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Archive for the ‘Iris’ Category

When Rogelio married Iris, he was welcomed into the Foliage family. He soon demonstrated some personality quirks, but Iris loved him absolutely, and that was good enough for everyone else.

As time passed, though, even Iris wondered what thoughts roamed around inside his head. She still loved him, but she didn’t understand his obsession with the fish, his habit of talking to himself in the mirror, or the strange look he would get in his eyes sometimes.

As for Rogelio, he himself was disturbed by his thoughts, and they kept him awake many nights.

What was on his mind?

He couldn’t stand being married.

At all.

It wasn’t that he hated Iris. He liked her a lot. But he hated being committed to one woman, especially in such a prominent family with generations of success in the town. At first it had seemed like a good idea to form official ties with the Foliages…

…after all, they were rich!

And Rogelio liked money. He had never had any of his own. The day he married Iris was the day he became rich. And became trapped.

Iris had a baby. Rogelio didn’t know what to do with babies, and Iris seemed to expect him to do things with diapers and baby powder and puréed prunes and all that other tiny sized stuff. It was too much pressure! He would stare at the fish and then tell them he was jealous of their carefree lives. Bobo would puff up so proudly, mocking Rogelio for his imprisonment.

And even as birthday parties and promotions came and went, Rogelio fretted over that little golden band around his finger, chaining him to a life he didn’t want and didn’t know how to get out of. He wasn’t meant to be a mature adult person with responsibilities. He wanted to be free.

He eyed the cute young babysitter and reminded himself that as long as he was married, he had all the money he could want. He couldn’t leave Iris.

But he couldn’t stand to be married anymore either. He saw Iris aging before his eyes, and he couldn’t stand to look at her sometimes.

And Iris saw in his eyes that he couldn’t bear to look at her. It broke her heart.

Rogelio woke up every morning feeling like a prisoner behind golden bars. One day, Iris ate something that disagreed with her, and it gave him the idea.

He knew exactly what he was going to do. It was the only way out.

Rogelio had been trained as a chef during the years he worked at the restaurant, and he often cooked for the family. They were always glad to try his recipes, and fresh ingredients were always available from the garden. Nobody had ever questioned a new, experimental recipe.

So he set about making a special recipe for Iris. It would be a masterpiece. She would never taste anything like it again, and he would be free.

As he guided the knife through the firm flesh of the vegetables, he grew excited about his brilliant plan. It would be a once-in-a-lifetime taste experience for his wife.

He added a certain powder with the spices to cover the taste. When the special dish was ready, he set it on the table and called out to Iris that he had made dinner for her. She replied that she’d be there as soon as she finished the painting she was working on. So Rogelio went off to congratulate himself in the mirror.

So he missed seeing that before Iris got to the table, Zoysia happened by and saw that there were green vapors rising from the food on the table. Assuming that it had gone bad, she cleaned it up and took out the trash.

When Iris finished her painting, she found the table empty, so she got some leftovers from the fridge and ate.

Meanwhile, Rogelio had a sudden moment of clarity. He saw something in the eyes in the mirror that scared him, and he wasn’t happy about what he’d done anymore. He rushed toward the dining room to stop Iris from eating, but when he saw her…

…Iris was clutching her stomach and collapsing onto the floor. It was too late. She died quickly.

The doctor who wrote the death certificate said it was a ruptured appendix, but Rogelio knew he had killed her. He had killed her, and it haunted his sleep that night. He had a nightmare…

…in which Iris held the empty dish and called out to Rogelio, “Poison! Poison!” A red glow was all around her. In the nightmare he walked smiling up to her ghost.

He watched the grim reaper take her away, and then he shook hands with the reaper. He thanked him for completing his part of their agreement. But then the reaper asked for Rogelio’s money in payment, and Rogelio said no. The grim reaper said that he would take his life instead. After all, it was a miserable murderer’s life and not worth that much, anyway.

The nightmare shifted so that Rogelio was looking at himself, and he felt the weight of what he had done. He had ended Iris’ life just so he could be a wealthy widower. That wasn’t freedom at all! And he was a miserable wretch. He saw himself wipe the tears that poured from his eyes.

When he woke up, the feeling remained. He was a golddigger, and he could not stand himself.

