Tag Archive | character: evangaline


Written to an anonymous prompt, with nods to kelkyag’s prompt.


“Evangeline, what is WRONG with your sugar?”

There were too many people in Eva’s kitchen.

“Aunt Eva, where do you keep your star anise?”

“What do you need star anise for, Bellamy Jane?”

“Her middle name isn’t Jane…” Continue reading

The Uncle re. an Aunt

First: Visiting the Family
Previous: The Powers that Be

Uncle Willard let Eva’s words hang in the air while he opened up his sun porch to them and brought in a pitcher of cold lemonade.

There was something like a ritual to it, the clean glasses, the glass pitcher, the cold, sweet-tart fresh lemonade. In the winter, it woudl have been tea. Their family had things that they did, and they all did them more or less the same.

The thought made her smile, her lips just starting to curl up as Willard answered.

“I think Asta was a changing of the guard. She had a lot of things she did. None of them, well, were any use to me, but I think they might be of use to this nephew of yours.” He sat back in an old armchair and lounged, looking at Rosaria and Eva over his lemonade.

Eva wasn’t fooled by his nonchalant glance. This, too, was a test.

She was growing a little tired of tests.

“Let’s see. Asta left Aunt Rosaria free to pursue a different path, one that involved a family, which places Aunt Rosaria as the tale-teller. That’s not a small thing. She let the older generation get complacent, because she let them push her around, and yet, if you read her diaries, she was supremely good at doing what needed to be done, when it needed doing.

“So she wasn’t holding on to as much power, probably – the legacy has a feel to it, you know, and she passed down a smaller part of it. Then again, the whole thing about the legacy is that it comes from the family, and that’s been changing in the last few months.” Eva took a breath. “But Asta holding less of it left more of it in other hands.” She lifted her chin. “Do I pass, Uncle Willard?”

He laughed, cheerfully but with an edge. “You’re an Aunt, all right.”

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The Deck, the Fire, the Art – a story of the Aunt Family for my summer Giraffe Call

Written to kelkyag‘s prompt(s) here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

Okay, this story references or is after several stories, so here goes:

This is where the divination deck originally showed up – 1st story in the whole series.
This story and then this one introduce Adam.

Wild Card comes immediately before the one below.

This is the Finish-It Bingo referencing Wild Card.

Kathleen remembered.

She did not, often, these days. In her more cognizant moments, she thought she might prefer it that way. There was so much to remember, after all, and, like holding a lighter and forgetting what you meant to set the flame to, a half of a memory could be dangerous.

Tonight she remembered. Her niece — her sister’s granddaughter, and that sort of thing was what you never forgot, because the family lines tied everything together — had turned over an ancient card in a game that was supposed to be innocent, and everything had come flashing back.

Adam, her cousin Adam, and the other one… what was his name? She remembered the wounded look in his eyes, the way he held himself as if expecting a fight. She couldn’t remember the name he had worn. But he and Adam had sat under the tutelage of aunts and grandmothers, just like — and yet completely different from — the way Kathleen and Ruan, and, much later, Rosaria, had all done.

She remembered Adam and the other one telling a story. Their eyes, she seemed to recall now, were on Ruan. There was fire in their voices, and their fingers moved across the page, brush and pencil telling as much of a story as the words.

“And he looked so fun,” Adam admitted, while the other one sketched. “He looked like a clown, or some sort of joker. Not the make-up, just the smile. I saw… I saw her looking at him.” He faltered, and picked up the paint brush.

The other one cleared his throat and let Adam take over the drawing. No, not a drawing, a card. They had been making a divination deck under Elenora’s guidance, and they’d grabbed one of the blanks to make their story. “It wasn’t that she looked at him. There’s lots of looking, at a carnival like that. She went to him.” He swallowed. Kathleen remembered the look of calculated risk in his expression. He needed to tell something. He just wasn’t sure it was a good idea. “And I saw it, all the times it had come before.”

