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Return to the Motherland

There is always something happening when I venture into the spare bedroom, be it for a change of clothes, or a different book, it seems I can count on something going down. Today... was nothing new.


"Hey, guys, what's shakin?" I asked as I opened my closet to pick out a top. 
Matilda heaved an enormous sigh. "I am trying to keep this place looking tidy, but Saffron keeps interrupting my work to ask about her outfit! I have more important things to do!"
Saffron rolled her eyes. "Whatever."
I looked her over appraisingly. "You are awfully dressed up, Saf. What's the occasion?"


"I have a very important meeting with the convention planning committee! It's vital I look sexy yet professional in order to get what I want!"
"About that," I started to ask what exactly was going on, but she quickly shifted gears. 
"Besides," she said in a low voice, "Why doesn't ol' bossy butt over there do something himself if "tidiness" is so crucial?"
"He is working on strategies for work," Matilda hissed. "You do not want to disturb him- trust me!"
Just then I heard a strange scratching on the back door. "Hang on, you two."


Expecting a crazy bird to be roosting on the step (it has happened before!), I opened the door to find... Nori. 
"Nori! What are you up to?"
She hesitated a moment, seeming to be fascinated by something next to her foot before she answered. 
"I... think I am ready to come back inside."
"What? Are you sure? I figured you would be staying outside permanently!" I was only teasing, but she took it to heart.


"NO! I want to come back inside!" She practically leapt over the doorway. "It was soo hot, and then it finally dropped to a bearable temperature for, like, a day, and now it has rained and rained and the humidity is around, oh, one thousand percent and if you don't let me in right now, I will die!!!" She stood there panting a moment as I suppressed my amusement.
"Of course you can come in, Nori. I was only kidding," I reassured her. "I'm sure the others will be very happy to see you." 


"Look who is moving back in, guys!" I cheered as I deposited Nori onto the shelf, but their reactions were not quite as we had hoped. 
"That's great, gotta jet!" Saffron said over her shoulder. Matilda was even worse, pointing and shrieking at the dirt and debris that had scattered when Nori stepped onto the rug.
"I just vacuumed!"
Seeing Nori's head drooped in disappointment, I had had enough. "Oh, no! Saffron you get back over here, and Matilda- get over the dirt! Nori is way more important than either of your things." 
They hung their heads, properly rebuked, and turned to Nori. 


"Ok, crazy lady," Saffron started. "It's great to have you back, but you are in some rough shape."
"Yeah," Matilda chimed in. "These clothes have got to go."
"And something has to be done with the bird's nest you are trying to call hair," Saffron pulled a clip out with a grimace. "This was mine from when we went swimming."
They continued nitpicking and "helping" Nori clean up.


"Ok, just need to get your hair combed out, and some new clothes oughtta do it," mused Saffron.
Nori, pink cheeked with embarrassment, just nodded.
"Hey, what kind of whore house is this shelf turning into?" barked Thrawn from the couch.
"Shut up, asshole!" Saffron snapped back.
"Mah-tildaa..." he said petulantly.
"Guys, please stop," Matilda begged. "Nori, you really need to get dressed..."
"I'm trying," Nori said through gritted teeth.
"I'll take it from here, everyone," I interjected before this could turn into a 'domestic' situation.


"There. Beautiful as ever," I said, depositing Nori back down with a flourish. "Now your hair still needs to be washed but at least it is neat and pretty."
"You are gorgeous, Nori." Saffron said. "And now I really have to get to my meeting. Love you, girls!" She followed this with a flurry of air kisses and was gone. 


"I guess we need to discuss living arrangements," said Matilda. 
"I just figured I would come back here; to the shelf," Nori said expectantly.
"Hmph," came a grunt from the other end of the couch.
"Well, see," Matilda began, "When Thrawn and I moved in together, Saffron decided she would rather be on the book shelf for some... personal reasons. So... we've gotten used to being... alone."
Nori gasped. "Are you trying to say I can't stay?!"
"Thrawn grunted from behind his notebook. "You can't stay."


"Sorry," Matilda whispered to Nori. "Thrawn needs his privacy. Besides, there really isn't enough room for three up here anyway."
That was the last straw, even for a normally meek Nori.
"Well that is crap, Matilda. The three of us used to fit perfectly! I seem to remember finding plenty of room for you when you showed up and needed a place to crash and then never left. Maybe I shouldn't have gone outside. Maybe I should have stayed and been the one to say 'no' and then you wouldn't be stuck with that jerk! Is that really who you want to spend all your time with?" 
Matilda was too stunned to answer, so Nori just said "Fine," and turned to me.
"I need a place to stay."


"What do you think about here?" I asked.
"It is very... woodsy," she offered.
"All the beauty of nature, all the comforts of home!" I said, trying to sound positive. 
"I guess.." she murmured. A sudden rustling from behind distracted her from 


"Hello, fair colossus!" boomed a voice near Nori's knees. 
"Oh, goodness!" she jumped back a step.
"My apologies. I am Gandalf the Grey, and I am responsible for the security of this realm. Are you considering joining our fair community?"
"Umm.." After all that had happened today, Nori seemed close to tears, so I stepped in and explained everything. 
"Mmm-hmm. I see." Gandalf seemed to take it all in stride. "Well, is there perhaps anything I could assist you with, my dear?"
Nori pondered this a moment. "I guess I could really use a place to sleep."


"A bed? Why certainly, madam!" And with a wave of his staff, Gandalf conjured a small but dainty pallet. "Go ahead, give it a try!"
Nori gingerly laid down and pulled the covers up.


"What do you think?" I asked.
"Well, on a comfort scale of one to ten, I should have just stayed outside." She blurted out. Seeing Gandalf's face sag a little, she quickly added, "But it is very pretty. And at least there's air conditioning."
"That does seem to be one of the biggest draws around here," I agreed wryly. 
"It will do for now, anyways," Nori said. "Thank you, Sir Wizard for everything; it was very kind of you to help me. I think I am going to go ahead and take a little nap. Might as well break in the new bed!" She shimmied a little, trying to find a comfortable spot before finally settling in. 


