Chapter 21: Hypnotized

Melia loved it in Windenburg. Outlines of mountains around the city, the remnants of ancient city walls, busy streets and a mixture of inhabitans and tourists enjoying the delightful ambiance together…she loved it all.

And before she realized it, the last day of their stay came.

Evander had to work in the morning, but the sisters already knew their way around the city centre quite well.

They decided to have breakfast and some espressos at the lovely little café near a library. Melia was more than happy about all the new food she could try. And others got to like the local cuisine as well.

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“I’m not sure if I can live without you, Mr. Cream Roll.”

After the breakfast, they went for a nice walk around the park. They already visited all the great attractions of Windenburg, like the Ruins or the magnificent old estate with a labyrinth, so they finally had some time to just wander around.

It was absolutely perfect, until Mel noticed that her youngest sister looked rather unhappy.

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M: “What’s wrong, Dory? Don’t you like it here?”

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D: “I do. But…it’s just…I’m sad because Evander won’t be coming home with us tomorrow.”

Melia sighed: “I know. I’ll miss him, too. But you must have noticed that he seems to be happy here. And we should be happy that he’s doing so well.”

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“And that we got the chance to visit this beautiful place.”

Dory nodded apathetically, just to let Melia know the she heard her words. But she kept thinking about it as they roamed the streets of Winderburg. Her family was constatntly reminding her the multiple reasons to be happy. Like ‘Be happy for Mom, she’s with Dad now.’ or ‘Your brother is happy, so be happy for him.’

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‘But what about my own happiness?”

She looked at the sky, secretly hoping that she’d find some answers there. It worked for Devi when she needed music inspiration, after all. So why not for Dory?

But soon, Evander showed up and interrupted her sacred process of mind-wandering with  annoying, ignoble questions about a state of her stomach.

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Evander: “Who’s hungry?”

She didn’t mind it that much, though. A couple of hours passed since breakfast and just a mention of food made her drool.

Evander took them to a cosy little pub close to his house where not only delicious local meals were offered but some pretty fun games, too.

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Camilla: “Prepare to die, noobs.”

And drinks, of course.

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E: “Woah, Mel! Careful with that!”

It wasn’t Melia who needed to slow down, though.

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D: “One… more…”

Devi had no experience with alcohol to this day and she just tasted  Windenbeer because it was so famous all around the world. No one expected it’d have such a strong effect on her.

But at least she found herself some new friends.

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D: “Hahaha…I don’t speak your language, but you’re so funny.”

And, together with Melia, she asked Evander about certain mysterious matters.

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“Soooo…this Kaya girl? Do you like her? Is she nice?”

Evander rolled his eyes: “Ugh, you two. She’s just my roomate. I couldn’t afford renting an entire house in Winderburg – do you have any idea how expensive this city is?”

But when Devi left to talk with her Windenburgian friends, Evander leaned closer to Melia and said in low voice:

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“I didn’t want to mention it in front of Devi – I mean, she’s drunk – but I’ve been spending some time with Kaya lately. And she IS nice. So please, don’t embarrass me in front of her.”

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M: “Don’t worry, I’ll behave myself.”

After the meal, they all headed back to Evander’s place to rest and to prepare for  – to put it in Camilla’s words – the most exciting event of their visit: a dance party at Discotéque Pan Europa.

Millie loved it there the moment they arrived and she immediately rushed to dance floor. No one was dancing yet, but she didn’t care – she wasn’t afraid of people’s glances.

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“Watch out, this is my tune.”

Soon, other visitors of the club join the fun. Dory was  shy at first. All those lights and noises and strangers were a little overwhelming for her. So she decided to observe only. From a safe distance.

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But Melia soon noticed Dory, hesitantly standing there, doing nothing and she quickly came to encourage her. She took her hand and led her into the middle of the crowd, cheering. She even showed her some moves.

It helped. Dory relaxed and threw away her self-consciousness. Soon they found themselves shouting together and bouncing in the rhythm of music. In the front row.

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“So put your hands up!”

When Melia noticed Dory didn’t need her support anymore, she wandered from the dance floor and sat at small table close to the bar, just within the reach of various local snacks.

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“Celery chips? What kind of sorcery is this?”