Lightning flashed, and Kathleen was back in the present, staring at her niece. Her niece, the Aunt. She cleared her throat. “We’re going to be seeing him again,” she whispered. “I hope we’re ready this time.”

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Even a Locked Chest Must be Unlocked – a story continuation for “Finish It” Bingo.

After A Locked Chest is Locked for a Reason, a story of the Aunt Family. To the Finish It! Bingo.

If it weren’t for the angry cat sitting on top of the chest — currently in the form of a juvenile marmalade tom — the chest would not have stood out in the Aunt’s attic. This corner of the attic, furthest from windows, chimneys, and the two entrances, was stacked to the roof with such chests, leather-clad and metal-bound, each of them locked and the keys all hung on a ring downstairs. Aunt Eva had been cataloguing and numbering them, one giant chest of diaries at a time.

Beryl studied Radar. She’d started thinking of him as her cat, foolish as she knew that was. He was an Aunt cat, and she was not the aunt.

“Can I move the chest?” she offered. “By the handles, I mean. Or on a cart?”

Radar bristled again, and then settled down, grooming every bit of his fur straight, all without answering at all.

Beryl knew from experience that fur-smoothing could take hours if not the entire day, depending on exactly how ruffled Rader felt, so she headed to the far corner of the attic for a cart.

The Aunt-house attic was something to behold, even after Eva had been sorting through it for the last few months. There were boxes in here labelled in years that began with 18—, their contents not so much detailed as broadly described. “Vases, from church picnic,” one read. “Caution: May be cursed,” read another box. Beryl avoided that one; anything an Aunt thought deserved a caution was not something she wanted to mess with casually.

“This chest isn’t labelled ‘danger’,” she pointed out to the still-grooming Radar, as she dragged the cart over to the chest. She’d grabbed a pair of silk gloves from the open box by the near stairway, and pulled those up to her elbows while she waited for an answer.

None appeared forthcoming. Radar was working on a tricky bit by his tail and didn’t even glance at her.

Beryl touched the handle of the chest; nothing changed in neither chest nor cat. “How do you know, then? g’Aunt Sarah’s been gone for, um, a while.”

Once again, Radar ignored her. Beryl picked up the chest carefully, both because you never knew how the trap-charms might be lain and because Radar was not moving from his perch, and moved it onto the hand-cart. “This is going to be a bumpy ride,” she warned him. “Um.. Hold on?”

Getting the chest to the stairs was the easy part, and Radar rode along, giving off the air that he meant to never speak again, just an ordinary cat, look, another bit of fur loose. The bumpy part came when Beryl carefully let the hand-cart down the stairs; Radar slid towards the back, shifted position without looking at Beryl, and kept grooming himself. He did the same thing as they went down the back stairs into the kitchen, where he leapt off onto the table.

Aunt Eva looked up. “Beryl, honey, I told you to bring those down a handful at a time, not a handcart at a time.”

“I know, Aunt Eva, but Radar, here, is bound and determined that nobody except you should handle these diaries. He nearly took some flesh off.”

“I barely tapped you,” Radar answered primly. “Evangeline, these books are not for childish consumption.”

“Who are you calling a child?” Beryl glared at him, no longer feeling like indulging his little tantrum. “Besides, you said only Aunt Eva should touch them!”

Radar groomed his face for a moment. “Nobody should read them. But, since the diaries of each Aunt should be read by the new Aunt, Eva must.” He looked out the window. “Bad things happen when the diaries are not read. They exist for a purpose.”

“I know that, Radar.” Eva gestured at the piles of diaries that they’d been cataloguing for months. “That’s why I asked Beryl to go get Aunt Sarah’s books.”

Radar’s tail swished angrily. “Beryl should not read these.”

“All right, all right. I tell you what. I’ll start on these while Beryl finishes up on Aunt Asta’s stuff. But if I decide she can read it, Radar, then she’ll read it.” She picked up the cat, who seemed to be getting larger the more uncomfortable he got, and held him up until she was looking him in the face. “Do you understand?”

