Tula returns home late, and takes a shower before dinner. She makes sure to apply her concealer before sitting down for dinner.
Guy has been disoriented all day, but after a few hours of staring up at the ceiling and a long, hot shower, he feels a bit more like himself.
"Hey, Tula, what happened this morning?" Guy asks, his question quiet and dripping with fear.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, after breakfast. I don't...remember much."
"You said you felt really tired, then kinda stumbled out of the room and fell onto your bed," Tula replies with a shrug, "I tried to wake you up, but you were really out cold."
Guy processes this. Was what he remembered just a bad dream, then?
"Anyways, I told the teachers that you had a cold. I have your makeup work."
Guy sighs. Now that's a nightmare.
The next morning is a Saturday. Everyone wakes up late into the morning, sleepily shuffling around the house.
"Thanks for the Valerian root, by the way. It worked out great," Tula thanks her step-mother.
"Oh damn," Sun misses the dart board spectacularly. "Oh, that's great. I thought you said you were going to grow it here?"
"Yeah, but the teacher said it'd be better to grow it at school. For a more controlled environment," Tula half-lies. They are growing Valerian in class for that reason, just not all the Valerian Sun bought her.
"Too bad. Would've been fun to grow together," Sun says, aiming carefully. She wants a bull's eye this time.
"Maybe some other time," Tula says. She moves a pawn forward on her chessboard and smirks.
The afternoon is allocated for a very special event. Sun and Paolo's wedding!
Paolo, remembering the awkwardness of his first wedding, opts for a much more private ceremony in the park, just between him, Sun, and the kids. Not wanting to make a big scene, they do this ceremony in the relative privacy of the barn.
Guy watches the scene disinterestedly. He wonders why they had to bring Haliya, barely old enough to crawl much less understand this ceremony, all the way here. He supposes he should feel happy, since his "dad" and his "step-mom" are getting married, but he just feels kind of hungry and bored, and bad that he feels hungry and bored.
Tula counts down the minutes until this is over.
Ah, finally, there it is! The much anticipated moment!
*Ahem*... orrr not.
"Guy, are you seriously doing your homework now?" Tula hisses. She doesn't blame him in the slightest, but social norms dictate that she shame him for doing something else during their parents' wedding.
Guy glances behind him, "I don't think they'll mind..."
Tula sighs. He's right. Well, they might as well do something productive, at least.
"We'll take over for you love birds," Tula says teasingly, sitting in front of her younger sister. Paolo and Sun barely notice.
"They're holding hands, Haliya. See?" Tula teaches her sister some vocabulary. She's read that children are very visual and tactile, so seeing examples of words and ideas helps their cognitive development.
Haliya looks up and claps happily. "Mama! Dada!"
"Yeah, they're having a party!"
Tula sighs but smiles at her sister. "Not quite..."
Eventually Paolo and Sun pull the kids towards the photo booth to "commemorate the occasion". Again, another odd tradition in Tula's opinion, but who is she to judge?
After a lot of posing and re-taking, the family of 5 leaves the tent.
"Where's Haliya?" Tula asks, craning her neck. She could've sworn she was just crawling around somewhere...
"I left her with Guy and Sun."
Tula freezes, her hand flying up to her concealed bruises. "You...left her with Guy?"
Paolo quirks an eyebrow, "...and Sun. He might be a bit absent-minded, but give him some credit. He looks after her almost as often as you do."
Tula forces a smile on her face, and moves her hand slowly down, "Yeah...yeah, you're right. It's hard not to worry, right?"
"You sound like a parent already," Paolo jokes, ruffling her hair.
"We'll be back soon, don't go anywhere!" Paolo tells Guy. Guy nods and watches Paolo walk away.
As he gets ready to feed Haliya, Tula runs up to him.
"I want to spend some time with Haliya, you go on ahead and enjoy yourself," Tula tells Guy.
He looks up, hesitant. "Your dad told me not to go anywhere..."
"Well, if I'm here it's ok, right? He just needs someone to look after her. Go, enjoy the festival!" she says, prodding him with a smile. Guy looks between Haliya and Tula. Well, they are sisters after all. Of course Tula wants to spend time with her.
