Marianne sat in her bed, bored except for the ladybugs to watch. Mom was busy downstairs doing the wash and trying to keep Joseph and Jimmy out of trouble. They were only three and couldn’t be left alone. But Marianne was older and didn’t need to be watched. She was the big girl. So big that Mom said she was a big helper. Marianne had even gotten a sweatshirt with “Junior Mom” embroidered on it. Embroidered was a big deal. She’d only had the press on pictures before. But the embroidered “Junior Mom” showed how much Mom loved her, because she’d done the embroidery and given Marianne the sweatshirt for her sixth birthday. It was a light pink and the lettering was bright pink. Marianne’s favorite color, pink, always reminded her of love – Valentine’s love. The color of the last valentine Daddy had given her before he left.
Her room was pink and white. Well, really, the only thing that was white was the wicker dresser. The rest — walls, carpet, drapes, bedding, even her hairbrush – were varying shades of pink, even the stuffed animals.
Today, a Thursday, Marianne was wrapped up like a sausage in her pink down comforter and sheets with only her fever, boredom and Lulu, her favorite rabbit, to keep her company. She was sandwiched in her bed under the fluffy comforter squashed on the side by her collection of books as she watched two ladybugs walk across the screen of her window. They took their time.
“Lulu,” Marianne spoke to the well-worn rabbit in her arms. “Where do those ladybugs come from? Mom says they come every fall to visit me. But it isn’t like we open the door and say, ‘Welcome to our home. Come in.'”
Lulu didn’t answer.
Marianne continued, “So, which corner do you think they will walk to? I think that one.” She pointed to the upper right corner of the window. Pulling Lulu to her ear to listen closer, Marianne strained to hear. “You think the other corner? The top left?” Marianne listened intently as Lulu continued. Murmuring to her special wooby, she nodded her head. “You want a race? Yes. Yes. Okay.”
Together, the best friends watched the two ladybugs.
At first, the ladybugs stayed still, clinging to the screen with their six legs delicately gripping the fiberglass yarns. Slowly, they started to move. “Yes,” Marianne spoke softly cheering her ladybug on. Her race bug was heading to the upper right corner. “Yes. Yes. Go.” It flew for a moment, turning to the left. But then it stopped, perhaps to get his breath, landing on the screen inches closer to the left corner than the right. It was a long journey for such a little bug.
“Come on. You can do it.” Marianne crawled to her knees on the bed. Her voice rose with excitement as if she was cheering on the Chicago Bears, her favorite football team. “Go. Go. Go.” Still no movement.
Marianne imagined herself riding the flying race bug as a jockey rides a horse. Leaning forward, she patted the bug’s fat neck as her legs, covered by the four wings, gripped the back. “Go. Go. Go.” She held the reins and tapped the hindquarters with her heels leaning even closer to whisper, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
The ladybug started moving again. Three steps to the right. It stopped and turned to the left, where it noticed it rival, Lulu’s ladybug. “Wait. You’re going in the wrong direction,” Marianne coaxed. “No. This way.” The ladybug paused – sensing its jockey’s urgency. Marianne pulled the reins to the right as she leaned in the direction she wanted to go. “Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. This way.” The ladybug briefly turned right as if it meant to move, but it stopped again.
Marianne imagined holding a miniature carrot in front of her fine stead, encouraging it to move to the right corner. Looking over her left shoulder, she watched as Lulu rode his ladybug in a straight line toward the upper left corner of the window.
Whispering to the ladybug, Marianne leaned forward and urged it onward. “I believe in you. Yes. I do. You can do it.” One step at a time, Marianne’s ladybug started walking to the right corner.
Lulu and her ladybug stalled. Marianne watched Lulu pat the bug’s wings; her paw gently tapped the wing’s spots as she tried to urge the ladybug to the finish line.
“Yes. I believe. Yes. I believe. Yes. I believe,” Marianne’s voice grew louder and louder as she cheered her ladybug to the corner. “Yes. Yes. Yes. Go. Go. Yes. I believe.” Marianne’s heart beat faster and faster, almost exploding from her chest as they raced to the finish line. Triumphant, Marianne threw her fists in the air. The reins fell from her hands. She turned to look over her shoulder at their competition. They had beat Lulu and her ladybug by only a few inches. Victory!
“We did it!” In the bed, Marianne squeezed Lulu around her scrawny well-loved, pink neck. They bounced on the bed. Marianne shouted, “My ladybug won. We won. Yes! Yes! Yesssssss! We won.”
“Marianne, what is all the racket up here?” Mom smiled. She stopped in the doorway with a blue plastic basket of dirty laundry balanced on her right hip.
“Oh Mom, isn’t it wonderful? My ladybug and I won the race. We went to the top corner. The one over there by the roses. Isn’t it wonderful?”
“Yes sweetheart,” Mom chuckled. “Let me feel your head. You certainly look like you are feeling better.” She reached over and laid a cool hand on Marianne’s forehead, then her cheek. “Your fever is coming down. You should be able to get out of bed by dinner.”
“Oh Lulu. Isn’t that good news? We get to stay in bed and race ladybugs some more.” Marianne and Lulu chose the next two ladybugs that had flown onto the window. “I want that one. The one on the bottom. You can have the one next to it.” Together, they watched and cheered as their ladybugs crossed the racetrack of the screen. “Go. Go. Yes. I believe!” Marianne cheered. Her voice rose with anticipation. “Yes! Yes! Yessss.”
Mom closed the bedroom door. A chuckle could be heard, if Marianne had been listening.
“The only thing that would make this better Lulu was if the ladybugs were pink.”