© George Adams
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Holly and Rebekah - Chapter 1
"and from the strain of your kind that our machines have enhanced shall be made one who can mind-join with us across the gap between stars. When that one or their descendant shall call us, we shall return."
From "The Hodrin Pamphlet", translated into Human (English) by Farrold Saxon.
* * *
Almost hidden, curled up on the big leather couch, Rebekah heard Yvette, her step-mother, storm in through the front door. Rebekah raised her head and watched Yvette stride to the dining table where Rebekah's dad was sitting with a cup of tea, sorting through the mail. Yvette threw a newspaper down in front of him and folded her arms.
Adam snorted at the headline and gave his head one quick shake.
‘How can you laugh at that?' Yvette asked. 'These people hate us. They want us exterminated.’
Adam flashed a glance up at her. Six-foot three in her two inch heels, her eyes blazed darkly. Her smooth, caramel face was flushed. Even her loose, black curls seemed to stand in agitation.
Adam knew he should respond with compassion to Yvette's heated mood but his body thrummed with excitement and joy at her arrival. He knew it was perverse, but he loved it when she was passionate, no matter if she was enchanted or intrigued with something or angry and distressed as she so clearly was right now. He just wanted to smile at the loveliness of the Polynesian colouring on her animated European features, to bathe in her emotional energy and wonder at the extraordinary fact that she was his wife.
‘I don’t know why you buy newspapers,' he said, composing himself and running the fingers of his left hand through his own ginger-brown hair. 'Besides, these people don’t hate us, they’re just afraid of what we are. And they're wanting us neutered, not exterminated.’
He raised his teacup to his lips, took a sip while Yvette glared stiffly at him. Then he put his cup back down.
‘You and I both could’ve chosen to stay unenhanced when we married into the Daniels family,’ he added.
'I suppose you think Julie would've handled this better than me, if she was still alive,' complained Yvette. 'They're calling us a sort of alien Nazi ubermensch project,' she persisted, looking down at the newspaper.
‘Honey, they’re just a small bunch of reactionaries. Most people accept us, no problem. Lots want to become like us, have our enhancements.’
‘They say our line should be eradicated.’
She rapped her fingertip on the newspaper.
Enraptured, Adam noticed the immaculate, long fingernail of her index finger, polished green-gold. Then he raised his eyes once more to his wife’s dark, angry gaze.
‘Just because it’s in tonight’s paper doesn’t make things any worse,' he argued. 'The world's getting used to us. It’s only been a year since it became public about our enhancements and the Hodrin visiting Earth. Half the world thinks it’s just a hoax and most of the half that accepts that it’s true have already lost interest because the Hodrin themselves haven’t visited Earth for more than three hundred years. Things are settling down, getting easier for us. We should probably be more concerned about people wanting to kidnap us for your eggs or my sperm than trying to stop us breeding.’
‘Your sperm's going nowhere I don't know about,' said Yvette.
She clenched her fists but her face softened. She sniffed then pulled out a chair and sat down opposite Adam.
'There's enough to worry about right now without this public hate campaign,' she said.
'What's to worry about?' asked Adam.
'Getting ready for Tracy and Mark coming back to New Zealand to have their wedding, of course,' said Yvette.
'What's to worry about the wedding?' Adam asked.
Yvette rolled her eyes.
'Do you need a list? To begin with, your ex-wife's glamorous younger sister is bound to turn up and keep pushing herself onto you.'
'Libby's a dead letter with me, you know that.'
'But you still like her flirting, admit it, and I certainly don't. Then we've got young Holly staying with us when Tracy and Mark are on honeymoon. We've been warned what a handful she is, obsessed with the boys. And she's bound to want to spend time with your old buddy Glenn because he’s her birthfather, which will be awkward for Fiona. And the wedding's going to be out at the farm where the Hodrin Orbs make their appearances. What if the Hodrin decide it's a perfect opportunity to visit in person?'
'They might bring some pretty amazing alien wedding presents.'
Adam shrugged then leant forward, trying to hide his enjoyment of Yvette's agitation, turning what he hoped was a sympathetic expression on her.
'Honey, I think you're catastrophising a bit,' he said. 'The Hodrin haven't visited Earth for hundreds of years. They've just left some of their Orbs behind to keep the enhancement programme going. And these anti-enhancement campaigners are just a nuisance, not a real danger.'
'So why have you had an extra guard hired for the kids at school?' Yvette asked.
'Ah, I didn't want to worry you. I just don't want them getting harassed. When did you find out?'
'Today when I dropped them off.'
Yvette slumped and sighed.
