It's a hot summer day and Haesel is laying outside in the garden. There's a book covering her face. Her arms are spread and she curls her toes in the grass, sighing happily.
Sometimes, she's just glad to be alive and today is one of those days.
She's too content to read, so she just lies back and thinks instead. She opens her eyes looking up at the book, but it's too close to read and the words become smudges of black ink. She feels guilty for being so happy. Tomorrow she'll have been an orphan for a full year, and yet here she is feeling content.
She lets out a deep sigh.
Suddenly the book disappears and all Haesel can do is shut her eyes as fast as she can to avoid looking straight into the bright sun. A soft chuckle betrays Petunia en Haesel tries to glare without opening her eyes. Petunia's laugh tells her it isn't very effective.
"Stop having a wee guilt-fest, you little." Petunia says and Haesel wants to curse her for being so spot on. For some reason her elder sister - cousin a voice in the back of her mind reminds her gently - is very adept at reading her. She's not as good as Lily is at it because sometimes it almost seems like Lily and Haesel share a mind, but she's older, a little wiser and her interpretation often carries slightly more weight.
Haesel mumbles something but she herself is not sure what it's meant to be. Petunia's remark has hit a little too close to home.
A hand sweeps the wild hair off her forehead. Petunia's come from the inside where it is cooler so her hand is nice and refreshing. Haesel wants to cuddle right into it.
Sometimes she wonders if she was a cat in a previous life, if there is indeed such a thing.
The light has become bearable and Haesel opens her eyes cautiously. Petunia is staring off into the distance, mind on other things. She looks comfortable off into her own world, but Haesel is curious to what she wants with her so she nudges Petunia's hand with a finger where it's laying on her forehead still.
She would say that Petunia starts, for that's exactly it, but the elder girl would deny doing such an unladylike thing, so she just keeps silent and stares expectantly.
"Right." Petunia says decisively. All of the Evanses have that habit of stating that one word before getting down to anything and Haesel has noticed she's picked it up as well. She doesn't mind, because it makes her even more one of the family.
"I wanted to ask you something, if you do not mind, of course." Petunia always takes care to talk properly, because that's ladylike and she's a lady. Ivy just said she's read Pride and Prejudice once too many, when asked. Haesel isn't too sure what that means, but she and Lily still laugh about it sometimes.
"I don't mind." Haesel says, never mind that she's got no idea what Petunia wants to ask in the first place.
"Ah, yes." the blond haired girl takes a moment to arrange her thoughts before proceeding. "I'm aware Lily has asked you if you would mind being her sister? I'm talking about an official adoption, as opposed to just being a ward of Mother and Father."
Haesel nods, just once. She and Lily haven't spoken of what she asked that day yet, although they've been talking long into the night about the other things that had happened.
"I have come to the understanding that this is not completely beyond what Mother and Father desire themselves."
Haesel stares at her. Petunia coughs delicately and blushes, obviously misunderstanding. "Naturally, I am not at all be opposed, so I took it upon myself to assure you of this."
"She doesn't understand a word of what you just said, Tuney." Lily unceremoniously drops herself beside the two others, a frown on her face. "For that matter, neither do I."
Now Petunia's the one gaping but she catches on to it soon enough to close her mouth before either Lily or Haesel can make a 'watch out for flies' comment or anything of the like.
"So... You mean, she hasn't understood a thing?"
"Of course not! We're smart, Tuney, but no geniuses."
This is wrong, of course. From what Haesel has observed in the time she's known her family, she knows that Lily is extremely bright. She herself hasn't been to school yet on account of recovering from her injuries. She doesn't like to brag, but she's been able to keep up with what Ivy – who's an elementary school teacher – has been teaching her, and Ivy has told her they've gone so fast she's actually been teaching her way beyond what she's got to know to join Lily in school when summer ends.
Upon hearing this, Lily had demanded to be home schooled as well. Ivy had said they'd talk it over and while that had meant Ivy and Robert, not Ivy and Lily, Lily had taken to it as such and sometimes completely surprises her mum by starting on the subject yet again. Petunia, who was going to Middle School the next year, had taken to just watching and enjoying the show.
Haesel tunes in again in time to hear Lily assure Petunia that it would be indeed better to repeat her words, but this time not 'in words that belong with the Queen, not us.' so as to quote Lily directly.
A bit miffed, Petunia turns to face Haesel again, who's still lying on the ground peering up at her.
"You really didn't understand?"
Haesel shakes her head lightly, taking care not to dislodge the hand still on her forehead. The skin has warmed up by now, but it's very comforting.
