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Eliza and Patrick: Food

Getting toddlers to savour new foods could be a challenge, Eliza was adamant regarding what textures passed her lips, Patrick wanted everything. Rylan surrendered to Eliza, she knew her mind, chocolate made its way to her plate to keep her quiet. It was his fault, describing spaghetti as worms, the olives that topped the taco casserole were animal droppings. Patrick reached for food, whatever Emilie ate he wanted to taste it, unfazed by Rylan’s attempts to tease and deter him. Emilie tempted Eliza, tiny portions of colour, she loved a vegetable rainbow plate, they intrigued her eldest, except when it came to meat, she folded her arms unimpressed. Her father made it clear meat came from animals, taking her stuff toy and putting it on a plate next to her dinner, emphasising where it came from. The real cuteness, Patrick, to show he understood he tried the ham slice pointing at Lawrence the pig, a big grin on his face.

Patrick

It came a no surprised Patrick would be keen to taste the world, he needed watching as grass, leaves and dirt were quick to pass his lips. Eliza had enjoyed many of her meals outside, comfortable on the grass and happy to eat the plated food. Patrick fussed in his high chair, homemade spaghetti, he wanted to get his hands in, the idea they were worms slipping through his fingers made dinner entertaining.

The differences were evident, Patrick needed constant stimulation, boring of simple tasks, he wanted constant fun and attention. Playtime filled the time when waiting for meals, Emilie set him up with blocks, toys, or she would wrestle the tablet from Eliza, nothing worked. His attention span was goldfish level, Emilie stared at the mounting dishes, succumbing to her needy son. Collapsing on the sofa would be the perfect way to relax when he took his afternoon nap, however, Rylan’s complaints, the state of the house she missed the time alone.

Patrick

Eliza was the saving grace, she excelled in keeping herself entertained, she loved watching videos on the tablet, picking up the nursery rhymes and talking adventure with the play area Unicorn, the oversized plushy. The difference came from her enjoyment of stories, her grandfather Jose’s children’s books were fascinating, despite Rylan’s possessive nature for his father’s work, Eliza respected the books. Patrick preferred to suck them, inspecting everything with his mouth, the majority gnawed. Despite their relocation to the top shelf, Rylan hid one book in his study, Eliza enjoyed the hunt, knowing the reward was a voyage of imagination. Her independence asserted itself at playgroup, her skills exceeded those of the other toddlers, the nursery teachers were recommending entranced to Buckingham High, a specialist school, they took children as young as five, honing their skills and challenging the minds of these budding geniuses. Emilie believed this was the place, the cost was a none issue, she could imagine her daughter as a doctor or delivering scientific breakthroughs, it was unfortunate Rylan believed that Newcrest High was decent, after all, it was good enough for him.

Daciana: Fragmented World

Daciana perched on the bed. The mattress had through the years become worn and lumpy. It offered a strange degree of comfort as though used to moulding itself to a child’s form. She flicked through her homework book wishing to appear studious. The information remained on the page as her troubled thoughts refused to budge. Patrick had chicken sizzling on the barbecue, the sweet stick sauce should entice her. She saw how other children were around delicious foods, salivating and hungry. Leticia taught Luliana how to chop vegetables. Daciana smirked, knowing Luliana would eat half before dinner. Patrick hollered, calling her down, but she sat, unable to find the will to move. The stairs creaked. Daciana searched the bed for her pencil.

He perched beside her, surprised at the sudden desire to complete her homework. The girls seemed excited, eager to get into the woods, so why the change? Patrick wondered if not seeing a bear or encountering wolves disappointed her? Daciana shrugged, shuffling away from him. The boring option awaited her downstairs, bland food was the doctor’s orders. It made a difference but Daciana’s stomach lurched at the idea of food. She did not want to face another meal or those nutrition shakes.

Patrick moved closer wrapping an arm around her. Daciana’s shoulders twitched until freed. The reluctance to open up to him hurt. She had been closing herself off since they met Charlotte. Their mother insisted on wanting to be a part of their lives. Luliana made herself clear, Patrick and now Leticia were her parents. The younger sister believed she spoke for them both, and Daciana had yet to speak up about her feelings. The idea Daciana wanted to know Charlotte and Caleb gnawed at him. He wondered if she feared upsetting him, that he might reject her if she got too close.

Silence. Patrick sighed, asking her to at least join them for dinner. Daciana turned the page, pretending to focus on the equations. The tears stung her eyes. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, Patrick was right. Except it was her parents she feared would reject her. The pencil flexed in her fingers as she held back tears. It snapped, and the crack jolted her; Daciana threw her head into the pillow burying into its musty smell. Why would no one explain why her parents chose to leave her and play happy families with a new baby. What was wrong with her? She hated Cornelius. She hated her parents. She resented her sister being happy as they were. The ability to eat food without intense pain. Daciana’s fists clench the pillow, suppressing her screams. She hated her life.

