Newcomers Part 8


Sorry for the uninteresting bit but it felt right to have a final shot at a place that is the anti-Winnisimmet. Four towns were unincorporated to flood the Swift River Valley, but one still exists in Winnisimmet Tales universe.

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Dorothy Taylor gave the four girls the rest of the week off so were put in the care of Valerie Finn during school hours. Valerie put them to work, ensuring that they knew what to do and how to do it. She kept a close eye on Fiona and Mia, not letting the two get too close but allowing the two girls some closeness for their own sake knowing saying something about it would embarrass the girls.

The girls were doing well and breezed through their work, prompting Valerie to let them enjoy some time in the entertainment room but telling Fiona and Mia to keep it civil. Both blushed while Kylie and Nichole grinned at the two. Kylie casually told them "everyone knows you like one another. You both deserve girlfriends especially ones who knows about dealing with annoying sisters."

Nancy went after Kylie while Nichole and Margaret fell to the floor laughing at the teasing and blanket blessing. Mia grabbed Fiona's hand which caused Fiona to flinch but see Mia wasn't trying to do anything. The two sat on the couch with Nichole and Kylie pushing them closer, prompting both girls to put their heads together in a sweet image. They spent three hours watching movies, not noticing Valerie was watching from time to time and taking a picture of them, sending it to Greta and Astrid.

After the movie and lunch the girls just lounged around, reading their language arts stories that Valerie had told them they'd have to read anyway. They never noticed her slipping out and returning with Cat and JD Finn but seeing their cousins with a new girl caused them to rush over for attention. Fiona was overwhelmed with hugs and attention from the two, unsure how to react to their attention.

Valerie told the two to go do their homework, getting a groan but little defiance. Kylie and Nichole went up to ensure they did the work, as Mia was left to explain why they acted that way. Fiona was at a loss for words, it was odd that others knew about her without ever meeting her especially kids.

It was tough but eventually the kids did their work then demanded to play with Fiona, causing the group to go outside while they ran around the yard. Mia had to tell her aunt, Lindsay Reagan, who the new girl was getting a nod and grin. Fiona simply let the kids get their energy out before finally going back inside to rest for a while as the kids wore themselves out.

The afternoon passed fast with the girls never noticing that it was time for dinner then not being taken home once they were fed by the Finns. Valerie was evasive about what was going on, only telling Nichole that she was going home while the trio were staying there. Fiona grew scared but Valerie just smiled and confessed "it's due to your parents doing a lot of things on your behalf with your uncle."

The girls went to bed without asking more. Ella came in late with Flora, the two being forced by their parents to separate for the night with both being unhappy. Flora didn't talk about what happened, she just told Fiona that she was staying home the next day too. Ella did tell her that they had gotten a few kids to act like jerks which gave Fiona an idea about what may have happened to them.

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Earlier that day at her school, Flora was grabbed by a group of parents before she entered the school. She screamed but was dragged off by the parents, with her friends trying hard to get the parents off of her but failing miserably. They were out of school and into an awaiting car in under a minute, before anyone could react or stop them.

They ladies were amateurs, taking Flora to their condo complex instead of out of state or some remote area. Flora listened as they ranted about Flora getting what she deserved for what happened to their kids, with their daughters getting sent to a private school because no public school would accept them. She tuned them out, it was no different than others had done to her in the past and they hadn't hurt her as bad as some of the parents back in Minnesota had done just to show she was a wimpy freak.

Flora just bided her time until she could wiggle free of her rope bonds. It wasn't the first time she had been tied up by people who wanted to hurt her, her former classmates did this to her a lot. She finally wiggled free after an hour, waiting until they were out of the condo to rush away to safety by fleeing through the back door and running through the maze of other condo buildings to the street.

The problems really started after that. What she thought was safe haven at the police station turned out to be a terrible place for her to go to. The women actually knew the police officers on duty and had Flora arrested then DCF called on her while officers were sent to arrest Greta and Quentin for child abuse for letting her dress as a girl.

Flora was thrown into a holding cell, being told to shut up or she'd get beaten badly by them. The prisoner watch officer told the prisoners to "have at her" allowing them to do as they pleased. The prisoners looked at him like he was joking, they weren't sure if they were testing them or if he actually wanted them to beat and rape a little girl.