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Zoysia concentrated on the feel of the cool leaves against her fingers and the firmness of the ground beneath her feet. She remained very conscious of the wide open sky above her, but when the fear surged up within her, she put out a hand to grasp the solid wood fence at the edge of the garden. Two deep breaths later, she returned to caring for the tomato plant. She managed a small smile when she thought of how the healthy, shiny fruit would have pleased her father and how the juicy taste of it would please her new husband and the rest of the family at dinner.

Kurtis was fitting into the family quite well. Everyone enjoyed having a musician in the family again, and he was diligent in his practicing.

Zoysia and Kurtis had made a big purchase as their wedding present to each other, and it necessitated another building project on the Foliage estate. They chose a shade of green that was a blend of their two favorite colors.

Kurtis often drove it to work, but he liked to carpool too, to get to know his co-workers, so when Zoysia didn’t want the car to run errands, they let Camellia or Violet drive it to work. Camellia was making steady progress in her career at the Science Center.

Violet liked to jog around town, even all the way across town to work sometimes, and the exercise was paying off. She had had a couple of rapid promotions in her athletic career, and after her last shift, she had expected one more. As far as she knew, she had satisfied every requirement to be promoted to Minor Leaguer, but she wasn’t called to the manager’s office before going home. Puzzled, she decided to go visit her boss at home and ask about this.

Her boss told her that she hadn’t realized Violet was so interested in becoming a part of the team, but now that she’d asked, the position was hers! Violet was thrilled at the news and to have made a new friend in her coach. Her first practice with the team would be in two days.

Violet threw everything she had into her game. Opposing teams learned quickly to fear her temper, and when she plowed past them to score, she jumped around so excitedly that everyone noticed. That included the major league coach, who quickly drafted her to his team as a rookie. Violet was in the restroom stall psyching herself up for her first game when she overheard something.

Mikki, you got the stuff?

Yeah, I got it. And I know just where to plant it. Those Llamas will get disqualified so fast they won’t know what hit ’em!

Hehhehheh and that’s nuthin’ compared to what we got cooked up for the tournament!

Violet clenched her jaw to force herself to stay quiet as she heard bits and pieces of a scheme to put the Llamas out of the league, people out of work, and fans out of pride and joy. She didn’t have enough evidence to do anything about it, yet, but she hatched a plan.

As much as it pained her, she quit and ran off to put her plan in action. When she got home, she went straight to the computer and began scanning certain message boards. Unknown to Violet, Zoysia caught sight of the screen as she passed by, and what she saw was beyond surprising.

Could she have seen it right? Was Violet really on a website like that? What was she thinking? Didn’t she know that wasn’t on the up and up?

As she worked in the garden, Zoysia didn’t notice the openness and exposure as much as usual, with her thoughts turned to her twin sister. Should she notify the authorities? Of course not! Should she say something to Violet? Her sister had always been unpredictable, but she had never been outright evil. As she headed back inside, her gardening work completed in seemingly no time at all, Zoysia decided to trust her sister but keep an eye on what would happen.

Camellia noticed that both her cousins were being a little quieter than usual, but she didn’t feel completely comfortable with the idea of prying into the situation. With the sun caressing her shoulders and the lush green garden around her, nothing could seem terribly wrong. She felt like she learned more about gardening and fishing every day, and these skills were impacting her work at the Lab in a great way.

But there was one area of her life that could be a lot more fulfilling – her love life. She’d had her eye on someone since Zoysia’s wedding, but it was maddeningly hard trying to get close to him. Who ever heard of a coy boy? Cam was not one to be easily put off, though, and one evening she invited him over.

They talked, and Camellia told funny stories of things that blew up at the lab, and the strange new type of fish she’d caught, and she offered him some fruit freshly picked from the garden. He seemed to be enjoying the evening.

She flirted and flattered and finally, there was a spark.

After a few intense moments in each other’s arms under the stars, Camellia whispered in Oscar’s ear, “After a kiss like that, I guess we’re a couple, huh?” She giggled softly until she felt him stiffen and pull away. Camellia couldn’t believe her ears as Oscar informed her that he thought that “one man one woman stuff” was stupid and he would never limit himself to just one person. He walked off, leaving Camellia to pick up the little pieces of her heart by herself.

