Sort of a sequel to 'Shapes in the Clouds'- read and review!
It was a long six months for Rachel Rafter, in New York City, the complete other side of the world as her family. But there were only smiles when she returned for Christmas, come December.
But then there were those fateful words.
"Mum… I'm going to stay in New York. Eighteen months, max".
Julie had cried- it had been just so long, since she last saw her daughter. It didn't matter that they all gathered around the computer at least once a week, seeing her face on Skype. It wasn't the same as talking to her face to face.
So her brothers made a decision, three months into the eighteen Rachel planned on staying in the big city.
"Mum, we're going to New York", Ben announced, marching into his childhood home.
"What?" Julie spun around to find her sons smiling at her.
"We're going to New York and taking Ruby with us", Nathan informed her. At the mention of her name, two year old Ruby glanced over from where she was quite happily playing with her dollhouse.
"Would it worry you, having all your children across the world?"
"God help us all", Ted mumbled, glancing at his grandchildren with a small smile on his face.
"We've talked it over with Dad, he says it's okay". Ben shrugged, grinning at his brother and lifting Ruby to his hip. "What do you say, Rubes? Wanna go and visit Rachel?"
"Ray-cel!" Ruby giggled excitedly (Ben and Nathan had taught her how to say their big sister's name, as a surprise Christmas present for the blonde- but the little girl hadn't quite mastered the 'ch' sound yet).
"Dave!" Julie bellowed, and Dave stuck his head in the back door.
Both boys had to admit, it had taken a lot of convincing. A lot of their mother umming and ahhing over what could happen.
(Ben didn't make it any better, at mentioning that they were going to allow Ruby to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty with them. Julie had turned ghostly pale, and Dave had said in amazement, "Can you even do that?")
But it was the day before they left that they sprung the big surprise on their mother.
"Mum, why aren't you packed?" Ben said in surprise, marching through the house and ruffling Ruby's curls. "We leave tomorrow!"
When the boys mentioned that they were taking little Ruby overseas to visit Rachel, they forgot to mention that their parents were coming along for the trip.
Rachel, in New York, was ecstatic. She'd planned their itinerary, completely forgetting about work for the ten days they were going to be there. She had plans to take them all over the big city she called home (temporarily, she assured her mother)- a Broadway show, FAO Schwartz (chosen especially for Ruby- and the children inside her brothers that she knew was still there), the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Rockefeller Centre… all the things that she had been in awe of upon arriving in the Big Apple.
And of course, she had scheduled a day in Central Park with her brothers and baby sister.
"Wow", Ruby cooed in awe, clutching Ben's hand.
"It's big, isn't it?" he agreed.
(And that was just the airport.)
"Ben, don't let go of her hand!" Julie warned.
"I know, Mum".
"Nathan, take her other hand".
"I've got her other hand, Mum".
"Where's Rachel?" Dave wanted to know.
But his question was soon answered, as the squeal came from a distance. Running towards them, Rachel scooped Ruby into her arms and kissed her father's cheek, wrapping an arm around her mother.
"You're here! You're in New York!"
"Ray-cel!" Ruby giggled excitedly, smacking an open mouthed kiss to her big sister's cheek.
"Hey munchkin, hey Benny! Nathan, I can't believe you guys are here!" she laughed, trying to hug them all at once.
"I can't believe you kids, schemers!" Julie laughed, tearing up a little.
"Turned on the waterworks", Nathan teased.
"Come on, we'll get a cab back to my place. Its not the biggest- and when I say that, I mean Mum and Dad get my bedroom and we get the living room- but its home for now".
Her little apartment was nothing like the house she had grown up in- even though the older three had complained how cramped it was, they would consider it a mansion after ten days in her apartment.
"So, what's tomorrow, Rach?" Ben wanted to know, shifting Ruby onto Nathan as they crammed into the back of a cab.
"I was thinking about a tour of the city, maybe. Show Mum and Dad Rockefeller Centre and Times Square- I'm totally taking you guys there at night, its awesome- and I've bought tickets for Wicked in a few nights- you'll love it, I promise. We're taking Rubes to Central Park and FAO Schwarz and the Central Park Zoo".
"I still can't believe you kids planned all this". Julie shook her head.
"I can't believe you didn't pick up on it!" Dave let out a laugh. "Those two aren't exactly the sneakiest of all people in the world!"
Julie just laughed.
"I thought we were pretty sneaky", Nathan mumbled.
"I'm so glad you're here, guys", Rachel said sincerely. "Even Benny".
"Thanks, Rach". Ben laughed, punching her gently on the shoulder. She smirked at him over the top of Nathan's head, poking out her tongue.
Rachel had promised them a packed ten days, and she wasn't joking. She was up long before any of them even thought of crawling out of bed, escaping to get breakfast for her family.
Bagels, cream cheese and smoked lox. The tradition New York City breakfast.
(Just picturing their faces made her laugh, when she set down orange fish in front of them.)
"Hey, guys, you've gotta get up!" she urged, poking Nathan with her toe. "Oi, Ben! Get up!"
Smacking both of them with a pillow, she marched into the room that was hers.
"Mum! Dad! Rubes! Get up!"
Ruby was the first one to open her big blue eyes, blinking sleepily from the mattress. "Hi Ray-cel".
"Hey munchkin!" she held out her arms and her little sister groggily made her way over, stumbling a little. Brushing back her dark blonde curls, Rachel carried her into the kitchen.
"Look, they're still asleep!"