Patrick: Deeper into the Woods

Patrick arranged with the Ranger for the twins to attend a survival workshop. They would learn about insects, trees, plants, and fish discovered in the lake. Luliana hugged Daciana, ready to absorb the knowledge on offer. She wanted to be a part of the project. It was a chance to inspire the next generation to preserve this beautiful woodland. Daciana seemed unenthused by their fun-packed day, shrugging her sister away. With arms folded, Daciana remained quiet when asked what was wrong.

The moodiness had begun the previous night when Leticia offered to read to her. Daciana sat unresponsive as Leticia added flourishes to the story. Downstairs she could hear Patrick and Luliana washing up. Amongst the clanging of pots, Patrick splashed and threatened to tickle her. Luliana squealed and giggled, calling him ‘daddy’. A reminder of how perfect the younger twin believed their family was. Except it wasn’t. Leticia was a good woman, and Patrick lit up whenever she entered the room. For a moment, Daciana forgot the reality, embracing Leticia into their lives. Yet, the memory of Caleb cooing over Cornelius made her want to scream. All she and Luliana knew of their life was a lie. Daciana could no longer accept the world presented.

Leaving the girls behind, Leticia and Patrick headed deeper into the forest. Due to the lack of rainfall, the ground crunched and rustled beneath their feet. The chilled air made misty breath, and Leticia clung tighter to Patrick for warmth. In Luliana’s storybooks, Patrick wondered if there might be some truth. He had not seen anything on the map pin on the campsite board, and the Ranger gave him a vague answer. They trudged through the thicket, brambles clinging and snagging their clothes. A babbling brook tempted them, fish were easy to attract, and he knew they were close. He risked his hands, pulling back a cluster of brambles, revealing an archway. Branches, woven together, created a snicket into the darkened overgrowth. Leticia hesitated, shuddering at the thought of the spiders or biting insects. Patrick held her hand, keeping her close. His phone provided restricted light, as though the blackness were thick treacle. The brambles drooped behind, sealing them in.

At the far end, lights flickered, and a fresh autumn breeze filled their nostrils. Patrick braced himself for the stabbing pain as he cleared their path. Instead, these were vines, flowing over his jacket, inviting them into the sun. Luliana’s books did not prepare either for the sight. The breeze danced through the trees, bushes and flowers. Along with water; it sounded musical. Leticia believed she could hear singing. Things around them appeared clearer and sparkled. The stories claimed this was the fairies keeping this world alive. An area which broke away from the Magic Realm and hid from those looking to steal its secrets.

The woodland had given way to a clearing edged by jagged rocks on one side. Waterfalls carved their path into deep pools, a rippling glass into another world. A solitary house sat idling with planters and boxes filled with temptation. Leticia peered in through the window and queried through an open door. The home had a lived-in feel, centuries of solitude and memories of a bygone era. She backed away from the door, recalling other stories. People, lured in by the comforts of home, then baked in an oven at one hundred and fifty degrees. Their muscular flesh was seasoned and seared on all sides. Hunters discovered casserole dished with a mouth-watering stock, garlic and herbs. Fleshy temptation of the worst kind, all baked for six hours. The meat fell away from the bone of the person they had searched for, the realisation driving them mad.

Leticia hurried towards Patrick as he considered the unusual plants. She tugged at his jacket, her eyes darting across to the trees. He laughed off her concerns, deciding he should curb her television viewing to a PG level. Pocketing his cuttings, he agreed to return. The sun was setting, and the girls would be home with hundreds of stories to share.

Daciana: Fish of the Lake

Nothing said adventure like French Toast with lashings of maple syrup. Patrick threw on a few strips of bacon for good measure. The girls eyed their plates, waiting for everyone to sit. As they took that first bite, they hummed with delight. The crisp outer layer of the eggy bread followed by the sweet and salty hit. Patrick tapped his glass, drawing attention. When the holiday was over, Leticia would be moving in with them. The girl’s eyes turn from dad to her, the woman who was happy for them to call her mum. Leticia squealed, jumped up and knocked her orange juice. She did not stop, throwing her arms around Leticia. Daciana grinned, following her sister’s example with less chaos. Patrick felt somewhat left out, and with another bite, he joined them. His chest pressed to the back of Leticia’s chair, and with arms stretched wide, he embraced his girls.

Patrick had a magic vision of their holiday, a view shared by Leticia. To the outside world, they looked normal. Mum, Dad and their two curious daughters. The twins pointed, questioning and giggling as they strolled along the pine trails. The initial excitement of embracing Leticia into their family unit waned in Daciana. She hugged herself again the autumn breeze. In the days following Spooky Day, Daciana had grown quiet and distant. For Luliana, it appeared nothing had changed. She continue with life, calling Patrick “dad” and fantasising about him marrying Leticia. Daciana felt an increased sense of isolation. She saw how Caleb doted on Cornelius; he smiled as the giggling toddler played with his food. Charlotte seemed hesitant to make conversation. What she said lacked the interest and affection Leticia’s voice conveyed. Daciana wondered why the coldness which infused the air had begun growing within her. These thoughts weighed heavy on her mind as they approached the lake.