With the three young women of the family each having private dramas, life still had the nerve to go on. Rogelio participated in a grill-off in the park, but to Iris’ great surprise he didn’t win.

He still enjoyed jogging all over town, even up the tall hill leading to the Foliage home.

The other man of the house was proving to be a gifted artist. Zoysia was amazed at how the paintbrush seemed to turn into a magic wand in his hand.

Iris was inspired by the grill-off and decided to buy a grill for the Foliage home. How had they been without one for so long?

Violet, like Camellia, wanted some romance in her life, and made time in her plans to visit Herbert James. They didn’t have much in common, but she found him attractive and she liked the sound of his name. She didn’t know if it would turn into anything special like what her sister had with Kurtis, but she was open to it.

Zoysia continued her chess matches, enjoying the days when she could be inspired to victory by the sounds of her husband’s lively guitar music.

But in addition to her chess mastery aspirations, Zoysia had another wish on her mind. She was pretty sure it was on Kurtis’ mind, too. And so they decided to start “working” toward that goal.

And one morning, Zoysia came to on the floor. She realized she had passed out on her way to the kitchen.

Kurtis made a big fuss over her and insisted she go right to the doctor to be checked out. What she discovered was as far from bad news as possible. In fact, her prescription was some clothes shopping and a visit to the spa.

Kurtis beamed when Zoysia told him the news, and he worked harder than ever to make sure he would be in a better position to take some time off when the baby was born.

With plenty of rest and vitamins, Zoysia soon got over her morning sickness and fainting spells. She was feeling more reflective, wondering how her mother felt when she was expecting. One day she watched a butterfly for almost an hour, wondering how it felt when it came out of the cocoon.

Iris was exceedingly pleased with this development and decided to celebrate by painting a portrait of the expectant daddy.

Iris sensed that her own daughter felt a little lost in the love department and spent extra time with her. She didn’t want to sound like she was lecturing or nagging, but she tried to offer some words of wisdom when Camellia seemed open to them. The world was a big place, with both pleasures and pitfalls. Iris hoped that Camellia would find fulfillment in life and someone with whom to enjoy it.

For now, Camellia had decided to focus on her career.

One particular day was very eventful for the Foliages. Camellia got a promotion…

… Violet put her plan into action…

… and Zoysia and Kurtis brought home little Ivy Foliage from the hospital. The whole family doted on the tiny wriggling bundle of joy. It was good that they had a pure joy to focus on. They were going to need it.

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Things just weren’t the same around the Foliage home after Reed died. First, all the fish suddenly died.

Following that, the family started receiving bills again. Apparently, Reed’s fame as a musician, business owner, and community leader had led companies to provide their services for free, happy to be associated with the celebrity. Zoysia was now in charge, and she was not as well known. Iris carefully went over the bills with her and made sure to mail the payments on time.

Iris also spent some time helping Zoysia, Violet, and Camellia take care of the garden. She was sure that the young seedlings would be in good hands, but she was concerned about their human counterparts.

None of the girls had a steady boyfriend, and she resolved to do something about that. As soon as enough time had passed for it to be appropriate, she threw a party and invited half the neighborhood, including every young man she knew.

Camellia was always conscious of being younger than her twin cousins, and she tried to dress in sophisticated styles. She longed to be like her favorite fictional character, Edith Prescott, and she styled her hair accordingly. She would love to be a private investigator, but there were no jobs like that available in Legacy Valley. She did enjoy working at the Science Center. Gardening and fishing felt more like fun than work. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t get promoted more quickly though.

One evening she ran into her boss while walking on the beach. They had a long chat about work and gardening and a little bit of everything, and after that things seemed to go better.

Violet had made oodles of friends at the party, even though she didn’t stay the whole time before running off to work.

Zoysia, on the other hand, hadn’t really hit it off with any of the guys there. There was one special person who wouldn’t stay out of her thoughts, though, and she finally called him up and asked him over for another chess game, this time on friendly terms.

She hadn’t forgotten Kurtis Ryan since their chess match. The conversation had rolled along so easily, and he seemed very pleased that she had invited him over. Had he been thinking of her? Zoysia knew she wanted to go out with him, and they began seeing a lot of each other.

