Chapter 10: As it should be

“Last week, I met a friend who is interested in music and I told him you’re giving lessons. is that all right?”

“A friend, you say? Do I know him?”

“Just a boy from our school. He’s in Amon’s class. He used to come here as a little kid to play wh…”

“Ooooh! A boy friend, then! I’d be delighted to meet him.”

“Devi, don’t. Don’t be that nosy grown up everybody avoid, please.  You’re too cool for that.”

“Oh, come on, Etty, I’m your beloved aunt. Who else would you tell about these things. Your mom? Surely not.”

“But there’s nothing to tell. He’s just a friend, I only know him briefly. So…what should I say to him?”

“As I said – I’d be delighted to meet him. And to teach him, of course. I just hope he’s more talented than Amon.”

Amon asked aunt Devi for lessons once he found out girls loves musicians. He wasn’t particularly talented, but he didn’t care. He just wanted aunt Devi to teach him a few well-known, simple songs to impress ladies.

A: *sings terribly* “And after aaaaaall, you’re my wonder…”

Etta didn’t really understand why. Amon’s girlfriend, Brylee, seemed impressed enough to her. She came over daily, staring amorously at him, laughing and blushing everytime he talked to her.

“Why are we not in your room, Amon?”

“Because my stupid brother refused to leave. So unless you want to look at his ugly face whole day, we’ll have to stay out of there.”

“I see. Poor you, to have a brother like that.”

“But you know what? My parents are at work. And they’re not coming home for quite some time. Maybe we’d have more privacy in their room.”

“Sounds like a plan, handsome. Let’s go.”

Etta would probably find it disturbingly amusing, but she was too busy  to pay attention to such nonsense. She was much more interested in a dinner party  her mom organized to celebrate dad’s birthday.

And she couldn’t wait for mom to come from work so she could assist her in the kitchen.

“So, Etta, how are the potatoes?”

“Fine, I guess?”

“Yeah, they look great. You knwo what’s  next: simmer until tender and then remove them from water. Then…”

Etta: “…add milk, mash the mixture and cook until heated, constantly stirring. Then add cheese and cook until it melts. And then stir in heavy cream, bacon and seasoning. I know, mom!”

M: “That’s my girl. Keep going!”

While Etta was busy with salads and side dishes, Melia prepared the rest of the feast.

Who needs apron when you have talent?

And what a feast it was! Even those teenage grumps Amon and Seth left their rooms to join the family and the guests. All those dainty dishes just couldn’t be resisted. They’ve got everything – fabulous soufflé to kick off the meal in style,  sensational, melt-in-the-mouth lamb cotlets or festive herbed salmon as mains and plethora of side dishes and fresh salads.

“Mmmm, smells like heaven!”

Etta even used her newly acquired mixology skills and prepared some simple cocktails. Needless to say, everyone was impressed.

“I wonder if  there’s a difference between lemon juice and citrus juice…”

With their bellies full and tastebuds satisfied, people warmed up. They smiled and laughed and joked.

T: “And then he said: ‘Bring my brown pants!’ Hahaha.”

The conversations were flowing and everyone was being  incredibly nice. Even Seth. It was such a change. Such a marvelous change.

Etta noticed the difference and she couldn’t believe it. The food brought them together. It was like people were happier, like the physical food made them ready to nourish their souls, too. And what’s a better way to do that than being attentive and kind to one another?

E: “This is so amazing.”

That wonderful, sincere ambience lingered around the place long after the food was gone. The young danced and surprised everyone with their moves, the adults talked. Etta couldn’t remember the last time they spend so many hours together as a family, but  she wished for evenings like this to happen more often.

Who knew Seth could dance like this?

The fun continued long into the night. The sun was already rising from behind the horizon when Melia brought the  birthday cake. Guests were already gone, but Chris didn’t mind. The important people were there.

“It’s good to have you here with me, kids. So good. Everything is as it should be.”

