Chapter 9:

9: Our quiet 1st birthday

I was Born the Unloved Twin

Our first birthday has come and I am now a year old.Bookmark here

There's no grand birthday celebration this time, no banquets held for nobles and big shots to show off. It's to be a private affair. Everyone is still alert from the kidnapping incident not too long ago. While the staff has been thoroughly rechecked and guards doubled on rotation, no one wants to risk the safety of the young misses of the Ventrella family.Bookmark here

The kidnapping event ended as smoothly as last time. Since we were both taken, the motive is being seen more of a threat towards the Ventrella household or against grampa's name rather than anything specific towards Lilyanne. She'll have plenty of time to shine as the Goddess' blessed one later, for now, she should just stay safe as a normal baby.Bookmark here

It would be good if she could grow up more like a regular child, not so sheltered and stupid. Bookmark here

On a lighter note the stories now speak of how we both cried obnoxiously loud, alerting people to the kidnapping. The soldiers still praise grampa's coolness but there's the additional detail of how I said my very first word.Bookmark here

"No!"Bookmark here

Against a band of mysterious criminals, with my wailing twin sister, I screamed out my iron will and spoke for the very first time as my heroic grandfather rushes in to save the day. It's an adorably amusing tale, popular among nobles and commoners alike.Bookmark here

Since then I've been able to produce many words a lot more complex than a mere "no". But it's the most commonly requested word from all my caretakers and visitors.Bookmark here

"Can you say 'no' Rosalia? Can you say it for me?"Bookmark here

""Bookmark here

"There it is! Oh how precious, Maria what an dear child she is!"Bookmark here

"Yes we were very fortunate that no harm came upon them."Bookmark here

While our birthday can't be too flashy at this sensitive time, it wouldn't be proper to have nothing at all. It is only a private dinner party of only my family's closest family and friends but that's much preferable to a fussy ball. A couple of recognizable adults mill about enjoying their cocktails and conversations. Bookmark here

Unlike our 3 month party where we were placed in a fine display of a crib, this time we never leave the arms of mother, father or grampa. Safety first but they really don't need to with plenty of guards hidden around and roaming the space. Bookmark here

This may be the most surprising result from my actions in changing the kidnapping event. Bookmark here

When grampa returned with us to the mansion our parents and everyone were anxiously waiting outside in a crowd, same as in my past life. Mother flung herself to grampa, crying and wetly kissing us. And father ...father followed suit. I've never seen him look at me, at Rosalia, with such eyes of concern.Bookmark here

I squished down the feelings of tenderness, of hope that arises in me. Bottle it up nice and tight even as he gently takes me from grampa, holding me as carefully as glass. I bury it deep as he showers me with more affection than I can recall getting in a lifetime. Bookmark here

For more than a day he would only set me down to exchange with mother. We even slept in their bedroom for a few following nights, they demanded it. So while things have gotten more or less normal again, the start of the over-protectiveness that always followed Lilyanne seems to have been extended to me as well.Bookmark here

A side effect of being kidnapped as well. Bookmark here

It won't change anything in the long run, I know. After my parents calm down some more they'll go back to forgetting about me. After we get a little older after Lilyanne presents her powers and the old stupid hats read their prophecy... I'll go back to being the black sheep of the family. Bookmark here

I need to learn from last time. Never look for love that's not there.Bookmark here

That doesn't mean I shouldn't enjoy what I have now. I'm already using the natural attention to build a rapport with other relatives and such. Look I'm entertaining all these people now, aren't I? So even if I get named a child of darkness, a demon or whatever shit they say the backlash won't be so bad. Bookmark here

Seriously where do they come up with this stuff?Bookmark here

I could care less what people think of me but I won't make my life any harder than it is. It's already set to level: Difficult. Bookmark here

Do remember me as a dear little child all you aunties, uncles and such. Because I'll remember you, in fact I already do. Please soften up and come to underestimate me more and more. I won't ruin you if you don't attack me first okay? Bookmark here

Mother is an only child but father is the youngest of 5 children. So while I have many odd sorts of people to call uncles and aunties I only have 2 biological uncles and 2 biological aunts. They're from an old line of nobility, the Bicchieri. And as far as I can remember they all adored Lilyanne in terms of social potential and affectionBookmark here

