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Archive for the ‘Dahlia’ Category

Fern was gaining in fame as a painter, and she was becoming more and more proficient. As Poppy’s skills were not too far behind hers, they always had something to talk about. Since Fern’s self-recreation back around the time of her and Dahlia’s birthday a few years ago, Poppy and Fern seemed to get along so much better than before.

A friendly debate over natural versus synthetic paintbrushes

A friendly debate over natural versus synthetic paintbrushes

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Screenshot-994-cropPoppy had a harder time with Daisy, though. She had always made a point of asking Daisy how her day was and offering bits of cheery news if she seemed down. For the life of her, Poppy couldn’t understand why Daisy acted the way she did.

The major drama these days, though, was not sister to sister, or niece to aunt. It was heart-pumping, skin-tingling, birds-singing love between a man and a woman – or so Rose wrote in her diary at night after another date with Cedrick.

After a few months of watching Rose dance around the house with stars in her eyes, nobody in the family was surprised when she announced that she was going to propose to her beloved. The couple hadn’t spent a lot of time around the rest of the family, but Dahlia had to admit they made a cute couple and seemed to have similarly unique fashion ideas. Dahlia just hoped that Cedrick’s feelings ran as deep as Rose’s.

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When the happy couple walked in together to announce their engagement, almost everyone clapped and cheered. Wedding plans commenced, with Lily offering suggestions about the wedding gown and Dahlia starting a long guest list. Rose insisted, though, that she and her fiance only wanted a small wedding at home.

“Mom, can I ask you something?” Rose looked back over her shoulder at her mother as they stood on the lawn a little before the wedding. “I’m not smart like Lily or good like Poppy or …resourceful with money… like Daisy. Why did you choose me?”

Dahlia drew close to her daughter and smoothed her hair. “Rose, I chose you because I believe my mother, your grandmother, would have chosen you. You never knew her, but family was very important to her. I know family is important to you, too, and you’re demonstrating that today. I love you, Rose.”

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I pledge my love to you as long as we live.

I pledge my love to you as long for as long as there are stars in the sky.

As pleased as Dahlia was to see Rose starting out on her married life, she was also interested in the heartlife of her other daughters as well. She knew that Lily and Monty had been dating for more than a year now, and from time to time she would talk with Lily and urge her not to put off marriage too long. Lily, however, was very dedicated to her medical career and knew that the life of a trauma surgeon was not easily combined with marriage.

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With all this lovey stuff going on around the house, Daisy made a point of being out most nights and catching up on her sleep during the day, when she wasn’t working out. Most of the family was unaware of exactly what she was doing at night.

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To be fair, there was an awful lot of romance going on at home for a single girl to face, and even the new pool area in the back yard was not exempt.

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Soon the day that Dahlia had been hoping for arrived – Rose announced that she and Cedrick were expecting! The family and all their friends were speculating about the possibility of twin girls, as that was all the Foliage family had known.

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Rose felt a little nervous with all this twin talk, especially knowing that Cedrick was hoping for a boy. Still, she couldn’t blame him. It must have been shocking to move into a house with six women after living on his own in a bachelor pad near the firehouse. Speaking of which, knowing that he was about to be a father made Cedrick reconsider his career. He and Rose talked and decided that the military might offer more advantages, with its better pay and early retirement option. Plus, he’d always had a secret dream of being an astronaut. So he started working out and jogging…

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… and sometimes even jogged to the library to read books on pregnancy and parenting. Some of the women sitting in that section gave him strange looks, but he knew it was worth it!

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Rose enjoyed being pregnant, although her back did ache sometimes after she spent too long fishing. She loved to fish in the park and watch for her man jogging up the hill toward home.

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Cedrick loved watching his wife glow with her pregnancy. He couldn’t help smiling whenever he saw her, even when she was curled up in their bed napping.

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Fern made her contribution by learning a new recipe to make use of Rose’s fresh catches: fish and chips! Her mother used to make it for her, so she thought she would introduce the dish to the next generation. It might even satisfy some of Rose’s odd cravings. Well, maybe if you topped it with ice cream.

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Dr. Lily Foliage encourages good hygiene, while Fern cooks her new dish and Rose tries not to waddle.

Dr. Lily Foliage sets an example of good hygiene, while Fern cooks her new dish and Rose tries not to waddle.

Screenshot-1049Daisy found herself grimacing at the lovebirds when she passed them holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes and calling each other silly nicknames.

