Chapter 6.4

Liam

My Henry Puffer party was literally the worst. But what hurt more was Mom and Dad didn’t even care. It seemed like I was always by myself these days. Mom was pregnant and usually tired, so I was left to deal with Zack half the time, and Dad was always out of town, doing something. Tears dropped on my pants as I made a huge sniffling sound.

“Um…Liam?” My best friend, Kadan Vargas, walked up to me.

I felt kind of embarrassed for crying in front of him. I thought I was alone. So, I acted like I didn’t know he was there. Maybe he’d go away.

But he didn’t get the hint.

He sat down next to me and sighed. “You know it stinks having those creeps at your party.”

I nodded, watching a crab poke its head out of a tiny hole in the sand.

“But if it were me and Henry Puffer actually visited my party, I sure as heck wouldn’t be upset.”

It took a minute for my brain to process what he was saying. “Henry…Puffer?” I asked.

“Yeah. And he told off those assholes for you, too. Me and Carlee filled him in on why you left.”

I drew in my eyebrows, I was so confused. “You’re not playing a trick on me, are you? Henry Puffer. THE Henry Puffer is here.”

“Would I lie to you? Yes. THE Henry Puffer. The actor, Randall Dancliff. He’s here and he wants to meet you.”

I gave him a look. “W-Why…would he come here? To MY party?”

Kadan shrugged. “How the heck would I know? Why don’t you ask him yourself?”

My heart lurched as we both stood up and I spotted a teenager who looked a lot like Henry Puffer. But still. There’s no way it could really be him. I glared, wondering if someone was pranking me.

“Hey, Randall. I found him for you!” Kadan said, beaming like this guy was the real deal.

But then he answered, “Right, mate. Thanks a lot. Hello, there. I’m Randall…er…Henry Puffer. You must be Liam.”

I’d recognize that voice and British accent anywhere. He WAS Henry Puffer!

My heart sped so fast I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I asked, “W-What are you doing here? I thought you lived in England!”

“No, mate, I’m actually living in Del Sol Valley, working on another movie. Your dad asked me to come out and it fit in with my schedule, so…here I am.”

“Oh my gosh…would you do me a HUGE favor? Can I have your autograph? Pretty please with magic wand sprinkles on top?”

“Of course. I happen to have a picture handy just for you.”

Swooning, I almost screamed. This was the BEST day of my life!

I couldn’t believe I was actually in the presence of THE Henry Puffer. THE Randall Dancliff. It was almost too much to take.

As he was signing, he said, “So, you want to head back to the park? I’d love to play Crossing Wands with you.”

Omg. Randall Dancliff just asked me to play Crossing Wands. I thought I was going to be sick.

“Yes, I’d like to do that! And I’ll even let you win!” Henry Puffer could never lose to a goofy kid like me.

Still scribbling, he said, “No…we play fair and square otherwise, it wouldn’t be any fun.”

When he was done, he handed the picture to me.

“Thank you so much!” I held the photo like it was made of glass and could break into a million pieces.

Next we took some pictures together. I’d remember this day forever!

I could tell he was about to head back to the park, but I didn’t want to share him with my friends just yet. I asked, “So, before crossing wands, would you like to play hide n seek?” Oh, what was I saying? Of course he wouldn’t want to do that.

“How did you know it’s my favorite game?”

And before I knew what was happening, I was hiding my eyes as I heard him shuffle off.

He was pretty bad at hiding though.

I spotted him instantly.

And he was super slow, but I had fun anyway.

Thankfully, after I’d had a great time at Crossing Wands (I beat him five times!), I said good bye to all my friends, and Aunty Elara took her monsters inside my house, leaving me alone with Randall.

We sat together and he asked me a whole bunch of questions about myself, really wanting to get to know me. I ended up blabbing about my troubles at home. How my mom and dad don’t seem to care about me. Not enough anyway.

“Look mate, I get it. Having another sibling creates a lot of stress, but I can tell you this. Your parents really love you. Why else would your dad go through the trouble of asking me to visit?”

