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Archive for January, 2010

Iris was convinced that Rogelio’s eyes possessed some type of superpowers. All it took was one smouldering gaze at any time of day or night, and she found herself in a tangle of sheets with him.

Bobo the blowfish was becoming rather traumatized.

Iris wondered if her husband knew the power he had over her… her eyes were drawn to him whenever he was nearby.

But on this day, although her thoughts were initially seesawing between helping her mother work in the garden and remembering the passion of the night before, her mind’s focus was abruptly changed with the sound of her mother’s gardening trowel clattering loudly to the stone path through the garden.

Iris glanced down at the trowel, then looked at her mother, who had the strangest look on her face.

“I feel… I feel so strange… sort of tight and loosened all at… all at once… honey, Iris… call Reed…” Rose gasped.

Iris screamed for Reed, Rogelio and Maebe, who were in the house. But when she turned back to her mother, she saw her fall among the leaves of the plants she had just been tending.

Reed and Maebe got to the garden just in time to hear Rose’s last words, “Love you… remember… care for the seedlings… Cedrick!” Rose’s eyes flickered as they focused briefly on Maebe’s rounded belly, then with a soft smile she reached toward something they couldn’t see. Then she relaxed, and she was gone.

The next hours and days were very bleak and quiet. As Reed made the funeral arrangements, Iris went to tell Lily and Blossom in person. Rogelio’s father and one of his little sisters met her there to offer comfort and kind words.

No amount of words could ease the pain.

Several days after the funeral, Lily ran into Rogelio as he was leaving his job at the diner. She asked how Reed and Iris were holding up, and Rogelio said he thought they were doing okay, because he and Maebe were there to console them, and at least they weren’t out on the street. Lily raised an eyebrow at the strange comment but said nothing as she went on her way.

Although Daisy didn’t mind wearing black–after all, it suited her purposes!–she absolutely hated the teary funeral scene. She’d made herself scarce around the house to avoid the sappy comfort hugs as much as possible. Besides, she had some plans going in a little real estate scheme that was about to come to fruition.

In the midst of the sadness, Reed and Maebe were incubating a little bit of joy. Funeral leave and maternity leave had blurred in together, and suddenly, in the middle of the night, Maebe awoke knowing that they would soon be hearing the pitter patter of little feet.

It was a very fast labor, considering the fact that they weren’t expecting TWINS! When the time came, Reed and Maebe were tired but thrilled to take Zoysia and Violet home.

The two little Foliage girls breathed new life and a busy schedule into the household, and everyone was drawn into the whirlwind of feedings and diaper changes and snuggle time.

In fact, it was hard to get everyone together and awake at one time to make a certain announcement…

After riding the roller coaster so high out of the depths after losing Rose, maybe it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone that they would have to come down again.

But it did.

Daisy had been racing around madly over the past few days, making secretive calls and disappearing late at night for clandestine meetings. Reed, as a new father, was feeling especially protective of his family. He was also concerned that her skin had that unhealthy red glow more often than not anymore. He planned to have a talk with his Aunt Daisy and implore her to scale back her plans before the authorities caught up with her. He knew that asking her to forget it entirely was useless.

The day that she had finally agreed to sit down and hear him out never came. She woke uncharacteristically early one morning, feeling as if her skin was on fire. Even her eyes burned, and she felt as if she could see sparks shooting off from her hands.

Everyone in the house heard her horrified shriek of pain and disbelief, but by the time they arrived, it was too late.

Perhaps Daisy would have been surprised to know how sad Reed and Iris really were that she was gone. Or maybe not. They would never know.

—-

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Rose gently pressed the organic fertilizer into the soil around the grapevine. The sun was warm on her shoulders, and the sounds of young women laughing and chatting floated across the lawn to her ears.

As was often the case, Blossom was standing by the pond, teasing her lure through the water. From time to time, a splash would announce a fresh catch. Then Iris would look up from the portrait she was painting at the backyard easel and cheer. Rose liked hearing their voices, so carefree and uplifting. Soon, Iris would be married, and Blossom – well, Blossom had her own plans.