Ruby giggled. "Silly boys".
Finally, she was able to lure the four sleeping out of bed with the temptation of breakfast, setting down the bagels in front of them. There were complaints from half of them- Ben and Nathan were adamant that they were not eating orange fish- but in the end they all at least tried it.
"Its pretty good", Ben admitted.
"What's the first stop?" Dave wanted to know.
It was that one sentence, those four words that started Rachel's duty as a tour guide. She took her parents and siblings around her favourite spots- Times Square (with the promise of returning at night), visiting the theatres on Broadway (showing her mother the theatre they would be visiting in a few nights), the Statue of Liberty and Rockefeller Centre.
Three days into their tour, Dave and Julie politely told Rachel that, while they loved the company of their four kids, they would love the chance to explore the city.
And Rachel started to panic.
"Mum, Dad, I want you to be careful, alright?" Rachel lectured, hands on her hips. "It doesn't matter how long you've been here, New York isn't like Sydney".
"So who's the parent, darling?" Julie teased gently, and her daughter softened a little.
"Sorry. Just be careful, please?"
"We will be, princess". Dave smacked a kiss to her cheek and she smiled at them.
"Just call me, if anything happens, alright? I'll bring Ruby and the boys back here and come straight to where you are".
"Nothing's going to happen, Rach", Nathan assured his sister.
"And even if it did, do you really think that we're going to miss out on it?" Ben's eyes twinkled and both Dave and Julie hit him. "Ow, ow! Holding your child here!" he pointed accusingly at Ruby, sitting cheerfully on her big brother's shoulders.
"Look after her", Julie told him.
"We will, Mum".
"We're all meeting back here at three, alright? We're going out tonight; I've got tickets for a show. Wicked, you wanted to see that when it was in Sydney, Mum!'
But heavily pregnant and on bed rest with Ruby, the tickets had been a non-event.
"We'll be here, darling", Julie promised.
Bearing Rachel's spare key, the pair set off into the city, Rachel watching worriedly.
"You're too much like Mum", Nathan decided. "Are we going or not?"
"Let's go". Rachel grinned, closing the door behind her.
"Oh my God", Ben whispered excitedly, as they neared the store with the famous soldiers out the front.
"It's huge!" Nathan laughed.
"I knew you wouldn't believe me". Rachel laughed- she had spent absolutely hours in FAO Schwarz, looking for the perfect birthday and Christmas presents for her little sister.
Standing outside the front of the toy shop, Rachel swore she could see her brothers- aged twenty five and twenty three- morphing into eight year olds.
"Guys, we aren't actually going to buy anything, alright?" Rachel warned, as her brothers glanced around the first floor. "Not if we're going around Central Park, we'll come back later. We aren't lugging stuff through the park".
"You sound like Mum", Ben grumbled.
(Right then, Rachel giggled, Ben sounded very much like his eight year old self- and she had to admit, she sounded like their mother.)
"Let's go to the top floor", she suggested, pointing them in the direction of the giant floor piano. The three older Rafters had seen the movie Big, in which it had been made famous, and Rachel had always wanted to see the real thing. Coming to New York had given her the chance- and then there were her brothers and sister.
As usual, there was a line- but it wasn't long before Ben, Nathan and little Ruby were tapping away on the keys, Rachel laughing with her camera. Turning around to face a worker, she asked politely, "Would you mind taking some photos?"
So she too joined the three of them, dancing along and giggling with Ruby.
"Where to next?" Ben wanted to know, a smile still plastered on his face, as Rachel retrieved her camera.
"I'm going to frame this one", Rachel replied instead, showing them a photo. All four were looking at each other and laughing, the keys lit up under their feet.
"Central Park- and frame me one too". Nathan grinned and Rachel glanced at him in surprise. "What? How often are we all going to be in New York?"
She made the decision to have them printed out and framed- five copies, one for each of them and one for their parents- before they left for Sydney.
"Central Park", Ben repeated, and Rachel led the way, holding Ruby's hand.
It was only a short walk to the huge park, and Rachel smiled as she saw her siblings look around in awe.
"Central Park", Nathan whistled and Rachel grinned, watching their little sister's eyes light up.
"Want to go and see the Alice in Wonderland statue, Rubes?"
"Yes!" she squealed.
"See, I knew reading her the classics would be a good move!" Nathan smiled at his own thoughtfulness and Ben snorted.
"You read her Jane Eyre. She was five months old".
"At least I read to her!"
"I read her a story every time she comes over!"
"It's the same story!"
"Does Ruby notice? I think not!"
"Ben! Look!" Ruby cried, tugging her brother's hand. "Ray-cel, Nafan!"
"What is it, munchkin?"
Ruby pointed to the clouds above them. "It's a doggy", she said clearly.
Ben, Nathan and Rachel exchanged glances, thoughts of the famous Alice in Wonderland statue forgotten. With smiles on their faces, they lay down on the grass, their four heads touching in the middle, staring up at Ruby's doggy.
"Look at the clouds, Rubes!"
"I think that one looks like a piece of pizza".
"Rach, why is it that's the only thing he can ever see?"
"Because he is a piece of pizza".
"She's not kidding, Benny".
"It's a fower!"
"Where's the flower, Rubes?"
The four Rafters were lying on the grass, staring up at the clouds, like they had done in their Sydney childhood park.
Time had passed and they had changed, but there wouldn't be a time where any of them weren't content with lying in the grass, searching for shapes in the clouds with their siblings.