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Meanwhile, Dahlia was feeling very fulfilled these days, more than she had ever dreamed. Of course, she missed Win, but she was glad to be at the top of her career as well as to see her daughters seeking to achieve their goals in life. The excitement only increased when one night the time came for Cedrick to take Rose to the hospital. Would they come home with one, two or three, girls or boys?

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The arrival of little Reed was a happy surprise to all. In fact, although the family knew that boys were born quite often in Legacy Valley, the possibility had not seemed real enough for them to think of redecorating the nursery before he came home.

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Cedrick had already receiving one promotion on his job and was bringing in enough to cover the redecorating, and Lily and Poppy were happy to take care of the details. Soon, the nursery was looking more something that would suit the first son born into the Foliage family.

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Cedrick had already receiving one promotion on his job and was bringing in enough to cover the redecorating, and Lily and Poppy were happy to take care of the details. Soon, the nursery was looking more like something that would suit the first son born into the Foliage family.

There was one person in the household who thought all this happy family stuff was too much. She would watch from behind the scenes, and she was biding her time.

Screenshot-1065She walked into the nursery one afternoon behind Cedrick as he was taking a bottle to his son, and she heard him saying in a soft voice, “Little man, have you dropped your pacifier again? Here, it’s time for your bottle. Drink up now, and when you’re bigger we’ll work on your grip!”

Daisy could hear the proud smile in Cedrick’s voice as he held Reed and talked to him. She just had to interrupt.

“Hey Rick,” she said, using the nickname that she knew he didn’t like, even though he had never said so, “if it’s a workout you’re interested in, I think he might be a little small yet. But I can give you some pointers.”

Cedrick returned Reed to his crib and covered him with his blanket before turning to study Daisy. Her tone was hard to read. Finally, he said, “Well, now that you mention it, I was challenged by my C.O. to bulk up some more before reporting for duty next time. I’ll go change and meet you downstairs.”

Daisy blinked as Cedrick was out the door and into more populated parts of the house before she realized it. Hm. All right, if that’s how he wants it, she thought to herself. She went downstairs to put him through one of the most torturous workout routines she knew.

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That evening turned into an early night for everyone, except for Lily, who was assigned to the overnight shift at the hospital, and Daisy, who was off to run with that bad crowd all night again.

Fern had just finished a painting that, even putting personal pride aside, she had to admit was a masterpiece. If the art critics were to be believed, it would be her fifth. She had really learned how to make the paintbrush an extension of her own hand, and there were no painting challenges left unmastered. She had just finished washing out her paintbrushes and was getting into bed, when she heard something upstairs. It sounded like something falling. She grabbed her robe and dashed up the stairs.

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Dahlia had woken up feeling very peculiar. She had a tingly sensation, and not in a good way. She felt lightheaded and reached for the lamp as she stood up from bed. She thought she saw the faint outline of someone off past the foot of the bed, and she had to see who it was. She had been having the most delectable dream of Win, but it couldn’t be him, could it?

As her arm reached the lamp, suddenly everything turned fuzzy and bright.

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When Fern reached the source of the noise and realized what had happened, she stopped, then put one hand to her heart and the other over her mouth. The lamp, the one with the lampshade custom-made in Dahlia’s favorite shade of blue, was in a broken heap on the floor beside the bed. Across the head of the bed lay Dahlia herself, still and pale. Rose ran in at that moment, stirring Fern from her shock. Fern checked for a pulse while Rose yelled for Cedrick, who tried CPR, but it was too late. Rose fell into Cedrick’s arms in tears. Poppy tried to console Fern, but the scene became even more nightmarish as the baby’s disconsolate wail drifted in from the nursery. Fern made the two phone calls she never thought she’d have to make. Lily came right away, although for days after the funeral she cried over her mother’s grave for having been away when she might have actually put her skills to use for her own mother.

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The second phone call went like this: “Daisy. I know what you’re doing and who you’re with. Stop it and come home now. (pause) No, I don’t care. Drop it all and get here now. Your mother is dead.”

The others looked at Fern with shocked expressions that she would speak so coldly and firmly to Daisy at a time like this, but she more than anyone knew what it would take to have a chance at getting through to her. Only time would tell if this would be enough to make a change in Daisy.

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3.15 Emergency

To Dahlia, one of the greatest perks of her career in science was being able to upgrade items around the house for her family to enjoy.  All of the baths boasted the most modern improvements that science could offer, and Dahlia was working her way through the main living areas of the Foliage home. She had not touched the kitchen, out of a sense that it had been her mother’s domain. Did she dare to attempt to improve upon what the famed five-star chef had accomplished? Dahlia decided to touch neither the refrigerator nor the stove, but she thought she might be able to improve the cabinets. And then something went wrong.