‘Adam, I know you worry, too. I notice when you get up at night because you can’t sleep.’
Her gaze dropped from Adam's eyes to his cup of tea.
‘Where’s mine?’ she asked.
‘It’s just coming,’ called Rebekah, getting up from the red leather couch in the adjoining lounge.
‘Oh, Rebekah, sweetie, have you been there all this time?’ asked Yvette. ‘I didn’t mean you to hear me stressing out like that.’
‘I’m here, too,’ called her own six year-old son, James, from deeper within the lounge.
‘Well, come over and give me a hug,’ said Yvette. ‘My husband doesn’t seem about to.’
Yvette watched her step-daughter pass by on fairy-thin legs, her long, blonde hair swishing behind her, on her way to the kitchen. Not quite four years old, she looked and behaved eight or nine. An oddly wise and caring, temperate eight or nine.
Yvette turned her face down into James’ soft, brown curls as he nestled into her.
‘Exactly what does it say in the paper?’ asked Rebekah over the bench top that divided kitchen from dining room, as she took a mug off the lattice frame on the kitchen wall.
‘Nothing new,’ said Adam. ‘Just some people who don’t believe in genetic enhancements saying our kind shouldn’t be allowed to marry or breed because our descendants will be less human and more Hodrin.’
‘Four arms and glowing eye-ridge nodules?’ said Rebekah.
She shared a smile with her dad from across the kitchen bench.
‘Those people are a bit late,’ said Rebekah, coming over to the table and placing Yvette’s tea in front of her. ‘The Hodrin Orbs have been enhancing the Daniels family for hundreds of years.’
Yvette turned a smile on Rebekah.
'Yes, but there’s still only a small number of enhanced humans, so these anti-enhancement protestors think there’s time to close the enhancement programme down.'
‘Even though our own human researchers are moving ahead with projects for eliminating genetic weaknesses and things like extending our healthy lifespans,’ added Adam.
‘These people are saying we’re not wanted,’ said Yvette. ’They’d like to stop you having a baby when you’re grown up. Just imagine how your mum and dad would have felt if they hadn’t been allowed to have you.’
Rebekah recalled a wedding photo she'd seen of her mum and dad, so completely relaxed and happy, so unprepared for her mum's accident. Julie, her mum, young, pretty and blonde was so little, fitting tidily into her dad's embrace.
Rebekah suddenly realized that looking at Yvette would not trigger painful reminders for her dad of the life he had had with Rebekah’s own mum. It made her think her dad had good instincts. Her mum was right for him then and Yvette was right for him now.
‘Oh, I’m sorry, Rebekah. Don’t look so sad,’ said Yvette. ‘These people aren’t going to get it their way. Of course you’ll be able to have a baby or two when you grow up. We just have to accept some people will think we’re some sort of threat to them. I’m sorry. Your dad’s right. I should just chill out.’
‘If I want to feel calmer,’ Rebekah said, ‘Henry Fry says to notice my breathing and picture myself counting down from five as I walk slowly down some steps, relaxing more as I breathe out with each step.’
'Perhaps I should make an appointment with him,' Yvette replied.
She took a sip of tea then relaxed more into her chair.
Rebekah watched Yvette turn to look out of the dining room's ceiling-to-floor windows, across the cream-coloured tiles to the pool. It was in the shade of the house now, but the water was heated through mats of thin black pipe laid across the roof. Friskie, their lethargic, old, black cat, was asleep on one of the deck chairs on the other side of the flat surface of clear water.
‘Do you think old cats dream of when they were young?’ asked Yvette.
Adam shrugged in reply.
‘We’re really very lucky, aren’t we?’ Yvette said.
* * *
Fifteen minutes later, Adam, Rebekah and James were in the pool. Rebekah floated on her back, moving her arms slowly through the clean, warm water, looking up to a calm, blue sky. She turned her head to look at her dad while he watched Yvette stepping into the water in metallic red bikini, bright against her dusky skin even in the shade.
‘You’re right about us being lucky,’ said Adam.
‘Lucky I’ve got a modelling contract with KiwiBabz and get to keep some of their gear?’ replied Yvette. She leant forwards and pushed herself through the water across to Adam, resting her arms over his shoulders.
‘I’m lucky you’ve got the face and body that gets that kind of modelling contract,’ he told her.
‘Our enhancements help us keep in good shape. I just wish everyone else could be in on the deal, then they’d leave us alone. Ah, let's change the subject. Tracy and Mark are coming to stay with us tomorrow and getting married the next day. We'll all get to meet Holly. Let’s talk about that.’