The prisoners ignored the orders and dared them to do something about them disobeying it. It was a lose-lose situation for the officers, if they did something to make the prisoners assault Flora then their charges would be voided due to police brutality claims. Conversely if they didn't make them do anything they would lose face and fear by the prisoners.

The orders were reiterated after a few minutes, the officer wasn't letting this go unfinished. He threatened them with worse if they didn't do as he said, claiming that he'd ensure they had more charges added on top of what they already had pending. This however was told at a bad moment as one of the public defenders listened and dialed the state police for help.

When the lawyer spoke with the Pullen Point officers about Flora and was openly lied to she then asked what basis they had for detaining her inside a cell with adult males. The lawyer was threatened and finally grabbed but the lawyer loudly proclaimed "take your slimy fingers off me this instance! I have no problem suing your department and seeking assault charges against you for harming me. I have a duty to report crimes and will do so."

The officers tried to intimidate her, threatening her again only to have the arriving troopers loudly proclaim "lay one finger on her and you will be spending a dime out in Norfolk. Per order of the Attorney General as of this moment your station is on lock-down and all Pullen Point officers are hereby recalled to station for questioning. What happened in Winnisimmet will be nothing compared with what happens here!"

All officers were recalled with the local state police captain informing them that they were to be detained for questioning regarding dozens of allegations of criminal conduct levied against the department. Several officers tried to fight their removal from the streets but it only resulted in them being placed into handcuffs with the troopers adding assault charges on top of whatever they were going to receive. The troopers were not kidding around, the officers were removed with several deputies taking them away with all of them going directly to the Kensington Beach barracks for detaining until being arraigned in court the following day.

The troopers endured complaints from the town manager and several well-connected politicians. Their interest in preventing the investigation into their town and threats against the troopers and assistant attorney generals only served to show that this was not only warranted but justified as being part of a larger investigation into the town. Pullen Point was on target to get itself placed into receivership for being unable to maintain itself as a separate political entity.

Mark Sylvester arrived to talk to Flora then ordered her removed to a hospital to document her injuries. The troopers complied, with three going along with Mark as escorts. Flora's rope burns, the scratches from the ladies' grips, and the strikes from the police officers witnessed by the men in the cells all were photographed with the troopers adding a long list of charges they were bringing against key people.

The troopers got warrants to check the ladies' fingernails for Flora's DNA and were had an immediate positive for the skin cells and blood. They hit pay dirt as the rope used to restrain Flora was still in the room where she was placed and had some hair on it matching her hair. Flora's backpack was even hidden in the room making it impossible to claim she wasn't there slamming the door on the ladies' claims of not knowing her or what she was doing there.

Quentin and Greta met Mark at the hospital with Mark telling them "allegations against you were made but due to the fact that we knew about her gender change and you having all documentation, it's moot. We won't be used as retaliation and you have grounds to sue the police department." Greta nodded, but added "she will also be suing the ladies. They aren't getting away easily, not if I can help it!"

Mark had to field inquiries from the media about the abduction for much of the afternoon. He didn't hold back and pointed them towards the truth, explaining "this was an abduction done in retaliation for my clients exposing bigotry by several ladies towards them. The girl abducted fled their detention and sought help from the Pullen Point Police Department only to be tossed into a cell with male inmates who were told to 'have their way with her.' A public defender overheard the threat and sought out help only to have herself threatened by the police. Thankfully the state police arrived to rescue both. She is in the care of her future adoptive parents and those responsible have all been arrested."

The media knew to go after the Pullen Point Police, which caused a stir as they were directly supported by the state senate president and local US Representative. Their true colors were shown as their ties to the department was noted. It was tough to deny that they had a vested interest in the story dying.

The furor lasted through the night as the dispatchers were removed with all calls sent to neighboring Kensington and Winnisimmet. The reserve police from Winnisimmet and Kensington were activated by the state police and took over dispatching as well as adding additional patrols and details in the town. Quentin was purposely told not to respond as he needed to be there for Flora, which led to the troopers and officers all getting angrier as they learned just what happened from the hierarchy as they responded to cover the town for the evening and overnight.

Greta went home with Flora who then was directed to Valerie's house after stopping off to pick up Ella from Lilly Peterson. Ella was silent but knew that there was something big going on beyond the abduction. She insisted on Flora staying with her as she didn't want to let her out of her sight, causing Flora to hug and cry as she felt her friend's love.