Daciana lifted her eyes skyward. There were rumours, fairy tales and legends of a great battle. A large chunk of land ripped away in a time when magic existed in their world. The rough surface of the cliff overlooking the lake stood as a testament to this story. Over the years, trees covered the rugged and desolate land. A place that once housed a thriving spellcaster community. Daciana rolled her eyes as Luliana swooned, drawn in by these stories. “Where water falls over the earth’s edge, a doorway will open and lead the seeker to a magical realm”. Daciana stuck a finger in her mouth, pretending to vomit. She hated the romanticised views, and her sister was full of them. Luliana ignored her, continuing to share the prophecy. “In the bygone era of the fae creatures, people believed a human and a fae would reunite the worlds”. It was this trope Daciana hated; she wanted to be old enough to watch movies about the war itself. Still, she had to admire Granite Falls; it held an eeriness, an odd silence which caught her by surprise. The uneven land and the tunnel carved into the jagged rocks to make the forest accessible. Her lips curled, shying away from a full smile; Daciana thought, there was truth in the stories.

Leticia and Luliana sat on the damp grass. They watched as Patrick demonstrated his limited fishing skills to Daciana. She held the grip firm, flinging it back and forth to find the rhythm. Patrick handed her the reel; it clipped to the rod with a satisfactory click-clack. Daciana gave a momentary grin. Patrick caught her, and it spurred him on. His enthusiasm was infectious; Leticia almost wished they had a spare rod. Their catch was small fry, not worth the effort and patience they were giving. Patrick wound the last of his catch, releasing the palm-sized fish back into the lake. Daciana squealed, her rod tugged hard. Patrick clasped the grip, knocking her aside as the reel spun. Daciana grabbed Patrick’s jacket, shouting as the fish wrestled against the line. The scales shimmered in the midday sun. Its tail flickered. Eight inches of determined fish hung on Daciana’s rod. Patrick hugged her, apologising for his rough manor. He would, of course, make it up to her by barbecuing the fish for her supper.

Patrick: Into The Woods

Finding someone who could share his love of travel and his love for his daughters was a tall order. Women, Patrick, believed preferred one or the other. His experience extended to his mother, sisters and the few dates he had enjoyed. Leticia encompassed both. She adored the girls; they bonded through movies and playing with toys. It surprised Leticia, as she had never wanted children of her own. What was missing from this perfect family unit was the adventure. Patrick regaled tales of bears in the forest and fishing for dinner. Luliana preferred the idea it was a teddy bear’s picnic. A bear with large foreboding teeth, growling outside her tent kept her awake at night.

Leticia and Patrick

In the wake of his mother’s death, Patrick imagined exploring the Granite Fall trails. He would discover insects, explore hidden groves and connect with the natural world. Putting his dreams on hold for the girls was worth all the tantrums for the moment they called him dad. The joy when they said it in front of their biological parents was incomparable. Leticia was unsure and awkward when Luliana asked if they could call her mum. While it was clear Patrick loved her, a discussion of their future, the next step, had yet to occur.

The cutlery clattered as they shared concerns about their trip. A chorus of “are we there yet?” gave Patrick a headache on train trips into the city. He regretted his decision to hire a car, but he hoped the girls would enjoy playing their favourite tunes. Leticia was unsure how many repeats of “Kinzakura no Chigiri” she would tolerate. Neither option was preferable as the conversation fell awkward. Patrick cleared his throat, laying a palm-sized box on the table. His breath held as she flipped open the lid. The bronze keys were an invitation for her to move in with him. Leticia’s silence made him panic; was it too soon or was she unsure of daily family life? His other thought had been a proposal, and looking at Leticia, marriage was a definite desire. He watched her fingers caress the keys. Leticia rested a hand on Patrick’s, accepting this should also mean the girls get their wish.

Daciana, Luliana, Patrick and Leticia

Patrick and Leticia stole glances as they loaded the car. They agreed to wait until the cabin before sharing their news. Daciana pulled Luliana’s coat tight; neither was keen on the chilling weather. Patrick knew it would be late when they arrived. Had he not emphasised the importance of school to Daciana, they would have taken a vacation day. Instead, he scheduled a stop in Evergreen harbour for dinner. He had stopped at the bar, enjoying an awkward meal alone. The food had been reasonable and he doubted much had changed. After the girl dozed in the back as they bumped over the unmarked roads towards Glimmerbrook. From here the light faded, Leticia kept him awake as they made the final drop into Granite Falls.

