By Linda Porter Carlyle
MacKenzie Isabelle Evans hunched into her jacket as she sat on the top back porch step. A sharp breeze skittered around the corner of the house and ruffled Mac’s red curls. Mac shivered. The outside cold matched the cold inside her.
Mabel walked delicately across the porch and rubbed her head against Mac’s arm. Mac scooped the cat into her lap and scratched her cheek. Mabel purred happily.
“You’re lucky,” Mac told Mabel. “You don’t have any worries at all!”
Mabel promptly began to lick a paw as if to say, “Well, you may feed me, but I still have to worry about keeping clean!” Mac laughed.
Mabel leaped off her lap and bounced away across the grass.
Mac hunkered down again and rested her head on her knees. She hated it when Mom didn’t feel good! All the terrible feelings she had had when Mom was sick with cancer returned every time Mom got sick with something ordinary. Even if it was only a cold and a stuffy nose like today. Mac shivered again. She wished there was something she could do to make Mom feel better.
Mac stood up. She bounced on her toes and flapped her arms to get warm. Then she jumped off the porch and jogged to the sidewalk.
Something bright yellow across the street caught her eye. Mr. Peters’s daffodils waved at her from behind his white picket fence.
Mac ran across the street to get a better look. She leaned over the fence and smiled. The daffodils, bowing this way and that on their tall green stems, looked like yellow trumpets that had just finished playing a jazzy song. Mom loved daffodils, Mac suddenly remembered. She wished she could take a bouquet of daffodils home to her! That would surely make her feel better!
Mac looked across Mr. Peters’s yard and frowned. Mr. Peters was known in the neighborhood for his beautiful flowers, but not for his generosity. Mac would never forget the time he had gruffly shouted at her not to touch his roses. And all she had been doing was smelling them!
The windows of Mr. Peters’s house were dark. Nobody seemed to be home. Mac carefully pushed open the squeaky garden gate and tip-toed into the yard. Mr. Peters would never miss just one daffodil!
Mac picked one of the tall flowers close to the ground. She studied it. One daffodil would look pretty lonesome in a vase all by itself. She picked another. And another. Suddenly Mac realized she was holding a whole handful of daffodil stems. She must have picked twenty flowers! It was a very beautiful bouquet.
It was a stolen bouquet! What had she been thinking? Mac slipped through the gate again and hurried back across the street. What was she going to do? If she gave the flowers to Mom, Mom would ask her where she’d gotten them. And it seemed so wasteful to throw them away. And where would she throw them anyway? If she put them in the big garbage can by the garage, Dad would see them when he emptied the trash and wonder why they were there. And he would ask Mom, and she wouldn’t know. Mac stood, frozen, on the lawn.
A door banged. “Hey!” Joseph shouted from his porch next door. “Were did you get the flowers?”
“Sh!” Mac hissed fiercely. “Be quiet!”
Joseph ran across the grass. “Why?” he asked.
Mac looked around. “Because I stole them,” she whispered.
“What?” Joseph yelped.
“Shhh!” Mac said. She glanced at Joseph and hung her head. “I wanted to do something to make my mom feel better because she’s sick,” Mac explained. “And I saw the flowers across the street in Mr. Peters’s yard. And I just sort of picked them. Without asking him because he isn’t home, and he wouldn’t let me have them anyway even if he was at home!” Mac stopped.
“What are you going to do?” Joseph asked. “Are you going to give your mother stolen flowers?”
“I don’t know!” Mac wailed.
Joseph thought for a minute. “I know!” he said. “When Mr. Peters comes home, you could tell him you want to buy some of his flowers. You know, like people buy flowers at the Grower’s Market. And then when he says, ‘OK,’ you could give him the money, and tell him that you’re sorry, and tell him that you already picked some when he was gone.”
“I don’t have any money!” Mac hollered.
“Oh,” Joseph said.
“I’m a terrible person!” Mac cried.
“But you’re sorry!” Joseph exclaimed. “That’s the important thing. And your mom will forgive you. And God will forgive you. And I think Mr. Peters will even forgive you! And I have three dollars. You can have the money to pay for the flowers.”
Mac stared at Joseph. “You’ll really give me three dollars to pay for them?” she asked.
Joseph nodded. “And I’ll go with you when you give your mom the flowers and tell her what you did.”
Mac wiped away a stray tear with the back of her hand. “You are a true friend!” she said.