Title: Joshua's Legacy: Siblings
Beta That Girl Six
Max raced around the corner to meet the guys in the field, already late because he had been held up talking to his dad and grandmother about spending some time later in the summer with Adam. He knew he should learn about the craft since it was his heritage, but he wanted to work instead with Micah on swordsmanship. Uncle Caleb wasn't around to back him up, having already headed to the field for their football game.
His sister interrupted his run as she called out to him. "Max?"
He stopped, eyed the field with longing. Josie was sitting on the front steps, alone, which was unusual when Mary was around. Her ever present doll was beside her. They were wearing the same outfit of a pink dress with ruffles. "Hey, Josie, what are you doing out here?"
"Mary and I are going to have a lemonade stand. She went inside to get the lemonade from Aunt Juliet," Josie explained, squinting into the sun to look at her brother.
"Put me down for a glass," Max replied, taking a minute to put on the sneakers he was holding and toss aside the sandals he had been wearing. He started to walk away.
She chased after him. "Can you help me bring out the table?" She clasped her hands together. "Please?"
"Ask Dad or Mary's dad," Max answered. Their father was around and could help; he had something to do that was more important.
"Please, please, please. . ." She hopped up and down. Josie could be annoying. With ten years between them, he did not relate well to her, especially since she was girl. He had been so excited to have a sibling but had been looking forward to a baby brother, not a sister.
Max shook his head, brushing her off. "The guys are waiting for me. Dad'll help. I'll see you later."
They had already started the game with JT and Dean on one side and Ben, Caleb, and James on the other. He would be with JT and The Guardian. He loved when they played out in the field. They stayed away from baseball because both Dean and JT excelled at the sport. Soccer was out since Sam and James played well. It left them with flag football.
Uncle Caleb was running down the field and Max was going to intercept him when Caleb stopped short. Max stopped but still ran into his uncle's shoulder. His uncle reached out to him. "Where's your sister?"
In a moment they heard a scream. Max did not answer his uncle. He ran to the barn which held the table his sister had wanted him to fetch. Josie was stubborn, and Max did not need to be psychic to figure out his sister had tried to get the table herself.
He did not know what he expected to see when he flung open the barn door, but he did not expect to be assaulted by wasps. He ignored their attack as he zeroed in on his sister huddled on the floor screaming. She was rolled into a ball with her hands over her head. Max picked her up and carried her out of the barn. Outside the rest of the men were coming towards him.
"It's going to be okay," he said to reassure and touched her long hair, which was crunched in the cradle of his arm. She was looking at him with fear. She had been scared when the bees became hostile. She was usually not afraid of nature and animals. She had multiple reddened stings. Her lips were pursed; at first he thought she was in pain, but then he noticed the hiccupping breaths. "She can't breathe!" he yelled.
Ben did not stop at the barn to help Max and Josie, instead he ran in the house. "We have an EpiPen in the house!"
Dean, Sam, Caleb along with JT and James formed a circle.
"Put her down on the ground, Max," Dean ordered. He knelt by Josie's head. Uncle Caleb was opposite Max, and both of them began to pull out the stings.
"Nice and calm, Josie. You can do it." Uncle Caleb prompted.
The commotion was drawing the rest of the guests from the house. They had been relaxing by the pond. Ben trampled back down the steps of the house, brushing past Max's mom and dad.
"Come on, Josie, in and out." Max held his baby sister's hand.
Ben stuck Josie with the EpiPen in her thigh as Max's dad slid in by them. Max felt a hand on his shoulder; Uncle Caleb was by his side, suggesting he back away to give the medical professionals room.
"Good thinking, Ben." Grandpa Mac was standing over them. He slowly bent down. "Give her some air." Grandpa Mac gestured to Dean. "Okay, you're fine, honey, just fine."
Josie whimpered again, but she was taking in deeper breaths.
"Are all the stingers out?" Grandpa Mac asked Dean and Caleb.
"We got all the ones we could see," Uncle Caleb answered, still hovering.
"We need some ice and Benadryl," Grandpa Mac looked up and made eye contact with Juliet.
