Sisterly conversations and romantic poetry
Author’s note: Some people have wondered about the status in this series of A Naval investigator in the Ozark Mountains. I would suggest re reading the previous chapter, 26 Talents and Cousins. And yes, these characters will make more appearances. A short update because I wanted this part out of the way…heavy mother daughter stuff in the next few chapters. Chapter 27: Sisterly conversation and romantic poetry
“Well…it looks like a couple of cousins will be coming by…” She looked at Penelope. “Piper’s the middle one, right?”
Penelope grinned. “That obvious?” She shook her head ruefully. “I should warn you…they can be quite rambunctious…”
“I look forward to it.” Joyce picked up the horn and dialled.
“Lolly? It’s Joyly”
“Joy? You’re calling late.”
“I’ve got news.”
“Getting married?” Charlotte inquired slyly.
“No… This is about our Uncle Gordon and Aunt Penelope.”
“Yes, exactly…Well Aunt Penelope is sitting on my couch… Care to come join us on Saturday?”
Charlotte coughed. “Joyce… Are you trying to be funny?”
“No…I’m dead serious.”
“Oh…Ummm…Is she like Mom?” The last was whispered.
Joyce looked askance at her aunt and whispered back. ”I think so.” *Prue obviously was trained not to use bad language…firmly.*
“Good thing she never babysat then,” Charlotte whispered back.
“Yeah. But our cousins are going to be there too.” Joyce held out the carrot.
“I see…I think this is important enough to show up…” Charlotte sounded whimsical if a touch worried. ”We’ll be there… Arlene?”
Joyce opened the planner by the phone and leafed through it. “Army weekend. And it would be difficult to get in from Chicago on such short notice.”
“Bomber Ellis bombing officers again?”
Joyce grinned. “She only did that once.”
“Are you calling Mom?”
“I think I’m leaving that to the older generation.” Joyce looked aside at Penelope who raised an amused eyebrow, but nodded.
“Okay…we’ll be there on Saturday morning. Bye Joyly.”
Penelope gave her niece a measuring look. “Leaving me to beard the lion in its den?”
Penelope blinked at the short answer. “I see…any particular reason?”
“I’ve no desire to step between two angry witches.”
Danielle stifled a laugh as the realisation sank in with Penelope that her magical ability was not what Joyce meant when she used the term. Penelope opened her mouth and then closed it.
Joyce looked around the room where the teens were sitting quietly chatting. “Don’t get me wrong, but if they think I’m strict, my mother was ten times worse, and I get the feeling you weren’t exactly different. And I know she’s got a temper…and…well…sometimes it’s better to bow to one’s elders.”
Penelope sighed. “I suppose, well, I think you’re probably right. I need to find a way to talk to Pippa, without us killing each other…”
Willow rose and picked up her cup. “Well after all that excitement, I’m going to make some more chocolate. Anyone else?”
Xander, Buffy, Dawn and Amy all held up their mugs. Danielle rose. “I’ll help you dear, and I can keep an eye on the cheese…”
Willow opened her mouth to protest and then grinned sheepishly. “But I like
“I’ve noticed dear and you’ve just had dinner,” Danielle pointed out.
Willow pouted, but not very long. There was just too much to be happy about. She had more family than she ever dreamed of having, and she was going to meet almost all of them this weekend.
Dawn was sent to bed not long after and the teens were gently manoeuvred to bed an hour later, even if the excitement of the day made it almost impossible for them to get any sleep.
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Breakfast was prepared by the four adults together. The children and the older witches noticed that Joyce and Simon seemed strained. This lasted until Danielle realized the probable cause. She and Penny had been up early that morning again, but there had been no kissing… She grinned widely.
“Will you two do all of us a favour and go outside and have a quick kiss or two?”
Joyce blushed. Buffy, Willow, Amy and Xander groaned. Dawn giggled. Simon merely took Joyce’s hand and drew her outside, out of sight and several minutes later calmly led a dazed looking Joyce back in.
Penelope and Danielle remained at Revello Drive while Joyce loaded the car full of teens and drove them to school; Simon took Dawn to the bus stop.
