Chapter 9: Long day

Everything was suddenly so exciting.

Etta woke up early. So early that it was still dark outside. On a normal day, she would probably feel all sleepy and sluggish at that ungodly hour, but today was not a normal day.

“It’s my first day at work!”

Etta sneaked out of the room quietly and rushed to the bathroom. She tried her best to make herself look put together  – although she had some doubts if such a thing could be done at 4:30 a.m.

“There’s no time for make up today, I guess.”

Then, she put on her uniform. It was not pretty, but in her eyes it was the best freaking piece of clothing she’d ever wear. It made her feel so significant, so useful.

“Deep breaths, Etta. It’s gonna be fine.”

“RIGHT?”

Panic was taking over her as she stared at her reflection like that. She suddenly realized how unprepared she was, so she quickly turned around and left, ignoring the doubts in her head.

When she came back, others were already up, frowning sleepily at their food. Etta changed into something without an apron and joined Tori in the kitchen.

E: “Nice day, isn’t it?”

Tori: “Huh?”

Etta knew she’d get plenty of opportunities to talk to her sister during the day, once she’d adjust to daylight. She barely had enough time to finish the breakfast anyway.

School was busy, though. Etta needed breaks to proofread her essay about the long-term effects of vitamin supplements one last time. Meanwhile Tori struggled to finish hers, because she found gossips about the affair of her French teacher much more captivating than eating disorders she was supposed to write about.

Tori: “School is so tiring!”

Back home, everyone felt a bit worn out from all that studying. While her siblings decided to relax by watching TV and playing computer games, Etta went to the library. It was a perfect place for her to unwind. She also intended to find some books about brewing techniques. Or at least some that would help her distinguish between a latte, a café au lait and  a flat white, because, seriously, that plum was confusing.

She’s just spotted a book that looked promising – The Atlas of Coffee – when she heard  weirdly familiar voice.

“Hey, Etta!”

It was Dante, the little boy in Yoda costume. Except he wasn’t little anymore. And he wasn’t in Yoda costume, either.

E: “Hello, Dante! So nice to see you. What are you here for?”

“I’m looking for a book that would help me with reading sheet music. I’ve got a guitar for birthday and I want to, you know, teach myself… To play it.”

D: “But it’s harder than I originally thought and I could use some… guidance.”

E: “Oh. My aunt could help, she’s a musician. And she gives lessons. You should definitely stop by, if you’re interested.”

D: “Really?”

E:” Well, if you prefer to learn it from the books, it’s okay. I just thought that lessons would be more effective. But I’m no expert.”

“No, no. It’s a wonderful idea. But are you sure your aunt would be willing to do to it?”

E: “I’m 100% positive. Aunt Devi is a sweetheart. But I’ll talk to her and let you know, if you’re scared.”

D: “I’m not but… Thanks.”

She just smiled at him knowingly and resumed reading her coffee atlas, while he continued his efforts with decoding musical notes with a puzzled expression on his face. It was a nice afternoon.

When she returned from the library, it was homework time. At least for her and Seth, since Amon went to the gym and Tori was out with her friends.

E: “Hmm, Seth? Why did you left out exercise number four?”

S: “I haven’t figured it out yet.”

E: “It’s easy, though. You just have to divide it by four before you add these  numbers.”

S: “Oh, I see. I must have been thinking about something else.”

E: “Call it as you want, you’ve just been outsmarted by a freshman, big bro! Oh, yeah.”

Seth slowly turned around and looked at her. Then he stood up and move across the little space between him and the bed Etta was sitting on. He sat next to her and sighed.

S: “You didn’t outsmart me. You can’t. Everybody knows men are more intelligent than women and that’s a fact.”

S: “What? Seriously?”

Etta didn’t know what to say. Seth was always a little weird, but this was low even for him. She just looked at him in disbelief and left.

To comfort herself, she decided to try her hand at cooking. She went for the simplest recipe she could think of – scrambled eggs.

It wasn’t as easy as she expected.

E: “Stir until the consistency is right. Hmm. That’s not very specific.”

She tried her best, though. She watched mom cooks it a thousand times, after all. Surely she must have learned something from it.

E: “Am I doing it right?”

Or not?

E: “But how much exactly is a pinch of salt?”

But in the end, it turned out great. Even better than that.


Even Melia was impressed.

M: “What happened in my kitchen, for Watcher’s sake? Who is responsible for this MESS?”

“Oh, nevermind. It smells amazing.”

Luckily, the foodie side of Melia always wins.

The rest of the family was surprised to have eggs for dinner, but they didn’t complain.

“Mmmm, Etta, these were… Eggcellent!”

D: “Quite possibly the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever tasted. No offense, Mel.”

M: “None taken. Apparently, my little girl has a gift.”

The cooking success lifted Etta spirits a bit. The compliments made her forget Seth’s rude comments. But maybe she was just too tired to care. It was a long day.

E: “Oh, bed. We finally meet.”

And tomorrow would be no different.

Chapter 8: New Phase

“But Dad! I can’t start working now! I’ve just made it to the football team. I need to train.”