Lilyanne had a natural social value to her, to gain her favor is a given. She was also so sweetly dumb that nothing they said bothered her, stupid kids really are cuter. Bookmark here

That's fine, they're a very economical sort of people. They only act in terms of what benefits them, it's not necessarily a wrong way to live. A little more than short-minded but not evil in any sense. I've bery used to people like that from my modern world.Bookmark here

All I have to do is provide value, either social, familial or monetary. The family elders are no issue to buy out, it's my conniving cousins that I have to watch out for. Bookmark here

Ah but no worries yet, I'm just a cute baby after all!Bookmark here

Since father is the 5th child and 3rd son we never had to bother with much of their inner family squabbles. Either that or mother already took care of it when she married him over. Isn't that why Lilyanne and I have the name Ventrella? Father essentially married into mother's family line, renouncing his own. Grampa's name outranks everyone just by being the hero! He'd be king long ago if he didn't reject the title and formed more of a republic.Bookmark here

Less work for him. After all, who wants to be responsible over this mess?Bookmark here

I'm not the first to ponder about grapma's family history. The common tale is that he was a war orphan who rose the ranks to greatness. But nothing else is known about him. Then there's the fact that he only had mother but there was never a grandmother in the picture.Bookmark here

A little suspicious but everyone's long used to it. Bookmark here

Scratch that I do have a grandmother, just a crooked old Bicchieri grandmother. As much as I keep calling gramps an old man he's not actually that old; he's not even showing any gray yet. He's still a very picture perfect image of a hero with his lively brown eyes, bronzed skin and medium build of pure muscle. Pair that with his full head of curly brown hair and he still looks very statue worthy. I would know given how many statues of him there is all around. How vain. Bookmark here

Mother looks barely out of her teens as well, though she's well into her twenties. If he had her at a young enough age then I suppose it all works out. Grandmother Bicchieri however is all wrinkles and a tightly pulled back bun of gray hair. While she has an extravagant sense of style, she's a shrewd old woman who managed such a powerful estate and lived far longer than I did. The big boss of the family if you will.Bookmark here

I feel like my shitty suck up cousins but it would be stupid not to try to get on her good side. Bookmark here

It's all for my future, all for a better future I comfort myself. I'm a grown adult playing as baby to pander to an audience right now, I have no room for shame. If grampa is choking on laughter at my obviously fake childish behavior then so be it!Bookmark here

----Bookmark here

Once again Lilyanne is fast asleep when the party ends and our parents retire us for the night. Gramps carries us the whole way followed by our still worried parents.Bookmark here

"Tell us at least this Father, do we now know who they are?"Bookmark here

"Well their common names were easy to identify, no major criminal records, but things are always deeper than they seem. Rest assured Freddy, my men and I are following every lead."Bookmark here

"We do trust you papa."Bookmark here

"It's just frustrating not being able to do anything as my family is threatened."Bookmark here

"You are doing plenty that I can't. Expand your connections and keep an eye on your colleagues in court. This wasn't just some petty ransom "Bookmark here

"Yes Father, thank you."Bookmark here

The mood lightens and grampa turns to set down a sleeping Lilyanne and a drowsy me.Bookmark here

"Did you have fun?"Bookmark here

The tone is different, very cheerful, and our parents are in the room But those exact ominous words jolt me awake. Bookmark here

"You girls did so well, staying so strong and brave. Taking care of each other."Bookmark here

It's baby talk, generic nonsense. My parents see nothing out of place with it but I know. Grampa is talking seriously with me, just me. He carcasses our hair and boops my nose with one finger.Bookmark here

"Grampa here and his strong soldiers are going to beat all the baddies, aaaaalllll the way to their nest. They won't ever get you...or you."Bookmark here

He light pokes my nose again for good measure them moves to repeat the gesture to my sleeping sister. His upturned eyes on me the whole time.Bookmark here

Her! Her! They were after Lilyanne! God stop being so scary old man!Bookmark here

I frantically gesture and point in her direction, too scared to break the unnatural eye contact. Grampa keeps the dopey smile and happily pats us good night. God and I thought I was the good actress. Bookmark here

When he leaves the nursery with my parents he looks back one last time. He left a message, one I think was sincere, probably. Bookmark here

"Happy 1st Birthday"Bookmark here

-----Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.