And with that on his mind and cheering of his children all around, he spinned into elderhood.

C: “So, darling? How do you like the new me?”

M: “You mean the old you, right?”

Chris frowned at her, acting all upset and offended, but before he could say something, Melia’s mischievous face went away and she smiled at him in that gentle, loving way that made his heart melt every time.

“Honestly, I love it just as much as the previous version.”

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 28: New Plans

Shortly after the dinner party, Melia sat down with her youngest sister, Dory. She was curious about her plans for the future.

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“Plans? I’m not familiar with such a thing!”

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“What? No plans?”

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“Not even the smallest, slightest vision?”

Melia wasn’t surprised to hear that. But she was worried. She didn’t want her little sister to just sit around the house, doing nothing. Since the wedding, Dory’s only activity was  playing My Little Pony. And coloring. And stealing cookies from the cookie jar.

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“Well, I’ve kinda decided to travel a bit.”

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“Oh, that’s…that’s actually a great idea, Dory!”

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“Where will you go? Windenburg?”

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“I’ve been…I’ve been thinking about something more…distant.”

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“More distant? Like what –  Moon?”

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“Have you ever heard about…the Gallery?”

Melia did heard about it. Rumours, mostly. And conspiracy theories. The Gallery was something like aliens – only insane people believed in those.

She slowly looked at her sister and sighed. There was no point in arguing.

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“The Gallery, you say, huh? And then? Where will you go from there?”

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“I will see. No plans, remember?”

Dory left first thing in the morning.

Younger Melia would have been relieved to see her go. To see all of her siblings go, so she could clean the house to perfection and read cooking books for hours. Quietly and alone, with no one running around, screaming or laughing or asking for dinner.

But her older self was nothing like that. Melia found out – to her own surprise – that she was worried. And sad. She was fighting the urge to get up and stop Dory from leaving. She wanted to call her thousand times just to make sure she was all right.

She spent her whole life wishing for an empty house and some privacy and some free time. But when she finaly got it all  – she found out that empty house is just that.

Empty.

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“What are you reading, honey?”

“Well,” Melia said slowly, observing Chris’ reaction , “it’s called Big Book of Baby Names. If you know what I mean.”

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“I think I have a hunch.”

And indeed, a couple of weeks later, despite a fact that they were both in their late thirties already, Melia found out she was pregnant.

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“To put it in culinary terminology – the bun is in the oven.”

Chris was over the moon to hear that. Melia…she couldn’t really decide how she felt. There were days when she was happy and anxious to meet the baby. And then there were those other days, full of worries and hesitation, when everything from pregnancy to bills  seemed terrifying and uncertain.

But most of the time, she was just calm and pieceful, slowly coming to terms with the novelty of it all.

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“Who would have thought that from all people, I would be the one to enjoy pregnancy.”

Eventually, Melia decided to quit her job. She wasn’t doing so well and the boss was horrible. She wanted to shift focus on her garden anyway. It has always been her  passion.

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And it was working beautifully with her other passion – cooking.

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She was getting better and better. It helped that she was using fresh, high quality crops from her garden but even without them, she was a real pro. More and more often, she started to think about not going back to work. Like ever.

Instead, a little idea about her own restaurant woke up in some deep, forgotten part of her brain and wouldn’t go away, no matter how hard she tried to think about something else. It kept growing bigger and bigger.

Just like the baby. And Melia.

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M: “Do you know what is the best thing about the pregnancy?”

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“Having an excuse to get fat.”

Nothing could hold Melia back once she started eating. She wanted to eat all the things. At once.

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“Must. Eat. Everything!”

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“Did you hear that, Devi? I think someone said…”

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“…mmmm, ice cream!”

Luckily, Chris didn’t mind. He had a food passion of his own, after all.

And he found Mel’s new shape pretty marvellous.

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“There’s an actual baby – our baby – inside. Can you believe it?”