Fin.

Poolside Gossip

The last couple of weeks have been scorching around here- I'm talking Death Valley. So when I stepped into the doll's room the other morning I was surprised to find it deserted. A quick scan of the rest of the house proved just as fruitless and it was only as I sat down in defeat at the kitchen table that I was rewarded with a clue. I could hear tinny voices and splashing that seemed to come from the back patio. I stood to open the door, and was greeted by...


"Hey guys," I said, already feeling the sweat pop out on my forehead.
"Oh, hey!" They waved nonchalantly.
"Care to join us?" Saffron offered. "The water feels incredible!" 
"Um, no thanks," I declined as politely as possible. "I'm pretty sure my pinkie toes would barely fit in that rinky dink thing. Where did it come from, anyways?" This concerned me, since I had never seen this wading pool before.

"I found it!" Nori chirruped. 
"That means she stole it from the neighbor kids and spent all night dragging it over here and filling it up," Saffron informed me.
"IT'S BEEN REALLY HOT, OK?" Nori shot back.
"Then come back inside," growled Saffron.
I left them to their bickering and turned to Matilda.


"Are you not swimming today?" I asked. 
"Nah, I'm working on my tan. Thrawn thought I was looking a little pasty from staying inside all of the time."
I decided to hold my tongue on that one, at least for now. "Oookay."
I returned my attention to the kiddie pool just as I heard an extra loud 'splash'.


"Awww," Nori exclaimed. "Look who came to play!" 
"That crazy croc," Saffron grumbled. She had tried to pet him as he swam by and Alphonse had gone right past her to nuzzle against Nori's (rather grimy) skirt. 


"Aren't you a sweet baby," crooned Nori. "You missed your momma, didn't you?"
She turned to me as she continued. "I hope someone has been feeding the animals! I miss them, but I didn't think it was safe to bring everyone out to the garden, I mean, the paradise of nature in its natural form."
"Still sticking with the 'back to the homestead' thing?" I asked. 
"Of course! It is the way it was meant to be! Zero carbon footprint, all natural diet..."
"No sense of personal hygiene," added Saffron pointedly. 
Nori glared at her. "I am getting clean right now in the pool! It's like taking a bath and washing my clothes at the same time without all those chemical byproducts!" 


Nori plopped down with a defiant air and splashed around a bit. "Ahhh, that feels refreshing. I'm good as new; clean as a newborn babe!"
"What about washing your hair?" pressed Saffron. 
Nori had to take a few deep breaths before she could reply. "I think I am ready to get out and see what Matilda is up to."


"You know, Nori, I for one am impressed by your independence and for sticking to what you believe in," Matilda said with a wistful air. She added under her breath, "I wish I still did."
Nori seemed to pick up on her wilting spirits and asked gently, "How are you doing, Matilda? Are you still seeing Thrawn?" 
"Yes," she replied hesitantly. "We're pretty serious- he moved to my shelf a while ago."
"That's... great!" Nori tried to be encouraging. "Would you like to tell me about how it's going?"
"Uhhh.." Matilda hesitated. "Maybe some other time, when it is a little more... private?" She pointed over Nori's shoulder.


"What?!" Saffron cried. "I was just getting ready to get out and tan for a bit, s'all!" 


"This is perfect, huh?" Saffron said as she stretched out. "Great to have the whole gang back together, huh?"
"Mm-hmm," hummed the other two. The sun was starting to lull us all to sleep. 
Saffron nodded her head once as if to confirm the answer to an unspoken question. "Well, time to get some sun!" she chirped.


"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Nori shrieked as three pairs of hands flailed to cover eyes. I braved a peep through window blind fingers.
"Saffron, keep it covered," I sighed. 
She was indignant. "How else is a girl supposed to get a flawless tan, I ask you?" 
Matilda just rolled her eyes and exchanged a knowing glance with Nori as they edged a little further down the towel. 
"Saffron, I don't care about your tan; this is not some Scandinavian coastline. You cannot take off your top whenever you feel like it!" 


"Fine, I'll turn onto my stomach," Saffron relented begrudgingly. "But I am not putting my top back on. I am going to look good for comic-con no matter what."
The sudden shift in topic threw me for a loop. "Uh, Comic-Con is in California," I informed her. 
"Maybe the human sized one is," came her muffled reply. 
I glanced frantically to Matilda and Nori to expound on the suddenly terrifying possibilities but they seemed anxious to avoid eye contact. 
"I... don't think I even want to know," I decided shakily. "It is too hot to care."

From the Vault- Spring Break

We are all still recovering from a pretty long weekend around here, so when I found these pictures from during Spring Break, I decided it was time to dust them off and bust them out! Enjoy, and be sure to check back soon because the blythes have been particularly active lately, and there will be plenty more to follow!

As much as I love me a day off, I love it even more when that day is gloriously sunny and eighty something degrees.
Therefore when fortune smiled down upon me earlier in the week with exactly such a day, I eagerly accepted my gift and high tailed to my mom's house. With ten acres of forest and fields, I knew it would be akin to a national park for the blythes. I packed up Saffron and Nori, but Matilda insisted that as nice as it was, there were plenty more hot and sunny days to follow, and she was not ready to leave anywhere she could watch On Demand for free. 
Once there, I turned the imps loose and sat down to relax. Mom and I got to talking, and as it always does, the conversation turned to the dolls. She usually has something pretty cool stashed back from her childhood toys and today was no exception. 
"We have to find them; they are gonna flip over this!" I assured her. So we trekked off, calling out now and then, but hearing nothing in reply. We had just passed the first tree line when I heard a rustling near the ground.


"Nori?" I asked, looking around. Then I spotted a flash of pink. "There you are!!"
She gave a riotous shriek, and darted off around the tree. I grinned, and like you do with children, I went the other way.


"Boo!" I cried as we met on the other side.
"AUGHH!" Nori clung to the tree. "You scared me!"
I put a hand on one hip. "Well, I called and called for you two. I know you could hear me, too. Why didn't you answer?"