Over at the Nelson home, Quentin was told to expect the worst. He had his brother-in-law Mick Jones with him, as were David Peterson and Kennedy Pena. It was clear: this was an "all hands" situation.

Mick didn't need to ask where the girls were, they were in the one house nobody dared to go to if they had any ill-will towards people. The Finn home was as close to a sanctuary as you could get, even the most hardened criminals refused to go there despite it having top notch electronics and juicy documents that many would give millions to get their hands on. John Finn's personal documents were worth their weight in gold, his signature alone was the gateway to an early retirement.

The catch was the house was also a burglar's nightmare as there was electronic surveillance from multiple homes making approach impossible. In addition, the interior was hardwired with backups that would last for days and had redundant systems overlaid together making cutting off power to them nearly impossible. That wasn't counting the local police keeping constant patrols around the area.

Quentin had dealt with strongmen before, he had to endure a few of them as a junior architect trying to design new public buildings. His firm was often in a heated competition with a rival firm, one known for inferior designs that often caused millions in needed repairs not long after the building was built. He had several thugs try to assault him and threaten him, only to have them put in prison thanks to his unwavering nerve and ability to charm key public safety officials particularly police.

As expected, Quentin was visited by the town manager, chief of police, and town solicitor of Pullen Point. All three were then joined by the town council president and four more council members. Kennedy shook her head at the sight, texting her boss to start the annexation process as the town's government would cease to exist after that evening due to nobody being left to run it.

The group got down to business and threatened Quentin, claiming they'd make his life a living hell unless he got his foster daughter to lie about the abductions by the ladies and detention by the police. The chief threatened to have his son have an "accident" out on the practice range while his daughter would enjoy a trip to jail for possession of cocaine and illegal guns. It was tough to hold back but Quentin knew Mick would be very interested now given how they had just admitted to having the means to make those threats happen.

Quentin wouldn't budge, explaining "I can't force her to do anything. It's her decision to go forward with the charges and given that there were multiple eyewitnesses to the abductions and assaults on her even if she did recant there was enough evidence to convict the officers and women without her help. It's out of my control, I can't force anyone to do anything."

The town manager happily told him "evidence will be deleted. My guys at the crime lab are getting ready to take care of the videos in all three places. The lawyer won't make it to court, she will meet an untimely death at the hands of faulty brakes tomorrow morning. I already have the guys ready to make a couple of 'alterations' to enable a little accident that unfortunately proves fatal for her."

The councilors now went at Quentin, telling him "the freak will bankrupt us. We will ensure a nice sum of money to you to get her to not sue. You don't have to put up with that little freak anymore anymore, send it away and let DCF put up with it."

Quentin grinned and asked "so you are offering me money to 'make it go away'?" The four nodded, adding "$500,000 is yours tonight, another $2 million when that thing is safely put away in a mental hospital. It's coming from our own accounts directly from the town's coffers, nobody knows about it and nobody ever will. All you have to do is ensure it never gets out again. We don't care if you have to bribe every doctor in the state, just make it go away permanently."

Quentin just shook his head and refused everything. He boldly proclaimed "that so-called 'thing' is my new daughter and I can't abandon her. It's out of my hands. Sorry, but her new aunt won't let her get away easily. I love her and her sister and won't let anyone hurt her. As for money? I have more than I'll ever need and I don't care what you think you can do as she isn't going anywhere. But you are."

Kennedy stood up, told the hiding troopers to come down, then loudly stated "you are hereby placed under arrest for criminal threats, extortion, embezzlement, misuse of public funds, assault, and racketeering." Mick added "you are under arrest for violating the RICO Act, criminal conspiracy, illegal possession of guns, illegal possession of drugs, and civil rights violations."

Quentin grinned, Mick didn't need to say it but the FBI and ATF had raided their homes and found a lot of things that they'd like to have remained hidden thanks to their threats against Jessica and Quentin stringing them along until they had a false sense of security. The group were very naughty boys and girls and their illegal activities had finally given the feds reason to search them. It was only made better once they learned that they were trying to harm Quentin and Flora, you don't mess with cop families.