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“Yes, I can. And you would believe it, too, if you’d get kicked by the baby all day long.”

“Good point,” Chris laughed and proceeded to kitchen to grab some breakfast. Melia already had her breakfast that day but it didn’t stop her from coming along.

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M: “Soooo, whatcha eating, babe? Can I have a bite?”

It was crazy. Maybe even slightly absurd. But luckily, the pregnancy came to the end before Melia was able to eat all the food supplies they had.

Everyone was relieved.

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Well, except Chris. He was freaking out all over the place when his wife went into labour.

It was not necessary, though. Melia handled it perfectly and she was doing just fine. And so were the babies.

Yes, two of them.

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“Double trouble, double fun!”

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“Aren’t we the lucky ones, my love?”

Chapter 27: The Journeys We Share

‘Hey, Mom and Dad.

It’s such a beautiful day, have you noticed? I hope you have. Although…hmm.. I’m not sure if that’s possible from where you are…’

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‘Anyway.

I’m here to tell you that we’re all doing great. We still miss you, of course, but… we moved on, I guess. We are back to living our lives now. And it’s been quite a ride, to be honest.

Dory’s wedding didn’t go as expected. She actually broke up with Alfred under the wedding arch. It was so shocking, you know, even for Dory – I’ve never thought she was that volatile. Poor Alfred!

It was not all bad, though. Because, well, Chris proposed right then and there and…we kinda got married immediately. I know it was highly inappropriate and I even felt sorry afterwards for acting so unconsiderably. I mean, getting married during my little sister’s wedding? I know it was practically called off by then, but still. It was weird. Really weird.

But at the same time, it was amazing. So amazing. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever done. But it was also the truest and maybe even the bravest.

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Because, you know how I am – I’m not the one to jump with both feet into something. Responsible planning and worries and constant doubts are more my style. But I don’t need any of those with Chris. It’s like…like I’m safe with him or something.’

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“Wait, does it make sense? Or am I just amorously babbling like a teenager in love?”

‘Well, long story short: I love that man. So much that I’m willing to take risks. Everything is just so…clear with him. And easy! As easy as breathing.

At least in comparison with my previous, ehm, relationships.’

(I just really wanted to share these relationship panels at some point. Because, seriously, that’s quite a mess. 😀 )

‘But there are other news, much more exciting. Camilla gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Her name is Carlie and she is the most precious thing in the whole world. Camilla and Dom were both very happy when we congratulated them. Millie seemed tired, but enthusiastic.

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But you know Millie – enthusiasm should have been her middle name. And she loves Carlie to no extent. She even agreed to stay on full maternity leave with her. I can’t imagine it- restless, energic Camilla trapped at home with a baby? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Oh, and the house suffered some changes, too. We thought it was time to…adjust some rooms. Like your master bedroom – nobody used it since…you know, since you’ve been gone. So we removed your furniture and moved Devi there. She needed some extra space for her collections.

And her old room is now a study. Chris spends a lot of time there, since he has to work a lot. Bussiness is not fun these days. Although I’m pretty sure he sometimes goes there just to play some video games or read quietly, far away from the family chaos. I guess he needs some alone time from time to time.

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And we also moved the piano inside. Actually, we moved everything inside, I don’t think outside weather is good for wooden musical instruments or canvas. So we have a cosy, spacious hall in the middle of the house. Devi loves it, because she can now practise in her pyjamas. And you know Devi – she would spend her whole life in the PJs if she could.

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But considering her occasional laziness, she’s doing great. Her career is slowly proceeding, some company  hired her lately to write jingles for them. And in her free time, you know, she walks around the neighborhood looking for colorful rocks and frogs. And she’s as happy as ever.

And I also sold that small old table we had in the garden. It looked awful and it was way too small for this family, anyway.

But I knew you wouldn’t approve, Mom. I actually heard your upset voice in my head when I was giving it away. You kept saying: “But, but, that’s our table! That’s where Castor did his first homework, where I read fairytales to you, where we shared all of our meals and jokes and talks together. You can’t just give it away like that!” You know what I’m talking about.