Radar tried to stare her down, the more fool he. Finally he glanced away, as if looking out the window. “You won’t. But you’re the Aunt.” Suddenly, he was twisting and squirming. “Put me down, woman. I’m not some kitten you can manhandle like a toy!”

Eva was laughing as she set him down but when her eyes met Beryl’s, she’d gone solemn again. “You heard the cat. You get working on Asta’s early journals, and I’ll see what’s so exciting about Aunt Sarah’s stuff. All right?”

Beryl wasn’t going to win this argument. “All right, Aunt Evangeline.” She drew her aunt’s full name out like some sort of formal title, as if Aunt Eva wouldn’t have known she was sulking without some obvious cue like that.

As was probably completely fair, Eva ignored her to turn her focus on the chest. Beryl, a little embarrassed by her sulking, tried to focus on Aunt Asta’s journals, but she kept peeking up at Eva’s progress.

Aunt Asta as a young woman — pre-Aunthood by quite a while, and should Beryl be keeping a journal, too? Eva was deep in concentration over the chest, a crystal floating over the lock and one more held over each front corner. If the chest was booby-trapped, now was not the time to ask her about — well, anything.

She had gone to fight in the war! Well, to “support the war effort,” but the women of their family were fighters rather than supporters. The family had been against it. Of course. Beryl made a face at the pages and the grannies-who-had-come-before. Even Chalce was having trouble with that. Family stayed close, until it was time to split. Never mind that Berkeley had the program she wanted and wanted her in return.

Aunt Eva had the chest open, the crystals put away. You never knew when a nosy neighbor might stop by. But she hadn’t moved from her seat on the floor; she was holding the old book carefully, squinting at the handwriting.

“Aunt Boo’s journal has a cantrip for reading better,” Beryl offered. “Journal three, the blue one… what?” Eva had glanced up at her, not quite meeting her eyes. “You’re blushing.” Aunts didn’t blush! …did they?

Eva cleared her throat. She looked away, took a sip of tea, and cleared her throat again. Even old Aunt Sarah’s books couldn’t have been that dusty. There were cantrips and embedded charms for that, easy ones.

“Ah. Well… it appears…” She looked around the room, so Beryl looked as well. Radar was nowhere to be seen, and no grannies or cousins had snuck in. They were alone in the kitchen.

Eva took another sip of her tea. “It appears that Aunt Sarah has a very active life. And she was, um, quite detailed in her descriptions.” She glanced down at the page, her blush darkening. “I wonder how Radar knew.”

“I was there when Asta opened them.” Radar strolled in, tail high and looked as if he’d never had his little freak-out. “And Elenora. So you see?”

Beryl held her breath. She didn’t even know if she wanted to read Aunt Sarah’s dirty diaries, but complaining that she was old enough to would just prove that she wasn’t.

Eva glanced down at the diary and sipped her tea again. “I do see,” she agreed slowly. She looked up at Beryl and winked. “Annd… once she’s done properly cataloguing Asta’s journals… Beryl should read them as well. There are preconceptions about Aunts that I think it’s best she lose early on.

Radar’s tail fluffed up and his back started to arch. He shook himself, although his tail stayed puffed out like a chimney brush. “As… you… say,” he grated out.

It probably wasn’t kind to laugh at him, but Beryl’s hand was still stinging from where he’d smacked her.

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Wild Card, a story of Aunt Family for a very old Ladies_bingo card (@wyld_dandelyon)

This is written to [personal profile] wyld_dandelyon‘s prompt to my “Wild Card” square of this [community profile] ladiesbingo card from 2014.

Aunt family, rather early on in Eva’s story, I think.

It was a quiet evening, a Friday on the edge between autumn and winter. There was a fire roaring in the wood stove – their family liked to do things old-school when they could – and the lanterns were all filled and ready. Nights like this, the power liked to go out, and if there was one thing the family as a whole agreed on, it was that being prepared was far better than cursing the darkness.