It was, as Patrick predicted, dark when they arrived. They walk with a flickering touch towards a log cabin shrouded in darkness. He teased the girls they would need to sleep on the ground. A lack of light would make it difficult to erect the tents. Daciana grumbled, kicking the fallen leaves and pinecones. Her sister lagged behind, whimpering at the thought a bear would carry her off in the night. Her sister poked her plump stomach, still full from the fish and chip supper. It was a reminder how Luliana would make a delicious meal for a hungry bear, get them through the winter. The girls were not much different in size; despite Daciana’s poor health, she was not skinny. Patrick laughed, patting his stomach; if the bears were looking for a meal, they would choose him. There would be plenty of fat to keep them warm. Daciana grinned, their laughter falling silent as they heard a twig snap.

Leticia cleared her throat, unlocking the cabin door and throwing on the lights. The girls stared at Patrick. Visions of canvas tents ripped open or blown into the river and swept down steam vanished. They raced into the cabin, embracing it’s warmth. Patrick wrapped his arms around Leticia, snuzzling her neck. He wondered if she was certain this was the life she wanted? Upstairs the twins argued over beds and using the bathroom. Leticia leaned into his affection; this place, him and the girls, it was home. They were, as they should be, a family.

Charlotte: Spooky Day

Cornelius, A full-blooded baby with a taste for blood. He nipped Caleb’s fingers, growling like a puppy. He would giggle, refusing to let go as Caleb cringed, dreading the day his vampire’s teeth came through. Unlike his adult parents, Cornelius had a beating heart, common in born vampires. The natural blood flow helped them develop like human children. Caleb loved the opportunity to cook. The house was filled with smells to make mouths water and stomachs rumble. The plasma fruit enabled Cornelius to adjust over the years. He would control his yearning and become stronger than his parents.

Cornelius and Caleb

Charlotte needed to steady her nerves. Patrick agreed to bring the girls to visit on Halloween. Her hands shook as she poured the bag of sweets into the orange plastic bowl, letting them spill on the floor. The knot tightened in her stomach; Charlotte had not seen the girls since she left. Patrick refused to share photos, saying they should decide what Charlotte could know. She crushed the bag in her fists, suppressing the cry.

Caleb seasoned the turkey, watching and wary of asking how she was. It was going to be a difficult day for everyone. Bringing her family, a group of humans Caleb was unsure he could keep the secret, made him nervous. Vlad was looking for reasons to take Charlotte from him, and bury them both in the graveyard. What would become of Cornelius? Vlad never objected to vampire children, he welcomed the purity. The issue Caleb could see was Cornelius was not of his blood. Would Vlad slay or bury him after reaching puberty when the changes began? Caleb wrestled with his loyalty to his sire and the vampire he created. The ministry of magic had blessed them, and for now, they were safe. Charlotte kept pushing the boundaries of Vlads house rules. Caleb rubbed his neck, and his adam’s apple bobbed in his throat, when would they reach the end of Vlad’s tolerance?

Eliza arrived first, a cautious Milly behind, taking tentative steps into the house. Milly felt the chills of Forgotten Hollow, and the dark, dank rooms did nothing to dispel her fears. A giggle of excited girls followed behind. Patrick came armed with a casserole, unsure what Caleb would offer them. He had strange visions of blood bubbling or sliced open for any visiting vampires. Shallow cuts allow the blood to ooze. Caleb placed a steaming bowl of roast potatoes on the counter. Eliza took a deep breath, making the first bold move to see if he needed help.

Daciana, Patrick, Eliza, Caleb and Charlotte

A pair of curious eyes followed Milly. Cornelius had snuck downstairs, lured by the nervous conversation. Charlotte made a cold introduction, hoping Patrick would not make a scene at the word son. The glassy eyes of Luliana were all Patrick needed to hold his tongue. His girls knew the truth, and the sense of abandonment solidified in the younger twin. He moved closer to her squeezing her hand, wary of accepting the offered food.

Charlotte shifted. The silence from her daughters gnawed at her as they avoided eye contact. Caleb had added plasma to meals given to her and Cornelius. He tried to appear casual in nursing his blood fill wine glass. The tension ached in Patrick’s shoulders. Despite the delicious meal, suspicions and concerns wavered in him. Daciana broke the silence praising the food. She met Charlotte’s gaze; her dad, referring to Patrick, was an excellent cook. Daciana took a bite of his casserole, humming as the flavour popped in her mouth. In truth, the food made her stomach churn, but she hid the pain. There was a smell making her curious, the thick liquid in Caleb’s glass. She watched as he swirled it, hypnotised by its glossy colour. Her stomach rumbled; Daciana covered her mouth. The acidity mixed with gravy, turkey and roasties. Patrick reacted, dragging her to the bathroom. Luliana excused her sister, having eaten sweets before they came.

Patrick was unclear if Charlotte believed him. Either way, Daciana was not her concern. She surrendered that right and the girls made their stance clear. Saying goodbye, Patrick pulled his daughters closer. He had no intention of bringing them back, Forgotten Hollow was not a place for humans.