She primly took a seat before bothering to reply. 
"We were playing hide and seek!" She said as though I should have known.
"Well, I have something I wanted to show you guys." I looked around. "Where is Saffron?"
She answered in a stage whisper. "You have to find her."
I sighed as I stood back up. "Saffron, come on! This is getting ridiculous!"
I paused and tilted my head to one side- for a moment, I thought I had heard something. Something up above...


"GOTCHA!!" I roared. 
"Aww, no fair. How did you even find me?" Saffron grumbled.
I pursed my lips together at her in a mocking way and said, "Well, I couldn't think of any birds I knew of that made a 'nyah nyah nyah nyah' sound under their breath. That was a good clue."
"That's cheating."
"Well, next time keep your thoughts to yourself. Especially when they're rude." I paused. "So basically, just keep your thoughts to yourself."
She rolled her eyes before changing the subject. "So what is this awesome thing you are wanting to show us?"
"Come on down and see."


Saffron took a quick glance down. "I think that is too high to jump."
I sighed as I lifted her. "You have got to stop climbing if you won't get back down. What if you had to stay in that tree all day?"
She shrugged. "Wouldn't be the first time."
I set her on the ground and then gestured. "Ta-da!!"


"OH EM GEEEE!" Saffron squealed as she barreled forward. "MINE MINE MINE MINE!!!"
She flung herself down the slide two or three times before Nori could make it over. As much as they had fought over those boots a few months ago, they were not very easy to walk in.


"Hey!" Nori cried, "I want to slide! I already tried to swing while you were in the tree and it is too small. The slide is the only thing I can do!"
They were just launching into a full fledged brawl when I stepped in.


"Ok, guys. Looks like we are going to have to make some rules." I turned to Saffron. "You need to go ahead and slide on down. And then I want you two to alternate. Some people like to call it 'taking turns'. Crazy, I know, but that is what we are going to do. So hush up and start playing already!"
Saffron slid on down and Nori rushed for her turn.


"Woooo!" she chirped as she flew down. "That was awesome!" 
Nori glanced around to see where Saffron was before she scurried back to climb the stairs again. After a few more trips, I noticed her tugging at her dress more and more frequently. She had just given it an especially ferocious pull when I finally asked, "Everything ok?" 
"Uh..I think maybe I shouldn't go down the slide any more. It is giving me a monster wedgie!" Nori confessed.
We giggled a moment before setting out to see where or what Saffron had gotten up to.
Playing a Marco Polo-esque game, we managed to find her general surroundings...
"Saffron!"
"Here!"
"Where?"
"Here!"
"...Saffron!"
"...Here!"


"This is as far as I can go," Nori sighed as she started to plop down. She gave a loud squeal, and then looked more closely at what she had sat upon.
"Aaawwwww! Look, oh look what I found!" 


"Isn't she beautiful!" Nori cooed as she petted the tiny, sprinkle-covered unicorn. 
"Um... yes. Yes, she is," I agreed. I was naturally inclined to be more curious about what a miniature fantastical creature was doing in my parent's backyard, but on such a pretty day, who am I to question such things?
"Hey!" came a loud shout. "What are you looking at? What's going on?"


I found Saffron surprisingly nearby. "Just hanging out?" I asked.
"Well, I was tired, and this seemed like a nice place," Saffron shrugged.
"Nori found something." I told her. "Maybe you would like to come see what it is?"


"Oh, that old thing," She pooh-poohed once we reunited with Nori and the unicorn. "I saw it earlier but it didn't seem important."
"Yeah, right," Nori mouthed to me as she rolled her eyes. That struck me as hilarious and I had to pretend my allergies were flaring up to keep Saffron from catching on. 
"Ok, guys. Just hang on tight and I am going to run and get our stuff we left behind. I'll be back in a minute!" I headed back down the hill to gather their many belongings that always seem to accompany us.


I glanced over my shoulder to be sure everything was OK.
"You guys doing all right?"
"We're fine!" Saffron hollered back. 
Re-assured, I turned back to begin packing up. It took a little longer than I had planned- they had managed to drag out everything it seemed they owned and dump it in a six acre field. When I was finally finished, I turned back to the hill where they were sitting.


"AUUUGGGHH!!" Came their shrill cries as my family's aged dog came to investigate. Old and deaf she may be, but I have yet to meet a doggie that did not enjoy a new chew toy. Or two. 
I dropped everything and ran, arms windmilling like one of Quixote's giants. 


We all made it out ok, but suffice to say that was the end of our adventures on the ol' homestead. At least for now. 



Fin.

(And a special thanks to me mum for some of the funniest/coolest accessories. The girls love em!)

As I said before, romance has been blooming strong in our household for one particular person. Or I suppose persons. It's all still pretty new to me. I was not the first to know about all this, and I am not even sure I approve. By the time I discovered what was going on between Matilda and The Grand Admiral, they had already moved in together and that was when Saffron and Nori showed me these. It would seem I am not the only one capable of taking a mediocre snapshot around here! 

I now present to you- "What Really Happened On Valentine's Day" narrated by myself, as told to me by Saffron. I cannot personally vouch for the veracity of this story- in fact, I strongly doubt most of it. 


"At last, my darling, we are... alone!" pronounced Grand Admiral Thrawn (hereafter to be known as "GAT" or "Thrawn") to Matilda.
She giggled nervously ("Clearly a ruse to seduce him," Saffron insisted) and said, "So it would seem. What did you need to see me so urgently for, that had to be in secret?"


"Do you not realize?" Thrawn said as he caressed her cheek in a ("positively revolting") tender manner. "The moment I saw you from my station in the science fiction area of the bookshelves, I knew. Such an exotic woman, with hair the color of the trees of the Gamma Forests; eyes the exact hue and depth of the Corellian Seas... I knew that we must be kindred spirits; not of this dull rock of a planet." (Here he had to stop and take a breath, which was good. Any more and Saffron and Nori knew that they would burst out laughing and ruin their cover.)

Matilda however seemed utterly gobsmacked by his debonair style.
"Ohhh," was all she managed to squeak out before GAT decided to bust out the big guns.