Iris put the finishing touches on the portrait and put her paints away. It was time to go finalize the guest list for the wedding and the music for the reception. There were so many details to plan, when all she wanted was her Rogelio.

The days sped by, though, and Iris’ wedding day came. Iris stood nervously in place, stealing glances at the unusually quiet Rogelio as the guests gathered around. Blossom stood by and watched her cousin and soon-to-be cousin-in-law gaze into each other’s eyes. She dreamed of the day when her prince would come.

Reed looked on, too, as the ceremony began. He was having a hard time believing his baby sister was getting married. He could remember her banging the square blocks against the round holes, learning to talk, crawling out into the garden when no one was looking, and being a general nuisance like little sisters are supposed to. He smiled to himself as he watched the all-grown-up Iris promise to love, honor, and cherish Rogelio for the rest of her life.

Iris felt light-headed as she took Rogelio’s hands in front of their family and friends. She had waited so long for this day and wondered if it would ever come. Now here she was, hand in hand with Rogelio, and everyone was witnessing them make their promises of love. She suddenly realized she was holding her breath, and she let it out slowly as Rogelio slid the ring onto her finger. They were married!

Their family and friends all clapped as the happy couple kissed and then turned up the music to dance the night away.

Except for Daisy, of course. Daisy had intercepted a guest, one of Reed’s friends, and was trying to decide whether he would be better for heartbreaking or drawing into a life of crime. As she evaluated his attributes, she thought maybe both.

Over the next few days, Rogelio began to find his place in the Foliage household. He decided to grow his hair out longer like he used to wear it, so that Iris could run her fingers through it. He signed up for a fitness class, and he also took a job at the Diner, after finding out that the family founder had been a great culinary success.

Reed made an effort to get to know him better, without interfering in the couple’s newlywed phase. He found Rogelio to have an admirable desire to save money when possible, although he wondered at some of his more childish behaviors. Oh, well, maybe it meant he would be a good dad.

As Rogelio was settling in, someone else was preparing to spread her wings and leave the nest. Now that Blossom was an adult, she was prepared to put the plan that she had discussed with Reed into action. She had been biding her time until the wedding, since Lily was so happy to be involved in the preparations. It also gave her time to finish what she liked to refer to as her “perfect aquarium.”

She also tried out BodyPro Super Steamer Saunatizer that had been in the family for generations. Blossom was quite pleased with the results.

But it was finally time to go. Lily’s heart was weak, and she needed rest. In the busy Foliage household, Blossom knew she would not find that rest, because her active mind was always seeking ways to help out around the house, whether treating an illness or upgrading an appliance. Besides, the upgrades were in Iris’ court now, since she had declared her ambition to be something of a tinkerer. Blossom knew she had to take her mother to a more restful place to live, and the only way was to convince her that Blossom needed her to have the courage to move out. Truthfully, it was a little scary to think about moving out on her own. So she talked with her mother, and they said their goodbyes.

Rose hated to see Lily and Blossom go, but she knew it was the best decision. After all, it wasn’t like they’d never see each other; they were just moving to a little house across town.

……………..

Throughout all these household changes, Reed was busy both at home and at work. He was dedicated to his music and finally reached the very pinnacle of guitar skill. He knew Poppy would be proud.

He still had a couple of steps to climb in his career, and he still found it exhilarating. Even so, he was always happy to head home to his wife.

One night he strolled into the house, changed his clothes, and headed for the kitchen for a bite to eat. Weird, he thought to himself, where is everybody? That is, until he walked into the room and at the same instant he saw the birthday cake, he heard them all yell SURPRISE! He had forgotten all about his birthday, but his family hadn’t.

When he got over the shock, he was happy about the little impromptu party. Especially when his wife whispered in his ear what his present was going to be…  and then smooched him. Rose smiled to herself as she walked past them with the salad platter.

The other couple in the house also enjoyed those coming home from work moments, but Iris tried to fill her days with things that challenged her mind and talents. She repaired the computers when they lost files, gave error 13 messages, or simply starting emitting gray smoke. She upgraded a faucet in the guest bath and helped out in the garden, too.