Charlotte: Cornelius Vatore-Grace

Charlotte knew meeting her siblings would be problematic. She never expected open arms, but her brother’s hostility surprised her. The years had failed to soften the heartache caused by her disappearance. Patrick spoke warm and loving in his affection for the girls. He offered the family life Charlotte was unable. She was grateful, but the anger inside her raged as his words cut. A noose of guilt tightened as Patrick wanted to protect the girls, keep them away from Charlotte. How could she make amends when her siblings were against her? The fear in Eliza’s eyes made Charlotte believe herself a monster. Caleb had warned such meetings would bring heartbreak and disappointment. He refused to support her desire to reach out to those she left behind. It brought a coolness to their relationship. Her family should be unaware of her existence as a vampire, but Charlotte wanted to apologise.

Caleb and Charlotte

Leaving her babies with Patrick seemed appropriate. A way to protect them from the life she wanted. Charlotte struggled to admit her feelings for her daughters were not those of love. It had been overwhelming. Charlotte buried herself in Caleb’s arms, demanding the death he offered. The plan worked; her focus on mastering her talents kept her from feeling the darkness. This escape was temporary as Intense waves of sorrow began in the weeks before Eliza found her. Charlotte could feel it squirming, drawing on her strength. A bitter resentment festered as the tiny heartbeat echoed. When Eliza arrived, Charlotte, having kept the secret from Caleb, needed fresh blood. The verbal attack from her sister was unbearable. Charlotte wanted to tell Eliza she was pregnant, but the rage took over. She could feel her baby, hear Eliza’s racing heart, and Charlotte took what she desired.

Concerned and fearing the wrath of Vlad, Caleb locked her in the basement. When Vlad uncovered the truth of Charlotte’s transformation, he attacked Caleb. They had lied, denied the existence of the twins and how Caleb came to drain Charlotte. Vlad resented the position, fooled by members of his house. He pinned Caleb to the ground, the protégé squirmed in a feeble effort to escape. Vlad’s features were gaunt and harsh, his cold eyes warning of the consequences. The brutality of two human children denied their mother. The behaviour was impulsive, selfish and inconsiderate. The punishment for this crime was imprisonment, akin to his zombies, or death. The Ministry would demand retribution, and Vlad would lay the blame at Caleb’s feet. He wanted to bury them and Honda for this betrayal. The sages, magic’s most senior advisors, were against this. Vlad would not tolerate Charlotte’s actions regardless of her pregnancy. It seemed he feared what role Charlotte would play in the future, a vision not shared with her or Caleb. Her attack on Eliza would give Vlad reason to ignore the Ministry and take justice into his hands. Caleb knew his wife would face eternity, buried once the child was born.

Cornelius, Charlotte and Caleb

Caleb chained Charlotte to prevent her from breaking through the steel gates. This damp, candlelit cellar was the birthplace of their full-blood vampire, Cornelius. The baby screamed for his mother, who cowered in the corner sobbing. She rejected the child, leaving Caleb to comfort the infant. When alone, Charlotte forced herself to watch Cornelius sleep. Chubby cheeks and a fine layer of blonde hair christened his head. At this moment, Charlotte tried to believe she loved him and would be his mother.

Charlotte and Caleb in picture 1 https://www.tumbex.com/joannebernice.tumblr/post/184576290674

For Charlotte in picture 2 https://www.patreon.com/posts/23349338

Milly: Hunter and Prey

Vicky taught her moral behaviour, so what persuaded her it was a good idea?

Milly knew she was wrong to throw someone’s work in the trash, no matter how mean they were. Had she returned the notebook or ignored it, Milly might have saved her guilty conscience. The problem she faced was this student may have incriminated Milly. She could see them accusing her of stealing the book and landing her in detention. Taking a deep breath, Milly buried it in the nearest bin beneath a half-eaten sandwich. The act gnawed at Milly; she kept glancing over at the student, the worried look on their face. They scoured their bag in a panic, chuntering how the exam was Friday. Milly thought about the sandwich. How its day-old contents were seeping into the pages of the discarded notebook. Ink blurred words of scientific theory and references to recall. Swallowing the guilt, Milly walked over to the student, offering to share her notes. They spent an hour in the school cafeteria checking facts and memorising concepts.

Milly, Scarlett, Hunter and Eliza

Showering, Milly hoped to absolve herself of the day’s wrongdoings. The soap stung her eyes, karma for her misdeeds and the sudden drop in temperature made her yelp. Eliza knew there was a problem. When the neighbours used their bathroom, the water in her shower scolded or froze the user. Mr Carrington’s interest in Eliza’s career made them both uncomfortable. It meant inviting a stranger into their home, one approved by him to resolve the issue. The building’s manager Diya was someone Eliza came to trust. It was the one person who was open to sharing their unease about Mr Carrington.

