Before she went home, Hellon first bought some strawberries at the market on the square, so she had an excuse why she came home too late. Right after school ended, she had followed Milo to the hanging tree, where they had stayed for the rest of the day. And of course, her father couldn't know.
Hellon Marple and Milo MacGraffle had known each other for years, because he and her brothers were friends. She had three of them, but only one was younger then she was. Her oldest brother was 22 years old and he used to be one of Milo's best friends. But when he grew up, he got a job in another district, and since then they never talked again. Her second brother had the same age as Milo and they were in the same grade at school. But he only talked to him because his older brother did so, too. When the oldest left the district, the youngest never dared to say another word to Milo. Their father also said it was better they didn't talk to him anymore. That's when Hellon and Milo became friends. And now they were in love.
Hellon laughed at the thought of it. It was kind of amusing to do things her father didn't want her to do.
When she opened the front door of her house, which was in the first circle, near the square, her younger brother immediately ran to her. He was 12 years old, but he had a great imagination, which made him much younger. His length and huge blue eyes also made him look like he was no older then 9.
"Where were you, Hellon? I searched for you everywhere. But when I couldn't find you, I went home by myself," he wailed and he wrapped his arms around her middle.
"I went to the square, Pem," she lied. It was very convincing. She was pretty good at lying, after two years of hanging out with Milo MacGraffle. "But look, I've got some strawberries!" She held the basket above his head and he jumped up and down, trying to catch it. The maid came into the hallway and Hellon gave her the strawberries.
"I'll wash them and prepare them for you," the maid said, as she walked towards the kitchen.
"Do you want to see my battlefield? I made one in the garden!" Pem said, his eyes shimmering. The weather was great, so he could finally play outside, which made him very enthusiastic.
"I'll come to you later, okay?" she said. "I promise. I'm going to refresh myself first." She gave him a kiss on his forehead. The little boy ran through the hallway. As she passed the kitchen door, Hellon asked the maid: "Will you please boil some water for me? I'd like to take a bath."
The maid nodded and went to the bathroom. In the sitting room, Hellon found her father. He was talking to a man, but she couldn't see his face. She bowed politely for both men, and then the man turned around. It was her oldest brother.
"Oh, Benon. It's you!" she said and she walked towards him. He wrapped his arms around her and she kissed his cheeks, smiling. It had been a year since he last came home.
"Hellon," he said, also smiling. "It's been a while. Will you stand up for me, please?"
She did what he said, and he checked her from top to toe. From her blond braided hair to her brown leathern shoes.
"You've become very pretty, sister. Tell me, father, how many men have been asking for her hand?" he said, and the three of them started laughing. Father and Benon continued their conversation they were having before Hellon came into the room and she wanted to walk up the stairs. But her father stopped her.
"Where were you, actually?" he asked. "School ended hours ago, am I right?"
"I went to the market." She looked him right in the eye when she said it, hoping he wouldn't discover the lie. He always knew when Pem was lying, or Benon, or Aidon. But he never knew when she was.
"That's very nice of you. Could you keep Pemston busy until we're going to eat? Benon and I need to discuss the circumstances in the districts," he just said. "But go refresh yourself first."
She nodded and went up the stairs. Pem's full name was Pemston, which meant 'from the farm near the lake'. His parents gave him that name because they had always dreamed of living in a farm near a lake. She didn't know why, actually. No one ever left the district. Well, except for Benon. His name meant 'the unresting'. It really suited him, because he was very committed to whatever he did. He had done everything he could for school, and now he did everything for his job. And he never seemed like he needed to rest. The name of her second brother, Aidon, meant 'the fiery one'. Hellon never understood why he was given that name, because he wasn't 'fiery' at all. He was very shy and he didn't dare to do anything. He was very different from Benon, who took some risks now and then.
Upstairs she found her mother. She came from the room where she did the laundry. Even though they had a maid, Mother always did the laundry by herself.
"Ah, there you are, my little torch. I was getting worried," she said relieved. That was the meaning of her name. Hellon, 'torch'. Maybe that explained the fire she felt when she was with Milo.
"I visited the market before I came home."
"Did you see Aidon there? He went to the bakery."
Hellon coughed and her eyes widened. Of course she didn't see Aidon, because she passed the market just for a second. What if he came home and told her parents she wasn't at the square at all?
"I think I just missed him."
Her mother smiled and went downstairs, with the laundry-basket full of clothes she needed to hang up to dry.
After she had taken a bath and she had put on a new dress and she had braided her hair again, she went downstairs to amuse Pem. Meanwhile, Aidon was at home and he sat under the apple tree, reading a book. She had never seen the book before; probably he got it from Ben, who brought it from his district. He didn't say anything when she walked past him. As usual. He never really participated in this family. He was a part of another world, his world. In that way, Pem was most like him.
Speaking of Pem, he really enjoyed this beautiful day. He had built a battlefield with little wooden dolls the maid once gave him. Hellon played a war with him, until the maid brought them the strawberries. Pem ate both his and hers, but she didn't mind.
During dinner, Benon finally told why he really came. It was the only moment the whole family Marple was together. Even Aidon listened for this one time to the conversation.
"I met someone," Benon said cheery. He immediately got everyone's full attention. "Her name is Claudia and I love her with all my heart."
From the look in his eyes, Hellon knew exactly what he was going to say.
"I asked her to marry me and she said yes. I'm getting married."