Maebe was inspired by her husband’s musical abilities to take up the guitar, too. She hoped it would be a good way to relieve stress after a trying day of work at city hall. They were very insistent that she have just the right clothes and perfect makeup and hair, so she tried to keep herself looking poised and self-assured.

One morning, however, she was feeling anything but poised when Iris walked in and found her bent over a certain porcelain plumbing item.

Iris had not been having a good day already, and was feeling rather grumpy on her way  to repair a leaky shower when she heard some horrible noises coming from the bathroom. Wasn’t Maebe the one who made breakfast this morning? Glad I didn’t have any of it! she thought, until another idea hit her. She helped Maebe up and gave her a cool, damp washcloth along with a questioning look. When Maebe grinned back, she knew.

“Don’t say anything to anyone, okay Iris? I’m going to tell Reed tonight.” Maebe was pleased when Iris agreed.

While Reed was conducting the symphony, Rose was putting on what felt dressy to her and preparing for dinner at the Bistro. It had been a while since she had dined at the family’s restaurant, and she felt that would do for a reason to invite Daisy to have dinner with her there. With Poppy gone and Lily moved out, Rose was moved to reach out to her wayward twin. She hoped they could be closer again. Daisy kept her waiting though, and Rose’s growling stomach had almost forced her to give up on her sister when she finally arrived.

They had a delicious dinner, although they couldn’t ignore the glances and whispers from the other diners. Of course, Daisy didn’t even try to ignore them – she loved being the center of any kind of attention! Rose told herself the whispers were just because they owned the restaurant or because her grandmother had been a five-star chef here, but deep down she knew that some of the gossip had to do with Daisy. It was that old problem from years ago…

… sometimes her skin still glowed with an odd red cast, and while other people thought it was a sign of the evil trash that filled Daisy’s heart, Rose was afraid it was killing her. After all, they had evacuated the plant and half the town after that incident, and even now, whenever Daisy was glowing, her eyes had an unhealthy look that argued against Daisy’s daily fitness routine.

Still, Daisy was Daisy and would do the things that Daisy did. Whatever they were.

Later that evening, Reed came home from work, ready for Maebe to untie that choker of a tie that his position forced upon him.

He had a bit of a surprise when he walked into the bedroom. It perked him right up after the long evening.

Reed caught her up in his arms and kissed her tenderly. “Maebe, how are you? When did you know? Do you want me to rub your back? Would you like a trip to the spa?”

Maebe smiled at him. Her take-everything-in-stride husband was now almost beside himself, his tongue tripping over the words as they spilled out. She assured him she was fine, but the very next day, off to the spa he sent her.

Before she went home, there was one more stop she wanted to make: the library, to borrow a book on having a healthy pregnancy. She found more than just the book, though.

Lily was thrilled for Maebe and Reed, and they had a good chat, getting caught up on all the news.

With all the fuss over the coming birth in the Foliage household, Iris perhaps shouldn’t have been surprised when she came home from running an errand and found Rogelio waiting for her with a certain look in his eye…

—-

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Now I know why my mother kept asking when Cedrick and I were going to have children, thought Rose after breakfast one morning. Rose knew how Dahlia had felt as time passed and her hands began to look like they belonged on an older person’s body, and yet the hands longed to hold a grandchild.

Maebe’s movements were lithe and her posture graceful, but Rose knew that she was a few years older than Reed, and she encouraged her son not to put off having children. She smiled into his eyes, feeling the rewards of motherhood as she talked with her talented, successful son.

Reed was making great strides in his music career, having just been invited to play with the symphony. He and Poppy talked about music all the time, although he had chosen to pursue a more public muse than she had.

Reed wasn’t one-dimensional in his interests; he could often be found at the chess table. Most of the family played, and many weekends brought Foliage family tournaments for fun and bragging rights. Daisy would sometimes participate, but more often than not, she did her own thing, like checking the newspaper for some mysterious ad she had placed.

Maebe  made a point of going out to the park on the weekend to mingle. She had taken a job at City Hall, and her boss told her it was important to get to know as many people as possible. That sounded great to Maebe, whose natural charisma helped her get along with almost everybody, even little Guadeloupe Fish, the paper boy. The only one who didn’t like Maebe was Daisy.