“Daily!”

“Okay, okay. Calm down. It was just an idea.”

Chris backed off. It was a smart excuse. And maybe it wasn’t excuse at all. Amon was actually visiting the gym. Regularly. Chris thought it was a good habit for a teenager.

Amon thought so, too. And so did the girls. And Amon was not losing any time. He asked the loveliest one on a date.

A: “My parents are pretty chill, but they just can’t understand that I don’t want to live like them.”

A: “Working twelve hours a day, for average pay, come home only to eat and sleep. And to start with that madness while I’m still studying, ugh!”

“I know, right? Mine are exactly the same. They can’t see how this approach won’t teach me to be responsible – it’ll only teach me how to be a slave!”

Amon: “Exactly! It’s good to know someone who share my opinion. Even better if that someone is a beautiful girl like you.”

“Oh, that’s sweet, thank you! You’re quite handsome yourself, if you must know.”

Few blushes and flaterred smiles later, the girl was completely smitten.

A: “I had such a nice time with you, Brylee. But… I feel something’s missing.”

B: “Oh? Is it… is it something I said? I though the date was going perfectly…”

“There. Now it’s going perfectly.”

Seth was a complete opposite of his brother. He didn’t care about girls and he openly despised sports. He loved R.E.F.U.G.E, though. And teh forums. And everything related to his computer.

“Ha! Take that, noob!”

And he refused to find a part-time job, because there were no job opening in his field. Chris was getting desperate.

Chris: “It’s hopeless. They knew we were coming and they prepared for us. I mean, Seth told me he can’t get a job because he needs to focus on the advanced courses in information sciences he takes this year. How can I argue with that?”

“I know, love. Let them be. As long as they are doing something useful, I don’t mind what it is. Although I fear that ‘information sciences’ is just another name for watching Youtube podcasts.”

C: “We shouldn’t be forcing them, that’s for sure. It would only lead to hatred towards work – and Watcher knows they’ll have enough of that later in life.”

“Chris, my love. If you dislike the company that much, you should just quit.”

“I don’t know, Mel. The money is good.”

M: “I know. But that’s the thing – I could help with the money. Our boys are basically grown-up by now and girls don’t need me around that much, either. I think it’s time for me to go back to work.”

C: “That… that would be amazing, Mel, but… Are you sure? What about the garden?”

“Well, let’s just say I can’t grow anymore in that department. Pun intended.”

Hello, Gus-Gus.

Cowplant was a sufficient argument for Chris, so they agreed. Melia’s maternity leave was finally over. She’s got a job at a small Italian restaurant in the neighborhood and she was about to work as a caterer, which was far from ideal but better than a dishwasher position.

She was a little bit nervous to start working again and she wanted to train a bit before her first day in the restaurant. And what’s a better way to train your catering skills than become a caterer for a day?

Luckily, she had two anxious birthday girls at home, who were in need of a great birthday party.

T: “Etty! Happy birthday! Aren’t I a good sister to remember?”

E: “You sure are. The best sister I have! Happy birthday to you, too!”

And since last party was such a success with all the goofy costumes, they decided to do it again.

Clowns and hotdogs were once again absolute hit among the guests.

The more clowns, the merrier.

But maids, pizza boys and Grim Reaper could also be found.

Devi: “I think this costume is rather scary, considering my role in this household…”

And the mysterious green boys came, too, much to Etta’s delight.

“You do know that frogs don’t have ears, right?”

“I’m not a frog, you silly little princess. I’m Master Yoda.”

He then proceeded to tell her all about the Republic and the Empire and about dozen of other things that were not making any sense to her. He had a lot to talk about. By the time he was done, it was already time.

What time, you ask? Well, everyone’s favourite time: time for cake!

Both girls were more than ready to enter the new, exciting phase of their lives. They learned to always expect positive outcomes. And in their minds, birthday parties could only lead to good things, anyway.

Chris: “Don’t forget to make the right wish, cupcakes!”

Maybe even to the best things. At least for those who dare to dream big and move forward. Because fortune always favors the brave.

“Say cheddar, Etty!”

Chapter 7: All the talking

The birthday party was a total success. Everyone had fun and looked great.

Clown costume was this year’s favourite.

Even though some people didn’t find it very fitiing.

And some people, on the other hand, didn’t need any costume at all.

Especially the kids, since they all hilariously chose a hot dog costume. Except for Etta. She did a more responsible concious choice and went for a veggie dog. Must be Devi’s doing.

Nobody could tell the hot dogs apart!

She also made a friend.

“I hope you’re a Jedi hotdog.”

And overall, everyone had a nice time, mainly the birthday boys. They both swirled into teenagehood with anticipation and optimism.

Amon was overjoyed that he finally reached the age limit for Simbook and he rushed to create a profile. It was a good place to check out his future high school classmates. Especially the female ones.

“Let’s see all the hotties!”

Seth waited until the fuss around the birthday party calmed down a bit and he sneaked outside while the guests were leaving to try on of the cocktails aunt Camilla forgot there.

