Yaritza could hear laughter from inside before she had even made it up the driveway. The noise of the streets always took her by surprise when she returned home after visiting Newcrest, but the sounds from her home were welcoming and warm. She felt a pang in her chest as she looked around. Everything would be different after today.
She had meant every word she had said to Altair, but it didn’t stop her from being nervous. It wasn’t fear for the future – she knew she would be happy in her new life. If Al hadn’t had one year left at school, she would be arranging the wedding already. She touched the ring on her left hand and smiled. Whatever reaction her news would bring, it would be worth it.
She opened the door, and the warmth enveloped her.
“That’s funny, I thought I heard someone,” her dad said, feigning deafness. “That can’t be right though – our daughter wouldn’t be out this late, would she, dear?”
“Or course not, dad. I’ve been home ages.”
“Good girl,” he said, turning and waving her over with a smile. “If you had been, I might have had to ask my lovely wife to use her SimRay on your shoes – I could do with a nice foot rest.”
“Ooh! Can I do it?” Amata asked, bouncing up and down in excitement. “I want to do it!”
“No one is transforming anyone’s footwear tonight. Tell you what, when you outgrow your shoes you can have a go at turning them into bigger ones, ok?”
Yaritza grinned down at her little sister. She was a scientist waiting to happen, and they all knew it. Amata was the only child she knew that needed a fire alarm in her bedroom.
“So,” her mum said, “if you had been out until now, it wouldn’t happen to have been with your boyfriend, would it?”
“Yari has a boyfriend~” her sister sang, giggling.
“Actually, that’s what I want to talk about. I have some news.”
Her parents exchanged a nervous look.
“You’re not pregnant, are you? If that boy got you pregnant-”
“What?! No, dad, of course not!”
“Yari?” Amata piped up. “What’s ‘pregnant’?”
Well, this wasn’t quite how she’d imagined this conversation going. Maybe it was a good thing, though – they might be so relieved that she wasn’t pregnant that they’d take the real news well.
“I told you she was sensible,” her mother was saying. Her dad just looked slightly bemused, but that was his default expression when family was concerned.
“Guys, my news…”
“Sorry, dear. Carry on.”
Well, she might as well just go for it. If they were going to react badly, drawing it out would just make things worse. She took a deep breath, smiled, and spoke.
“I’m engaged. Al and I want to get married.”
Well, there was no yelling. That was a good thing in itself, but the stunned silence was a bit unnerving if she was being honest.
“Yaritza?” her dad said, and she winced. Full names were rarely a good sign. “Are you sure this is what you want? I mean, he’s… I’m sure he’s lovely, but…”
“But what, dad?” she said, eyes narrowing. If this was the Sixan thing again, she would not be happy.
“After what happened in San Myshuno, are you sure you want to be linked to someone like him? I’ve seen posters up around town. They’re refusing people jobs if there’s even a hint of suspicion about them. I just… this isn’t a very good time, and I don’t want you getting hurt because of it.”
Ok, so it was the Sixan thing, but this was a very different track to the one he used to be on. She wouldn’t yell just yet.
“Dad, I love him. I’d rather be happy at home with him than alone and in a fancy job.”
“But you’re so young. How do you know he’s the one for you? You’ll be giving up so much. How do you know he feels the same way you do, or that it will last?”
“Because he showed me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sixans are telepathic, and Al let me into his mind. I know he feels the same way because I’ve felt it. He loves me.”
Her father sighed, rubbing his temples.
“You’re so young,” he repeated, shaking his head. “I just want you to be happy.”
“I am happy.”
“Well, in that case,” he paused, as if he could hardly believe what he was saying, “congratulations.”
“Yes, really. On one condition.”
“What is it?”
“I want to meet him. I’m not letting my daughter go off and get married to someone I don’t know, got it?”
“You actually want to meet him?” She was stunned.
“And the rest of his family. I mean, they’re going to be our family soon enough, too.”
“Congratulations, Yari,” her mother said, grinning at her. “I must admit, this isn’t a complete surprise. The two of you have been inseparable since you were children. Still, I wasn’t expecting it quite so soon.” She clapped her hands, eyes wide and smile wider. Yaritza could almost see the lightbulb going off above her mother’s head. “I expect grandchildren.”
“Mum, I told you I’m not pregnant…”
Altair was pacing. The problem with deciding that you would do something tomorrow morning was that for the rest of the night you worried about it. He was going to be a wreck. He flopped down onto his bed and buried his head in his pillow. Why couldn’t he sleep? Maybe it would be better to just do it now. He looked at the clock and sat up. It was midnight, so technically by the time he had gathered everyone it would be morning.
He was going to tell them now.
“Ly? Wake up.”
