A Blank Page - Chapter 22


A Blank Page
Chapter 22
By Flummox


“Rayne?”

She was so warm. Warm and cozy. All of her senses were muffled and clouded. Everything was fuzzy.

“Rayne? It’s time to get up.”

“Mmmm, uhkay.” She mumbled at the intruder. Whatever it took to get them to go away.

“C’mon sis’.” The voice replied sternly, “Mom and Dad want to be on the road by 9.”

Finally, Rayne opened her eyes and sat up, giving Evalyn a dirty look as she did.

Evalyn just laughed.

“That’s some impressive bedhead.” Evalyn observed aloud.

Rayne just yawned and rubbed her eyes.

“Go get ready and then I’ll fix your hair.” Evalyn half suggested half ordered.

“’Kay.” Rayne replied sleepily, rolling over to grab her glasses. She almost solely wore contacts now. They had taken getting used to, but she thought they were worth it most of the time.

Evalyn left and Rayne climbed out of bed. She threw her arms over her head in a big stretch and – after grabbing some clean clothes – departed for the washroom. A quick shower later and she was getting dressed. She had first chosen to wear jeans today, to try and make this as easy for her grandfather as possible, but then she had changed her mind. Maybe it was best for him to see her at her most comfortable, and she was most comfortable when she wore a dress or skirt. So, she settled on a sundress. She didn’t know where it had come from, as she didn’t remember purchasing it on the shopping trip a week prior, she just found it in her closet. It had a boat neckline and ended with some pretty lace stitching mid-shin. The top of the dress had more of the same stitching, but below that it was airy and light. After putting it on, Rayne immediately loved it. She stepped out of the washroom right as her mother’s voice called up the stairs.

“Breakfast in five!”

Rayne quickly descended.

“Is it okay if I quickly check out the auction results?” She asked, popping her head into the kitchen.

“What do you have left to do to get ready?” Her mother answered her question with a question from where she stood by the stove.

“Eva’s gonna do my hair and I think my makeup. Other then that I’m good.”

“Okay.” Catalina agreed, “Be quick though.”

“I’ll be fast.” Rayne assured her, moving down the hall to the family computer. Her personal laptop – mainly used for homework and games – was in her room. She didn’t see the point in going and booting it up when she’d only be on for five minutes. She walked into her father’s office. The so-called family computer was really her father’s work computer. He was okay with the others using it as long as they used their own accounts, and didn’t download anything without checking with him first.

Logging on, Rayne wasted no time in navigating to the Mountsview art gallery website. Some quick menuing brought her to the page for the youth event. She quickly skimmed the recap of last nights dinner and awards, finally locating a link to the auction results.

“Brekky smells good Mom.” Sebastian called from where he and Evalyn were descending the stairs.

Rayne scrolled down the list of names, finally finding her own.

“Let’s see…” She quietly spoke to herself.

Another click and she expanded the drop-down chart that hid her results.

“WHAT?! OH MY GOD!”

“Rayne?” Her father called, voice laced with concern. She could here footsteps rushing down the hall. She hadn’t even realized it, but she had almost screamed.

Her siblings rushed in the door, parents right behind them. Rayne spun to face them, wide-eyed and slack-jawed.

“What is it?” Catalina asked quickly, “Is everything okay.”

Rayne could only lick her lips and nod. She pointed to the screen with a shaky hand, and her family crowded around to look.

Rayne Danahy

The Manners of Death – Winning Bid: $7,650 – Winner: Sharon Dale

View of Space – Winning Bid: $1,460 – Winner: Richard Templeton

Lakewood – Winning Bid: $1,200 – Winner: The Town of Lakewood

Candlelight – Winning Bid: $875 – Winner: Melanie Patterson

Rayne Danahy’s Personal Sketchbook – Winning Bid $3,000 – Winner: Milton Braidly

“Oh my God.” Evalyn said, stunned.

Rayne just nodded frantically. That was more than $10,000. She had been expecting a few hundred. Maybe a thousand for everything, tops. Not this. Definitely not this.

Catalina’s eyebrows were raised. Jameson just took a long sip from the mug of coffee still in his hand.

Sebastian licked his lips, “so, uh, I take it you won’t be needing to borrow money from anyone for a bit.”

Borrow money? When she had 14 grand sitting in the bank? The very notion was absurd! She started laughing. She couldn’t help it.

Her family looked at her strangely.

“Are you okay sweetie?” Catalina asked slowly.

Rayne nodded but didn’t stop laughing. Oh god, she was laughing so hard she was crying.

“Just- just last week,” She tried to talk, but it was hard to get the words out between the laughs,

“Just last week,” She started again before breaking into more hysterics.

Her family was beginning to look at her with concern, but that just made it funnier.

“A week ago, I couldn’t afford paper! Paper!” She finally managed, dropping her head to the table and slapping it repeatedly with her hand. Why was it so funny? It wasn’t that funny, was it?

But suddenly her family was laughing too.

“Who can’t afford paper?” Sebastian gasped between his own laughs.

“Our sister apparently!” Evalyn blurted.

“My sides.” Rayne squeaked, “ow, my sides.”

That just made her family laugh harder, which in turn made her laugh more.

Finally, everyone calmed down.

“C’mon,” Catalina said between deep breaths, “we’re gonna be late.”

“Because we were too busy laughing.” Jameson added.

Evalyn snorted, which almost set them all off again, but they managed to control themselves and file into the kitchen. After a quick breakfast, and a few more minutes Evalyn spent fixing Rayne’s hair and makeup, they hit the road.
 

~o~O~o~

 
Rayne watched as Sebastian’s finger withdrew from pushing the doorbell, seemingly in slow motion to her.

This was it. They were standing outside their grandparents’ house. Any second now, Grandpa Frank would meet Rayne for the first time. She wasn’t sure what to expect.

The door opened.

Her grandfather stood there with a warm smile. The smile faltered when his eyes passed over Rayne.

“Hey kids!” He greeted, the smile returning to his face. It wasn’t the same smile though. It didn’t feel as genuine.

He gave Sebastian the usual handshake, then Evalyn the usual hug.

“Oh, Catalina,” he said, stepping past Rayne, “let me take that for you!”

His mother had been carrying their turkey. They had originally bought it for their own thanksgiving, but with Logan’s family joining them there was going to be more people than usual, so they figured it couldn’t hurt to have an extra bird.

Apparently, it could hurt. Grandpa Frank had basically used it as an excuse to ignore Rayne, and Rayne wasn’t the only one who noticed. Sebastian was visibly tensing up next to her. His jaw was clenched tight, and he seemed to be on the verge of saying something.

Rayne grabbed his hand and squeezed. When he looked at her, she just smiled back. They had known their grandfather was going to pose a challenge, and she didn’t think anyone blowing up on him would help.

Grandpa Frank had already walked into the house, leaving the door open for them. No one moved right away, not until Rayne did. As she walked in, her family following right behind her, she saw her Grandmother step out of the kitchen.

“Kids,” she greeted, walking towards them and pulling each of them into a warm hug in turn.

“Hi Grandma!” They greeted in unison.

After Olivia exchanged more hugs with Catalina and Jameson, she led them into the kitchen. Their grandfather had already disappeared out the back door.

“What am I going to do with that man.” Olivia sighed.

She turned to Rayne, “he didn’t say anything nasty, did he? Is everything okay?”

“No Grandma,” Rayne reassured her, “he didn’t say anything mean.”

“He barely said anything at all,” Evalyn pointed out, “and he wouldn’t even acknowledge Rayne! He gave me a hug and shook Seb’s hand, but just skipped past her to take the turkey from Mom!”

“It’s okay!” Rayne objected.

Olivia turned to look at her sceptically.

Rayne pursed her lips and continued, “I mean, no. It’s not really okay. It kinda makes me want to cry, but we walked into this knowing he wasn’t comfortable with it. So… I’ll just give him time.”

She glanced around at her family.

“Win him over with my sweetness and charm.” She continued, trying to defuse the situation.

Olivia laughed and shook her head before pulling Rayne into another hug, “well from what I’ve seen, that shouldn’t take long.”

Rayne hugged her back, wiping tears from her eyes as she did.

“So, is anyone else here yet?” Rayne asked, looking to change the topic before she really did start crying.

“Well,” Olivia began, “your uncle Frank and the twins arrived and then left again to the hardware store. Aunt Lisa, Uncle John, Mackenzie, and Lizzie should be here any minute now.”

“We’ll head outside and get to work,” Jameson suggested, “maybe see if we can’t talk some sense into Dad.”

He and Jameson headed for the back door.

“Shall we get started ourselves?” Catalina suggested, moving into the kitchen.

“I think we shall.” Olivia agreed. Her and Evalyn turned to follow. As they did the doorbell rang, causing them to pause and turn back to the door.

“I can get it.” Rayne said, “you just go get started and I’ll join you in a moment.”

“Are you sure sweetheart?” Olivia asked with concern. “Mackenzie hasn’t met you yet, right?”

Rayne waved her concern away, “I’ll be fine Grandma. Worst case scenario, Uncle John will keep her in check.”

Olivia laughed. “Yes, I suppose he will.”

Rayne quickly walked towards the door, not wanting to keep them waiting any longer.

She opened it to see exactly who she was expecting. Lizzie was standing in the front, practically bouncing up and down with excitement. Her aunt and uncle, Johnathan and Lisa, stood behind her. Behind them she could see Mackenzie, staring down at her phone as usual.

“RAINY!” Squealed Lizzie, the little girl’s eyes lighting up the moment they saw her cousin. Rayne kneeled down and Lizzie jumped into her arms.

Standing up, Rayne embraced her aunt and uncle in turn. The whole time she couldn’t help but notice that Mackenzie had stopped staring at her phone, to start staring at her.

“You look beautiful, Rayne.” Her aunt complimented after they separated.