Milly stabbed at the meal, pushing food around her plate without consumption. There were other thoughts in her mind. Eliza had taken out the trash and bumped into Hunter in the hall. His voice was low, rough and harsh, at odds with the language and polite demeanour he greeted Eliza. Milly sighed; she had to admire him from afar. Hunter was similar in age to Eliza and made clear in his actions that he was not interested in Milly. She felt patronised; Hunter told her how to stack plates or to be careful when handling food. His presence made her tremble; the butterflies in her stomach swarmed whenever he was in the room. It frustrated her, this man made her swoon, yet his behaviour towards her was parental.

He and Scarlett joined them for dinner. The topic of school and her upcoming exams did nothing to change Hunter’s mind. Milly wanted to show she was a maturing young woman. She wondered how desperate she sounded. Her brain tried to find intelligent questions, but they sounded lame. Who was his hero? What motivated him? In her mind, they seemed philosophical, and open to discussion. Those green eyes were cold, staring through her and the silly questions.

Scarlett, Milly and Eliza

Scarlett felt the tension and Hunter’s unwillingness to discuss himself. Milly bit back tears continuing her effects to join the now political conversation. Hunter dismissed her opinion on the city’s renovations under the new mayor. She convinced herself, it was the inclusion of the tabloids and the links with Mr Carrington. The conspiracy suggested the mayor’s involvement with organised crime. Hunter smirked, shaking his head; it made Milly’s shoulders tense. Whether wrong or right, Eliza encouraged Milly to share her opinion. How else would she learn to understand or debate differences with others?

Milly took her trembling to the bathroom, allowing the tears she held back to flow. Scarlett’s warm, comforting voice on the other side of the door invited themselves to join her. They sat in silence, listening to Hunter and Eliza clear the dishes. A heated debate regarded the decision to create a homeless shelter in the Arts District. Hunter grumbled; Eliza’s logic was not something he could argue. A space for people to go rather than living on the street made sense. It kept those people safe; it fed into the mayor’s campaign “No Person left behind”. The controversy came with Mr Carrington. He monopolised the opportunity by offering these people jobs within his businesses. Rumours of endeavours were unsavoury and led to a police investigation.

Milly

With the apartment door slamming, Eliza ventured into the bathroom. She squeezed onto the seat with them and looped an arm across Milly’s shoulders. Eliza knew her cousin was hiding something about her school day and her crush on Hunter was obvious. The latter, Eliza and Scarlett, hoped was fleeting. As for school, Eliza reminded Milly she is a brilliant student. This desire to aim for perfection is unnecessary because to Eliza, Milly was already. She has a huge heart but needs to learn to be good to others, even when they are cruel. Milly dropped her head, taking Eliza up on another offer. Writing her thoughts had been Vicky’s suggestion and no longer served to help. Instead, Milly fastened the gloves. Nothing else could manage her complex teenage emotions like pounding the punch bag.

Eliza: Just a key, Right?

Eliza hummed. Milly noticed the joyful melody of a love song as her cousin danced through the apartment. The regular dates with Scarlett energised Eliza. As she cooked, Eliza shared Scarlett’s recommendations to enhance the meal. Scarlett’s love of food influenced Eliza, and she wanted to impress them. Their time together increased, making Eliza consider asking Scarlett to move in. What concerned her was taking care of Milly. Eliza needed to put her cousin first.

Eliza and Milly

Milly considered the idea; she loved seeing the big smile and relaxed vibe Eliza had. Since moving to San Myshuno, Milly felt life was a black cloud threatening rain. The new school came with cliques, established and not looking for newbies. They were not mean. Milly wished they were; at least, that would be an acknowledgement of her existence. A few teens spoke to her during class, as teachers encouraged teamwork. She felt isolated at lunchtime, sitting alone at the table or outside the main building. Eliza gave up her full social calendar to ensure Milly settled, so she hated complaining. Guilt weighed heavy on Eliza’s shoulders. It made her want to be present in Daciana and Luliana’s life. There was not enough of Eliza’s time to share with everyone. Milly wanted to be selfish, but at the same time, Eliza needed to have the love she deserved. Scarlett had been supportive during Eliza’s anaemia diagnosis. That had been the extent of Milly’s interaction. Whatever Eliza decided, Milly assured her she would be supportive.

Eliza knew she was overthinking her relationship and whether she was ready for the next step. City living came with its challenges, first the rat-infested apartment and job demands. There was also her rising suspicion the building’s owner Mr Carrington might not be on the level. Concerns he would want a quid pro quo were not unfounded. He paid for their cat’s cremation, and since had shown increased interest in her career. The recent absence from matches saw her receive several well-wishes from him. Eliza shuddered, clearing the thought from her mind. GeekCon was on and Eliza felt confident she could compete and win a gaming tournament. Another reason for the determination to win was the beautiful Scarlett who would go with her.

