“Mum, we’re home!” Ivy had this nice habit of always letting me know when she got home. She also had a habit of not asking me first when she wanted to bring a friend home. In this case, however, we had gotten used to it, but I decided to play along. Maybe if I did this often enough, she would eventually start asking for permission.
“We?” I answered from my office.
“Yeah, Sunny’s with me! Can we play outside?” I usually insisted that she got her homework done first, but it was Friday and she had been doing exceptionally well in school again, so I decided to allow it.
“Okay, just wash your hands before dinner!” Her answer was silence, which meant that she had stopped listening and was outside where she couldn’t hear me.
Sunshine Breeze was only a few months older than Ivy. They had met on their first day of school, and had been inseperable ever since. They were in the same class, sat next to each other, spent all their breaks together, and also spent every other waking minute with each other.
They had become friends quickly, and soon Pine and I were used to having her around. She was a sweet little girl, shy but polite, and we were happy that Ivy had found a friend so quickly. Ivy herself was shy, just even more so than Sunny, to the extent that she would hide behind our backs whenever we tried to introduce her to someone she didn’t know.
They were good for each other, who were we to argue with that?
“Muuum, can Sunny stay over?” That was another thing we had gotten used to hearing pretty quickly. We usually weren’t asked throughout the week (that’s not to say she hadn’t tried though), but it had become a regular question at the weekend. Usually on Fridays, sometimes they even tried for the whole weekend, which wasn’t something we generelly allowed though. If we did, none of them would ever get their homework done.
Smiling, I looked to Pine. “You know we don’t mind her staying over, but have you asked her Mum?”
“Yes, she says it’s fine!” It had not taken many times for Ivy to understand that she didn’t need our consent alone. After the first few times, they phoned Flower first before asking us.
“Then of course she can stay, sweetheart.” Not surprisingly, Sunny already had her pj’s packed and bathroom things with her. If they kept this up we would have to start thinking about getting her her own toothbrush for their sleep overs, then she wouldn’t have to carry everything around with her in school.
Most times it didn’t take long for the first pillow fight of the night to break out once we had given our thumbs up. They often had those near our front door, although we coudn’t figure out why.
They also told ghost stories most nights. Or more accurately, Ivy told ghost stories while poor Sunny sat on the floor looking frightened. I was sometimes surprised, and more than a little shocked, at the idas our daughter had, but we put that down to the books she read. They were all aged approved, of course, but she had a wild imagination.
I had gotten used to cooking for five again, at least over the weekends. Sometimes, even though she wouldn’t sleep over, Sunny had dinner with us before heading home. We weren’t entirely comfortable with her going home that late, but she assured us it was fine. To be sure we phoned her Mum, but when she also told us that Sunny could come home whenever she was done we insisted on driving her home. It was simply too late for a little girl to be walking home when it was dark, no matter what time of day. Or to be riding her bike home, either way.
That was yet another thing they had in common. Ivy had asked for a bike a little while ago, and while we were thrilled that she wanted to do something active we also didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something she was only going to use once or twice. We bought her a cheap bike, and decided that she could have a better one if she still liked riding it when she became a teenager.
So far, she had been riding it everywhere – to school, to Sunny, she had even taken the occasional ride around town with it when she had nothing better to do.
Of course, it didn’t take long for Sunny to join Ivy. Soon they weren’t walking to ours after school, they were riding their bikes. Soon, Ivy didn’t go on those rides through town alone any more, because Sunny was with her. At first we had worried about the traffic. Naturally, we started paying more attention to it when we were out with the car, and realised quickly that traffic was generally quiet. The only exception was rush hour, and Ivy was home then.
We had also added a swing to our garden. Part of me still felt bad for not having spent more time with Conifer and Pastel when they were growing up, and I didn’t want to make that mistake again.
As it turned out, that swingset had been a very welcome present. Ivy loved it, and spent even more time on it than she did on her bike. Sometimes I or Pine joined her and pushed her, but we were often too busy with our jobs. Conifer was definitely too busy with Lavender now that they had made their relationship official, and didn’t spend much time with his litte sister anymore.
