Haley started laughing while her Aunt Vickie was brushing her hair. "I'm so happy," The seven-year old declared.
"Why are you so happy, little miss?" Vickie pulled Haley close.
"Because Mommy and Daddy are bringing home my baby sister today."
"Yech, babies." Solomon made a face where he was sitting on the floor, reading a book. "All they do is eat, sleep, and poop."
"Solomon." Vickie gave her son the look.
Haley gave her friend an imperious look down her nose. "Just because you are too boyish to like babies doesn't mean that they aren't cute and tiny."
"And your baby sister is perfect, I suppose." Solomon challenged.
"Of course, she's a Cayce. And she's my sister." Haley turned her head when she heard the front door open. "They're here!"
Jonathan Cayce held the door open for his wife Katherine as she carried their new daughter into the house. He had to laugh as he saw his older practically jumping for joy as they came in.
"Getting a little antsy that we wouldn't get here soon enough?"
Haley smiled and held out her arms to be picked up. "I couldn't wait for Katie to come home so we could show her the nursery she's got."
"Haley, do you want to hold her?" Katherine asked as she got out of her coat while Vickie was holding and cooing at the new arrival.
Haley's eyes got big. "Yes, Mommy!"
"Well, then sit on the couch."
Haley did as she was told. Her mother arranged a few pillows around her, and taking the baby from Vickie, placed Katie in her big sister's arms.
"Hi, Katie. I'm your big sister Haley." She told the baby, looking very solemn. "I'm supposed to look out for you and protect you like big sisters do. But I'll do it because I love you." Haley leaned slightly to kiss the baby's forehead.
Jonathan put his arms around Katherine. "I guess we don't have to worry about them not getting along."
- 2 -
"Mommy!" Katie woke from the dream she was having.
Katherine and Jonathan ran into Katie's room.
"What is it, baby?" Katherine pulled Katie into her arms as Jonathan went on the other side of the bed.
"I had a bad dream."
Her parents looked at each other over her head.
"What was it about?" Jonathan asked gently.
"I dreamed that Haley went away and never came back." Katie looked her Dad in the eye.
"Katie, Haley did walk in the woods and go missing." Katherine told her as she smoothed her hair away from her face.
"No! That's in my dream." Katie violently shook her head as her parents tried to hold her.
Katherine and Jonathan both heard someone banging on the front door.
"Who could that be at this hour?" Katherine scooped up Katie to follow Jonathan downstairs.
Jonathan answered the door to find some of the village headmen there with a fur-covered bundle. He moved out of the way as the men placed the bundle on the sofa.
"What have you brought?" Jonathan asked the men in the local dialect.
"Your girl." The village men turned around and left the house.
Katherine and Jonathan looked at each other before he went to unwrap the bundle.
"Be careful, honey." Katherine set Katie down in the rocking chair, then moved to help her husband.
The bundle moved.
Jonathan jumped back, slightly afraid of what the men had brought into the house.
"Mmmmm." A sound came from inside the furs.
Jonathan uncovered a face, and then nearly wept for joy. "Haley!"
Katherine joined him in uncovering their sleeping daughter. "Haley, wake up, please!"
Haley opened her eyes. "Mom, Dad. I'm sorry I went into the forest."
"That's okay, baby. You're home now. That's all that counts now." Jonathan assured her as he sent a look to his wife.
Katie scooted out of the rocker and knelt down by her sister. "You came back."
"I missed you Katie." Haley hugged her sister as her parents got her into a sitting position.
"I dreamed you never came back." Katie looked at her sister with wide eyes.
"I'll always come back. I swear." Haley held out her pinkie to Katie.
"Pinkie swear?" Katie linked her pinkie with Haley's.
"Yeah, pinkie swear."
- 3 -
Twelve-year-old Kate walked into the house after getting out of school early. "Mom, are you here?"
"Come in the living room." Kate heard someone say from another room.
Kate followed the voice to the living room. She walked in on her sister Haley and Haley's boyfriend Solomon sitting on the couch. Solomon's parents, who were friends with Kate's parents since their own college days, stood by the window.
"What are you all doing here? I didn't know you were visiting Mom and Dad." Kate looked at her Uncle Alexander and Aunt Vickie.
"Katie, something has happened." Haley stood to look her sister in the eye.
"Where's Mom? She's usually here when I get home from school." Kate was getting confused.
Alexander moved towards Kate. "Kate, there's been an accident."
"What do you mean? Mom broke her leg or something?" Kate was starting to get a very bad feeling.
Haley took hold of her sister's hands. "Kate, look at me. Mom and Dad went out for a lunch date, and there was a car accident."
"Now Dad can't get mad when you put a dent in the car." Kate snickered.
"Kate!" Haley squeezed her hands. "Mom and Dad were…" Her voice choked.
Alexander stepped forward. "Kate, what your sister is trying to tell you is that your parents were very badly hurt in that accident, and they didn't make it." He tried to break it as gently as possible.
Kate looked at the adult. "No, Mom is going to come home and make dinner in just a bit. She said this morning that we were going to have pork chops and mashed potatoes." She looked at her sister. "She promised."
Haley's façade crumbled as she held out her arms. "Oh Katie, they're gone."
Kate fell into them and wailed "No!"
- 4 -
A week later, Haley and Kate were faced with some decisions on how they were going to live their lives.
"Kate is going to come back to New Jersey with Solomon and me." Haley turned to each of her aunts and uncles and dared them to defy her.
"Of course. Your parents didn't want it any other way. Now that you are an adult. They stipulated that in the codicil to their wills." Alexander Zond took Haley's hand. "They didn't want you two to be broken up."
"Did I hear the lawyer right? On the insurance money?" Haley was still trying to process the dollar amount the lawyer had told her earlier.
"Yes, and if you sell this house, you and Kate could live comfortably for the rest of your lives." Paul Taylor put his arm around Kate.
"But it won't bring them back." Kate stated in a very small voice.
Paul pulled her even closer and kissed her hair. "No, it won't." He looked at Alexander before asking the question. "Do you want to live with Haley and Solomon?"
Kate turned her head to smile at him. "Of course."
Alexander nodded. "We had to ask that, Haley."
Haley smiled. "I know. We all have to agree on this. Now, how does one go about selling a house?"