But I knew the real reason Randall was here. My dad’s famous, and Randall is probably a big fan of my father. Dad was a superstar like a million years ago when Randall was my age. “I bet you’re disappointed my dad isn’t here, aren’t you? I’m sorry about that.”

He shrugged. “Okay, I’ll admit I came as a bit of a favor to your dad. And true, I’m an absolute fan of the Heartthrobs. I actually still have a poster of your father in my closet. When I was your age, I was a true blue Flamer…but…after spending this afternoon with you, I think you’re an amazing kid. In fact, I’d fancy another visit, if you’d wish it.”

Randall Dancliff wanted to visit me again? I thought I was going to cry. But I didn’t. I couldn’t be that lame in front of him.

When it was time for him to go, I couldn’t help it. I jumped up and gave him a hug.

He didn’t seem to mind.

And when I got back to my house, even jerk-face Dusty Murdick couldn’t annoy me.

Because Randall Dancliff, THE Henry Puffer, was my friend.

And no one could take the memory of this day away from me.

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Chapter 6.3

Liam

My friends finally came to my party and the loser Murdicks were playing on the playground at Henry Puffer Park, leaving me alone.

“Do you got any revealing spells, Kadan?” Carlee Langosta asked. Her mom had dropped her off, rolling her eyes at my hat and telling her she’d better not come home with any weird party favors because she didn’t want that crap trashing up her house. Party favors? Oops. I forgot to get any. Well, I had some extra Henry Puffer wands I could give out. But then Aunty Dom would get mad at me. She HATED Henry Puffer worse than Mom.

Brindleton Bay had built this cool Henry Puffer Park three years ago. It was kind of expensive to go, but worth it. Dad bought it out for the day. Too bad he wasn’t here like he’d promised. But most of my friends came. Well, except Destiny Hoff. I totally thought she wanted to come but I bet she was just being nice when I’d asked.

Carlee drew a card and winced.

“Bad news?” I asked, smirking. I’d already gotten enough cards to make a death spell so I was basically winning already.

Fumbling, she pulled out her imperious curse card and flipped it onto Kai Kaluah. Poor Kai. I almost laughed at her brilliance, but Kai was one of my best friends and I wouldn’t do that to him.

“That leaves you with the win, Lee Lee baby!” Mala yelled out making my face heat up one thousand degrees. Why couldn’t she go play with her jerkface brothers and leave me the heck alone?

Kai glared. “Stupid move, Carlee. Now look what you did.”

Mala was right. I produced my death spell cards and obliterated everyone.

“I win, suckers!”

*****

We’d been playing Crossing Wands for a while and it was down to me and Mala for the championship. I’d been preparing for over two months for this. I knew all the spells. Knew what would beat what. The only problem was that Mala was like a genius when it came to the game. She could somehow pull out just the right spell to defeat you. She was sooooo lucky! But I could beat her. I had to or she’d gloat for the rest of the day in her sickening sweet, clingy way.

My heart beat hard in my chest as I bowed, signaling the start of our bout.

Mala bowed as well but she looked like she was going to puke. Maybe I was gonna win after all!!!

My mind spun with all the choices. There were exactly thirty five spells to choose from and depending on what your opponent produced, it seemed like it could go a million different ways.

“Onde, dose…” we counted in our wizard speech. “CONFUSE!” I blurted.

But she said, “MUFFLE!” at the exact same time which totally defeated my spell.

“Way to go, Mala!” Carlee whooped. Girls. They always stuck together.

“Dude…you should never lead with Confuse,” my friend, Todd Monteira said. “It’s like totally cliche. You gotta be creative.”

He was right. God, how stupid could I be. So on the next round, I hollered, “Expell!” as she ranted, “Release” which did nothing to me. So I got her. We were even–one to one.

Last bout and I was sweating. This was for all the marbles.

Raising my hands, I yelled, “Incinerate!” but she countered at the same time with, “Agua!”

How did she know? The fire I cast was totally doused with that water spell.

Damn.

“Really?” Todd said. “You didn’t go for the death spell. Come on, Liam!” Todd hated girls and couldn’t stand getting beat by them. Since I was one of his best friends, he took it personally. (I really believed he liked girls but wouldn’t admit it. I liked them, too, especially Destiny Hoff, but would I ever tell him that? NO THE HELL WAY!)

