Evelyn's older siblings rarely took the time to play with her. And if they did, they usually got bored pretty quickly.
That's why it was such a welcome change when Dolores announced she would be taking the family to the Winter Festival on Snowflake Day, instead of throwing a party as usual.
There was no snow, but the skating rink worked just fine.
There was some fake snow on the halfpipe for snowboarding.
The family rarely ever did anything together, and Evelyn was having a great time!
Even if the rest of the family weren't.
Emily assured her that Eric and Dolores would be fine. Eric had just had this strange notion that their mother had something to do with the fact that there was no snow this year.
Diamond had grown up and invited his half-sister and her family for a Snowflake Day party at his new house.
The dress code had explicitly stated 'swimwear' and as not to offend, they had obliged. It was sort of funny, though.
"You know Bridgette is into you, right?"
"Huh? What?" Eric's finger slipped off the controller and he messed up the skateboarding trick he had just attempted. "I... I didn't..."
"I don't really care if you go out with her or not. I mean, she's my best friend and all, but we are distantly related. I'm just telling you so you know that there are other girls besides Maura Vanderburg-Rodgers."
"I know that." Eric sounded defiant.
"Oh, do you? Because it surely doesn't look that way."
This was not a topic Eric was comfortable discussing with his sister, however. It was awkward enough that they were both in their swimwear.
"Eric," Emily continued, "I'm just looking out for you. Maura is not nice. There are much better girls out there. Just sayin'."
Esteban congratulated Diamond on his new house and the excellent choice of attire for this Snowflake Day party.
Born and raised in Hidden Springs among Earth-Sims, Diamond knew about appropriate attire and customs as much as anyone. He just liked to pretend to be a full-blown alien at times. It was fun, trolling.
Esteban could get behind that.
Meanwhile, on a TV channel about historical facts...
Do aliens exist? Of course they do, what with the size of the universe and all. Have they ever visited Earth? Go ahead, disprove it! Could they have built the pyramids in Al Simhara? Well, how else would those pyramids have gotten there!
"... is such a thing even possible? --- Yes, it is!"
Dolores chuckled as she lay there in her extraterrestrial half-brother's bed. This stuff was priceless.
"Hey! Wait up you guys," Eveline panted as she ran towards her older siblings. They had left the party early upon Eric's insistence.
He was sure their mother was hiding something in the shed by the stable.
Why else would she need a high-power generator and an industrial-grade air conditioning system behind the wooden tool shed?
He was adamant. He just knew Dolores had something to do with the sudden change in weather. It was not just Hidden Springs either, but all the surrounding towns as well. Eric had done his research.
"Come on, Eric," Emily said in a pacifying tone, "you've been reading too many comic books. You're making her sound like some sort of super villain or something."
"Please, Emily, you've got to believe me! I have this hunch... I can't quite describe it... Mom's hiding something, I--"
"ERIC! You are sounding insane! Just--"
"Alright, guys." The two bickering teens quieted and turned to listen when Esteban spoke up. He did not need to raise his voice. He had always had this gift of pulling all attention on to himself. In a silky smooth tone he continued, "Talking is getting us nowhere. We just need to find a way in and check. There's no way around it."
And so Eric and Emily tried their luck on the door.
Evelyn was so very excited to finally be doing something with her siblings, even if it was kind of scary. While the teens fumbled with the lock outside, Evelyn decided to check inside the stable. The unicorn had still not returned. It would still be out with their mother. Good. It was kind of creepy, despite all the pretty sparkles.
And as she had hoped, hidden behind bales of hay, there was another entrance! There seemed to be some sort of electronic lock, but the little light on it was green. If this thing was anything like a traffic light, Evelyn reasoned, that meant she was good to go.
And surprisingly, she was right! She entered through the metal door and let her siblings in through the wooden one they still hadn't managed to unlock.
This was so exciting!
"Don't just run ahead without us," Emily chided, smiling kindly.
"Sorry!", Evelyn squeaked, as she leaned in to hug her sister. She couldn't remember the last time her siblings had paid this much attention to her, and Evelyn was giddy with excitement.
"You guys go ahead," they heard Esteban's voice from upstairs. "I'll stay here and keep a lookout."
The girls watched in anticipation as Eric walked around the room, inspecting everything closely.
"Look! This book here doesn't have any dust on it!"
Reading all those detective comics had paid off.
Was this really below their house?
Again, a green light signaled an unlocked door.
It felt like walking right into a spy movie set, or something.
"I... I can't believe it. Eric, you were right. What in Plumbob's name is all this?" Emily's eyes started to fill with tears. Eric looked uncomfortable.
"Don't cry, Emily," Evelyn tried to reassure her sister. "It's... a hobby room or something? For parties?"
"Yeah, and what a hobby that must be!," Eric exclaimed as he walked past his sisters to the other end of the room. "Just look at this thing!"
Emily's tears welled up again. "Eric, be careful!"
"There! I knew it! Look at all this meteoro... uh... weather stuff! Now if I could only figure out how to work it..."
It really was like being in a movie! So exciting!
Meanwhile, Esteban took his duty as a lookout very seriously.
Eric stepped away from the machine after a few unsuccessful attempts at operating it. Emily's sobs were too loud to ignore.
"Give me just a few more minutes, Em! I need to figure this thing out, alright? This is big! Mom is doing something--"
"Eric, I have a really bad feeling about this. Let's just get out of here, please!"
But it was too late.
Dolores strode past them, not speaking a word, and sat down at her desk.
"It seems I made a mistake."
Her voice was dark; her expression unreadable.
"Yeah, you left all your dumb security doors unlocked!," Eric shouted. His words echoed in the large room, making them sound much less bold than intended.
"No," Dolores' voice remained cold. "I made a mistake in giving birth to you brats."
She got up and rounded on Emily. "YOU! I'm disappointed in you most of all. My firstborn daughter. I was going to initiate you into The Organization after your graduation. But now... You could have succeeded me. Inherited my empire."
"What are you even talking about?!" Emily cried. "Empire?! What the... ? I don't want to be some sort of super villain, or whatever the hell you are!"
"Pah, a goodie-two-shoes like you would never stand a chance anyway! I should have known. Now I'm going to have to take Audra Williams' daughter under my wing, and plumbob only knows what sort of plans that little brat is hatching. She could be planning to overthrow me, avenge her mother ot some such. And it'll all be your fault!"
"I... I don't even know what you're talking about," Emily sobbed.
Dolores took a deep breath, apparently calming her rage. "Just remember," she said, pointing her finger at Emily, "I made you. And I can damn well unmake you again, if I please."
The children stared at Dolores in shocked silence.
"Now get out. And don't let me see you brats in here again!"
As Eric, Emily and Evelyn ran out the door, they shot looks full of surprise and hurt at Esteban. He had betrayed his siblings.
Dolores couldn't have been more proud. This one was going places.
Eric tried his best to comfort Emily, but to no avail.
The photo they had taken at the Winter Festival would serve as a grim reminder of this day.