"Rhys, try to understand." She said softly. "My father has been thrown in prison for tax evasion, because the accountant he was using didn't do his job properly. Papa is livid, and he's so old and frail now, I really worry about his heart!"
Rhys snorted. "Bianca, your father..."
"I know you and he have your differences, but he's my father! And these are my brothers. Someone has to take care of them, Antonio and Claudio are not old enough to live by themselves. Claudio is in constant trouble, I am at my wits end with him! And Papa blames your cousin for his tax predicament, unfairly!" She hastened to add as Rhys opened his mouth to defend Reilly's actions. "I'll admit it's unfair of him, but he doesn't want you or your cousin anywhere near this house, let alone you living here with us! Just give us a little bit of time to straighten things out, it'll all work out, you'll see."
Rhys grumbled. "More time Bianca? How much more time should I give? Our daughter is already a teen, we should be living together as a family!"
Bianca smiled apologetically at her brother Antonio, who was caught rather unhappily in the middle of this argument since he was the one who had accidentally brought the touchy subject up. "For us Rhys, this is barely a drop in the bucket of time. We have years and years and years, you said so." She reminded him when he went to interrupt.
"I did not think you would use that against me." Rhys said irritably.
"Rhys, my father is a sick man, and he's been unjustly accused of tax fraud! His health has been declining recently, and now with him in prison, he may even die there! I just can't deal with this, and you too. I have to be there for my family."
"I am your family too, Bianca." Rhys said harshly. "Remember? This argument is going nowhere, the same as our marriage it seems." Rhys ignored Antonio's shocked "You married him Bianca?", but instead turned on his heel and stormed off. He ignored Bianca's calling out his name as well, and shrugged off her hand.
Rhys was in no mood to hear it, he was done with the conversation. All he ever asked for was some consideration in her future plans, but Bianca had always put her father and his needs over everything else. Rhys just didn't know how much more of it he could take.
He went off in search of his daughter, at least she still loved him and wanted to be with him. Today was also a holiday, and he was hoping to spend some time with her. He finally found her in the Town Square, but she was talking to someone and didn't even see him.
Rhys frowned. Who was that punk kid that was talking to his daughter? Was that Bob? Nah, it couldn't be Bob. Bob was a sniveling, snot nosed brat that Manda had complained endlessly about. It couldn't be Bob. Could it? Manda giggled just then, at something the punk said, and the punk laughed. The punk dared to move in closer to his daughter. Rhys frowned some more. He was already in a sour mood from his argument with Bianca, and he felt his mood sour even more. He didn't like the looks of this situation, it was time to make his presence known. Rhys stalked towards his daughter and the punk.
"Who's the punk Manda?" Rhys demanded to know.
Manda jumped. "Daddy! You startled me! Bob isn't a punk Daddy. You remember Bob, right? Bob, this is my Dad, Rhys."
Rhys bared his fangs at Bob. "Do you value your life punk?" Bob stuttered. Rhys snarled, "Well, do you punk?" Rhys pointed angrily at him. "I'm talking to you, is anybody there?"
"Daddy!" Manda protested, but Rhys ignored her.
"Yeah, yeah, I do!" Bob finally answered.
"I don't like the look of you punk." Rhys said coldly. "Your pink skin, your beady eyes, those nervous twitches of yours, and worst of all, you're a Younan. I don't want you any where near my daughter, do you understand me?"
"I mean it Manda! I don't want you wasting your life on this punk!"
"Dude, chill out, I was just talking to her."
"He does want to die."
Manda groaned. "Daddy, would you stop! You're totally embarrassing me!"
"I want you to stay away from my daughter, is that clear punk?" Rhys demanded.
"Yes Master, don't whip me Master." Bob said insincerely, with a roll of his eyes.
Rhys looked at the punk again. Yep, he meant it.