Zoysia and Kurtis played a lot of chess, had dinner together, and had lots of long talks. Zoysia explained to him her responsibilities in the household, a little bit nervous about what he would think. Kurtis replied that he was very family-oriented, and he thought it was a touching and honorable way to carry on the family. That left Zoysia with only one thing to do.

When Zoysia told Iris about the engagement, Iris encouraged her to get married sooner rather than later. She was thinking about children and how fast time goes by.

The ladies of the house dove into wedding plans – Rogelio made a sour face every time he heard them talking about bouquets of flowers, color themes, or exchanging vows. Violet started reading through magazines like Simarvelous Weddings and SIMply Bridal to look for ideas.

Zoysia was a little nervous that Violet would decide that a pool theme would make for a great wedding, but when the big day came, Zoysia was so pleased!

Foliage weddings traditionally took place in or overlooking the garden, and she had desperately wanted to honor that. However, she knew that being outdoors for the length of the ceremony and party would only increase her wedding day jitters. She was thrilled with the solution that her Aunt Iris, Violet, and Camellia had found.

The new pavillion was perfect! With its huge windows, it overlooked the garden and the pond while offering an expansive view of the ocean and the lighthouse.  Zoysia was thrilled, and her enthusiasm spilled over as she greeted the most important invitee.

Everyone gathered in the pavillion, and Zoysia and Kurtis took their places. They looked deep into each other’s eyes as they promised to love, honor, and cherish each other as long as they lived.

The guests cheered as the happy couple exchanged rings, but they only heard each other.

After the ceremony, everyone chatted and danced. Iris spoke with a nice young man from the James family, and she noticed he kept cutting his eyes over toward Camellia, who was talking with Oscar Huerta. Blossom let Iris know she didn’t have a very high opinion of the James boy.

The party was a great success overall, despite these minor personality conflicts. A dreamy state seemed to settle over the household, presided over by the newlyweds. Kurtis and Zoysia spent hours talking, sharing secrets from their childhood on up through the present. Kurtis confessed to Zoysia that he had always dreamed of  being a rock star, and he broke into a big smile when Zoysia took him seriously and encouraged him to go for it. The next day, Kurtis got an appropriate makeover, and he began a career in music.

That night, he and Zoysia celebrated.

—-

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Reed knew he had to make the decision. He stared out at the sky and wished he could talk to Maebe or his mother. He knew his girls well, but the job of carrying on the Foliage family legacy was a complicated mix of gardener, parent, teacher, community leader, business manager, and ambassador. He wanted to make the best choice, not just for the family as a whole, but also for each of his girls.

The funeral for Maebe had been heart-wrenching at first, but ultimately somewhat healing. Several people from around town had come, including the Duprees who lived next door and cousin Blossom and her boyfriend.

Since then, the family had been trying to get on with life again, but Zoysia and Violet were about to graduate and become young adults. That meant even more decisions and possibly upheaval.

Zoysia had developed a love of the game of chess and wanted to reach the top competitive ranking. Violet had developed, well… Violet had developed a love and hatred of many things. Her interests were so diverse that she informed her Aunt Iris that she wanted to work in four different careers! She talked animatedly about the possibilities, and then, just as suddenly, she thought of something that made her mad, and her hot-headed nature took over, making her stomp off. It was a puzzle.

Camellia was not to be ignored during all this. She had taken her father’s talk about the importance of going out on the town to heart, and she took advantage of the employee specials the spa offered in the evenings to get a massage and a manicure. She walked out of the spa feeling refreshed and pampered, only to have her elated mood crash at the sound of a police siren at the curb. She was caught!

The night got worse when her father actually yelled at her when she got out of the police car and walked in the door. But she relaxed a little when he relented and said that he was glad she was living a little, but that he didn’t mean for her to get caught! He told her he was proud that she had listened to him and decided to live a little. He even noticed her manicured nails and told her how pretty they looked. She had never felt such a shower of attention from her dad, and she decided that the whole tumultuous evening had been worth it just for that.

.

Iris worried about Camellia. Was she pouring enough of the right life lessons into her precious girl?

But even as she doubted her own effectiveness as a parent, Iris loved that her nieces felt free to come to her and ask about anything. Zoysia surprised her one afternoon by asking if she would share some gardening tips!