It was a long moment before either of them spoke again. Unsurprisingly, it was once more the Admiral.


"My darling," he purred. "Would you do me the honor of being my Valentine?"
(He totally dug that heart out of the trash can," Saffron added. "I saw you chuck it after that man gave you a cupcake the day before." I gave her a look. "By 'that man', you do mean 'my husband', right?" "Whatever.")
Needless to say, Matilda eagerly accepted. "I would love that!"
"I am glad to hear it. I got you a Valentine's gift to show how much you take my breath away."
("Blech! He took my appetite away!" was Saffron's general feeling.) 


"By Eldil's Stars!" Matilda cried when she saw the necklace. ("She just knew she'd scored a gravy train," Saffron sniffed. "Honestly. Can a girl not find true love on Valentine's Day without getting crapped all over?" I scolded her. "No. Not when it's this big ol' hot mess." Saffron insisted. "Story's not over yet!")


Thrawn gently fastened the necklace on Matilda and looked up at her. "You are radiant, my darling. This is the most wonderful Valentine's Day I have ever had."
By this point, Matilda was gone. Head over little pink bootie heels. I can't really blame her. An exotic man, heaping not only flowing adulations but also magnificent jewelry upon one is really enough to turn any girl's head. 

"This is the best Valentine's Day I have ever had, too!" Matilda cried. 


With that, Thrawn swept her into a passionate embrace, and they both became lost in the moment. And that exact moment is when Saffron and Nori became far bolder than was wise, and decided to risk their cover for the perfect shot.


"Do you hear something?" Matilda said hesitantly as they came up for air.
"No, no, my love. It is only our hearts speaking to each other," GAT insisted as he reached for her shirt buttons.
Matilda's eyes fluttered open just in time. 
"HOW DARE YOU GUYS!!!"
They only had time to snap off one more picture before they ran.




At least, that's what I was told. Perhaps it was all just a story, made up like Sasquatch or the 1969 "moon landing". Such things may not be for us to know until some final, future day. For now, we just have the word of a couple fanatics and some grainy snapshots. For some, that may be enough, but there will always be those who doubt. The choice is up to you!



Fin.

We are still alive, and as insane as ever.

Well it has certainly been a while since we were last here! Things have been pretty hectic around our place- the ending of spring and the school year has increased my work time (can you say getting paid to play in a sprinkler?) and the blythes have also been occupied with their own goings-on. 

Saffron has been... well, she's been continuing her mission of spreading anger and hostility to the world, which is to say she has been avoiding humanity and reading questionable books. So not really anything new.


"Get lost!"

Matilda has been developing her budding romance with The Grand Admiral (yes, I know, I know. This is all new to me, too. More to come on this later, I promise!)


"Get out of here!!!"

It seems this has left Nori to her own devices. Which is to say, she has been creeping into the living room at night to watch whatever it is my husband and I have chosen on netflix. Lately, we have been on a documentary kick. Forks Over Knives, Food Matters, and so on. While the effect these shows have had on us have been mostly positive (fewer processed foods and meats, more veggies and fruits), Nori seems to have... gone to an extreme. 


"Welcome, weary traveler! Hasten to my humble lodgings!"

As they say, she's gone native. I'm not entirely sure how long she has been living off the land, or more accurately, all my home-grown strawberries and cucumbers, but my guess is it's however long I've been cussing out the cat (that I have never seen) that poops in my garden boxes. 

So yeah. I guess what I'm saying is, we have been busy! But we are all still alive, and as well as can be expected! Be sure to check back soon to find out exactly what started our in-house hook up, and also when we celebrate Independence Day. I personally have zero plans for the Fourth of July right now, but the blythes always seem to cook up something for holidays, and my expectations are high. 
Until then!


Fin.

The Great Outdoors

We had just arrived at Nanny's for Sunday dinner, and I was unloading the car when I noticed something moving in the front lawn.


"Um... Nori?" I gaped for a moment while my brain struggled to catch up.
"Hey!" she chirped back. She was gently patting the stone bunny, but stopped when she saw my staring.


I struggled for a moment, unable to decide where to start.
"Why are you petting the concrete bunny?" I said it before I could stop, but it was out, and her reaction was instant.
"Do you have a problem with that?" Nori asked coldly.
"Well, it just seemed a bit odd, seeing as it's, you know, concrete..." I stammered.
She looked at me with unblinking, plasticine eyes. "Your point?"
I hung my head as I said, "Never mind.."


"Oh, hey there!" Matilda said, as she sauntered over. 
"Hey, Matil..." I stopped. "OK, OK, what are you guys doing and how did you even get here?? I do not remember packing you."
"Well, that's probably because... ya didn't." Matilda pointed out. "Look, it was a gorgeous day, yesterday was good old Saint Paddy's and you did nothing with us, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We're even wearing green. Even Saffron."
I jerked around, peering over my shoulder.
"Wait, Saffron's here? Where is she?"
They shrugged. "Around."


I massaged my temples for a moment. "Guys, you can't just be out here in the front yard! People can see you! People can see me talking to you, for that matter!"
They exchanged glances. "Look, you should have thought about that when you decided to start collecting something with legs. Books are one thing, but we do not like just 'chilling' on the shelf all the time!" Matilda asserted.
"Yeah! And sometimes we like to pick out our own clothes!" chimed Nori.
"Amen to that," came a voice from somewhere.


It took me a few moments searching the yard but once spotted, Saffron was actually surprisingly nearby.
"You know you basically blend into the foliage," I grumbled. "And I didn't even get to finish that shirt yet."
She shrugged. "Eh, what do I care? It fits, it was green. I'm happy." She glanced back to the others still clustered around the bunny. "Hey, you guys should come check out the clouds. I keep finding awesome shapes; I just saw a scorpion one a few minutes ago."
Matilda called back, "No way am I rolling around down there. Can you say centipede??"
Saffron gave me a concerned glance, and I shook my head. "You're fine," I whispered.
"Well, I'll come look," Nori volunteered.