“Thanks, Aunt Lisa.” Rayne replied, brushing a stray hair back behind her ear.

“I suppose Seb and your father are out back already?” Jonathan asked, stepping in to the house.

“Yup!”” Rayne confirmed, “everyone else is in the kitchen.”

“I guess I’ll say hi and head on back.”

Aunt Lisa followed him into the kitchen, Lizzie running beside her to say hi to everyone else.

That left Rayne alone with Mackenzie.

“H- hey.” Rayne greeted nervously, giving her cousin a small wave.

Mackenzie slowly looked her up and down.

“So, it’s true, huh?” She asked, “The whole ‘Trans’ thing?”

“Yep.” Rayne agreed anxiously, avoiding eye contact, “it’s true.”

Rayne quickly turned around to return to the kitchen, suddenly nervous to be alone with her cousin.

Mackenzie followed her, phone forgotten for the time being. In the kitchen more greetings were exchanged, then they went to work. Bread had been broken into small pieces in advance, so Olivia went to work showing Rayne, Evalyn, Mackenzie, and Lizzie the old family recipe for the stuffing they would use in the turkey. Evalyn and Mackenzie had both seen this before, but Olivia insisted on showing them again.

“I don’t use any recipe,” Olivia explained, tapping her temple, “It’s all up here. So, you girls need to learn it while ya can, and learn it well.”

Rayne and Evalyn both paid close attention. Mackenzie, on the other hand, watched with some disinterest, but just the fact that she was watching and participating rather then being on her phone was more than enough to keep every one happy.

Lizzie stood on a chair to be at the same level as the rest of them. Being too young to really get involved with the cooking, she was mostly there to feel included. That, and to steal pieces of bread when she thought no one was looking.

While they learnt about the old family recipe, Catalina and Lisa began prepping other things, mainly the tedious process of peeling and cutting enough vegetables to feed the 17 people that would be present.

With all of them working in tandem, the time slipped by quickly. They were just preparing to stuff the bird when the doorbell rang again.

“That must be Rayne’s friend.” Olivia declared, looking away from what she was doing. There was no one else it could be. Uncle Frank and the twins had returned some time ago, and, without even coming in to greet the woman, had gone straight to the backyard to join the other men. They could see them in the backyard now.

“C’mon Rayne,” Olivia turned to the rest of the family with mock-seriousness, “the rest of you get back to work!”

Rayne giggled and followed her grandmother to the door, behind it they found Logan waiting with his parents.

“Hey Rayne.” He said casually, foregoing their usual greeting.

“Hey Logan.” She turned to motion to Olivia, “this is my grandmother, Olivia. Grandma, this is my best friend, Logan, and his parents, Jack and Katelyn.”

“It’s so good to meet you,” Olivia gushed, stepping out to shake their hands, “please come in.”

In they stepped, closing the door behind them.

“Everyone’s either in the kitchen or out back.” Olivia explained, motioning for them to follow her back towards the kitchen. “Usually the men do housework while the ladies make dinner, but I’ll understand if Logan and Rayne just want to hang out together. I know you two kids don’t get to see each other often.”

“Hey Log!” Evalyn greeted from where she stood with one hand stuffed in the turkey.

“Hey,” he greeted back, grinning at the sight, “Eva, right?”

“Yup!” Evalyn smiled and then resumed stuffing.

Rayne went around the room, introducing each member of her family in turn.

“There will be a test later.” Catalina quipped when they finished.

Olivia grinned and rolled her eyes, “the men are all out back, Jameson can introduce you, or, Rayne can just go with you.”

Logan waved his hand, “nah, we should be good. We’ll have time to hang out after the turkey’s in the oven, and we have no problem with getting our hands dirty.”

Logan turned to his father.

“Right, Dad?”

Jack laughed. “Not even in the door for five minutes and I’m being put to work! At my own son’s insistence, no less.”

Everyone chuckled and Logan and his father walked out the back door. Kate went to join Catalina and Lisa at one counter while Rayne went to the sink to wash her hands again so she could get back to work. As she did, Mackenzie stepped up next to her.

“He’s cute.”

Rayne looked up at her cousin in shock. Mackenzie replied by wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.

“N- no!” Rayne exclaimed, blushing furiously. “It’s not like that. He j- just- He’s just a friend. My best friend.”

Mackenzie laughed as Evalyn looked at them with a raised eyebrow.

“What’s not like what?” She inquired, moving to stand on Rayne’s other side.

“Nothing’s like anything!” Rayne tried to step back, but Evalyn wrapped her arm around her sister’s waist, preventing her escape.

Mackenzie laughed harder as Rayne blushed brighter.

“Evaaaaaa.” Rayne pouted, “it’s nothing, really. Mackenzie just said something stupid.”

“Mmmmmmhmmmmm.” She hummed sceptically.

Rayne huffed and crossed her arms, causing Evalyn to giggle

“Everything okay over there?”

They each looked over their shoulder to see their grandmother watching them with her eyebrows raised and a small grin on her face.

“Yup!” Mackenzie and Evalyn chorused simultaneously, causing Rayne to roll her eyes.

Their grandmother just shook her head and laughed, turning back to what she had been doing.

“Sooooooooooo?” Evalyn drawled, staring at Rayne expectantly.

Rayne huffed again and rolled her eyes.

“Mackenzie implied that Logan and I were more than just friends.”

Mackenzie’s jaw dropped and she crossed her arms in mock indignation.

“I did no such thing.”

“You did too!” Rayne objected.

“I only said he was cute.” Mackenzie countered smugly. “You’re the one who got all flustered.”

Now Rayne’s jaw dropped.

“First Jackson, now Logan?” Evalyn asked teasingly, a huge grin on her face.

“Jackson?” Mackenzie inquired.

Rayne groaned and covered her face with her hands.

“You guys are mean.”

Evalyn laughed and pulled her into a hug.

“You know we’re just teasing.”

Rayne rolled her eyes, but hugged her sister back. She did know, but that didn’t mean it didn’t cause her to begin questioning her sexuality all over again. Did she find Jackson – or Logan for that matter – attractive? Did she like them romantically? She had no romantic experience. Neither did Raymond. Not for the first time, she silently cursed the universe for making it so confusing.

“Why don’t we get back to work.” Evalyn suggested, seeming to sense her sister’s sudden unease.

“No need!” Olivia declared, walking over to them with Lizzie in her arms, “while you three were goofing off, me and my number one helper here finished stuffing the bird.”

Lizzie laughed happily at that.

“It’s going in the oven now.” Olivia continued, “so most of the prep work is done, and what’s left we’ll be able to handle without you. Go outside and see your friend and the rest of the family.”

Rayne nodded and turned to Evalyn and Mackenzie.

“Wanna come?”

Both of the older girls shrugged and nodded. They grabbed their shoes and jackets and headed for the back door – Mackenzie scooping up her phone from where she had left it on the counter on the way.

They stepped out the backdoor and Mackenzie wasted no time plopping down on the patio furniture with her phone in hand. Rayne and Evalyn shared a look. Rayne just shrugged, spending time with Mackenzie had been enjoyable while it lasted. In one corner of the yard Logan and Sebastian were fixing one portion of the fence, Jameson and Jack another portion. Grandpa Frank and Uncle Frank were digging through the shed, pulling out Christmas lights, shovels, and other things that would be needed for the winter. A small pile of boxes was set off to the side, waiting to be put away for the winter.

The twins were wrestling in the grass, as usual. Being 11 years old, they were still mostly excused from the yard work. If there was any simple task that needed doing, they may be called upon, but for the time being the men were content to let them mess around.

Evalyn moved to join Mackenzie on the patio, while Rayne began to walk over to Sebastian and Logan.

Suddenly, one of the twins – JR – popped up from the ground and after a quick glance towards where his father was working in the shed, began to charge towards Rayne. The other twin – Billy – Popped up a moment later. He looked at JR with confusion before immediately charging after him.

Rayne’s eyes went wide and she took a step back. The last thing she wanted was to be tackled into the mud and pinned down, but she could see from JR’s mischievous grin that that was exactly what he had planned. Just great. It would be just like when she was younger. Getting pinned down by her little cousins. Sebastian and Logan were both moving towards her, but it was obvious that neither would make it in time to back her up. The twins just had too much of a lead on them.

Suddenly, Billy leapt. He wrapped his arms around his twin’s waist and tackled him. Both went tumbling to the ground in a heap. Rayne took advantage of the conflict to quickly scamper away, moving to meet up with Sebastian and Logan. The twins rolled around for a moment before Billy finally claimed the power position, pinning the older twin to the ground with a triumphant grin.

“BILLY.” JR Seethed, “I was trying to get Raymond!”

“She’s not Raymond anymore!” Billy exclaimed, shaking his head, “She’s Rayne now, remember? She’s a girl! And Dad, and Grandpa, and Uncle Jameson, and Seb, have all always told us that we shouldn’t wrestle with the girls – I mean I guess it’s okay if they want to, but Rayne never wanted to before. We’re supposed to protect the girls. Not beat them up.”

“Let me up.” JR demanded, glaring at his brother.

“Well are you gonna try an’ tackle Rayne again?” Billy asked, raising his eyebrows and not letting up an inch.

JR just glared at him.

“It’s okay Billy,” Rayne interjected, trying to defuse the situation, “You can-“

“No. It’s not okay.” Uncle Frank interrupted her. Hearing the commotion, the adults had moved to see what was happening. Uncle frank looked down at his boys.

“Well Junior?” He asked, intentionally using the name JR hated being called.

“It’s not junior, It’s JR.” JR snapped from where he was pinned, “Junior makes me sound like a little kid!”

“Then stop acting like a little kid.” Uncle Frank countered, “Now, are you going to pull that stunt again?”

“No.” JR pouted, “I won’t. Now let me up.”

