Not too long after that, somehow, Aunt was deemed a fit enough guardian to take in four of my cousins; Jolene, Gera, Hesperis, and Eugene. She would be spending much the day signing papers, making little gripes here and there about the process, along with bemoaning that she took in things that only take, before the social workers dropped them off. With all her pets, plants, reclusive habits, and personality, she wasn't really all that fit but, apparently, she was the most reliable.

Jolene was about a year and a half older than me but was more like Peggy at school, if only more vain. We didn't get along, only she would do what Peggy didn't do and would lay hands, however, she learned the hard way not to do that, as Aunt pulled her hair when she pinched Eugene. If she pinched, Aunt would yank her hair, threatening to cut it, and, if Jolene argued back, the former simply pulled out a pair of scissors, saying, "I know how much you love your hair."

Gera wasn't much younger than me but she was, as Aunt told her, "dumber than dirt" and she wasn't lying. Gera, somehow, could make Eugene look smarter and the latter is two. One could give her a simple instructions and she'd do them wrong. If not out of obligation, I would think Aunt would have had the social worker take her back and, at one point, Aunt said, "If I knew you were dumber than dirt, I'd have not taken you in, well, I'm stuck with you now."

Hesperis was a weird one. She was about six, probably younger, hated looking at the daytime sky, and only wanted to see stars. Like Eugene, Aunt wasn't as harsh or annoyed as she would have been with Jolene and Gera. She thought she was strange but that was about it and just let her be, so long as she wasn't antagonizing her many pets or fussing with her plants. Weirder still is how much Hesperis looked more like Aunt than the rest of us but I figured that was coincidence.

Eugene was much beloved and two years old. To him, Aunt wasn't his aunt, she was his mother because he didn't know any better and he followed her around like one of her lapdogs. Like Hesperis, Aunt was patient with him, however, she was more patient with him than the strange Hesperis. Of course, he was two, so he probably wasn't old enough to annoy her, yet, but she was sweeter to him than the rest of us.

When they moved in, she moved all five of us in a bigger room. However, it wasn't all that spacious and, once again, hung that charm on the wall, with instructions NOT to mess with it. She ran down the expectations, school arrangements, and designated times, complete with threats of getting rid of them if they failed to comply. We knew she wouldn't do that, considering the stipend but it was effective, at least, to the three of them, as Eugene didn't really understand what was going on.

The next day, she got us up at the crack of dawn for school, with Eugene tied to her. On the way to the bus stop, she told the other three, "The principal has agreed to the accommodate you, while things get sorted, including you, dumber than dirt Gera." We got to school without a hitch, other than Jolene getting a sharp pinch for whacking Hesperis with her schoolbag. Per usual but with Eugene, she took her place in the office to wait but, before she did that, she made a point to tell them that Gera was dumber than dirt and that Hesperis liked to stare off into the nothing. She went onto inquire if there was a preschool for Eugene to go to, while she waited. He was an exception, as he was two and they usually admitted three year olds.

It didn't take a long for them to find classes for them and Peggy still looked like a pig. Jolene homed in on that, asking what disease did Peggy have to catch. For once, I found myself enjoying Jo's presence, as her presence kept Peggy away. They're both repugnant but Piggy met her match and she was burned. The whole interactions between them played out through a fish-eyed lens. It was downright bizarre how similar these two were, yet they went after each other like two things forbidden to share the same space. They bickered and fought with Jo homing in more on how Peggy still looked like a pig.

"You can get mad at me all you want but what disease did you have to catch to look like a pig?"

"I don't look like a pig!"

"Yes, you do and there's something that makes you look like that. Whatever it is you caught it!"

"I don't know what it is you're talking about! I DON'T look like a pig."

"I don't speak oink-oink!"

"And I don't speak Sasquatch."

"At least my name ain't 'Piggy' !"

The exchange would have continued if Aunt didn't come into the cafeteria and say, in that hissy tone, "I hope you're behaving yourself." Ironically, she looked at Peggy before turning to us, saying, "I still don't like her." before leaving the room as silently as she came. The school-day, other than that, was pretty uneventful, with Aunt telling Jolene, in that hissy tone, "Behave yourself next time."

Later, after dinner and as we settled for bed, Jolene looked up at the charm and asked, "Why did Aunt put that there?" I told her I didn't know but she still pressed on about the subject, asking, "Why do you think she put it there?"

"Well, Jo, I don't know."

"Has it always been there?"

"When I first moved in, yes, it's always been there."

"What does it do?"

"I don't know besides that she doesn't want us to mess with it, so it does something."

The conversation would have went on before we heard a loud rapping and felt the house shake. "Maybe we don't want to know..." I said, staring at the closed door. I don't think either Jolene or I got any sleep for the better part of a few hour hours, due to some weird wailing noise. It sounded akin to hissing pipes, combined with a woman's wail. It was ethereal, something that, as Aunt would put it, was "not of the natural world".

We didn't say anything the next morning.

Authoress Note:

One, sorry for updating so late. Lot of outside stuff going on, particularly with this damn pandemic.

Two, I thought I'd elaborate a bit on the names. "Gera" is a reference to "geranium" a flower commonly associated with stupidity and "Hesperis" is a reference to a flower genus"hesperis", which is either night-blooming or its scent becomes more obvious in the evening and her name being ancient Green for "evening". Initially, I would have gone with the name "Hesperia" but "Hesperis" made more sense. "Eugene" is a reference to a nickname I gave my much loved nephew and "Jolene" is named after his sister (long story).

Thanks for your time,

Amo ✿