"Ooh, you are right, Saffron. I see one that looks like a chubby hippo!" she giggled.
"I think all hippos are chubby, Nori," Saffron said, but she smiled as she said it.


I turned to Matilda. "That is awfully close to the dirt, Matilda. What about the centipedes?"
"I figured at least this way I would see them coming. You've got pretty good reflexes, right?" She eyed me skeptically.
"Actually, no."
"Well, then, I think I am ready to head on inside. Did I hear you say there was going to be chicken and dumplings?"
I nodded. "But you have to call them chicken 'n' dumplins. Or else we're just going to call you a damn yankee and spit on your dessert."
"I don't really believe you, but it doesn't seem worth the risk."


She scampered off, and Nori took her place. 
"Hey, you! What happened to your cloud buddy?"
"She saw a centipede."
I stared. "Really?"
She thought for a moment. "Well, I don't know if it was a centipede, but it was a bug, and it looked pretty gross. Apparently when all hell breaks loose, Saffron is more of a 'flight' girl."
"And you?" I asked.
She smiled sheepishly. "It would seem 'fight'."
"Atta girl," I said with a pat on her head. "I'm going in to get some food. You?"


Nori glanced around for a moment, and realized it was just her, the bugs and the concrete bunny.
"Chicken 'n' dumplins, you say?"
I waggled my eyebrows enticingly. "Oh yeah."




Fin.

Battle for Victory

Things seemed to be settling into a rhythm of sorts at the house over the next few weeks. I had only broken up two or three fights, with the violence being minimal. Currently, there seemed to be a tentative kind of peace that bordered on politeness to an extreme. I preferred it to rounding up chunks of nylon hair; one of my many bouncer's duties.

So it was with mingled curiosity and nerves that I decided to peek into my bedroom upon hearing voices while walking through the hall.


"Oh, hey, Matilda," I said with a nod as I spotted Nori at the other end of the bed.

"Sup," she returned my nod with one of her own, and turned back to the card in hand. "Nori, your question is.."
I interrupted. "Hey, why is Saffron not playing? I thought Harry Potter was in her list of acceptables."


They looked at each other uncomfortably a moment before Nori cleared her throat.
"Well, she memorized all the cards one night, so..."
"We had to ban her. Flagrant rule-flouting is not acceptable," Matilda finished for her. She started reading the trivia card again.
"Kay. Your question is, 'In which Harry Potter film do we first see pixies?'."

Nori squinted her eyes and thought hard for a moment.
"Is it, 'Chamber of Secrets'?"

Matilda checked the card, opened her mouth to say, "no," and caught me looking over her shoulder. Her shoulders sagged minutely. "Yes."
"Oooh! I am doing good! And that was a steal on your turn!" her gloating ended quickly when she saw Matilda's gloom. "But... I'm not that far ahead. I'll probably blow my question anyway."


She shook the dice out, quietly muttering "come on, big money!" to herself.
"Ooh... six spaces! And it's an all-play. The plot thickens!" She turned to me. "Can you push play on the laptop? You're closer."
"Sure."


"All right, guys, all eyes toward me," I announced as I pushed the start button.

Matilda's eyes gleamed a bit frantically as she studied the screen. It was a word scramble; one of the harder ones that even I had trouble with.


"Hogwarts Express!" She crowed, triumphant,just as Nori leapt to her feet to say the same.  
Her answer was seconds behind Matilda's. You could see the competitiveness starting to spark between them, and I prepared to intervene. It would be the first time Saffron wasn't involved, but by this time, I was not sure of anything. So I tried to distract them.
"Do you guys not ever want to go outside? Matilda, there is all kinds of stuff to see!"


She gave me a withering stare.
"I just spent the last four months re-enacting life in a gypsy caravan in the late fourteenth century. I have had enough of the outdoors. This place has central heating, indoor plumbing and a well stocked fridge. I am not going anywhere!" She paused. "Except for my six spaces! Boom!" she thumped her game piece down eagerly.


Matilda cautiously slid onto the bench-box next to Nori.
"It's getting pretty close, huh?"
Nori gave her a wary glance, unsure if this was a diversionary tactic or not.
"I guess. It's your turn now."
This was followed by several lightning rounds were I was mostly preoccupied with taking control of DVD operation responsibilities.
Before I knew what was happening, the bed was a riot of noise- some more triumphant than the rest.


"It's me! I am the winner!" Nori crowed as she took a moment to celebrate.
Matilda was hastily studying the rule page. "There has to be something.... There has to..."
Nori glanced at Matilda, who seemed to be taking the loss pretty hard.
"Well," she said slowly, "As Triumphant Victorious, I believe I should win a prize!" 
Matilda looked even more grim as she continued. "And that prize is... Mani-pedi's for everyone!!"


Before anyone could even blink, she had whipped out several nail polishes and turned to me expectantly.
"Yes?" I said with a raised eyebrow.
Nori gave me a look. "Well, who else is going to do our nails?"
"You are both limited editions. Your nails are already painted," I insisted.
"But not our toenails!" She smiled broadly. 
"Oh, fine. But just one color each. I am not doing anything crazy, like polka dots or whatever," I grumbled as I started settling into my job.
"But I expect you both to tip well."


Fin.

It was the morning we had long anticipated- Nori's cousin was arriving. I thought I would stick my head into the doll's room and check to see if they needed any help with the tidying.


I walked in just as Nori turned to Saffron. "I see you've at least bothered to put clean clothes on like I asked." "Don't get your plastic panties too worked up," Saffron grunted. She gestured casually at herself. "I've been wanting to wear my new shirt anyway."


"Do you like your new top?" I asked.The demand for new outfits has become so overwhelming that I have taken to making their clothes just to keep their budget from exceeding my own.
"It's all right. It's kind of dark and gloomy and I like that."
"It has pink flowers on it!" I protested.
"Yeah, they look like a funeral home!" she beamed.
I sighed and turned to Nori.