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Inexplicably, the cabinet emitted a little puff of smoke, then burst into flames. Rose ran in, just back from the park, and her sisters and aunt came from every corner of the home to first stare in disbelief, then shriek in panic. The flames climbed higher, and Dahlia couldn’t remember where Win had told her he kept the fire extinguisher. Win! In the midst of the crisis, she missed her brave man more than ever. Would her foolish experiment bring harm to her dear family? She couldn’t bear the thought!

Finally, the alarm system brought help. A yellow-clad figure dashed in, seeming not to even feel the weight of all the firefighting equipment he carried.

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He made quick work of putting out the fire. As quickly as they had sprung up, the terrible orange flames were extinguished, and their hero turned to look at the Foliage women.

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“…out, but still hot… keep the fire extinguisher… more careful… fire safety brochure…” Rose could only hear a few words here and there over the beating of her heart. She stared at this man in yellow and knew he was her hero, the only one for her. He had saved her. He had saved them all. He was afraid of nothing, and he had kind, gentle eyes.

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Around Rose, the remnants of chaos played out, with everyone talking at once about how the fire started, whether the garden sprinklers would have helped, and what kind of fire retardant goes on firefighters’ helmets. While the others chatted to the hero, Rose tried to make dinner to offer him, but she got too flustered. She worked up her courage, and when there was a break in the conversation, she said to him, “Thank you. Thank you so much! But I don’t even know your name.”

“It’s Cedrick. Cedrick Kidd. And you don’t need to thank me. It was nothing.”

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“It was something. In fact, it was everything to me,” Rose said.

Her mother and sisters looked on from a distance, not used to hearing such dramatic statements from quiet Rose. They watched as Rose and Cedrick chatted for several minutes, until he was called away to another emergency. After he left, Dahlia approached her slowly, trying to read her expression.

“Mom, he gave me his number, and he asked if he could come by tomorrow night!” Rose twirled around and drifted down into a chair with a sigh and a smile.

“Yeah, he probably just wants to bring us a new fire extinguisher or examine the cabinet for signs of arson or something,” said Daisy, earning a sharp look from her mother.

But Daisy was wrong. Cedrick came back the next evening, and he and Rose only had eyes for each other. They talked for hours, easing into flirting and then a first kiss.

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By the end of the evening, they had made their relationship official. As he left for the night, Rose ran her hand down the cheek that he had caressed and then brushed her hair back over her shoulder. She almost shivered at the very thought of such a handsome, heroic man liking her! Loving her! She could hardly wait until they were married.

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Rose was a little frustrated. She was supposed to be the Foliage heiress to carry on the family’s legacy to the next generation. Her sisters – except for Daisy – had been a little in awe of her that night. So why was she still having to struggle with homework?

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Mercifully, her mother noticed her frustration, remembered her own high school homework challenges, and sat down to help Rose figure out her physics assignment. After that things seemed a little easier.

Dahlia had come a long way since her high school days of friends, flirting, and fashion. Not to say that she wasn’t interested in the latest styles anymore, but she had learned how to exercise her mind. In fact, one day the mayor called her at work and asked her to go talk some sense into the crazy criminal mastermind who was hiding out at that old “abandoned” warehouse that cast a shadow from the edge of town. She went, and after laying out in clear, logical terms why it would not benefit him to set off a massive plumbomb in the middle of Legacy Valley, he got the picture. Even evil schemers like the idea of living another day.

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Unknown to Dahlia, one of her daughters had followed her and was making plans of her own…

Everyone in the family had goals and hobbies to pursue, and the Foliage women could be found all around town.

Fern works on her latest book with the sound of the surf in her ears.

Fern works on her latest book with the sound of the surf in her ears.

Rose tends the family garden.

Rose tends the family garden.

Screenshot-858-crop Screenshot-913-cropPerseverance was paying off for Lily as she pursued her medical dreams and achieved promotion after promotion. That was not all she was achieving, though. Under the glimmering stars one night, she and Monty Langerak realized that they were more than friends and co-workers.

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Poppy finds another reason to dislike the outdoors – dangerous cars!

Poppy finds another reason to dislike the outdoors – dangerous cars!

Poppy had been interested in playing the guitar for her friends and acquaintances in the park, but she was having a hard time overcoming her agoraphobia. Those speeding cars that came out of nowhere as she tried to cross the street didn’t help!