Reed and Iris talked about the twins’ upcoming birthday, and even though it had not been long since Maebe’s death, they decided that their passage into adulthood deserved a celebration. Iris had an additional motive, which she didn’t share with her brother: she wanted to invite several young men from the neighborhood to see if a romance might spark.

A crowd of guests arrived for the party, and they gathered around with noisemakers as the girls – no, young women! – blew out their candles.

Iris enjoyed her piece of cake outside at a table by the pool, enjoying the company of some other mature neighbors. It was a lovely night. She knew Reed was inside playing the good host.

Violet and Zoysia couldn’t stop talking about the party the next day. Their conversation was made up of “Wasn’t Dad rockin’ out on his guitar last night?” and “Did you hear what Moises Dupree is doing for a living now?” and “Did you see that cute new guy? He never talks that much at school!” They both knew that their dad was working through a decision that involved them, but they didn’t want to talk about it.

Violet jogged off to the stadium to look for a job in athletics, and Zoysia made plans to meet a couple of friends and her second cousin Blossom at the Bistro for dinner al fresco as part of her ongoing outdoor therapy. She still had issues with insects.

Both Violet and Zoysia were helping their dad with the garden more than ever. Reed watched them, noticing how Violet sometimes growled at the weeds as she pulled them out and how Zoysia stayed as close to the house or fence as she could while she worked. He also noticed how proud both of them were to pluck a perfect potato or cluster of grapes from the vine. Yes, it was a tough decision, but he was coming closer to a conclusion.

Violet made him proud when she told him the Science Lab had asked her to bring them some of the fruits of the Foliage garden for testing.

Zoysia had some exciting news of her own. The Chess League had accepted her request to enter the competition circuit, and her first opponent was coming by for their challenge match.

Zoysia made short work of him, while family life carried on around her. Violet was working out to the stereo in her customarily odd choice in outfit, but there was no distracting Zoysia!

Violet decided to ask her Uncle Rogelio to help her train for her new career, and they went outside while Zoysia was greeting her next chess opponent.

Zoysia was excited about this match. She knew when they shook hands that there was something uncommon about Kurtis Ryan. They played for hours, each having the upper hand at some point, before Zoysia won. She knew then and there that she wanted to play him again. She did take the opportunity to invite him to Camellia’s birthday party that weekend.

Camellia was glad to be joining her cousins in adulthood. Iris was happy for her, although she was a little bit wistful for the days when she was first married and Camellia was learning to toddle around. It seemed like just yesterday…

After Camellia’s birthday, Reed knew he couldn’t put off the decision any longer. But first, he had one thing he had to do. The diner had called asking him to bring in some eggs and cheese in return for some new kinds of seeds. Curious, he rushed off to the diner.

Reed shook his head slightly as he bent down to plant the seed. He thought the man at the diner had called these “steak seeds” but surely he meant that Reed should stake the plants when they started to grow. Maybe his hearing was beginning to go.

Reed went into the house, washed up, and called up a platter of hamburgers from his grandmother’s recipe generator. It was his favorite meal, and after dinner he was going to talk with the daughter he had chosen. He had already informed Iris of his decision, and she approved.

It had been a challenging decision, but he was confident he had chosen the right daughter to carry on the family tradition. He was also confident that the other daughter would be happy in her freedom. He walked into the living room and asked her for a few minutes.

Reed told Zoysia the story of the Foliage family. She had heard pieces of it through the years, but never the whole story from her great-great-grandmother’s childhood in the orphanage up until now. She listened with a growing pride as Reed told her how each generation had been led by one member of the family who tended the family, tended the garden, and achieved new accomplishments. Surprise, honor, and excitement ran through her when he finally said, “Zoysia, I’ve been watching you and the way you consciously challenge yourself to overcome your fear of the outdoors to work beside me and even by yourself in the garden and do what you need to do in life. Your sister is energetic and has a diverse assortment of interests, and I admire her unique ways of expressing herself, but you are my choice to lead the family into the future. I know you will do the family proud.”

Zoysia threw her arms around her dad and hugged him close. “Thank you, Dad. I won’t let you down! You’ll see!”

Reed smiled softly at her and said, “I know, Z. Now let me give you a few tips… oh!” Reed suddenly felt a slight pain go through him. He looked at Zoysia, but there were little flashing lights in front of his eyes and he couldn’t seem to see her very well. “Zoysia?”