“Muahahahaaa!” Mala laughed. “I’m the Queen of the Castle. Bow down to me, serfs!”

God. Why did the winner have to be Mala of all people? She was taking the win even worse than I’d expected.

“Geeze, Liam,” my best friend, Kadan, groaned. “Now we’re in for it.”

I face palmed. How stupid could I be? A death spell would have defeated a water spell, but no. I chose wrong. And now we had to kneel at her feet until she tapped on our heads, releasing us. But knowing Mala, I bet she’d make us stay like that forever.

*****

Lucky thing, though, Mala loved cake more than her win, so she tapped us immediately and said, “I’m hungry.”

I was, too. The cake and other food had been delivered. It was my favorite in the whole world–zombie brain cake. When you cut into it, it was like eating real live brains! I know. Wicked cool, right?

But when we got to the picnic table, I couldn’t believe my eyes. “What the hell, Murdicks!” I hollered.

“Heh,” Uriah laughed. “You snooze you lose, Liam.”

Kaden glared at the jerk, but he didn’t care. He was eating the last piece!

There was nothing but crumbs on the cake platter.

Dusty came over, eating probably his third piece. “There’s still some left. You don’t have to cry about it, dorkface.” They both were dressed like the evil minions in the latest Henry Puffer movie. It fit. They were villains in real life.

I sat next to the half eaten piece. They did this on purpose, trying to ruin my party. I’d had enough. I didn’t care if I got in trouble. I wasn’t going to let them get away with it.

Getting up, I hissed, “I’m gonna tell your mom and dad. You’re in trouble.” I knew Aunty Brooke and Uncle Nat didn’t know what they did. Well, they were Aunty Elara and Uncle Lord Bloodmoon today, but still.

Taking another bite of cake, Dusty whined, “Are you gonna cry now, baby? Go ahead and cry. Wah, wah, waaaah!”

I pushed him. “Don’t call me a baby!”

He pushed me back and it was all out war. I punched him then he tried to choke me.

“Boys!” Aunty Elara yelled. “Stop it this instance!”

But I didn’t want to stop. This asshole had it coming. I’d tear that pumpkin mask right off him so I could see him cry.

Finally, she broke us apart and said, “I’m disappointed in you, Liam August Sanderson-Day. I will be on the phone to your mother today. Attacking innocent boys will not be tolerated.”

Innocent? That was it. I pointed at her. “Your DEMONS aren’t innocent. They’ve totally wrecked my party!

“And they’ve been mean to me this whole time. I hate them and wish they’d drown in Brindleton Bay.”

Before she could catch me, I ducked and ran as far away from my party as I could.

I ran and ran until my lungs pinched and my legs burned.

And then my face heated up and I couldn’t help it. I cried like a baby.

Today was supposed to be so much fun. Dad and I’d planned it all out. He was supposed to be here. Not my parents’ friends babysitting me, bringing along those awful triplets.

And why didn’t Mom stay here either? Didn’t she love me? I just wanted to crawl under a rock and make everyone and everything go away.

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All Henry Puffer stuff you see is from the Henry Pufferhead Stuff Pack–a free fanmade pack by MLys. Get it here: Henry Pufferhead Stuff

I’ll be publishing the Crossing Wands Posepack set on my discord channel. You may follow along there as there will be posepacks I’ll be publishing in the future. All posepacks will be released first there. THANK YOU!

Chapter 6.2

Lexie

Oh. My. God. If I could obliterate all the mirrors in this house, I would. How did I get this freaking big? I didn’t remember ever being this huge with the other two. And I was only in my second trimester!!!

Sometimes I’d look in the mirror and wonder how I arrived at this stage in life. I mean, back before I got married, I never thought I’d be a mother of three, unemployed, overseeing two cats and a dog and just aimlessly wandering around wondering who I was half the time.

I had such big dreams of being a 3-D animator. Of one day owning my own studio or becoming a director of a huge cartoon production or directing the CGI parts of movies.

But that didn’t happen.