Juliet ran inside the house while Grandma Esme held their mother. Max stood up, and found himself flanked by Dean on one side and Uncle Caleb on the other. Juliet came back quickly and held out the Benadryl and ice packs to Grandpa Mac.
"Do you know anything herbal that can help?" his grandfather asked their father.
Their father nodded then picked up Josie, giving her a kiss on her forehead while their grandfather situated the ice pack against her neck. "I'll take her upstairs."
"Use my room," James called out as he stood next to Juliet with concern.
Dean patted Max's chest. "Have Ben look you over, kiddo, and then you can help us get rid of the bees. Your uncle will go with you."
Max looked down and noticed he had a couple of stings in his arms. Dean was ushering JT along with him. James and his mom were calling for the dogs. Uncle Caleb patted his shoulder.
Ben made him sit in the kitchen to apply a baking soda paste to his stings after he had disinfected them.
"She's gonna be okay, right?" Max asked Ben.
Ben was wrapping one of the stings so the paste would remain. "Yeah, the adrenaline in the Epi is the first line of treatment in life-threatening allergic reactions because one of the most important effects of adrenaline is to open up the airways to ease breathing. Then the narrowing of blood vessels prevents or reverses falls in blood pressure. Adrenaline is also responsible for relieving itching, redness, and swelling associated with anaphylactic reactions." He cut some tape as he moved to the next sting. "So cool."
Max didn't find it cool. He was nauseated.
"You need to work on your bedside manner, Ace," Uncle Caleb added.
"She could have died," Max replied. He kept remembering locking his gaze with his sister's look of fear and panic.
Caleb snapped his fingers. "Go outside and help your brothers and father," he ordered Ben.
"I never get to work on live bodies," Ben huffed as he packed up the medical kit and sulked outside.
Caleb got the pitcher of iced tea from the refrigerator, poured a glass, and handed it to Max. "Your sister is too stubborn to die; plus, she has too many hearts to break when she's older. You're going to have to deal with that soon enough."
Max shook his head. "I should have helped her when she asked."
His father came downstairs, his usual messenger bag across his chest. He looked tired.
"How is she?" Max stood up.
His father smiled and placed a hand on his shoulder. "She blames you. She says you should have gotten her the table."
"Did she use his middle name? That's usually a sign she's very angry at a supposed travesty against her. I should know, especially when it comes to matching clothes. Purple and pink do go together," Uncle Caleb commented. Joshua raised his eyebrows at the other hunter and directed his reply to Caleb although it involved Max.
"Mary's with her, keeping her company, but she alerted Josie to the fact that you lost Esmeralda."
"The doll?" Max asked. His sister and her best friend were piling on the guilt to his already heavy shoulders.
Caleb had bought the dolls, and Dean had helped named them; Mary's doll was Samantha, which the namesake did not appreciate, and Josie's doll was Esmeralda after her grandmother. The dolls went everywhere with the girls.
"It's in the barn and, according to Mary, now requires a trip to the American Girl Hospital in Atlanta," Sam announced as came downstairs with a blonde doll tucked under his arm. He had brought Mary upstairs since she wanted to be with her best friend. "Uncle Caleb is going to take care of that."
Caleb took a step back. "How did I get roped into this?"
"You bought them those dolls." Sam shook the doll at Uncle Caleb. "I promised to rescue Esmeralda and watch over her and Samantha. Do you know how long it takes us to get ready in the morning because Samantha has to be dressed, too? You got my child involved in a cult with dolls." Sam went towards the door.
"I'm the one who gets punished. Do you know what going to that store is like?"
Max interrupted his uncle's diatribe. "I better go talk to her. Sorry, it's my fault," he said to his father who had not released his shoulder.
His father gave his shoulder a squeeze. "Son, I don't blame you. She could easily have asked me to help her. She only wants you to pay more attention to her."
Max felt the tightness of guilt ease a bit, but it was still there. He was lucky they were around medical personnel. He should be nicer to his sister. "I can do that."
His grandmother and grandfather were slowly coming down the stairs. His grandmother tilted her head so she could give him a kiss on his cheek. "I'm going to make her some tea for the itchiness. I'll save you some."
