Only Forever

Page 15

Chapter 6
Bet – a passive aggressive way to let someone know how you feel without actually telling them
“You owe me five bucks,” Ashlyn says and holds out her hand to Juniper as I enter the town hall for the monthly business meeting.
“What are you talking about? I never bet you five bucks.”
One of the favorite pastimes in Winter Falls is gambling. The residents will bet on everything. Personally, I believe betting is a dangerous habit, but when I suggested banning the practice, I was nearly kicked out of town. I’m serious. They took a vote, and I barely survived.
“Yeah, you did. You said Lilac was too chicken to show up at this month’s town hall meeting.”
Juniper snorts. “I would never. Lilac has a strong sense of community. I knew she would show up. A typical middle child really.”
“Actually, a middle child usually has less of a sense of belonging,” I point out. “Although I do not subscribe to pseudo-psychology claiming birth order has an effect on personality development.”
If I used words such as hogwash – which I don’t – I would refer to the whole ‘middle-child syndrome’ as hogwash. I refuse to believe being the third child in a family of five affected my growth.
“Also, did you forget you’re a middle child, too, Juniper?”
There are five of us and since Aspen is the oldest and Ashlyn the youngest, there are three middle children. Ellery, myself, and Juniper – in that order.
“But you’re right smack dab in the middle,” Juniper contests.
“And yet we loved our baby girls equally,” Mom says as she arrives and plants a kiss on my cheek. She winks at me, too, but I’m not clear as to why. Is it a secret she loves all of her children? She’s not doing a very good job of hiding her secret in that event.
“Except I gave you a grandchild first, so I’m currently your favorite,” Ellery says as she arrives with her fiancé Cole and their baby Willow.
“Give me,” Mom says but doesn’t wait for Ellery to comply before stealing her grandchild away from her.
“I may not have given Mom a grandchild,” Aspen says and pain flashes in her eyes. I file away the information for later. “But I’m the oldest, which means I’m the favorite.”
“Please, I’m the favorite because I’m the youngest. They stopped making children after I came along because they had found perfection,” Ashlyn claims.
“Or we were too tired to have sex with five small children running around,” Mom claims.
Ashlyn feigns gagging. “Ugh. Stop. No talk about your sex life. Especially not in front of the baby.”
“You brought it up.” Mom shrugs. “Besides, I’m fairly certain Willow doesn’t understand what we’re talking about.”
Ashlyn ignores Mom, “Anyway, I’m having a baby and giving Mom a grandchild, too. I definitely win this round.”
Her husband, Rowan, arrives and throws his arm around her shoulders before kissing her hair. “Life’s not a contest, Dream girl.”
“Yes, it is. And I’m winning.”
I’m not sure how life as a contest would work. Do you win because you have the most money? The most children? You die old? Life cannot be a contest. The parameters are undefined.
“What are we talking about?” Lyric asks and interrupts my musings about how contests should be properly defined.
I point to Ellery. “She thinks she’s the favorite because she was the first daughter to give Mom a grandchild.” I point to Ashlyn. “She thinks she’s the favorite because she’s the youngest and pregnant.” I point to Juniper. “She’s being quiet because she’s missing Maverick.”
“The house feels empty without him,” Juniper mumbles.
“And Aspen—"
Aspen coughs. “He didn’t ask for a play-by-play.”
He asked what we were talking about. I’m not sure how my answer is wrong. I study my oldest sister and the way her fiancé is cuddling her. She has black smudges under her eyes indicating she hasn’t been sleeping well. She’s also being quieter than usual.