House of Shards

Six orphans. Two Annas. One family. Annabelle thought she had family covered- raising five siblings wasn't easy but she did it anyway... she just never expected a sixth. Anabel's arrival cracks Annabelle's world in half, but it's both of them who have to learn that you can't outrun your blood- and what it really means to be a family. *A short story for the Salvage competition*

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11. Chapter 11

I'm lying face down on my bed with Anabel sitting cross-legged beside me when someone walks in. Abby's tentative voice asks,

"So how did it go?"

I groan. "Badly."

"We're sorry, Anna," Jen says. "We didn't exactly make this easy on you- it was hard enough for you to go meet your father."

"It was useless anyway," Anabel adds, earning shocked stares from the others, who, I remember, haven't heard Anabel speak as much as I have.

"She's right." My voice is muffled by the duvet. "You guys were right."

"No, we weren't. You have a right to know him."

"Now I wish I didn't know him."

"What did he do?" It's Rob's voice this time.

I sit up properly. "Well, he decided that I wasn't fit to look after Anabel, then demanded she go live with him."

Alan whistled lowly. "The perfect father-daughters reunion."

"Tell me about it."

"Are you gonna see him again?" It's Ella, with Mia clutching onto her hand.

"I don't know," I say honestly. I look at Anabel. "Do you?"

She shrugs. "Do you?"

"I just asked you that."

"I know, and now I'm asking you that."

I roll my eyes. Suddenly, the doorbell rings. "I'll get it," I mutter.

When I finally open the door, I feel like slamming it shut again. "What are you doing here?"

It's Joseph. "Look, that didn't go as well as it should have. Your my daughter, we need to talk about this."

"I can look after Anabel," I tell him firmly, "probably better than you can."

"She needs to be around her own family, Annabelle. The only person in this house related to her is you. How will she feel growing up in the house of her half-sister's half-siblings?"

"I'm pretty sure she likes them more than you."

"That's not true."

"Actually, it is," Anabel's voice comes from behind me. "I don't know you."

"You're my daughter," Joseph says.

"So is Anna," says Anabel. "Why don't you ask her to live with you, too?"

Everyone, including the rest of my siblings (the presence of whom I've just noticed) goes silent. I scoff.

"Sure, why not? Come on, Rob, Jen, Alan, Abby, Jake. Let's all go."

Joseph looks uncomfortable. "They're my siblings, too," I state. "Like Anabel."

"They're not my children."

"But they're my mother's."

"Annabelle, don't-"

"Don't what? Remind you that my mother moved on? That her existence didn't end when you left her? Did you bother, even once, to call her? Because I know that you knew about me."

"I was young, Annabelle. I wasn't ready for a family."

"So what makes you think you are now?"

Rob steps in. "I think you should go," he says.

Joseph just shakes his head. "I tried," he says.

"You should've tried to be a part of our lives without trying to take Anabel from me. I only just got her."

"Goodbye, Annabelle," he says, and he walks away, except I don't know which one of us he's talking to.

I let out a deep breath as Rob leans over to shut the door gently.

"Well, that was intense," Jen says.

"Do you think we'll see him again?" Anabel asks.

"I don't know," I say.

"Can we order food?" Jake asks.

"Chinese or pizza?"

"Pizza."

"Thai."

"Thai wasn't an option, Rob."

"I still want Thai, though."

We have a little stare-off until I finally turn to Jen. "Are there any good curry places?"

"Hey!" the boys cry.

"Anabel?"

"Curry sounds good," she says meekly.

"Ella?"

"Personally, I'm in the mood for a kebab."

Everyone's eyes go ravenously wide. "Kebab."

"Kebab it is."

When the food arrives we almost attack the poor delivery man in our frenzy to get to it. Twenty minutes later, everyone's stuffed, and I somehow have ketchup in my hair. We're all sitting on the floor in front of the TV, me and everyone I love around me, Anabel curled up beside me, when she asks,

"Is everything okay now?"

I smile. "Everything's fine," I tell her, because it finally is, even if the ketchup won't come out. 

The seven of us, ragged and misshapen pieces, may not fit together perfectly, but we do fit, in some messed-up, dysfunctional way, in our little house of shards.

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