She shared a photo of it on her Snapchat and, of course, Christopher saw it and got all curious.

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*typing* Well, it’s like a regular potato chip but made of celery instead of potatoes. And seasoned by herbs de provence instead of salt…

She ended up texting him all evening. She didn’t complain, though.

Camilla, on the other hand, was not wasting time sitting around and staring at her phone. She was here to dance, have fun and meet people.

Not surprisignly, guys started noticing her very quickly. She was a new face and a very pretty one.

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But only one particular man was brave enough to go and talk to her.

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“Hey, Dom! What are you doing here?!”

“I live here, silly!” he yelled back at her, trying to outvoice the music.
“But what about you?”

Despite all his efforts, she couldn’t hear him properly. She smiled apologetically and shrugged. So they decided to just dance together.

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Later that evening, Dom took over the DJ booth. He was quite a star around here, Camilla noticed. The crowd got all excited when they annouced Dom’s show.

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But as soon as he started, she forgot about the others completely. Dom kept looking at her, throwing smiles her way here and there. And Camilla was like hypnotized. It was like there was no one else in the building but them. Like he performed for her and she danced for him.

She never felt that kind of connection towards someone. Let alone someone she barely knew.

But there was no denying it – there was something about him that made her weak in the knees. She couldn’t help it.

And he was feeling it, too.

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D: “Tell me I will see you again.”

Camilla wanted it more than anything in the world. But she couldn’t imagine how it’d be possible. They lived thousands miles apart. There was a freakin’ ocean between their home towns.

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“I wish it was that simple, Dom.”

He looked dissapointed but he didn’t insist. The rest of the night was bittersweet, but oh, so magical. Camilla felt like crying when it was time to leave.

“Well, in case this is the last time,” Dom annouced when they were parting, “I want you to have this.”

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“Goodbye, Millie.”

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“Goodbye, Dom.”

Chapter 20: Secret

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“I miss you, guys… so much.”

Without Evander, the house was sad and lonely like never before. It was weird, because he never talked much. But still…the silence felt different when he was gone. Disturbing. Uncomfortable.

Dory’s heart was aching. She couldn’t think of anything that would distract her from the grief. It was like being homesick in her own home.

Her sisters had it better. They were adults – they had adult things to take care of.

Like the garden.

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Or cooking for the rest of the family.

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Or jobs.

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Yes, even Camilla found herself a job. In IT. Although everyone was certain she mostly only pretended to be programming and just trolled teh forums instead.

But Dory had nowhere to hide from all the blue thoughts that flooded her mind. The school was boring and she wasn’t ready to go out and socialize with others. Not even Alfred. He never lost a parent. And his siblings didn’t move to another country. He didn’t understand.

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“What would you do, Blarffy?…Wait, what? Do you mean it, Blarffy? I’m not sure if it’s such a good idea.”

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“It’s better than nothing, though. Thank you, Blarffy.”

When everyone went to sleep, Dory quietly slipped out of her bed  and turned the computer on.

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“Yes, yes, this will do.”

It only took her half an hour to arrange her secret plans. Before midnight, everything was ready and Dory was pleasantly satisfied with the results. And with a fact that no one caught her in the act.

Unfortunately, she underestimated Camilla’s mad computer skills. It turned out she really DID learn something about computers in her new job.

And, of course, she immediately went and reported her findings to Melia.

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“Mel, I have to tell you something, but please, don’t freak out. I was installing some extensions to my browser when I noticed weird things in my internet history. So I investigated a little…”

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“And it looks like someone booked a return flight ticket to Winderburg yesterday. And I know you and Devi were working late and went straight to bed then. So it had to be Dory!”

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“Do you think she wants to run away? I heard some teens tend to do that when going through hard times. But she’s so young and…”

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M: “Calm down, Millie. Running away…that’s more your style than hers. Do you know what I think? I think she just misses Evander and decided to visit him without telling us.”

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M: “Because, you know, we are boring, reasonable adults and we would never let her go alone to the foreign country.”

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M: “But you know what? Maybe she doesn’t have to go alone. I think all four of us could use a little trip, what do you say?”

Camilla had no problem with that. Neither had Devi. So there was nothing to think about – they just booked three more tickets and packed their bags.

