“Quick, press the green button five times!” Scarlett leaned forward. “Pandora!”
“I’m trying!” Pandora tried to mash the buttons on the controller as fast as she could. Missiles flew from the virtual ship, hitting the alien. “Did we win?”
“Woohoo!” Scarlett threw her arms up in the air. “You did, it. You destroyed the boss!”
“Is that my game?” Ken asked, coming up behind the girls. “Thanks for asking if you could use it.”
“Sorry…” Scarlett apologized. “Pandora wanted to see what kind of games we play, and yours was already in the disc tray.”
“Are you Ken!?” Pandora leaned over the couch to face him. “Nice to meet ya!”
Ken stumbled backwards in surprise. “Uh, hi? Are you a friend of my sister’s?”
“She’s our sister,” Scarlett said.
“Sister?” Ken laughed. “That’s ridiculous.”
“Guys!” Apollo called from the other room. “Come over here please!”
Bailey was sitting on the couch, elbow propped up on her knee. “What’s wrong, dad?”
“How was school?” He asked casually.
“It was okay, I met some new peop-” She paused as she caught glimpse of red hair. “Who’s friend is this?”
“Scarlett’s,” Ken answered.
“Dad, he doesn’t believe that she’s our sister,” Scarlett said.
“Dad, come on,” Ken began. “That’s impossible, unless Ethan…holy…did Ethan get someone pregnant?”
Apollo shook his head. “Not exactly. There’s this new scientific, uhh, I guess you could call it a discovery? Anyway, your dad and I, uhh…donated our genes…13 years ago, and Pandora was born. She’s decided that she doesn’t want to live with her other parents anymore, she wants to stay with us.”
“I don’t get it,” Ken said. “Explain it one more time.”
“Ethan and I donated our genes and a scientist took them and genetically engineered a baby. That baby was given to someone to raise, and she has decided that she no longer wants to to stay with her adoptive father, but with us,” Apollo said again. “It’s a lot to take in, I know.”
“Is that even possible, to create a baby in a lab?” Bailey asked in disbelief. “You can’t expect us to believe that.”
“Bailey,” Scarlett said. “She has Ethan’s hair and she looks kind of like you. So, we know that she’s really their daughter.”
“But…” Bailey paused for a moment and thought back on the time she had seen Ethan use magic on Jordan. He must have had some potion or something magical that made it possible, and when she thought about what her dad was saying, she figured he must have been keeping Ethan’s secret from her siblings. “No, I get it. She does look like both of our dads. Science has really made some big improvements.”
Ken sighed. “It’s going to take me some time to get used to the idea but if they believe it, then I guess it doesn’t really matter. She’s going to live with us regardless, so I’ll accept her. Welcome to the family, Pandora. If you need your big brother to beat anyone up, I’ll be glad to do it.”
“Thank you for letting me borrow some clothes,” Pandora said. “I hope I’m not intruding on anything by showing up so suddenly, I just…I was living with a bad man and I couldn’t stay with him anymore.”
“Why didn’t you tell my dad that?” Scarlett asked as she pulled her pajamas out of the dresser she shared with Bailey. “That he was a bad man. You said that he treated you well, but if he didn’t, our dad really needs to know.”
“I agree,” Bailey said. “My step dad used to hit me, and Ethan stopped it. If I didn’t tell him, I’d still be with those terrible people.”
“Don’t lump mom in with Jordan,” Scarlett said. “She wants the best for us.”
“Really?” Bailey scoffed. “No, that’s not true. That’s why we’re here with dad. She drops us off one day and then disappears? What kind of a mother does that? It’s easy for you to defend her because she didn’t sit back and watch you get hit!”
“Guys!” Pandora said loudly. “Uhm, I’m still here. I don’t know about any drama that you guys have faced, but I’m sorry that your step-dad hit you, Bailey. Mason…he didn’t hit me. He gave me everything that I needed, like clothes and food, but he was so cold to me, like he didn’t want me. I don’t know…I wasn’t abused, I was just…abandoned?”
