“Virginia? Can you help me, please?”
Maryland was standing in my doorway, biting her lip nervously. One of her tiny hands was fluttering around the tie of her frilly dress, and the other was pulling at a curl of golden hair. I held my breath and kept silent, hoping she’d take the hint and leave.
Of course, being Maryland, she didn’t. Instead, she simply stood there, looking pathetic, until I could take it no longer.
“Yes?” I asked, swiveling around and adjusting my spectacles.
“V-Virginia…” Maryland whispered, tugging her hair even harder. “Can I ask you a question?”
You just did, I almost said, but caught myself just in time. “Shoot.”
“Um… well… I was thinking, you know-”
I fought to keep myself from rolling my eyes. Maryland, thinking? Amazing.
“And, well, I was wondering… Am- am I…” Her voice trailed off, and she flushed a delicate pink.
“Are you?” I prompted.
“Am I Northern or Southern?” she blurted, her cheeks reddening even more. I blinked.
“I mean- well, I don’t know! I asked Georgia, and she said Southern, but then I asked Massachusetts and he said Northern!”
“I really don’t know,” I said. “Look, Maryland, if that’s all you wanted to ask, then-”
Before I could finish my sentence, I found myself being violently shaken by the shoulders.
“You- don’t- understand!” Maryland shrieked. I gulped. The look in her eyes could only be described as… disturbing.
“I didn’t even take a side in the Civil War!” she continued, shaking me harder. “Oh, Virginia, what if I don’t belong in the Union at all? What if I’m just an outcast?”
“Maryland,” I said as calmly as I could, “every one of us belongs in the Union, you included. Now please stop shaking me.”
Maryland stopped and blinked rapidly. “You- you think so?” she sniffed.
“Absolutely,” I said, looking up at her from my current position on the floor.
“But Virginia-” Maryland started, looking unsure.
California chose that moment to walk in, dripping wet and clutching an oversized umbrella.
“Virginia, man, it’s hella raining out there, I- um, you know you’re lying on the floor, right? And- Maryland…? Am I interrupting something? I can, you know, leave-”
“Wait!” Maryland had gotten that psychotic look in her eyes again – at least this time it was directed at someone else. “California, you have to help me!”
California smiled at her. “Sure, what do you need?”
“I need you,” Maryland said, leaning forward and directing an intense stare at him, “to answer my question.”
California gulped nervously. “Oookay…?”
“Am I Northern… or Southern?”
California stared at her. Maryland stared back.
“Dude… I don’t know,” California finally said, shrugging.
“Please!” Maryland hissed, grabbing his shirt collar – no mean feat, considering California’s immense height. California’s eyes widened.
“Seriously, dude, I don’t know… I’m Western, I don’t know how things work out East… Maryland- Maryland, please don’t- Virginia, man, help me out here!”
“Hey, I brought peaches!” Georgia chirped, strolling into the room and swinging a large basket. “They’re- oh my God, Maryland, why are you throttling California? And why is Virginia huddled in the corner?”
Maryland turned to Georgia. “Georgia…” she said faintly. “No one’s answering me…”
Georgia sighed. “Is this about that North-South thing again?”
That’s when Maryland broke down and started sobbing hysterically. “Y-you said I was Southern, but Massachusetts said I’m Northern, and Virginia didn’t know, and California started acting weird!”
Georgia glanced at California, who had evidently found his own corner to huddle in.
“Honey,” Georgia said softly, placing a hand on Maryland’s shoulder, “honestly, it doesn’t matter.”
“It matters to me!” Maryland’s death glare was now directed full force on Georgia, who took a few quick steps backward.
“Honey, I’m sure we can figure something out. Why do you want to know so badly? It won’t change a thing…”
“Because!” Maryland wailed. “Everyone else has a national identity! You and Virginia are Southern, California’s Western, there’s the Midwest and the Southwest and the Northwest and I don’t fit in any of them!”
“Darling-” Georgia started tentatively, but was abruptly cut off by Delaware, who had just entered the room. Normally I would be irritated – I had never particularly liked Delaware – but now all I felt was relief. If anyone could snap Maryland out of her fit, it would be her brother.
“Virginia, I- Mary? What’s going on?”
Maryland turned her tear-streaked face to Delaware and stared at him for a moment, before breaking into a run and throwing herself into his arms.
“Whoa, sis,” Delaware said, staggering back a little. “What-”
“No one’s answering me!” Maryland yelled. Delaware cocked his head and looked confused.
“What’s your question?” he asked.
“Am I Northern or Southern?” Maryland asked, lip trembling. “I don’t know my national identity… Delly, how can I be a state if I don’t have a national identity? I should just secede now!”
“Why not be both?” Delaware asked.
Maryland goggled at him. “B-both…?”
“You said you didn’t feel like you belonged, right?” Delaware said, wrapping an arm around his sister’s shoulders. “Well, now you’ll belong double, because you’ll be part of both areas.”
“Yeah!” California said, pumping his fist. “Hella awesome idea, Delaware, man!”
“It’s… not bad,” I admitted. Dammit, why hadn’t I thought of that? My IQ is at least twice Delaware’s…
“Lovely,” Georgia chimed in.
“You-you think so?” Maryland asked. “You think I can be part of… both?”
Delaware nodded. “Absolutely. And don’t you dare talk of secession, Mary, or of not having a ‘national identity.’ You’re just as much a state as I am. And I live right next to you, remember? You don’t have to be Northern, or Southern, or Eastern or Western or anything to be part of the United States.” Gently, he put a finger on Maryland’s chin and propped her face up. “All you have to do is be yourself – Maryland, the seventh state of the United States… and my sister.”
I gaped at Delaware, utterly dumbfounded. He’d always seemed so… slow; where’d he pull a speech like that from? To my left, I heard Georgia clapping softly.
“Hear, hear!” California called. “Here’s to the United States!”
Maryland looked up at her brother through tearstained lashes. “Oh, Delly…” she whispered, before subjecting him to a bone-cracking hug. “You always make me feel better!”
“That’s what I’m here for,” Delaware said, grinning. “Now why don’t we go and get something to eat?”
“Okay,” Maryland said quietly, slipping her hand into his. Georgia, California and I waited until they had disappeared from sight before crawling out of our respective corners.
“Oh, man,” California sighed, brushing a few droplets of sweat from his forehead. “That was some hissy fit, huh?”
“She shook me,” I said. “Maryland actually shook me by the shoulders.”
“Not hard,” California laughed, lightly smacking the back of my head. “No offense, dude, but you’re kind of… little.”
“Hey!” I said, smacking him back. Georgia sighed.
“Guys, do we really want to go through this again? After Maryland-”
Our hands froze, mid-smack.
“Maryland,” I said.
“Who’da thought she’d be so… psychotic?” California asked.
“It’s always the quiet ones,” I said, shuddering slightly at the memory of Maryland’s crazed expression.
“Always the quiet ones.”