Billy looked at his father, and at his nod, climbed off his brother. Both twins climbed to their feet, JR giving Billy an angry glare.

“Now apologize.” Uncle Frank ordered.

JR turned on Billy, “Yeah. Apologize.”

“I wasn’t talking to Billy. JR, apologize to Rayne for trying to tackle her. You never hit a girl, and you definitely don’t try and tackle one.”

JR looked at his father in disbelief, “Seriously?”

“Unless you want to be grounded for a week, I’m dead serious.”

JR rolled his eyes and scowled, but he walked up to Rayne.

“Sorry.” He mumbled, looking at the ground.

“Can you apologize properly, Junior?” Uncle Frank demanded sternly, “and look someone in the eye when you talk to them. If you want to be treated like a man, act like one.”

JR let out a deep, frustrated sigh. Then he looked up into Rayne’s eyes, still scowling.

“I’m sorry I tried to tackle you Raymo-”

“Rayne.” Sebastian interrupted. “Her name is Rayne.”

JR rolled his eyes and tried again.

“I’m sorry I tried to tackle you Rayne. Will you forgive me?”

Rayne smiled at her cousin, “Of course I will JR, but first will you come sit down with me? I want to talk to you.”

“We really haf to get back to work” JR claimed, trying to avoid it. Once again, however, his father wouldn’t let him.

“All you were doing was wrestling anyways, Junior, I’m sure we can spare you for a few minutes.”

JR scrunched up his face in frustration, but followed Rayne to a corner of the yard where there was a big tree. She sat down in the grass, motioning for him to join her. Unhappily, he did. He began to play with the grass, refusing to make eye contact.

Rayne took a deep breath and leaned back on her hands, looking up at the cloudy sky.

“How do you feel when people call you Junior?” She finally asked.

“I hate it. It makes me feel like a little kid.”

“Well that’s kind of how it makes me feel when people call me Raymond. I hate it. It hurts me.”

He slowly looked up from the grass, and she looked him in the eyes. She held his gaze for a long moment before looking back up into the sky.

“My whole life I’ve been Raymond. My whole life – up until a few weeks ago – I had to act like a boy. I hated it, and it hurt, but there was nothing I could do about it. Or at least I thought there wasn’t. Now I can finally be myself, and I feel so much better. But I know some people aren’t comfortable with it. I’m pretty sure Grandpa hates me, and I still have to pretend to be a boy at school or I might get beaten up and hurt. I know you think I’m weird, and we’ve never gotten along well, but I hope you’ll give me a chance to be your cousin anyways.”

She rubbed the tears away from her eyes and looked at her younger cousin.

“I just thought,” JR explained, holding his hands up helplessly, “that if I could show you how great bein a boy was, then maybe you’d go back to bein Raymond and play with us sometime.”

Rayne giggled at the childish logic.

“I understand what you were thinking JR, but how would you feel if Evalyn, Mackenzie, and I ganged up on you and forced you to wear a dress, and painted your nails, and made you play with dolls, just to show you how great it was to be a girl?”

JR scrunched up his face, “That sounds horrible.”

“Exactly.” Rayne nodded, “And that’s how wrestling sounds to me. I’m scared all the time at school. Afraid that someone will find out about me and beat me up. I can’t be afraid when I’m with my family too.”

“I’m sorry.” JR closed his eyes and shook his head, “I wasn’t really before, I was just apologizing ‘cuz Dad was making me, but I am sorry now.”

Rayne smiled and wiped at her eyes again.

“I know, and I forgive you. We’re family, right? We can’t stay mad at each other.”

JR nodded and they climbed to their feet.

“Now I know it’s girly,” Rayne continued, “But can I have a hug?”

JR smiled and nodded. They embraced for a short moment, then Rayne whispered in his ear.

“Hey? Ya know my friend, Logan? He is someone you can wrestle. Go get ‘em.”

JR gave her a bright grin before charging at the older boy.

“Hey Logan!” Rayne called out, figuring it was only fair to give him quick warning so he wasn’t totally taken off guard.

He looked up and went wide eyed at the boy charging towards him. JR’s sheer momentum was enough to knock Logan over, but it wasn’t enough to do much else. It only took a few seconds for Logan to flip the situation in his favor and pin the younger boy.

Rayne laughed as she watched, but the laughter died on her lips when she spotted her grandfather standing on the patio, watching her with a heavy frown. When she met his gaze, his face scrunched up for a moment, then he turned and went inside the house.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then she went back to watching the boys wrestle. She wasn’t going to let the old fart bring her down. Her mood immediately improved again at the sight of Logan and Sebastian squaring up to wrestle at the encouragement of the younger boys. Sebastian was strong and fit, and wrestled with the twins frequently, but Logan – while not as fit – wasn’t out of shape by any means. On top of that, Logan practiced Judo.

The two teenagers were soon rolling in the grass, but it became clear pretty fast that Logan had the advantage. A few moments later and he had Sebastian pinned.

“WHOAAAAA!” The twins howled in amazement.

“How’d you do that?!” Billy asked, unable to contain his excitement. JR just jumped up and down. They had never seen anyone pin Sebastian like that before. Of course, they had also never seen Sebastian wrestle with anyone but them, and he was quite a bit bigger than them.

Rayne laughed at the twins’ excitement.

“Didju see that Rayne?!” JR asked in excitement. “It was so cool!”

Logan laughed, released Sebastian, and climbed to his feet. He reached down, offering Sebastian a hand. When Sebastian took it, Logan pulled him to his feet.

“You’re a lot stronger than I would’ve thought just looking at you! You didn’t seem to have any more trouble with me than you did JR.”

Logan laughed and rubbed the back of his head.

“It’s not all about strength,” he explained, “hell, in a test of pure strength, or in a race, you’d probably slaughter me. I’ve just been practicing judo for years.”

“Oh really?” Sebastian asked, eyebrows raising in surprise, “judo, huh? That’s cool.”

“Judo? What’s that?”

Logan turned to Billy, the source of the question.

“It’s a discipline of martial arts – well, it’s more than that, but most people know of it’s martial aspects.”

“Wooah! Like karate?!”

Logan laughed, turning to look at JR now.

“Nah, Karate is mostly about striking. Kicks and punches. Judo is about bringing your opponent down to the ground and immobilizing them. It’s much better suited for wrestling than karate. That’s the reason I was able to pin Sebastian so easily, I’ve been practicing that kinda stuff in my dojo for years. How to take down someone bigger and stronger than you are lessons you learn early.”

JR and Billy hung off his every word. They were wide eyed with amazement.

Logan looked around, Jameson, Jack, and Uncle Frank were standing nearby, watching with interest.

“Tell ya what,” Logan said after a moment, “if it’s okay with your Dad, then, after we finish up this fence, I’ll teach you guys some basic stuff.

If the twins were excited before, they were over the moon now. The two of them rushed over to their father to ask his permission. In the mean time, Rayne followed Sebastian and Logan back over to the piece of fence they had been working on.

“Aren’t you supposed to be making us dinner?” Sebastian inquired as Rayne sat down in the grass where she’d be out of their way.

“Dinners already in the oven. Cause we didn’t slack off like all of you.”

Sebastian rolled his eyes at her teasing, Logan just grinned. The two got back to work and fell into an easy conversation about Logan’s martial arts. Rayne listened quietly, happy just being with them.

Several minutes had gone by when someone suddenly grabbed Rayne’s arm. She looked up to see Mackenzie standing over her, pulling her to her feet. Evalyn stood just behind her, a big grin on her face.

“Uhhh, what’s going on?” Rayne asked, confused by their sudden approach.

“What’s going on,” Mackenzie began to explain, “is that we’re going to go do something about your nails.”

Rayne scrunched up her eyebrows and looked down at her fingers.

“What’s wrong with them?”

Mackenzie rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically.

“What’s wrong with them?” She asked sceptically, “they’re boring! I would’ve expected some fancy artist to have at least something pretty on them.”

Oh. She was referring to Rayne’s lack of nail polish. Now it was Rayne’s turn to roll her eyes.

“I’ve already explained to my mom and Eva. The reason I don’t wanna wear nail polish is because I’m a – as you put it – fancy artist. They’ll just get messed up and ruined by paints in a day or two anyways. What’s the point?”

“Pfft.” Mackenzie scoffed and flicked her hair, “the point is that they’re pretty. And if you mess them up it just gives you an excuse to do them again! Besides, I have the nail polish kit I got for my birthday out in the car. It can do some pretty cool stuff.”

At this point Lizzie came running up, eyes bright and excited.

“Are you nail painting?!”

She asked the question with a level of wonder and excitement that would make you think nail painting was true magic.

“Can we paint mine too?!”

A sly grin slowly spread across Evalyn’s face. Mackenzie rolled her eyes and was clearly about to shoot her little sister down, but Evalyn held up a hand to stop her.

“Of course, Lizzie,” Evalyn cooed in her most sickly-sweet voice, “but we were only going to get out the nail polish if Rayne agreed. It’s really up to her.”

“Oooh, smart.” Rayne heard Mackenzie whisper to Evalyn.

Lizzie’s head whipped around to stare at Rayne pleadingly, either not hearing or not caring about her older sister’s comment.

Rayne in turn squinted her eyes and looked at Mackenzie and Evalyn with annoyance.

Evalyn smiled innocently. Mackenzie smugly.

All three of them knew that Rayne would never say no to Lizzie. Especially not over something as trivial as nail polish.

“Can we Rainy?!” Lizzie asked, staring up at Rayne with her best puppy dog eyes.

Rayne sighed and nodded, drawing an excited squeal from both Lizzie and Evalyn. Sebastian and Logan started laughing, leading Rayne to realize that they had been watching the entire exchange.

Mackenzie turned and led them up to where her father was standing with the other men.