The four teens entered the school talking and approached the lockers. A group of girls was whispering in the vicinity of Willow’s locker.
Buffy glared at them. “One wrong move or word and…”
Cordelia was at the center of the group. “Yeah, yeah, you get all primate-y and murderish, I know evil stab girl. We just want to know who’s pathetic enough to leave flowers for Miss Prissy here.” She gestured at Willow and the battered locker.
A pink rose was stuck in the slats of the locker, a slip of paper folded and attached to it. Willow looked at Buffy and Amy who both nodded and then she reached for the flower and the paper with a hand that trembled only slightly and sniffed the rose. Then she unfolded the paper and her eyes went wide and she blushed. Buffy and Amy scooted behind her and read over her shoulder. ‘Oh beauteous maiden of alabaster skin, Whose outer glory reflects what lies within, With hair like fire and spirit the same, You’ve lit my heart with passionate flame, Accept this rose, ‘tis but pale reflection Next to the beauty of your perfection.’
Buffy blinked. “Wow, looks like you got yourself some serious attention Wills…”
“Yeah…a guy who’s not afraid to express himself in poetry…” Amy sounded more than a bit jealous.
Cordelia cleared her throat. “Hello? Curious people here?”
Willow folded the note again, carefully tucked it into a book in her bag and gave Cordelia a look. “And you can stay curious.” She opened her locker, humming to herself.
Buffy grinned at the startled Cordelia. “Sorry Cordelia, I don’t think Willow’s gonna be very talkative…”
Harmony came into the corridor and immediately started talking to Cordelia. “I like, have to do detention for like ages, ‘cause I like, came in a bit late a few times and it’s like totally unfair!!! And my parents like totally don’t understand the needs of the young people of this errr…conflagration”
Willow rolled her eyes. “You’ve been coming in late since the beginning of the year
Harmony…nothing unfair about it. It’s a miracle it took them so long to punish you for it! And we all know about it, so quit yer yappin’! And its generation, not conflagration!” She glared at the ditzy blonde who opened her mouth to reply.
Harmony’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. “Yeah…errr..Yeah says you!”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Come along Harm… Before you think of any more witty repartee and we all die laughing.”
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Penelope Halliwell stared at the phone number on the bit of paper. Joyce’s parents were number five in the phone, but she’d asked for the number. She sighed. Danni had left to give her some time alone. It was strange… She’d never been close to the other woman…and a few hours in a car and several days of shared emotional upheaval…and she felt she had a new best friend. She could use a new best friend, especially one who had once been able to blast demons with a wave of her hand a spoken word. And probably would be again.
Penelope reached for the phone. She tapped the memory button and dialled the fifth number there, marked Mom&DAD. It was obvious to Penny who was the favoured parent…
A warm, deep male voice answered. “James Ellis.”
“Mr. Ellis… You do not know me, my name is Penelope Halliwell. I was born Johnson. I believe your wife’s maiden name is Phillipa Cecilia Johnson?”
“Yes. Might I inquire why you are calling? Is there anything you want from my wife?” *I’d like her to tell me why she ran away from home, destroying our parents and Gordon and me…I’d like to know why she never called, came back, wrote…I’d like to know all that…*
“I think…I need to speak to Pippa, please?”
James Ellis’ voice rang out. “Cece! There’s a Penelope Halliwell on the phone for you!”
Penny listened as an extension was picked up and James hung up. “Cecilia Ellis.”
A strangled noise from the other end of the phone line made clear that Pippa recognized the name and the voice. ”Penny…”
“Why Pippa?” *Oh real subtle there Penelope!*
“Don’t you dare condemn me! Don’t you dare! You’ve got no idea what I want through! Why I did what I did!”
Penelope blinked at the sheer rage in her sister’s voice, rage and tremendous fear. “We’ll need to talk about that, Pippa.”
“I don’t suppose I can ask you to quietly fade away again?” The other woman’s voice sounded anxious.
“Impossible. I’m at Joyce’s…and she knows.”
There was a gasp. “That rat fink bastard Meier…”
“Hardly… I was there to help a friend locate her granddaughter…who’s being fostered by Joyce and Simon, yes, but we didn’t know that. I take it you disapprove of him?”
would I disapprove of him?” Cecilia’s voice was cold.