“That’s still not okay,” Scarlett said. “A person needs socialization to grow, I learned that in science class.”
“I had friends and stuff, and it’s not as bad as I’m making it sound,” Pandora said quickly. “Basically, he was gone out of the house most of the time.”
“That’s not abandonment,” Bailey said.
“Can we not talk about this?” Pandora asked. “I’m just really tired, so I’d like to take a rest.”
“Right, uh goodnight guys,” Scarlett said before leaning over to shut the lamp by her bedside.
“Tell me again why we have to go to this school thing.” Pandora looked out the window as the car drove by.
“You’ve never been to school?” Bailey asked in disbelief.
“I was homeschooled by a plumbot, I couldn’t leave the house,” She admitted. “But I still hated it. All of that work for what reason? Math and science and history…so boring.”
“Yeah, I get it. I don’t like school so much either but I already asked dad, and he said there’s no way I’m dropping out, so there goes that idea. But, the good thing is that you’ll meet friends.”
“Friends…” Pandora smiled. “That does sound nice.”
“I cannot deal with her,” Bailey exclaimed, throwing her arms up in front of her. “Please, you sit with her at lunch next time.”
“What happened?” Ken asked, as he made his way out of the school.
“She’s totally embarrassing, talking about robots and jetpacks! Gosh, I won’t make any friends with her around,” Bailey cried.
“Oh come on,” Scarlett began. “So what, she’s a little different. She’s not form here, you have to excuse her.”
“I don’t know where she’s from but she’s not there anymore. If she wants to make friends she needs to act normal!” Bailey tried to explain, but with every word, she looked more and more like the bad guy.
“I know she’s a little weird, but she’s our sister and dad isn’t going to be happy if he hears that you’re abandoning her,” Ken said.
“Keyword abandoning.” Scarlett looked at her sister. “You heard what she said last night.” She lowered her voice. “Besides…Bailes, we didn’t just give up on you, did we? No, we came back for you.”
Bailey looked away, face red. “Fine, whatever, but please do me a favor, and just try to help her be a little bit more cool.”
“Hehe,” Ken laughed. “I think she’s already pretty cool. Especially if it upsets you that much.”
“Oh, shut up!” Bailey stomped her foot.
“So…four times the radical square root of 81?” Pandora asked. Ken had been helping Pandora with her studies. Apparently, this school thing wasn’t really her best use of her time.
“Well, almost.” Ken leaned over and placed his pencil eraser on the radical sign. “Radical and square root are the same thing, so you’re just doing four times the square root of 81.”
“Ok.” She nodded and began to scribble. “The square root of 81 is 9, so 9 times four is 36. But that’s not an answer choice.”
“We just solved the first part. But now, we have to subtract that from 100 because the question is asking for the percent of error.” Ken continued to teach Pandora until Bailey angrily sat down at the table.
“What’s up with you?” Pandora was almost too happy to be pushing her math homework to the side.
“Kristen is having a party on saturday night, I was invited and dad said that I can’t go. Thirteen year old girls shouldn’t be going to stranger’s houses, is what he said. But how many times does he have to hear that Kristen is no stranger. We’ve been friends since middle school!” Bailey hit her fist angrily on the counter.
“Kristen, brown hair, blue eyes, dated an eighteen year old when she was in the eighth grade, Kristen?” Ken asked. “There’s no way in hell you’re going to that party.”
“What the hell, you too?” Bailey asked angrily. “Kristen is cool. I don’t see the harm.”
“Is she that girl you were sitting with at lunch?” Pandora asked.
“Yes!” Bailey said. “Did you see how cool she was? I’ll be at the top of the social ladder if I go to that party.”
“It’s not a good idea,” Ken said. “What if you get yourself in a tight situation. I don’t want you going.”
Bailey turned to Pandora who shrugged in response. “I don’t know anything about social norms here.”
“You’re not my dad. I already have two, I don’t need another one!” Bailey shot him a glare and walked out of the kitchen.