"Just tell me if you want to switch," he says. Tula nods, and Guy pats Haliya's head.
He tells Paolo and Sun about the baby sitter change and joins them for a hot-dog eating contest.
Joining them is local politician, Hubert Fox. Since Krista and Paolo's wedding he's moved up in the political world, but is still based at home in Appaloosa Plains. He makes a point of attending community events like the summer festival and mingling with the rest of the town.
Paolo packs hot-dog after hot-dog while Sun has to stop after two.
"How do you do that?" she wheezes. Her belly is full from lunch and this greasy festival food. If she eats anymore, she'll probably vomit.
She would definitely be nauseous if she knew her daughter was all alone in the park.
Tula paces around the park, looking for her sister. She knows exactly where she is, of course, but no one else knows that.
"Dad, have you seen Haliya?" she asks her father urgently.
"I thought she was with you," he says through a mouthful of hot-dog.
Tula shakes her head, "I went on a walk after you told me she was with Sun and Guy."
Paolo glances at Guy questioningly, but Guy is busy eating the last of his hot-dogs.
"But he told us she was with you..."
"No. Believe me I wish she was..."
Paolo feels his stomach drop. Is Haliya missing?
Paolo pulls Guy to the side.
"But my hot-dogs..."
"Trust me, this is way more important. Where was the last place you saw Haliya?"
Guy cocks his head, "With Tula, by the picture tent..."
Paolo sighs, "You told us you left Haliya with Tula, but she says you didn't. Are you sure you aren't mixing things up?"
Guy shakes his head emphatically, "No, she told me to go enjoy the festival..."
Paolo pinches the bridge of his nose. The two stories contradict each other.
"When did she do that?"
"Right after we took those pictures...." Guy begins to panic. What if he is mixing things up? "...or maybe it was before?"
"Guy, tell me where you last saw her."
Guy's face is pale and he looks close to tears, "...by the tent after the photos." That was hours ago. She could be anywhere right now.
His knees almost buckle with relief when he sees Tula run with Haliya in her arms.
"I found her," Tula says breathlessly. Chasing down an upset toddler was no small task. Tula's physical exhaustion is genuine.
"Thank goodness she's ok," Tula says, close to sobs, "I was afraid that she was hurt..."
"Is she ok?" Paolo asks, his heart still hammering in his chest.
"She's fine, but she was terrified when I found her. She was all by herself. I knew I shouldn't have left her with you!" Tula says, glaring at Guy.
"But...but I left her with you! You told me to go! I would never hurt anyone," he pleads.
"Not on purpose," Tula adds quietly, "Never on purpose... but you've hurt me before."
"What did you do?" Paolo snarls.
Guy can only cry, because he doesn't know.
Paolo and Sun don't know what to do now. The police have been called, and Guy is in custody. Tula is tight-lipped about what happened, refusing to say any more than "he didn't mean it" and "just forget I said anything, please!"
Sun sits next to Paolo.
"What are we going to do?" she asks softly.
Paolo just shakes his head. Is it his fault? If he were home more, would he have seen it? Would he have noticed Guy hurting his daughter?
Does Guy really not remember anything? If he had been home, could he have gotten Guy the help he needs?
Sun rests her head on Paolo's shoulder. They sit like that for a very long time, neither of them moving.
"I feel responsible," Paolo finally says. "I should have noticed it. I raised him. He was practically my son! But I didn't help him and I didn't stop him from hurting Tula."
Sun brushes his tears away, "There was no way you could've known. Guy didn't seem like he could hurt anyone and Tula never said anything..." Sun wonders what signs she missed herself. Tula was always aloof... she had just assumed it was normal teenage sulleness and angst. Maybe it was something else...
"Maybe she didn't feel like she could trust me! She always said I wasn't home enough... maybe she was trying to tell me then, and I just wasn't listening?"
Sun strokes his hair as he cries, and says nothing. Is there anything else she can really do?
They spend their first night as a married couple in each other's arms, but neither of them feel happy.
Downstairs, Tula has a quiet birthday celebration. The first one she's ever had alone.
It's a nice feeling.
Sorry for those of you who saw this chapter before the last two pictures were added. I didn't realize I posted the chapter without them!