"I would like for you to be my sister as well. I know – I have overheard Mother and Father taking about it."
Haesel sits upright and turns to face her. Lily has looked up as well, taking her attention from the daisy chain she's making to observe her elder sister. This is new to them.
Petunia is quick to explain. "They were talking about how they were thinking about going to visit your parents' graves tomorrow. Mother brought it up; Father agreed and then he suggested they finished the adoption process."
"Finish?" Lily gasps. "That means they've already started it!"
Petunia nods. "They wouldn't need your agreement, Haesel because you're still a minor, but Mother said she wanted to ask you about it anyway. She mentioned how you fit in so well and then Father said he wouldn't mind making you an Evans by name as well as by heart."
Haesel's eyes are large and round. There's a lot of confusion stirring in her heart, but elation triumphs. Her Aunt and Uncle would really want her as one of their own? She would be able to call Lily and Petunia her sisters?
Lily plucks a daisy absentmindedly and makes a hole in the stem with her nail before tugging another through the hole she's just made. Judging by the way her eyes seem to measure the crown of Haesel's head she has already decided for who the daisy chain is going to be.
"I've got more news." Petunia shares and she bends closer as if this is a great secret, but before she can utter another word Ivy appears in the kitchen door and calls them all inside. The girls share glances, wondering what it would be about but having the idea they already know. They troop inside, Petunia first and Lily last, trying to pluck some more daisies so she can finish her chain. Haesel remembers the book she's left outside, but the serious look on Aunt Ivy's face makes her decide to leave it for later.
They sit in the living room. Petunia choses the arm chair Robert normally prefers. She's a daddy's girl to the core and whenever she can she reads his paper and sits in the chair, preferably both at the same time. Lily and Haesel chose the love seat closest to the telly. Robert is standing near the fake fireplace, and Ivy seats herself on the sofa. Ivy speaks up first.
"Girls, we have two ... issues we'd like to talk to you about. The first one is that your father" this with a look to Robert that has the girls giggling "has accepted another position in his firm."
"Yes." Robert takes over. "It's a pretty good promotion, actually – but we'd have to move."
"Oh, where to?" Lily is exited, Petunia and Haesel less so. Petunia is thinking of the friends she's made here and the new school they'd all be going to together. Haesel has an unexpected lump in her throat. This is the first home she's had that she can remember and she'll be sad to lose it.
"Cokeworth." Ivy says and it's clear by her expression that she's not nearly as excited as her husband and youngest daughter.
"..Isn't that a mining town?" Petunia says and Haesel doesn't know if she ought to be surprised Petunia knows this. Sometimes it seems to her that Petunia knows everything.
"Indeed it is, Tuney-bear!" Robert says and his passion makes up for what Petunia's voice lacks. Petunia's cheeks stain a soft pink, as they always do whenever her father calls her by the nickname from when she was a small child and loved nothing more than her teddy bear.
Ivy sends her husband another look and he calms down slightly, enough to cough in his hand and attempt to deliver whatever he was going to say next in a slightly more moderate tone.
"I'm aware it's not a town as large or with as great a reputation as where we live now, but this is a very good chance for me to rise in the cooperation. Your mother and I have already looked at houses and have found one in a very good neighbourhood that will fit all our needs."
Ivy takes over. "You two will still need to share a room" She smiles. "I don't think that will be a problem."
Lily and Haesel, knowing this is meant for them, nod empathically.
"When will we move, Mu – Mother?" Petunia asks, covering up her slip by coughing in her hand. Lily buries her snickers in Haesel's shoulder who bears it stoically. There's a glint in her eyes, though. Petunia glares at them both.
Ivy moves to answer her though and as she turns her attention away, Lily takes a moment to whisper to Haesel.
"I'm waiting for the moment she says 'my lady mother' or something."
Now it's Haesel who has to cover her giggles and she adds, grinning, "Most Honourable and Revered Mother-"
Lily buries her face in Haesel's shoulder again and keeps it there. Haesel can feel her shoulders shake as she attempts to keep her laughing unnoticed. Haesel herself is spotting a grin that almost makes her cheeks hurt.
Robert glances over at them. A light frown ceases his forehead and he takes a step into their direction.
"Is everything all right, Lily-pad?" he asks. Haesel shakes her head and bites her lip trying not to laugh out loud. Lily just raises a hand and makes a feeble gesture that is meant to make clear she's fine, just dying from laughter.
Robert looks like he doesn't understand, so Haesel takes it upon herself to explain. "That means she's fine, she's just dying from laughter?"
