“Hannah! Rachel! Reny! The doctors have said that Jaxon can come home! He’s been discharged!” Aunt Morina yelled up the stairs where me, Hannah, and Reny were playing Snakes and Ladders; we were playing in Reny’s room. Reny was winning. As usual. As soon as we heard the good news, we all shot up and dashed downstairs. Aunt Morina was attacked with questions by the three of us.
“Whoa, hold it girls, one question at a time.” Aunt Morina smiled at us all, we all were kind of getting along.
“I call driving!” Hannah exclaimed.
“You do have to start driving now, you’re supposed to drive yourself to Araid. Oh my! I just realized that you’re gonna be starting later than everyone else!” Aunt Morina said.
“It was mostly because of you. You were the one who killed mom and dad.”
“I’m gonna go and continue… playing Snakes and Ladders.” Reny whispered in my ear. She was still uncomfortable in conversations like the ones happening right now. I nodded and said that I’ll be coming too.
“I’m coming too.” Hannah said to me after her fight with Aunt Morina was over.
You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged, oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
The darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small –
“That song is making me nauseous.” Hannah groaned.
“Deal with it.” I turned it back on and Reny giggled.
“No!” Hannah shut it off again and half swerved the car.
“Reasons why I don’t like you driving!” I mumbled, sitting back.
“Stop being bratty.”
“You’re not supposed to say that to your older sister.”
“You’re not supposed to – Wait did you just say hush up?”
“Hey! That could be the polite way of saying shut up!” Reny entered the conversation. We all laughed as Hannah parked the car in the hospital’s parking lot.
“Let’s go!” Aunt Morina said. We all hopped out of the mini-van and walked all the way to the hospital entrance. As we entered, me and Reny fought over who was going to press the button pointing upwards for the elevator. Hannah did it. We waited and waited until we reached the tenth floor and turned to the direction of Uncle Jaxon’s ‘base’. I knocked on the door and some woman’s voice said we could come in. As we entered the room, we saw a nurse taking Uncle Jaxon’s blood pressure.
“He’s all good to go.” She chirped and walked away but stopped in front of me, “Your father is a really brave man. He didn’t worry at all.” She winked at me and left. Father. He’s my father. I believe it now. I must, after all, he is my dad.
“Hi!” I said, rushing over to hug him. He was already sitting on the bed. I knew he knew what I was thinking. He knows I’m his child. He knows he’s my father. He wrapped his arms around me.
“Uh, is anyone else feeling awkward or is it just me?” Hannah said. Reny raised her hand, agreeing. I looked at Aunt Morina, or should I say mom, and she nodded. We must tell Hannah now. I got up and asked mom to come out with me in the hallway for a second. Hannah and Reny stayed inside, chatting with dad.
“How am I supposed to tell her?” I asked, mom knew what I was talking about, so she didn’t need to ask me anything.
“I don’t know, I was thinking the same thing. Maybe you could tell her tonight?” mom said. “You don’t wanna spoil her mood do ya?” she winked and left me alone in the hospital hallway. A young boy with no leg passed by me. I got it! I entered the room and smiled at dad. I looked at Hannah and Reny, they had already chatted with him long enough. “Shall we leave now?” Hannah said.
“Let’s go, kiddos!” dad grinned from ear to ear.
“I just realized something today.” dad said as he got out of the car.
“What?” Reny asked.
“Hannah is a crazy driver.” he whispered loudly.
“I heard that!” Hannah yelled from the opposite side of the car and all of us burst out laughing.
It’s time, mom mouthed from across the dinner table. We’d had pizza, macaroni, and Chinese rice for dinner. Everyone was completely full, groaning about how deliciously awesome the food that Cook makes is.
“I’m gonna go up to my room.” I said, looking at Hannah for any sign that she might be coming up soon. Nope, no sign of anything. “Excuse me.” I mumbled and left.
“Wait! I’m coming too.” said a voice. I turned around. Hannah. Yes, I thought.
“Tell me it now!” Hannah shouted for the umpteenth time. I was telling her that I wanted to tell her something important and that she can’t freak out.
“Spill!” she said again.
“Okay, okay, but you promise that you are only gonna talk after I’m done talking, right?” I made sure. She nodded furiously, “Promise!”
“The thing is, I’m not your sister – Let me finish!” I exclaimed before Hannah could even say anything. “Morina is my mother, Jaxon is my father, you are my cousin, Frank is my uncle, Maybelle is my aunt. It actually makes sense. Whenever I asked them to show me my birth certificate, they always said that they’d show me yours instead.” Hannah eyes looked playful, like I was playing a prank on her. I wouldn’t judge her. “Hannah, I’m serious, Me and mom – Morina, I mean – have been trying to figure out the right time to tell you. Anyways, I asked Morina to show me my birth certificate and she had hidden it really well. It was in her closet’s attic somewhere. I don’t know how a closet can have an attic, but whatever.” I waited for Hannah’s reply. She stayed silent. I continued, “Remember the time we first went to the hospital because of Jaxon – dad?” she nodded. “Well, at that time, you were sleeping, so me and Morina thought that we could do a…” I trailed off but continued. I had to. “DNA test.” She stared at me, her playful look vanished. “And we did.” It looked obvious that she thought this was serious.