“It won’t help anyway…they’re soul bonded.”
“Yes. Pippa… Why didn’t you ever tell Joyce she was a witch?”
“Cecilia, please…or Cece…I haven’t been Pippa in decades. And I didn’t tell her because she was latent. I didn’t want her to worry about things she couldn’t, shouldn’t deal with.”
“She’s not latent, she’s passive,” Penelope argued.
“I know the difference Penny! Arlene’s primary power is visions, Charlotte’s is telekinesis. I can sense the difference between latent and passive.”
“Well, she’s not latent now, she has power to spare.”
There was a moment of silence. ”What… gift
…does she have?” The loathing in the younger woman’s voice told Penelope that she’d still not made peace with her own powers.
“She’s a Mother.”
…Goddess…” Cecilia sounded amazed. “No wonder she felt different even as a latent…”
“My granddaughters are coming over for the weekend… Charlotte is coming over with her husband and Celia…”Penelope wheedled.
There was another moment of silence. “James and I will drive up tonight. Really soul bonded?” There was a little choke in Cecilia’s voice.
“Yes. Danielle Moritz and I both realised and saw it. They’re…wonderful to watch.”
“Tell Joyce…tell her I’ll explain…and that I’m sorry… But I wanted at least one of my girls not to be the prey of the darkness…”
“I will Cece…I-I look forward to seeing you again.”
“See you tonight.”
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“How do I look?” Prue walked into Piper’s bedroom in their shared apartment. Piper blinked. Piper was dressed comfortably in jeans, shirt and sweater, but Prue was wearing a full suit, the type she wore when trying to get rich collectors to share their wealth or collections with the masses.
“Prue…what are you wearing?”
“A suit. How do I look?”
“Honestly? Like a complete overdressed, over the top dipshit going to a family party trying to impress important relatives.” *Basically, like Roger…Oh please oh please, don’t marry that douchebag Prue…*
“We’re going to see Grams and a few new cousins Prue…not the Museum Trustees.”
Prue closed her eyes, apparently to calm herself. “Piper…” Her shoulders slumped. “Remember that text book I used…Identifying art
“Yeah, the really cool one with all the tips we used to buy all that jewellery…Oh…” Piper’s eyes widened. “She wrote that? You chose your major because of that book…”
I was called this afternoon by Travis Bealls
, who said he completely understood about us going to see to our grandmother, and that he’d see me on Tuesday to start discussions on the exhibition and to tell me that I should get Joyce to make us her mother’s pasta and to come visit him and Consuela soon.” Prue threw up her hands in despair. “She’d been one of the top assessors in the US for five years when she was my age…and…and…”
“And to make an impression on this woman you put on a business suit? Prue…I don’t think that’s the impression you want to make on family. She didn’t sound stuffy,” Piper pointed out.
“Prue! Go and put on something comfortable. I’m not going to sit beside you while you complain about your skirt riding up the entire drive,” Piper very firmly pushed her elder sister into her own bedroom, closed the door behind her and sighed. She wondered if maybe she should have Phoebe and Prue drive down together…while she took her own car. She sighed and packed the last items for the weekend into her bag. As soon as Prue looked like a normal twenty something woman going to meet family she loaded them into the car and headed for the mansion.
“PIPER!” Phoebe’s voice rang out and the middle sister sighed and left her childhood bedroom to go see what was wrong.
Phoebe was wearing a ridiculously short skirt and far too much make up. Her top showed enough cleavage to make Henry Rider Haggard name a mountain range after. She was trying to get the zip of the dress up and it had stuck.
Piper sighed. “Where exactly do you think we’re going Phoebe? A job interview at Hooters?”
Phoebe shot her a glare. “Just because you and Prue dress like dried up spinsters doesn’t mean I have to!”
Phoebe fell back on her bed, a frightened little girl look on her face. “I know…I know…It’s just…”
“You’ve got nothing to wear?” Piper walked to her sister’s closet and pulled out a pair of jeans, a white top and a light red sweater. “Here, put that on. Just pack jeans and a bathing suit, its hot in Sunnydale according to the weather report.”
