||"I'm ready to leave for the mall," Aunt Dolores announced. "Who's coming with me?"
"Me!" Violet yelled. She bounced around the kitchen on a large orange ball.
"Me, too," her older sister, Mabel, said.
Both eight-year-old Mabel and five-year-old Violet were excited. This was no ordinary shopping trip.
Aunt Dolores was getting married to her longtime boyfriend, Howard.
Mabel and Violet were going to be the flower girls in their wedding.
And today they were going to shop for a wedding dress for Aunt Dolores, for dresses for the flower girls, and for other necessary things.
Mabel had never been part of a wedding before. She had never been a flower girl. She had never even seen a bride up close.
She couldn't wait to walk down the aisle right before the bride. She couldn't wait to wear a lovely new dress and carry a basket of flowers.
She couldn't wait to be part of Aunt Dolores's big day.
Of course, Violet was going to be part of it too.
That was unfortunate. But it couldn't be helped.
Mabel had worn jeans and a neat button-down shirt for the shopping trip. Her hair was pulled back with two matching barrettes.
In one hand, she carried a small blue bag. In the other, she had a glossy wedding magazine. There was a list taped to the front cover.
"I've been reading up on the latest trends," she said. Mabel had spent hours studying the magazine.
She read from the list. "Layers are in. Pastels are out. Red is the new pink."
"Oh, dear," Aunt Dolores said. "It's so much to remember."
"Don't worry," Mabel said. "I've got most of it in my head, Aunt Dolores. This list is just a memory aid."
"Thank goodness you're coming along," her aunt said. "You'll be a great help."
Mabel beamed. She loved it when people said that.
"I'm here for you," she said.
Violet kept on bouncing. "Hopping and shopping!" she chanted. "Hopping and shopping! I'm ready, too."
Well, Violet was as ready as she ever got.
She wore a striped dress with plaid tights and a short polka-dot jacket.
Mabel shielded her eyes. It hurt to look at her sister.
It hurt to think of the stares and comments they were going to get.
And she wished that Violet would quite acting like a noisy windup toy.
This was a special outing. Didn't she know how to behave?
But Aunt Dolores only smiled at Mabel and Violet. "I'm so excited that you two will be with me today. Think of all the good times we've had together," she said.
Aunt Dolores closed her eyes. "The picnics, the playgrounds, the water parks, the zoo…"
"And I played piano at your engagement party," Mabel reminded her.
Well, it wasn't actually an engagement party. It was really a barbeque. Mabel had played a short concert for their friends and neighbors.
Afterward, Howard and Dolores had made a surprise announcement: They were engaged to be married.
"You played beautifully," Aunt Dolores sighed.
"Remember when I played the kazoo at the zoo?" Violet said all of a sudden.
Mabel rolled her eyes. Playing kazoo at the zoo wasn't at all the same as playing a concert on a grand piano.
"No one has better nieces than I do," Aunt Dolores said. She glanced at the clock. "It's time to get going, girls."
Violet picked up her purse.
"You're not bringing that purse," Mabel said.
"Yes I am," Violet said.
"Can't you leave it at home?"
Violet folded her arms across it.
The purse was shiny yellow. It had stickers everywhere. It had marker scribbles. It had little stuffed animals glued to its sides.
The purse made people laugh.
It made Mabel blush.
"Aunt Dee!" Mabel pointed at Violet. "She can't go to the mall with that!"
But Aunt Dolores only patted Violet's arm. "You look as pretty as a picture."
"The kind of picture that gets hidden in the back of the closet," Mabel said under her breath.
Aunt Dolores tied a silk scarf around her neck. Then she opened the door. "We have a lot to do today, girls."
"I sit behind Aunt Dolores!" Violet raced to the car.
Mabel walked slowly.
She was the older, more mature sister.
She didn't fight over who sat where. She didn't carry hideous purses with stuffed animals glued to the sides. She didn't wear polka dots and plaids in the same outfit.
She was prepared, calm, organized, and very responsible.
One of these days, Aunt Dolores would notice. Mabel was a much better niece than Violet.