Sue Ellen was supposed to be upstairs changing into her party dress, but she put on her new pink leotard, tutu and ballet slippers instead. She twirled down the third floor hallway to the stairs, where she stopped next to the grandfather clock to admire herself in the glass.
Outside, her classmates were taking turns hitting a yellow and brown piñata shaped like a lion. It was tied to a strong branch of the cherry tree out front. She could hear their laughter through the open front door, two floors below.
In the glass of the clock, she saw the red balloon rise up behind her, on the other side of the railing. A single balloon, red with a white string. It came to rest next to the chandelier, which was lit for her birthday party, despite the brightness of the day.
The children in the front yard shrieked as one of the boys delivered a hard hit with the Louisville slugger, nearly breaking open the side of the lion.
It was such a pretty red balloon. Sue Ellen loved them. The white string seemed just low enough to reach, but she would have to go up on both flat toes of her new pink toe shoes, and stretch her arm up high. She was pretty sure she could do it, but her finger tips didn’t quite touch it. She needed a few more inches.
A second hard blow was delivered to the piñata, and it cracked near the back leg but not enough to spill the candy inside.
In the bathroom Sue Ellen found a wicker laundry basket, which she dumped out on the tile floor, and over-turned on the hall runner right next to the railing. She stepped onto the basket, still in her toe shoes, and leaned up, one small hand on the top bar, the other reaching for the white string attached to the red balloon.
With the third blow to the lion’s side, it split open, spilling colorful lollipops and hard candy wrapped in shiny clear wrappers.
Sue Ellen reached the string, but the railing caught her mid-shin, just as the laundry basket started to slide away from her. She tumbled, not un-gracefully, over the rail, the white string clutched in her fist, the puffy pink tulle of her tutu and the red balloon trailing after.
Under the cherry tree outside, her party guests scooped up handfuls of candy underneath a soft shower of slowly falling cherry blossoms.