“Daddy?” She asked, grabbing his attention.

He turned to look at her.

“What do you need honey?”

“Can I have the keys to the car? Me and Eva are gonna do Rainy and Lizzie’s nails.”

Rayne pursed her lips. She seemed to recall only giving Lizzie permission to call her Rainy. Not that it really bothered her.

“Of course.” Uncle John smiled, digging them out of his pocket, “i’m happy that you’re all getting along so well.”

“Thanks Daddy.”

Mackenzie waved for the rest to follow her, and into the house they walked. They stopped by the entrance of the kitchen, looking into see the older women standing around with glasses of wine.

“If you don’t need anymore help, we were going to paint Rainy and Lizzie’s nails.” Evalyn informed them casually.

Rayne smiled and rolled her eyes. Of course. Lizzie calls her Rainy once and now everyone was.

Olivia smiled, clearly amused.

“Of course, why don’t you girls use the washroom in mine and your grandfather’s room. It’s bigger.”

“Okay, we will! Thanks Grammy.”

Mackenzie headed for the front door to go get her stuff while Rayne, Evalyn, and Lizzie headed down the hall to their grandparent’s bedroom. As they passed grandpa Frank is the hallway, Rayne met his gaze. His eyes were squinted, his upper lip was raised, and his nostrils were flared. He was also staring right at her. The only word that could describe the expression on his face was disgust.

Rayne quickly looked away. She focused on her feet, staying calm, and following her sister.

They finally stepped out of the hall, and by extension, his line of sight.

Rayne sighed heavily and closed her eyes, taking a moment to just focus on breathing and fighting down the rising panic.

“Rayne, what’s wrong?”

She looked up to see her sister staring at her with concern. Mackenzie had just entered the room and had now paused to join Evalyn in staring. Of course, that meant Lizzie was staring too.

Rayne shook her head. How was she supposed to explain to a 5-year-old that their grandfather was disgusted by Rayne’s existence?

“Nothing, I’m fine.”

Her sister rose an eyebrow, clearly not believing her.

“Lizzie!” Mackenzie said with fake excitement, “could you bring this into the washroom and start getting everything out?”

“Fer real?!” Lizzie asked in amazement, “you never let me touch your stuff!”

“Just don’t get used to it.” Mackenzie replied with a roll of her eyes.

Lizzie slowly walked over to the washroom, arms hugging a bag almost as big as her. As she did, Evalyn led Rayne over to sit on their grandparents’ bed. Evalyn sat on one side of her, holding her hand, and Mackenzie stood in front of them.

“Now what’s wrong.” Evalyn asked again, gently but firmly.

Rayne shook her head again, tears welling in her eyes.

“It’s really not a big-”

“Yes, it is.” Evalyn cut her off, “if it has you almost in tears, than it’s a big deal.”

Rayne sighed.

“Did you see it?” She asked, “the way Grandpa looked at me in the hall?”

Evalyn shook her head.

“He looked at me like I was disgusting. He looked at me the way you look at the garbage when it’s your turn to take it out.”

She sniffled and flopped back onto the bed, crossing her arms over her face.

A moment later she felt Evalyn flop down next to her.

“He’ll come around.”

“I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care.”

After a long moment’s silence Rayne turned her head to see Evalyn staring back at her with an eyebrow raised sceptically.

“You wouldn’t be this upset if you didn’t care.”

Rayne rolled her eyes.

“It’s just- He’s being so mean, and he’s family. What am I gonna do when I meet people like him who aren’t family? All of you are the only reason he’s not being worse.”

“Thankfully,” Mackenzie began, speaking up for the first time since sending Lizzie away, “it’s the 21st century. There aren’t many people like him around these days.”

Rayne sat up but didn’t say anything. She didn’t look at her cousin either. Just at her feet. Finally, she shook her head in disagreement.

“You’re wrong.”

“What?” Mackenzie asked, clearly taken aback, “what makes you say that.”

Rayne shrugged helplessly. She didn’t really want to say the reason. They had been getting along so well. Better than they ever had before.

“C’mon Sis’.” Evalyn pushed gently, “there must be a reason.”

Finally, Rayne looked up at her cousin, tears leaking down her cheeks.

“The last time I saw you, you said people like me were just perverts.”

Mackenzie instantly deflated. Her shoulder drooped and her head slumped forward.

Mackenzie moved to sit beside her, opposite Evalyn.

“Rayne,” she began, taking Rayne’s hand in hers, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean what I said then, and I never would have said it if I knew it would hurt you.”

“Then why did you say it?” Rayne asked helplessly.

Mackenzie sighed and rolled her eyes.

“I was trying to get a rise out of Evalyn.”

Evalyn laughed. Rayne just looked at Mackenzie in confusion.

Mackenzie huffed and rolled her eyes again.

“Evalyn’s always been the golden child. Little miss perfect. Smart and pretty, funny and confident, kind and mature.”

Evalyn scoffed.

“Oh, I am not.”

Mackenzie raised her eyebrows and looked at her.

“You are pretty perfect.” Rayne pointed out.

Evalyn rolled her eyes and Mackenzie continued.

“Everyone in the family always talks about how great you are, and how you’re gonna do great things. The only part of you that isn’t perfect is that you can’t decide whether you’re going to cure cancer, be a rocket scientist, or be the Prime Minister. Knowing you you’ll probably do all three.”

“Okay, now you’re being ridiculous.” Evalyn scoffed.

“Maybe,” Mackenzie continued, “but every time we all get together, Dad always tells me afterwards that I should try and be more like you. I said those things to try and get you flustered or to snap at me, but of course you didn’t. You just made me- No, I made myself look intolerant, bitchy, and probably immature. Proving my dad’s point. I just act like I’m better than you to try and hide how much better you are than me.”

“Mackenzie.” Evalyn began softly, “Everyone’s different. There’s no sense in comparing people.”

“Yeah.” Rayne chipped in, “I know all about that. You only see the golden child once in a while. I live with her.”

“Hey!” Evalyn punched her sister’s shoulder playfully.

Mackenzie giggled, “I guess that’s-”

Suddenly her eyes went wide and she frowned heavily

“That’s true. And you live with Seb too. The other golden child of the family. That must have been horrible back when you were Raymond.”

“Nah! Those too have always been like two peas in a-”

The words died on Evalyn’s lips as she saw Rayne smiling at her sadly.

“Wait, really?”

Rayne shrugged and gave a small nod.

“I know no one ever meant it like that, but everyone always seemed to be comparing me to Seb – and sometimes you too. At home, at school, here. I mean, you’re right, me and Seb are close, and he’s an amazing big brother, and you’re an incredible big sister. You guys take care of me and always have my back and stuff – hell, Sebastian’s tackled people to the ground for me before. But back before- before this summer. Before Rayne. It really sucked sometimes.”

“Wow.” Mackenzie sighed heavily. “I’ve always been such a bitch to both of you.”

Rayne shrugged. “You mostly just ignored us completely.”

Mackenzie shrugged back. “That’s kinda bitchy.”

Rayne shrugged again. “I’m having a fresh start as Rayne. You want a fresh start too?”

“Really? You’d forgive me for what I’ve said and done?”

Rayne nodded. “We’re family. Just don’t ignore us for your phone anymore, okay?”

Mackenzie giggled.

“Deal.”

“Are you guys coming?” An exasperated Lizzie called from the washroom.

The three older girls giggled, then rose to join the little girl in the washroom.
 

~o~O~o~

 
In the end, Rayne was very pleased with how her nails turned out. Mackenzie had started with painting them a glossy pearl white. Then she had somehow put little designs and patterns on top in a variety of colors. They felt very artsy.

“These are amazing!” Rayne gushed, holding them up to the light to see them better.

Mackenzie just shrugged.

“Seriously Couz’.” Evalyn confirmed, “these are pretty great. Have you ever considered going into this kind of thing as a career?”

“I dunno.” Mackenzie shrugged again as she finished working on Lizzie’s nails, “I’m really into makeup too, and the Vancouver Film School has a pretty incredible makeup design program.”

“Then why not do that?” Rayne asked curiously.

For the third time, Mackenzie shrugged.

“Oh, come on.” Evalyn pushed gently, “if ya can’t tell us, who can you tell?”

Mackenzie sighed as she began packing everything up. Rayne and Evalyn moved to help as Lizzie stared at her fingernails – at her insistence, they had been done to match Rayne’s.

“Dad’s in investment banking.” Mackenzie finally began, “Mom was a chartered accountant.”

“Sooooo?” Evalyn asked, not seeing where this was going.

“They’re always telling me I need to smarten up and start thinking about college. How do you think they’ll react if I tell them I just want to play with makeup my whole life?”

“Mackenzie,” Rayne began softly, “we all know there’s a lot more to it than that. Besides, your Dad’s always seemed really supportive to me. I’m sure if you just talk to him things will go better than you expect.”

Evalyn nodded her agreement.

“Really?” Mackenzie asked uncertainly.

“Really.” Evalyn confirmed. “Rainy here was afraid just to tell our parents about herself, but they were supportive in that.”

“Yeah!” Rayne confirmed, “and our Mom’s a Lawyer, Dad’s an architect, but right now they’re really supportive of me pursuing art as a career. That’s not too different from your own situation.”

Mackenzie nodded slowly.

“C’mon!” Lizzie suddenly blurted, “les go show everyone!”

The older girls laughed but followed her out.

In the kitchen, all the older women ooh’d and ahh’d over their nails. The men, who had since come in from the back and were sitting in the living room, mostly just told them they were pretty. They didn’t expect much else from the men though. Rayne couldn’t help but notice their grandfather leaving the room the moment they walked in however. She sighed and took a deep breath, choosing to ignore it.

“Can we turn the TV on Grandma?” Sebastian suddenly asked, looking up from his phone, “the news is about to start.”