So to compensate, I decided to keep the eating area outside for now. I bought a new table – it’s beautiful and, most importantly, big – so it can seat all of us. And that’s pretty something, isn’t it?’

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‘But just to be sure, I organized a little garden party and invited the whole family. We had tons of food, great music, llama jokes and small talks and spontaneous hugs… it was a family gathering you could be proud of, Mom, truly.

And it was so lovely to see us all together. I’m sure your heart would melt if you heard Castor and Damon’s conversation about…wait for it… yes, video games! It felt just like the old times.’

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C: “So while I was at my peak of raiding with my lvl 90 Night Elf Paladin, I was in a 25 man guild, rank 1 guild on the server, about rank 188 in the world…”

‘I didn’t understand a word, to be honest. And it was also nice to see all my siblings-in-law to get along well with each other. Even Kaya, who is practically a stranger to us, had a good time.

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Annabeth: “This food alone was a good enough reason to marry into this family.”

And your grandchildren had a blast, too. Castor’s kids, especially the girls, were their usual charming selves. They totally won the genetic lottery.

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I mean, just look at Serena.

And Damon’s little ones are awesome, too. So polite and smart – they were the first one to appreciate my salad.

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Colin (right):  “Aunt Mel, these tometoes taste like sunshine mixed with unicorn’s blessings.”

It was magical. All these people, some of them related, some of them not, sharing this particular space together in a fragile harmony. Each one of them represented different personality, different opinion, different background. But they were – we were – all so connected to one another, so warm inside – for we have managed to walk through this together, even if it’s just for a short time. Even if it’s just for a day. ‘

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“And getting to share your journey with someone for a little while – that’s what create order in this vast chaos we call life.”

‘And it’s all thanks to you two. You brought us all together, you make us belong. And in that belonging, I feel complete. I feel right. I feel your legacy running through my veins and that – that makes me feel meaningful. Because through these connections, these journeys we share – we are truly infinite.’

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“I can see it clearly now.”

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“And I’ll try to teach the next generation about it. I promise.”

Chapter 25: “I do”

Next day, Dory way trying to calm down, but she was so freakin’ nervous about this whole wedding thing.

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“Eudora Rossini, get your plum together! It’s supposed to be a joyous day for you.”

But she had weird dreams that night. Livid, colorful, confusing. She woke up at 4 a.m., sweating and tense. And then she remembered her conversation with Devi.

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“What if he really wants kids? He mentioned something about kids yesterday.”

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“He’s a romantic in his heart. I bet he wants the traditional life. Wife, kids, white pickett fence…”

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“But that’s not for me. I wanna be a bodybuilder, a professional. Attend competitions, travel the world. I can’t do that with a kid.”

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“And I’m sure as hell I don’t want to pass my insanity on another human being.”

She was sure Alfred would understand that. Just thinking about him made her smile and dissolved all her doubts. She inhaled slowly and smiled weakly at her reflection.

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“It’s gonna be alright. We’re meant to be.”

She took a quick shower, tasted chocolate truffles Melia prepared for the wedding and did her make-up. Soon after that, her sisters informed her it was already time to go.

The wedding was taking place at the same venue Castor got married. Dory wasn’t even born back then and suddenly she was getting married herself. It was insane to think about.

The entire family was there. Castor and Damon with their families, all her sisters with their boyfriends…even Evander travelled all the way from Windenburg just to be there on her big day. He even brought his “just good friend and roomate” Kaya with him.

They all looked amazing, of course.

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Alfred had only two guests – his mom and uncle Alexander. They looked somehow lonely and lost in that huge crowd of Rossinis, but very elegant.

Melia felt all kind of emotion when she saw her ex-boyfriend. She was glad to see he’s doing well, sorry for losing a friend she had in him, embarrassed for bringing her new boyfriend with her.

She wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to talk to him, but she couldn’t help it.

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“Hey.”

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“Hey. Long time no see, huh?”

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“Yeah…so, hm…how’s life?”

They talked for a while, but it was awkward. Melia soon ran out of safe topics and her mind kept going back to their break-up and all those things they’ve left unsolved. Part of her wanted to forget, but the other part wanted to talk about it and apologize and let him know she never meant to hurt him.

“I’m glad we met. I know things were complicated with me and I’m sorr….” she started her brave speech but Alexander interrupted her.

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“This is not about us, okay? Let’s focus on my nephew and your sister now.”

Melia nodded and wanted to leave when she heard Alexander’s cold, almost angry voice again.

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“But…what? What is it? What’s happening?!”

He was pointing to the wedding arch in front of them. Dory and Alfred were already there in their matching festive outfits and ceremony was about to start.

Or it was supposed to start, but…

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A: “Listen up, babe…I’ve been thinking…”

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D: “Yeah, I’ve been thinking, too. It looked like a great idea yesterday, but right now…I don’t know. I don’t feel like it.”

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D: “You know…I love you. And I always will. But the truth is, I’m not the right woman for you. We are two very different people, you and I.”

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A: “What are you saying, Dory? I…I  was only implying that maybe…maybe we rushed too much into this! I just wanted to…I don’t know… postpone the wedding or something. Until we’re more…independent. And actually freakin’ ready. And you! You break up with me! Just like that! You can’t do this!”

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D: “I can. And I have to. If we’re not ready now, why would we be ready later in life? Time is not going to change me.”

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A: “But why did you come up with this whole madness?  It was your freakin’ idea to get married! You’re so plumming unpredictable!”

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D: “Exactly. I’m unpredictable. Unstable. I change my opinions and plans every day. Maybe even more often. I wouldn’t be a good wife to you. I’d only be a burden for you,  an obstacle between you and your dreams.”

Alfred was just staring at her, devastated. His eyes were slowly filling up with tears.

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A: “You don’t have to do this. We’ll make it work, I promise. I know  this is just one of your mood swings. You’ll change your mind tomorrow. You’ll regret this.”

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D: “I know. And that’s the problem. Imagine that we stay together and then one day, twenty years from now, I’ll have one of my mood swings again and I’ll decide to left you for good and become a buddhist nun in Shang Simla?”

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D: “Trust me, Alfred. I’m doing you a favour. I’m saving you from a much bigger heart-break. And I know that deep inside…you feel like this, too.”

She hugged him quickly and walked away, leaving disappointed Alfred and very confused wedding guests behind.

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Alexander: “What is it with you Rossini girls? Why do you like breaking the hearts of Goth men like this?”

With the bride out of the picture and with the groom in the middle of emotional breakdown, the overall atmosphere quickly changed from cheerful expectation to awkward bewilderment. Nobody knew what to do. Alfred’s family walked away, swearing and grumbling angrily and Eudora’s siblings just stood around, secretly hoping someone else would step in and do something. Anything.

And then, Chris’ voice broke the silence.

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C: “Well, it looks like the ‘Bride and Groom’ position is now open.”

Everyone looked at him as he continued, his eyes set on Melia’s curious face.

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“I’m not sure if my behaviour is appropriate – it probably isn’t –  but I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time and Melia…”

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“There’s something I want to ask you, so could you, please, stand up?”

Melia’s heart was beating so loud and fast that everyone in the room must have heard it. She felt weak in her knees when she stood up and her head was spinning.

‘Oh, my Watcher, is he doing what I think he’s doing?’

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“Melia Rossini.”

‘Wow, he IS doing it.’

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“If I could, I would buy you a shiny car, or a castle or an island or all of the above. I would give you all the fancy things you deserve. Unfortunately, I can’t – yet.”

Melia laughed nervously and the rest of the guest laughed with her.

