Hattie, Lissa, Fern and William stood on the station platform again, just as they had the day before when they had met for the first time in ten years. Unlike last time, when the station had been filled with the hustle and bustle of families and the platforms crowded, it was deserted, silent and eerie. The time had come to part, at least until the next meeting. It was guaranteed that each of them wanted to get together as a family again. They wanted to have something normal and ordinary in their lives; family seemed like the only steadfast choice in this matter.
Whistles blew loud and clear, echoing off the surrounding buildings and causing a flock of swallows to take flight.
"I'd better be going. This one's my train. Don't want to miss it, however much I want to stay with you guys." William smiled half-heartedly at his sisters.
"I'll miss you. It's been fabulous getting to know you again. We'll start arranging our next outing as soon as possible." Fern hugged William as tightly as she could, breaking away with a cheeky grin. William couldn't help but return her grin.
"Yeah, I'll help Fern to organize another time and we'll let you know about it as soon as possible." Lissa reassured, "You're an amazing brother, don't forget it. I love you so much," and with that Lissa kissed him on the cheek and went over to where Hattie stood.
"Is this one yours Hattie? It says it's going to..... You live there don't you?"
"Oh!” Hattie looked at the train in shock. "I didn't realise it would be here this soon. I better be going too."
They all hugged and kissed and hugged each other. They had exchanged mobile numbers the night before so they promised to text each other when they had safely returned home.
Lissa and Fern waved with such vigour and enthusiasm that it felt as though their arms might drop off. William and Hattie waved back until they could no longer see their siblings in the distance.
Once the trains had disappeared Fern and Lissa began to walk from the train station to the bus stop they had disembarked at yesterday morning. It was time for them to return to Lauren and Timothy’s house. If they didn't begin their journey home soon Lauren would begin to get worried.
Each sibling, save Lissa and Fern who sat together, was seated in a train carriage alone. The only thing waiting for them at the end of their journey were people who had been assigned to care for them ten years ago when Cassia and Joey had departed from their lives.
Hattie sat with a crossword puzzle in front of her, chewing mechanically on a stripy lilac pen. It was peculiar, Hattie thought, how she had never really missed her siblings before even though they had been living together as a family for nearly eight years since William had been born. It was only now when she could associate with them more that she had begun to long for their chatter, their laughter and their jokes which had been constant throughout the whole reunion.
Already the trip seemed a world away from her real everyday life. Hattie reached for her mobile phone, ready to text Lissa to see what she and Fern were doing but Hattie restrained herself, knowing that they probably didn't want to reply to her texts when they might be trying to get over the powerful emotions that being reunited as a family had drawn up; drawn up from a lake that had seemed drained and empty for such a long time but was now beginning to fill up again. Instead Hattie put her headphones in and zoned out from the world and from reality for the rest of her journey home.
William sat alone in another train carriage, on a train carrying him away from Hattie and in the opposite direction to that of Fern and Lissa. He was listening to the Foo Fighters and reading the first part of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It was a much better book than he had ever given it credit to be and he felt slightly ashamed of this fact.
William's mind began to wander and he shut the book. He realised he wanted to stay in Warwick with Fern and Lissa and Hattie. He didn't want to go back to the children’s home. It was a horrible dingy place with stupid kids who fought each other or wailed constantly for their parents who wouldn’t be coming back to retrieve them. He knew he had been like that but his parents had been good parents, they hadn’t really abandoned him like these kids parents had. None of this was exactly his idea of a good day.
It had definitely been one of the best and most exciting events in his life to see his siblings again. Wouldn't it be perfect if they could have a meeting like that every month? William felt as though he needed to re-learn everything they enjoyed and did so that they could feel and act as proper siblings did. It was a miracle he'd survived so long with so little knowledge about Fern and Lissa and Hattie who had cared for him so much when he was growing up. William laid his head against the window of the train carriage and stared at the scenery, at the countryside whizzing past in a blur of green.
Fern sat beside Lissa. She thought of Hattie and how she had always been there when they were younger to take care of them and give them everything that they had needed; how she had been the rock in their lives to prevent them from slipping into the sea. Hattie had looked fine, she had seemed elated to meet them, but Fern thought she had seemed much happier with life in general after they had met and been together for the day.
The same went for William. He had come looking depressed and gloomy and fed up with his life and everyone who was in it. It couldn't have been very nice in the children’s home, she thought. Fern know she would have hated it and would never have been able to stick up for herself. Fern thought William was extremely brave and courageous. She knew the day had done him some good as he had left them looking refreshed and ready to face anything. Fern wished he would be able to cone and live with her Lissa, Isabella, Lauren and Timothy. He would be very welcome whenever he wanted to visit. As for Lissa, Fern thought, glancing sideways at her twin sister who was sitting with a sketch pad in front of and looked to be drawing a very detailed furry cat. She seemed to be more whole and stimulated for life in general, increasingly motivated to be alive. Lissa had always been relatively happy with Lauren and Timothy so that hadn’t changed but it was something to do with her knowledge that she had loving siblings who wanted her for who she was and because they were related. Fern thought that this had caught her imagination and she wanted to build on that and live purely to develop that relationship.
Lissa sat with the sketched on her lap and a pencil in hand. Fern was thinking of their trip to Warwick, she could tell by the twin-shipness they shared and the unusual telepathic way Lissa could sometimes tell what Fern was feeling or thinking. Feeling. Ferns’ thoughts mirrored Lissa thoughts and strayed down the same or at least a similar road. Hattie, oh she missed Hattie and couldn’t wait to meet up with her again. William was the best brother ever and it would be great if she could help him to solve the problems he was facing at the children’s home and in his personal life. Fern seemed pleased with the whole re-union and she was definitely happier, less withdrawn and hidden away from everyone. The reunion had definitely helped her and made her emotionally open up to her siblings.
The following week Hattie sent a letter to her siblings. It had details about where it would be nice to meet and when they should do it. September seemed like the guaranteed month from what Hattie had written and from the conversations that had occurred during their visit to Warwick together. Lissa and Fern immediately began to plan activities and decided it would be fun to collect a scrapbook of photos of their time with Lauren, Timothy and Isabella as well as information about themselves. If they photocopied the pages both Hattie about William could have a copy to remind them of Lissa and fern and what they enjoyed to do the most. It was something siblings ought to know about each other anyway. Especially when the youngest was eighteen and had no idea what his siblings enjoyed or did in their spare time.
That evening Lissa and Fern sat down and they began to make the front pages with their names embossed in gold gel pen straight away. Finally the Princeton siblings could learn to act like proper siblings.
Ten years apart had definitely been way too long.