First day of school! The girls sit close together and whisper excitedly about what awaits them. They're divided on who they hope their teacher is. They love their dad, but having him as teacher might not be great... or it could be awesome, they're really not sure.
Tulip is unafraid when she stands next to the high schoolers. Xara is more socially conscious and sticks to the other elementary school kids, not wanting to overstep her bounds.
It turns out that Marko wouldn't be able to teach them anyways. He's been promoted to teaching middle school!
Persis, on the other hand, feels stagnant. Winter is even more oppressive than fall with the thick blanket of snow as far as the eye can see. It's too cold to walk outside without a thick snowsuit and the sun goes down too early anyways. So far Persis has only donned her snow pants to run outside and check the mailbox. She pays off their weekly bills and pulls out the thick wad of letters for Marko. A lot of them are thank you letters for the Snowflake Day party, most addressed to just Marko, a few addressed to "the Winterlys". She sighs and closes the mailbox, dejected and bored.
Xara flitted around most of her first day at school, talking to kids from various social groups. Today she comes home with Mitchell Blanco-Riffin, the boy Tulip thinks she has a crush on. She totally does not, she just likes talking to him is all.
She blushes when she realizes she forced him to sit outside in the cold to do their homework instead of in their kitchen and hurriedly invites Mitchell in.
Seeing as their homework is done, they do what kids do and have a pillow fight. Mitchell doesn't hold back because of Xara's gender, and Xara refuses to show that any of his blows hurt. Despite her determination, Mitchell still wins their battle with a decisive blow to her ankles, causing her to topple over and splay on the floor. He laughs as he helps her up, causing her to blush bright red.
"You're ok, right?" he asks, thinking her red face means she's going to cry.
"Yeah, I'm fine!" she says quickly. The blush drains from her face, but she still feels nervous.
She excuses herself before she can do anything to embarrass herself and runs into a classmate Tulip brought home. She feels kind of bad for not remembering his name, so she plays a few rounds of rock-paper-scissors with him, hoping he might say it himself or try to introduce himself to her.
Unfortunately for Xara, he remembers who she is (her hair makes her kind of hard to forget), so she passes by with calling him "you" while he calls her by her first name.
He asks her if she and Tulip really beat up a zombie together.
"Well, duh. If we didn't, would I be alive?"
Can't argue with that logic!
Xara and her tentative new friend go to her room to pillow fight, but she stops in her tracks when she sees her dad talking to Mitchell. This makes her feel uncomfortable for reasons she cannot name, and prays that her dad isn't being weird in front of her classmate.
"Marriage is a social construct," Persis tells her young and impressionable son, "...but it still means something."
"Art! Its meaning is completely subjective, but that doesn't diminish its value."
Paolo cocks his head to the side. "Art?"
He doesn't understand what she means when he's older, either. But cooking, now that's something he can understand! Or at least try to, and try he will. Paolo is a serious kid, working quietly and diligently until his assignments in school are completed to the best of his ability. His teachers think he's some kind of genius, and so do the other kids, but he doesn't think he's that smart. He just does the work his teachers give to him before it's due. Him getting good grades is completely coincidental.
Xara requests a bedtime story. Marko reads her The ABCDFs of Grading to guarantee that she'll fall asleep right away.
As he predicted, the book was so boring that Xara fell asleep immediately. He kisses her forehead goodnight.
"Do you want me to read to you, too?" Marko asks Tulip. She pauses mid-climb and stares at him.
"I'm too old for bed time stories," she informs him. He arches an eyebrow, but decides not to comment.
"Good night, Tulip. I love you."
Right before he leaves the room, Tulip calls out, "I love you too!"
Paolo is too busy with the toy oven to go to bed. He just wanted to make a blueberry muffin, but he keeps burning everything!
"Go to bed," Persis tells him sternly. Paolo looks between the charred remains of his muffin and his mother's face and decides that the muffin isn't worth it. He scurries to his room with a quiet, "night".
Early the next morning, he sneaks to his sisters' room to play with their blocks. His sisters think it's a boring game, but he finds it fascinating. He could sit here for hours, building houses, tanks, huge animals...
Xara yawns and then yelps when she sees Paolo in her room. "What the heck!? You scared me!" she says angrily.
"Seriously, haven't you heard of privacy? You're supposed to ask before you come into people's rooms," Tulip chimes in as she climbs down from her bunk.
"Blah-blah-blah," Paolo maturely tunes his sisters out. Xara rolls her eyes.
"We need to change our clothes, so you need to go," Tulip says with an eye roll of her own.
Paolo quickly disassembles the house he was building. "Fiiiine." When he exits the room, Xara and Tulip share a sigh. Brothers.
It's a field trip day! While Tulip waits for Xara and her gaggle of friends to get on the bus, she stares hard at the class's teacher's pet, Melissa Marshal. Nobody likes her because she sucks up to the teachers constantly. Tulip just thinks she has no subtlety. You don't sit next to the teacher on the bus, you sit behind them with other students, but in class you participate whenever no one else wants to speak up and stay behind and ask questions. Psh. Obviously.