"Well, I love my new dress," she said with a twirl.
"I'm glad." I peered over her shoulder. "What are all those books doing over here?"
"Matilda and I like to read books and then discuss them," she said. "And we thought we'd pick some female-centric titles this time."
I took a closer look. 
"Jane Austen's Persuasion, a Shopaholic novel, Sybil and Bridget Jones.... That's intense, Nori." I tried not to look too freaked.
"I wanted to include Valley of the Dolls but it was kind of long."
"Maybe next time," I said encouragingly.
Then she looked over my shoulder and gasped. "She's HERE!"


I looked down to my left, and sure enough, there she was. Nori scrambled down the shelf and ran toward her.


"Matilda!"
"Nori!"
They squealed for a couple moments before Nori turned to me.
"This is my cousin, Matilda von Hohenheim!"
I was torn between bewilderment and amusement. "That is a very imposing name," I managed.
"Well, obviously we all just call her Matilda," Nori said with a patronizing tone.
I turned to the new girl. "Matilda, I can definitely see the family resemblance. You and Nori look so similar!"
"Yeah, this is apparently what happens when both your mothers get high on E at raves all the time before you're born," she replied.
I gaped at her. "Really??"
"No," she laughed. "I just like to say that."
I laughed with her, thinking to myself that Saffron might be about to meet her match. They climbed back up the shelf as I brought up the rear with Matilda's luggage.


"Saffron, this is Matilda," Nori said. "She's really fun; you guys will get along great!"
I could tell she was hoping that saying it would make it true. Matilda stepped over to Saffron, hand extended.


"It's nice to meet you, Saffron. Nori says all kinds of interesting things about you."
"I'll bet she does," I mumbled. Saffron was too busy eyeing Matilda to pay me any attention.
"Well, well," she said snidely. "I see we're bringing the whole carnival in, bit by bit."
Matilda just laughed and said, "Actually, I think the carnival blythes are a few years older and usually have blue hair. They aren't related as far as I know." 
Her calm response seemed to stun Saffron into silence, something which made me hopeful that she might stick around for a while, at any rate.


"Hey, Matilda," Nori grabbed her arm and steered her to the other side of the shelf. "Here are the books I picked out!" She said with a beaming smile. 


Matilda glanced at me as she spoke. "Those are an... interesting group..."
"That's what I said," I added.
"I just thought it would..." Nori was insisting but Matilda held up a hand. "Time to unpack."


The first thing she pulled out was white and furry. "This is for you, Nori. I remembered you saying how cold it was here." (I looked closer and saw that it was a rabbit's fur.) "I thought you could make a cloak or something."
"It's not that cold!" I protested.
They simply stared at me a moment before going back to the box.
"I brought you something, too, Saffron," Matilda called.


Saffron was there in a flash. "I must admit you rosy-tressed ladies know your stuff when it comes to hostess gifts. What'd ya bring me? What'd ya bring me?"
"Here," Matilda handed her the gift.


"Mittens!" Saffron cried triumphantly. "Lovely, lovely mittens!"
I started to point out how big they were, but then thought better of it. Not really any point in rocking the boat, as far as I could tell. 


"And last but not least," Matilda dragged out the last thing. "Our best girls' day movie!"
"Yay!" Nori clapped her hands and cheered.
"Wait, what is that?" Saffron asked with suspicion. 
Matilda turned and said, "The best love story ever told!"
"It looks cheesy," Saffron rolled her eyes and went to sit back down.


"Saffron, you have to watch it! It's amazing!" Nori insisted. 
Saffron slowly turned back around but she still looked skeptical. "I'll try it," she relented. "But I already know it is going to suck."
"Great! Nori, grab the movie; I'll get the tissues just in case," Matilda said, taking the lead to the living room.


I set the stool up for them, so they could be at eye level and popped in the movie. 


"You ready, guys?" I tucked the blanket in around their feet and checked that none of their snacks had spilled.
"Push play! Push play!" Nori chirped excitedly as Matilda leaned over her and offered Saffron a donut from their sweets plate.
"No thanks," Saffron said with wave of her hand. "All that stuff is way too sweet for me. Give me a coke and some salty fries any day." She bit down on a fry to emphasize her point.
"Ok, guys. The movie is starting." I pushed play and sat down.


After a few minutes, even Saffron stopped making snide remarks, and the only noise besides the movie was the sound of munching and crunching. Eventually even that died down, and they all sat in enraptured silence until the the last minute. I clicked off the television and that's when I heard it. A soft, but unmistakable snuffling.


"Uh... Saffron?" Nori said hesitantly.
Saffron seemed a bit indisposed to speak; all she really seemed to be able to do was something between a squall and a whimper.


"It was soo sad! They loved each other! They died! What kind of movie is this?" Saffron managed to croak out between nose blows.


Nori put her head closer. "It's ok, Saffron, just calm down. It's not even a true story."
"But you know that has happened to someone, somewhere!" Saffron wailed. "It's terrible!!!"


She turned to Matilda. "What is wrong with you? You said this was the best movie, ever!"
"It is," Matilda said calmly. "It has all the perfect elements for a classic romantic drama. Just because it was sad doesn't keep it from being good."


"Yes, it does!" Saffron said, standing up abruptly. "Why would I want to sit in gloom and despair for entertainment? I want to see hot men and action and aliens and funny things like someone falling off their skateboard and smashing their tenders! Not this!" 
I sensed it was time to step in.
"Ok, ok! Great movie, guys. Thanks for bringing it, 'Tilda, we all appreciate getting to try something new! Now, let's find something to do. Maybe something relaxing..."
"When I'm stressed out, I like to color," piped Nori.
"Excellent. I have a coloring book from Christmas." I packed everyone up and carried them to their room. "Ok, here is the coloring book, and..." I scrambled for a moment. "Here are the crayons!"


I looked in after a few minutes to see how they were doing. "Wow, I love your picture, Nori and Matilda. It is so cute!" 
They smiled up at me. "Thanks!" 
Then I glanced over at Saffron's picture. "Uh... what exactly happened here?"
Saffron glared up at me. "Hello Kitty is stupid. And her head is too big for her body."
I bit my lip and decided against pointing out the obvious while the other two gave me similar looks. 