“You’re kidding. Right?” she whispered. I looked down, feeling my eyes get watery.
“No,” I choked out. “you aren’t my sister. You’re my –”
“Cousin.” she finished. I nodded. She looked sad. “How long ago did you find out?”
“’Couple days ago.” I mumbled.
“Okay. So, let me get this straight. You. Are. Not. My. Sister.” she spelled out. I nodded.She started laughing. “You are not my sister! I have no parents and, and, I’m alone in this world… all… by myself.” Hannah started crying. “It’s not like it’s anything new to me. Mom and dad died. Pumpkin was in so much danger. Leo was left alone at home but ended up here. Who knows how much trouble my kitty went through?” she sobbed. As if on que Leo meowed from his spot on Hannah’s couch. Joe was sitting right by me. He sensed the tension in the room and started howling. I tear slipped down my face and I hugged Hannah tight, comforting her, telling her that I didn’t want this to happen either. That night, I slept there, in Hannah’s room.
I groaned, rolling over. I opened my eyes to look at the ceiling. I jumped up, I’m not in my room! I looked beside me, Hannah was softly snoring. Then, it dawned on me. I had slept in Hannah’s room last night.
“Hannah?” I whispered, she stirred slightly but didn’t wake. I looked at the clock. It was only 6:15 in the morning. I sighed. If I was awake, I better do something useful.
I whipped my head down to the ground and saw Joe howling. He was looking at me with those eyes. “Let’s go.” I mumbled. I grabbed his leash and walked out with him at my heels. I opened the front door and a blast of the cool breeze hit my face, I smiled at how I love connecting with nature. Joe trotted over to a private spot and did his stuff. “Looks like my daughter is awake.” a male voice said. I looked around and saw dad. I ran to give him a hug. “Good morning, dad.” I said into his shirt. He stroked my hair. “When did you wake up, hon?”
“Like, a few minutes ago.”
“Did you have breakfast yet?”
“Let’s go make it together.” I grinned and walked away with Joe running to me. Once my dad caught up to me, he asked, “You told her?” I frowned and nodded.
“How’d it go?” he asked.
“It… It was fine, I guess. She cried, but I was expecting that. She laughed though. I don’t know why. It was a real shocker.” I said softly, rewinding the entire experience.
“It’s gonna be fine, she’s you’re adopted sister and cousin! We adopted her, remember?” he chirped. I stopped as he continued walking into the house all the way to the kitchen. I stayed outside. She’s my adopted sister. Does she even remember that? She does have somebody in this world! But… Mom said she adopted us. Both of us. Does that mean that mom/Aunt Morina lied? My head was spinning with question, I was so confused. I was gonna ask mom/Aunt Morina.
“Oh no! Did I say that?” my aunt or mom, or whoever she was to me, said after I told her what was on my mind. She had just woken up and it was almost nine. Me and dad/Uncle Jaxon had had bacon and eggs for breakfast, Hannah had joined us late.
“Yes.” I huffed, “would you care to explain?” my arms were crossed over my chest which for some reason made her laugh so much that her bed started jiggling; she was still in bed. “It slipped from my mouth! Usually, when I’m mad, random things slip from my mouth!” she started giggling. I stared at her, shocked. When I asked if it was true, she started laughing even harder and I joined in, thinking of how silly I was being! So, she’s my mother. I shouldn't have been jumping to conclusions.
I told her to get out of bed so she could eat her breakfast that was still waiting in the microwave. I hadn’t gotten a good look at her room. I looked around, it was quite like mine. Chandelier, four-poster bed, walk-in closet, couch, window seat, balcony, and the long window.
“Good morning, Belle!” dad exclaimed as soon as mom entered the breakfast room. Belle was mom’s nickname, she looked a lot like Belle, and she was belle. Belle in French means, beautiful. The smell of bacon and eggs hit mom square in the face; it was obvious by the look on her face. “Yum! Did you guys make this alone?”
“It was only them two, mother.” Hannah said. I stared at her blankly. Mother? Seriously? Did Hannah just - Oh right! Hannah is mom’s adopted child so of course she was going to say mother. But why mother? Why not mom? Is it because in fairy tales the princesses usually use mother for their step-mom? Well, mom wasn’t really her step-mom. She kind of was, but not really. I was off in my own land, thinking up a bunch of stuff that probably were not even true. Hannah was waving her hand in front of my face. “Earth to Rachel! Earth to Rachel!”
“Hey!” I snapped into reality and playfully shoved her hand away and smiled.
“What were you thinking of?” she asked.
“But I’m right here.”