Especially considering the darkness had a tendency of cursing back people like them.

Eva was playing cards – gin rummy, a relatively safe pursuit – with one of her older aunts. Aunt Karaleen had celebrated her hundred-and-third birthday just a few months ago, and while nobody would ever say one of their family was going senile, she did tend to forget what decade it was now, and she had a habit of wandering combined with the family’s trademark stubbornness. About the only way to keep her in one place for any length of time was to entertain her, and tonight was Eva’s turn.

Eva pulled a card from the pile and glanced at it. “Oh, this isn’t supposed to be here.” The joker on an ancient wild card grinned back at her. “I don’t even think it’s from this deck.” She dropped it into the discard pile.

Aunt Karaleen chuckled throatily. “Oh, him? He never shows up when he’s supposed to. But now you’ve seen him, you’ll be seeing him again.”

The lights flickered and popped as the neighborhood went dark. Karaleen laughed again. “See? And now we’ve called him. It will be a long winter, mark you, and fruitful, but not one of us will forget it.” Something strange and sad took over her voice. “Not even me,” she whispered.

Is there more
Aunt Family
in the cards?

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Happy Inter-Universal Women’s (Week): Eva and the Tarot

to [personal profile] kelkyag‘s prompt here:Eva and the opinionated tarot deck.

It was a quiet night.

“Too quiet,” Eva muttered to herself, making her voice ominous and over-dramatic. It was silly… and it was begging trouble. She did it anyway.

Her nieces and nephews were all off doing whatever it was they did. Her aunts and great-aunts and assorted other older relatives were all off doing whatever it was they did. Her sisters and cousins were all probably taking a breath, just as she was.

Except she exhaled carefully over her most difficult deck and drew a single card.

The queen of pentacles looked at her upside-down. Eva glared at the card, and it glared back at her.

“This is my job,” she informed the deck, but a guilty pang in her chest told her otherwise.

The Aunt was not usually employed, but Eva was not trying to be a normal, usual Aunt.

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Chocolate Fudge for the Holidays, a drabble of the Aunt Family

Evangaline was making chocolate fudge for the high school holiday bake sale.

In a normal house, in a normal family, this would be a nice, sane, normal activity.

In a normal house she probably wouldn’t be using her great-grandmother’s recipe, written out on an old index card, likely by her grandmother or her mother. Or she might, but she might not be using her great-great-aunt’s measuring spoons, the ones that had a tendency to yell at you when you were going to put in too much of just about anything.

And if she hadn’t been using her great-grandmother’s recipe, she wouldn’t have been grinding cinnamon sticks and dried cayenne peppers by hand, nor what she have been putting in a tiny drop of devil’s tears or the shake of pixie dust.

Her family’s fudge always sold out, no matter how many trays they made. “It just makes the holidays more magical,” Mrs. Steinberg down the street liked to say, with a wink and a laugh that suggested she, too, kept her great-grandmother’s recipes wrapped in silk and boxed in ivory and ironwood.

Evangaline always made sure to get an extra helping of Mrs. Steinberg’s chocolate babka, too. It made the holidays feel… proper.

And maybe a little bit more magical.

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The Powers That Be, a continuation of Aunt Family (@kelkyag)

First: Visiting the Family
Previous: Still in the Family

Rosaria found herself watching, much as she did with children, much as she had done as a child. She’d angered Evangaline, and she didn’t blame the girl at all for that. They did tend to meddle, the older women in the family. They spent so long being young, chafing under the meddling of those older than them, and then they were old, and found themselves meddling.

The truth was, they had, Rosaria and her peers, grown old with Asta as Aunt. They knew Evangaline was stronger, they knew she was different, and none of them knew what to do about that.

Watching Willard and Evangaline, Rosa was coming to another understanding.

“I’m proud of you.” Willard thumped a hand on Evangaline’s shoulder. “For what that’s worth.”