“Do you think they’ll like me?” Phoebe asked in a tiny voice.
“Of course they will. You’re a lovable girl. Now stop fidgeting and just use a little bit of make up. If this Joyce is anything like Grams…Or maybe our new Great Aunt…” Piper teased.
Phoebe winced. “Oh come on! We’re way too old to be grounded!”
“That’s what you said about getting spanked…” Piper grinned evilly.
“PIPER!!! Don’t you dare mention that! Oh god, I don’t think I’ll ever live that down…” Phoebe groaned.
“Nope…wa-ay to good to ever forget. Can you sit all the way to Sunnydale by the way?” She winked at her younger sister as she made the old joke.
Phoebe threw a pillow at her sister who laughingly fled the room and returned to her own. With a bit of luck she’d get the three of them on the road in an hour or so…
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Danielle and Penelope were helping Joyce in the kitchen. Both were dressed in jeans and colourful tops and were bickering back and forth.
“I say you should let it grow out Danni, I mean look at Willow with that gorgeous hair. I’m sure men will flock to you…”
“Oh, and flocks of men have been doing you lots of good.” Danielle snippily replied.
“I may have had a few unfortunate relationships Danni, but that’s hardly enough reason for you to stay a spinster, or even find some ease for your lonely nights.” Penelope stated with dignity.
“Look Penny, I know you Johnson’s have this huge sex drive-”
Joyce cleared her throat and the older women both grinned widely. Joyce sighed.
“But I can do very well without the company of sweaty men in my life, thank you very much.”
“Your loss Danni…You know after I get back and myself checked out by a cardiologist, I think I will see if I can’t find a nice gentleman…”
Danielle sighed. “Penny, save yourself the trouble and get an electronic friend…”
Penny chuckled and Joyce sighed again. “You two had better remember that the children will be home soon and the ‘eeews’ and other screams will be all on your heads…”
The door opened and Simon came in, carrying a briefcase. Joyce eyed it. “You’re late. Work tonight?”
“No love, I had my lawyers draw up a set of papers that will grant us immediate custody of Willow. I sent the reports on the Rosenbergs to Judge Menson. He’s agreed to sign the preliminary custody documents and had them sent here, if Willow signs them we can go see them tonight and then go see the judge next week to finalize the arrangement.”
Joyce’s shoulders drooped a bit. “Do you think she will sign?”
“Yes Joyce and no, I don’t think it’s your Power at work, so stop being silly,” He winked at her as he repeated Willow’s words.
“Yes…well…Simon?” Joyce nervously fingered her apron, not looking at him.
“What is it love?”
“My parents will be here tonight…”
“Ah…” He actually looked a trifle uncomfortable. Then he asked in a hesitant voice. “Does your father own a shot gun?”
Danielle started laughing, Joyce and Penelope following suit.
The door opened and the teens came spilling in. “Hello Mom! Willow ran through first, carrying her rose. “I need a vase! Another one! And I got a poem! See!!” She took a book from her bag, carefully took the folded paper out and laid it on the island. Joyce, Penelope and Danielle immediately bent over to read it.
Joyce grinned. “See? I told you
that you were beautiful!”
Danielle hugged Willow who was beaming from ear to ear. “It’s a lovely poem Willow.”
Willow nodded happily. “And he gave me cheese!”
Joyce sighed. “Do you have any appetite left for dinner at all?”
Willow looked slightly shamefaced. “It was only an eighth of Edam…”
Joyce sighed again in fond exasperation. “Oh, Willow…”
Danielle laughed at Willow’s woebegone expression. Buffy and Amy sniggered. “Told you Will! Don’t mention the cheese!”
Simon grinned. “Someone to keep you in the cheese you’ve become accustomed to? I approve.”
Willow groaned and Joyce threw a chunk of the cabbage stem at him which he dodged. “Get out of the kitchen the lot of you. It might be best just to put it with the one you already have Willow.” She gestured at the rose.
“’Kay Mom! Where’s Dawn?” Buffy left the kitchen as she spoke and hollered back over her shoulder.
