Evyn walked into the downstairs parlor and smiled at Kiliki, who was sitting on the couch and holding her little son. He walked over quietly and sat down next to her. Kiliki grinned at him and pulled back a part of the blanket so Evyn could see Jason better.
“Hey there, Little Panther,” Evyn whispered. He laughed when Jason wrinkled his little nose at him.
Kiliki smiled gently and shook her head. “You know, you are going to have to give up that name for him before he understands it. We don’t want him to know about Tommy’s past until he is ready to keep the secret himself.”
Evyn shrugged. “Probably wise. Where is everybody?”
“All over. Em is upstairs, I think,” Kiliki responded mischievously.
“My, you are so helpful,” Evyn frowned, but it only caused Kiliki to laugh.
“When are you going to get off your lazy bum and do something about that girl? She won’t be available forever and I’d hate to see you lose her for some stupid reason.”
Evyn shook his head. “Why is everybody harping on this?”
Kiliki looked at him in surprise. “I didn’t know everybody was. Want to share?”
“No thank you. Forget I mentioned it,” Evyn mumbled.
Kiliki smiled fondly at her brother. “Okay, so what did you want?”
“I have to go back to the estate and check up on things. I thought maybe it would be fun for your sister and her friend to go along.” Evyn hooked his finger into Jason’s little hand.
“Oh, Ev, that would be wonderful! She’s been so upset lately. That is just what she needs.”
“Justin come back yesterday and said that they are planning on leaving in about a week. It’s so hard to believe that it has been three months already. I still feel like she just got here. She doesn’t want to go home anymore than I want her to leave,” Kiliki said softly.
Evyn stopped playing with Jason long enough to look at his sister’s face. “It will be quiet without her here. But Jason will be up and running before you know it.”
“Ug,” Kiliki groaned. “Don’t say things like that! And you had better not encourage him either. I will skin you alive.”
Evyn laughed. “Like I haven’t heard that before.” He paused for a moment and studied her face. “It is so good to see you happy, Kiliki.”
“It feels right having everyone here.”
Evyn nodded. “Just think, if it weren’t for me none of this would be possible.”
Kiliki laughed and hugged Jason closer. “And just how do you figure that?”
“I’m the reason you stayed on Panther’s ship. Without me, you would have hightailed it away. You really ought to give me a medal or something,” Evyn reasoned.
Kiliki shook her head. “You are something else. I think God and Tommy had as much or more to do with it as you. Though I will always be grateful God let me find you, Evyn. Finding the brother I never knew I had has been a blessing I never expected.”
“I knew about you, Kiliki, but I never expected this much blessing either,” Evyn admitted.
Kiliki smiled at him.
Evyn grinned sheepishly and clapped his hands causing Jason to let out a cry at the sudden noise. “So, you think our litter sister will go out riding with me?”
“Your little sister? Claiming her already?” Kiliki asked, soothing a jolted Jason.
“If she’ll let me. Do you think I’ve managed to get past her defenses yet? I know you were worried about that.”
“Yes, she was so scared you would replace her. I think she’s doing okay with it though, but a ride with you would certainly help things along. I want her to feel completely comfortable before she leaves here. We are her family too,” Kiliki spoke thoughtfully.
“I’m sure she will, Sis. I want what’s best for her too.” Evyn looked around. “So where did the little imp go too anyway?”
“I’m right here!” Dabria called out, bouncing out from her hiding spot under the piano where she had been watching the whole scene. Kiliki and Evyn burst out laughing. Dabria grinned at them, while Jason wailed at his nap being disturbed.
“Were you there this whole time, Dabria?” Evyn asked, as Kiliki soothed her little boy.
“Of course,” Dabria replied.
Evyn shook his head, obviously very amused. “Well then, would you like to go for a ride with me?”
Dabria nodded her head. “I’ll go get Salena.”
“Okay, I’ll met you at the stables,” Evyn called out as Dabria raced out the door.
Within minutes, Dabria and Salena were on their own horses and dying to take off. Evyn pulled his horse up in front of the girls.
“Let’s go, you two. We need to get there and back today and I have work in-between,” Evyn called as he raced ahead of them.
“No fair!” Dabria called out, giving her own horse more reign. “At least we get to play in-between!” She teased as she caught up.
Evyn grinned at her. “Are you teasing me?”
“No, I never tease people. That’s mean,” Dabria assured.
Selena laughed out loud as her horse caught up to the other two and she heard Dabria’s comment.
“Ah, it seems that our dear Salena would disagree on that matter. Salena, do you have anything to add?” Evyn asked.
Salena looked at him wide eyed and shook her head no. Evyn smiled at her reassuringly.
“I won’t bite your head off, Salena.”
“No,” Salena half whispered. “But Dabria might.”
Evyn roared with laughter. Dabria stuck her tongue out at Salena and spurred her horse forward. Evyn gave Salena another smile and then urged his horse forward to catch up to Dabria.
“Come on, Bree, don’t be upset at Salena. I know she was just teasing,” Evyn said gently.
“I’m not upset. I’m fine,” Dabria said fiercely, though she could feel her lip quivering.
“You know ‘fine’ is what a person says when he really feels like everything is falling apart, but he doesn’t want to let anyone else in on why.”
Dabria gave him an odd look, thinking that he was actually pretty right. But she didn’t say anything.
“Come on, Dabria, you are almost as big of a tease as I am and we both know it. So that can’t be what has upset you. Can you tell me what is wrong?” Evyn asked, matching his horse’s stride to hers.
