1.41: It Takes a Village

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“Hi Carrick!”

Carrick had stopped by the Community Center to see if any of his friends were hanging around who might want to go fishing with him. It was a bright, early summer afternoon, and Dad had asked him to see about bringing in some fresh fish for the family–a task Carrick had eagerly jumped at. Life had greatly changed at the Meadowstone household since the birth of the quads, and while he didn’t mind helping, nor did he mind the chance to get away from the seemingly endless crying of babies.

He looked down at the little strawberry blonde girl beside him. “Oh, hi Nala.”

“I heard your mommy had four babies,” she stated. Her eyes were round. Her mommy had lots of babies, but never that many at once.

“Yes, she had four. They’re tiny,” Carrick acknowledged.

“Will you show them to me some time?”

“You can go by our camp any time to see them. Ayala would probably like to see you anyway.”

“Oh, ok.”

 

 

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He headed down to the beach toward the tidal pool, looking forward to some peace and quiet. Carefully, he baited the hook and smoothly swung the line into the pool as Shane had taught him to do long ago. Peering into the water, he gently adjusted the tension on the line.

 

 

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“Are you fishing? My brothers go fishing, but they never take me.”

Glancing over his shoulder, Carrick heaved a long-suffering sigh. Nala again. “What does it look like I’m doing?” he sort of huffed. No wonder they never take her fishing; she’s a chatterbox and ought to be playing with her sisters or something.

 

 

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Nala planted her little self right in the sand a few feet away, resting her head on one hand while she prattled away at him. Turning his eyes back to focus on his task, he grunted occasionally and tuned her out.

So much for peace and quiet, he thought.

 

 

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Caring for the new babies proved to be a difficult challenge for the entire family. Carrick volunteered to help out more, although Shane wouldn’t allow him to drop his after-school activities and made sure he spent time helping the kids with their  homework each evening as he normally would. Carrick still made time to help out around the house and in the garden, though. Dad had taught him that taking care of your family was important, and right now Carrick knew the family needed some taking care of.

Shane’s orchard went somewhat neglected, as he too spent quite a bit of time on the mundane chores that Lilith had normally handled.

 

 

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For Lilith, days and nights blurred together. Time was only marked by which baby needed feeding and changing. Feed Annika. Feed Mary Jane. Feed Ashlyn. Feed Lakelyn. Eat. Use the bathroom (bathing was a luxury). By then all four babies needed changing, and Lilith’s energy level tanked as exhaustion set in. She’d collapse in bed for not enough hours, when hungry cries roused her again to repeat the entire process.

 

 

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Shane and Carrick both tended and changed the babies as much as they could, but only their mother could provide the milk they needed when hungry–which seemed to be a near constant state. Breastfeeding one baby was a peaceful, satisfying experience. Breastfeeding four babies was hectic, exhausting; she found herself ravenously hungry nearly as constantly as the babies seemed to be.

 

 

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Daniela, remembering how draining it had been caring for her twins when they were infants, knew Lilith was having twice the difficulty. Not to mention Jace, who wasn’t fully weaned yet–although he would be soon. Mercifully, she was still nursing her youngest son, Abel, and volunteered to help as a wet nurse for the quads as well. She stopped by daily, not only to help with feedings, but often providing general care so that Lilith could catch another hour of sleep.

Kaila supplied potions for energy and nutrition; caring for the quads had become a village effort.

 

 

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Shane was surprised to find the camp quiet when he came back up from the orchard. He peeked in the nursery first, where Mary Jane and Lakelyn were sleeping peacefully, and Jace played with his blocks quietly on the floor. Stealing into the bedroom on quiet feet, he saw that Lilith was reclined on the bed, drowsing with Annika and Ashlyn after feeding them. The sight was heart-achingly sweet. Tip-toeing to the bed, he leaned down to drop a kiss onto her hair. Her eyes blinked open sleepily, and she broke into a smile when she saw him standing next to her.

“Hey baby, how are you feeling?” he asked.

“Better. Tired, but better.” Having fallen finally into a routine–hectic though it was–was helping her find equilibrium again.

 

 

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He gently took Ashlyn from Lilith, settling onto the chair next to the bed. Softly, he hushed and rocked her when she began to whimper. “Sorry kiddo, you’re gonna have to settle for Daddy sometimes,” he told his tiny daughter, watching as her little eyelids drooped again. Looking over at Lilith, he saw the smile still dancing around her lips. “Still want more kids?” he asked.

