**Sorry for the delay in this post! I went to my cousin’s wedding over the weekend, and I didn’t get a chance to do any writing! Thank you for reading, and please enjoy!**
I held my breath and truly expected something completely daunting! For a second, my pumping adrenaline convinced me to ready myself to do battle, but when I recalled the shoddy wand in my possession, I panicked! How could any of us survive a dangerous confrontation without a proper way to defend ourselves? I probably should have ran for cover, but instead, I found myself wondering how Wade got a hold of such a powerful wand while escaping prison! All of a sudden, the perpetrator of the Hekekias unrest emerged from the bushes, and it became crystal clear what caused the disturbance…
“Oh, Romeo! You followed your instincts and discovered my hiding spot!” Minna rolled out from the brush with her arms wide open as though she was expecting a passionate embrace, and when she received none, she barreled herself towards Clifton, “Come here, you big lug!”
“Don’t touch me!” Clifton commanded as she darted towards him. He stepped aside, so she missed him, and she had been moving too fast to stop immediately, so she whirled past him and only halted when she got within ten feet of Aidan, which activated the restraining spell and evoked the electric shock effect! Once she settled down, Clifton added, “And, for the love of mercy, don’t call me Romeo! My partner doesn’t even do that!”
Mister and Missus Hekekia stared at the scene in confusion, and Mister Hekekia queried, “Uh… What’s going on?”
Clifton explained, “This is Anna Swetinbedde. She’ll be the tenth member of your crew.” The Hekekias looked positively alarmed at the prospect, so Clifton assured them, “She’s a little… different, but she won’t cause you any trouble! Just keep her ten feet away from Kennedy, legal reasons!”
“Gosh, this all sounds so complicated!” Missus Hekekia fretfully commented.
“I know it’s a lot to take in at once, but, trust me, it’ll smooth out as time goes on!” Clifton ensured them. “You’ll be glad that the Swetinbedde family graced your doorstep after they help you get your farm back up and running!”
Minna strove to persuade Aidan, “Don’t let this romance with Romeo make you think that my feelings for you have vanished! The waters of those emotions run too deep to ever truly dry out!”
Mister Hekekia probed, “Wait… Aren’t you two related?”
“We’re supposed to be cousins,” Aidan exasperatedly responded.
“It’s so wildly stirring! Quite the forbidden affair situation!” Minna dreamily cooed. “Ooh, and he’s with his first wife right now too!”
I pointed out, “I’m standing right here!”
Minna got affronted by that. “Rich! You gotta remind me of the one ability you have that I don’t!”
“Okay! Well, I have a lot to do back at the office!” Clifton scurried back to the van. Once he got in, he addressed us all, “Call me if you have any issues!” Minna, Aidan, the Hekekias, and I all indicated that we had dilemmas that we wished to resolve, so Clifton grimaced and then directed us, “Call me!” As he drove out of sight, I got the distinct impression that he was beseeching the universe that we wouldn’t contact him with our laundry-list of grievances!
“I’m sorry, I gotta ask…!” Laraleigh asserted after a bout of uncomfortable silence ensued. “Why did you lurk in the plantlife instead of introducing yourself to our new bosses?”
Minna shrugged. “I dunno. I’m sure Romeo gave me some instructions before sending me off, but I wasn’t really paying attention! How could I concentrate while gazing into those gorgeous, green eyes?”
I shook my head at her ridiculousness, and I theorized that Minna may wind up as useless to this couple if she had to work around my gorgeous boyfriend! I didn’t see how we would maintain our ruse as laborers with this albatross hanging around our necks! My concerns over this plan only heightened when I glimpsed at all of our getups- none of us had the appearance of experienced laborers in this field! Evidently, Missus Hekekia drew out the same conclusion because she canvassed us, “So, you guys are farmhands, huh?”
We all awkwardly hesitated on how to answer that question, and after a long beat, my mom relayed to her, “I like to garden!”
The Hekekias gawked at us with utterly bewildered expressions, and I couldn’t say that I blamed them! I would have felt uneasy too if my business and financial future depended on a group that was half children and half childish! Really, we didn’t belong in the agricultural realm, and I had no inkling why Agent Hearne or his counterpart in conservation services foresaw this as an ideal arrangement! I feared that our inevitable failure in this venture would spoil our odds of success in this venture, but then I pondered whether or not that was such a bad thing! Frankly, if we totally botched this operation, they couldn’t do much else other than sending us home! I made my peace with this expedition, and clearly, Missus Hekekia did too because she shook off the woes from her visage and bespoke, “Alright! So, I suppose we ought to introduce ourselves! I’m Kalani, and this my husband, Kaleo. It’s such a pleasure meeting you!”
I sincerely doubted that she meant that, but I genially shook her hand all the same. “I’m Sh… Sophia, and this is my… husband, Kennedy.” It still felt strange to give Aidan that title, but then again, I wasn’t actually making that reference- Sophia wedded Kennedy, and once we got out of this predicament, we could… Well, I wasn’t certain what we intended to do! We hadn’t discussed getting hitched unless you count playing specific board games where that was advantageous! I did muse about doing it someday, but someday seemed like a far away date! It’s quite startling to have a scenario like this just thrust upon you!
“I’m Eleanor…” Mom started to inform them.
