"Once upon a time, there were four girls, their father, and a dog riding out to a place up in the Berkshire Mountains," Skye Penderwick said, winking at her sisters as the family sat around the campfire and grabbing her Fiancée's hand. "They were upset, because the dog in question had eaten the map. But only because a certain someone had put her sandwich in it. So the family was lost."
"The girl hadn't meant to put her sandwich in it," Batty cut in. "She didn't want to hold it anymore so she put it in there for safekeeping. But, finally, after a certain someone threatened to kill the girl who put the sandwich in the map-"
"-but only because it was all her fault that they were lost in the first place," Skye interrupted.
"Jeffrey says Aunt Skye has a bad temper. Like in the story. And it's usually about Auntie Batty, too. Or Missy Tifton," Lizzy said importantly.
"Jeffrey!" Skye protested, turning to face the man whose lap she resided in.
"It's true, darling," he answered calmly.
"The four girls, weary and tired, finally made their way to an enchanted tomato stand," Jane said dramatically.
"I don't think it was enchanted," Rosalind put in, laughing. "It was just old Harry. He told the girls directions and they went on their way. First left, quick right, then look for number eleven."
"You remember the directions after all these years?" Jane asked, face alight. "That's truly a memory of love and-"
"After a bit more of that, in the car, the girls pulled up to a giant castle," Batty cut in, hugging little Claire tighter as she looked around in wonder at her three sisters.
"It wasn't a giant castle, it was just a regular size castle," Skye said quickly.
"You're just touchy because you live there now," Batty said sharply. "The place is giant. And Jeffrey was in the front window, remember? Jane was the only one who saw him."
"And Skye said he was imaginary," Jane said, sniffing. "He clearly isn't."
"Well I know that now," Skye said, sounding wounded. "Now he's mine."
"Oh, God, stop with the mush!" Rosalind said, groaning. "And yes, Jane saw him first."
"But I met him first. By almost crushing his skull," Skye argued.
"Yes, that hurt. Let's not do that again." Jeffrey smiled. "And Jane came to apologize. That was funny. And then you burned up the cookies."
"Auntie Batty and I played firemen last week," Lizzy said seriously. "We pretended you burned the house down when you tried to make lasagna like last weekend. It was fun." Skye blushed furiously.
"So after the girls pulled into the driveway," Rosalind said, getting them back on track, "they saw a boy. With a Red Sox hat and gardening gloves. His name was Cagney." Rosalind turned a little pink. "He talked to the girls father about the cottage they were supposed to be renting. He told them it was down the road a little ways and that it was yellow, and the key was under the mat."
"How do you remember all this?" Batty asked incredulously. "I only remember Hound barfing up the map and hiding behind a tree when Cagney tried to talk to me!"
"That's the only part you were concerned about," Skye reasoned. "I remember that it was all over Jane's yellow sneakers. And Rosalind took forever getting the paper towels."
"Ew." Lizzy said faintly.
"Yeah, it was gross," Rosalind put in. "And then when Cagney came up I was holding vomity paper towels, and I was sweaty and gross and very embarrassed."
"That I can believe," Batty said, smiling. "And I remember thinking the house was made of butter when we pulled up it was so yellow!"
"And Hound drew for order and didn't pick me first," Skye grumbled.
"You got the best room!" Rosalind protested.
"Please, can we get on with the story?" Jeffrey asked, exasperated.
"So the girls opened the door and their father immediately claimed the sleeping couch off to the right," Rosalind went on smoothly. "And Skye called dibs on first pick of room."
"But the other girls said it was unfair and made their 'trusty' dog Hound draw for order," Skye grumbled. "Which was completely unfair seeing as Hound hated me and I don't understand why it was always him when we could pick out of a hat!"
"Oh, hush," Rosalind scolded. "You got the best room anyways."
"So Hound drew names, and the girls picked their rooms," Batty went on.
"The first girl had a beautiful room with a sloping ceiling and-" Jane started, closing her eyes.
"We'll skip this part," Skye said quickly. "All you two need to know is that one of the rooms was big and white, one was in the attic and the other two had connected closets."
"I used to call it a secret passageway," Batty said, smiling. "Now I know it's nothing like that at all."
"You used to get your wings caught on hooks trying to get through it when you were tired," Rosalind laughed. "And I had to get you out before you fell asleep like that."
"Speaking of falling asleep…" Batty trailed off, smiling. Little Claire was snoozing in her lap.
"I remember how fast you used to nod off," Rosalind got up. "It's time for bed anyways. Come on Lizzy, it's bedtime."
"But Mommy!" Lizzy protested, jumping off the log she was perched on and running around the grass. "I'm not tired!"
"Too bad," Tommy told his daughter, scooping her up and throwing her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. "Off to bed!" Lizzy squealed as they made towards their cabin.
Skye grinned. Nothing had changed. Nothing at all.
I just love this story. This is a oneshot… FYI. It might seem like I'm going to continue, and I might if asked by enough people, but I'm kind of swamped with other stuff. But yeah, this is just about how they're older and they're still best friends and Arundel influenced their lives so much and they're telling their children.
Well. I hope you like it. Review (if you're not too busy!)