“Why?” Olivia asked back curiously from where she was leaning against the doorway to the kitchen, “we rarely put the TV on during family dinner, especially not on Thanksgiving. And why the news?”

“Oh right!” Evalyn exclaimed excitedly, “Rayne might be on it!”

Now everyone’s head swiveled to look at Rayne. She just blushed and folded her arms.

“It’s really not that big of a deal.” She began, downplaying the visit from the news crew the day before, “CTV Vancouver showed up to the Gallery yesterday. They recorded a small feature on it to air tonight. They had individual interviews with all the finalists, but they said most of the footage wouldn’t be used. Chances are there’ll just be a quick shot of me standing with the others.”

As she said it, she watched as her Grandmothers face slowly shifted from merely interested to thoroughly impressed.

“Well even if it’s just a quick shot,” she replied, walking over to grab the TV remote, “I’m sure everyone would like to see that.”

Having overheard the short exchange, the other women filed into the living room as well.

“My niece on TV?” Lisa asked dramatically, “of course I need to see that.”

Rayne just blushed and smiled.

“DAD!” Lisa suddenly bellowed, “your granddaughter is gonna be on TV! Get in here!”

Rayne’s smile reversed itself and her heart sunk as her grandfather appeared in the doorway. He had a smile on his face however, and she took that as a good sign, quickly looking away before he noticed her watching him.

Sebastian suddenly grabbed her hand and tugged. Hard. Laughing, she collapsed into the couch next to them as the television was navigated to the channel Olivia was looking for.

Like Sebastian had said, the news had just started. They were giving a quick summary of what was coming up. Everyone watched with disinterest for several seconds before one preview ended and what they were looking for flashed across the screen.

It was footage of the outside of the Mountsview Art Gallery.

“…and after that, Adam and Kate go to an art gallery!”

The footage cut to footage from inside the gallery. It showed Rayne and the rest of the finalists standing together.

“At an exhibition for talented youth, Adam and Kate meet the next generation of Canadian artists!”

The footage continued into a glimpse of the next story, but no one was paying attention. They were clapping and giving Rayne their congratulations. She just blushed, smiled, and nodded her thanks.

“Alright.” Olivia said, clapping her hands together, “it looks like we have a short wait before the story starts. Rayne, while we wait why don’t you tell us about the dinner last night?”

“Can you catch us up first?” Kate asked from where she was sitting with Jack on the love seat.

Rayne began a quick explanation of the event, which Evalyn – dissatisfied with the way Rayne was downplaying everything – quickly took over. Rayne smiled and rolled her eyes. She was of the opinion that Evalyn made the whole thing sound much bigger than it actually was.

“Anyways,” Evalyn finished, “after the gallery last night there was a dinner for all the finalists and guests. I’ll let Rayne take over now.”

Rayne laughed, and shook her head.

“So, I have your permission to tell my own story now?” She asked her sister in mock exasperation.

“Permission granted.” Evalyn confirmed sweetly, much to the amusement of those paying attention.

“It wasn’t really that special-“

“Do I have to take over again?” Evalyn interrupted, again drawing laughter from those present.

Rayne sighed and rolled her eyes, then she began again.

“Fine. It was pretty special. Most of the guests from the gallery were there, and between courses we had the chance to talk with them. They also had a silent auction going on for anyone who wanted to sell their work.”

“Oh, that’s nice.” Olivia commented, “give the kids a chance to earn some money. Did you auction off any of yours?”

“Oooooh yeah.” Rayne’s eyes went wide again just from remembering the results. “I’ll get to that in a minute though.”

Olivia’s eyebrows rose at Rayne’s answer, but she just nodded for Rayne to continue.

“Anyways, this guy came up to us, his name was Milton Braidly. I guess he works in talent acquisition for some comic book company, and something about my work caught his attention. Now he wants to work with me to write, draw, and publish comic books.”

“That’s so cool!” Logan exclaimed, wide-eyed.

Rayne giggled at his reaction, “ya think? I’ve never been in to comics.”

“It’s really cool.” Uncle Frank agreed, nodding his head, “your father and I collected all sorts of comics as kids. Batman, Superman, The X-men, we would buy them every week.”

“Really?” Sebastian asked, turning to look at their father, “I didn’t know that.”

“Oh yeah,” Jameson confirmed, “all the boys on the block collected them.”

“So what kind of comic will you draw, Rayne?” Aunt Lisa asked.

Rayne shrugged, “haven’t fully decided yet, but probably something fantasy based. Magic, dragons, and stuff.”

Lisa smiled and nodded.

“Moving on,” Rayne continued. “There was an award ceremony where each of the finalists got a scholarship for making it there. After that there were some individual scholarships, then the night ended.”

“How much was the scholarship for?” Uncle John asked.

“Oh, a thousand dollars.”

He nodded approvingly, “That’s not bad.”

“That’s not even the half of it!” Evalyn cut in, grabbing everyone’s attention and drawing a sigh from Rayne, “Rayne also won three of the individual scholarships, for a thousand dollars each!”

“Oh, wow!” Olivia immediately exclaimed, “Congratulations sweetie!”

“What were the individual scholarships for?” Mackenzie asked.

“Lesee.” Evalyn began, looking up in the roof in thought, “best use of colored pencil is the one I remember, what were the others? Do you remember, Seb?”

“Best multimedia piece.” Sebastian provided.

“Right! And the last one?”

She turned to look at Rayne expectantly.

“Most thought-provoking piece.” Catalina provided from where she stood behind Rayne.

“Most thought-provoking piece, huh?” Olivia repeated, “that sounds like a pretty special one.”

“It was.” Jameson confirmed.

“What about the auction?” Mackenzie asked, changing the subject, “how’d that go?”

“It’s crazy,” Rayne began, eyes going wide again at the thought, “we only got the results this morning, but between the five pieces I put up for auction I got over 10,000 dollars in bids!”

“10,000?!” An awestricken Mackenzie parroted.

“Almost $15,000, actually.” Evalyn cut in. Rayne just stuck her tongue out at her sister before continuing.

“Right?” Rayne asked, “isn’t that insane?!”

“They were certainly very generous,” Olivia spoke up from where she was standing behind the couch, “but based on what I saw, you deserve it.”

There were some nods and murmurs of agreement from around the room.

“So, what do you think you’ll do with the money?” Mackenzie asked.

“I dunno.” Rayne replied thoughtfully, holding a finger up to her chin. “Maybe I’ll-”

“It’s starting!” Billy interrupted from where he sat on the floor. He pointed at the television, and sure enough, the gallery had appeared on the screen.

“Last night,” the commentator began as the footage cut to the inside, where it showed the finalists standing together in two lines, “Adam and Kate attended the Talented Youth event at the Mountsview Art Gallery. This was the final night, and the result of several weeks of eliminations.”

Adam and Kate were facing the camera, finalist behind them.

“Over the course of the last month,” Adam began, “students from all across the Greater Vancouver area have been participating in an event to find the most talented young artists in the province. In a moment we’ll be talking to some of them, and finding out just what the event entailed.”

Adam stepped off screen while Kate casually walked to the side, camera following her. She talked a bit more about the caliber of the art, then the footage cut away. It now showed Adam standing next to one of the finalists. Rayne recognized him as Charlie Pickering. The two spent a moment talking about the elimination process and what each of the finalist had gone through to make it that far. Then the camera briefly showed his art.

Then the camera cut away again, and the new footage made Rayne’s heart drop. It shouldn’t have, but it did.

It now showed her, standing next to Kate. Rayne’s family applauded at the sight of her, but Rayne could only feel the panic rising. The same fear she had experienced before the interview was rearing its ugly head. What if someone at school recognized her? Why did she ever agree to do the interview? Ugh, it was so stupid. Hopefully they only showed a portion of it at least.

Her hopes were crushed, as it soon became apparent – much to her family’s delight – that the whole interview was being shown. Finally, once it was over, the footage cut back to the studio. Adam and Kate were standing next to another news anchor.

“It was certainly quite the evening.” Adam began, “the event is over now, but fear not, for anyone who would like to take a closer look at the art-”

“Or,” Kate cut in, “would like to take a crack at deciphering Rayne’s work.”

“High resolution pictures of all the art has been uploaded to the Mountsview Art Gallery website.” Adam finished. He then passed the broadcast back to the other anchor, who, after a quick comment about the gallery, jumped into the next story.

Immediately her family applauded again. She smiled at them weakly, trying to hide her own fears and uncertainties. She glanced over her shoulder to where her grandfather had been standing, but he was gone. She didn’t know when he left, but he had.

She sighed heavily.

“What’s wrong?” Sebastian asked with concern as Evalyn flopped down at Rayne’s other side and the rest of the family slowly trickled out of the living room. Some glanced at her with concern, but they left it to Sebastian and Evalyn to sort out.

“If it’s about Grandpa,” Sebastian continued, “just don’t let it get to you.”

“It’s not Grandpa, Seb.” Rayne said, shaking her head.

“It’s about the interview, isn’t it?” Evalyn asked quietly.

Rayne nodded slowly.

“What if someone from school recognizes me?” She whispered.

“Do you know,” Sebastian began sceptically, “how many high schoolers watch the news? Especially on a holiday?”

Rayne slowly looked up at him. Seeing the silly grin on his face she couldn’t help but giggle.

“Notalotta.” He answered his own question.

“That’s right,” Evalyn agreed, moving on to elaborate, “unless there’s some kind of assignment that requires it – or some really big story – most kids our age are more concerned with other things.”

“And on top of that,” Sebastian continued, “even if a kid from our school does watch it, I mean, no offense, but barely anyone knows you.”

Evalyn shot him a dirty look, but Rayne just smiled and took a deep breath, then nodded slowly.

“You’re right. I guess I was just freaking myself out for no reason.”