“Anyone want any drinks? There’s OJ, apple juice, milk, and if anyone wants hot chocolate there’s that too.” Reny said casually. I liked how she was fitting into this family well. Everyone asked for hot chocolate. Rent makes the best hot chocolates. You haven’t even lived if you haven’t tried Reny’s hot chocolate. Reny laughed, “Alright!” and scurried away into the attached kitchen to get working. Me and my family were soon in a very serious conversation about who should take the last piece of bacon. We had finally decided after ten minutes that all four of us should split it. We soon got our hot chocolate.
“Let’s go riding!” I exclaimed out of the blue while we were all on our phones in the living. Hannah said okay, and so did mom. Reny said she’ll check her schedule and dad said he couldn’t because the doctors said it wasn’t allowed for him. It could be ‘dangerous’. I hugged dad good bye and walked to my room to get into my gear. I waited for Hannah and mom at the stable door. Turns out Reny was coming too, because, she was coming towards the stable in her riding gear. I wasn’t gonna forget it this time!
“I’m coming!” she called out.
“We should’ve kept the horses in the field, look at how hyper they are!” I said, pointing towards the horses once Reny came to my side. We both giggled and went in to get them tacked up. We planned to warm up in the field while we waited for the others.
“You wanna go through those jumps?” Reny challenged once we had reached the field.
“You’re on!” I said, laughing. “I’ll go first.” I tapped my heels against Coco’s ribs, telling him to move. I ordered him, in my head, to start cantering. Sometimes, I talk to Coco through telepathy. I urged him on, faster and faster. He was so close to the jump. I counted the beautiful, ground-swallowing and even strides in my head. Three, two, one, jump! Coco lifted his legs up at the perfect time and while we were in mid-air, I felt like we were flying! It was the perfect feeling. That was the only reason I liked jumping so much. Thud! We had landed on the arena dirt. I grinned broadly and halted Coco in the middle of the jump we had just done and the jump we were supposed to do. Since we were just doing warm ups there was no rush, so we’d do one jump, only.
“You were pros!” Reny shrieked. She trotted Oak towards Coco and high-fived me. “My turn!” a voice called out from far away. Mom and Hannah were coming with Andy and Pumpkin. I stared at Andy, he was flicking his tail, in the proud type of way. I looked over at Pumpkin, she was shaking her mane, as if she were showing-off. I shook the thought away. Pumpkin wasn’t that type of mare. She would never.
“Reny do you notice something?” I asked, pointing towards he stallion and the mare. Reny shook her head. “Nuh-uh. It’s probably because I’m not that much of a horse-whisperer as you are.” I smiled at her.
“You were great on that jump, sweetie!” mom fist-pumped me and I thanked her. We all galloped to the woods on our favorite trail. I hadn't felt this type of happiness in a long time.
“Guys, I think we need to talk about it now, with Jaxon and his cancer, he might get too shocked to see you guys too shocked so he might have something happen to him, so we can’t have him in any of these conversations, ya know what I mean?” mom said in one breath. She exhaled slowly, waiting for our response. Me and Hannah obviously know what she was talking about. I wasn’t so sure about Serenity. She looked kind of confused. But then she nodded in agreement as if she started understanding.
“I agree, who’s going start?” Reny asked nodding
“You know about everything?” Hannah asked. Reny replied with a nod, “Of course!”
“What do you know?” mom asked suspiciously, “I never told you anything.”
“I know that you stole Coco, killed Maybelle and Frank, half imprisoned the girls, and I also know that Andy, here, is looking at Pumpkin a lot. They’ve been nickering to each other for so long!” Reny pointed at the two, who were, indeed, nickering to each other and playfully nipping at each other’s mane.
“Race ya!” Hannah exclaimed, galloping hard ahead of us.
“Why do my conversations always have to go off topic?” mom muttered under her breath. She kicked Andy into a steady trot then pushed him into a canter. Then slowly went into a gallop. I could see Andy trying his best to get right beside Pumpkin. I looked at Pumpkin, she looked fat. I nudged Reny and pointed to Pumpkin, “Does Pumpkin look fat?” Reny shook her head then slowly stopped.
“Oh my god! Rachel! How could you think that? Andy and Pumpkin would be good together, but, are you serious? Nuh-uh. Nope. Never. I’m the one who takes care of this type of stuff. I’d never let that happen.”
“But – what if – yeah I’m probably being dumb.” I mumbled then looking up, I beamed, “Race ya!”
“Hey!” Reny called out as I kicked Coco into a hard gallop. I could feel the wind blowing back my hair as Coco galloped harder and harder every second. I closed my eyes as the wind blew back my hair. I opened my eyes and noticed that we were close to the others. I looked back to see that Reny was far behind us, I grinned, we were gonna beat this race! I looked at the sun, it was somewhere close to evening. My stomach growled. I hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast!
* * *
"Coco?! Coco?!" I screamed, I couldn't believe what was happening.