Rebekah was enjoying quietly floating in the warm water and listening to her dad and step-mum.
‘How do you think it will go?’ asked Adam. ‘I think they’re pretty brave organizing it all online from Canada.’
‘Hardly,' Yvette disagreed. 'Tracy's mum and dad have done all the work, organizing the wedding and the reception out at their place. All Tracy and Mark’ve done is talk with a New Zealand wedding celebrant over Skype.'
‘They had to send over the material for Rebekah’s bridesmaid dress so it matches Holly’s. Hmm, maybe I should take more time off work if Holly's the handful they say she is?' Adam suggested.
‘No, save your leave for the school holidays. I'll manage. Let's hope the girls click. Rebekah's been looking forward to having an older cousin who’s been enhanced too.’
Yvette flashed Rebekah a quick smile.
Rebekah turned and reached out for the side of the pool and rested her elbow and forearm on the paving.
‘Do you think Holly and I will get on?’ Rebekah asked. ‘Everyone keeps saying she’s a bit of a pain.’
‘Mark reckons Holly behaves like a fourteen year old. Except that she’s only twelve, looks eighteen and half-way through her engineering degree,’ said Adam. ’But I guess you and Holly’ll have some kind of understanding. After you, she must be one of the most enhanced people around.’
‘So I’m even more enhanced than Holly?’
‘Most likely. See, Holly’s mum and you were enhanced in a Hodrin Orb, out at your grandparents’ farm on Karioi Mountain, first when you were just ova and then when you were newly conceived. Then you were tweaked as two year-olds. Your line’s been progressively enhanced over twelve or more generations. Yvette and I were enhanced as adults and only because I married into your mum’s family and then Yvette married me. James was enhanced when he was four, so none of us have had our genes tweaked as much as yours have been. It looks like human scientists will be able to modify human genes for longer lifespans within the next twenty years, but they’re still studying your DNA for how the Hodrin can enhance the likes of you and Holly to grow up so fast.’
‘Why do the Hodrin want us to grow up faster than other kids?’ Rebekah asked.
‘Best guess is they think it'll make us a saner species if our young grow up quicker. From what I’ve read about the Hodrin, they mature much quicker than us and they have more contented lives.’
‘But it's rotten growing up so fast I have to make different friends every year,’ said Rebekah.
‘Hey,’ said James from the middle of the pool, ‘is that what I think it is?’
Rebekah saw he was looking straight up, so lifted her own face to the sky. She gasped at what she saw. A small, silver globe floated only a few metres above them, glinting in the late afternoon sunshine. It made some sounds like the whispering of many voices.
‘What’s it doing here?’ asked Yvette. ‘Is it going to expand? Surely there’s not enough room. What should we do?’
‘I have no idea,' said Adam. 'I’ve only ever seen them out at Karioi.’
Two young security men appeared beside the pool.
‘We suggest you go back in the house,’ one of them said tersely.
‘Quick, out of the pool,’ said Adam, looking anxiously at Rebekah.
‘Come on, kids,’ said Yvette and launched herself towards the steps.
Adam and James followed her, but Rebekah stayed, one hand on the paved pool surround, floating, looking up at the Orb. She could hear faint sounds, like distant voices, lots and lots of them.
‘Come on, Rebekah. Out now!’ urged Adam, standing on the tiles beside her hand.
Reluctantly, she turned, raised her other hand towards him and let him pull her out. He didn’t say anything, but Rebekah noticed the strain in his eyes. She let him put a towel over her shoulders then guide her into the house, where Yvette and James waited, looking through the dining room window. She turned to look back, but the Orb was already gone.
‘Did you hear it,’ Daddy?’ Rebekah asked.
‘The Orbs always give off that humming noise,’ Adam told her.
‘No, the voices.’
‘Voices?’ Adam asked.
Yvette shook her head. James shrugged.
‘Voices from the Orb,’ said Adam. ‘Could you make out anything they were saying?’
‘No. They were too faint,’ Rebekah replied.
‘And you were the only one who heard them. Were they speaking English? Human voices or artificial, recorded? Or maybe something else?’
‘You mean Hodrin?’
‘Sure. It was a Hodrin Orb.’
'I don't know. I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Real voices, I'd say. Not recorded. Real voices from somewhere coming through the Orb. Daddy, what's the matter?'
Adam knelt down to hold Rebekah’s gaze. His deep green eyes looked dull to her, without their usual humorous sparkle.
‘You looked kind of hypnotised. If it happens again you must tell me. Don’t go off following any voices or an Orb without finding me first. Or Yvette. Or one of our security people. Promise you won’t go off on your own.’