Sebastian shook his head, “not at all Sis’. If anyone in this family has a reason to get freaked out it’s you.”

Rayne stared at him for a moment, then laughed. Evalyn just rolled her eyes.

“Gee Seb.” Evalyn commented flatly, “you sure have a way with words.”

“What?” Sebastian asked obliviously.

“Nothing.” Evalyn answered shaking her head. She turned to look at Rayne, “should we go see if they need any more help in the kitchen?”

Rayne nodded, and together they went to rejoin the other women. When they entered the kitchen Catalina gently drew Rayne aside.

“Is everything okay?” Her mother asked worriedly.

“Yup.” Rayne nodded, “I’m ready to get back to work.”

“Are you sure?”

Rayne smiled softly and nodded again.

“Yeah. I was a bit panicky after watching the interview, but Seb and Eva talked me through it.”

“Okay, if you’re sure. Let me know if you need to talk though, okay?”

Rayne nodded a third time.

“I will Mom. Thanks.”

They hugged, then moved to help put the finishing touches on dinner.
 

~o~O~o~

 
Soon the family was sitting down for dinner. Normally, everyone would pile around the long dining table, it would be a tight fit, but they could all eat together. However, with the additional guests for the nights festivities, the table wasn’t quite big enough. Therefore, it was decided that they would have an adults table in the dining room, and a kids table in the living room down the hall by the back door. Having anticipated this, Uncle Frank had brought two folding tables with him in his truck. After serving themselves – or in the case of the younger kids, having their parents’ serve them – and saying a quick grace together in the dining room, everyone took their place in their respective dining rooms. Olivia and Grandpa Frank, Jameson and Catalina, Lisa and Johnathan, Uncle Frank, and Jack and Kate all ate in the dining room. Rayne, Sebastian, Evalyn, Mackenzie, Lizzie, the twins, and Logan all ate in the living room.

“So,” Evalyn began after everyone had taken a few bites, “are you all excited for Halloween and some trick or treating? Have you got your Halloween costumes?”

Lizzie’s eyes immediately widened with excitement, with her mouth full, however, all she did was nod frantically.

“I’m gonna be a wrestler!” JR immediately declared around a mouth full of food, not having the manners of his younger cousin.

Billy at least swallowed his food, albeit without chewing it thoroughly.

“I’m gonna be the-”

He paused to cough a few times before continuing.

“I’m gonna be the Incredible Hulk!” He declared enthusiastically, “he’s like a wrestler, but a super wrestler!”

“But he’s not a real wrestler.” JR accused.

“So? He’s still a super wrestler!” Billy fired back, “besides, the whole point of Halloween is dressing up as not real things!”

JR nodded, “I guess so, but-”

“I’mma Princess!” Lizzie suddenly blurted, interrupting the twins’ dispute.

“Well we know that, silly.” Evalyn replied, rolling her eyes, “but what are you going to be for Halloween?”

Lizzie broke into a fit of giggling before replying, “noooooo Eva, I’m gonna be a princess for Halloween!”

“OH!” Evalyn exclaimed, as if this was a shocking revelation.

“Well don’t you want to be something you can’t be already?” She went on to ask goofily.

Lizzie’s brow furrowed and she looked about as deep in thought as a five-year-old can look.

“I’ll think about it.” She finally declared, “what are you gonna go trick’r treating as Eva?”

“Oh, I don’t go trick or treating anymore.”

“What?!” Lizzie exclaimed, stunned by this. “Why not?! You can just come with me! Okay?!”

The older kids all laughed.

“Thank you very much for the offer Lizzie,” Evalyn replied humbly, “but when you get to my age, you don’t want to go trick or treating anymore.”

“But whhhhhy?”

“Well,” Sebastian said, “when you get older, instead of going trick or treating, you go to parties. There’s still candy, but you get to be with a bunch of friends too!”

“Do you still get to be a princess?” Asked Lizzie, wide-eyed.

“W-well, I personally wouldn’t go as a princess, but when you’re my age, you could.”

Lizzie slowly nodded, “phew, I was really worried for a moment there.”

The older kids smiled in amusement at how serious the whole situation was to her.

“So, if you’re not gonna be a princess, what will you go as?”

“I don’t know.” Sebastian mused, “it’s one of my football buddies party, so I might just go as a football player.”

“Whaaaat?” Evalyn objected, “that’s so boring though. Wait, you said this party is being thrown by one of your teammates?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Tim?”

“Yeah, how’d ya know?” Sebastian asked, surprised.

Evalyn laughed, “I’m going to the same party! Jenna invited me!”

Sebastian laughed and shook his head, “of course you’re friends with Jenna.”

Rayne, who had been silently eating and enjoying the conversation until now, finally spoke up, “wait, you guys are both going to Tim and Jenna’s party?”

Sebastian and Evalyn suddenly both looked guilty.

“Oh, uh, yeah.” Her older brother mumbled awkwardly, “I could ask Tim if you can come if you want.”

Rayne laughed.

“You don’t have to feel bad that you guys are both going to the party, and you don’t have to try and get me an invite.”

“Are you sure?” Evalyn asked with concern.

“Of course,” Rayne said with a confident shake of her head as she speared another piece of turkey with her fork, “I mean, why would I need you to get me an invite? I already have one.”

“Wait, what?” Sebastian asked, stunned. It wasn’t surprising for Evalyn to have an invite, she was friends with everyone. But Rayne – or Raymond as she was known at school – barely knew anyone in her own grade. Let alone in the twelfth grade. “From who?”

Rayne slowly chewed her food while her siblings waited for an answer. She finally swallowed, then dabbed at her mouth with her napkin just to make them wait a bit longer – much to Logan and Mackenzie’s amusement.

“Jenna of course. Jenna and are like this.” She held up her hand, two fingers crossed to show what she meant, the other three balled into a fist.

“Wait,” Sebastian began slowly, still confused, “Jenna invited you, as in you, Rayne, you, or Jenna invited Raymond.”

Rayne rolled her eyes, “Jenna invited me.”

“How do you even know Jenna?” Evalyn asked, for once sharing her brother’s confusion, “If she knows the real you as well as you say, than it definitely wasn’t through school, and you didn’t spend enough time together at the mall the other week to really get close either.”

Okay so maybe she had been exaggerating how close she and Jenna were, but that didn’t change the fact that they were friends. Unfortunately, Rayne now realized, she had talked herself into a corner. To tell her siblings where she had gotten to know Jenna would be to tell them that Jenna attended the same youth group. In that sense, it would be betraying Jenna’s trust.

“Uh, y- you know.” Rayne stammered, trying to back pedal, “Just, like, from around.”

“From around?” Sebastian asked sceptically, “Jenna’s not exactly the type to just come chat someone up. It was surprising just to see her at the mall.”

“Wait.” Evalyn spoke up, grinning slyly, “I know where you know her from.”

“N- nope. No ya don’t.” Rayne weakly shot her down, quickly stuffing a bit bite of mashed potatoes in her mouth to buy herself time to think of a way out of this mess.

“Oh yes I do.” Evalyn fired back, “You know her from a certain group, don’t you?”

Rayne took her time chewing her food to compose herself. After she swallowed, she set down her fork and looked her sister right in the eye.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She answered in monotone.

Evalyn smiled and squinted her eyes suspiciously, but thankfully let the issue drop. Instead, she turned her gaze on Sebastian.

“Well now that we’re all going, you definitely can’t be a boring football player, we need to coordinate our costumes.”

Sebastian laughed, “Oh really? Convince me.”

Evalyn pursed her lips and furrowed her brow in thought.

“How about something from a video game?” Logan suggested, joining the conversation. “There’s plenty of games that would have something fitting for all three of you.”

Evalyn clapped her hands together, “yeah! A video game. How about something from a game, Seb?”

Sebastian mulled the idea over in his head while he chewed his food.

“Yeah, I could get behind that.” He agreed.

“Excellent. Now, what was that game you always used to always play with Rayne when she was little? The legend? Or the legend of something?”

“The Legend of Zelda?” Logan offered.

“Legend of Zelda!” Evalyn snapped her fingers and grinned excitedly, “That’s the one. Thanks Log! I knew you’d be useful for something.”

“Hey!”

Sebastian laughed and grinned, the idea growing on him.

“Let’s see,” Evalyn brainstormed aloud, “Rayne could be the princess, I could be Zelda, and you could be the ugly pig monster Seb! It all fits perfectly!”

The older kids all howled with laughter as Sebastian’s jaw dropped. Once they calmed down, Sebastian held up a finger.

“I don’t know what outrages me more.” He began with mock indignation, “That you would liken me to an ugly pig monster – who’s name is Ganondorf, for your information – or that you seemingly think that ‘Zelda’ and ‘the princess’ are two different characters.”

“Huh?” Evalyn asked in confusion, “Isn’t Zelda the little green guy that you play as?”

Rayne, Logan, Sebastian, and even Mackenzie, all shared a laugh at Evalyn’s expense.

“What?” Evalyn demanded, not used to being the one out of the loop, “tell me!”

After everyone stopped laughing, Rayne spoke up.

“Eva,” She began, “Zelda is the princess. The little green guy’s name is Link.”

Evalyn rolled her eyes, “Oh, gimme a break. How was I supposed to know that? I don’t play video games. I mean, in Super Mario, Mario is the main character, not the princess. Was it so weird of me to think that it’d be similar in Zelda?”

Both Logan and Sebastian opened their mouths, but Rayne held up her hands to silence them.

“Eva,” she began solemnly, “in Super Mario, the princess’s name is Mario.”

“No way!” Evalyn replied, stunned, “That’s so messed up! Mario is, like, a man’s name! Video games are soooooo weird, why would… they name… her…”

She stopped and looked around, suddenly noticing the table laughing at her.

“She’s not really named Mario, is she?”