“Upstairs, doing homework,” Joyce said it absently, watching with trepidation as Simon followed the children carrying the briefcase.
He put a hand on Willow’s shoulder. “Could you come to the dining room after you’ve put your rose in a vase?”
Willow nodded a touch uncertainly and then rushed upstairs to put the rose in the same vase as the other. She came down again quickly, looking apprehensive, and went into the dining room where Simon was sitting with a set of papers spread out before him.
Willow’s eyes widened. “Oh…the papers…”
“Yes, these will allow Joyce and me to take joint custody, with Danielle as additional guardian.”
Willow sat down and started reading intently. After half an hour she looked up her eyes wide and her chin and lips trembling. “Will you come with me? To see them?”
“If you want me to, yes.” Simon looked uncomfortable.
“Willow, it may not make it easier, I think it may make it worse,” Simon explained gently.
“I-I don’t care…Can Mom come too?” Willow pleaded.
“Willow, all of us will go with you if you want, but it might be better to limit the numbers a little,” Simon smiled
“Nana too then?” Willow almost begged.
“We’ll ask them, shall we?”
Willow nodded and with a trembling hand reached for the elegant platinum ballpoint pen Simon had placed at the top of the papers and signed and then initialled all the pages.
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Willow rang the bell of the Rosenberg home. The door was opened by Ira. He made an unimpressive figure with his soft crown of red curls and his round, gentle face, dressed in an old black velveteen dressing gown over trousers and a dress shirt and shoes. He blinked at the four people standing on his doorstep.
Willow”? I thought you were upstairs. Your mother is rather upset with you tat you didn’t make dinner tonight. It is family night you know…”
“Where is she then? And why are you wearing your Temple clothes?” Willow asked belligerently.
“Ummm…there was a request from the University…they had need of her expertise and she just came in for dinner. And I…there was an interesting discussion at Temple and I was going back…”
“I see. Willow’s voice was cold. She held out a large envelope. “Here.”
Ira took the bulky thing and blinked. “What’s this?”
“My official request to be fostered, based upon the emotional, psychological and physical neglect perpetrated upon me by my biological parents, Sheila and Ira Rosenberg. A court order declaring that Willow Danielle Rosenberg is to be taken from the custody of Ira and Sheila Rosenberg and placed in the care of the California State Child Social Services, a transfer of custody and authority from that agency to Joyce Summers, Simon Meier and Danielle Moritz. Thank you for providing me with the physical comforts of this house, even if your absences deprived me of parents, home and love.”
Ira blinked again. Then his face hardened. “What if we fight this?”
“Then we go public,” Simon’s voice came from behind Willow. “Every time you left your five year old daughter alone, every time you let her fend for her self, every year you spent months away… All will be conveyed in excruciating detail to your eminent colleagues, the press will have a field day. And there will be nothing of your careers left to salvage.”
Ira blinked. Then Danielle’s voice spoke. “And I’ll gladly add whatever I know, Ira.”
A feral snarl came over Ira Rosenberg’s face and his breath almost hissed from him. “You! You’re dead! You evil, wicked, sinful witch! You blight upon this world! You’re dead! You vile, corrupting excrescence upon the earth!”
Danielle’s voice was cold and amused. “Well, yes. I always knew you didn’t like me Ira, but you might want to inquire into Sheila’s past a bit too. I at least never tried to conquer the world with magic…”
Willow had shrunk back from her father’s tirade and looked at him with wide eyes as he went from gentle Talmudic scholar to raging fanatic. Joyce put her arms around the girl and spoke. “Tomorrow a moving van will come to collect Willow’s things. You will be reimbursed for their value. Good evening, Mr. Rosenberg.”
Willow took out her house key and held it out. Ira held out his hand in numb shock and the key was deposited in it, without a word. Willow turned from the home of her biological parents and left, her shoulders shaken by sobs and comforted by her new parents. Ira Rosenberg looked after her, his face a mask of anger and grief, his left hand clenching a thick envelope and Willow’s key pressing deep into the flesh of his right. Drops of blood dripped unnoticed from between its fingers onto the ground.