Of course, Daddy. I promise.’
Rebekah was scared by the strength of her dad’s plea. Surely the Orbs had only ever done good things for her and her family, for generations.
‘Why should we ever be scared of a Hodrin Orb?’ she asked.
Adam averted his gaze from Rebekah for a while then looked back into her eyes. He spoke quietly.
‘The Hodrin are based in the Pleiades, Rebekah. Through their enhancement programme, one day, they’re going to think there’s one or a few humans who’re good enough to join them. The best understanding I can get from the Hodrin documents I’ve read and the researchers I’ve spoken with is that the Hodrin want the human species to be represented in their galactic federation, but they think we’re unsafe. Too unreliable, too aggressive or something like that. Too messed up. Their enhancements are about helping humanity become more settled and happy and considerate, so more reasonable to deal with. When they think the Orbs have enhanced some of us to be good enough to go with them, some Hodrin will come back to Earth to take one or more of us away. When it comes to it, they might not give that person or those few people much choice.’
‘And because I’m maybe the most enhanced person so far…’
‘You’re quiet but not shy, just thoughtful and considerate. And you’re growing up faster than any person ever.’
‘And you think I might get taken by the Hodrin.’
‘I can see why they’d want to. I just don’t want it to happen too soon. Not while you’re still just a girl.'
Holly and Rebekah – Chapter 2
The sun was up and so was Rebekah. Already showered and in a white, lacy cotton dress, she sat on her bed and brushed her fine blonde hair free of knots while it was still damp. She looked out from her second floor bedroom, over the roofs of the houses on the slope below, straight into the early autumn dawn above the Kaimai Ranges beyond the autumn-dry Waikato Valley. For a girl of four but with the mind and body of an eight year-old it was the exactly right, quiet opening to a day that promised the thrill of meeting her older cousin, Holly, for the first time.
It was so fresh and still, she was sure it was a perfect moment for a Hodrin Orb to appear again, perhaps just outside her window. Had she really heard voices coming from the Orb over the pool? They had been faint yet distinct enough to tell that there were at least seven or eight of them.
With her window open wide to the morning air, Rebekah became aware of voices again, but it was her dad and step-mum in their room above hers. She tried not to listen to the faint rhythmic creaking and Yvette moaning ‘Ooh. Ah. Oh! Mmm.’ They were having one of those happy-day-off-work mornings.
Rebekah’s serene sense of wonder and thoughts of Hodrin Orbs were gone. Retreating from her window and the noises from above, she remembered she was impatient to get the day underway, anxious that it went well.
Rebekah had met her auntie Tracy two years ago and they'd liked each other. She felt confident about making a good impression on her new uncle Mark. It was her older cousin, Holly, Rebekah felt nervous over. It was exciting to be about to meet her girl cousin from the Hodrin-enhanced side of her family, but she’d heard Holly’s parents warning her own parents over Skype that Holly was loud and boy-crazy and nowhere near as grown up as she thought she was.
Rebekah stood up and opened a drawer, pulled out her white tights. Glancing outside at the brightening day, she changed her mind, put them back and closed the drawer. She opened her closet, picked up her white sandals and went to her door.
Light was streaming into the stairwell along the hall. She stepped out onto the polished concrete floor and went straight to her step brother’s room.
‘You awake?’ she called, then knocked twice on James’ door.
‘No,’ replied James from his bed as she walked in. ‘Go away.’
His room was dim behind green velvet curtains. It smelt of boy. Rebekah walked over and pulled the curtains back. James sat up, his face crinkling around his eyes. He ran his left hand through his dark brown curls.
‘It’s Friday morning,’ said Rebekah.
‘I wish you wouldn’t just come into my room,’ said James. ‘Besides, we’re not going to school today, so we can sleep in a little.’
Rebekah knew James would be a pain. She locked her eyes with his: cool blue flashing at soft brown. He was only pretending to be sleepy now, trying to wind her up.
‘It’s time to get up,’ she said decisively. ’We’ve got to be at the airport by nine-thirty. Come on. We want to make it a special day.’
‘Meeting your boring old cousin. Are Mum and Dad up yet?’
‘They’re awake,’ said Rebekah, her mouth and nose giving a twitch of distaste.
Rebekah watched James turn his head, silently leaning an ear towards his window. Faintly, on the still morning air, came his mother’s voice, ‘ooh, ooh,’ then Rebekah’s dad’s sudden ‘ah, aah!’
They heard James’ mum chuckle then sigh.
James pulled a disgusted face.