Al, I will start crying if you don’t turn the light back off.
Oh, so they were doing it this way, were they?
You don’t want to be there when I tell the parents, then?
Tell them what?
You know what.
Her eyes flew open and she rolled over, looking at him with sleepy excitement. “Really? Now?”
“Fine, fine, I’ll get up. Now go away, I need to get dressed.”
He could do this. They all liked Yaritza, which gave him an advantage. He ached when he thought of how her own conversation with her parents would go. Her mother liked them all well enough, but her father was a different story. He couldn’t even be there for support, which was what hurt the most.
He could almost hear her voice in his head, telling him to stop worrying and just do the thing. Even when she wasn’t with him she was the voice of reason. It was one of the many reasons he loved her.
Everyone was gathered outside, just as he’d asked. He couldn’t blame them for watching a film – it had taken a while to get Ellie around, but there she was. Even Shea was up, although she looked like she was about to fall off of her beanbag. Her eyelids kept drooping.
Lyra spotted him and grinned. “Ayyyyyy! Here comes the man of the hour,” she called out, and everyone turned to look at him. He glared at her, but she just winked back. He rolled his eyes, walking over to the centre of the group. Honestly, he hadn’t seen his sister looking so carefree in a long time. He didn’t want to spoil it, no matter how embarrassing she was being. Besides, he had woken them all up – he probably deserved to be heckled.
Al cleared his throat. He could hear Lyra and Leo chanting softly, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. He stuck his tongue out at them. They retaliated by getting louder.
“Speech! Speech! Speech! Speech!”
Sometimes the line between love and hate really did seem thin. They were enjoying this, he knew it.
“Allie? Is it something good, this time?” Shea asked, her eyes wide and hopeful. She only ever called him that when she was really tired, but the twins latched onto it.
“Speech, Allie! Speech, Allie! Speech! Speech! SPEECH!” they chorused, giggling. It was a thin line, and it was getting thinner.
“Yes, it’s a good thing.”
“Well, don’t leave us in suspense! Tell us!” Lor said, looking far too awake to have actually been sleeping. The similarly awake look on his dad’s face confirmed his suspicions, and he groaned. That was something he really hadn’t needed to know.
“I bet I can guess,” Leo said, shooting a mischievous look at his brother. “If my baby brother doesn’t tell us soon, I may have to start guessing out loud.”
“Leo, don’t you dare. And I’m older than you!”
“Don’t tease your brother, Leo.”
Al looked around at his family. They were ridiculous, but he loved them. Things would be fine.
“Breathe,” Ellie said. “It’s kind of important.”
He clapped his hands twice to get everyone’s attention, and they fell quiet. He could do this. He closed his eyes, counted to three and smiled.
“Yari and I are engaged.”
The noise was deafening. Shea was laughing and clapping, chattering excitedly to Ellie about how she was going to have a new sister. Ellie looked thrilled, a green glow starting to form around her. The twins were calling across to each other, matching grins on their faces.
“I knew it!”
“So did I!”
“No, I actually knew it!” Lyra giggled, melting into full blown laughter at the look of affront on her brother’s face.
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“Rude. No cake for you.”
He looked over at his parents, both of whom seemed to be in shock. They were looking around at their children, taking everything in. Malik was the first to stand up.
“Honestly, I know you’re young, but had I been able to I’d have married your papa in a heartbeat at your age, so it would be pretty hypocritical of me to tell you not to do this. Besides, Yaritza is pretty much family, she spends so much time here.”
“You mean it?”
“Yeah, Al. Just promise me one thing.”
“What is it?”
“Finish school, first.”
“I was planning to.”
His dad pulled him into a bear hug, grinning. “Well, at least you’re sensible. Congratulations.”
By the time Malik let go, Lor was waiting behind him.
“I’m so happy for you,” he said, hugging him.
“What, no reservations or conditions?”
“Al, look around.”
“This is a family of telepaths. If I had anything to worry about with the two of you, someone would have picked up on it by now. Look how happy they all are. Look how happy you are.”
Al looked down at his hands, not surprised to see that he was glowing just as brightly as his brothers and sisters.
“I might not be able to see auras or anything like that, but I trust their judgement. And,” he smiled, “I trust yours. Besides,” he lowered his voice so that even Al could barely hear him, “goodness knows we need a reason to be happy.”
“Hey, Al!” Leo called, waving him over. “How long have you been keeping this from me, eh? I thought we were friends.” He draped himself over the side of the sofa, feigning hurt. “I’m shocked, baby brother. Shocked.”
“We’ll have to get her family over soon…” Lor was muttering to himself, lost in his own world once more. “I am a mature adult, and I can do this.”
“You can do this, papa.”
“Thanks, Al. Do you think they like cake?”