when cassie is nine, she wakes up on christmas morning and her first thought is, i got a new bike. she knows it. she knows it, in her bones: she got a new bike. pink. with little pompoms on the handlebars. she’d asked for it and asked for it and asked for it and it’s downstairs, under the tree, she knows it.
her second thought is: priam is going to break it.
this is a surprising thought, for a host of reasons. first of all, it’s a small bike. why would priam, three years older and basically one hundred feet taller, want to ride cassie’s new little girl bike? priam’s twelve. he doesn’t like girl stuff. it’s like a whole thing, with him. he used to do tea parties and play dolls with her when she asked but now every time she does he’s like, “no cassie, those are girl games,” and this confuses her because the games are the same as they were when he’d play them before. why are they girl games now, when they were just games before?
whatever. priam is weird. he’s the best big brother in the world, but he’s weird, too. this year he decided he’s not going to go trick or treating or dress up for halloween, which cassie just doesn’t get because halloween is the best day of the year? you get candy? you get to dress up like gross monsters???
cassie goes downstairs, and there it is, just like she thought. it hasn’t been wrapped very well. she can tell it’s a bike even with the paper still on. it’s beautiful. shiny. perfect. it has a little basket and the basket is big enough for cassie to put in her stuffed animal deer, named gregory, who is her best friend. they solve mysteries together, around the neighborhood. last week she solved the crime of who was putting all the mailbox flags up even when nobody had mail (it was the paperboy).
at breakfast they go around the table and they have to say two things they’re grateful for — one material, one not — and cassie says, “i’m grateful for my bike and i’m grateful that i get another year with gregory before priam crashes my bike and kills him,” and everyone looks at her from the corners of their eyes and her mother says, “cassie, that’s not very nice, why would priam break your bike?” and she says, “i don’t know ask priam,” and priam says, “i don’t care about your stupid bike, it’s a girl bike,” and then cassie starts to cry because what’s so wrong with being a girl, anyway? priam used to like doing stuff with cassie and now he doesn’t, because the stuff she likes is girl stuff, because she’s a girl. her bike is just a bike, isn’t it? doesn’t it do all the stuff boy bikes do, but better, because it has a basket big enough for gregory?
“i just know you are,” she cries, and priam rolls his eyes and says, “whatever, crybaby,” and cassie says, “you’re gonna be sorry, you’re gonna be so sorry and i won’t even you for it no matter how hard you cry!”
overall, it’s not a very good christmas.