Daisy spent a lot of her time talking to boys, and she especially liked playing with their hearts, talking to one boy about another. The French brothers suffered repeatedly from Daisy’s mind games.

"Oh Jameel, I just love the way Carmelo's hair falls over his eyes. It's so dreamy!" Daisy snickers to herself as Jameel winces, not knowing she just told Carmelo how much she admired Jameel.

"Oh Jameel, I just love the way Carmelo's hair falls over his eyes. It's so dreamy!" Daisy snickers to herself as Jameel winces, not knowing she just told Carmelo how much she admired Jameel.

Daisy also found other ways to amuse herself through her high school years. Her mother wished she would find another hobby.

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Surprisingly quickly, time passed, and Daisy and Rose were suddenly celebrating their 18th birthday. Dahlia threw them a formal party to celebrate, but as usual, Rose had her own ideas about what to wear. Daisy blew out her candles first, then it was Rose’s turn. Dahlia watched her babies become adults before her eyes.

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Thoroughly different, the young women were still very close, although neither seemed to understand why the other desired the things she did out of life. Fern was reminded of another relationship in the family, and so she kept an eye on Daisy.

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Fern was the first one in the family to realize that Daisy had been so thrilled to become an adult because it meant that she would finally be accepted at the outlaws’ warehouse and trained in criminal arts. When Daisy got home, Fern had a talk with her, although it didn’t seem to be very successful. Daisy kept talking about how much money she could make.

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Meanwhile, Rose realized that it was time for her to think about starting the next generation of the Foliage family. With a little nudge from her mother, she went for a stroll through the park to meet some new people. She had never had a real boyfriend, but her mother assured her that Mr. Wonderful was out there just waiting to be captivated by her.

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Her afternoon at the park, however, turned up one mail carrier who turned out to be insane as well as a hater of art and of the outdoors, a young man with unfortunate hair who expressed a fear of televisions, several people of retirement age, and one man who said he was already in a relationship. Rose thought he looked like a Rhett. Rose decided to hang it up for the day and head home.

And that was where there was about to be serious drama. That cozy home on the cliffs overlooking the sea, where the cool, green garden grew, was about to be anything but tranquil.

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Life with six women in one house meant that bathroom time was in high demand. Sooner or later, someone was going to walk in on someone, and every time it happened, someone ended up red-faced. Oddly enough, it never seemed to bother Rose. She had her own ideas about what was and was not appropriate.

Even Daisy gets embarrassed!

Even Daisy gets embarrassed!

All four teens were doing pretty well in school, and at least one of them brought home a friend every day.

Lily and Rose leaving school, with their friend Amy Tong in the background.

Lily and Rose leaving school, with their friend Amy Tong in the background.

Before their parents thought it could possibly be time, Lily and Poppy were graduating and celebrating their first birthday as young adults. Win planned a big party, and the house was full as they blew out their candles.

Poppy and Lily makes their wishes.

Poppy and Lily make their wishes.

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Daddy-daughter talk

Daddy-daughter talk

Poppy wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life, so she talked with her dad about a career in the military, and she talked with her Aunt Fern about the family’s gardening tradition, but both of those options meant way too much time outdoors for Poppy’s liking. In the end, she decided that her life goal would be to master the arts, since the paintbrush had been a friend of hers since childhood, and she had recently taken up playing her grandfather’s guitar.

Lily heads off to her first day of work, with Fern's painting "Pork Chops and Applesauce" in the background.

Lily heads off to her first day of work, with Fern's painting "Pork Chops and Applesauce" in the background.

Lily had known since she was a little girl that she wanted to be a world-renowned surgeon one day, so she was pleased to finally be able to start her career.

Daisy and Fern having one of many meals together

Daisy and Fern having one of many meals together

Daisy and Fern continued to be very close, although as time passed and Daisy grew, Fern became increasingly concerned by some of what she saw in her niece. Were these traces of evil the very things that so scared her own sister Dahlia when she looked at Fern? She thought long and hard about their recent fight and the slow reconciliation, and then she went to pour her heart out into a new novel, Thrive or Wilt.

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When she had finished, she felt somehow different. She felt as if she had reached some unspoken pinnacle of success in her artistic crafts of writing and painting, and she also sensed somehow that she was overcoming that trait that had cost her so much joy in life. She was renewed.

Win continued to do well in his career, though he did not advance quite as quickly as he might have if he had not placed so high an importance on his family. He spent a lot of time flying jets, but he valued his time with his wife and daughters more.