I just don't know why you can't make a prettier picture, Saffron," Nori berated.
"It's my coloring page and I can do whatever I want. You can either like it, or lump it," Saffron growled menacingly.
"I would be careful, Saffron," I warned on my way out. "It's two to one, now."



Fin.

Christmas- Before and After

Somehow being off work for two weeks seemed to keep me even busier than usual. We all had an excellent Christmas, and two in particular seemed to really rack in the loot this year.
I present to you: Christmas- Before & After.

(Christmas Eve Morning)

Saffron's whining broke the early quiet of Christmas Eve morning.
"Do we really have to do this??"
"Yes, Saffron," I said patiently. "I want to get a couple pictures of you all in the elf costumes I made you."
"They're itchy," she said with a squirm. "And you did something funny to one of the legs."
"There is nothing wrong with them!" I snapped. I didn't feel like mentioning that I had almost sewed one leg hole shut, and hadn't felt like fixing it.
"Well, they are a little itchy," Nori said. "But I think they're pretty."
"Thank you, Nori. I'm glad you like them." I waved with my hand. "Now lean towards the tree and smile!"


"I can't wait till this is over," Saffron said through a tight grin.
"Just smile and it will be done a lot faster," Nori said, giving Saffron a little pinch to stop her from slouching.
"That looks great guys," I said. "Aren't you getting excited for all your presents?"
"I thought the couch was our Christmas present," Nori said, giving a little bounce.
"Well, it is, sort of," I explained. "See, my in-laws got it for me, for you. And we exchanged presents yesterday, so I thought I'd just let you go ahead and use it."
"It doesn't match my outfit," Saffron pointed out.
"I know, I'm sorry! I didn't think that one through," I admitted. "C'mon you guys. We're burning daylight."


"Ok, Nori. That's perfect." I said. 
"Great. I'm going to go ride my bike while it's still pretty," she said, hopping up.
"...Ok! Have fun!" I had no idea what she was talking about.


"Saffron, look at me!" I fussed.
"Nori is on my bike!" she insisted.
I put down my camera. "Ok, I give up. What bike are you all talking about?" 
She pointed. "That one!"


"...Oh yeah. I had completely forgotten about that old thing..."
"Hey! Get off my bike, Nori!" 
"No! I found it first, and it's still my turn!" 
Saffron stewed a moment before getting a better idea.


"I want you to pull me in the basket!" Saffron said, chasing Nori down.
"No way! That is not happening!" Nori called over her shoulder as she peddled faster.
I sat down on the porch step and watched them go in circles a bit before calling them back inside. It was Christmas, after all.

____________________________________________________________________________________

The Day after Christmas
Christmas Day we weren't at home very much. Just long enough for us to all exchange presents, and then we were off, spending the rest of the day traveling and visiting.

"What has happened to this place!!" I cried out, seeing the wreck that was the doll's shelf.
"It's just a little... full," Saffron said, trying to act casual.
I stared at her. "It's a bomb."


"I know," Nori said with a sigh. "This place is a wreck. I can't even put my feet down without stepping on something,"
"So pick it up," I replied. "That's the easiest thing."
"No, I think the easiest thing is just to stay on the couch," she said, raising her hand to brush her brow wearily.


"Ok, firstly, Nori: lazy. That's you. You are being lazy." I scolded. "And secondly, you are looking pretty smoking. Where'd you get that top?"
"I traded with Saffron."
"Huh?" I was still confused.


"See?" Nori said, sitting up. "I traded my skirt to Saffron. She said she didn't have any skirts like that, and she didn't want the blue jeans. I needed some blue jeans, so we just swapped!" She waved her hand at Saffron, who did a quick twirl to demonstrate.
"Oh!" I said, understanding. "I thought that was a dress. I didn't realize the shirt was separate!" 
"Yep!" they said in unison.


"Guys... you didn't think you distracted me from this mess, did you?" I questioned.
Their faces told me that they did, but tried to cover.
"No, no, we hadn't forgotten about it," they said.
"Well, why don't you go ahead and clean up," I started giving instructions. "Nori, you can start putting up Christmas decorations. Saffron, why don't you sort and fold all the clothes you have out that aren't being worn?"
"Fine," Saffron stepped down with a grumble and they began cleaning.


"Saffron, you have to fold everything, not just wad it up in a big ball," Nori fussed. 
"I am folding it! It's just difficult, is all!" Saffron said in a frustrated tone. Finally, she handed everything to me to put away, and I placed her on present sorting duty.


"Nori, are you still putting away Christmas things?" I checked in on her.
"Yes, but they don't want to be put away!" She gestured to the swarm of tiny kitties surrounding her.
"They know the drill," I insisted. "They've done this for years now."


"I guess you're right," Nori sighed. "But I still feel bad about it."
"Well, let me take over from here, then. Go see what Saffron is up to." 


Saffron seemed like she was up to something (imagine that), so I turned my attention her way.
"I thought you were supposed to be putting things away, Saffron," I reminded her.
"Well, I am. I'm just...organizing them a bit, first." she said in a low voice, glancing back at Nori furtively. "You know, figuring out where all my Christmas presents go and all."


"Did you say 'your' Christmas presents?" Nori was over in a dash. "Are you sorting my presents out, too?"
"Uhhh.... Saffron said, giving me a panicked look.


"You've got ALL the presents in your pile! That's not fair! Some of that stuff is specifically mine, Saffron!" Nori bellowed. 
Saffron gave a cool shrug, pretending disinterest. "Oh, I suppose so... Oops!"
"Well give it back!" 
"I'm not sure whose is whose."


"Ok, guys. Let's just go ahead and I'll divide everything," I said, stepping in. "You can each have one hair bow in each color..."
"Don't break up the pairs!" Nori wailed. "They're supposed to be worn in pairs!"
"OK," I said calmly. "Then you're going to have to divide according to color, or just agree to share."
"We'll share," they said in glum harmony.
"All right. Then you've already split up the clothes; there's not a whole lot more stuff, just the food that Auntie J got you." 
"DIBS ON CORN!" Saffron screeched.
Nori shrugged. "I like eggs. Especially hard boiled ones."
"Then you are in luck. Ok you two. I think that pretty much covers everything." I said, pleased with how everything had turned out.