‘At least they’ll be getting up now,’ said Rebekah.
‘They’ll have that happy-dopey look about them,’ said James.
‘I’ll go and put the jug on.’
Rebekah turned away, pleased that James would want to get up now to take his mind off what they had both just heard. She left his room and skipped along the hallway to the top of the stairs. She put her feet together then jumped down the stairs two at a time. From the main entranceway of the house at the bottom of the stairs, she turned left into the kitchen.
Reflections from the swimming pool dappled the kitchen and dining room ceilings as she filled the jug, switched it on, then sprinkled tea leaves into the pot. Thinking of weddings and breakfast, she started singing an old song her dad often sang as he made breakfast on the weekends.
‘Wond’ring aloud, will the years treat us well,
as she floats in the kitchen, I’m tasting the smell,
of toast as the butter runs,
then she comes, spilling crumbs on the bed,
and I shake my head.’
The front doorbell rang.
‘That’ll be our security escort,’ Rebekah said to herself. ‘They’re early.’
She went out of the kitchen, past the bottom of the stairs, across the entrance hall and opened the door. Instead of a security officer she was confronted by a pair of long and slim, pale legs and a clingy, light blue mini dress. She looked up into a beautiful smiling face set within loose ginger curls.
‘Holly?’ asked Rebekah. ‘We’re supposed to be driving up to Auckland airport to meet you.’
‘Oh, look at you. You’re so sweet in your pretty dress,’ said Holly in a warm, Canadian voice. ‘I’m so excited to be meeting you, my little Kiwi cousin.’
She bent at the knees, almost enclosing Rebekah in her long thighs. She took Rebekah’s head in her hands, kissed her on each cheek.
‘We heard there’d be lots of Press and TV at Auckland, so we left two days early. Vancouver to L.A., to Christchurch then up to Hamilton last night,’ said Holly. ‘Our security people organized it, but it sounds like no-one told your family.’
‘I guess it’s saved us a trip to Auckland. Your mum and dad?
‘They’re just talking with your security guy. Do you often get anti-enhancement protestors right outside your gate?’
‘No. You’d better come in.’
Leaving the front door open, Rebekah led Holly through to the dining room. The pool sparkled on the other side of the full-length windows. Holly looked at it approvingly.
'Oh, you must have some great pool parties here,' she said.
Rebekah had a feeling Holly’s idea of a pool party was something outside her own experience.
‘We had a Hodrin Orb come and hover over us in the pool yesterday afternoon,’ she said.
‘And we had one turn up just outside our back porch last Tuesday night,’ said Holly. ‘The first we’ve seen in years. That can’t be a coincidence, can it?’
Holly frowned, her face so beautiful and appealing with such a serious expression, Rebekah felt instant concern for her.
‘What do you think they’re doing to us, the Hodrin?’ Holly asked, her crystal green eyes moistening. ‘It’s kinda weird, like I’m part from my mom and part from my birth dad and part from Hodrin tweaking. What are they making us into? I keep clashing with my dad over how I should be.’
‘Isn’t that just being a teenager?’ asked Rebekah. ‘Me and my dad get on fine, so far.’
‘My mom’s told me you really are a little angel,’ said Holly. ‘Not like me. I've always been outgoing. Impetuous. Big appetites. I overwhelm people. Greedy for life, my mom calls it. Mom and Dad try to hold me back. Do you ever wonder what kinda life the Hodrin are making us right for?’
My dad thinks they’re shaping us up so some of us will be safe to live with the Hodrin themselves,’ Rebekah answered. ‘I like to be part of things, to get on with others, but I want to make my own life when I'm grown up, have some choices,’ she added.
‘You're such a thoughtful little girl!' said Holly. 'I just want to be me, whatever I am, whether people or Hodrin understand me or not. I want people to take me as I am.’
Rebekah shrugged and they sat together on the red leather couch her mum had bought before she died. Holly sighed then smiled at Rebekah. The mischievous twinkle had returned to her eyes.
‘You’re even taller than Yvette,' said Rebekah.
‘People think I take after my dad, six foot six and me at six three, but he’s not even my biological father.’
‘Your birth dad, my Uncle Glenn’s, not especially tall.’
‘Not your real uncle, either.’
‘No, he’s just my dad’s long time best friend, but you and me are really cousins, aren’t we?’
‘It’s a little complicated. Your mom was my dad's sister, but I'm only his adopted daughter. But my mom and your mom looked like identical twins because great granddad Bernard liked curvy blondes in his younger days, from New Zealand and Canada for sure. Maybe other places too. I’m looking forward to meeting him in person at the wedding. He must be quite a gas.’