The next day, Rossini sisters were knocking on Evander’s door.

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C: “What a lovely little cottage he lives in.”

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C: “Like a dwarf or something!”

Dory didn’t care about the house. She immediately ran inside and hugged her brother tight, showering him with questions.

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“How are you doing? How much do you pay for this place? Do you have a job? Are we far away from the city centre? And is it true that there’s a monster living in local swamps? Have you seen it? Can I see it?”

Poor Evander could barely answer half of them. He only lived in Windenburg for a couple of months, after all.

But it didn’t stop Dory from asking. Evander couldn’t even focus on a house tour he was trying to give because of her. So he gave up and only showed them his room.

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“Do you have any interesting books? About a monster of Winderburg, for example? And why are your walls so empty? Did you stop painting? Are you focusing on fishing now? Are there any good fishing spots around here?”

“Dory, honey,” Devi gently reproved her younger sister, “let him breathe.”

But Evander just smiled happily: “That’s okay, Devi. It’s been a long time since I had an actual conversation. And no, Dory, I didn’t stop painting. I just don’t have any paintings here because I had to sell them all. To make some money. It’s a good thing, though – to know that there is an interest for my work.”

Meanwhile, Camilla and Mel were enjoying a quick snack in the living room.

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C:”Can you believe it? Little Evander on his own in a foreign country – making it as a painter…Who would have tought? And he has a nice sofa! Maybe we should buy one, too.”

“Well, that sofa is actually mine.”

An unfamiliar voice came from the corridor leading to the bathroom. And before they knew, there was a beautiful young woman standing in front of them.

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“Hello, I’m Kaya. I’m Evander’s roomate.”



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“His what?”

Mel and Camilla looked confusedly at each other but before they could ask anything, Evander was out of there.

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“I think it’s time for some sightseeing, isn’t it?”

Chapter 19: When the days are cold

After the birthday party, an atmosphere of cheerful joy  lingered  around the Rossini household.  They finally had their share of much-needed fun and lightheartedness.

It didn’t last long, though.

It turned out, Eira’s symptoms from last night didn’t go away. She woke up with a terrible fever and felt dizzy and nauseous all day.

“You have to see the doctor,” Melia insisted and Camilla almost yelled at her mom for being so stubborn. But Eira was having none of it. She smiled and said it was just a flu.

Later that afternoon, right after she woke up from a long nap, Eira got up from her bed and walked out of her house. She just stood there for a while, on the pavement in front of the lot, possibly near the spot she stood on the first time she arrived here all those years ago.

Back then, she had nothing but a piece of land and a cheap secondhand cell phone. But things change, right?

Eira looked over her shoulder. Her once empty lot was full of things.

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“Beds, toilets, chairs, even windows!”

It wasn’t the prettiest house out there, of course. Neither it was big or luxurious. But those were the last things Eira worried about.

Because when she looked at that house, she saw nothing but love. She smelled Melia’s cooking. She heard Devi’s guitar and Damon’s jokes. She remembered Camilla’s chatter and Castor’s wild clicking on a computer mouse, Evander’s paintings and Eudora’s toys hidden under her bed.


The memories filled her heart with pride and happiness. So many wonderful things she achieved. And so much love she witnessed.

All of the sudden she thought of her first date with Adrian…

Oh, Adrian…

With him on her  mind, she turned around and looked forward, with her lips forming a resigned smile.

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“I’ve been awaiting you.”

She felt how strenght and energy slowly abandoned her old body and she gracefully lay down  on the ground.

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She looked elegant and almost regal in her calmness, in her willingness to go. Her face was peaceful and there was still a soft smile on her lips when a dark figure reaped her soul.

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“I’m on my way, my love.”

And with that simple sentence, Eira Rossini drew her last breath.

The rest of the family was not as ready for Eira’s death as she was. Melia cried for hours. She felt alone and isolated. Not only she lost her mother, but also her dearest friends and the most caring advisor. She had no one to lean on.

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Why is the world so bleak suddenly?

But no one seemed to suffer as much as young Evander. He’s always been momma’s darling boy.

To make the matters worse, his birthday was approaching. Melia tried her best to make him feel loved and happy. She baked his favourite  chocolate cake with hazelnut cream and invited his brothers. But nobody was in a mood to celebrate. The party just reminded them of how incomplete the family seemed withou Eira and Adrian around.

