In Which I Am Undone By The Neighborhood Princess

Last Easter, inspired by the traditional cookies-and-milk-for-Santa routine, I told Jackson that if he put out a cup of organic peeled baby carrots at night, the Easter Bunny would leave him a gift.

In the morning, Jackson found an empty carrot cup, a basket full of chocolate eggs, and a lovely soft bunny that he named "Easter." (Well, why not.)

So, la-dee-da. When it got a little warmer, one day he was out on the playground with two older girls, Jasmine and Aimee. The three of them had gathered a bunch of stuffed animals and blankets, and Barnabas Collins only knows what they were doing out there, I tend to let things like that go unsupervised, I just peek out the window every five or ten minutes to make sure no one's been strung up by their ankles from the monkey bars with a jump rope.

At the end of the day when they were cleaning up, Jasmine asked if she could borrow Easter.

Jasmine, it must be said, is the neighborhood princess. I have watched her annoy the shit out of every single kid on the block, but, amazingly, they all still play with her. She's a manipulative, backstabbing little twit who has tried to turn other kids against Jackson to make him cry just for fun and I can't stand her, and Jackson said yes, you can borrow Easter.

That was last summer. About two weeks ago Easter's extended vacation in Jasmine's room pole-vaulted into my consciousness -- I have a life-long tendency to FREAK when my belongings go missing and start drawing up a list of suspects, who I then spend a lot of time glaring at until they finally shout WHAT THE FUCK, MRS. KENNEDY?!

But since I don't really want to lay that trip on Jackson* I casually reminded him that Easter was just around the corner and he should ask Jasmine to give him back his bunny.


So he asked her. Twice. I saw him.

No bunny.

A week later I saw Jasmine out on the grass while I was walking Cookie. I walked up to Jasmine and, curbing my impulse to push her into a bush, I politely but straightforwardly asked her if she'd please bring Easter back. She looked away mildly and said she'd do it soon. I didn't like "soon," but I let it go.

No Easter. So, yesterday morning I saw her on the playground with another neighbor girl and, because I'm a fucking creepy psycho stalker, I took Cookie with me again (nothing says "weak!" like using a bulldog for emotional support when you confront a ten-year-old girl) and I said, "Jasmine, would you bring back Jackson's bunny today please?"

She didn't even look up from whatever she was doing, coloring or some shit. She just said, "Probably."

Something inside me snapped. "No," I said, in a voice that made the other girl sit up just a little straighter and blink, "not probably, definitely. You've had it for almost a year -- sweetie."

I was pissed. Not only that a ten-year-old girl was pushing my buttons. But that Jackson's beloved (though let's face it, he'd managed without Easter for nine months without shedding a tear and maybe I liked her more than he did) bunny was being HELD HOSTAGE by this passive-aggressive little pipsqueak. And I couldn't go to her house and talk to her mom about it because I didn't know what number they lived in, and I also don't speak Spanish.

When Jack got home I told him everything that was whirling around the black nexus of my pathetic suburban existence.

"You have to let it go," he said.

"It's basic principle," I said. "What, does she think Jackson already has enough toys so it's okay to keep this one?"

"Jasmine has plenty of stuff," Jack said.

"Jasmine has more than enough stuff! I'm not the one who should feel uncomfortable. She's in the wrong."

"You could buy her another bunny," suggested Jack. " 'Here, this is to keep Easter company.' "

Creepy, right? Leave it to Jack. But too evil. I wasn't ready for that level yet.

We noticed Jasmine's older brother outside.

"Ask Emilio," said Jack.

So I put Cookie on her leash and also made Jackson come with me (because Emilio's kind of intimidating -- he's thirteen, you know). Emilio took out one earbud long enough to get the gist of my request, but he said he didn't think Jasmine had a stuffed animal of that description.

"He's just covering for her!" I thought to myself.

I went back inside and told Jack.

"You really have to let this shit go," he said.

"I will RUIN HER!" I cried, shaking my fist.

Jackson came back inside to tell me Jasmine was now outside on the play structure.

I leashed up Cookie, who couldn't believe her good luck, she hadn't had this many walks in one day in her entire life. We marched up to the playground. Jasmine hid behind a hedge.

"Hi, Jasmine," I said, cornering her, "Can you go get Easter now?"

"Uh," said Jasmine. Quickly, she gave me her address and unit number. Like, forcing her mom to deal with me in broken English? I don't think so.

"No, you need to go with us," I said.

We all started walking. A few neighbor kids started tagging along. The excitement! Jackson's mom is mad!

Jasmine stopped. "It's not there," she admitted.

Now she tried to spin out some story about having tried to give Easter back to Jackson but he left the bunny outside (yeah, right), and then some little girl came along and claimed it was hers, and Jasmine tried to tell the girl it was Jackson's, but then the little girl's dad came and then they took Easter away, possibly to Goleta?

I turned to Jackson. "Easter's gone."

"Maybe we could put up some signs around the complex," he said hopefully, "and the little girl will bring Easter back."

"I'm sorry, Jackson," said a neighbor boy who'd been listening and who apparently knew the whole story, "but maybe if you put out carrots again this year the Easter Bunny will bring you a new bunny!"

"Why didn't you just tell us this to begin with?" I asked Jasmine. (I still wasn't done with her, but I figured we'd gotten at least half the truth, and having soaked that much out of her I wasn't going to press for details.)

She shrugged. Without saying sorry, but whatever.

I let it go. I mean really, my heart unclenched.

Jasmine ran home.

I went back in and told Jack what happened.

"Well, congratulations, honey. You called a ten-year-old girl on her shit. Now will you please LET. IT. GO."

"After I blog about it!" I said.

That night at bedtime, Jackson cried about Easter. I didn't know what lesson this should have taught him. Not to trust Jasmine? To keep on asking questions until you get an answer? That his mother has his back no matter what?

Do you know where I can get a plush bunny with long ears and a ribbon around its neck before Sunday?

Yeah, gee, I don't know, Mrs. Kennedy, maybe in about a million different places?

I think I did want to teach Jackson not to let people take advantage of him, but I was also working out my own neurotic childhood weaknesses and being a total dick by bullying a little girl into admitting she was wrong.

Nothing like a story about tainted motives with an unsatisfactory outcome. My God, I can't wait to see what today brings.