Win, freshly showered after exercising

Win, freshly showered after exercising

One day, after cutting short his workout to flirt with his wife, he felt sort of odd. Dahlia looked at him in alarm.

Win can't figure out why he feels so funny.

Win can't figure out why he feels so funny.

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Dahlia cried out, and her daughters and sister came running. They knew something was very wrong. Poppy’s eyes large eyes filled with tears as she hardly dared look at what was happening. Daisy reached out as if to hold her father and keep him from going, but he seemed to fade into thin air before their eyes.

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Screenshot-815Poppy went to comfort her mother, and Fern tried to console Daisy. But Daisy wasn’t having any of it. Her aunt was different somehow; she sensed it. And the pain was too great. Bitterly, she waved her aunt’s concern off and retreated into herself.

I don't need your hug! I don't need anything from you!

I don't need your hug! I don't need anything from you!

That was the day that Daisy decided she would embrace her evil side. She would nurture it and feed it. She would become the Empress of Evil.

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Over the following days, the Foliage women tried to keep themselves busy. Lily went to work, although her sad mood kept her from advancing. Poppy painted canvas after canvas. Fern, feeling her age, began a historical book. Rose, taking a cue from her mother’s fondness of fishing, went to the beach with her fishing rod.

That's a far cry from tuna and shark!

That's a far cry from tuna and shark!

A cute, very fit guy tried to chat her up, but Rose was still sad after losing her father, and when Coby talked about fitness and exercise, it only reminded her of her father.

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Daisy, on the other hand, grabbed onto her father’s love of exercise and took it for her own. She savored the pain in her muscles, focusing on the goal of bringing the world under her domination, so that she could choose when people would suffer. No more would this random tragedy affect her!

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Her dreams became lurid, full of the supernatural, and she behaved very differently from her sisters.

Floating, tilting, flying, falling…

Floating, tilting, flying, falling…

Dahlia mourned often at Win’s grave. She had known from the beginning that he was older and might have to leave her one day, but she hadn’t known how much she would miss her sweet, brave, and flirty soulmate. She talked with her memory of Win about their daughters, their home, and her plans for the future. She knew the time had come to make some choices, even though two of her daughters were still in school.

Screenshot-827So she poured energy into everything she did, from her job…

Screenshot-833…to her home…

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…to her family. It was time to have the talk that her mother had had with her and Fern so many years ago. It was time to name an heiress.

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Dahlia called everyone together and said she had some things to share with them. She told them all the story of how Flora came to Legacy Valley, why the family home and garden on the hill were so important, and what the family meant to Dahlia personally. Fern of course knew the first part, but she listened along with the four girls as Dahlia spoke of feelings she often left unspoken. Dahlia spoke a word to each of the girls in turn, telling Poppy how much she valued her good nature, Lily how much she admired her logical mind, Daisy – with a little hesitation – how many good things she hoped for her future, and Rose how special she was with her unique ways and traces of both her mother and father in her appearance. For a second, Dahlia almost broke down, but she pulled herself together and took a step forward.

It has been a very difficult choice, but it’s one I have to make. Rose, I name you as the Foliage heiress, chosen to carry on the family name and legacy in this home for the next generation. I know you are still in school, but knowing now will give you time to prepare, and you have me and your aunt and your sisters to help you. When you graduate from high school, you will be ready.

Rose

Rose

Just as I received it in my turn, I pass the Foliage legacy on to you. Nurture it, grow it, care for it. Live your life, and know that you are part of something bigger. Time passes quickly, but a centuries-old tree can look at the saplings springing up around it and be proud. Grow our heritage, Rose. You will always be remembered.

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2.9 Accusation

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Win had heard the other flight officers exchanging stories about the old crypt and catacombs at the Legacy Valley graveyard. Most of the stories sounded like tall tales for ego’s sake, but Win was intrigued enough to decide to check it out for himself. The heavy doors creaked open slowly as he entered, and the musky smell of closed up places filled his nostrils. Undaunted, he ventured into the dark.

Meanwhile, the women of the family were otherwise occupied. Dahlia was at work, and then in the garden. Lily, as usual, was at the chess table after doing her homework. As for the others…

Poppy enjoys painting, discovering that there are other colors besides her favorite, black.

Poppy enjoys painting, discovering that there are other colors besides her favorite, black.

Daisy visits Jameel French after school…

Daisy visits Jameel French after school…

…before going home and playing tag with her Aunt Fern.

…before going home and playing tag with her Aunt Fern.

Rose takes her fishing pole to the park.