“Eleanor! That’s it!” Laraleigh victoriously recognized. When she got some particular glances directed at her, she clarified, “I’ve been calling her Mom so long that I almost forgot what her real name was!” She nervously chuckled, but when no one else shared in her mirth, she cleared her throat and moved on, “Anyways, I’m Grace, Kennedy’s sister, and these are my kids: Danielle…” She indicated to Kinsey. “…Joey…” She indicated to Jackson. “…Vanessa…” She indicated to Harper. “…Scott Junior…” She indicated to Mason. “…And Sarah…” She indicated to Willow. “And you’ve met Anna…”
Minna gave them a merry wave, and while Kaleo and Kalani ogled at her in unease of her apparently slippery grip on reality, they said nothing in regards to her presence there. Kaleo opted to let it go and proposed, “Let’s take a tour of the farm, huh?” We all nodded, naturally. What else could we do? Say no and live in the greenery that Minna was stowing herself in? “Come on in!” He gestured towards a rickety fence, and we followed him through it. Clifton’s description of the facility didn’t give me much hope for anything spectacular, but I crossed my fingers that my hunch would prove to be incorrect.
It wasn’t! A few plants near their cottage remained, but most of it seemed as though it was on the verge of dying! The majority of their acreage consisted of a vast, empty dirt lot! I could see the divisions where rows of trees once stood, and the corpses of recently deceased vegetation laid throughout this parcel, but otherwise, it was more bare than I predicted! “Yeah, this is our field where we grow all our crops!” Kaleo rather lamely announced.
“Or it will be once we get it going again!” Kalani amended her husband’s sentence.
“Ohhh!” the kids reacted in comprehension. Kinsey then asked them, “What do you grow here?”
Kaleo answered her, “Nani.”
Kinsey puzzled, “None?”
“No, nani!” he corrected her. He plucked a light green, oblong piece of fruit with small freckles on it off of a nearby tree and showed it to us. “It’s a very valuable and nutritious produce!”
“It looks like moldy cheese!” Willow observed.
Mason snatched it out of Kaleo’s hands and took a large bite. He immediately winced and pursed his lips from its obviously acrid flavor! “It tastes awful!”
Kalani educated us, “The noni fruit isn’t valued for its beauty or its palatableness, although it’s far less bitter if you cook it or mix it with other food! Its worth stems from its medicinal qualities! Many healers use it to remedy diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and many other ailments!”
“If it’s so valuable, then why was this turf ever abandoned?” Jackson quizzed them.
“There’s a drought in this area,” Kaleo let him know. “Of course, we only discovered that after we moved in! It’s not as though we can go back to where we came from- we’re committed to this property! Don’t pry into why that is!” A couple of us opened our mouths to do exactly that, but we zipped our lips at his behest. My curiosity did pique though- what one earth could have obligated them to this disaster zone?
Kalani briefed us, “The only other section of Lani Noni left to be seen is your quarters. It’s at the end of this… Say, where are all of your belongings?”
I had spent so much time praying that we would never get to this juncture that this thought hadn’t even occurred to me! Now that it had, the location of all of our personal effects was a total mystery! Agent Hearne assured us that we would have everything we would need, but if that was true, then where was it? “Good question!” I told her. “We’re probably gonna have to make a phone call when we get to our quarters…”
The Hekekias noticeably found it peculiar that we were sent to this new spot to occupy without awareness of such a vital detail, and I definitely crossed my fingers that they didn’t encroach into it too much! Fortunately, Kalani dropped the subject and beckoned us, “Come along!”
I can’t quite finger precisely what I had been anticipating in terms of our dwelling situation, but without a doubt, I wouldn’t have guessed that the dusty, old barn in the corner of the estate would be our ultimate destination! In fact, even after they disclosed this to us, I still didn’t really accept it as reality! Kaleo somewhat lacklusterly proclaimed, “Here it is!”
“You’re joking!” Aidan gaped at the flimsy structure in disbelief. I was relieved to find that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way!
“Do I look like I’m joking?” Kaleo countered.
Aidan retorted, “I dunno! I don’t really know you, so I can’t determine what you look like when you tell a joke!”
Kalani reassured us, “I know the exterior isn’t attractive, but the previous occupants fixed the interior up nicely! I promise!”
Even though she swore that the innermost part of this abode would meet our approval, I didn’t buy her claim until we entered into the building. Aside from a shabby staircase, it actually did seem like a decent residence! We had a couch, a love seat, and some chairs that encircled a television set, a fairly modern kitchen with all of the necessary amenities, and an elegant dining room table that could accommodate us all! It was totally open concept, but that was mainly due to a total lack of walls! I assumed we would come across a bunch of hay, farm equipment, and perhaps even some livestock, and there wasn’t any of that! Well, that wasn’t completely true- by the back door, we espied a goat chewing on an old can! Willow gasped, “Ooh! You have animals!”
“No, we don’t! Shoo!” Kaleo ushered the goat out the back door. The creature gave him some grief but then quickly complied. “Apparently, some of our neighbors used to allow their animals to wander onto these grounds, and sometimes they forget people live here now! Ah, well, with all of you magians with us, we can do some spell work and finally get this enterprise running again in no time!”
“Right…” Aidan and I each articulated with complete uncertainty. We recalled the instances on the plane where we strove to make the wands issued to us function, and neither of us felt too confident on our odds of success in this endeavor! I decided to practice like crazy once we got to our room, but then it registered to me… “Hey, where are our bedrooms?” Kalani motioned for us to go up the stairs. “In the loft.” We all trekked upwards, and to my surprise, the edifice didn’t buckle under our weight! I dared to unleash a hint of optimism and imagined a few chambers filled with cozy furniture and some kitschy artwork… When we saw what rested on this floor, we all got a jolt of shock sent throughout our bodies! Not literally! Minna might have gotten some if she had not waited outside, but physically, we were fine… When everyone but her got a glimpse of this sight, our eyes grew wide and our hearts almost stopped upon seeing this…