Don’t get me wrong. I adored my kids. And I wouldn’t trade them in for the most glamorous animation job, but sometimes, I wondered. Who was in charge of my life? I felt somehow I got steamrolled by an even bigger personality who made most of my decisions for me. And I was powerless to stop it.

*****

“Hey, sweetie! You’re looking so good! Goodness! You’re practically glowing!” Brooke gushed. Oh how I’d missed my dear friend!

“Yeah, ” I answered, “I guess you glow when you’re the size of the sun.”

“Pshaw!” she tutted then her eyes grew as she wiggled her fingers. “Can I?”

I didn’t understand what it was about the pregnant belly but everyone, including elderly strangers at Simmart, HAD to touch it. It was some kind of law.

“Go ahead,” I said, sticking out the ginormous basketball that used to be my flat stomach.

“Aww…you’re so cute!” Brooke cooed. “It’s a girl, right?”

“Yep. And it’s a good thing, too, because James threatened we were going to try for a fourth if he didn’t get his sweet little girl fix. This baby doll has literally saved our marriage,” I joked.

Brooke threw angry darts at her husband. “See? James wants more children. Why can’t you be more like…”

Nathan broke in and said, “So, Lexie, you won’t have to worry about a thing. We’ll take care of Liam and make sure his party goes off without a hitch.”

I couldn’t say I blamed Nathan. He had three children for the price of one. And from what I saw, all were little hellions. Brooke was in her own little world when it came to them. She never saw any of their flaws.

*****

Liam

Today was the day I was going to die.

For real.

I mean, no one cared about me. If they did, at least ONE of my parents would have stayed home for the biggest event in the life history of Liam A. Sanderson-Day.

But instead, they dropped THREE jerks into my room and left.

One of the jerks, Uriah Murdick, (okay, his last name was Murdock, but Murdick fit him waaaaay better) lifted the side of his mouth and said, “You’re the biggest fucking dweeb on the planet. Like who drapes their walls in Henry Puffer that isn’t three years old?”

“You said it, Uriah. God, how long are we going to be tortured here?” his asshole brother, Dusty added. “The whole weekend?”

“No one’s asking you to stay,” I hissed. “Do me a favor and jump off a cliff.”

His sister, Mala, interjected, “Don’t listen to them, Lee-lee! I LOVE Henry Puffer!”

Mala always called me some weird pet name and it changed every time she talked to me. I didn’t get it. It was like she was TRYING to annoy me. “Just leave me alone!” I yelled at her.

“Stop being nice to the douche-for-brains, Mala,” Uriah said. “Let’s play on his computer and ignore the ignoramus.”

“Sorry if we’re upsetting you, Liam. Put her there.” Dusty offered his hand.

Like an idiot, I automatically took it without thinking.

A painful electric shock tore through my hand and up my arm. “Yiiiiiiii!” I howled.

Laughing, Dusty said, “Oh my God, you’re such a loser! You think I’d really want to be your friend?”

I stared at him thinking about how I wished I was Henry Puffer. I’d turn him into a pile of jello and stomp. “Get out of my room, asshole.”

“And who’s going to make me? You?” The jerk stared me down.

My hands balled into fists. I wanted to punch his face so bad. But I knew I’d get grounded. My dad was strict about no fighting. I once pounded a bully in third grade for hurting a girl and I was the one who got in trouble. Since then, I avoided fighting. But today, it might be worth the punishment.

“Lee lee, honeybee, let’s play Harnocks Houses. Okay?”

“Yes, Lee Lee Honeybee,” Uriah crooned in a sickening high pitched voice, happy that his sister was annoying me.

“You’re just lucky I don’t want to fight,” I spat at Dusty, “otherwise, I’d put you in the hospital, asswipe. Now get out of my way.”

“Lee Lee Sweetpea, come on! Just ignore them.”

“I’d love to see you hit Dusty,” Uriah goaded with an evil gleam. “Go on. I dare you.” For some reason I bet he really did want to see me hit his brother.

These were the worst kids I’d ever met in my entire life. I didn’t understand it. I liked their parents. Aunty Brooke always baked me cookies and Uncle Nat liked to play games with me. And their kids were nice to me up until a few years ago when they turned nasty for some weird reason. It was like an evil switch went off in their brains.