She grinned at him, a wide and open expression. “I’m pretty proud of me, too.”

“You’re not one that didn’t dodge the bullet, are you?” He smirked about it, the way nobody who lived in the family did – at least not where women Rosaria’s age could see. She remembered – she wondered if her peers remembered – being that age, and sniggering about things when their grannies were away.

“Oh, no.” Eva’s chin lifted. “I’ve known for a long time.”

“I wonder what Asta thought about that, mmm?” Willard’s eyes were twinkling. It had been years since Rosaria had seen him – but it had been decades since she’d seen him smile like that.

“Well, from what she told me…” Evangaline shifted, putting her weight evenly on both feet. “I think she was relieved. She always knew she was a place-holder, you know. She always knew she wasn’t the actual power of the family in her generation.”

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Warm Visions and Warm Family, a ficlet of the Aunt Family

I asked for Non-Addergoole Prompts here; this is to [personal profile] kelkyag‘s prompt.

The Aunt Family has a landing page here.

The day before Thanksgiving was, by family tradition, a day spent at the Aunt’s house, cleaning, prepping food, and getting everything ready for the feast the next day.

It was two things notably: It was a day where the family chose to ignore all gender distinctions, and work as if everyone was one, and it was a day in which the Aunt of the family was expected to sit back and not do any heavy lifting, metaphorically, metaphysically, or literally.

Eva was, thus, hiding out in her kitchen, with Beryl and Stone, who were ostensibly sorting the cocoas to help Beatrix & Janelle make cookies. But, since they were sorting cocoa – and since Everyone Knew either Beryl was going to be the next Aunt, or they were going to have to throw everything on its head and let Stone be an Uncle, they were making cocoa, and talking to their Aunt Eva about scrying.

“So, there’s a whole bunch of things going on.” Eva swirled her cocoa and finished the last of the milk, leaving a long ring of grit at the bottom. “The first is simply focusing the Sight in a convenient medium – the cocoa. The second is the feelings you’ve got about doing something. So.” She focused on the swirl, and smiled as she saw a cozy family scene around the big fireplace in her living room. “Cocoa tends to tell you warm, happy things. See?”

She passed the mug to the brother-and-sister team, and watched their faces light up as each of them sent their Sight into the grit. This was going to be a generation to watch, indeed.

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How the Family Does Things, a story (continuation) of Eva/Aunt family for Kelkyag

To [personal profile] kelkyag‘s commissioned continuation of Older Witches, etc.

Aunt Family has a landing page here on DW and here on LJ

Evangaline modern-era. After Unexpected Guest, Followed Me Home (LJ), In the Cards (LJ),
Big Bad Witch (LJ), Frog Pancakes (LJ)
, and Older Witches.

The boy in front of her – the teenaged young man in front of Eva – was licking his lips drumming his hands on his lap. “This is what we’re going to do.” She leaned forward a little, just enough to read as serious as possibly. “There’s a second place on the property. Technically, it’s on my sister’s land, a cottage. And since my sister is a happily married matron with a passel of kids, she isn’t going to be the sort of person people raise eyebrows at.”

Robby blinked at her. “You’re – what? Giving me a place to crash when it gets bad?”

“I’m giving you a place to live. Rent-fee until you graduate from school, and then we’ll negotiate.”

“A place to live? He stared at her, mouth open. Eva waited. He was, to all reports or at least the words between the lines of the reports, a smart guy. He’d put all the pieces together. “What about my dad? I mean, I’m still a minor. He owns me until I’m eighteen.”

Now, Eva allowed herself to smile. “I am a witch, dear. I’ll have a nice long quiet talk with your father, and he’ll sign the appropriate paperwork, and then I’ll talk to the judge, and she’ll sign all the right papers.”

“You can really do that? I thought all the witch stuff was like… dancing naked under the full moon and, I don’t know praying to the Horned God or something, reading the Tarot cards.”