Lily nods in her shoulder. Her shaking has lessened somewhat which means she's calming down, but she still keeps her probably red face hidden.
"Dying from laughter?" They've caught Ivy's attention. "Why ever for?"
Petunia scowls. "I bet they're making fun of me. Again. Mother, tell them to stop!"
Although her words are cold, her voice isn't. It's hard to be mad at those two, sitting there on the love seat looking adorable. If it were only Lily, it wouldn't be that hard to keep up the pretence of being offended, but in the year she's known her Haesel has managed to sneak into Petunia's heart and make a little spot there her own. She's a sucker for the girl she essentially sees as her littlest sister, and she knows it, so she gentles out her expression.
Haesel is starting to get a little red in the face from the scrutiny. She elbows Lily gently and the red haired girl takes the hint, sitting up slowly and wiping the last tears from her eyes.
"It's nothing." she says. "Just a funny thought!"
Exchanging a fond look, Robert and Ivy go back to the matter at hand. "We're still finalising the plans, so soon as we have met with the real estate agent we will be able to tell you more. My boss would like me on the job as soon as possible though, so I might commute until then."
"I guess maybe before the summer ends, sometime in August?" Ivy says, looking thoughtful.
Petunia adopts a pondering look. "Then we'd be able to start school there from the beginning, good. I don't want to start halfway through or something!"
Ivy laughs. "Heaven forbids, darling."
Robert, in absence of his favourite chair, sits down on the sofa. From being amused, his expression turns rather grave and serious. The girls quieten.
"Now, there was another matter we needed to speak to you about. This specifically concerns you, Haesel."
This is it, Haesel thinks. She's not sure what to feel. Petunia's words earlier have warned her some and she's not as unprepared as she might've been. She still isn't too sure what to feel or say, though a part deep within her has an idea.
"I was thinking of visiting your parents' graves tomorrow." Ivy says. She pauses, affected by what she's thinking about.
Haesel speaks up just before the silence becomes too heavy. "I would like to go?" It's meant as a statement, but it comes out uncomfortably questioning. Ivy sends her a quick smile.
"That's not the issue, though." She seems to find it hard to organise her words. Robert grabs one of her hands, giving it a squeeze. He's leaving it to her, and while it seems maybe a bit cruel to Haesel she also understands why. Her mum was Ivy's younger twin sister, after all.
"As you are a minor, you are officially in our custody as our ward. There is however, the option to adopt you legally." Ivy has found her words. She speaks slowly, carefully. "This would hardly change anything, really – it gives us just a little more legal weight, and it would allow you to change your last name if you would wish to do so..."
She takes a deep breath. "But mostly, it would make you wholly, truly, one of ours."
It's silent yet again. Haesel almost feels how everyone is staring at her. She dips her head down and worries at a loose thread on her dress.
"I know Petunia and Lily have been eager to call you their sister." Robert says, voice warm. He chuckles. "Especially Lily."
Lily grins at this. She's taken to leaning her shoulder against Haesel's in a silent show of support and Haesel takes the comfort it offers. She raises her eyes.
"Would that mean... I mean... you'd be my parents?" It's difficult to speak up, but she forces the sentence out of her mouth anyway.
Ivy's eyes well up. "Of course, darling!" She moves of the sofa and over to where Lily and Haesel sit, wrapping her arms tightly around the both of them. Lily makes a protesting sound, but Haesel gladly accepts it. Over Ivy's shoulder she sees both Robert and Petunia give her warm smiles and her eyes start to mist up a little. She sniffs.
Ivy moves back and wipes at her eyes, sitting back on her knees in from of them. "We wouldn't want to replace your parents, dear, of course not! I'll still tell you all about them and we'll go to visit each year or whenever you want. You won't have to change your name if you don't want to either -"
"I want to." Haesel says. "I just, all I've ever known, has been you and I'm so sorry because I didn't mean to forget but it's not coming back and I overheard that doctor say back at the hospital it might never and it's just been so lonely..."
She's crying then, she can feel the tears dripping from her chin.
"You're not alone! Never ever again. You've got me now." Lily declares and she wraps her arms around Haesel in the biggest hug she can manage. The sobs start coming even louder now. She's barely aware of being wrapped in more arms, but she hears all of their voices, saying things like "We're here, darling, we're here" and "You've got us now, we're not going anywhere."
Haesel finally lets go of the awful feeling that's been stuck in her chest for what feels like forever but has really only been since she woke up in the hospital, all alone.