Kennedy's boss called to tell them that the legislature was moving forward on the receivership declaration for Pullen Point. The town treasurer was more than happy to show that the town was flat broke and the council had caused it to be in debt beyond any chance of recovery. Their payments to Flora was about to make the town go fully bankrupt with the state needing to bail them out financially.

The senate president was pushed aside by her colleagues as she tried to block the legislation, first with her influence then later with threats and intimidation. It was tough to do considering she had been named as being complicit with the town's bankruptcy and was directly responsible for the state staying away from the town for so long without justification despite clear indications for years of impropriety. The state investigators had let slip that multiple key politicians had been bribed by the town and benefited from the taxes that were meant to go towards the town's schools and parks making her a pariah while the town's representative had to show that he had not benefited in any way.

The legislature didn't need to do much, they brushed off the law that they tried to use nearly three decades before to help Winnisimmet but also added in that Boston was to annex the town due to it being unable to survive on its own financially and politically. For the first time since Enfield, Dana, and Greenwich were flooded to create the Quabbin Resevoir had a town ceased to exist with a stroke of the pen as the governor immediately signed off on the bill. Pullen Point was now a neighborhood of Boston, leaving Winnisimmet and Kensington as the only other municipalities in the county.

The media were alerted as to what was happening and why and gave the story its proper due by giving a report about the town's legal mess as well as rampant corruption. Stock footage of past incidents were shown with proper context now being added as suspicions were proven about what really happened to certain people and why. It was a frenzy but there was little else to be done, the town ceased to exist as a separate place thanks to their own doing.

Flora was happy to be away from the chaos and in the hands of people who showed that they cared about her. Valerie doted on her, knowing that she needed the affection while Fiona and the others were kept away so Flora could calm down. Valerie was right, her anxiety had built up and was making her think that she was the cause of the problems that she had nothing to do with.

The girls spent the next day enjoying their freedom while awaiting work brought in by Margaret, Nancy, Ella, and Faith. Flora was by Valerie's side, knowing that she was trying to keep Flora comfortable and enjoying her being treated as a normal girl. Valerie simply acted like it was no big deal, she needed the closeness and it helped her to know that others cared about her.

The arraignments of the town officials, officers, and women involved in the abduction were watched by the six as the girls got to see just how complex things could get in life simply by trying to believe you were better than everyone else. The eight former town officials stood defiant until they learned they weren't going to be given a low bail. Flora grinned as the chief tried to threaten Judge Matthews only to have him add additional charges onto the ones he already had against him while the town manager, town solicitor, and town councilors begged for bail.

Valerie just grinned widely as Nichole groaned at what she had done. Kylie shook her head and told the girls "Aunt Valerie had their money frozen so they couldn't get away. She's probably going to sue all of them and the police for what they did to Flora. Knowing what happened to others who hurt people she is suing those people will have to give Flora millions and won't have any money left to bribe a cockroach or whatever daddy said."

Valerie didn't respond but the look on her face said enough. Flora didn't react, she didn't care about the money only that she was safe. Conversely, Fiona hoped that they paid with every penny they had since they had done something horrible to her little sister and deserved worse to happen to them than they were getting from the courts.

The girls enjoyed a relaxing day and endured the twins giving them some much appreciated attention when the returned from school. Cat was happy to have another person to spoil her as Flora loved playing the games that Cat played but Ella didn't like anymore. Conversely, JD enjoyed playing with Fiona as she didn't treat him like a little kid as his brother Logan would do at times.

Quentin took the girls home with both keeping their curiosity about what was going on to a minimum. Fiona knew they stayed with the Finns due to Ella's abduction and detention but not the other things that happened later. Quentin knew he'd have to tell them but it wasn't going to be easy for her to hear.

After dinner Fiona finally demanded an explanation from Quentin. He had to think about the right thing to say which concerned Fiona. When he finally pulled himself together he told her "you know about the abduction of Flora by the mothers of the boys who kidnapped you seven girls. They were connected to many powerful people in the neighboring town, people who wanted the charges to go away. They thought they could bully me into tossing you two aside and letting Flora be locked away in a mental institution so she couldn't tell the truth about what happened. I refused, I don't need their money and will never let you two get away from us. They tried to threaten the woman who saved Flora then threatened Jessica. It failed, they are in jail now and the town was dissolved by order of the legislature."