Ken lowered his voice. He was the child genius, gaining the trait from his father. He noticed that his peers and family had their own little quirks, and studying up on it, had revealed his passion for human psychology. “I don’t know if you know this, but Bailey had a traumatizing experience with our step dad. He made her feel unwanted because she looked different from our mother. I think she’s trying to substitute that by fitting it. She might be afraid of being unwanted again.”
Pandora frowned as she looked at Ken’s hurt expression. “You don’t like that, right? You feel like she doesn’t understand how wanted she really is?”
Ken nodded. “Yeah…is it obvious?”
“Besides that look on your face, I’ve been through…I mean I’ve seen something similar happen. My friend…she was looking for attention, so she left to find someone who would give it to her.”
“Did that work?” Ken asked.
Pandora looked away wistfully. “Yes, but…who she turned to wasn’t a destructive force, so I guess it’s different.”
“Can you help me with her?” Ken asked. “You’re a girl, so maybe you can get through to her. I want her to have real friends.”
“I’ll try,” Pandora agreed. “I hope she listens to me.”
“Hey Kristen!” Bailey said excitedly.
“Hi, someone sounds happy. Is your daddy letting his precious little girl come to my party?” Kristen taunted.
Bailey scowled but answered anyway. “Pssh, I don’t need my father to tell me what to do. I’m coming whether he likes it or not.” She looked around to see if anyone was watching. If her dad or brother heard her, she’d be in some serious trouble.
“Good,” Kristen answered. “Do you think you could bring your brother along too?”
“You’re joking right?” Bailey asked. “A dweeb like him?”
“Ken is no dweeb, he’s gorgeous. I know you want to be my friend because I’m popular. Let’s save the crappy teen movie storyline and just get down to business. I’ll let you sit with me at lunch and follow me around if you bring your brother to the party.”
“I’ll do better,” Bailey challenged. “Not only will he come to your party, but he’ll go on a date with you.”
“Really?” Kristen couldn’t hide the excitement in her voice. “Excellent, I’ll see you this weekend then.”
Bailey clicked the phone shut. That didn’t go as expected at all. There was no way that Ken was going to go to the party, he didn’t like Kristen. She was going to have to find a way to convince him to come, otherwise she’d look like an idiot in front of Kristen.
“Dinner is done,” Scarlett said. “Come and eat.”
“I’m not hungry,” Ken mumbled.
“But I made mac and cheese, your favorite,” Scarlett said.
Ken looked up at her. “I said I’m not hungry.”
“You’re always hungry.”
“Not today, so can you just leave me alone?” He demanded.
Taking a step back, Scarlett glared at him. “What the heck. This is the first time that I’m making dinner for everyone, and the only ones eating are dad and Pandora. Ethan and dad are still fighting, I don’t even know where he is. Bailey is too busy video chatting her new friends to care and you’re upset! Well, do you know what? I’m upset! I want to be a family for once without the abusive step-father, disappearing mother and whtever other hiccups life keeps throwing at us!” Scarlett didn’t wait for his response. SHe stood up to leave when she heard someone call out her name.
“Scarlett! I’ll eat dinner with you.” The voice was kind and reassuring but Scarlett didn’t feel the love.
She whirled around coming face to face with her imaginary friend. “You can’t even eat!” She said angrily. “You’re not real! You’re just a walking, talking…I don’t even know! You just follow me around and it’s so annoying!”
Night stood up from his chair. “I’m sorry I’m bothering you then. I’ll just go sit in the other room. I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” He was hoping she’d stop him, but she didn’t. Instead she stormed out of the room and took her dinner upstairs to Alistair’s room, the only place she could away from everyone. She was so tired of being the shy, kind girl. She didn’t like getting walked all over. She was careful to shut the door slowly, as not to wake Alistair. She slid down the wall and began to cry. It felt so good to get her feelings out. Nothing was going right with anyone. Her dads were fighting, she had a new sister that needed constant attention, Ken was upset and Bailey seemed to be too involved in playing the popular game. She just wanted her mother to hold her and tell her everything would be alright.