“No, Eva.” Rayne answered, barely containing more laughter, “Princess Peach is not named Mario.”

Evalyn rolled her eyes, “I don’t play video games. Anyways, Rayne can go as Princess Zelda, Sebastian can go as the ugly pig thing-”

“Ganondorf.” Logan, Sebastian, and Rayne interrupted simultaneously, much to their amusement.

Evalyn rolled her eyes again and continued, “Sebastian can go as Ganondorf, the ugly pig thing. And I’ll go as- what was his name again? Link?”

Sebastian and Logan nodded.

“Hold on.” Rayne finally objected, “we’re getting ahead of ourselves, I actually don’t know if I can go. I’m still gonna be grounded by then. Dad said he and Mom would talk about it, but they haven’t given me an answer yet.”

“Leave that to me.” Evalyn said slyly.

“What do you mean?” Rayne asked, not seeing what she meant.

“MOMMA, POPPA!” Evalyn suddenly bellowed to their parents in the other room.

The muffled conversation that could be heard from the other room turned into laughter before quieting.

“Yes, sweetie?” Jameson called back, voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Sebastian and I want to take Rayne out for Halloween. She’s going to be a princess. You wouldn’t make your little girl miss her first Halloween, would you?”

Evalyn held up her finger for the others at the table to wait. A long silence stretched between the rooms.

“I want pictures before you leave.” Catalina finally shouted back.

“There.” Evalyn declared, turning back to Rayne, “any further objections, Princess?”

Rayne laughed and shook her head as the muffled conversation picked up again in the other room. Was it just her, or did the adults’ conversation seem louder than it had been a moment ago? She glanced at her sister, Evalyn was closest to the hallway, if anyone would notice it would be her.

“So, Logan,” Evalyn began, seemingly oblivious to any noise increase, “any tips on making the aforementioned Legend of Zelda costumes?”

Rayne shrugged inwardly and went back to her meal, only half listening to the conversation as it progressed. They talked for a minute, then Evalyn suddenly turned to where Mackenzie was seated next to her.

“How about you, Couz? Any plans for Halloween?”

Mackenzie answered immediately. Almost too fast actually. It made the conversation feel forced. Rayne wasn’t even paying attention to what was being said anymore. Something was wrong. She was sure the noise from the next room was louder now, and Sebastian had stopped eating. Instead he was staring at the wall across from him, jaw clenched tight.

As soon as her conversation with Mackenzie showed the first sign of slowing down, Evalyn turned to Rayne.

“So, Sis’, Have you had fun today?” She asked rapidly, “it’s been pretty busy, huh? Still better than school though, right? How are you feeling about school tomorrow anyways? After such a busy, busy weekend?”

Rayne blinked. Why were her siblings acting weird? Evalyn never talked this fast. And she would never ask so many questions without giving someone the chance to answer. Sebastian was usually so laid back, but right now he looked livid. Even Mackenzie seemed… off. When she answered Evalyn’s question a moment ago it had felt forced.

Rayne blinked again as the pieces came together. The noise from the next room was definitely louder, and while still muffled, whatever conversation the adults were having was clearly heated. It almost sounded like people were angry. The others had to have noticed. Especially Evalyn, Sebastian, and Mackenzie. They were the one’s closest to the door after all. Unless the noise from the other room was why they were acting weird.

“I have an idea.” Evalyn suddenly chirped once it became apparent that Rayne wasn’t going to answer, “how about we go outside? Get some fresh air!”

“But,” Rayne began hesitantly, unsure of what was happening, “we’re in the middle of dinner.”

“We can finish after!” Mackenzie piped up.

“Yes!” Evalyn agreed, “fresh air is good for your digestion!”

“That sounds made up.” Rayne said slowly.

“It’s not.” Evalyn insisted, “now c’mon, all of you, we’re going-”

“IT’S BLOODY UNNATURAL. IT’S AN ABOMINATION.”

Grandpa Frank’s shouting voice easily carried down the hall and into the living room. Suddenly it made sense why her siblings and cousins were acting weird. They could hear the growing confrontation in the other room. Evalyn had tried to drown it out by talking to people. That’s also why Mackenzie’s responses had been so immediate. When it came to his sisters, Sebastian was too hotheaded and protective for that kind of level thinking.

“Deuteronomy,” Grandpa Frank quoted from down the hall. Even though he wasn’t shouting anymore, now that all other conversation had died, his raised voice could easily be heard, “Chapter 22, verse 5 states: The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God. Raymond isn’t your daughter. He’s your son. By letting him dress like that you are letting him turn into a monster. How are you okay with that?! Don’t you love him?! Don’t you care?!”

Rayne didn’t hear anything else. She was out the back door already, slamming it behind her. Thank God her shoes had been at the back door – hah! Ironic to thank God with what her grandfather was ranting about inside. She walked quickly across the yard towards the fence. There was no gate in her grandparents’ backyard, but all the kids learned from a young age to hop the fence. Their grandmother was always giving them grief for it, saying that one day they’d hurt themselves and that they should just go out the front door. The whole point of hopping the fence though, was that to get just about anywhere the kids would want to go when visiting their grandparents, it was faster to go down the alley.

She hadn’t considered that it might be more difficult to get over in a dress, however, and when she threw her legs over they became tangled. She lost her balance for a moment and tumbled, scratching her arm in the process, but she caught herself. Standing up, she heard the back door open and close again right before she took off down the alley at full sprint. Thankfully, her dress was airy and light. It may have thrown her off with hopping the fence, but when it came to running it shouldn’t be an issue.

She thought she heard someone calling after her, but she wasn’t exactly thinking straight at the moment. She just needed to get away from him. Get some fresh air, and be somewhere… quiet. Or at least somewhere quieter than a house filled with almost 20 people. She found herself wishing she was home in Lakewood. At least then she could go to the lake. What was the closest thing to that? The ocean was way too far to walk – run – to, but there was a park nearby. The whole family used to walk there together back when she was little. There was a creek, and a few places secluded by trees.

That’s where she would go.
 

~o~O~o~

 
“RAAAAAAAYNE!”

She was sitting in the grass at the edge of the creek when she heard the voice. Watching the water as it slowly flowed by. She knew it would eventually flow into the Fraser River, and from there into the Straight of Georgia and the Pacific Ocean. After that? Who knows?

She had been thinking of how unfathomably immense the universe was, yet how an incredibly small drop of water could travel so far and be a part of something so much bigger. It helped her to put things in perspective. In the grand scheme of things, on the scale of the universe, she – and all of her worries, fears, doubts, problems, and insecurities – was just another drop in the ocean. In the end, her problems would go away. Everything would work out. She would keep flowing down the river of life and move on to bigger and better things.

“RAAAAAAYNE!” Another voice called out.

She blinked her eyes and pulled herself from her thoughts. She should probably call out. Or go meet them. Preferably before they left. This was just like that day last March, when Sebastian came and found Raymond at the lake. That was when everything had really started. So much had changed since then, but so much hadn’t.

“Have you seen our sister?” She heard the second voice – it could only be Evalyn’s – ask someone.

“The first voice – Sebastian’s – described her, “14 years old, dark auburn hair, green eyes, about this tall. She’s wearing a white dress. Please, we’re not from around here, and she’s just a little girl.”

She could just imagine him holding up his hand to represent how tall she was.

She sighed heavily. She had really been enjoying her quiet time, but they sounded worried.

“I’m not a little girl!” She called out, alerting them to her presence.

She heard Sebastian’s sigh of relief, Evalyn offering a quick thanks to whoever they had been talking to, then the sound of movement.

Glancing over her shoulder, she saw her brother and sister weaving between some of the trees at the top of the small hill that led down to the creek. Just past the trees was a pathway on the edge of a large field, there was a tennis court and a playground too. It was a great place for kids to play.

Upon seeing her, they both visibly relaxed. Sebastian turned around and cupped his hands to his mouth before bellowing.

“OVER HERE!”

Great. That meant there’d be more people here soon. Trampling all over the grass. Messing up the peace and quiet. She sighed heavily and went back to watching the water.

“Jeeze Rayne,” Evalyn sighed with exasperation as she slumped to the grass to her left, “We’ve been looking for you everywhere. We were worried.”

“I was just going for a walk.” Rayne said softly, “fresh air. Good for digestion, right?”

Evalyn laughed as Rayne heard more people approaching. She leaned back on her hands to arch her back and look. Sebastian was leading Mackenzie and Logan down to them.

“Guess the ankles feeling better for you to run like that.” Sebastian observed when he stopped just behind them.

“Where’s everyone else?” Rayne asked, ignoring his comment.

“Back at the house.” Sebastian explained, “Lizzie and the twins wanted to come with us to find you, but they wouldn’t be able to keep up. The adults kept them back, and let us go alone. They knew we’d have the best chances at finding you.”

“I’m not like I’m hiding.”

Sebastian raised an eyebrow sceptically, “you’re sitting in some grass hidden by trees, clearly avoiding people, and you say you’re not hiding?”

“Nope.” Rayne reaffirmed, “just needed somewhere quiet. To think.”

“What were you thinking about?” Logan asked, changing the subject.

Rayne leaned forward to look at the water again, resting her head in her hands. “The universe.”

“The universe?” Mackenzie inquired, sounding confused, “what do you mean?”

“It’s so big. Infinitely big. It helps put things in perspective. It reminds me that on such a large scale, in the grand scheme of things, that I – and by extension, all of my problems – don’t matter at all.”

“That’s, umm, kinda depressing.” Mackenzie deadpanned.

“I don’t think so.” Logan objected, moving to sit down at Rayne’s right. “I think it’s liberating.”

Rayne turned her head to look at him.

“Liberating?” Mackenzie asked sceptically, “I don’t get it. How so?”