“Dad! Aunt Iris!” Somebody help!” Zoysia called, and Iris came running. Camellia came too, and called Violet at work.

Zoysia and Iris eased Reed into a soft chair. They held onto him as tightly as they could, but no human hand can hold the soul. Reed slipped away from them with a smile, saying “Do you hear music?”

Violet hurried home as fast as she could, but it was too late. She cried with Camellia, and Zoysia suddenly felt the weight of the day’s events fall onto her.

The next day passed in a blur, and after the funeral, Zoysia found herself alone in the family cemetery. She thought over all that her father had told her in their last conversation, and dabbed at her eyes.

Before, she had been happy for herself to be chosen. Now, she was happy to carry out her father’s wish. She sniffled and let the switch in emphasis soak in. She could watch over the family, the home, the garden… she could live up to her father’s expectations, for him. She took a deep breath and set off determinedly toward the house to take her place.

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The Foliage spouses, Maebe and Rogelio, had spent a fair amount of time at home on the Foliage estate since marrying into the family. Rogelio, not being the father of twins, had found more opportunities than Maebe to go out on the town, but Maebe liked to venture out too sometimes. Since she retired and the girls grew older, she was taking more of an interest in the family garden, and one of the new neighbors, the Duprees, who had moved in next door asked if she would bring her some fresh vegetables for a special dish she was making. Maebe was more than happy to oblige.

Rogelio also had occasion to go visiting, but it was for a more somber reason. His father passed away, and he went to be with his many brothers and sisters in their time of grief.

They seemed stunned, simply standing there looking at each other. Rogelio finally reached the point where he couldn’t take the sadness anymore, and he started a game of tag to try to break his brothers and sisters out of their despondency.

Maebe occasionally took her guitar on outings around town. She drew crowds everywhere, even outside the diner. The people of Legacy Valley were music lovers. Soon she became known for what they called her “golden tongue and golden fingers.”

Iris enjoyed a friendly (well, mostly) game of chess in the park. Over time she built her skills so much that she received official recognition from the Logic Society. She hung the certificate they mailed her right next to the one from the Tinkerers’ Club.

Reed was the only one currently working a regular job, although at the top of his career, he enjoyed very flexible hours. Actually, Camellia had a job too – it was part-time work at the spa after school. She found it more stressful than she had expected, and when she got home, she liked to throw a line into the pond and let her stress dissolve with the ripples in the water.

She tried to get a jump on things one morning before school by having a swim before breakfast. When she got to the table, she saw that her father had made hamburgers for the morning meal! Violet didn’t seem to see anything strange about it.

And then Rogelio followed her to the door and kept talking to her about the importance of living it up while she was young and going out at night. It was not exactly the kind of fatherly talk her friends at school described having with their dads.

Zoysia shook her head as she walked past them and out the door to the bus. Didn’t her uncle know that Cam was having a hard time getting her homework done as it was?

Iris overhead the conversation too, and she went straight to her husband after the girls had gone to school. “Don’t you think maybe you should be more interested in our nightlife, hmmm?” She gazed into his eyes hopefully.

He didn’t.

That evening, Zoysia challenged Iris to a game of chess, while Camellia most definitely did not go out, but stayed home and watched the cooking channel with her father. Zoysia had become truly passionate about chess and wanted to learn all she could. She planned to enter the tournament circuit.

Meanwhile, Reed chatted with Violet in the kitchen. They talked about school, choosing a career, the Dupree boys who had come over after school one day, and gardening. Violet showed an interest in everything, but a preference for nothing that Reed could see.

Reed studied both of his daughters during their high school years. He knew them better than most fathers know their daughters, yet he was still surprised when he saw Zoysia through the dining room window.

His daughter who was unnerved by the mere act of stepping out the door was actually out in the garden with something in her hand! As Reed watched in wonder, Zoysia moved along the fence and then knelt in the corner of the garden. Her hands moved in the earth, shallowing out a little spot and carefully placing a tomato seed inside. Reed’s eyes followed her as she smoothed the little mound of earth over the seed, stood up, and looked around the garden before nodding and going back inside.

Reed had a lot to think about over the next several weeks, and it was not all about his daughters. His little sister had a birthday coming up, and he and Maebe were planning a big party for her. On the afternoon of the party, Maebe tuned up her guitar to play a brand new song for the occasion.