Nori coughed. "Well, everything except the baby blue cowgirl boots."


Saffron had them out of her hand and on her feet before Nori and I even knew what had happened.
"Thanks! These fit me perfectly."
Nori turned to me, her face a mask of shock and rage.


"I want those boots," she hissed at me. 
My reaction was a bit more delayed, this being the first time I had seen Nori's 'Mr. Hyde' side. "Umm..." I stammered.
Saffron completely ignored us, prancing gleefully in her boots, no doubt well aware at the mayhem she was causing.
Then Nori's eyes brightened with a slightly manic gleam.


"SAFFRON CAN HAVE THE BOOTS! I CLAIM THE COUCH!!!!" she shrieked, throwing herself across it in a feeble attempt to claim her rightful property.


Saffron was at her side in an instant.
"No, no, no. The couch is ours to share. You can't just claim it all for yourself."
"I'm not sharing until you promise the boots are half mine!" Nori cried.
"Fine, fine. I promise that the boots are both of ours to wear." Saffron said begrudgingly.
"Swear it! Swear it on your spirit guide!" insisted Nori.
"I haven't even seen mine since we went to Florida!" Saffron said, somewhat bewildered.
"Swear it, anyway!"
"FINE! I swear it on my spirit guide! Geez!"


All the excitement seemed to have worn them down, so they both settled in for a little snack.
"Oooh, this is good," Saffron said, snacking on her ear of corn.
"Yep!" Nori agreed.
"I'm just glad you two have calmed down. Maybe now I can get a little peace," I chipped in.
"Oh, by the way..." Nori said hesistantly.
"Yes, Nori?"
"My cousin's coming to visit for a little while, if that's ok. She'll probably get here some time next week." she peeked up at me. "If that's all right."
I closed my eyes for a moment, picturing a third tiny tornado in my home.
"Sure, Nori. That sounds nice."
"Oh, it will be. Matilda always makes things so exciting when she's around."
"....I bet she does."




Fin.

Making a list & checking it twice

It was the sound of tiny feet scuttling through my kitchen that first caught my attention. I gave it a few minutes, but the noise persisted. So peering cautiously around the door frame, I discovered....


...this.

"So much for hoping for mutant mice.." I sighed. "What exactly are you two doing?"


"Um, making our Christmas lists!" Saffron said with a trademark eye roll. 
"I'm picking out a new outfit!" Nori peeped up excitedly.
"That's great!" I said. Then I noticed the catalogues. "Ohh... where did you two find those?"
"In your room," Saffron replied nonchalantly.
"Those are not for you!" I spluttered, but they ignored me.


"What do you think, Nori? The princess castle, or the Malibu dream house?" Saffron said, turning to the Toys R Us ad. 
Nori furrowed her brow and thought. "The Malibu dream house. It has a swimming pool."
"Excellent point. But look how beautiful the castle is! I'll just circle both," Saffron decided.
"You guys are going to be really disappointed in a couple weeks," I said. They continued to tune me out, and turned to the next magazine.


"I love these," Nori said, gazing longingly at a woolly scarf & sweater set.
"They are really nice," agreed Saffron. She seemed interested, but kept her sharpie capped. 


"All right, let's see what else there is," Saffron said as she got up to turn the page.


"Sweet horns of Gondor, what is that??" she breathed as the page fell back and the next outfits were revealed.
For a moment things were a blur as she reached down and snatched up the catalogue.


"It's beautiful!" She crooned as she held it next to her for comparison. "This is what I want! Get it for me right now! Order it, order it!!!" She was practically dancing in her excitement.
"Saffron, no," I shook my head. "First of all, that outfit is over 70 bucks."
"Because there's only 1000 of them in existence! We have to move on this before it is too late!!" she interrupted.
I held up my hand. "And secondly, if you had read closer, those dolls are seventeen inch dolls, Saffron. That is five inches taller than you. Maybe more, since most of your height is in your head."
She glared at me. "How dare you!"
"I dare because there is no point in you being mad at me for not buying you a dress that doesn't even fit. I am sorry." I looked around. "Where did Nori go? She needs to hear this too."
Then I noticed the paper rustling.


Nori burst out from behind the magazine with an indignant splutter. "I did hear you! I could hear everything! It's not fair," she pouted her lips out in disappointment.
"Look guys," I said, trying to make them feel better. "After Christmas, maybe I'll take some of my Christmas money and see if I can find something nice that's actually your size. Would that be ok?" 
Nori bobbed her head, happy again, but Saffron had already spotted something else.


"Look at this kitty!" She purred. "I want her! She won't be the wrong size! And she can bend her arms! I need her, I want her, please please please!"
I looked at the price. "Saffron! She is two times as much as that dress! I'm not spending that much money! You don't even like the different pets I bring you as it is. What have you even done with all your little pets?"
She looked at me from hooded eyelids. "I turned them loose on the savannah."
I just shook my head and turned to Nori.


"That cat isn't even cute," she whispered to me. "It looks like it would eat your face while you were sleeping."
"Amen to that, sister," I agreed.
"I can hear you," Saffron spit out. "But I'm still getting Valentine de Pompadour. I know where you keep the credit cards."
Nori and I looked at each other.


"You better stop talking about that cat, missy, before that pretty little face gets marked up pretty bad. If you know what I mean," Nori said, waving the sharpie threateningly. 
"Whoa, Nori! Turning on the mobster, huh?" I said, somewhere between amused and weirded out.
"I saw it on Star Trek this week," she said casually. 
"That is a pretty funny episode," I agreed.
"Ok, shut up, nerds," snapped Saffron. 
"Hey, you heard Nori," I said. "You'd better watch yourself before she messes you up."
Saffron gave us both the stink eye for a moment. "Whatever. I'm going to go see if there's any presents for me under the tree." With that, she hopped down and took off.
Nori and I looked at each other.
"There's not." I said simply. 
"That's cool. We didn't get you anything either."
"Sounds good to me."


Fin.