“I mean, I get that the thought that at the end of life the universe will move on without you as if you never existed can be depressing for some people.” Logan explained, “but to me, it’s like, if that’s the case, then there’s no sense getting stressed out, panicking, worrying, or spending your time upset or angry, ya know? It doesn’t matter in the end, so just relax, take it easy, and enjoy life.”

Slowly Rayne smiled at him and nodded. “Exactly. Lately I’ve been happier than I have been in a long time, but I’ve also been more stressed, and more worried, and really scared. I just needed someplace quiet to get away from all of that, and right now, Grandpa embodies all of those things for me. So that would never happen back there.”

“I think I get it.” Mackenzie said slowly.

“I disagree.” Sebastian challenged, causing Rayne to lean back again to look at him.

“You said,” Sebastian continued, “that you don’t matter at all. You’re wrong. You may not matter to the whole universe, but you matter a helluva lot to me and Evalyn, and I would imagine to Mackenzie and Logan too. And to Mom and Dad, and the twins, and definitely to Lizzie. You matter to Grandma, and to all of our aunts and uncles.”

“Don’t forget to Ms. Mira, Cynthia and Ryan.” Evalyn chipped in, “and a bunch of the judges from the gallery.”

“My folks really like you too for what it’s worth.” Logan chipped in.

Rayne smiled and blushed steadily brighter as they listed off all the people she mattered to.

“Hey!” Mackenzie suddenly exclaimed, “that’s like, a whole lot of people! If you matter to that many people than I would argue that even if it’s just a teeny-tiny itsy-bitsy bit, that you matter to the universe.”

Rayne giggled.

“And believe it or not,” Sebastian continued, “you also matter to Grandpa. He wouldn’t be acting like this if you didn’t. He’s just being an asshat about it.”

“So, what happened after I left?” Rayne asked, eager to change the subject.

“Well, Sebastian had to be held back by Logan to stop him from attacking Grandpa.” Evalyn put forward immediately.

Rayne looked at Sebastian in shock. He just blushed uncharacteristically, rubbed the back of his head, and looked away.

Rayne turned to Logan, “Thanks for holding back my hothead brother. As mean as Grandpa’s been, it doesn’t mean he deserves to be tackled.”

“Oh, shush.” Sebastian huffed.

“Oh, and you should’ve seen my Mom.” Mackenzie added, joining the conversation again, “When you left she freaked. She thought you were running away or something. Which of course caused Lizzie to go into hysterics.”

“Awwww,” Rayne cooed, “poor Lizzie.”

Mackenzie rolled her eyes.

“After that everyone started yelling at Grandpa.” Evalyn continued, “no one’s too happy with him right now. It was pretty chaotic. Of course, all the yelling scared the twins and made Lizzie even more upset.”

“My parents were just kinda standing there awkwardly.” Logan said with a chuckle. “They’re totally on your side, Rayne, but I think they just didn’t want to get involved. Anyways, they offered to take JR, Billy, and Lizzie for ice cream while the adults sorted things out. I stayed to help find you.”

Rayne smiled, “your parents are great.”

“I think so.” Logan agreed.

“So then,” Mackenzie resumed, “Mom started saying that we all needed to go out looking for you. I suggested that just us go. At the time Logan’s parent’s, uh, Jack and Kate I think? They were just on their way out the door with Lizzie and the twins, right? Of course, Lizzie and the twins hear this, and immediately insist on coming.”

Sebastian chuckled, “how do you explain to little kids that they’d get in the way without upsetting them? They were just worried about you and wanted to help.”

“So, what did you tell them?” Rayne asked.

“We didn’t tell them anything.” Evalyn answered, “Logan’s dad came to the rescue. He told them that they would drive slow and look on their way to the ice cream parlour, and do the same on the way back.”

Rayne laughed.

“So yeah.” Sebastian continued, “we all hopped the fence, even Mackenzie, and came to look for you.”

“Really?” Rayne asked, surprised, “Mackenzie hopped the fence?”

Mackenzie had always been the one kid that didn’t want to learn how. She had always preferred to take the safe, slow way, and walk around the block.

Mackenzie rolled her eyes now, “well, I wasn’t just gonna let them go looking without me. Besides, you disappeared down the alley, it only made sense to go looking that way.”

Rayne giggled.

“I know you said you wanted quiet,” Sebastian began, “but it’s getting late, Rayne. Wanna start heading back?”

She looked up at the sky. It was grey and cloudy, enhancing the coming darkness. She took a deep breath, and stood up.

“Okay.” She agreed, turning to look at her brother, “but I don’t wanna go back in there. Not while Grandpa’s around.”

Evalyn hopped up next to her and threw an arm around each of her siblings’ shoulders, “whatever you want Sis’.”
 

~o~O~o~

 
Half an hour later the five of them were rounding the corner on their grandparents’ block. They were approaching by the front door this time, hoping to minimize contact with Grandpa Frank. As they rounded the corner they stopped for a moment. There was a police car out front, and they could see two officers standing outside the house talking to Catalina and Jameson. Other members of the family were standing behind them, Grandpa Frank thankfully absent.

Rayne bit her lip. Suddenly it felt like this whole thing was being blown out of proportion.

After they had walked a bit closer, Uncle Frank leaned forward and grabbed Jameson’s shoulder. He pointed at them. Relief washed over Jameson and Catalina’s face immediately, they abandoned the conversation they were having and rushed towards the group of teenagers.

The other’s backed away from Rayne a bit, giving her space as Catalina threw her arms around her in a hug.

“Rayne, do you know how worried we were?” She gushed, still squeezing Rayne tightly. “you can’t keep doing this.”

“I’m sorry Mom.” She replied, hugging her back, “I freaked out and just needed some fresh air, and some quiet.”

Her mother backed off to arms reach, hands still clutching Rayne’s shoulders.

“Next time just tell us where you’re going, okay?”

Rayne nodded and Catalina pulled her into another hug.

They finally separated, and then it was Jameson’s turn. He didn’t say anything, just held her tight. Finally, they separated and he looked down into her eyes.

“Wanna get outta here?”

She smiled back, “That’d be great, but I wanna say goodbye to everyone first.”

She glanced toward the house. She could see her Grandfather watching them from the window.

“Well, almost everyone.”

“RAINY!” Lizzie came screaming towards them, tears in her eyes.

Rayne dropped to her knees, catching the little girl in a hug.

“Don’t run away from us, Rainy,” the little girl cried, “Grampa’s jus bein a meany. Daddy always says ta jus ignore meanies, so please don’t run away again, okay, Rainy? Please?”

Rayne laughed quietly and squeezed the little girl tighter.

“Okay Lizzie.” She agreed, “I won’t run away again.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

She stood up and moved towards the house. She saw her father exchanging a few words with the police officers, thanking them and apologising for taking up their time. One of the officers walked up to Rayne as she moved towards her family.

“You gave your family quite the scare young lady.” The police woman said softly.

“I’m sorry officer.” Rayne apologized politely, “I didn’t mean to.”

The officer nodded, “I just need to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind.”

Rayne nodded, “of course.”

A short interview later and the police car was on it’s way. Rayne sighed and finally reached the house. She had no intention of going back inside, so she gave everyone a hug goodbye while standing outside.

“I am so sorry.” Olivia whispered in her ear when they embraced.

“It’s okay, Grandma. You have nothing to apologize for. It wasn’t your fault, and I had such a great time making dinner with you.”

As they hugged, she looked over Olivia’s shoulder and caught sight of her Grandfather standing by the door. He was glaring at her. Unlike the rest of the day, however, where she just looked away meekly, this time she glared right back. She was done letting him hurt her. Maybe in the future he’d be able to move forward and open up his heart and mind, but it clearly wouldn’t be happening today.

“Hey,” Catalina said once Rayne had split apart from Olivia, “we just need to grab a few things from inside. Want to come in and wait?”

“No, I’m fine.” Rayne insisted, “I’ll wait out here.”

A tiny spec of cold struck her nose and she turned around to look up at the sky. It was snowing. The first snowfall of the season.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, filling her lungs with the refreshing cold air.

There would be many more challenges and obstacles in the future, and she knew Grandpa Frank wouldn’t be the last person to take issue with her, but it didn’t matter. Anything that happened, anything that appeared before her, she would overcome. She had the support of her brother and sister, and her mother and father. She had her aunt, uncles, and cousins all in her corner and a few great friends she could trust with anything. She had everything she needed.

The future was a blank page, and she would make it beautiful.



Hello my friends,

Flummox here.

As many of you know, this is the last installment in the first of two books telling Rayne’s story.

It feels so weird to call this a book, but with 22 chapters and almost 200,000 words, what else can I call it? I never expected it to get this far, or to draw the interest of so many wonderful people.

I can not thank you enough for the kind words and encouragement you’ve given me over the course of the past year. I’ve learnt so much throughout this endeavor, both about writing and about myself. I’ve made some truly amazing friends, and I may have finally figured out what I want to do with my life. Telling stories has always been one of my biggest passions, and I can’t wait to both continue Rayne’s story, and maybe begin some new ones. I have a lot planned.

Now, unfortunately, it will be a few months at the very least before book two begins. I have some other projects that have been stuck buzzing around my head, distracting me from focusing on Rayne, and I want to get some of those out before I come back to her. There’s a short story or two, as well as some other things.

I also want to go back and revise some of the earlier chapters. I’ve been asking for pointers all year, (And still am! If you spot a typo let me know!) and I’ve been keeping a record of what people have pointed out, but I haven’t gone back to change anything, with very few exceptions, *cough cough* The time I said Seattle was on the east coast *cough cough*. Anyways, I’ve been focused on moving forward rather than looking back, therefore, most of those typos I made in the beginning are still there. It’s nice to see how far I’ve come, but now that book one is posted, I want to expunge those mistakes before I move forward.

So, on that note, I’ll bid you farewell for now. Thanks for everything.

Flummox



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