Six: The Beginning

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"Gentlemen, I wash my hands of this weirdness."

~Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End


"So, uh, come on in," I say, stepping over legs on my way up to the porch. I unlock the door, feeling a wall of awkward pressing against my back.

I go inside a little ways before turning around.

Three pairs of brown eyes stare back at me.

Eloise, the oldest, is wearing a sweater vest. A sweater vest. I can't hide the cringe on my face. She has a tentative smile on her face, but I can tell she's just being polite.

Jemma, the middle child, is a mirror of my exact expression. Horrified. Her dyed blue hair is tied back with a spiked ponytail holder and her arms are folded tightly across her Metallica T-shirt. At least she has good taste...

And then Dusty, the youngest, is shooting a gap-toothed smile across the room, bouncing on her pink light-up Sketchers.

Aimee towers behind them, glaring at me.

"So," I say, spreading my hands out before shoving them in my pockets. "You guys want something to drink? I have water...and...sparkling water. Without the sparkle. So basically just water."

Aimee runs her tongue across her teeth, which is incredibly menacing considering I'm imagining that she's wetting her fangs before ripping out my throat.

"Girls, this is your Aunt Beverly," she says evenly.

Eloise steps up first and shakes my hand. I've already got her figured out: a goody-two-shoes who is probably an amazingly bossy big sister. "I think I remember you from when I was little," she says.

" were a really ugly baby, but it seems you've grown out of it. Thank goodness."

Jemma lazily shakes my hand and doesn't say anything.

Then little Dusty nearly explodes with energy and hugs my legs so tight I think my knees are going to break. "Hi Aunt Beverly! I don't remember you, but your house smells like cinnamon and old socks!"

I cautiously pat her back. "Yeah, well, Yankee Candle was having a sale on that exact scent, so I couldn't resist..."

Aimee clears her throat. "Do you have a room for the girls or did you just set up a tent made out of canvas in the backyard?" she asks.

"Oooh, are we camping?" Dusty cries.

Jemma puts a warning arm around her shoulders.

"Uh, no, pssh," I scoff. "Puh-lease, I spent all week decorating the rooms for these...precious...little angels."

Aimee lifts an eyebrow. "We'll see about that."

"Be my guest." I gesture towards the stairs. The girls waste no time in taking off to explore.

Aimee cuts her eyes at me before following them.

I head up the stairs too, satisfied to hear the squeals coming from the girls.

"Jemma! Eloise! My room has so, so, SO many sparkles!"

"No way! Vintage china?!"

"Is this rhino wearing shades?"

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