Ivy loved showing her swingset off to Sunny, of course, and we were happy to see that they took turns with pushing each other. There was never any fighting about whose turn it was, they just needed to ask for a swap and they did it. There was never any fighting at all going on between them, really. Not about that, not about anything. They simply always seemed to agree, and when they didn’t they changed the topic. Which wasn’t something that happened a lot.
Then one day, I made a discovery which brought tears to my eyes. Which I managed to swallow back immediately, thank Berry. Ivy was a very compassionate girl. No doubt had she seen a tear in my eyes she would have cried, too.
I was on my way to the kitchen to get started on dinner, when I found Ivy painting on Mum’s old easel. Mum had died when Ivy was still a baby, so no doubt she thought we just happened to have an easel standing around.
At first, I wasn’t sure how to react. No one but Mum had ever used this easel, should I be mad that Ivy was now using it? Without having asked us first, no less?
But then I decided to be happy instead. Pine was a musician, he didn’t have much use for it, and I wasn’t very creative in the same way as Mum had been. I could come up with a new business structure in no time, but I had no idea what the difference was between two different shades of red. I didn’t even know two different shades of red, other than light red and dark red. Pastel was away at Boarding school, and Conifer wasn’t the painting type either, so why not let Ivy use it?
I figured it was better than letting it collect dust.
“What are you painting?” I asked, curious to see how interested she really was.
“Can’t you tell, Mummy?” As I said, I wasn’t crative like my Mum had been, but I didn’t want to tell her that it just looked like some blue something to me, either.
“It looks lovely, sweetheart” I answered, hoping she would be happy with that. “You know, your grand mother used this easel every day. She earned her money with the paintings she created.”
“Oh so… is it okay that I’m using it?”
“Of course, sweetheart. Maybe one day you’ll be as talented a painter as your gramma was, huh?”
“Thanks, Mum!” I didn’t know how long her desire to paint was going to last, but it was nice to see someone wanted to paint at all.
Reading was the one other thing she loved doing. Unfortunately, she wasn’t interested in the books that I wanted her to be interested in, but enjoyed reading fantasy books instead. It was better than nothing, of course, but what was she going to learn from it? I was worried that she was filling her head with impossible things, even though Pine kept telling me not to worry.
Conifer was close to graduating by now. We were so proud of how well he had done that we bought him a small car. It was nothing fancy, but he loved it.
Looking back, buying him that car had been the worst decision we had ever made. But how were we supposed to know?
Every morning, he went around Lavender’s and picked her up. Then they drove to school together, and he’d bring her back home again afterwards if they finished at the same time. In the evenings and weekends she often came around just so he could drive to the cinema with her, or just drive around for the sake of driving around together.
He was a good driver. He had always been so careful.
One day, as I was preparing a business proposal for a company in Champs-Les-Sims, our doorbell rang. Pine knew that I was in my office, so I didn’t get up and kept concentrating on what I was doing.
It was still too early for Ivy to be home, and Conifer had afterschool classes that day.
I was confused when Pine called me over, but I didn’t think anything of it. Even that weird shake in his voice didn’t worry me.
I knew something was wrong when I saw Lil standing in our entrance, eyes blood shot. I turned to Pine and my breath caught in my lungs. Was that a tear in his eye? Was his face wet?
“What’s going on?” My own voice was shaking by that point, even though I wasn’t quite sure why.
“Rosee.. It’s Conifer. There was an accident just outside town.”
I didn’t hear anything else after that. I was aware that she kept talking, but I didn’t hear what she was saying. My ears had gone numb. My body had gone numb. My mind had gone numb. I didn’t know much in that moment, but there was one thing I did know. I did not want to go on any more.
My boy, my son, my Conifer.
He was gone. And there was nothing I could do to bring him back to me.
This is the end of the second generation. In the next chapter, Ivy will be taking over. Before then there’ll be a colour vote for her spouses colour and while I can’t wait to put up the poll I’ve decided to give it a few days to give you guys some time to get used to the idea that Con really is gone 😦