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They all tried for Evander, but it didn’t help. Adult Evander was just as sensitive as his teenage self and he sensed their sadness like it was his own.

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Is it just me or melancholy really suits him?

Melia was really worried about him. He never really needed a lot of company, but now he stopped talking completely. He also didn’t fish anymore and his easel stood forgotten in the garden. And so she decided to talk to him.

She found him on his usual spot on the bench next to parents’ graves.

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“Are you alright, Ev?”

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E: “I’m not, Mel. Of course, I’m not. I can’t believe it, I just can’t! I’ve never lived in a world without mama! Everything’s so…cold without her. And I’m so worried.”

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M: “Don’t be. I know it’s hard, but think about Mom. She’s fine now. Wherever she is, it’s a place of no pain. No tears. No heartbreak. Maybe she even met Dad again. You don’t need to worry about her.”

Evander listened to her words carefully and slowly nodded when she finished. He realized that grief prevented him from thinking clearly.

“That is true, Mel, but still…”

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E: “I’m just so sorry that…that she won’t be here to celebrate my first job with me. Or to meet my girlfriend one day? I really wanted her…you know, to be there.”

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E: “Everything… everything just seems so pointless or something. So blunt. Like it is less of an accomplishment when I can’t share it with her. Like it’s not worth it.”

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“Oh, Ev. Don’t say that. I know it’s hard, I wish she was here, too. But you still have us – me and Damon and Millie and everyone else. We are all here for you.”

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M: “And you should always remember what she lived for. I’m sure you’ll find the strenght to go on in the answer.”

Evander looked at her thoughfully, his eyes still full of tears. Then he just stood up and walked away, but he seemed more absent-minded than distressed and Melia calmed down.

‘He’ll be fine,’ she said to herself with relief, ‘he just needs some time.’

She had no idea what kind of process she started in Evander’s head. But she found out a couple of days later, when Evander decided to share his plans with Camilla.

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“Listen, Millie, I have something to tell you.”

“Go ahead!” Millie encouraged him enthusiastically. She had a soft spot in her heart for her vulnerable, gentle baby brother.

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“Well, I’ve been thinking about this place. And I’ve come to a decision that I can’t live here anymore.”

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“Everything around here reminds me of Mom and Dad. It’s just so painful for me. Everytime I remember they’re not here anymore, it’s like…it’s like a thick layer of frost is covering my heart. It’s paralysing.”

Camilla blinked and stared at him a couple of minutes.

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C: “Wait! Are you telling me you’re leaving? But why?”

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E: “It’s something Mel told me. She said I should always remember what mom lived for. And I think I know – she lived for us. So maybe it’s time for us to live for her, do you understand?”

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“We are her legacy, Millie! We have to live our lives to continue hers!”

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C: “It’s true, Ev! Beautiful idea! Are you sure you’re not a Genius?”

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E: “Nah, I’m just a Romantic!”

They smiled at each other and it was Evander’s first smile since Eira’s death.

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C: “But where will you go? You can’t live with Castor or Damon, they have their own families and…”

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E: “No, nothing like that. I already rented a house. It’s in Windenburg.”

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C: “Oh. I mean – wow! You impress me, little brother! Anyway, good luck with that! You have my blessing – as long as you promise I can visit you as often as I want!”

A few days later, the phone calls were made and the bags were packed. Evander said his goodbyes to his sisters and headed towards his future.

Dory sat still on her bed and stared at Evander’s corner of the room.

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It felt empty without him.

She sighed and got up. It was hard. She didn’t want to go to school and follow her daily routine like nothing happened. She just wanted to hid under the blankets and cry infinitely.

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“Why is everyone leaving me, Blarffy?”


Chapter 18: Girls just wanna have fun

Christopher came over for dinner next day. And he looked like he’d love to come again the day after, but Melia was unfortunately working late.

So she invited him for a brunch instead.

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“It’s just a simple yoghurt parfait, I hope you don’t mind.”

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“Don’t be ridiculous, Melia. I bet you could make a dry bread taste delicious if you wanted.”