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“At the moment, I have nothing else to give but love. And the rest of my life. And I hope it’s enough for you to become my wife.  Right here, right now.”

Melia was stunned. One moment, her heart was breaking over her sister’s crushed hopes and then suddenly, this man, this wonderful, beautiful man, was asking her to become his wife and making her heart scream with happiness. Everything was happening so fast.

But one look at his face and she realized she was dreaming about this moment for so long.

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“Well, let’s do this!”

He took her by the hand and they walked the aisle together, smiling excitedly.

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“Are you ready, my love?”

Melia couldn’t believe it. She’s never done anything more crazy. It was so sudden and surprising, so spontaneous and exciting, so incredibly marvelous. She never felt more alive.

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“….from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer…”

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“…to love and to cherish…”

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“…until death do us part.”

 

Chapter 24: And Sillier

Dory was very satisfied with her birthday party. It was probably the greatest day of her life. For the first time ever, she spent a night out of her house. She danced and tried some alcohol, only to find out  it wasn’t really her thing – it made the voices louder.

But none of those activities were as awesome as a fact that Alfred walked her home.

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“So, Dory, I’ve got something to tell you, but I don’t know how.”

So he just skipped the words completely and kissed her. Actually freaking kissed her!

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‘Oh, plum! What do I do now?’

Dory was so happy and shocked and stunned and everything.

Could it be happening? Could it be possible that he liked me back the entire time?

She had no idea what to say. But for some inexplainable reason she remembered a conspiracy theory about Diabolical Detonators of Twinbrook and decided to share her thoughts about that.

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“And sometimes, it just exloded right in their face!”

But Alfred knew how to calm her down.

“It’s okay, Dory, I feel ovewhelmed, too,” he said quietly and kissed her cheek softly.

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Overwhelmed was definitely the right word for it. Dory’s head was spinning. She couldn’t believe her luck. Known words couldn’t express how she felt.

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“I knew we were jibb wabee tabay!”

So she went for the unkown ones instead. They made no sense to Alfred, but he knew her good enough to tell that she felt the same.

Being openly in love was very liberating. Dory was thrilled to be able to express her affection for him whenever she wanted. And they started to spend even more time together than before, which was also nice.

They usually spent their days in Dory’s room, reading together, listening to music or dancing to sappy 90s love songs. They talked about aliens and garden gnomes and laughed for hours at cat gifs and movie references about cheese and other random stuff.

And one of these afternoons, Dory got an idea.

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“Did you know that my sisters are working late today? They won’t be back until 11 p.m.”

She said it with the most playful tone she could come up with and she stared eloquently at her beau until he understood and followed her to the room with a double bed.

After the fun, they sat together on Melia’s bed and shared their impression of what just happened.

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D: “That was pretty something!”

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D: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that for the rest of our lives?”

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“Are you saying….?”

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D: “You’ve heard me! Or do you want me to get on my knee?”

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D: “Well, if you insist…”

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D: “Will you marry me? Please?”

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A: “Is that a vending machine ring with Donald Duck stamp?”

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D: “Yeah, it’s my favourite. My mom bought it for me when I was six and I wore it from that moment untill now.”

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A: “In that case: Yes, I’ll marry you!”

They just smiled with excitement and laughed about the silliness of it all. It took a few moments for them to calm down and think about practical things.

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A: “So, when would you like to do this? After graduation? After college? After becoming financially independent? After kids are old enough to attend?”

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D: “How about…tomorrow? I have nothing else to do.”

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A: “Are you crazy, Dory?”

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D: “Why are you asking that? You already know I am! Is that a problem?”

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A: “I don’t think so – tomorrow is as good as ever.”

After that, Alfred rushed home to tell his mom and uncle, while Dory impatiently waited around for her sisters to come home and help her with preparations.