Mala was the best one but she could be mean sometimes, too. I sat down and said, “Look, Mala, I’ll play with you. You just have to cut out calling me weird names.”

Lip quivering, she said, “But I like calling you names. I love you, my Lee Lee doll.”

Uriah snorted behind her.

God. I was counting the minutes until my friends showed up, hoping I wasn’t going to hang myself before they got there.

*****

Lexie

“Oh my goodness! That couldn’t be Zackary, could it?” Uncle Beau shouted when I sat Zack down as we entered my dad’s place. It’d been a long flight and I couldn’t wait to get off my feet.

“It’s me!” Zack answered, jumping up and down. Uncle Beau was so good with kids. My sons adored him.

“But you’re so big. My grandson is a little guy. Are you SURE you’re Zack?”

“I’m Zacky. It’s me! I promise!”

“Oh…okay. In that case, I bet you’d like some mashed mud with a side of bugs to eat.”

Zack laughed. “Ewww…no Grandpa!”

“Sure…that’s your favorite.”

“And don’t forget the worms!” Dad said, making Zack erupt in giggles.

I hugged everyone, so glad to be with my family.

“Hey, sis,” Asher said, wrapping his arms around me. “It’s been too long.”

He’d grown a foot since I last saw him. He looked exactly like Dad except he was a little short like Beau.

I dropped my pregnant self into one of the couch cushions, listening to my teen siblings rant about their lives and what they’d been up to.

But somewhere in the middle of Aria’s story about how her teacher debated her on who should be president, I zoned out.

My mind drifted to when I used to live here in San Myshuno, when I took care of my brother Brayden. The triplets hadn’t even been born yet. Oh my God. I hated kids back then. And now…I was about to have my third. That was so long ago.

“Lady bug, are you okay?” my dad interrupted my thoughts and brought me back to the present.

“Oh my GOD! Lexie’s not listening to every word I’m saying?” Aria joked. “What is this world coming to?”

She reminded me so much of my teen self, it was eerie.

But I was so tired, I wasn’t in the mood for jokes. “I think I’m not feeling well. Maybe I just need some fresh air.”

After a ton of protests from Aria, Dad ushered me out to the back balcony. It was a beautiful clear night. Sometimes my siblings could be overwhelming. I needed calm.

“So…what’s wrong, sweetheart?” Dad poured me a virgin mojito. My favorite.

“Wrong? Nothing’s wrong, Dad. I’m almost six months pregnant and need a bit of fresh air is all.”

He put away the lime juice and stared at me. “Lexie. I know you. There’s something up. Come on. You can tell me. It’ll make you feel better.”

I stared back at him. Did I really want to do this? No. I didn’t. “Drop it, Dad. Let me relax. I just got here and need to settle in.”

Not listening to me, he asked, “Is it James? Are you two doing okay?”

That’s all it took. Just a little prodding from my father. It was like the floodgates opened and I spewed out everything I’d been thinking and more. “And so…it’s like I don’t even know who I am anymore. And I second guess the choices I’d made when I was younger. Like how meeting the Heartthrobs totally threw me off my vector. I mean, look at me, Dad! Would you have guessed I’d be a stay at home mom and pregnant when I’m pushing forty? God…and I hate that I feel like this! I don’t want to. I love my kids. I love my husband. What is wrong with me?”

He listened to every word I spit out until I was reduced to a hormone induced ball of tears. Taking me by the hand, we sat down on the floor like we used to do when I was younger. He stroked my hair and said, “Have you thought about counseling? I think you’re depressed, sweetheart. It’s not good for you or the baby.”

Wiping my eyes, I said, “Yes. James and I have talked about it. But he’s been too busy and so have I. I run Liam and Zack around everywhere that I forget about it until the heaviness hits me.”

“Have you thought about moving? Beau and I could help if you lived closer.”

I sighed. That was a fight James and I had many times over the years. And guess who always won? “That’s not an option.”

I felt stuck. And I couldn’t get myself out of it.