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C: “And this is marvellous. I like the combination of pistachios and pomegranate. What else did you use?”

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M: “I can’t give away my culinary secrets just like that, can I?”

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C: “And what if I take you to a nice restaurant tonight? Would you be more willing to share your secrets then?”

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M: “Oh, I can’t. It’s Millie’s birthday.  I have to be there, you know.”

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“But if you’re still free during the weekend, I’ll gladly come.”

Mel was weirdly excited about her weekend plans. She tried to persuade herself that the reason behind her anticipation was all the good food she was about to try. But she knew it was only partially true.

Luckily, Camilla’s birthday party distacted her from those stomach-flipping, knee-bending, sweat-inducing thoughts about the date with Chris.

First, they had a cozy little house party with cake and confetti, because that’s what family tradition dictated. Camilla’s friends from school, Castor and Damon with their families  and even Alexander showed  up (he and Camilla didn’t cause any trouble this time.)

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“Responsibility, is that you?”

Camilla had mixed feeling about adulthood. She loved the sudden freedom, but she was also a little worried. Were adults allowed to cause as much trouble as teenagers were?

Nobody in the family could quite help her with that. But they could at least help her with the second part of her birthday party – the fun part.  Castor’s wife Annabeth helped Melia organized a ladies’ night out at the Oasis Springs, where the family lived. They were sure Camilla would love it.

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Serena and Isis with their mom Annabeth at Solar Flare.

Eira was supposed to come with them, but she changed her mind. Nightlife was not very appealing to her at her age and she didn’t want to ruin the fun. She also wasn’t feeling that well.

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Dory stayed home, too, since she was too young to go clubbing. She didn’t mind, though. She had a wonderful alternative plans to compensate.

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D: “That cluster over there kinda reminds me of you, Alfred.”

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D: “It’s assymetric and ugly.”

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A: “And it’s also close to something that resemble a hairy monkey. Just like me.”

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D: “Hahaha, okay. You win this time.”

There’s nothing like stargazing with your goofball best friend.

Meanwhile in Oasis Springs, adult Rossini girls were having wonderful time in lounge. They had some fancy drinks, danced and flirted with a few men, exchanged some woohoo tips and shared innocent gossip.

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They also looked absolutely stunning while doing all that.

Camilla was happy to see her niece Isis. They were around the same age so they bonded over the experience of becoming an adult almost immediately.

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Isis: “You don’t have to pretend that you never had juice before. Not in front of me.”

Devi skipped the juice completely, but she liked the place. Mostly because music was good and musicians even let her try their guitar.

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Annabeth, on the other hand, got bored pretty quickly and stayed attached to her glass for the rest of the evening.

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A: “I’m getting old for this.”

Melia enjoyed a couple of drinks, but she spent most of the evening daydreaming about her weekend plans.

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‘I wonder what is Chris planning with me. Nice restaurant, that’s like a dream date! But there are no restaurants in Willow Creek. And what will I wear? I don’t want to overdone it. I need to keep it simple. Casual but attractive. Like Chris. He always looks so…’

But none of it mattered to Camilla. Thanks to the final trait she obtained, this was a perfect place for her. Company of others was great. And meeting new people was even better.

And she met a lot of people that night. She knew her outfit was to blame, but she didn’t care. She would never admit it, but she liked the attention of all those men (and women).

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“Hey there, gorgeous. Do you come here often?”

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“Not at all! It’s my first time here, actually.”

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“I thought so. I would definitely remember you if it was any other way.”

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“My name’s Dominic. And I’m a DJ.”

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“Camilla. Nice to meet you.”

Dominic kept her company for the rest of the night. They danced and talked through the night, he even invited her to see one of his shows in Windenburg. Camilla ensured him that she would love to see his show but it wasn’t very likely that she’d travel so far away anytime soon.

But they had quite a good time together nevertheless. And before they realized it, morning came and it was time to go. Camilla didn’t want the night to end, but not even she was able to stop the sun from rising.

Or her body from asking for some sleep.

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“Why have you betrayed me, body?”

She felt like dying from exhaustion and hangover. Her head was painfully pulsating with every heartbeat, her eyes were burning from inside her skull and the whole world was spinning round.

But as far as Camilla was concerned, it was still the best night ever.