Daisy managed to stay out of the house as much as ever, though, so the two didn’t cross paths that often. While Poppy was good friends with Jameel French, Daisy had become closer to Carmelo. She had alternately flirted with him and palled around with him over the years, and she could finally take pride in the fact that she had lured him into her choice of “career.” He would be very useful in the execution of her little investment scheme. She made careful arrangements, even checking the time it would take to run from the drop point to the meet-up.

Soon she would be rich beyond her wildest dreams, and all the town powers would be humiliated and powerless. She could hardly control the dark laughter that bubbled up inside her!

Rose remained in many ways the opposite of her twin, preferring to stay close to home and cultivate her real and metaphorical gardens. One afternoon, her moments in the sunshine amid the green leaves and ripening fruits were cut short by a cry from within the house.

Poppy heard the cry too, from her place at the kitchen counter, where she was preparing Reed’s favorite meal. It came from upstairs, and she ran as fast as her aging legs could take her.

The family followed the noise and found Lily knocked out cold on the bathroom floor. The one doctor in the family was unconscious, and her daughter Blossom was speechless as Poppy checked for blood where her head had hit the floor. Amazingly, there was none! They helped her gently into bed, stunned yet relieved that their Lily had been spared. The worst seemed to be over, but in the days that followed, they discovered what real struggle was. Lily turned out to be hard-headed in more ways than one, as she refused to take it easy. If she had to take a few days off work, fine, but she would spend them helping out around the house. And she would not hear any talk of retiring! Rose, Poppy, Reed, and Blossom were at their wits’ end.

And no one was amused when someone – whose name started with D and ended with aisy – took one of the garden gnomes and placed it in a strategic position while Lily was concentrating on repairing the TV, against doctor’s orders.

Finally, Blossom went to Reed and shared her worries about her mother and her refusal to take care of her delicate health. She shared with him the plan she had, and he thought it was good, if a bit sad. He wanted to talk it over with his mother before Blossom said anything to Lily, though. They would have to make some arrangements.

Meanwhile, Iris was seeing a lot of Rogelio. He had changed his look a little, but she still felt her heart flutter whenever she saw him. He was always interested in hearing her talk about anything, and she told him about discovering a new comet, her mother teaching her how to harvest the “money” trees, and her brother Reed’s latest promotion. Rogelio’s eyes would just shine as she talked, and she hoped his heart was doing flipflops like hers was.

One day, after a long conversation about their favorite colors, foods, and music, they decided to make it official that they were boyfriend and girlfriend. Iris had never been so happy!

…………………………………………… Meanwhile, the youngest member of the Foliage household had been carrying a heavy burden of worry about her mother. The only reason she was able to keep her grades up in the final year of high school was her dedication to making her smart mother proud of her. Her Aunt Rose and Aunt Poppy, however, encouraged her to find a hobby to distract her from all the seriousness of her young life. So, after coming home from school, checking on her mother, and doing her homework, Blossom soon found herself checking out local fishing spots. She particularly enjoyed the pond at the park downtown and the spot just by the old pier at the beach. Of course, sometimes she liked to stay close to home and just fish at the pond in the back yard. It was pretty well stocked, too. Blossom began to dream of building a giant collection of the pretty fish she caught.

Finally, Blossom’s big day came. It was her eighteenth birthday, and a big party was planned. Reed tried to get away from work a little early, but the rehearsal ran long and he had to hurry home.

At home, family and friends gathered round in festive colors as Rose set out the birthday cake. Blossom loved the swish of her skirt and the spark of excitement in the air as so many smiling people looked on. She squinched up her eyes as she thought of a wish.

From behind the crowd, though, Iris saw something that was in no way the answer to somebody’s wish. No!

From where Iris was standing, she could see Poppy suddenly go ash white and drop to the floor, motionless. Hating everything about the situation, she rushed over to her aunt as the partygoers slowly realized that something was going terribly wrong. But there was no pulse, and not even a world-renowned surgeon like Lily could do anything to bring her back. Poppy was gone, just like that.