He was expecting more, to be honest.

Not everything was new or exciting, though. Lots of things simply stayed the same. Seth and Etta were still the best homework buddies.

E: “You studied semi-permeable membrane today? What is that for?”

And Amon just replaced the monkey bars with more grown-up sports equipment.

“Let’s see if this old thing works.”

But Etta noticed some minor changes. Especially the willingness of her brothers to spend time with the rest of her family. Or the lack of it, to be more precise. Most of the time, they barely saw them. Seth was always locked up in his room or study, reading or using the computer for hours. They only knew he was home when he went looking for food. Unlike Amon who usually wasn’t home at all.

Melia quickly noticed their independence, too. And she got an idea.

M: “Looks like our sons are getting pretty self-reliant, aren’t they, Chris? And stop taking pictures of your food already.”

C: “Sorry, love. But the parfait looks so good with almonds and raspberries… Anyway, now that you mentioned it, you’re right. I feel like I didn’t see the boys for days!”

“Maybe you didn’t. They always have better plans than hanging out with us these days. “

“You can’t blame them, Mel, they’re teenagers.”

“I don’t blame them. When I was their age, I’d do anything to get away from my siblings. But I was, at least, being useful. They should be, too.  And do you think I should add other berries into the mix? Blackberries, maybe?”

“I don’t think so, it’s good as it is. Maybe add some powdered chocolate next time. And boys could help you with the garden, couldn’t they? It worked for you back then.”

“I don’t know, they’d do more harm than good in the garden. But they could find part-time jobs to help with finances. You already work too much and the older they are, the more they want.”

“Well, good luck persuading them, then.”

“Chris!”

“I’m kidding, just kidding! I’ll talk to them. It would be nice if they could pay for gym membership and video games with their own money.”

But the truth was, he wasn’t really sure how to bring it up. He realized Melia was always the one to do all the talking about serious stuff with the kids and he didn’t know where to start. He surely didn’t want to make it sound like they’re lazy or something.

He decided to search through some parenting sites first. He knew Melia’s mother had some luck with them when she was battling sibling rivalry of her kids, so who knows. Maybe he’d find some good tips there.

C: “Let’s see –  The Benefits of Part-Time Jobs – interesting,  I didn’t know there were any…”

But before he could read anything, Etta barged into the room with curious smile on her little face.

“Daddy! Are you working again? Why do you work so much?”

“What? Why do you think I work too much?”

“Mama said so. When we were eating breakfast. Don’t you remember?”

Of course he remembered. But he didn’t expect her to do so.

Chris sighed. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to have a conversation about financial planning with his ten-year-old daughter. And if it wasn’t Etta, maybe he wouldn’t bother. But he knew that once she asked nothing could stop her from getting the answer, so he went for it. It could be a good training for later, after all.

C: “Come here, cupcake, I’ll tell you something. The truth is… I work so much because I believe  all dreams can come true – you just gotta make them happen.”

E: “All dreams? Even the one where I became a butterfly fairy and lived in a tiny flower house? Could that happen, too?”

C: “No. No, I don’t think so. I meant the other kind of dream, you know. Like a toy you really long for or something like that.”

E: “Aha. I see. And what do you long for, Dad?”

C: “Well,  ever since I was a young boy, I dreamt about having my own restaurant. Then I met your mom and she wanted the same thing. We used to spend hours visiting diners around here or cooking for each other. our love for food really brought us together.”

E: “Oh, I wish you’d opened the restaurant! That would be so nice! I could be helping with measuring and stirring and cutting dough every day!”

C: “You certainly could. But, well, restaurant are expensive and… and we always needed the money for something else. Like electricity bills and school fees and house renovations… simply lots of boring grown-up stuff you don’t have to worry about.”

C: “But it’s not too late! That’s why I need to work hard every day. Because if you work hard, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Remember that.”

E: “I will, I promise. I’ll work just as hard as you one day!”

C: “Oh, sweety. I truly hope it won’t be necessary. I’m doing this so you don’t have to.”

E: “Maybe i don’t have to, but I want to. I’m gonna help Mom with potatoes now, to improve my peeling skills!”

“Okay, my little kitchen maid. Make sure not to hurt yourself, though.”

But Etta was barely listening at that point – the excitement made her partly deaf.

In the evening Melia was amused and surprised.

“Etta was on fire today! What did you tell her?”

“Nothing, really. She’s just ready to jump at every learning opportunity.”

“I know she is. And what about boys? Did you talk to them?”

“No. Amon is still not home. And Seth, well, he couldn’t talk because he was… how did he say it? Raiding? Something like that.”

“Why am I not surprised? Maybe I should try next time. I mean it. They are old enough to help out.”

“You work hard your whole life. I think it’s time to slow down at your age.”

“Hey! My age? What is that supposed to mean?”

“Just that you’ve got ridiculously hot lately and I blame it on your silver hair.”

“Aaah. Of course, you do. You are a materialistic girl, after all, aren’t you?”

“And you are my winning ticket, love.”