Rose takes her fishing pole to the park.

…they were fully occupied, unaware that the man of the house was exploring the catacombs, rumored to be filled with rejects from the science’s lab animal experiments, such as the failed attempt at crossing a polar bear with an electric eel. Would he survive it?

Brave Win says, "Piece of cake!"

Brave Win says, "Piece of cake!"

Not only did he survive, but he emerged victorious with valuable finds from luminorious gems to rare seeds. After the exhilarating afternoon, he was glad to go home to a somewhat more sane family dinner. Of course, sharing a home with six women was never completely sane to Win’s spic-and-span, on-schedule, military way of looking at things, but he wouldn’t change it for anything.

Everyone except Poppy, who has trouble tearing herself away from the easel

Everyone except Poppy, who has trouble tearing herself away from the easel

After dinner, Rose and Daisy went to play in their room, while Win helped Lily get the hang of the exercise machine.

Dad, are you sure it's supposed to be this heavy?

Dad, are you sure it's supposed to be this heavy?

Nearby, in the garden, an unpleasant scene was developing. No one except the two involved saw what had happened, but it was suspected that Fern had sneaked up behind Dahlia as she was gardening and had given her a huge scare.

Not the closest of sisters

Not the closest of sisters

Things went from bad to worse in a hurry. Dahlia accused Fern of being evil, and Fern said that she didn’t care what Dahlia thought. They shouted back and forth for an hour, pointing fingers and pointing out faults.You. Are. Evil.

You. Are. Evil.

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“You are bad to the core!”

“You are so vain you couldn’t bring yourself to change a diaper!”

“At least I have a family!”

“You don’t care about them, only that you’re in charge!”

And then, they suddenly realized that they were fighting in the middle of their mother’s garden. They stopped shouting, still glaring at each other and breathing hard, but suddenly reluctant to fight anymore right there. Thoughts of gentle Flora broke up some of the storm clouds in their hearts, and they walked off in different directions.

Dahlia went to Win for consolation. She cried about the fight and confessed to him that she was worried about Fern’s influence on her daughters, especially Daisy. Win held Dahlia close and listened, then reminded her that Fern might still be upset over having been passed over. After all, she made a huge contribution to the household finances every week with the royalties from her books. She helped take care of the little girls while Dahlia and Win were both at work. She couldn’t be entirely evil, could she?

Win, she is so evil to me, after I let her live here in the house and everything!

Win, she is so evil to me, after I let her live here in the house and everything!

Fern, after walking out to the family graveyard and sitting a while thinking of her mother and that talk so long ago, decided to start a certain project.

Will it work? Fern doesn't know, but she's going to try.

Will it work? Fern doesn't know, but she's going to try.

Things were extremely awkward around the house for a few days. The four girls spent as much time away from home as possible.

Lily goes to the pool to show off that she's been working out.

Lily goes to the pool to show off that she's been working out.

Rose invites all takers in the park. Chess with an adult? Bring it on!

Rose invites all takers in the park. Chess with an adult? Bring it on!

Win takes a study break to read "The Fiendish Frond Avenges."

Win takes a study break to read "The Fiendish Frond Avenges."

Win found the atmosphere more conducive to studying at the library, and after he finished reading a jet repair manual, he found the last book in Fern’s Fiendish Frond series for a little dramatic reading.

As Daisy and Rose’s birthday approached, the girls hoped that it might be an occasion for their mother and their aunt to patch things up.

Daisy and Rose are growing up!

Daisy and Rose are growing up!

But although the party was a success, there was no reconciliation.

Teen Rose pre-makeover

Teen Rose pre-makeover

Teen Daisy pre-makeover, obviously not impressed with the party

Teen Daisy pre-makeover, obviously not impressed with the party

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Things were happening, however, even if Daisy (left) and Rose (right) weren’t aware. As most of the house slept, Fern was reaching new heights of creativity and coming close to putting her plan into action.

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A Perfect Garden

A Perfect Garden

The garden reaches the state that Dahlia has always dreamed of while she sleeps.

The garden reaches the state that Dahlia has always dreamed of while she sleeps.

The night was eventful for Dahlia, too, although she didn’t know it until the next morning. During the night, under the gentle rain of the sprinklers, the plants that she had been nurturing grew to the state of perfection that she had been working toward since her mother gave her that charge.

In just a few days, it was Dahlia and Fern’s birthday. Dahlia was not thrilled about the idea of wrinkles and gray hair, but Win insisted on a party. Fern was strangely quiet on the subject.