Fiona hugged him tight, crying into his shoulder over doing something so dangerous and bold for her sister. Quentin hugged her back, it was needed and it was causing the father in him to become settled as his fear that she might have a bad reaction dissipated. Fiona just wanted the truth and he gave it to her.

Greta stayed out of sight and let Quentin handle the situation. She didn't need to say anything, it was a dad moment that was days in the making for both of them. Fiona needed a positive male influence to show men weren't all bad and Quentin had gone out of his way there to show that he truly cared aboth both girls and wasn't just putting on a show for them.

The girls went to sleep feeling much better with Fiona feeling that she was being protected and cared about by her future parents. Her thoughts turned to Mia and how she loved seeing her smiling face. It felt good to Fiona, she loved the idea of dating Mia with the blessing of Quentin and Greta.

In the morning, Fiona was asked if she wanted to go see Maisie to give her some companionship and alleviate her boredom. The look on her face was one of longing as Greta had to smile brightly as the once morose Fiona was actually begging her to go without saying it. The two drove up to the hospital in New Hampshire while Flora was dropped off with Valerie at the Finn home so she could enjoy some time with Ella then play with the eager Cat.

The drive was in silence as Fiona tried to not think about Maisie in pain but it was clear that she was thinking about what she'd see. Greta was happy to let her think about the situation, Fiona needed to think about something and keep her mind at ease. The girl had a lot to think about but what was most important was that she was thinking about the right thing not dwelling on the wrong.

Lucy and Callum met them at Maisie's room with both relieved to see Fiona there. Lucy hugged her tightly, with Callum complaining that she's been begging to see Fiona for the past two days. Fiona blushed but both were happy to know that Maisie had cared so much about a friend especially a new one who had showed she cared about her enough to take abuse for her.

Their son Angus wasn't happy to be there but didn't say anything to Fiona or Greta. He was relieved to be able to go home now that he wasn't the focus of Maisie's attention. Fiona walked by him without saying a word, she and he hadn't spoken before and she didn't feel the need to talk with him at all especially as he was purposely avoiding her both times she had met him.

Greta quietly asked what that was about, getting a somber "Angus is upset that his sister isn't going to ever be able to return to being his little brother. He took her gender change hard, he dealt with a lot of abuse from the Enfield, Remington, McMillan, and Browning families. He has a lot of support in school so their elder sons never tried anything there but outside it was tough for him."

Lucy added "he got an offer for an apprenticeship with a contractor so he thankfully doesn't have to endure the humiliation of having all doors shut on him in his profession when he graduates. The owner took a liking to him in school and offered the job, he seemed to understand what was happening. It's a godsend, the boy was told to not even bother with any companies or the union in the region as the four families forced him out."

Greta grinned and added "I'd expect nothing less from Dan Lopez." Lucy asked what she meant, she didn't mention the man's name but Greta seemed to know. Greta happily explained "he was looking for an electrician for his company and doesn't let anyone push him around. He has stronger backing than those four families, they don't dare go against him as his in-laws would tear them apart. His sister-in-law is the one who is working on Maisie's behalf in the lawsuit, Valerie Finn."

Callum just about lost it as he realized that Angus Campbell had been protected by one of the most powerful families even before they had met Fiona. Greta just nodded, adding "he held off a lot of things going on behind the scenes involving Angus and their sons. They learned quickly that his connections were older, stronger, and more powerful than anything the four families could bring against him. HE had a reason for going after Angus as his new hire. He's perfect for Dan's business. He's the missing piece in their business and with luck should enable Dan to take on more work allowing Angus a chance to get more experience with Dan's crews than he'd have gotten otherwise. His knowing Fiona and by extension Kylie, Nichole, Mia, Nancy, Steven, Dante, and Margaret was a plus."

Angus listened to them speaking about him without noticing him. He tried to say he wasn't taking charity but Greta shook her head and explained "he's paying better than you'd have gotten from the apprenticeships with the union-affiliated masters. He had you eyed for a reason: you are good. Your teachers and masters are all in agreement that you are someone worth hiring. He wants you to have a step up in the marketplace. His reputation is solid, it'll help you later on if/when you go it alone."

Angus wasn't happy but had to accept the job offer. His parents saw his thinking and knew he'd come around especially as he saw just how badly the four families were willing to go to get their way. They let it lay unsaid, he'd be happy with the job eventually but the feelings were still raw to him.