“If we weren’t holding babies right now, I’d throw something at you.” A low laugh escaped her. “I’m good, Mr. Double Shooter, thanks.”

“That’s Mr. Quadruple Shooter to you.”

She laughed again, then her face turned serious. He could see deep hollows of exhaustion beneath her eyes and cheeks. “It’s a lot of work, taking care of these little ones. I hate that you’re not able to spend as much time in the garden anymore.” She sounded worried. Or maybe just tired.

“Carrick has really stepped up. He’s been a big help, so I can continue helping out with the babies more. Don’t worry,” Shane said softly, shifting Ashlyn in his arms.

It occurred to him that he was going to need to build onto the house again, if he wanted a roof over everyone’s head. Most of the villagers lived in simple tents, and he too had been raised that way. Before the trip to Champs Les Sims when he was younger, he’d constructed a small shelter, which he and Lilith later lived in. While the resources weren’t available to build beautiful homes as the French had done, it nonetheless had inspired Shane to add onto his own shelter, providing much better shelter from the elements. The Riverhavens had followed suit, with Shane’s help, to house their own large brood of children.

 

 

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Meanwhile, Ayala herself was becoming a young woman, and (a little) more of the young lady she’d always touted herself to be. She too helped with the quads, but her interests were more in playing and talking with the Riverhaven girls.

“We’ve got BIG news to tell you,” Natalia said, gesturing dramatically.

Her twin, Nicola, nodded, widening her eyes for emphasis. “Daddy is letting us go to Moonlight Falls with Alastair when he goes.”

“Moonlight Falls?” Ayala asked. “Where is that?”

“It’s so far away, a boat will have to take us,” Natalia informed Ayala.

 

 

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This bit didn’t impress Ayala much. “We’re on an island. A boat has to take you anywhere,” she said, stating the obvious. Nala tittered, but was hushed by a baleful look from the twins. “That’s how that Layla lady went, remember?”

“ANYWAY,” Nicola forged ahead, “we’re going a lot farther than Appaloosa Plains. Moonlight Falls is up in the mountains in a faraway magic land.”

“We’re going to learn the craft,” Natalia said importantly.

Ayala snorted. “You mean like your dad’s wand?”

“Daddy’s a powerful witch!” Nadia finally piped up. “And so is Alastair. Aly wants to study magick craft, and Daddy says we have relatives in Moonlight Falls who can teach us.” In truth, Daniel was worried about the burden he was leaving Daniela with. She was pregnant again, and he was feeling his years; he wouldn’t be around forever. The twins were both exhibiting their powers of witchcraft as well, and since Alastair was going to study in Moonlight Falls and the twins wanted to go too, he couldn’t refuse.

“I wish you’d take your awful brother Dustin with you when you go. He’s a witch too,” Ayala pointed out hopefully.

 

 

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As promised, after the Riverhaven twins finished primary school, Daniel consented to let Alastair take them with him to Moonlight Falls, where they would study the art of magick. Alastair himself had now graduated high school, and would become the twins’ guardian. Fare for their passage was arranged with a ship that now lay anchored off Ouroboros, which, as luck would have it, was on its way to Moonlight Falls. The trip would take weeks, though; to reach Moonlight Falls, they had to cross two oceans, and the merchants would be stopping at ports of call along the way.

“ERMAHGERD! You and my brother did what?!” Ayala gaped and then laughed at the words that had just come out of Natalia’s mouth. “So that’s why Carrick wasn’t home last night. O. M. G.”

“It was just, you know, to say goodbye,” Natalia giggled. “I had to at least try before I left. It was–”

Ayala’s hands flew up. “Stop right there. Ew. I do not want to hear this. That’s my brother.”

Nicola seemed just as surprised. “SRSLY? I mean he’s cute and all. But we’re going to meet  all kinds of exotic men in Moonlight Falls. Magick men. With magick hands,” Nicola nodded emphatically as she spoke, her platinum ponytail bobbing on her shoulder.

 

 

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If it hadn’t been for the fact that two of her good friends were leaving, probably for good, the atmosphere would’ve almost seemed like a party. Everyone was mingling, groups broke up and new ones formed as people moved through the crowd.

“I wish you weren’t leaving.” Ayala spontaneously hugged Natalia. “But I do wish you’d take that brother of yours with you.”

“Dustin? Psh. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you liked him.”

“Gross.” An indelicate snort came from Ayala as she tossed her strawberry hair.

