On the day of her teenage birthday, Jessalyn bounded out of bed, full of excitement. She was ready for this – more than ready, really. She’d been counting down the days on her calendar, waiting impatiently for the day to arrive. Jessalyn watched enough TV know exactly what it was like to be a teenager, and she couldn’t wait for the parties and the flirting to begin.
She ran straight into Theodore’s room, and found him still asleep. She pounced on him. Her twin brother jolted awake, gasping for breath – not that Jessalyn noticed.
“Are you ready? Mom said we can can have cake for breakfast! She said we can spin in the morning! Get UP, Theodore! You know she won’t let me do without you!” She jostled his arm and shook the bed, ripped his blankets straight off him.
But Theodore turned over in slow-motion and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He groaned, and Jessalyn huffed in impatience. Waiting was agony.
“Don’t be such a baby, Theo,” she chided. “It’s going to be such fun being teenagers! We can do whatever we want now ! I mean, teenagers are practically adults. We’ll go to high school and go to the coolest parties and sneak out at night – and oh! – you’ll get a girlfriend!”
He looked at her skeptically.
“Okay, fine. I’ll get you a girlfriend, then.”
“Why don’t you get yourself a girlfriend and leave me out of it?”
“Maybe I will! Or a boyfriend! Or both! Who knows what will happen!” Jessalyn tugged on his arm. ” I’ll tell you who – no one. Not until you get your butt out of bed and come blow out the candles with me!”
But Theodore sighed. He was not like his popular, adventurous sister. Theodore was thoughtful, introspective, and cautious. He liked his school and his teachers, and he liked playing astronaut after school with the space club. He liked knowing what to expect and he liked his routine. But Jessalyn? Jessalyn was a tornado – unpredictable and wild and never ignored. It was funny, he thought, that they could be so different, and still be twins.
Funny or not, she was his twin. No one knew the tornado better than he did – and there’s no point in arguing with a tornado. Theodore nodded, finally, and watched the excited grin spread across his sister’s face. That grin – as always – was contagious, and Theodore found himself – once again – swept up in the chaos of his sister’s tornado.
Jessalyn squealed, dragging him out of bed, and when she ran down the hall, past their parents’ bedroom, and down the stairs to the kitchen, Theodore was laughing at her heels.
Their laughter rang through the house, and when the commotion tore her from her sleep, Coralie shot up in bed. Her eyes flew open as she looked at the clock – she’d overslept! She’d meant to get up early, to bake the cake before the twins were up! And she’d promised Jessalyn they could celebrate first thing! Coralie jumped to her feet – she had a cake to bake, and by the sounds of it, she’d need to make it quick.
But when Coralie reached the kitchen, the first thing she saw was a perfectly iced birthday cake, sitting, waiting on the kitchen table. The shock must have registered on her face, because the next thing she heard was Leo’s voice.
“Is it okay?” he whispered conspiratorially.
Coralie’s eyes widened at the realization. Leo had made the cake? Her eldest son? Leo usually kept to himself, locked away in his room, oblivious to workings of the family around him. Sometimes Coralie thought she heard him talking to himself at night – talking in his sleep, she assured herself. But when he did come out, Coralie noticed that the twins gave him a wide berth. Leo’s version of “playing” with his siblings typically included nasty comments he called jokes, or physical torment he called “wrestling.” Leo just didn’t know his own strength, that was all. He was quirky, and had an odd sense of humor. He meant well. He had a good heart. Right? Of course. Of course he did, Coralie told herself, over and over again. There was something strange – something off, maybe – about Leo. But wasn’t that to be expected? There was something strange in the way he came to this family to begin with. But he was no less her son than Theodore, no less her child than Jessalyn. Leo was a strange bird, yes, but he was theirs. And he was good.
Taken aback by her son’s surprising display of thoughtfulness, Coralie blinked back a tear and threw her arms around him. It felt so good to hug him, she thought. She couldn’t remember the last time he’d let her touch him.
“It’s perfect, Leo,” she told him. “Thank you.”
She pulled back and looked him in the eye. If she’d expected to see her own emotion reflected there, she was sorely mistaken. Coralie checked herself. Leo had made a cake for his siblings, and that was enough.
Coralie looked around the room and smiled as her youngest children bounced excitedly off the walls. Today was bittersweet, her babies becoming teenagers now! But she couldn’t hold onto them forever, and she didn’t have the heart to make them wait any longer. She winked at Kody.
“Are you guys ready?” he asked.
Theodore nudged Jessalyn in the side. “You go first,” he told her.
And of course, Jessalyn was happy to oblige.
Jessalyn has acquired the Bro trait. Here she is in CAS, after a little style makeover:
“Come on, Theo, your turn now!” Jessalyn encouraged her brother. He approached the cake hesitantly, and shot a glance at his father.
Kody smiled. “Go ahead, Theodore.”
Theodore, following in his sister’s footsteps, also gained the Bro trait! Finally something they have in common! Here he is in CAS:
Happy Birthday, Theo and Jessalyn Hasslich!
The heir hoped that the cake had meant something – Leo knew that much. She hoped it meant that he cared for his “siblings.”
Of course he did not care for them. They were not his siblings.
But this was what he wanted the heir to think. It meant he would succeed.
Leo had waited long enough. He had waited his whole life. He had listened at night -every night – when he received his instructions from Sixam. He asked questions, quietly, so no one would hear. He took notes.
The time for Stage One was upon him. He picked on the the boy and the girl twins. Especially the girl twin – she might be an heir. He angered her intentionally, and found it was easy. The girl was a tornado. She was an easy target.
And when the girl twin disliked him sufficiently, when he heard her complain to the heir of his misdeeds, Leo moved on to Stage Two.
“Everyone hates me here,” he told his Uncle Xander on the phone. “They don’t want me here, and I don’t fit in.” He made his voice sound pitiful.
As predicted, Stage Two was also a success. He knew it for sure a few days later, when the heir came to him and said he should go to live with her brother in Windenberg. There was pain in her eyes – a mother’s weakness. But he’d forced her hand. He did it on purpose. How could she hold him here, when he caused so much turmoil? How could she doom him to misery?
Manipulation was so easy.
When the heir walked out of the room, Leo rejoiced. Stage Three was at hand.
He packed his bags, went to the train station, and arrived at his new home. The brother and the wife welcomed him happily. The wife was pregnant, again – the second time now.
But it was the first child Leo was after.
“Such a beauty!” he told her. “I’m sure you’ve heard about my mother and my sisters. About their silly legacy and how the prettiest one will be the very next heir?” He stooped to her level, watching her face carefully. “But let me tell you a secret, Amalie. None of them are as pretty as you! If you ask me, the next heir is in this very house!”
And that night, once the house was asleep and Leo tiptoed out the front door, he slunk down the alley to the designated meeting spot.
“The plan is in motion now,” he assured his co-conspirators. “Destruction is inevitable.”