Rhys growled, low in this throat, and his fangs came out. He was going to kill himself a punk. "Well, Bob, it was really nice talking to you!" Manda said brightly. She grabbed her Dad's arm. "Come Daddy, didn't you promise to take me out to eat? I find that I am quite famished!" Rhys resisted her tug, his eyes were glued to the punk, who only now seemed to realize the precarious situation he had placed himself in. Manda tugged harder. "Come on Daddy, don't do it. I'll never forgive you if you do." Rhys grunted, and allowed his daughter to lead him away, but he kept his eyes on the punk, willing him to do something stupid.
The punk was nervously backing away, to Rhys disgust. Rhys finally tuned in to what his daughter was saying. "Honestly! I have never been so humiliated or embarrassed in all my life! Whatever were you thinking?" Manda sighed heavily. "I'll never be able to show my face in school again! I'll be a social pariah because my Dad is a psychopath."
"I'm hardly that." Rhys defended himself.
"What would you call it?" Manda demanded. "How can you hold someone's looks or even their last name against them? What were you thinking Daddy?" Manda was at a loss, she had never seen her Dad become unglued like that. And on poor Bob. She had really liked Bob, but he would probably avoid her now.
I was thinking of Corrine, Rhys longed to say, but he held his silence. Corrine was lost to him, and no one knew that she was his daughter. Manda would never know she had a sister.
Lia was bored with playing spaceman with her siblings. She left Cedrela and Alder to their alien talk.
She jumped on her bike, and pedaled off. She loved the feeling of the warm sun against her skin, and the air that would whistle around her ears when she sped down the tall hills.
She didn't have a particular destination in mind, but just cycled around the town. The sound of loud voices, caught her attention. She could see cousin Rhys being half dragged away from some boy by Manda. Lia really liked Manda. Manda was nice to her.
Lia almost pedaled away, but then she stopped, and stared. She had to get a closer look. She settled her bike against a nearby tree, and fluttered closer. "Hello!" she said, a little shyly.
"Uh, hello there."
"My name is Lia, well, Camellia, but everyone calls me Lia. What's your name?"
"Claudio." the boy responded with a smile.
"Claudio." Lia repeated. "That's a lovely name."
Lia looked up at him with stars in her eyes. "I'm going to marry you when I grow up." she announced.
Claudio smiled at her, but didn't laugh, his eyes sparkled though. "Really Sprite?"
Lia nodded her head enthusiastically. "Uh huh. You are the most beautiful boy I have ever seen."
Claudio scratched his head. "Well, I've been called many things in my life, but beautiful is not one of them."
"I just have this feeling." Lia said sagely. "We're going to get married." She grinned at him, then she surprised him by poking his arm. "Tag! You're it!" She started to flutter away.
Claudio watched her, bemused, then shrugged. He had nothing better to do, why not play tag with the sprite? Maybe he could make at least one person happy with him.
The hours passed by quite happily for Lia, and Claudio discovered that he had enjoyed himself as well. Lia was quite the chatterbox, he thought ruefully, and had chattered nonstop. She loved a good prank, whether she pulled one on him, or he pulled one on her.
He had accused her of cheating at Tag, to which she had laughed. "You're just jealous that you can't make yourself smaller." He couldn't argue that, there were many days when he wished he could disappear. It had been nice to just play pretend for an afternoon, pretend that his life wasn't a mess. That his father wasn't the Kingpin, the great Puppet Master, still trying to pull everyone's strings from within his jail cell.
Lia buzzed around his head. "You can't catch me!" she squealed.
Claudio smiled. "Careful Sprite, I could squish you."
"Nuh uh." she said in a sing song voice. "You won't hurt me. I'm going to be your wife, and we're going to have lots of babies!"
Claudio shook his head. "Oh yeah, I forgot about that part." He smiled to himself, cute kid. He didn't think he had ever been the object of some little girl's crush before. He knew it wouldn't last, so he didn't bother to tell her not to pin her dreams on him.
Challenge Notes: I sent Rhys away from the house, to go see what his daughter was up to. And there she was flirting, with a Younan! Olga's branch, not Layla's branch. Coming on the heels of his fight with Bianca, Bob chose a bad time to be a smart aleck. Rhys was not amused, lol.
Lia has her first crush. She's a bit on the precocious side, so this ought to be fun...