‘I don’t have much to do with him, but my dad calls him a lively old fellow.’
‘Sorry about your mom,’ said Holly. ‘I would’ve liked to have met her.’
‘That’s okay. I’ve got my dad. And Yvette’s okay. I never knew my mum, anyway.’
Rebekah felt Holly appraising her closely.
‘They look so alike and you look much more like them than I do,’ said Holly. ‘Small and blonde, but you’re real skinny.’
James appeared in the room, in jeans and a dark blue tee shirt. His eyes widened when he saw Holly.
‘Who are you?’ he asked.
‘Hi. I’m Holly.’
She stood up, smoothed down her short skirt and stepped towards him.
‘Wow!’ said James, his gaze passing up Holly’s sleek, long legs, up her clingy, short dress to her face.
It seemed to Rebekah that Holly felt no surprise or concern that such a young boy was looking at her in the way that James was looking at her.
‘Well, that’s more like it,’ said Holly. ‘I take it you’re James.’
Rebekah didn’t think James would ever blink again, his eyes were open so wide.
‘And how old are you now? ’Holly asked him.
‘He’s had some tweaking, but not from birth,’ said Rebekah, ‘so he seems a bit older.’
‘Oh, I can see that,’ said Holly.
‘And here’s my dad and James’ mum, Yvette,’ said Rebekah, looking towards the stairs.
Holly turned to Rebekah and James’ parents, coming forward in light dressing gowns, Yvette's face warm brown and dark-eyed, Adam with pale skin, brown hair and trim ginger beard, tall, but an inch shorter than Yvette and two inches shorter than Holly herself.
‘How did you get here?’ asked Yvette. ‘We’re just getting ready to pick you up at Auckland airport.’
‘We did a plan B,’ said Holly, ‘evading the media.’
‘Oh, well done,’ said Adam, ‘but we’re going to have to put up with them quite a bit over the next week with your mum and dad getting married.’
He shook his head.
‘You know, Glenn said you were a stunner. He’s shown us photos, too, but I didn’t think you’d really be quite so gorgeous.’
‘Adam, Holly’s only twelve years’ old,’ said Yvette.
‘Yes, but you look much the same age as your mother,’ Adam said to Holly. ‘That is, you both look eighteen or twenty.’
Holly smiled at Adam and put her left hand on her hip.
‘We know what you mean,’ said Yvette. ‘You and I look younger too, since we’ve been enhanced.’
‘For sure,’ said Adam, his eyes still fixed on Holly.
‘Where are your mum and dad?’ Yvette asked.
‘Well, they were out at the gate talking with the security guy, but they sure are taking a long time.’
‘Come on, let’s go and welcome them,’ Yvette told Adam.
With a yank, she turned him around towards the front door.
‘Your dad’s quite a dish,’ Holly said to Rebekah. ‘Oh, Sweetie, you’re blushing.’
* * *
Rebekah had flushed at Holly's brazenness but didn't need to reply, because Adam and Yvette were already coming back into the lounge, with Mark and Tracy right behind them. Mark was so tall he had to bend a little to get through the door.
'So, you're Rebekah and James,' he said, smiling down on them.
Rebekah could see how he would easily be mistaken for Holly's birth father, tall and red-haired, pale skin and generous lips. Tracy looked just the same as two years ago when Rebekah had first met her, easily mistaken for the identical twin sister of Rebekah's own petite, blonde, blue-eyed mother when she had been alive.
Behind Tracy came Cassandra, who would be her chief bridesmaid. Slim, with glossy black hair and dark brown eyes, she smiled over Tracy's shoulder at Rebekah and James.
Mark stepped forward then knelt in front of Rebekah, almost like Holly had done earlier.
'Wow, you're definitely my sister's daughter,' he said. 'I hope Holly's been talking with you nicely.'
Rebekah gave him an awkward look that made him turn his face accusingly to Holly.
'Hey,' said Holly, 'I know it's early, but it’s been a long trip. Would it be okay if I took a dip in the pool. Anyone else? How about you, Uncle Adam?'
'Rebekah can show you her room where we've set up your bed,' said Adam. 'I guess you can have a swim. The pool's heated and we don’t have any plans now apart from breakfast.'
Rebekah led Holly upstairs to her room. Holly threw her case on the bed and unzipped it.
'Are you coming for a swim, too?' she asked Rebekah.
'Okay,' said Rebekah, feeling obliged to be a good host.