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Dahlia enjoyed chatting with her guests, especially since it gave her the opportunity to thank her boss for the promotion to Robot-Creature Crossbreeder as well as watch her daughters chat with some of the young men from the neighborhood. After the party was over, though, she felt her nerves go on alert when Fern called her into the living room.

“Dahlia, there’s something in here I’d like you to see,” said Fern. With a deep breath, Dahlia smoothed her graying hair and stepped into the room. Suddenly, she was staring at a brilliantly beautiful painting of her family gathered around the table.

Speechless

Speechless

“Dahlia, I know you really do care about your family. I shouldn’t have said what I did. That’s why I painted this for you. Happy birthday!”

Dahlia turned around to look at her sister. “This is the best present I could ever imagine. I-I’m sorry for yelling at you. Happy birthday to you too.”

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They didn’t hug, because the wounds were still not fully healed, and they knew they weren’t living in a sit com, but they shared a quiet smile. The healing had begun.

A gift of healing

A gift of healing

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Win left the base tired but otherwise in a very good mood as he dialed up some friends to invite them to Poppy and Lily’s birthday party. It was hard to believe they were already going to be teenagers! As he said “see you later” to the last guest-to-be, he paused to think about the many friends he had made in Legacy Valley. It had always been his dream to have a wide circle of friends – it just seemed to make life more worthwhile – and he felt he had finally succeeded. It was a good feeling.

See you at the party, Stacey! We're looking forward to your famous peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

See you at the party, Stacey! We're looking forward to your famous peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Poppy and Lily had a big party with balloons for the kids and dancing for the teens. And, of course, there was cake! Poppy was the first to blow her candles out, then it was Lily’s turn.

Poppy grows up preppy.

Poppy grows up preppy.

Lily is thrilled to be a teen!

Lily is thrilled to be a teen!

As soon as the party was over, Dahlia took the girls upstairs to help them with their makeovers. Dahlia was excited to share tips on fashion, hair, and makeup with Poppy and Lily. They might not realize it, but she knew that a well put-together look could catch interest and open doors. Remember her mother’s talks, she reminded Poppy and Lily that who they were on the inside was the most important thing, but she added that the outward appearance might give the inside person a chance to be known.

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Lily (left) and Poppy (right) felt that their new looks expressed a little about who they were, and they enjoyed the time with their mom.

Lily and Poppy were also developing their mental skills. Lily loved playing chess and would invite friends over to play as often as she could. Poppy enjoyed reading or anything else that could keep her indoors.

So, Cody, how about a game? Don't you just think chess is the best game ever?

So, Cody, how about a game? Don't you just think chess is the best game ever?

…after replacing the washer, reattach the faucet with a flathead screwdriver. If the faucet still leaks, then hit it with a hammer a few times.

…after replacing the washer, reattach the faucet with a flathead screwdriver. If the faucet still leaks, then hit it with a hammer a few times.

With all these interests, Lily and Poppy still found time to do their homework. Dahlia and Win made sure of it by joining them at the table for a little dessert before bed.

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Dahlia was enjoying her career and making the most of fishing opportunities that came along, and she kept reaching new gardening achievements. It was when she cupped a new seedling in her soil-covered hands that she most wished her mother could be there with her.

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With all the excitement of Dahlia’s oldest girls entering their teen years, the younger twins still managed to get their share of attention. Dahlia and Win made a point of spending time with them to teach them all that they needed to know to grow up well.

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And before they knew it, Daisy and Rose’s birthday had arrived! Dahlia wondered what kind of children her little girls would grow up to be.

Dahlia is so excited that we can almost see her tonsils!

Dahlia is so excited that we can almost see her tonsils!

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At first, Daisy seemed quite a normal little girl, but then Dahlia caught a glimpse of her with an expression that reminded her so much of Fern… Dahlia was worried, but hoped that one of her birthday presents, a bright yellow rubber ducky, might bring out a softer side in her.

Rose grew up into a seemingly happy child and chattered animatedly about her eagerness to start school. In fact, the next morning, she was the first girl out of the house, running toward the schoolbus.

Isn't this just a heartwarming picture? Hmm, except for the giant hole in the house at the top of the staircase. Didn't notice that before.

Isn't this just a heartwarming picture? Hmm, except for the giant hole in the house at the top of the staircase. Didn't notice that before.

Daisy was a different story.

School! ~snort~ As if they were going to teach me anything useful, like how to take over the world, or blow up a stuffed animal factory or something.