Melia almost got an heart-attack when she heard the news. She presented Dory with at least million reasons to stop the madness and think it through, but Dory was having none of it and every time Melia tried to talk to her, she just said: “If it’s okay for Millie to run away with a stranger she barely knows and even get pregnant in the process, it’s perfectly okay for me to marry my best friend.”

And there was nothing Melia could say to that. It was Dory’s life, after all. So she agreed to let it go and help with the wedding menu instead.

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“Who knows, maybe my lobster rolls and rosemary-roasted lamb chops with apricot salsa will save the day.”

Devi decided to talk some sense into her little sister, too. She opted for calmer and less emotional approach.

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Devi: “Are you completely sure about this move?”

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Dory: “If you’re talking about the chess, then yes. Also, checkmate!”

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“And if you’re talking about the wedding – I have no reason to doubt it. He’s the only person in the world who doesn’t mind me when I’m myself.”

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“You don’t need a man – or anyone else for that matter – to be yourself, though.”

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“Maybe not. But I want him in my life. And I love him. And he loves me back. What can possibly go wrong?”

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“Dozens of things, actually. You can run across major differences between you and find yourselves unable to compromise on certain matters. Did you talk about your future studies and careers? Or where would you like to live? When is the right time to start a family? If ever? There are lots of things worth discussing.”

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“Maybe you’re right. But we’ll have plenty of time to discuss it later. The rest of our lives, to be exact.” 

And with that being said, Dory stood up and walked away with a determined look in her eyes.

Devi shook her head and laughed in defeat.

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“At least I tried, right?”

Chapter 22: All About Love

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“Alfred! I’ve missed you!”

“Have you?” he asked, surprised.

“Of course! I had no one around to make fun of!” she laughed and hugged him tigher.

It was good to be home. But Dory  realized  she didn’t really miss Willow Creek that much. She felt much better in Winderburg. Kind of unattached. And free. With no sad memories waiting for her at every corner.

She missed Alfred and Blarffy and her punching bag, obviously. But not the place in particular.

As a welcome gift, Alfred invited Dory, an aspiring body builder, to gym for nice long workout session.

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“I think we could try this 30-Days Leg Challenge.”

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“Count me in!”

Afternoons in gym with Alfred were her favourite. He was so smart and funny. Encouraging, too. And the best motivator. And with all that working out, his pecs started looking somehow…interesting.

She wasn’t the only one who noticed his qualities, tough.

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“Hey, handsome!”

Lots of strange girls winked and smiled at Alfred while he was working out, some of them even came to say hello and talk to him. It was quite a usual occurence. Dory was used to that and she didn’t  mind.

Or so she always thought. But that day, it was bothering her and she couldn’t figure out why. Maybe these girls had obnoxious giggles. Maybe Alfred talked to them longer than usual. And maybe…

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“…maybe I just want all of him for myself.”

“What?” Alfred interrupted her words quickly and Dory realized she accidentally said it out loud.

“What?” she asked, acting all confused, “I didn’t say anything.”

“I just…I’ve got a feeling that you…um, nevermind,” Alfred shrugged and smiled, “Let’s grab some pizza, what do you say?”

Dory couldn’t possibly say no to that, could she? 😀

Back home, Melia was getting ready. Between the family issues and busy work schedule, she finally found some free time to visit the restaurant Chris was telling her about.

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“I hope this is fancy enough.”

Chris was coming, too, of course. Melia couldn’t decided if she was so excited because of the restaurant or because of finally seeing Chris after a long time. Not that it mattered.

The restaurant was in Newcret and its name was La Fantasia.

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And Melia had to admit it looked pretty fantastic.

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“This place is absolutely beautiful, Chris!”

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“I know, right?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to own a place like this one day?”

“You want to own a restaurant? I didn’t know that!” Melia couldn’t believe her ears. Could it be that they had the same dream?

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“I’d open one right away if I had enough money to do it. But let’s order something! I’m dying to try roasted lamb with dates and onion chutney, I’ve heard it’s delicious.” “

And that’s how Melia learned that he was a Foodie, just like her. She was surprised it didn’t come to her mind sooner. He’d never shut up about food.