“Nothing,” Dabria said sullenly.
“Nothing, huh? So you’re not upset and the sky is full of pink roses?”
Dabria looked at Even bewildered and then looked up at the sky. “What? It is not!”
Evyn glanced up too. “Really? Maybe they disappeared already.”
Dabria shook her head. “You’re silly.”
“Am I? That’s a good thing, right?” Evyn gave her a comical look.
Dabria finally smiled and nodded.
“There is that smile again. I missed it.”
“Why?” Dabria asked, confused.
“Because you make everything sunny when you smile and I like to see my little sister happy.”
“Do you mean it?” Dabria asked, aware that she was scared, but wanting it to be true.
“What? That I want you to be happy? Of course I mean it,” Evyn paused. “But I also meant that you are a little sister to me too.”
“I am? But I’m not even Kiliki’s real sister. You are her real brother. And I’m leaving again and then you’ll have each other and everyone will forget about me… and…” Dabria’s voice trailed off as her tears started.
Evyn reached over and pulled her horse to a stop. Then he took one of her hands in his, so that she focused completely on him. “Bree, Kiliki has told you that you are her real sister. You are sisters of the heart. That means that you are the closest sisters possible. I would never want to come between that. Kiliki’s love just got bigger when she found me, so that she could love me plus love you. I want to be a big brother to you both. So we are a family of hearts. None of us will ever forget the others. That just isn’t possible. You are a great kid and I would be very happy if you would be my little sister, along with Kiliki, and if you would call me your big brother. What do you say? Do we have a deal?”
Evyn put out his free hand to hers the same way he had on the night that they had first met. Dabria looked at it for a long moment. Her thoughts tumbled around each other as she tried to figure out what she was thinking and feeling. Evyn seemed to really like her and she knew he liked Kiliki. He was fun to hang around with too. It wouldn’t be so bad to have a big brother. It might even be fun. She thought back to the dinner when they had first arrived. Kiliki let Evyn get away with a lot of neat things. Maybe this really was a good thing. Kiliki had told her earlier almost the same stuff that Evyn had said. They must be sister and brother. And she was their sister too.
Dabria grinned and reached out clasping her little hand in Evyn’s. Evyn beamed at her and pumped her arm up and down wildly. Dabria laughed.
“Come on, Salena! We have to beat my brother to the orchard place!” Dabria cried as she let go of Evyn’s hand and took off like a shot.
Salena yelled her agreement from somewhere close to Evyn and soon followed her friend. Dabria heard Evyn howl his indignation at being left behind and she laughed happily. It was good being with her family and friends.
Justin walked towards Dabria silently. In a few hours they would reach Yakecan’s port and she would be back home after her first three month stay with her sister. When Dabria had first come on board, she had been bubbling with information about her newborn nephew, Jason. Of course, most of it Justin already knew, since he had been there for the birth, but he enjoyed Dabria’s version of the events.
Now, as he walked towards her, that girl seemed a distant memory. This girl stood at the rail and listlessly watched the sea. He glanced around for Salena, but failed to spot her. That in itself was unusual since the two were rarely apart. Justin closed the distance between them quickly and leaned on the rail next to her.
“What’s up, Dabria?” He asked a little concerned.
“Oh, nothing,” Dabria answered, and then lapsed into silence.
Justin nodded, taking her at her word and turned his mind to a problem he was having with an unruly crewmember. She sighed eventually and spoke, breaking into his thoughts.
“I can’t bear the thought of going home. Kiliki needs me. Jason is only a month and a half old. And it’s so boring at my own house,” she finally admitted.
“Ah, afraid you won’t have anything to do,” Justin summed up.
“Not really, I’ll have plenty of parties to go too,” Dabria answered.
Justin looked at her sideways. “I thought you said you’d be bored.”
“I never said the parties were fun. I mean, I use to think they were, but that’s all there is and there is only so much fun stuff to ease drop on,” Dabria admitted.
Justin laughed. “So, what would you rather be doing?”
Dabria turned to look at him her eyes roamed over his face. “You really want to know?”
Justin nodded, wondering idly what she would say.
Dabria opened her arms wide and twirled in a big circle. “This. I want fun and adventure,” she stopped and looked at him. “Just like Kiliki.”
Justin laughed at her antics and the thought that she was more like Kiliki than she knew. He managed to stop when Dabria gave him a sour look and said seriously, “You know, I’m coming to pick you up again in nine moths. I’m going to come for you every year, just like Kiliki wanted and she never got to do something like that.”
Dabria seemed to think about that for a long moment. “Yes, I guess that is true. But Kiliki did have a great adventure.”
“Sure she did,” Justin agreed readily. “Still, you’re only ten. Kiliki didn’t have her adventure till a whole lot later. She’d probably be the first to tell you that you can have an adventure any day of your life. And you have a long time to do that.”
“And maybe one day I’ll have a really big adventure too?” Dabria asked hopefully.
Justin grinned. “Maybe one day.”
“Till then, you’ll keep coming for me, right? Then I can have an adventure every year too.”
“Promise,” Justin pledged, with a straight and serious face.
Dabria nodded her head satisfied. “You know, you’re a really neat guy, Captain Justin.”
Justin laughed. “You’re pretty neat yourself, Dabria. And don’t you forget it.”
“I won’t,” Dabria grinned mischievously. “Promise.”