Tulip quickly forgets about what's-her-name when the bus pulls to a stop in front of the Bistro. She's excited to see how they make all those fancy dishes she sees in all the ads, and maybe taste some of them too. She's not really aware that one day she'll only be able to subsist on plasma and will leave food far, far behind.
Xara's not the best student, often getting in trouble for talking to her friends when she's supposed to be working, but she loves school. Where else would she see all her friends, after all?
Marko's just glad she likes going at all. He hasn't been a teacher for very long but he's seen plenty of kids completely unwilling to learn or who hate school for their various (and at times, valid) reasons.
And he's heard nothing but praise from his colleagues about Paolo and Tulip. They both tackle their assignments with determination and have high grades. However, he worries a bit about his son. Tulip has several friends aside from Xara, Xara has her huge friend group, but Paolo doesn't ever mention other children from school. From the few times he's seen his son during the school day, Paolo is usually playing in a large group of boys but not really talking to anyone in particular. His colleagues tell him not to worry, that this is rather normal for the more serious kids, but he can't help but wonder if there's something more to his son's seeming isolation...
Paolo's not particularly close to his sisters either. It's not that they exclude him, exactly, but they have such a tight bond that he always feels like he's interrupting something when they play together, so he gives the twins a wide berth at home.
Xara and Tulip are oblivious to this and think that Paolo's social avoidance is just him being "weird", as brothers naturally are.
In other news, spring has officially sprung in Appaloosa Plains! It's Persis who chooses their decor this time around. Being a gardener, and happy to return to her garden after a long winter, she finds ornate blossoms and places it right in the middle of their dining room table.
It's far, far past time for school to have ended, but Xara and Tulip had their badging ceremony from Scouts to attend! Everyone was surprised that Xara joined such a physically intense activity, but not so much when she spent most of their meetings socialising. Paolo is also in scouts, but in the group for the younger kids. Some of them are here right now, doing their homework together.
Marko and Persis both attended, of course. Marko also promised a tutoring session for some of his old students from his days as an elementary school teacher. He comes out and is bemused to see Paolo practically doing his job for him by explaining, step by step, how he arrived at each of his answers. He doesn't seem to notice that his sister's classmates are just copying what he's saying without caring about how he arrived at his conclusions.
Marko doesn't stay very long. Most of the kids here are more interested in hanging out than they are in getting his help. He doesn't really mind; there's not much to do in this town anyways. Unsurprisingly Xara decides to stay behind to "do her homework" while Tulip actually stays to do her homework.
"Man, they didn't give us anything to eat, not even a snack," Tulip pouts.
"You mean they didn't give you any blood?" Glen Bedlington sneers.
Xara stares wide-eyed at Glen, completely shocked. She struggles to find the words to defend her sister, but Tulip beats her to it.
"Well, now that you mention it, you smell pretty good and I am hungry," Glen can't see her wicked smile, but he goes still for a moment nonetheless.
"She could kick your butt," Paolo helpfully informs Glen, "Even without super vampire strength."
"Pft, I'd like to see her try," Glen scoffs with fake bravado.
"Sure, let's go," Tulip says from behind him. Before he can say anything, she hauls him to his feet. Unfortunately for Glen, the only muscles he has are on his shirt and he is unable to resist.
Tulip stares at him expectantly, waiting for him to do something. She's never been in a fight before, but she's pretty sure she could take him.
"Glen, come on, don't be a jerk. Just say you're sorry!" Xara is desperate to avoid a conflict. Why can't everyone just be friends?
Several long seconds tick by. Xara is too scared to look behind her and closes her eyes, praying no one will fight. For those few seconds, it seems that no one makes a move or a sound and time slows to a halt.
"...sorry," he mumbles. He looks down at the ground shamefully, trying not to look at the way the light glints on Tulip's growing canines.
Tulip grins. "Apology accepted. Now sit down, you look like you're about to faint!"
Glen's face reddens, "No I'm not!"
Balance is restored.
Tulip changes into her scout's uniform, excited to show off her various badges. For the few kids who are still around by the time she's explained, in detail, what each badge means, she offers to showcase her ghost story telling skills. An essential part of being a scout, obviously.
The story itself might not be that scary, but Tulip has great line delivery. The fact that her eyes glow in low lighting is just a bonus.
The kids eventually have to go home. Xara isn't very hungry and goes straight for the shower, leaving Tulip and Paolo alone for dinner. Paolo hesitates before he sits next to his sister. Usually Xara sits next to Tulip.
"What's wrong? Just sit down you dummy," Tulip sticks her tongue out at him. Paolo rolls his eyes but complies. With his tension broken, he and Tulip chat about Glen Bedlington ("He seriously believed me and Xara beat up a zombie, sucker!") and scouts ("I got the highest number of badges in the troop" Tulip brags for the 100th time).
"Race you to the dishwasher!" Tulip suddenly announces when they've both finished eating. Paolo blinks, then swipes his plate and runs.
"No fair, I wasn't ready!" he complains when Tulip wins.
"You snooze, you lose!"
He rolls his eyes. "Whatever." Amazing rebuttal there.
Their parents eat a bit later.
"This vase really makes it hard to see people on the other side of the table," Marko complains.
Persis smiles wryly, "Deal with it."
And the matter is settled.