Author’s Note: Hi everyone! We’re kicking off Round 9 with the Holloway family! As you may have figured out by now, each household takes two weeks to get through in a Round, but the number of chapters varies. After 12 long and crazy Epstein chapters, I think we all need a reprieve. So the Holloway family’s story for this round is told in just four chapters! I’m also throwing in two pen pal letters, so the update schedule for the next two weeks is M-W-F. Enjoy!
Luca and Liz Holloway were married for enough days now that they settled into a pattern. Most nights, Liz could be found in her orchard. That timing worked out because Luca worked nights. The issue was that she would go out to the orchard around 10PM each night, even when Luca was off. He wasn’t sure how to encourage her to spend more time with him on his days off, but he knew he would figure it out.
Liz’s orchard took many hours of work, but she loved it. She hadn’t done much to the inside of the house to make it her own, but the outside was her domain. Under the bright Windenburg stars, near the soft light of the glowfruit trees, Liz was home.
Sometimes she stayed in her orchard all night, not paying attention to the time until the sun’s light competed with the glow fruit trees.
Liz: This is living! Hard work, bountiful harvests, all under a gorgeous blue sky unbroken by high rises. I still can’t believe I get to have this every day.
After finally pulling herself away from her beloved trees, berries, and flowers, Liz changed to go for her morning run. She had so much energy, so she always went for a run, even after staying up all night watering and weeding plants.
She ran down the hill from her house, enjoying the sounds of nature as her feet hit the pavement.
She passed by a grassy area that was fenced in. The river that cut across the coast of Windenburg could be access through this area.
Liz: I should take Luca on a picnic here one day. I bet he’d love it. We could go fishing! And there’s a bush there too, in case we get frisky. And I–no he–could grill up whatever fish we catch. Oh, it would be an ideal day!
Liz felt like she could run forever through the winding roads, accompanied by the sounds of their few neighbors starting their days. But unfortunately, her growling stomach would be put off no longer. She reluctantly headed home to forage for breakfast.
Liz got back home and went straight for the fridge. She pulled out one of Laurel’s Purim cookies.
Luca was awake as well, but he had not had breakfast yet. He was in Daniella’s old bedroom, using the computer. He heard Liz come in, so he rushed to finish what he was doing before she came looking for him.
If Liz walked in, he had a screen up that made it appear he was working on jokes for his Comedy skill. But in fact, he was sending an e-mail to Daniella and Laurel, asking if one of them could please teach his wife to cook or please help refine her palate.
Meanwhile, Liz was still eating the Purim cookie, judging Laurel’s cooking.
Liz: I do NOT get why everyone says Laurel is such a good cook. This cookie is not at all tasty! Luckily I have good manners and a strong stomach, so I’ll just force it down and count it as breakfast and keep my opinions to myself.
Liz finished the cookie just as Luca entered the main room, having showered and dressed for the day.
“What’s for breakfast Liz?”
“You tell me, I just finished eating. What are you going to make for yourself?”
Luca took a deep breath before responding, “I guess if I’m cooking for myself, I will make what Daniella used to whip up for me: eggs, bacon, toast.”
“Oooh, that sounds delicious,” said Liz, hopping on to a bar stool at the counter. “Can you make enough for both of us?”
Luca prepared breakfast for himself–and second breakfast for Liz–then grabbed a plate for himself.
“You look great today, did I tell you that? I love you shirtless, but you also look so grown-up in real clothes,” said Liz. “You looking like a grown-up makes me excited for your upcoming Adult birthday.”
Luca felt like he’d been doused with cold water. Not only did he have to cook his own food, but he also had to be reminded his life was about to be officially half over. He still felt young, so he didn’t understand what the fuss was about a birthday. And he didn’t know Liz preferred him with clothes on. She met him shirtless, but she wanted to change him?
Luca joined Liz at the counter, and smiled at her, determined to not let talk of shirts and birthdays ruin their day. “I can see the orchard through the kitchen window, and you’re doing an amazing job with it.”
“Thanks! You know, it’s really all about the fertilizer. People say fish and frogs are the best, but I’m finding great success with using my own harvest, isn’t that fascinating?”
Luca’s eyes glazed over, but his smile stayed in place. “Oh yes, fascinating.”
“But enough about orchards and fertilizer. Let’s get back to your birthday,” said Liz. “Everything is planned out for your next day off. Invites have been sent, the caterer and DJ booked–oh! I found you the perfect striped shirt to wear to the party. Everyone will think you look so dapper! Aren’t you excited?”
Luca was barely listening. He noticed Liz was wearing a different lipstick, not as shiny or bright as usual, but still so alluring. He focused on her mouth more than her words. “Yes, fascinating.”
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re on board. Daniella said you wouldn’t be, but I said, ‘I think I know my husband.’ And then I said, ‘he’ll love having a house full of people over to celebrate his birthday with him.’ And then I said, ‘he loves group hangs, we met at a group hang.’ I guess she doesn’t know you like I do.”
Luca’s ears were definitely on delay. Before her words caught up to him, he’d already agreed to the party. He picked up his fork to finally eat, smile still plastered on his face, confusion brimming inside.
Luca: Wait, what did I just agree to??
Liz: He’s so sweet to let me plan everything. This will be fun!