“How was your day, children?”
Dad had just gotten out of the car with two big shopping bags hanging from his arms. Mum followed behind hauling another carrier bag up the stone steps.
“I hope you didn’t fight or make your aunt *hum* nervous,” continued their father, taking yet another bag from the overloaded car, “Can you help me empty the car, please?”
“You too Edward. It was a rhetorical question.”
The thoughts in Kate’s head churned. She tugged at her short, dark brown hair tied back in a ponytail as she thought. The more she told herself that nothing was wrong, the more she felt sure there was.
As she walked, back towards the house she decided that an emergency meeting in the den was needed.
“Hey Edward!” she whispered
“What?” he muttered back
“Emergency meeting in my den!”
“Why on earth? But fine, I’ll spread the word…”
About an hour later, all the children were in their den. It had everything a little house should need. A little fireplace (they had once camped in there), 5 (slightly broken) cups, a few plates, knives and forks, a few blankets and cushions. Sitting down slowly, everyone stared at Kate, who had called this meeting together.
“What? What do you want to talk about now?” moaned Edward.
“Quietly! This is important! Don’t let the adults hear this. They do not know and shall not know about what is happening,” hissed Kate, glaring at her brother who had casually leaned back on his elbows, “Don’t sit like that! It will damage your back and it looks disrespectful.”
“What respect do I own you?” demanded Edward.
“Stop. Less arguing, more thinking,” retorted Kate.
“OK. Are you all listening? Michael please, you’ll get your snack later. This is important. Listen to what I think.”
Kate explained her sombre thoughts patiently and clearly as questions fired her way. She knew that there was evidence. It was the truth. As clear as white on black. The real, ugly truth. Convincing the others was very difficult; this sounded like something out of a story book. The only person who Kate had no difficulty in making believe that her thinking was not as far-fetched as it seemed was Ivy who as soon as she had understood what her oldest sister meant had shrunk back in the shadows shaking all over.
“Kate! You’re the one who is meant to be sensible! Don’t be like Ivy. Keep both feet on the ground!” pleaded Laura.
“Look. This may not sound realistic but we need to investigate. What if this an actual blackmail? Come on Ivy. Pull yourself together. A blackmailer is a blackmailer not a murderer.”
“You never know! What if they become both?” wailed Ivy, “I don’t want to be killed in my sleep!”
“Ivy, you’re going too far! You might be scared but that is not likely to happen.” Kate snapped.
“Ivy, when people murder other people, it’s for a reason. They don’t have a reason to kill us.”
After having spent half an hour comforting Ivy, Kate shrugged and decided that it was no use in trying to convince her siblings. It was plain to see that they refused to believe her. To them, her story was a muddle of poor evidence stuck together. Also, she was scaring Ivy. Ivy had always been sensitive and lived in a land of books and tales; she was always the first to believe something as unusuality and excitement was normal to her now. But when it came face to face with her in reality, it was a great shock which made her weak and tearful.
“Fine. We won’t investigate but report back anything unusual. Also, before I call off the meeting we need to do something.”
“What is it now? Can’t I go? Haven’t we done enough?” groaned Edward.
Before Kate could open her mouth to answer he shot out of the den.
“Come back! This is the most important bit!” cried Kate sprinting towards him and soon grasping him and dragging him back towards the den.
“What! Come on! Spit it out!”
“Edward! You’re so bad tempered!” replied Laura.
“Oh yeah? Repeat that?”
“This is exactly what I was going to talk about! Can’t we stop fighting for once? There is something happening and whether it is or not blackmail, it is important! There is something that Aunt Brunhilde is not telling us!”
“She’ll tell me! I’ll go and ask!” cried Michael who everyone had forgotten and wanted to to get a snack.
“No!” shouted all his siblings in unison.
Michael stared back confused. Kate lifted an eyebrow at Laura who of course was rolling her eyes. Why hadn’t Michael registered that they weren’t supposed to tell the adults or they would either be mocked or forced to go back home? This was when they realised that they really enjoyed coming here. They did want to help their aunt because although they still didn’t like her as much as their other aunt, they liked her a bit more each day. There was always something nice that she did like preparing them a good snack for them to take to their den or making their beds in the morning. They knew that she was going through a tough time and needed help.
“You know, Aunt Brunhilde isn’t actually that evil. I mean, she isn’t the best aunt ever but she does little things that are quite nice,” Laura pointed out, during a moment of silence.
“Yes,” sighed Kate, “She does act kindly through actions but not through her words. Remember when we arrived, she flew into a scarlet rage.”
“Dad insulted her quite a bit though, don’t you agree?” whispered Edward reluctantly as though betraying a dark secret.
“You’re right,” murmured Ivy uncomfortably as she was not used to agreeing with her brother, “I wouldn’t have liked being called an old goat brain.”
Edward did not even have the urge to tease his sister and instead just nodded.
“When she welcomed us,” she continued, “I think she had been overworked and tired and when she heard you,” she pointed at Michael with her chin, “She just couldn’t take it any longer.”
The eleven year old girl clutched her knees and rocked slowly back and forth. She looked like she was plunged in dark, gloomy thoughts.
“What did you want to tell us when Edward went out of the den?” she asked.
“Ah, yes. We really need to do this and I know it will be hard but we have to try. I think we should make an oath about not fighting or arguing,” declared Kate decidedly.
“I agree,” mumbled Edward, surprising everyone, then, noticing their stares, he added, “I know! It’s even not fun for me anymore.”
“Me too,” said Laura and Ivy at the same time.
“Yes, let’s do the oath.”
“Ok. Everyone’s in the favour. Repeat after me,” Kate cleared her throat.
“We, five Llandy children:
Kate, Laura, Edward, Ivy, Michael,
Solemnly swear to not argue with our siblings
Until we leave Dandelion Estate
And discover what is truly happening
For we all agree that something is happening
With Aunt Brunhilde.
We swear that we will not tell the adults
Unless really needed
About our Aunt and the picture.”
After each child had sworn the oath, they shook each other's hand gravely as a sign of peace.
After they had called an end to the meeting, they decided that now was the best time
to get a snack, after all the confusion and desperation of the situation. The cook, Claudette, was famous for her incredible millionaire shortbread. And lucky for her, all the children were good eaters.
When the children entered, Claudette was already worried. They hadn’t been in for the whole day! What was wrong? But when they came in with their smiles looking all fake, she knew something was definitely wrong. But the children looked so determined to not let their sadness show through that she decided it was not worth it. The millionaire shortbread had just come out of the oven and was ready to be cooled.
“Come back in 10 minutes when it has cooled, ok?”
The children all muttered something and left the kitchen solemnly in a straight line. Very unusual for them. But Claudette thought it was probably some argument the 5 had had. Or perhaps something else?!