* * *
James was already in the pool when they got there. Rebekah saw him watching appreciatively as Holly stepped into the water in her tiny wet-look black bikini. Rebekah felt so small and incomplete standing behind Holly, like she was just an assemblage of part-formed limbs and torso and Holly was the exemplifier of the true female human form. As she watched her perfectly proportioned cousin walk down the steps into the pool, she could only wonder what it would be like to have legs like those, that bottom, waist, spine and straight, broad shoulders. Even to a small girl, the way Holly moved was breath-taking: strong and shapely, relaxed, with just the right amount of feminine bounce so nothing looked in any danger of actually wobbling. Her skin was the astonishing porcelain white of a genuine red-head at the beginning of the Canadian Spring. The contrast of that white with the red of her curls and the black of her bikini was dramatic.
Rebekah could see James watching spellbound from the other end of the pool. She could feel her dad watching from the dining room behind her. She had no doubt his eyes would be fixed on Holly’s pale, shapely butt.
Rebekah saw Holly turn and give a little wave to Adam who was, indeed, smiling through the dining room window at her.
Just as Rebekah wondered if Holly would dare spoil her hair by getting it wet in the pool, Holly reached her arms ahead of herself, dived in and swam underwater to the deep end. Her head and shoulders emerged with water streaming down a deep auburn curtain that now framed her smiling face and shoulders, accentuating the strong and lovely lines of her cheekbones and clavicles and the rise and fall of her perfect breasts.
Rebekah had so been looking forward to meeting her older Canadian cousin. Now she wasn't so sure.
Holly and Rebekah – Chapter 3
‘Oh, look at you again,’ said Holly, coming into the lounge at breakfast time the next day.
Rebekah was already feeling self-conscious in her long apricot bridesmaid dress and white lacy gloves. She thought the parasol she’d been told to carry was absurd. She felt so young and foolish as she looked up at Holly, wearing a clingy dress of the same colour in a satin material with plunging neckline and the hem just above the knee. The lacy white gloves looked grown up and chic on Holly. On Rebekah they made her feel so like a little girl, in some ways a lesser person because she was a child. Up until yesterday she’d been happy to be her dad’s quiet and sweet, clever and kind little darling. From the moment Holly had made her appearance in that tiny black bikini, Rebekah realised she was envious of her, the bold and captivating impression she made on everyone. Was this what they call ‘rivalry’. If it was, then Holly didn’t even seem to notice Rebekah in that way.
Rebekah’s mind flashed to a vision of Yvette stepping into the pool in equally skimpy metallic red bikini only the day before Holly’s arrival. Yvette had a glorious body too, but that had felt so different to Rebekah. Yvette was a real grownup. Somehow it was comforting and right that Rebekah’s dad went starry-eyed looking at Yvette and they often snuggled up and got all smoochy. It even made Rebekah laugh when sometimes she saw Yvette sneak up on Adam and pinch his bottom.
Rebekah puzzled over her envy of Holly. Such a strong and new emotion, she felt it pushing her towards being unkind or uncommunicative towards her cousin. She hadn't felt this way towards anyone before. She’d always felt really lucky to be who she was. And she was determined to play her part to make Tracy and Mark's wedding a happy occasion.
She would be cheerful and friendly and put off deciding how she really felt towards Holly until she could examine her own thoughts, maybe have a talk with Yvette.
Being chief bridesmaid, Cassandra was still with Tracy upstairs in the guest suite while the rest of the household had gathered downstairs in readiness for the drive out to Granddad Keith and Nana Kath’s farm for the wedding ceremony and reception. Rebekah had been told Cassandra was a dancer, like Tracy herself.
‘Are you in the ballet together?’ Rebekah had asked Tracy and Cassandra before coming downstairs ahead of Holly.
Tracy and Cassandra had looked at each other before Tracy had replied, ‘No, we do dancing for different types of shows in clubs, special occasions and on cruise ships.’
Mark and his best man, Harry, were sitting with Adam in the lounge. They watched for a while as Holly and Rebekah practiced walking slowly and elegantly as if they were following behind Tracy making her entrance at the wedding.
Broad and muscled, Mark filled up the red, leather chair. With red-brown hair and neat ginger beard, he looked sharp in his cream suit with dark grey lapels and bow tie. Seated across from him, Adam looked quite small and plain in his pale grey suit. Harry’s suit matched Mark’s. He turned back to his papers with the order of ceremonies and his speech notes. He seemed a bit flustered and kept brushing the tips of his fingers across his dark fringe.
‘Are you wearing undies under that dress?’ Mark asked Holly.
‘I don’t want a vpl, Dad,’ she replied.
‘Visible panty line,’ Holly scowled.
