Five-year-olds Madison and Madelyn Stewart trailed after their mother up the front walk of Mrs. Stone’s house. Usually their babysitter Natalie took care of them on Saturdays while their mom was at work, but today, Natalie had called to say she was sick.
“Thank you so much for a taking care of my girls,” Julie said, quickly kissing each girl on top of their head before rushing off. The girls watched from the open doorway as she rushed back to her car, her high heels clicking along the cement walk.
Mrs. Stone was over six feet tall with long, straight, gray hair that hung down to her waist. She had giant, round, black-rimed glasses that sat halfway down her nose and, along with her pursed lips, gave the illusion that she was part fish.
She ushered the girls inside and the door gave a resounding thud as it closed behind them. Sunlight shone through the windows, it’s beams catching the multitude of dust particles hanging in the air like glitter.
They dragged their feet as the followed her into the kitchen. On the table, laid out on a pale pink towel, was what looked like the entire contents of her jewelry box. They scrambled onto chairs and stood on tiptoe to have a closer look.
Most of it was cheap costume jewelry, but the girls didn’t know any better. They quickly snatched up strings of fake pearls, beads, and bangle bracelets. Soon each girl had multiple lengths of necklaces hung from their necks, bracelets up to their elbows, and a broach pinned beneath each of their shoulders. They were both grinning from ear to ear.
Then, Mrs. Stone brought out the gloves and helped each girl pull on the silky material. Madison in blue, and Madelyn in yellow.
“Can we keep these?” Madelyn asked, her eyes wide looking eager and hopeful.
Mrs. Stone laughed. “No sweetheart, not these. But, I do have something you can have.” She gave them a quick wink before turning to the jewelry box the girls thought was empty.
They exchanged a grin as Mrs. Stone opened a tiny, hidden drawer in the box and pulled out a ring. It was gold with a giant black stone set in the middle. She held it up between her thumb and forefinger. It was tiny. The perfect size for a child.
Mrs. Stone leaned forward and gave them a sly grin. “Whoever is the best behaved today can have the ring when you go home today.”
The girls’ smiles flickered. “Only one of us gets the ring?” Madison asked. Madelyn frowned.
Mrs. Stone just nodded and smiled. Then, she tucked the ring back into the box. “How about a tea party?”
* * *
That evening, when the Julie came to pick up the girls, they jumped up and down excitedly asking to see who would get the ring.
“What’s this?” Julie asked, a nervous smile on her face as Mrs. Stone left to get the ring.
“Mrs. Stone promised to give the best-behaved girl a ring.” Madison said.
“It’s so pretty,” Madelyn said, clasping her hands together.
Julie’s smile turned to a grimace.
Mrs. Stone came back into the room holding the ring triumphantly in her hand. “The winner is” she gave a long pause. The girls practically vibrated with excitement.
“Madison.” She finished making a sweeping gesture as she presented the ring to Madison. Maddison slowly reached up and tentatively took the ring grinning from ear to ear. “Look Mom!”
As she slid the ring on her finger, Madelyn dissolved into tears and sobbed as they walked back to the car. Once the front door shut behind them, Julie started muttering under her breath about the stupidity of giving a gift to only one of the girls.
* * *
That night, Madison carefully placed the ring on her nightstand while Madelyn glared at her. They both climbed into bed, but while Madison was able to fall asleep right away, Madelyn tossed and turned thinking about how unfair it was that she didn’t get that ring.
Finally, unable to take it any longer, she quietly crept out of bed and tiptoed to her sister’s nightstand guided by the pale blue light of the nightlight. She picked up the ring, feeling the weight of it in her palm.
Just as she was about to slip it on her finger, Madison woke up. “What are you doing?” she demanded.
Without saying a word, she slipped the pilfered ring on her finger and vanished.