"Jocelyn and Mary are having an in-depth conversation about princesses. I'll take that as a good sign," Grandpa Mac reported, taking a seat at the table. "Caleb, I think after that trip to Atlanta they are planning a side trip to Disney World."
Max caught his dad's attention and gestured that he was going upstairs. He was up a few steps but clearly heard his uncle say "She's going to make him pay."
If his uncle was right, then he welcomed it. His father had tried to assure him that he was not at fault, and it helped his conscience, but his mother was beside the closed door with her eyes closed and tears flowing down.
"Mom?" His voice was choked with emotion. He hated to see his mom upset.
She smiled at him and quickly wiped the tears. "Are you okay, sweetie?" She opened her arms, and he fell into the warm hug.
"Ben fixed me up. He likes to practice his medical skills." He huffed into her neck. "How's Josie?"
"She's fine, resting after all the excitement. Mary's keeping her company." She kissed him on the cheek. "She's just scared, like her mom."
"I should have gotten her the table from the barn, then it wouldn’t have happened," he confessed again. One small misstep had so many repercussions.
"She's upset with you." His mom placed a hand against his cheek. "She doesn't think you’re a nice big brother. She wants to trade you in for James." She winked at him. "Your father said that you needed a second chance." She crooked her neck to the door. "Go ahead, go in, and remember she loves you."
Max entered the room a little skeptical about his sister's loving feelings towards him. When the girls slept over James gave up his room to them and would bunk with JT; Max assumed that was part of the reason why his sister wanted to adopt James.
There was the distinct scent of herbs. Her stings, making his four pale in comparison, were covered in a green film. That was his father's doing. It was probably some mixture he should have recognized on sight. The lesson being that maybe swordsmanship could wait when learning the craft gave him an advantage, too.
Mary scowled at him as an acknowledgement of his presence. She also gave him a "hmprh" and crossed her arms. Mary then nestled down into the covers, and he could hear Josie and her whispering to each other.
"She doesn't want to talk to you," Mary announced.
Max came closer even though he had been warned off. "Is she mad at me?"
He heard his sister answer clearly "Yes."
It was also echoed by Mary, who was taking her job as middleman seriously. "Yes."
Josie was faced away from him with her head facing Mary as she lay on the bed on top of the comforter. "He's always mean to me."
"You're always mean to us," Mary said with a pout, then added, "James is nice."
He tried to recall when he was unkind to Josie or to Mary. Nothing sprung to mind, except for his aversion to tea parties. "I'm not always mean."
"You don't want to play, and you say I'm annoying," Josie replied to Mary.
Mary nodded and directed her ire to Max. "You call me 'poison ivy'. I am not poison ivy. Daddy says I do not make people itchy."
He ignored Mary. He remembered when he had called her that. She had been tagging along with them because Josie wasn't feeling well. They were just hanging out by the pond, and Mary had been persistent. "It's just that I am busy doing other stuff."
"You only want to play with the boys. I like being a girl."
Mary provided her own commentary and translation to what Josie was saying. "Auntie Alison says we have girl power and you don't."
He did not crack a smile, as much as he wanted to. He wondered if The Guardian knew that Aunt Alison was creating protégés to lobby for her cause of women being full fledged hunters.
"I promise I'll do better. Okay, Josie?" She was shaking her head, still turned away from him. He took out his wallet and waved the bill in front of her. "In fact, I'll be your first customer at the lemonade stand. Here is five dollars."
Mary eyed the money. "It's five dollars! We need it for American Girl and Disney World." She said to her best friend.
Slowly, Josie turned so she was facing her brother. Her eyes were still rimmed red from her ordeal. He no longer felt playful. He was supposed to be his sister's protector and had done a poor job of it. He was lucky there was still time to redeem himself. "Can I have a hug?"
Josie pondered for a moment, studying him until he wanted to flinch when she pushed herself up, grabbed the five dollar bill, then put her arms around his neck.
The herbs that dotted her arms were more pungent, and he felt some of the lotion bleed into his shirt. "I promise to be a better big brother," he whispered to her, holding her small body tight. "You'll have the best lemonade stand for when you're all better."
"I want it painted yellow," she said when she broke the hug.
"With pink polka dots," Mary added.