Maebe entertained some of the guests inside, while several more gathered outside around the pool. They swam, ate, talked and danced until late in the day.

Zoysia enjoyed the chance to talk to her second cousin Blossom and her boyfriend.

Finally, it was time to gather around the cake. Iris smiled around the room at all her friends and blew the candles out.

Amid the cheers and cake slicing, Violet noticed her parents going all lovey dovey. They were always holding hands and locking lips. She wouldn’t be surprised if they even wrote love letters to each other.

After the party, Iris closed herself in the bathroom with lots of bottles and tubes and creams to give herself a beauty treatment. She was very pleased with the results and was eager to show Rogelio.

She was disappointed with his reaction.

He ended up going to the kitchen to make a batch of cookies. And lick the bowl.

Soon the family saw another significant event: Zoysia won her first match against a ranked opponent!

Reed offered her a trip to the spa in celebration, and she was so excited she even dressed up for the event. He was surprised that she was so excited about going out, and she explained to her father that she knew if she put her mind to it, she could find a way to get over her fear. She had placed some of her Great Aunt Poppy’s landscapes in her room, so she could get used to being surrounded by rolling hills and wide open skies while in the safety of her room.

Zoysia and Violet were nearing graduation, and they were excited when the big day came. They walked out of the school building that Friday afternoon with big expectations for their futures.

Reed was getting the camera ready to take graduation day pictures of his girls. He and Maebe found themselves getting emotional as was practicing working the new zoom lens and taking a few pictures of his beloved. Although they were happy emotions, at Maebe’s advanced age, they were just too much, and this was the last snapshot of Maebe, taken just before she died at the age of 91. She had lived a very happy life, loved her husband passionately, excelled at her hobbies, and raised two girls who were well prepared to meet the future.

—-

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The Foliage twins were excited – it was their birthday, and they were going to have a party with a big cake for each of them! Being teenagers meant big changes – new clothes, later curfews, shorter schooldays, and new hobbies to explore! Zoysia and Violet were eager to blow out their candles and face the future.

Violet blew out her candles, and then it was Zoysia’s turn. But somehow, this wasn’t the future they had in mind.

Fortunately, their Dad was prepared and put out the birthday inferno with the fire extinguisher. Ever since his father Cedrick the firefighter became a part of the Foliage family, there had been fire extinguishers in every room of the house. Lately, they were coming in handy.

The guests managed to have a pretty good time after the panic died down, and Zoysia and Violet enjoyed the rest of their weekend shopping, experimenting with new hairstyles, and taking a gardening class. Zoysia desperately hoped that her fear of the outdoors didn’t show; she knew how important gardening and the land in general were to her father and the whole family. She didn’t want to disappoint them, but she was always relieved when she could walk back inside. Violet, on the other hand, skipped to her own beat whether inside or outside. She was developing a unique sense of style and self.

Unbelievably, their father’s big number-that-shall-not-be-named birthday came not long after Zoysia and Violet entered their teen years. They were impressed that their mother could still rock out – the guests all jammed to her tunes at the party.

Even Reed, the consummate musician, couldn’t have done better. Maebe had worked hard and perfected her skills for his birthday party. As for Reed, he didn’t look much worse for the years. He told everybody the love of a good woman kept him young.

Reed decided not to retire yet, because he enjoyed his career so much, and he was able to work shorter hours and spend more time with his family. His girls were making the most of opportunities to do special projects for school, and he was very proud. Every time they tried out a new skill, his heart thrilled to see them excel or skipped a beat when they discovered it might not be their best area.

Camellia had been watching her slightly older cousins make the most of their new privileges with anticipation of her teen birthday. After what seemed like forever, it came, with a party all her own. Her dad was even there for her party!

She wanted to let everyone know that she was very mature and capable, so she chose a shorter, straight cut and sensible clothes. She even toned down her favorite color a little. A tiny bit, anyway.

She was still enough of an excited little girl inside to dream of her party that night.

Reed was proud of his young niece, but his thoughts continued to be filled with questions about which of his daughter he would pick to be heiress and carry on the Foliage family legacy.

Zoysia was very intelligent and excelled in all her classes at school. She always got up eagerly in the morning and never complained about going to class.