‘You better be very careful how much you drink at the reception. I may be marrying your mother today but you can be sure I’ll be watching you.’
‘I expect a lot of people will be watching her,’ said Harry, raising his eyes from his script.
‘Don’t encourage her, man,’ said Mark and gave his ankle a quick kick.
‘Ow. You don’t want me falling over, either.’
‘At least with the wedding out at Tracy’s parents’, we’ll be too far out of any town for you to go sneaking off to some other party or nightclub,’ said Mark to Holly.
Rebekah watched Mark turn to Adam.
'I hope my daughter doesn't mess with your girl's head too much while Tracy and I are on honeymoon. It's not too late to say you don't want her staying here. Her Auntie Susan has offered to have her over on Waiheke Island. I hear it’s pretty quiet over there. Susan’s retired and she’s got time to keep a close eye on Holly.'
'Ooh, that was so mean, Dad,' said Holly.
'How about you drop your "now I look eighteen I should be allowed to do whatever eighteen year-olds do" mission, while you’re staying with Adam and Yvette.'
'I'm just being who I am. I'm in my second year at uni. My friends are all eighteen or twenty. I've got an eighteen year-old's body and interests. What age am I supposed to act?'
'I'm not arguing with you. Not today,' said Mark.
Everyone turned their heads as Yvette appeared in the lounge, in a dark blue velvet dress.
‘Remember this one?’ she asked Adam.
Rebekah saw tears flicker in her dad’s eyes, though he was smiling.
‘Our first night out,’ he said.
‘Good boy. Well, Tracy’s ready to get going, so you men had better scat out to Karioi ahead of us.’
Rebekah thought Yvette’s dress was rather short for a wedding but it was nice that her dad seemed so proud of Yvette in it.
* * *
Shortly after the men had all left the house, Rebekah and Holly stood together, as Tracy came down the stairs in her long white wedding dress of soft velvet folds, Cassandra right behind her in apricot, her dress long but the neckline making Holly’s seem modest.
‘Mom, you look beautiful,’ said Holly. ‘Dad’s going to be blown away.’
Rebekah had seen pictures of her own mum with Tracy when they’d been teenagers and her mum did a student exchange to Vancouver. They’d been introduced to each other because someone had noticed they looked so similar, like identical twins. Then it turned out they really were distant cousins. Looking at Tracy now, Rebekah realised strangers might easily think Tracy was Rebekah’s own mother well before they picked that she was Holly’s.
‘Okay, this is us,’ said Yvette. ‘We’ll all fit in the R’nessa. Let’s get going. We’ll soon see if the Daniel’s family really can have a big gathering with no unnecessary drama. I’ll drive. Holly, you come in the front with me with those long legs. There’ll be plenty of room in the back for your big dress, Tracy, and for you two.’
Rebekah knew Yvette had been referring to Rebekah’s actress and model aunt Libby who had promised to get to the wedding even though she was in the middle of filming somewhere in Australia and there was no news of her being back in New Zealand only hours from the wedding.
Outside on the driveway, Holly helped her mum fold her dress around her in the back of the car. She looked at Rebekah sitting pertly between Tracy and Cassandra.
‘Oh, look at you,’ she said again, then turned to get in the front seat.
Rebekah saw the black security vehicle move off in front of them, the twenty or so protestors on the roadside shouting and waving ‘Stop Alien Meddling’ placards, as Yvette drove through the gateway and turned onto the road, but Rebekah’s mind was elsewhere.
Just a baby, she’d been sitting in the R’nessa, drowsy and warm. She was in the back, constrained, facing the rear. Shape and light were vague, but sounds were sharp. She had no understanding of words but her world had distinct voices.
The car stopped suddenly, violently, waking her. Her mother’s voice and the sound of a car door opening.
More sounds and movements.
Then, for a while, silence.
Then her mother spoke again, somewhere outside the car. Her voice had a pleading tone.
Then the sound that Rebekah now knew to be a car engine, tyres spinning and ripping gravel from the road then revving away.
Then silence again.
Rebekah felt herself becoming hot. She began slumping back to sleep.
Then that new voice, a lot like her mothers, but different. ‘Oh, look at you.’
A car door opened again. Engine sounds. The air cooling down.
Rebekah came back to the here and now with a start. It had been a voice like her mother’s, but a Canadian accent. It had been Tracy. Rebekah was certain. Tracy had been there and started the car engine and turned on the air-conditioner, opened the windows a little. It had saved Rebekah’s life. But that meant Tracy had left Rebekah’s mother there, a hundred metres away from the car, to die or already dead.