“Only on weekends.” She smiled, and let him guess if she was joking or not. “Yes. I can get that done. It’s not that hard, and even excluding the witch stuff, my family has quite a bit of power in this town.”

“But…” He shook his head. “Why would you do that for me? Because you want to… no. Girls don’t do that.”

“Girls don’t, but women sometimes do – actually, you’d be surprised at the girls in my family. And witches… but that’s beside the point.” Eva smiled. She couldn’t help it; she was having fun with this. “I’m not doing it because I think you’re attractive.” She’d nearly said cute. Cute was a high-school girl word, and that wasn’t quite the impression she wanted to be giving right now. “I’m doing this because you intrigue me, and I don’t want to see you stuck in an untenable situation any longer than you have to.” She took a breath. “And since I’m the Aunt of this Family, I say that right now is as long as you have to be stuck there.” She stood up. “I’ll go have that talk with your father…” The pause wasn’t quite dramatic. She didn’t really want to worry him. “If you like the plan.”

“I… I mean, yeah. I will totally take a place to live that isn’t my father’s roof, but I mean, you can really do it? And you really will? And you won’t get in trouble with your family? The old lady here, she was… I mean, sorry, not to speak ill of the dead, but she was sort of a pushover.”

“We have those, every few generations. That’s not me.” And now she knew the other reason she was doing this. “That’s not me at all. They gave me this house. If I say It Shall Be Done, it freaking shall be done.”

She half-expected thunder. It was the sort of line that really deserved thunder. What she got instead was the boy looking at her, his jaw dropping a little.

“You’re a little bit scary, you know that?”

She smiled, showing all of her teeth. “That’s the idea.” She leaned back and let the smile relax into something more casual, more friendly. “That’s the secret, Robby, the one they don’t want you – anyone, really – to know. The family is supposed to be scary. We’re supposed to be intimidating – the Aunt, at least.”

That wasn’t something the Grannies had told her, and it wasn’t something Aunt Asta[Check] had told her, either. Robby was right – Asta had been a pushover.

The Grannies liked pushovers, and that was something Evangaline was coming to learn was not just a function of their particular branch. Every Granny everywhere had some feeling that they should have been the Aunt, would have been better as the Aunt. And every Granny everywhere wanted a piece of the power.

She cleared her throat. Now was not the time to wool-gather, not with a worried, nervous boy sitting in front of her. “That’s a story I might tell you another time. But, yes. The goal of the family has always been that our Aunts a wee bit terrifying. Because human fear is a much more potent weapon than anything else we could wield.”

She’d wool-gathered long enough that he’d collected himself. “So, um. Are you planning on scaring my … the old man? Because he’s not scared of anything?”

She let the sharp-edged smile come back. “Oh, no. Him, him I was planning on hexing. It’s a lot quicker, and it does, as a side effect, tend to lead to nice amounts of fear.”

Robby swallowed. Had she gone too far? Well, if he bolted, she still knew where he lived – and quite a bit more about him, too. “Okay. Okay, you’re really scary. But if you’re for real…”

“I am.”

“Then… yeah. As long as it won’t, you know, cost me my soul or anything.”

Eva smiled. “We hardly deal in anything as banal as souls.” And here was hoping he never found the exceptions to that rule.


It wasn’t as simple as she’d made it sound, of course – nothing worth doing ever was, and she’d determined this was well worth doing.

First, she had to convince her sister that the Spare Cottage should be used for its intended purpose, in this case for Eva’s specific intended purpose.

That took three cups of expensive coffee, a fruit basket, and an agreement to wiggle things a little bit with Chalce’s Calc teacher, who was being insufficiently intimidated by a family of witches and insufficiently concerned with Chalce’s college prospects.

THEN she had to actually clean out the Spare Cottage, which hadn’t been used for anything like its intended purpose in well over a decade. To her surprise and gratification, not only to Robby stop by, upon seeing her airing out the place, and help her haul out the family junk and dust out the cobwebs, but all three of Hadelai’s older children – Beryl, Chalce, and Stone – stopped by to help as well.