However, he had noticed that Zoysia didn’t seem to enjoy the sun on her shoulders and the breeze in her hair. That worried him. But he had also noticed some aspects of Violet’s personality that concerned him. Sometimes, when he caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of his eye, she had the strangest expressions on her face. He did have to admit, though, that he admired her total unconcern for what people thought about her. She was definitely her own person with unusual fashion and conversation choices.

Reed had a lot on his mind, but right then, he saw his beloved coming.

Big decisions could wait another day…

—-

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The twins may have grown up to school age, but Camellia was still a toddler who needed a great deal of attention, and Iris found herself putting off her dreams of perfecting her mind and her mechanical skills to teach the very basics of life to her daughter. She hoped that along with the walking and talking, Camellia would learn about love.

Violet and Zoysia were excited about school and chattered on about it for hours while they built block towers at their table. Violet liked drawing crazy faces in art class, but Zoysia dreamed of solving tough math problems at the chalkboard.

Reed and Maebe were proud of their two girls and wanted to give them every advantage they could in life. They both hoped that the girls would excel in music, but Maebe cherished hopes that they would be sociable and have a wide circle of friends. Reed hoped they would each develop a green thumb. He loved his time at home with the family, but he also wanted to show the girls it was possible to achieve their life’s dreams. That’s why he was especially proud when his soundtrack for the new hit movie won top honors at the awards festival.

The Foliage family was going through a time of much to celebrate. Parties were frequent, and both Reed and Maebe enjoyed entertaining with their guitars. Birthdays were always occasions to celebrate, and Iris and Rogelio invited several people, young and old alike, over to gather around Camellia’s cake. They never saw the danger coming…

The guests began to shout and wave their hands in the air, but somehow Iris managed to keep her calm. She quickly measured the distance between the flames and the different exits in her mind and made for the door nearest the pool. She carried young Camellia to safety and encouraged her nieces to play tag outdoors while the adults took care of things inside.

And finally, Camellia got to blow out her candles. Understandably, she chose to eat a slice of key lime pie rather than the flame-prone cake.

Camellia developed a great fondness for television shows, whether dramas, horror movies, or comedies. If left on her own, she might sit for hours in front of the screen. Sometimes her mother made her go outside to keep her from being a pasty white child, and that’s when Camellia discovered a strange talent. She could take a seed, squeeze it in her hand, and turn it into a flame fruit. She didn’t tell anybody about this, but kept it as her special secret, wondering if it had anything to do with her birthday cake episode.

Now that the family had three girls in elementary school, mornings were always a little hectic. Bathing, breakfasting, brushing, and beating it for the school bus were the order of the day.

Iris was still concerned about Rogelio’s obsession with the fish, but she couldn’t bring herself to try to talk with him about it anymore. He felt more distant than ever to her.

Iris would have been more worried had she known what ran through his thoughts as he lay awake at night beside her.

He couldn’t talk to her about it, so he went to visit his mother and sisters, but they just ended up playing games. He didn’t figure out anything useful.

That same evening, Iris had invited her Aunt Lily over to the house for a visit. She was saddened to find out how hard of hearing her aunt had become.

Lily stayed for a nice long visit and was still there when Rogelio got home.

In fact, she never left. Much to everyone’s dismay, Lily suffered a sudden attack and died at her childhood home that very night. She was buried in the Foliage family cemetery alongside her sisters.

Reed and Iris turned to Maebe and Rogelio for comfort in their loss.

The passing of the last member of the previous generation got Reed to thinking about the future of the family. His mother had entrusted him with continuing the Foliage legacy, and he had to make sure that one of his daughters was ready to take over when he was gone. He began to observe his daughters carefully, wanting to discern which one would welcome the selection and which might see it as a burden.

Reed thought about this as he pruned the trees and harvested the fruit in the garden. He and Maebe had certainly been fruitful, producing two delightful girls, but they were not yet ripe enough to take over. How would he know, and when would he know? He wished he had asked his mother more questions when he’d had the chance.

So Reed and Iris both had much on their minds as they worked in the garden, but neither one felt able to share the whole burden of their worries. Instead, the rustling of the green leaves was only interrupted by light chatting, and deep conversations were saved for another day.

For now, the children could play and be carefree.

The adults would work and study and try to figure out the best way ahead.

—-

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