, her satisfaction grew even more. Anna wailed so loudly that eventually her parents were driven out of their comfortable home. “What is it sweetie?” Anna’s mother cooed. Anna turned her tear-stricken face towards the obstinate red head at the gate. “Braelyn called me a meanie and said I was a liar!” She stressed in her most babyish voice. “Oh, sweetie!…” the mother comforted her spoiled child as she led her into the house. Anna’s father glared at Braelyn; hatred and defiance slicing through his slitted, clear blue eyes, making Braelyn’s insides melt. “Braelyn!” Braelyn’s mother called. Braelyn turned from the scary stare that made her want to cry. “Coming!” Braelyn replied to her mother’s call from down the street. She skipped along the narrow stone path as she gazed at the beautiful forest and field Irish landscape. Braelyn wove through the neighbors’ potted lilies, tulips, and daisies. Finally, after dodging across several more neighbor’s houses, she arrived at the small, modest one-story cottage that Braelyn shared with her mother. The windows were so dusty that one could barely see out of them, and the door stood open on two broken hinges, but the hovel was Braelyn’s humble abode. She passed the vegetable garden, the green stems of potatoes, carrots, and turnips barely shooting up. Braelyn’s mother stood at the door with her hands on her hips. “Braelyn, I told you to not go over to Anna’s house.” Braelyn was a feisty little red-head, and had a hard time obeying her mother’s requests. “But mama, I couldn’t help going over there to see Anna’s presents,” Braelyn stated defensively. “Remember, last year Anna’s grandparents gave her a frozen yogurt machine! And the year before that, she got…” Braelyn’s mother promptly cut her off “Braelyn, I don’t care what Anna gets for her birthday, even if it is a bicycle. I told you not to go over there, and you disobeyed me.” Before Braelyn could protest, her mother scooped her up into her arms and held her close. A deadly silence creeped over the cold air as mother and daughter stood embracing. “Look Braelyn, I know it’s been hard since Papa died, and we have had to survive on what little money we have.” Braelyn was stunned, and fresh grief of her Papa’s death spread through her like wildfire. Mama’s voice shook a little as she continued, “And it’s even harder when you look at rich people’s belongings. It makes you jealous, and the Good Book says you mustn’t covet.” Braelyn nodded. She remembered last night when her mother had read that passage to her about the 10 Commandments. She remained silent as her mother carried her into the cottage and shut the door.
The next day, Braelyn was playing outside when she heard Anna coming down the path. Her eyes widened. Anna proudly rode a bicycle down the stone path. Braelyn’s jaw dropped. Anna looked pleased. She screeched to a halt right in front of Braelyn. “Like my birthday present?” Anna asked. “I got it yesterday.” Braelyn cautiously stepped forward. Her eyes sparkled. “Can I touch it?” Braelyn asked, stopping. Anna nodded, and Braelyn hesitantly creeped her hand forward to meet the cold, hard, shiny surface. She carefully moved her hand over the metal mechanism. Braelyn held her breath, she was aching to ask if she could ride it, but before her lips moved, her mother’s talk reached her mind. She unwillingly remained silent. A simple question broke the silence:
“Would you like to ride it? I can teach you how.”
Anna looked hopefully at Braelyn, awaiting an answer. Braelyn was shocked. She almost fell over but luckily steadied herself and grasped the wooden sticks that served as a fence. It must have been her imagination, Anna couldn’t have asked Braelyn if she wanted to ride her bicycle, Braelyn had thought that Anna was completely void of kindness. She was speechless. Anna hopped down. “Here, I’ll show you how to ride it. Sit down on this seat.” The afternoon passed and Anna and Braelyn laughed and talked together and took turns riding Anna’s bicycle. Braelyn’s mother peered through the dusty window; a tear glistened on her soft cheek. Anna’s generosity had been an answer to prayer. The mother looked to the heavens gratefully.