GeekCon took place in the Fashion District across the river from Eliza. She had, with jealous eyes admired the apartments as she scoured the paper looking for a place for her and Milly. The festival hosted the usual food and obligatory t-shirt and mementoes. Amateur actors volunteered to dress up as superheroes and movie villains. Fans crowded, snapping pictures pretending they met the real deal. Two massive rockets separated the gaming areas and hackathon computers. The first rocket was complete and a pilot remained at the helm. Eliza watched as excited and frisky passengers waited their turn to ride into space. The other rocket came with “how-to” instructions. There were pops and bangs as wannabe rocket scientists put their skills to the test. The first game area was what Eliza had her eye on, a virtual reality action game. She was certain her athletic ability, and quick reaction times would get her a perfect score. Eliza was not a natural gamer, her score beaten by other competitors.

Scarlett threaded their arm through Eliza’s, tucking a stray lock behind their ear. The closeness made winning seem a frivolous goal to have. They nudged their shoulder against Eliza, guiding them to the Observatory. The telescope was the perfect place to capture images of the night sky, but GeekCon was a daytime event. Eliza suspected some were spying on the surrounding apartments. After all, gazing up at the blue sky through a lens did not sound exciting. Scarlett held her hands, pulling her into the tight space. Eliza discovered a new perspective on daytime observations. The telescope jerked and spun as Eliza pressed against the controls. The observatory echoed and rattled with the motion contained within. The two emerged, flustered and with passers-by raising a knowing eyebrow.

On the tube, they sat cosied up. Eliza felt conscious as though everyone knew what they were doing in the observatory. Scarlett kissed her cheek as they arrive on the third floor, heading for their door. It had to be now, Eliza reached for their hand, the words crumpled in the wrong order. Scarlett accepted the key, a freedom to come and go as they pleased in Eliza’s home. They leaned in, taking Eliza’s face in their hands. A deep probing kiss was the promise to explore the cosmos together.

Patrick: A Promise to My Daughters

Part Two

The conversation no father wants to have had arrived. When it came to the girls, Patrick believed himself honest. He considered the possibility they would want to know their biological parents. Charlotte brought that day closer, and he wanted to be selfish. She walked away from her responsibility, regardless of her reasons. Patrick yelled at his sister, uninterested in why she chose Caleb. Instead, he discovered, to transition, Charlotte died. A vampire transformation required Caleb to kill her, draining her blood. Once mixed with his, Caleb made her drink, watching as life slipped. A painful and slow process. It made Patrick feel sick, and his stomach twisted. He walked for hours, ignoring Eliza’s pleas to take the train home.

He found Leticia and his two girls asleep on the sofa, the television switched on and split popcorn. They snuggled together, a perfect family scene. If no one told the outside world these three were unrelated, would anyone be wise to the truth? Leticia smiled as Patrick covered them with a blanket, waking the sleepy girls. Daciana reached for Patrick; he settled next to her as her affection transferred to him. Leticia gave him a tired, concerned look, squeezing his hand.

Daciana, Luliana and Patrick

The conversation no father wants to have had arrived. Patrick listened to the girls giggle as they did their homework. He let out a deep sigh, wondering if he should have taken Eliza up on the offer of support. Patrick knew they were his children, but he could not deny the girl’s similarity to his sister. The question had always been when, not if, they would meet their birth parents. Charlotte was not giving him or them much time; she wanted an answer. Eliza attempted to bargain, suggesting a neutral time, a location where the girls would feel at ease. Patrick wondered if vampires understood compromise. He shook his head, they took what they needed when they wanted.

Daciana huffed, teeth gritted, her arms folded tight across her chest. If their parents wanted to see them and have a relationship, they would have taken care of them. Patrick was their father, and Daciana knew she did not want to see her so-called parents. Luliana’s silence worried Patrick; there were tears on her face. Her lower lip quivered. Daciana nudged her, inviting her for a swim. A violent shake of the head almost unleashed her watery pain.

Patrick stepped out to make a call, leaving Luliana alone. She gathered her strength and paints. Anger, screams, Luliana let go of everything she held in. Paints splashed, squeezed in her hand. The nerve of Charlotte to request they meet; Harvestfest was for family. Milly promised to help make decorations, and Patrick was going to do fish. Luliana remained defiant, Patrick was her father, and she wanted Leticia to be her mother. What right did Caleb and Charlotte have to demand their presence? Patrick ran into the room to find red-faced Luliana. She pointed to the bedroom where Daciana was changing. The paint had splashed on Luliana’s clothes and hands. There had been no reason to lie. She was afraid Patrick would yell, instead, he spoke with understanding.

Patrick and Luliana

This journey would have consequences for them all. Patrick believed they should visit Caleb and Charlotte. Whether they realise it or not, the girls should know them. He hugged Luliana tight, kissing the top of her head. Luliana trembled, mumbled objections sobbed into his sweater. She needed to know he would never give them back, a promise Patrick swore to keep.

