Madeline and Penelope skipped through the fields on the outskirts of town and laughed gleefully. The smell of flowers and hot grass rose up thick in the air around them. The afternoon sun glowed in their hair and lit up their joyful faces.

“Oh my perfect Penelope, it’s ever so exciting!”

“What’s ever so exciting, my magnificent Madeline?”

“I’m not quite sure.” Penelope twirled on the spot, the hem of her dress brushing the tops of the flowers. “The colours! The smells! The sparkles! Sometimes I think if I were any more excited, I would just burst.”

“I know exactly what you mean, my dearest and most darlingly gorgeous Penelope! The other day I was walking down the street—carrying a basket of eggs for grandmama—and I could have just about fainted at the way the sunlight was glittering in the leaves of Mr Barry’s willow trees. I’ve never felt so thrilled in my life!”

Penelope picked a flower and sniffed it. “I say, that reminds me of the other night when it was raining. A few raindrops fell upon the jasmine vine outside my window. My goodness, how they sparkled in the moonlight! Oh, I could spontaneously combust thinking about it!”

They grabbed hands and giggled as they continued skipping through the fields. The sun was almost setting when they saw a figure sitting on a log in the distance.

“Say, Penelope, is that Mr Mathisen—Mrs Mathisen’s reasonably attractive Norwegian husband?”

“I think it is! Are there many Norwegians around here during this period of history?”

“What period of history is this and where are we?”

“I have no–”

“Oh gosh, Penelope! We must run as fast as our feet can take us in the other direction. I don’t think I will survive the way his eyes might sparkle in the peachy light of the sleepy sun. I think I might faint just thinking about it!”

“I couldn’t agree more, Madeline—this situation has become incredibly dangerous incredibly fast. But I’m afraid I can’t run! My knees have turned to the consistency of Aunt Maggie’s Christmas custard at the thought of what you’ve just described. Oh, why must this world be so full of such intense delights?”

Madeline glanced urgently back and forth between Penelope and Mr Mathisen. “Oh rats, my precious Penelope. He’s spotted us! He’s coming over! We must run!”

“But these flowers are so pretty bobbing in the breeze!”

“He’s coming! He’s coming!”

Madeline grasped Penelope’s hand and yanked her in the direction opposite Mr Mathisen. Penelope tried to use her legs, but it was impossible. There was just too much to be excited about and too many sparkles to be seen. She managed to place her right leg in front of the left, but she tripped and fell. Madeline attempted to catch her, and they fell to the ground together in a violent fit of giggly hysterics.

“Oh no, Penelope! He’s coming, and we’re stuck on the ground! His hair will be so golden in the sunlight. We’re going to die!”

Penelope heaved deep breaths and wiped tears from her flushing face. “We must keep our eyes closed, my darling Maddie—it’s our only chance.”

They shushed each other as the sound of footsteps on the grass grew louder and louder. A voice called out, but they didn’t respond. They held their breaths when the footsteps stopped.

“What are you girls doing?”

“Greetings, Mr Mathisen,” said Madeline.

“Why are you lying on the ground with your eyes shut?”

“It’s a British thing, Mr Mathisen,” said Penelope. “You’ll get used to it.”

“Yes, it’s all the rage these days, Mr Mathisen. All the young ladies lie on the ground with their eyes shut.”

“Is that so? Well, I guess I’ll leave you to it.”

The girls held each other urgently at the sound of footsteps fading. Penelope opened one eye and raised her head, catching a glimpse of Mr Mathisen walking into a patch of trees.

“Oh, Maddie!”

“What is it?”

“I just realised he’s in his riding boots.”

“Close your eyes!”

“They go all the way up to his Norwegian knees.”


“It’s okay.” Penelope lay her head back down on the ground and shook Madeline, as if to wake her up. “He’s gone.”

The two girls exhaled in relief and clasped hands.

“Do you think we’re going to survive, Madeline? Do you think we can survive this ridiculous world full of sparkles and raindrops and Mr Mathisens?”

“I think we’ll live to be very, very old—if Mr Mathisen doesn’t murder us—but we’ll never seem very, very old.”

Penelope laughed so hard that she burst into tears. For a very brief moment, she thought of all the people who didn’t get to live to be very, very old. Madeline grabbed Penelope’s face as if she were trying to pull a cabbage out of the ground and started crying too.

“Why are you crying? Why am I crying?”

“I don’t know!”

“Oh Penelope!”

“It’s just all so intense!”

They cried for a few more minutes, before rolling onto their backs and gazing up at the sky.

“The first star!” Penelope pointed. “See?”

“Oh, look how it twinkles!”

“So beautiful!”

“So sparkly!”

The End