It surprised Eva, although perhaps it shouldn’t, that none of the children mentioned Robby’s split lip – and that none of them hassled him, in any way, about moving in that close.

Indeed, she caught Chalce giving him a speculative look, once – she was pretty sure Robby missed it – which immediately turned guilty when she noticed Eva watching. She gestured in the family hand sign for “all yours,” which amused Eva more than anything, and nothing at all was said on the matter.

So. Interesting to note that particular deviation from family tradition.

Once they had the Spare Cottage cleaned out, then they had to refresh all of its everything – linens, food, in some cases furniture – which led to an argument she also hadn’t been expecting, with Robby.

At the rate she was missing things she should have been anticipating, Eva was thinking she might want to hang up the Aunt hat and let a more capable witch handle things.

Robby, it turned out, did not want anyone spending money on him. “I already owe you enough. I don’t want to owe you anything else.”

Eva, whose family used money-spending as a benign weapon, could both understand the feeling and simultaneously be offended by the suggestion that she was doing that.

It turned into a shouting match in the middle of Sears, a shouting match which Beryl delicately defused. “Look.” She slapped down hands on both of their shoulders. “We’ve got to get the Spare Cottage up to snuff. It’s a shame that Aunt Asta let it go like that – but Aunt Asta didn’t like people. But the couch is still sound, right? Look, slipcover. We can buy a new couch later.”

Eva sat down on the couch, defeated and not entirely sure it was a bad thing. “All right. It’s a nice slipcover. Robby?”

She was the Aunt. She was supposed to be in charge.

Robby flopped down on the matching chair. They would have looked really nice in the Spare Cottage, with its view of the wisteria and magnolia out its living room window. “Slipcover makes sense.” He looked from Beryl to Eva, with a flash of something that looked as defeated as Eva felt. “I don’t need vases, though.”

“No, I can imagine you don’t.” She patted the couch, and offered the closest she could to an apology. “I’ve lived in Family houses my whole life. Never had a chance to buy furniture.”

“That explains that couch.” He grinned at her, and she could tell the worst of the shouting was over. “Maybe you ought to buy this for you.”

Eva couldn’t help but grin back. “Nah, if I buy something for the house, it’s got to have a sofa bed built in.”

“That house has, what, seventeen guest rooms?”

“Four. Five if you count the Florida Room, and six if you count the former stable-keeper’s apartment over the barn. But the house has to be able to fit most of the family, if not all of it, at one time.”

“For, what?” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “The dancing around naked part?”

“Well, mostly baby showers, bridal showers, weddings, funerals, and garage sales. But the naked part, too.” She shot Beryl a smile. The kid was good with this.

In the end, they ended up with more than Robby was really comfortable with, less than Eva felt was reasonable, and enough that, should a family member pop their head in, the house would look as it was supposed to.

In something that didn’t seem like a compromise but seemed to placate both Beryl and Robby, they also bought a new spread for Eva’s bed, a new chair for her living room, and a new tablecloth for the grand family table in the dining room.

Afterwards, they sat in the mall Olive Garden, eating far too many breadsticks and looking at each other in a thoughtful triangle.

“I figured it would be Chalce.” Beryl popped a breadstick in her mouth, finished it, and continued as if she wasn’t dropping bombs. “Or Lillian or Hazel, maybe, one of the far-cousins.”

“Hazel’s your cousin?“ Robby chose that to pick up on, of course. “She’s…”

Pneumatic, gorgeous, beautiful, Eva filled in.

Sometimes, it seemed, her niece was more attentive than she was. “Boring. Mundane?”

“Yeah, exactly.” He paused, breadstick halfway to his mouth. “Wait. You figured it was Hazel who what?”

Beryl’s smile had a lot in common with Radar’s, right then. “Who’d hook you into the family. What?” She looked between the two of them mock-innocently. “It’s obvious he’s Family material.”

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