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Chapter 6.1

Ages of characters: Liam–10, Zack (his brother)–3, August & Beau, Briar: 55, Lexie, James: 38, August and Beau’s four children: Brayden: 20, Triplets: Asher, Abby, Aria: 15, Seth: 81, Siobhan: 79 (yes, the great grandparents are still alive!)

Liam

I couldn’t wait. Tomorrow was Henry Puffer’s birthday and I’d been planning a real live birthday party for him. Sure he’s a fictional character from the best fantasy book this century, but I got the idea from a Henry Puffer message board. Thousands of kids all over the world were celebrating his birthday tomorrow. And I bet mine would be the most special of them all. Mom hated Henry Puffer. She said the author sold out when she marketed everything to make a fast buck. Her words. Not mine. She thought authors should be above capitalism. It’s all about the art, not money. Money dirties everything. But the way I see it, authors have to eat too, you know?

04-29-19_11-35-52 PM

I mean, take Dad for instance. HE’S a washed up musician/singer. Okay, he’s sort of famous (well, both my parents are), but no one buys his stuff anymore. They play a lot of his songs from like a hundred years ago before I was born, but he doesn’t even do that for a living now. So where’d his art get him? Huh?

Now, he dresses up as his “sister”, Jenny, and does WooTube videos all the time. People actually take advice from him on how to dress, what makeup to buy and junk like that. I think it’s totally crazy that people still debate whether Jenny is really James Sanderson. Seriously. Do they NOT have eyes? He looks like a guy trying to dress up as a girl. He wears WAY too much makeup which makes him look OLD! Without all that glop on his face, he’d just be a dude in a goofy wig and high heels.

Luckily, today, school was closed because of rain. RAIN! I loved Brindleton Bay. It floods when the clouds even look like they’re going to sprinkle. Heh. And so, I’m rereading all five Henry Puffer books so I can win at Crossing Wands. You gotta know all the best spells if you’re gonna take home the hardware.

Ah…I could see it now. I was going to finally slam all my friends and impress Destiny. I hoped she’d show tomorrow. I gave her an invitation and she said she’d ask her parents.

Yep. Tomorrow was going to be a glorious day in the life of Liam A. Sanderson-Day.

*******

Lexie

“Oh God. That’s NOT what I think it is.” James held out a huge mug of hazelnut cappuccino. A peace offering. Whenever this happened, what he was about to tell me was never good. Add that to the fact he was in Jenny garb and I definitely knew I wasn’t going to like it.

Palming the back of his neck, he winced. “Seems I got my weekends mixed up. The WooTube convention is THIS weekend. I’ve got a flight in one hour. I’m already late.”

Taking the hot mug from him, I arched an eyebrow. “And WHO is going to tell Liam that his Henry Puffer birthday party is cancelled cuz yeah? It’s not gonna be me.”

Wrapping an arm around me, he said, “Babydoll, you’ve got to stay home. Liam’s been looking forward to this for months. I’ve ordered the cake, the party favors…I’ve even arranged for the actors to show up as a surprise! We can’t back out now. You’ll just have to reschedule. Your dad will understand.”

I could feel heat rising in my gut–and it was more than the baby. Fury. That’s what it’s called. Taking a deep breath so my pregnant self wouldn’t explode, I asked, “Okay…who got their schedule mixed up?”

“Uh…me?”

“That’s right. So who’s the one who needs to cancel their schedule? I’m having a hard time following your logic.”

“It’d be WooTube suicide if I backed out now, Lex. Do you know what the fandom would call me if I didn’t show? Social media is a nightmare these days. Worse than when we were the it couple. Seriously, baby, I can’t not go. But August and Beau will understand. Hey, maybe they could come out and visit you instead.”

Shaking my head vigorously, I countered, “No! They can’t. Both of them have jobs. My siblings have school. Come on! You know I’d planned on staying a few weeks. This isn’t fair, James. I’ve already backed out on them three times. And there’s only so much time before I have this baby, too. I want to see my family in San Myshuno. It’s been too long. You’re cancelling. End of story.”