It's warm, coming home.
Everything goes fast after that. The girls help their mother – Haesel can't help but smile a little every time she gets to think that – pack up the house. They've all gone and visited the graves of Haesel's birth parents and Haesel has been able to tell them she'll be okay now. It's been an oddly liberating thing to do and she feels better for it.
Lily has convinced Robert and Ivy that she can introduce Haesel as her twin. The fact that they share a birthday and the official adoption both make for serious arguments, and after asking Haesel if she's okay with it because it's almost paramount to lying, the only thing they did was shrug and say they don't mind. Lily is all over the moon that day (and the days after). Haesel doesn't mind. It hardly changes anything for her. She still has two elder sisters and a nice pair of parents. Petunia is also not opposed when questioned about the matter. She is happy enough that Haesel lets her baby her, something Lily is firmly against.
When the final documents come in, they hold a little party in the now empty living room, eating pizza on the floor. Ivy even introduces a cupcake she's bought at the bakers' with a candle in it.
They make it a ritual and do it every year.
True to word, the new house in Cokeworth is about the same size as their old one, if not a bit larger. Lily and Haesel petition to have the attic instead of the larger bedroom, saying Petunia can have that one and that they would love to have the attic to themselves. Robert and Ivy just do what they've already established as a rule when concerning the two – they shrug and smile.
Exited the girls plan their room. Lily wants hammocks, Haesel a bunk bed and in the end they compromise after spotting a truly giant bed in a second hand shop. It's got drapes and looks like it belongs in a castle rather than a normal home. They say they don't mind sharing and the bed becomes theirs.
In fact, they've become so close that Ivy isn't surprised that the word 'twins' is one she uses often. The only physical difference lies in their hair colour and the little height Lily has on Haesel, but the more she recovers from her extended stay in the hospital, the taller Ivy is sure she'll grow. More difference is found in their personalities.
Lily is outgoing, energetic, always optimistic. She's not afraid to speak up and draw attention to herself. Haesel in contrast in softer, more prone to silence and sometimes even brooding, but they're both sweet girls and Ivy thinks she couldn't be more proud than she is. Sometimes it hurts, thinking of her own twin sister and what she would have said, seeing them now.
Ivy thinks Ianthe would be proud, bump their shoulders like she always did and say "What a pair they make! They're just like us when we were young."
She smiles as she looks at the girls, busy dropping grass down Petunia's shirt and in her hair as she lies napping in the chair on the outside deck.
Summer's coming to an end. They've settled well into the house and the town. It helps that they live in the better part of it and that there's a park with swings two streets away. There's even a creek with wildflowers and a bit of forest not too far away.
Ivy has finally lifted the ban on going to the park alone and Lily and Haesel have wasted no time familiarising themselves with the neighbourhood. They've proclaimed the swings their place. Lily likes the middle swing. She says it makes the best creaks as she is flying. Haesel doesn't really cares. She just likes to drop almost horizontally and watch the sky.
"Say, Haaaaaesel?" Lily draws out her name, making a funny face to go with that.
Haesel laughs. "Don't do that! It's annoying."
Lily sticks out her tongue. Haesel crosses her eyes. They both start giggling at the same time. Haesel leans up and starts pushing the swing with her feet.
"What is it?" she asks after a bit.
"I want to do the trick again." Lily says, peering over at Haesel to closely watch her reaction.
"Isn't that dangerous? People could see." Haesel frowns, marking her words by taking a cursory look around.
"There's no one there, I already checked."
"We could fall again and Mum would forbid us to go to the park alone again and then we'd have to ask Tuney to go with us each time we wanted to go."
"We won't fall! Last time you overreacted. Come on, please?" Lily whines.
"I did not!" Haesel refutes, biting her lip and blushing.
"You totally did. But that's not the point! In or out?"
Haesel puffs up her cheeks and blows the air out in one go before giving in. "All right, fine. Just once!"
"Just once!" Lily laughs and they start swinging at the same time, going higher and higher. Just before they let go, they grab the others hand and fly a little too long, landing a little too softly.
It would have been fine... if not for the boy who's now standing beside a tree not far off and who has definitely seen what they've been doing.
Thank you all for reviewing/favouring/following I appreciate it lots! I'm a bit on a roll here so I'm updating really fast, hah. Don't know how long it's going to last!
Special shout out to The Tardis Blue Impala, who's the first reviewer ever. Cheers ever so much! Consider this update in your honour ^^
Three guesses who that boy is? Two of those don't count :D
Thank you for reading!