"Alrighty. Yellow with pink polka dots," he replied, hoping there was some paint on the farm. "Mom and Dad said you should rest. I'll come up later when it is all finished."
"I love you, Max."
He hadn't heard her say it to him in a long time. When she was a toddler she said it every day, but he had felt so uncomfortable that she must have picked up on it and stopped.
"I love you too, Josie," he answered. She smiled and snuggled back onto the pillow with her best friend beside her.
On his way out the door he stopped at the kitchen. His grandmother had a cup of tea waiting for him. He drank it without complaint, even though the muddy color and strange taste begged for an argument.
"Your mother is calming herself outside with Juliet," Grandma Esme told him.
"How is my little patient?" his grandfather asked. Max realized he was also being evaluated.
"I think she'll be ready to sell lemonade soon." He scrunched up his mouth as he reached the dredges of the tea. "I have to go and build a lemonade stand."
His grandmother laughed and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Get the boys to help you." Max wondered if his grandmother was talking about JT, James, and Ben or his father and the members of The Triad.
He found his father with The Triad on the front porch. Esmeralda, looking a bit scuffed, and Samantha were sitting in a chair. The men were watching JT, James, and Ben throw a ball around. The barn door was opened, more than likely to air it out. His father put an arm around his shoulder. "I see you came out unscathed."
"Sure, he's all forgiven, and somehow I have to pay for his sins," Uncle Caleb commented with a huff.
"Karma," his father stated.
Uncle Caleb seemed puzzled. "Karma?"
"I think it is payback for how you treat women," Joshua replied, and Sam started laughing. His father continued, "I think you realize that Mary and Jocelyn will eventually be dating, and they may come across men like you . . ."
"Men like me?" Uncle Caleb looked at Dean for support.
The Guardian shrugged his shoulders. "You are a love 'em and leave 'em sort of guy, Damien."
Uncle Caleb interrupted, "Says the man living in sin."
His father ignored Uncle Caleb's volley. "And that worries you because you may have been less than respectable."
"You are so off base." Uncle Caleb shook his head.
"He so has you pegged." Sam continued to laugh.
The laughter drew the attention of JT, and he ran over when he saw that Max had returned. They bumped fists.
"Hey, can you help build a lemonade stand?"
"Are you trying to get back into your sister's good graces?" His father removed his arm.
"Yep," Max admitted.
Uncle Caleb gestured to the dolls. "Great, then I will have company on that trip to American Girl."
Max knew what went on at that store. It was mobbed with screaming girls and their dolls. "That's torture," he whined.
"That's guilt," Uncle Caleb quickly replied with a soft punch to Max's shoulder.
"And your uncle wanting male companionship," Sam added, barely controlling his laughter.
"The food is good because no trip to American Girl is complete without eating at the café. Your girls can eat."
"Can we build them a lemonade stand?" JT looked to his father for permission.
"Has anyone told them this house is off a private road? No one comes down here." The Guardian looked at the gathered men.
"It's all about making money," Max explained. His sister and her best friend had them all wrapped around their little fingers. "Five dollars a glass."
"I could just give them a fifty and get it over with," Uncle Caleb suggested. "That's getting out cheap with those two."
"Where's the fun in that?" The Guardian looked at JT. "There's some stuff in the barn that we can work with. Your uncle can design it."
Uncle Caleb crossed his arms. "Then after I'll supervise the construction."
"They want it painted yellow with pink polka dots." Max reminded himself of Josie's and Mary's request.
"The resident artiste should be able to handle that," The Guardian ribbed.
JT pulled Max away while the teasing continued. Together The Triad and The Advisor had a knack for it, which would make the lemonade stand project a fun-filled one.
"You okay?" JT asked as they walked side by side.
"Yeah." He felt some relief, the tension and adrenaline rush having left behind in their wake a sense of purpose. "I was scared."
"I know." JT gestured with his thumb to where James and Ben were talking to The Triad. "I have a little sibling with a big ego, too."
Max laughed, thinking about all of James's grandiose plans and how he tried to act older than he was. It was just like Josie. He started to picture what his sister would be like if she was a hunter. "If we ever get any say, we are so not letting girls in The Brotherhood."