Inside her room, Maisie was in tears as she greeted Fiona. Fiona saw her laying with hospital gown on and blankets over her legs. It was tough to see but Fiona steeled herself and didn't ask about how she felt. Maisie beat her to it by telling her "it hurts a lot but I'm happy to finally be me. It's not as bad as when they beat me when I first started to dress as a girl at school, at least I can move my arms around. That day they broke my hand and forearm after they pushed me down the stairs."

Fiona hugged her, offering her a sad "you didn't have to do that for me in the warehouse! The boys were so horny they ignored how long they were taking with me. I am used to guys doing that to me, you didn't need to take all of those strikes just for us. They hurt you a lot, you didn't need to do that."

Maisie shook her head and shot back "you don't get it, do you? Those boys would have killed us. I did what I did to get them to waste time and let our dads get there. I knew they'd hurt me a lot, I didn't want them to kill you. You six are my first real friends, I couldn't let them hurt you. I know them better than anyone, they are crazy and would kill us just to make make a point. I don't care that I'm not going to ever be a mom from my own DNA, Angus will be a dad in a couple of years so it won't matter."

Fiona was firm, adding "they still hurt the three of you badly. I don't ever want you to get hurt because you are being stubborn. I love you, Maisie. I can't see my loved ones hurt."

The two hugged and kissed, letting their frustrations out as the girls finally admitted that they were more than friends, they were the best of friends. Maisie kissed her cheek again, telling her warmly "I love you too, I missed having my best friend here." The two hugged for several minutes more with nothing being said as they watched the TV.

Their parents entered with nothing being said about what went on. The two simply watched TV while their parents caught glimpses of them every now and then. Fiona finally left when visiting hours ended, with Maisie asking her to come back the next day followed by Greta giving her blessing.

The drive home was made in silence as Fiona had a contented look on her face while staring out the window. Greta felt great about the girls with it being clear as day that they were closer than they had ever been before. It was nice to see this to her, the girls deserved normalcy and gave each other that.

Flora wasn't happy to have missed out on the trip as she complained about being forced to help Valerie change her nephew Marcus' diapers. She whined about him giving her nasty presents making his aunt laugh at her expense. Greta nodded at hearing that, adding "he likes you. He does it all of the time."

Flora wasn't happy but it was better than him doing it because he didn't like her. She told Greta about what she did all day with Ella, and how Logan avoided her and Ella while the twins were busy with their friends leaving the two alone all day. She didn't know if it was something she had done but Greta happily told her "they were being normal, the kids have their own friends and do their own things. Logan was grumpy because his friends were busy helping at the football game instead of with him. Hew as actually being punished for not doing his homework two nights in a row."

Flora helped with dinner while Fiona stayed in her room doing homework. Flora seemed to be doing better especially after realizing that the twins weren't avoiding her as they had actually played a bit before running off next door and behind the house to play with their friends. Logan being grumpy and avoiding her made sense now especially as he was busy doing all of his homework as punishment.

Over dinner Quentin explained that he had finally completed his current project early thanks to the kids forcing him to give up some of the work to his younger architects and only doing some supervisory work on their design changes. It was what he had wanted for a while but hadn't been able to do yet. It was the start of a few changes to come as he was being groomed to be the next VP of design.

Greta was thrilled while Fiona tried to apologize for what happened. Quentin hugged her and Flora then had to explain "we got so swamped the past year thanks to a rival having several of their projects fall through due to delays and poor designs that I wasn't able to receive the promotion as it would hurt us too much at the office. The senior VPs wanted me to sort out their bigger issues first and held off hiring anyone for the job because they only wanted me. You two gave them cause to promote me as I was able to show that the younger architects were ready for more responsibilities. You helped me."

Flora and Fiona hugged him while Greta smiled at what it meant to Quentin. He added a happy "they are offering me a partnership so I'm getting a big cut of the profits from the new designs and business. I'm finally at the top and the senior VPs think I could end up running the Boston office. If they are serious then I'm going to run the US division soon as they are consolidating all operations here."

Quentin was giddy, Greta was giving him a sly grin which he caught. In bed that night he told her "it's a serious move, the current CEO and President are going to split the business in three with me running the commercial and governmental designs business. It's a their biggest business, and their best designers are already here making the move to consolidate here a no-brainer. It's the stepping stone to running the whole business in a few years when the company is fully split. I am going to never have to work 20 hour days again."

