You Are Kidding Me!

I'm sure you'd hyperventilate if you found that you're jumping from an only child to the brother of three siblings. Make the three new arrivals a tomboy, the new favourite in the family and the girl-you-fall-for-who-hates-you-at-first-sight, and you have the makings of a nightmare. Alas for Nathaniel K. Smith, its a living one.
Despite his usual tenacity, determination and way too vivid imagination, this is certainly beyond his wildest dreams. With his reputation on the line, will he be able to keep the terrifying additions to his family a secret?
Jeer, cheer, laugh or aww in this way too cheesy reminder that coincidences are never coincidences, love is never easy and not to ever wish life was less boring...

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22. Epilogue

Crystal's pov

Everyone’s bustling about, getting ready for today.
This is a celebration I both like and hate. It represents memories both good and bad. Its marks 14 months with our new parents and Nathaniel. Its the first Christmas we’re not having with our biological parents.
Though I’m sad- and sadness cannot fully encompass the sum total of emotions I’m experiencing- I realise that we have to plant new seeds in the soil when thunderstorms rip out the hardy oak.
And lots of good things have happened. Especially for my sister. I smile at her now, baking cookies. One year ago I’d never imagined her so happy, waltzing about without a care in the world. 
Lying, of course. She’s still a huge worry-rat.

A hand snakes along the counter and to the cookies while her back is turned, but her lightning quick reflexes catch the culprit and deal him a resounding slap. I smile as Nathaniel whines. At least my sister has someone to share the burden with now.
“Ready Chris?” Esther calls for me, and I hurry to get changed and prepare for the night of my life.
The rest aren’t going to know what hit them, I think as I shoot Esther a secretive smile during dinner.

When the mouth-watering meal is devoured and the sweet aftertaste of dessert still fresh on our lips, Esther and I excuse ourselves early to ‘get ready for our little play.’
We’ve been working on this for months.

It’d better be worth it.
I step out into the pavilion, flashcards in hand. They’re just there for confidence anyway- I’ve memorised the words long ago, etched them into memory as though it were true.
“Once, there were three princesses who lived in a fine castle. Tragedy struck one night, and the castle and their possessions were razed to the ground by fire. The three princesses were left in the pouring rain, with only their wits, feisty spirit and each other for company.”
I’m dressed in a sleek velvet dress the colour of jade for the occasion. Behind me, Esther in a red dress portrays the eldest princess, desolately walking up in down looking for a sanctuary to shelter in. 

“They finally stumbled into the threshold of a neighbouring kingdom, where a prince was ruling. He was kind and just, despite some bad habits, and immediately offered them a place to stay. 
The eldest princess was horrified. She had met the prince before and had taken an instant dislike to him. Amid battles in the royal household, both of them slowly learned to accept each other’s shortcomings and slowly learned to trust one another. Thanks to the wisdom and guidance of the princess, the prince was able to make peace with a neighbouring kingdom bordering on war.” I see Nathaniel’s grin and knows he’s interpreted it just the way I wanted him to.
“The princess, in turn, learned sometimes you don’t have to bottle your emotions, but instead seek others for comfort.”

My older sister, my forever confidant and best friend, is blinking away tears and scowling half heartedly.
“One day, the princess went riding out to hunt. The prince accompanied her, but she willfully went farther and farther, until he lost sight of her.”
“As night fell, the princess grew cold, hungry and guilty for leaving the prince behind. She found herself hopelessly lost. Just then, a ragamuffin appeared and tried to kidnap her.”
I still remember the fear and shame on Elizabeth’s face as she told me about the groper, with Nathaniel holding her shoulders and comforting her.

“The prince heard the princess’ cries for help and swiftly came to her aid. The princess was unharmed, but the prince was scarred after the incident. He feared it would happen once more, and the next time he would not be there to save her.”
Instead of merely being her protective guardian, the prince now became her isolation tower, a cold prison. He scowled when she talked to lords and dukes, frowned when she chatted with the male gardener in the flower garden and forbid her to talk to any of the village men, for fear they stole her away from him.”
“One day, the princess was approached by a woodcutter who needed love advice. As they chatted happily, the prince watched jealously from afar with a heavy heart.”

“He realised he was not the only star in her night sky, that he was not the only flower in her garden, that he was not good enough for her.”
I look up with a smile directed at Nathaniel. “He failed to see he already was dearest to her heart.”
“The prince let his fears devour him and control him, and began pushing himself away from his source of happiness, shunning her light and keeping to the darkness. Meanwhile, the ragamuffin was up to no good, accusing the princess of bewitching the prince and causing him to be oblivious to her ugliness, her cruelty, her terrible habits and manners.”

“Instead of standing up for her, the prince denied the love and support the princess desperately needed at that moment. He kept building and erecting walls between them, creating a wider and wider gap between them.”
“But the princess was not a dainty, ordinary princess who’d sit around and bemoan her fate. She bravely tore her skirts, kicked off her high heels and overcame that gap with sheer determination and love.”
“Yet when she climbed the last step and opened the door to him, he did not welcome her. He trampled on her dignity, her pride- and left her among those shattered remains.”
Okay, I am exaggerating a bit. Okay, a lot. But I’m on a roll here!

That night the prince dreamt of the girl. It was a memory that had managed to escape the locked chest he placed all these cherished moments and haunt him. He dreamt of chilly spring night walks, of running and chasing one another, of her lips on his for a simple “thank you.” How her eyes shone with gratitude at his simplest actions. How she would stubbornly do it herself and not let him help her.
And finally, he had understood she wanted it all. She had wanted him, in his imperfections and his flaws.
The prince jolted upright at break of dawn, in cold sweat. He had a premonition something was wrong. The castle was in uproar. The youngest princess ran to the princess, distraught.

The eldest princess had disappeared.
Deep in his heart, the prince knew where to find her. He jumped on his trusty horse and raced to the castle the princesses had once called home. Heart in his hand, he saw the princess crumpled to the ground. Blood contrasted with her chalky pale face. He knelt down and cried, and his pain, his sorrow, his raw emotions, healed her of her wounds.”
Again, another exaggeration.
“The princess embraced her prince, and together they broke down the last barriers separating them. They continue to live happily ever after, even today.”
“And kiss lots of and lots!” Esther pipes up, to my embarrassment. 
We simultaneously curtsy and say, “The end.”

By the time we finish, the parents are hooting with laughter, Lizzy is flashing us her murderous look, and Nathaniel is unsure whether to join her and frown or laugh like his parents.
He opts for the former and glares at us, though he’s failing miserably due to that crooked smile on his face.
He scoots closer to sis and I hold my breath.
“You know,” he breathes, “We haven’t kissed for quite a while.”
She turns and gives him a saucy look. “Of course.”
So they move their faces closer to one another. Esther and I squeal slightly as we watch my sister kissing- the former in excitement, the latter in disgust.

Two flashes go off, one from Esther’s camera and one from Mom’s phone. We grin and flash a thumbs up. The couple? Well… they’re too much in bliss to notice.

~The End!~

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