“Whatever. You’ll probably marry him.” Natalia was smirking, and the teasing was really getting Ayala’s dander up.

“Um. No. Really. I can’t stand him. He used to always call me a little girl; I hated that.”

Natalia smirked even harder.

“Well, you were a little girl.”

Ayala nearly jumped out of her skin. Then she gave Natalia a serious death glare. She turned just enough in Dustin’s direction so he could see her turning her nose up at him, then turned her back on him. Gritting her teeth, she seethed at the chuckle she heard behind her.

 

 

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She gave Natalia a hard look. “If you weren’t leaving in a few minutes, I’d kill you for not telling me he was behind me when I said that.” A pause. “Is he gone yet?”

“Nope. He’s staring at your ass.”

 

 

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All too soon, the ship’s horn blew and the merchants loaded the last of their cargo. A last round of hugging followed, some tearful.

“You promise to write when you can?” Ayala herself fought back tears. She hugged each of the twins one last time before relinquishing her friends to their mother. Daniela had tears streaming down her face as she held her children, and even Daniel looked strained as he gave Alastair his last bits of advice and instruction.

The sailors had carried the last of their trunks onto the ship, and stood waiting as Alastair and the girls made their way up the gangplank. The anchor was pulled up, lines cast aside, and the sails unfurled into the morning breeze. The ship’s horn blew again as it pulled away from the dock and began to navigate through the shallow banks on its way out to sea.

 

 

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After Daniel led the distraught Daniela back to their camp, the children ran off to play and the rest of the crowd dissipated. Ayala felt a little sad that her friends were gone. Natalia and Nicola had been closest to her in age than the other girls in the village, and they’d been her best friends for as long as they could all remember. Things just wouldn’t be the same. On the other hand, she was a little envious of the adventure–not that she ever wanted to move away from the island! But it would be fun to travel.

Walking down the beach to the tidal pool, Ayala let her hair down from its clips and flopped down in the sand. Maybe she could visit the twins in Moonlight Falls one day. Magick men. With magick hands. The thought made her smile. Maybe the gods will send me one of those, someday.

“I didn’t realize you disliked me so much that you wished I’d leave the island.”

 

 

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She closed her eyes against his voice, the irony of the thoughts she’d been having slapping her in the face. Not that magick man, sheesh.

“And yet here you are,” she said blandly.

“What is it about me you can’t stand so much?” He sounded faintly hurt, although she couldn’t imagine why. Kiddo…wands aren’t for little girls. Was that really all she didn’t like him for? Thinking about it like that, she guessed it didn’t seem exactly fair.

“Because you kept calling me ‘kiddo’ and ‘little girl’,” she said evenly. “That’s why.”

“Well I’m sorry. You were a little girl.  But you’re not anymore,” he said. “Clearly.”

“Clearly,” she agreed, allowing a trace of haughtiness back into her voice. She stood up, brushing sand off her dress, and Dustin unfolded himself from the lounge chair he’d been sitting on. She hadn’t noticed how tall he was.

“For that matter, I wasn’t much older than a kid myself back then. Cut me some slack.”

Another point taken. He certainly wasn’t a kid now. He’d graduated high school the same time Alastair had, and Alastair was old enough to be given guardianship of Natalia and Nicola.

 

 

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“Alright,” she said finally. “I’ll cut you some slack.” Glancing out over the sea, she saw the sun was getting low in the sky. She’d be needed at home. She usually watched the quads while Mom cooked dinner. “Well.” She let out a breath. “It’s getting late. I need to get back to camp.” When he nodded, she turned and headed for home.

 

 

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Notes & Outtakes~

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You saw Ayala as a teen in this chapter. Jace also aged up into a child. I feel bad, the story has kind of glossed over him a lot. He’s a pretty content kid, though. Little cutie, too.

 

 
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And also, Daniel’s twin girls just aged into teenagers and they are STUNNERS! Too bad they’re moving to Moonlight Falls. Since they only appear in this chapter as teens and will be moved out of the story,  I’ll get them posted on the Downloads page tomorrow.

 

 
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And for comic relief: This has GOT to be the WORST age-up transformation I’ve EVER seen. This is how she aged up. Seriously. I didn’t touch her. But I’m about to bust out some CAS on her anorexic ass. Dayum. Honey chile, this is gonna take awhile!  It’s Rhea Swift, second daughter of Maru and Kaila. Gah. I think I just peed my pants laughing. This will definitely go on the bloopers page that Sunny’s inspired me to make.