Rubbing my back, he said, “Hey…don’t get so worked up, babydoll. Just get someone to watch over Liam. He’ll be the master of ceremonies at the party anyway so anyone could do it. One of your friends would love to see Liam. Call them.”

I sighed. James always got his way no matter what was going on around him. It was so infuriating sometimes.

He added, “Look…if you don’t want to call one of your friends, I’ll have my assistant hire someone. Okay?”

I shook my head, already caving into him. He had me wrapped around his manicured finger. I hated it when I gave in. “No…I’ll get someone. I don’t want a stranger watching Liam.”

“Okay, baby.” Then he whispered in my ear, “I love you.”

*******

“Lexie!” Dad said when he answered the phone, “we were just talking about you!”

My stomach twisted as my heart pounded. How was I going to get out of this without hurting his feelings? “Hey, Dad! How’s tricks?”

Oh shit. That wasn’t smooth.

“We’re all looking forward to seeing you. When’s your flight coming in tonight?”

I heard one of my sisters yell, “She better not back out or tell her I will personally kill her!”

It was Aria. She would, too. Ugh.

I heard Beau say, “Guest room’s all ready for her. And tell her I’ll keep little Zack with us so she can sleep in. We got out all the old toddler toys. Potty. High chair. Everything!”

Guilt hammered me. How was I going to tell them I couldn’t come? “Um…well, there’s been a change in plans.”

“Oh?” Dad asked, worry peppering his voice. “What happened, ladybug? Did one of the kids get sick?”

“I KNEW it,” my other sister, Abby, hissed. “I told you she wasn’t coming. We’re not famous enough for her.”

“It’s always been like that, sis,” I heard one of my brothers, Brayden, say. “Why are you shocked. I’m not.”

Listening to their disappointment hurt me. I’d been an asshole in not visiting enough. They were right. Damn it. I couldn’t back out. “Dad, tell my ungrateful siblings they’re wrong. I’m coming. Just on a later flight. Okay?”

“Oh good,” Dad said. “Text me the details. Can’t wait to see you!”

“Me, too,” I said, cringing inside. “Bye, Dad. Love you, too.”

Now what was I going to do? My friend, Gabby, was out of the country. Carly just had a baby. Dom HATED Henry Puffer even more than I did. I could just imagine the sarcastic retort I’d get if I’d asked her. Who else did I know who wouldn’t mind…

Just then my stomach sank. Oh God no. No, Lexie, you are not going to ask her. No way. Liam hated their children even more than I did. They’d ruin his party. But what choice did I have? It was either I asked or he didn’t have the party at all. I’d have to fly him out with me for the weekend until James got back.

I dialed the number and listened to it ring. Maybe she wouldn’t answer and it’d be decided for me.

Just then I heard her voice say, “Hello?”

“Hi, Brooke. Long time no talk!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Alexis, dear, but Brooke isn’t here right now. This is Elara Dragonborn. How may I be of service?”

Shit, shit and double shit!

Of course Brooke wasn’t there. It was always my luck. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d even spoken to “Brooke”. It was like Elara had swallowed up my sweet friend whole. And now she’d even changed her name. She said her “group” did a ritual that turned her into part dragon or some such stupidity. “Um…hey, Elara. You’re probably too busy to watch Liam this weekend for me, right? So I won’t bother you with…”

“Oh, of course, we’d love to visit with Liam, my darling sweet friend! Tell us when and we’ll be right over!”

I heard Lord Bloodmoon squeal with delight in the background. “Roadtrip!”

Damn. I just hoped my son would be speaking to me sometime this century after I did this to him. I wasn’t going to win Mother of the year anytime soon. “Um…okay, Elara. That’s so…nice of you. Can you be here in the morning? That’s when my flight leaves.”

“Of course, darling. We’ll be there bright and early. Have our specific food ready. You know we’re vegan now.”

“Right. I’ll order food for you right now. Thank you.”

I had no idea why I was going through with it but it was either face Liam’s wrath or my siblings. I figured my kid wouldn’t hate me forever. Would he?

Yay! This story is officially BACK! I’ve missed all these crazy characters. And Liam will add to the craziness. 😉 I will try to update twice a week sporadically (not on set days).

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