School! ~snort~ As if they were going to teach me anything useful, like how to take over the world, or blow up a stuffed animal factory or something.

Dahlia began keeping a closer eye on Fern, watching to see if there was much interaction between her and Daisy. She was never able to catch anything suspicious, though. In fact, Fern’s paintings were taking a turn toward – could she think it – lighter, more natural themes.

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After lying in bed turning all these things over in her mind, Dahlia decided she was probably just worrying too much over nothing. With all that was going on in the household, maybe she just needed to get more rest. Win cuddled up next to her, and  she drifted off to sleep.

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With two new babies in the house, Poppy and Lily were often left to find their own amusements. Lily gravitated immediately to the chess table and became absorbed in the world of knights, rooks, and bishops.

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Lily asked Poppy to join her, but Poppy said, “What, out there in all that sunshine?Thanks but, uh, I think I hear a turtle calling me.”

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In fact, Poppy tried building block towers, writing stories, and several other pastimes, but nothing grabbed her. What did catch her interest was the way her Aunt Fern could dip her paintbrush into colorful little oily blobs and create wildly interesting images on the canvas. Poppy was a little bit skittish around her aunt, but she got up her courage one day and asked her for permission to use the easel.

Aunt Fern? Um, can I, um, may I, um, I don't have any candy, but may I use your easel?

Aunt Fern? Um, can I, um, may I, um, I don't have any candy, but may I use your easel?

Poppy looked up at her aunt, almost afraid to meet her eyes, but with glee she realized that Aunt Fern had said yes! She could use it all day! Poppy ran to the easel before she could change her mind.

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Fern watched her niece run off to paint. She was a little bit of a goody two-shoes, but it was gratifying to have someone else in the house interested in painting. Of all of her four nieces, though, Fern was most intrigued with Daisy. There was something that set her apart from the others and that made Fern feel she would be a kindred spirit. She noticed that Daisy sometimes gurgled happily even when Rose was crying for a bottle. For some reason, this drew Fern’s attention to her.

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Fern was usually home, because her work was writing and painting rather than punching a clock, and so she had time to observe the babies while Dahlia and Win were off working or exercising or running errands.

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Dahlia had been spending many hours in the garden during her maternity leave, and she finally reached the point of perfecting her gardening skills. She was becoming known for her green thumb as her mother had been, and often the Valley’s restaurants would call her with special requests. She always tried to deliver.

Win had earned his wings and the uniform to match. Although he loved his family time, he was usually eager to head off to work in the mornings.

Win claims he is a distant cousin of the DeCasims… what do you think?

Win claims he is a distant cousin of the DeCasims… what do you think?

Evenings were busy times around the Foliage household. Lily and Poppy often did their homework at the table after dinner, while Fern worked on her latest novel, Win worked out, and Dahlia tended to the babies.

One plus two plus two plus one, no wait. One plus one plus two plus one…

One plus two plus two plus one, no wait. One plus one plus two plus one…

Lily always went to bed without being asked, but Poppy stayed up watching TV whenever she could get away with it. Even those late-night monster movies!

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Mornings could get crazy, too, with seven people running around. Dahlia tried to get Rose and Daisy ready for the day so they would give Fern as little trouble as possible.

Dahlia loved the way Rose's hair was a combination of her own and Win's.

Dahlia loved the way Rose's hair was a combination of her own and Win's.

Fern found a place for herself in the morning routine by remembering her mother’s love of cooking, and following in her footsteps by serving breakfast. She didn’t do it every day, but when she did, it made her feel closer to the mother she missed so much.

Today's special: golden pancakes with grape compote!

Today's special: golden pancakes with grape compote!

Even though the garden was mainly Dahlia’s domain now, Fern still helped out sometimes. She was surprised when the diner called her one day requesting a special delivery. Since it was Win’s day off and he was at home, she sped over to the diner and was given some very special gardening tips for her trouble. Fern was pleased, because she had always loved eggplant!

Mission accomplished.

Mission accomplished.

Win liked to emphasize the importance of fitness to all his girls, and he made the most of his days off to instill this value in them.

Screenshot-518-cropPoppy and Lily were proud to show their dad that they could ride their bikes all the way to school rather than take the smelly old bus.

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Win also made a point of having some special workouts with Dahlia.

Want to help me work on my muscle tone, darling?

Want to help me work on my muscle tone, darling?

These late nights had a tendency to blur quickly into early mornings and busy days…

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…and while Dahlia was very happy with her life, it left her feeling so exhausted sometimes that she couldn’t even build up her usual excitement over a promotion!

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