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“That man is a dream came true! Just like these ricotta doughnuts.”

The dinner was heavenly and everything they tried caused their tastebuds to dance around and sing. Melia never even imagined that food could taste this good.

And after they were done, Chris asked her to to follow him

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“Shall we dance?”

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“Oh, I don’t know, Chris, I’ve never really danced before.”

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“Don’t worry – I’ll lead.”

So they danced and it wasn’t so bad. Melia knew she wasn’t the most graceful being – and she was sure she must have looked silly and clumsy – but she didn’t care. With Chris’ arms around her and and the sound of dreamy piano all around, she felt like she was flying on a bright, fluffy cloud.

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‘Oh my Watcher. I’m totally losing my mind.’

Later, Chris walked her home like a true gentleman and they had a hard time saying goodbye.

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“Well, thank you for tonight. I had the greatest time!”

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“I should thank you for joining me and for making this night so, you know, so fine. Would you like to…go on another date with me someday? Like Friday, maybe?”

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“Sure! I’d love that.”

And so they agreed to go out together again.

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And again.

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Until one day, Melia felt adventurous and ready to take it further. At that point she was so crazy in love that she felt almost embarrassed. Almost. But she was too busy feeling amazing and funny and slightly dizzy to care about anything else.

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“So, I was wondering…”

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“Would you like to come inside with me now and continue the fun?”

Chris had no problem with that. No problem at all. He would spend every night with her if he could. And every day. Every freakin’ second of his life.

But it was too soon to tell her yet. Besides, what’s the point in rushing when things are going so well?

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‘I’m one lucky guy, that’s for sure.’

Very quickly, his late night visits became regular and one day, after snuggling and talking in bed for hours, Melia agreed to be his girlfriend. Although she was sure she was his girlfriend long before they’ve put the label on it.

But it still made her so overjoyed that she barely perceived the world around her.

Maybe that’s why it took her hours to notice that Camilla was gone and her bed untouched. It wasn’t unusual for Camilla to spend the night…out. But it was definitely suspicious for her not to show up until lunch.

Reasonably concerned Melia decided to check her phone and indeed, she found a new email from Millie.

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“I hope it’s not one of those chain mails she considers funny or I’ll kill her.”

“Dear Mel,

I knew you’d be the first one to notice my absence. And I’m telling you, there’s no need to freak out. I’m alive and I’m doing just fine. Do not call the police, I repeat, do NOT call the police. LOL.
I also wanted to let you know that I’m not coming home tonight. Actually,  I’m not coming home in forseeable future because I moved in with Dom. You remember him, right? Tall and handsome, famous DJ – we hit it up at the dance party back in Windenburg.

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So yeah, we’ve been seeing each other ever since, but it was all so complicated with me living here and Dom living there. 
So from now on, I’ll be living in Oasis Springs. Out new home is a lovely trailer house at the outskirts. It’s not much, but it’ll do for now.

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I’m sure you’d love it, it’s cute as plum. And so is Dom. He’s just so good to me. I’m pretty excited about this whole thing – I’m picturing myself doing all the wifey stuff for him, like cleaning and waiting for him with dinner ready. Who would have thought I had such a romantic side in me, huh? 😀

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You can come visit us anytime you want. I’ve already talk with Isis, she’s coming this Friday. I have plenty of time on my hands now that I quitted my job. But don’t worry, I’m not planning to become a housewife. I signed up with Oasis Springs Fighting Club – we both know I have better chance there than I had in SimTechnologies. But I can’t start with training until the baby’s born.

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I mentioned that I’m pregnant before, didn’t I?
Anyway, take care and say hello to everyone at home!

Love,
Millie.”

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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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“Hmm…interesting.”

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

02-19-16_5-46-14 PM

“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…”

02-22-16_4-37-07 PM

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 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.