The next morning the family went up to visit Maisie who cringed as she talked privately with Fiona. She meekly told Fiona "I finally saw what they did to me down there. It's scary and doesn't look like what I wanted. It's all swollen and bloody and full of stitches."

Fiona groaned as she explained "it's because it's still healing. Mom said they take a few weeks to look 'normal' because of the healing. As long as it isn't a severe pain you are doing well. It'll look better when you are back home. It stinks that you can't go to school but I'll be over every day if mom allows."

Flora entered to try to give Maisie some attention while Greta asked what they were talking about. Fiona tried to lie but Maisie was honest with her. Greta nodded, adding "the girls complained about the same thing but it'll look better soon. It's major surgery, it takes time to recover and heal. Even your mom can understand how things don't go back to normal right away down there."

The girls spent a lot of time talking with Flora trying hard to be on her best behavior but was clearly feeling off as she sat silently. Lucy asked what was bugging Flora, getting a simple "seeing the future" from Greta. It was what she wanted most but she was seeing the downside of the surgery as Maisie clearly wasn't back to normal yet and was feeling lethargic and more laid back than normal.

Lucy watched as Flora finally eased up and started to talk more with Maisie while Fiona stopped to allow her sister the chance to have a heart to heart with someone who needed to talk. She left the room, letting the two girls know that they were alright to talk freely about things only they would understand. The two thanked her and waited for her to close the door then hugged with Flora saying "I'm jealous."

Maisie asked if she wanted the pain, humiliation, and feeling of having made someone feel terrible, getting a head shake followed by a soft "you are still a full girl now. I'm not going to be one for a long time. I don't want to go through with what happened to you but it's tough not thinking that I'm wrong in being a boy on the outside and girl inside. I want my birth defect gone. I just want to be normal."

She started to cry which Maisie knew to be her offering the pent up feelings that she hadn't had the chance to tell her new doctor. It was from the heart, but she didn't know how wrong she was. Maisie offered a comforting "you are normal. Mom said we are just different but still normal. The boys who hurt us are the weirdos. You are the most normal girl around, you just haven't had the chance to be who you really are because others keep trying to act like you aren't and don't know the real you."

Flora finally asked "do you really hurt a lot?" Maisie nodded, explaining "it's like a dull ache that won't go away. It hurts when I move too much and my muscles feel like they are on fire at times. It's also a lot of pressure, like you can't poop but need to. It hurts but it's starting to not hurt as much."

Flora seemed to understand. She hated feeling pain and dreaded feeling tired and being stuck in bed. She understood why she was protecting her, it wasn't all glamorous as she believed it to be.

Flora eventually hugged her, it was the only thing she could do to admit that she appreciated what Maisie was doing for her. She understood now why she wanted to dissuade her, she wasn't thinking about hurting herself to enable the surgery but it was worth letting her know the downside to having her dream come true especially as it wasn't pleasant for anyone.

The girls hugged with Flora kissing Maisie's cheek as she said goodbye. Maisie smiled at what she had done, she had ensured that Flora was all set for a long time and content to wait. She knew that she'd have to do some aftercare with Flora around would do the same but vocalizing the truth was needed.

Fiona asked Flora if she was feeling better, getting a nod and happy "she cared about me." Fiona smiled at that, it was true. The two shared a bond that Maisie and Fiona couldn't share.

Greta hugged Maisie goodbye followed by Fiona, with Greta telling her that transport would be arranged by John Finn since she would do better in an ambulance than laid out in the backseat of the car. It was a little gesture from John but it was something he felt he needed to do for the girls' sake. Maisie would help Kylie and Mia deal with their own pain, with the girls spending time with her as well to ease Maisie's boredom.

The drive home was quiet as the girls thought about school the next day. Maisie not being there made Fiona feel a sense of grief but she knew Maisie wouldn't want her to feel that way. Flora was dreading having to address the abduction as her classmates would inquire about what happened, knowing that she was likely to get blamed by a few for causing it in the first place even if it wasn't her fault.

At home, Quentin had an angry look as he growled "he's here. The sheriff finally made contact with the state police. He wasn't helped yet but it's only a matter of time. Kennedy is making the necessary phone calls and Mick and Callum are making the necessary precautions at the schools. The fight is on."



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