Lily was disconsolate after the loss of her twin. Blossom felt oddly guilty, as if the excitement of her birthday party had been the cause of her aunt’s heart attack, but her mother assured her that wasn’t possible.  The family had a quiet funeral, with Daisy significantly absent. It was no secret that she and Poppy hadn’t seen eye-to-eye for years, but still Rose and Lily were heartsick about Daisy’s choice to stay away.

The one bright spot to come out of the tragedy was its effect on Iris. After seeing how quickly life could end, she resolved to take a big step. It was time to get on with things…


—-

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Poppy added some light accents to the background of her painting and stepped back for a look. This one was turning out much better than her first portrait of Reed. After she had painted Iris’ portrait, the muse demanded that she try again for a better painting of the new Foliage heir. She was pleased with the way this one was turning out.

The younger generation was certainly getting on with things. Iris was often found at the chess table, the telescope, or the library. She was taking her life goal pretty seriously, although the family noticed she made time to chat with Rogelio on the phone.

Blossom slaved over her homework as if completing it would mean she could grow up faster and join her cousins as a young adult. Although she enjoyed writing and was working on a novel, she did not enjoy the assignment to describe the impact of the Industrial Revolution in at least 5,000 words.

Daisy figured that while no one was using the computer, she would use it for a little light forum trolling. She loved baiting those naive little fools out there – they’d soon learn that she was the ultimately web spinner!

And where was Reed during all this?

Falling hopelessly, helplessly, happily in love with Maebe.

“Maebe, I have to tell you something. I want you to hear my heart when I tell you this. I love you. My family has built a legacy on this hill, a tradition of growing and nurturing and loving, and I want you to be a part of it. Put down roots here with me, Maebe. Marry me.”

She looked at him, steadily and quietly, as he spoke. When he finished, he held her gaze with hope and a little nervousness. What would she reply?

He needn’t have feared. She threw her arms around him and murmured low in his ear, “Reed, you have made me happier than I had dreamed.”

The ring sparkled as a symbol of their love. Reed promised to show his fiancee a love wider than she had ever known. As an orphan, she had had to work while she was still a teen, babysitting for other families, watching what they took for granted and wishing she could have that magic for her own. Now Reed told her Flora’s story and promised that she would never have to be alone again.

Iris spent some time getting to know her future sister-in-law. She found her to be quite charming and not a bad opponent at chess. Iris shared with Maebe about what it was like to live in a busy household with a big family. Maebe thought it sounded like a dream come true.

Rose went around one last time to collect the profits from the family’s businesses; soon she’d be transferring the deeds to Reed. For now, she would gather in the money and make preparations for a sweet wedding for her firstborn and his bride. She smiled and sighed when she saw them together. Rose wished Cedrick could be there to hold her hand and watch them make their wedding vows to each other.

It had been a long road since death took her soulmate from her, and Rose was frankly glad to feel the years coming on her. Leading the family was not always easy, although it was often rewarding. She was sure Reed would do well.

When the day of the wedding came, they set up a rose arbor in the garden, where the couple had gotten to know each other. As the family and guests took their places, Reed softly caressed Maebe’s cheek and admitted he would have a lot to learn, but he would be the best husband he could.

They pledged their love to each other and embraced, as their guests looked on.

Reed serenaded his bride, and his sister Iris looked on excitedly. She was so happy for her brother, and she had hopes and dreams of a romantic wedding of her own one day soon. Meanwhile, Lily wiped two tears away, one of joy for Reed, and the other of wistfulness that she might live to see her own Blossom marry.

Of course, there was always that one moment you’d rather not have. Iris looked on with a raised eyebrow as her Aunt Daisy smustled with Carmelo French. Didn’t her aunt know that hot pink spandex was not the most flattering or appropriate thing for her to wear at her nephew’s wedding?

Except for that, though, the sunset wedding really was beautiful.

Maebe was overcome by how wonderful it all was to have so many happy witnesses to their wedding in the lush, green garden. She would have to think of a very special way to thank Reed for making the wedding party so perfect…

—-

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