The girls of the seventh generation of Foliages were developing their own personalities and talents. A typical afternoon would find Holly and Laurel coming in from school together, unless Laurel had ballet class, but for the rest of the day they usually followed their own pursuits.
Holly divided her time between the computer and the easel. She was working on a novel, much to the approval of her Uncle Kale.
Laurel’s activities weren’t always so visible. She enjoyed swimming on warm days, but she also enjoyed sneaking around at night, setting up pranks and booby traps for the rest of the family to find.
Little Cassia was not to be forgotten, either. Although small in such a big household, she could make her presence known.
She was very fond of her special doll that she called Caper. Nandina worried that she might tear it’s …uh… antenna? off with the rough way she played with it, but she didn’t have the heart to put it up out of reach. What was a doll for if not to play with, anyway? And Cassia wouldn’t be tiny enough to want to play with dolls much longer now, would she?
Aunt Ivy was amused by the kid. Nandina wasn’t sure that Ivy would be an altogether good influence on young Cassia, but how much in the way of life lessons could a toddler really learn from an adult? Besides, it might be good for Ivy to be around children, Nandina thought.
One day after playing lollipop keepaway with Cassia, Ivy went to check the mailbox. She had taken to collecting geodes and having them cut into different shapes. Nan and the rest thought she had reformed and found a respectable interest, but it made a nice cover. Plus, her contact at the cutting facility sent her signals encoded in the packaging.
She had to grin every time she saw the flag up. Her own private signaling system, and no one was the wiser. This time, the message was that the heist would be in four days. That put it just after her birthday. Looking in the mirror a couple of days later, she decided she was really going to have to do something about her hair. Couldn’t have silver hairs shining in the searchlights!
Meanwhile, Petal kept the family going with her elaborate recipes for eggs machiavellian and angel food cake. One night, she prepared a dish of freshly caught salmon grilled to perfection.
Holly told her it tasted like a million simoleans. Kale was too busy eating to say what he thought.
Where were Nan and Brady during this family dinner? It wasn’t unusual for Ivy to be absent, and Laurel was off setting a trap for someone. Cassia, of course, was in her crib. But Nan and Brady were enjoying the benefits of Nan’s resolution not to devote all of her time to children and career. Brady approved.
The next afternoon was Laurel’s ballet recital. She made sure everybody knew it and pliéed all around the house that morning before school. Her twin sister, parents, and uncle all proudly attended.
Afterwards, the family had a little party outside to celebrate.
This schedule suited Ivy just fine, because this was the night of the big heist. While everyone was busy, she slipped out to meet her cronies down at the “abandoned” warehouse. They got their gear ready and were about to leave, but she caught a glimpse of a police cruiser parked just around the corner.
Quickly she shut the door and led everyone out through the secret exit. She headed to the target address and slipped in with no problem. Bagging what the gang was after, she kept a few baubles for herself and slipped back out and up the hill to the signaling point. There she made contact with the fence and became quite a bit richer.
Back at home, the little family party broke up at bedtime, and no one had any idea that Ivy was still up to her old tricks. If they were curious, there was a paid witness who saw her at the gem cutting workshop that evening.
So Nan’s only concern as she lunched by the pool the next day was whether she was eating enough carbs to be at her best for the big game. She wanted her team to score a victory, and she wanted to be the MVP!
Nan was pleased with the outcome, and the coach was, too!
In the midst of all this activity, the youngest member of the Foliage family celebrated her birthday. Cassia was now old enough to go to school, but she told her mom and Petal that she didn’t want any yucky meat in her bento box – she had decided to become a vegetarian!
Considering that serious pronouncement, Nan was surprised that Cassia still enjoyed playing with her doll. Conscientious objection to hot dogs didn’t seem to go with the wildly imaginative stories that Cassia told of pillow fights and tea parties with her doll.
Neither Laurel nor Holly knew what to make of Cassia’s stories, either. Laurel would just walk away when Cassia started in about Caper.
Holly even hid in the bathroom to avoid Cassia’s efforts to convince her that Caper was real.
At their mother’s encouragement, the older girls made an effort to interest Cassia in playing with something other than her doll. Even though they thought they were really too old for the blocks table, they invited their younger sister to build a tower with them, hoping she would focus on the blocks.
They chattered away about whose side of the tower was taller, who was hogging all the green blocks, and where each one of their rooms would be in the tower. For a while, they all actually had fun together.
Then Cassia picked up one of the blocks and declared that it was as blue as Caper’s left shoe, and that Caper could smash their magnificent tower with one stomp.
Laurel swiped her arm across the tower, knocking all the blocks onto the floor, and stomped off. Holly looked at both her sisters in disbelief and ran for her computer where she could write her stories and make things come out like they should.
Out in the garden, the last rays of the day’s sunshine were casting long shadows. The lights were just starting to come on, but Nandina didn’t see them. She stared out over the fence, out of their yard, at something Brady couldn’t identify. He came up behind her and put his hand on her shoulder, then brushed it through her long hair. She sighed and turned to face him.
“You see old lady Larue out there?” She asked.
Brady laughed softly. “Our crazy neighbor? Sure. She’s harmless.”
“Maybe so,” Nan replied, “but do you think we’ll end up like that? I hate getting old. I wish I could always feel strong and in control.”
Brady smiled into Nandina’s eyes. “I love you just the way you are. And whatever way you become. Even if I have to tell you your socks don’t match.”
Shocked, Nan looked down, then grinned and punched Brady’s arm lightly for tricking her. Losing her grin, she said, “I do worry about Cassia though. I hope this nonsense about the doll is just a phase she’ll grow out of.”
As he pulled her into his arms, Brady reassured her. “Whatever happens, we will face it together.