Patrick: A Promise to my daughters

Part One

Windenberg was a place Patrick had not visited. He planned to bring the twins, but he was unsure the historic town would capture their interest. He wondered if tales of monsters living in the waters would inspire Daciana. He could weave in stories of noble ladies to captivate Luliana. An uneasy feeling gnawed, leaving the girls with Leticia could be disastrous. Patrick knew the twins were trouble and might scare Leticia away. Luliana had married Scarlett and Eliza and was already hoping for Leticia to play the mother. They persuaded him a girl’s night in with popcorn and movies would be a bonding experience.

Within the ruins of a castle, Juliana convinced him to meet her. Patrick sensed she was not truthful on the phone. The hesitant, cryptic conversation style reminded him of the twins when they lied. Whatever the reason behind her sudden call, Patrick was curious. When he arrived, his chest tightened, Eliza’s face was stony, lips tight, and nostrils flared. Patrick followed the line of vision to the petite blonde, Charlotte. The tension built inside. Despite her absence, he feared Charlotte was there to demand her children.

Eliza, Charlotte and Patrick

Charlotte seemed smaller, shoulders rounded, head bowed, and arms folded, hugging herself. Patrick wanted to hug her, let go of the tears of joy and welcome her back into their lives. Except he could not do that, both Eliza and Juliana mentioned he should not touch her. It seemed odd, Eliza never talked about what happened. She refused to share where Charlotte was hiding, Patrick knew something spooked her. Eliza rubbed her neck, capturing Charlotte’s attention, and both took a few steps back. Juliana broke the silence, inviting them to a neutral location to open communication. Charlotte to explain her absence, to know how her daughters were doing.

The twin’s names in Charlotte’s voice snapped Patrick back to reality. The relief of seeing his sister alive, replaced by what he feared most. Charlotte did not get to cherry-pick her life; he raised the girls, so they were his daughters. Where was she when Luliana got her first tooth? Why did Charlotte fail to comfort Daciana as her stomach twisted, making her vomit? She missed their first day at school; the excitement when they came home. Patrick was there when Luliana fell, grazing her knee and read her stories. When Daciana pushed another girl for stealing Luliana’s homework, he disciplined her. Charlotte chose to abandon the twins, but he never could.

This time it was him stepping back as Charlotte lunged forward, hissing. Juliana placed a calming hand on her shoulder, easing her back. The four of them were breaking the rules made by the Ministry of Magic. The law stated when Caleb took Charlotte as his mate, her old life was over. A human representative should have notified them of her death. They would have mourned and moved on with their lives. Juliana continued, her voice cold, monotone and rehearsed. This would have been clear-cut, except Charlotte was a mother. Her presence in Forgotten Hollow stopped Caleb from getting clean. During their relationship, Charlotte allowed him to drink from her. Vampires can revert to their old desires, Caleb was wrestling his. Charlotte chose Caleb and the life he offered.

Eliza stifled a nervous laugh. Since vampires were undead, it was weird to call their existence life. She had been holding herself steady, but the whole situation was disturbing. They were having a conversation where vampires were real.

Patrick looked confused, unclear how Juliana could be Caleb’s daughter. It implied he was much older than his appearance, and as with Charlotte, time stood still. For him and Eliza, a few hidden flecks of grey and wrinkles he wanted to hide. They were older and, in his case, less defined. His brain struggled to compute the vampire references. They were fictional stories his baby sister escaped into when life got too much for her. Patrick’s breathing grew rapid, and sweat beaded on his brow. Charlotte grew interested in his heartbeat, inching towards him. If everything said was true, then Charlotte died. She had died, and he did not keep his promise to Emilie to protect her.

Eliza, Patrick and Charlotte

Juliana distracted Charlotte, handing her a plasma pack. She snatched it, moving away from the group. Patrick choked, covering his mouth, shocked and staggering back into Eliza. She hugged him; the shock for her was months ago. Accepting Juliana’s invitation brought her reservations. The last time she saw Charlotte, she attacked, putting Eliza in the hospital. Juliana promised things were different, Charlotte had a measure of control. As for the twins, they were human. Patrick needed to relax as Charlotte would leave them in his care.

Charlotte stood near Patrick; the blood-stained lips made him shudder. He swallowed, but his dry throat made it hard. She wanted to host Harvestfest, to have him and the twins attend. There was that rightful tone, it riled Patrick. It was as though the girls were a commodity Charlotte remembered she once owned. Patrick opened his mouth, but Eliza answered. Charlotte did not force the issue, she wanted to make amends. Daciana and Luliana might find meeting their parents a frightening experience. Patrick would talk to them, as their father, and decide as a family. Charlotte nodded, allowing Juliana to guide her away.

Pose one https://www.tumbex.com/sim-plyreality.tumblr/post/175122311301

Poses two https://sense-company.wixsite.com/thesense4/single-post/2017/04/26/Disagreement