Matt walked over to his son and the vision of his wife as a teenager in a daze. Am I seeing things? I must be… That’s Cass… That is definitely Cassie… But it can’t be…
But surely… It can’t be Ivy… Can it? No, no. Must be a coincidence, surely?
Tristan had clocked his father without Matt realising; he was so lost in his thought that he hadn’t really been paying attention to his surroundings. Scrambling off the bench the young boy ran to meet his father, the teenage girl following him and standing a little self consciously while Tristan gabbled away.
‘Dad! I’ve had the best day ever! After school finished we went out to this great place, it has a rock formation, and trees, and flowers, and millions of butterflies! And I learnt how to catch them, for my badge at scouts at the next meeting! I won’t be laughed at this time! I’ve got a head start!’
Matt desperately tried not to gape at the girl standing less than a metre away from him and concentrate on what his son was saying. ‘Did you, little man? What did you catch?’
‘Red Admirals! I was going about it all wrong, but then Ivy taught me the right way to do it! Then we came here for a hot dog. Is that why you’re here?’
Ivy… Matt had stopped paying attention the second the name left Tristan’s lips; realising that he’d finished speaking he tried to find his own voice, while shivers ran down his spine.
‘Er… So how do you know Ivy? How do you know my son?’
He turned to face Ivy, addressing her for the first time. He could not get over just how similar she looked to Cassie. Just looking at her face was bringing memories flooding back, of his teenage years back in Riverview. His years with Cassie. Cassie leaving him…
‘Ivy’s the girl I told you about the other night, Dad. She took me fishing. Please don’t be cross with me for talking to her again…’
‘Yeah, please don’t be cross with him. It was my fault that night, I lost track of the time. I always do that when I’m fishing…’
Ivy’s face had flushed bright red, her shyness obvious. Matt could hardly take her eyes off her, nor focus on one of the million thoughts that were flashing through his head. It can’t be my Ivy… My son can’t have randomly bumped into his own sister, it’s so impossible! We’ve been waiting for her to come home for so long… Oh, Ivy, is it you?
‘So, um, yeah, please don’t be cross with Trist. I just thought he needed some help, and got carried away. I should’ve been more responsible. I just didn’t think. I’m, um, I’m sorry.’
A red faced Ivy fell silent, playing awkwardly with the hem of her skirt. Matt suddenly realised it was his turn to speak.
‘It’s alright… Ivy. It’s okay. Tristan’s mother and I were just worried, but I’m sure you’ll understand why. I, er, I’m sure your parents were the same when you were his age?’
‘If I had any I’m sure they would have been,’ Ivy grumbled, a cloud seeming to descend over her as she moodily kicked away a loose stone on the floor. Matt’s heart stood still.
‘Excuse me? What… What did you just say?’
Ivy rolled her eyes. ‘I live in the care home opposite the playground. I don’t have any parents. They tossed me to one side when I was a baby.’
* * *
‘Matthew! Are… Are you telling me that you’ve just spoken to the girl who could well be our daughter in the park?!’
Matthew nodded slowly, barely able to believe the situation himself. After thanking Ivy for helping Tristan out with his scouting he’d escorted his son home, Tristan not noticing his silence as he chattered away about his newfound butterfly catching techniques. He could not get it round his head – Tristan and Ivy? Together? How on earth had Tristan managed to run into his older sister?
‘Oh, my goodness!’
It was Cassie’s turn to fall silent as the information buzzed around her own brain. The daughter she had thought was lost, here, in Sunset Valley? Her hand, which had flown to her mouth in shock, stayed there hovering. She didn’t notice. It didn’t occur to her to rest it back on her lap. She was numb, totally and utterly numb, with shock, disbelief; the millions of emotions running through her were clashing and cancelling one another out.
‘I know.’ Cassie didn’t need to put it into words; Matt knew just what she meant, even if he too couldn’t voice it.
‘You know, Cass… It might not be her. It might just be some coincidence, that an orphan around the same age as Ivy, called Ivy, who looks exactly like you, ran into our son…’ Matt trailed off, unsure of where to go with this train of thought. As hopeful as he was, he didn’t want to be disappointed, he didn’t want to have his heart broken if the slim chance that this girl was not his daughter was true. He swallowed hard. As much as he tried to convince himself to not get carried away, he already knew that he had.
Cassie was only half paying attention to Matt. ‘You say… She looks like me? Really?’ The excitement was clear in her voice.
Dipping his head, confusing images of Ivy and his wife in her teenage years floated into Matt’s imagination. ‘So much. She’s the spitting image of you, when you were that age. It… It took me by surprise. I thought it was you at first!’
‘Well then, that proves it, surely! It’s one thing with the name and age, that is a possible coincidence, but I’m the only person who looks like me! So who else could her mother be, Matthew!’ Cassie’s voice grew shrill. ‘Come on, what are we waiting for! Let’s go down to the care home and get her!’
‘Come on Cassie, it’s not as simple as that. You know that. You’re getting carried away, sweetheart,’ Matt laid a comforting hand on his wife’s arm. ‘There’s a whole legal process to get through, unless she decides to track us down. And from what she said in the park… Well, she seems to have got it into her head that we didn’t want her.’
‘That’s not it at all!’
‘I know that, Cass! But she doesn’t. And we can’t be seen to be breaking the law over this, if we were caught then they’d never let us see her. Oh gnomes, it’s all so ridiculous…’ Matt fumed. ‘She’s our bloody daughter! She must be!’
‘Now who’s getting carried away?!’ Cassie couldn’t resist the jibe at her husband. ‘Hypocrite!’
‘All right, I know! I can’t help it though. I just… I just knew, looking at her. You know what I mean?’
‘Like some sort of innate connection?’
‘Something like that. Oh, I don’t know how to explain it. We have to find a way, Cass.’
The pair sat thinking, racking their brains for a solution. ‘Maybe we could ask Eric to put us in touch with a lawyer?’ Matt asked. ‘You know, a good one.’
Cassie clapped her hands in glee. ‘Of course! I’ll ask Maria. I’m meeting her for brunch tomorrow. She’ll have an idea. Such an enterprising girl!’
* * *
Since graduating from high school as Valedictorian and with honours, Maria had surprised everyone by heading into the Music career instead of joining her father in Business. Thinking back, Cassie did see some small indicators in her childhood; Maria had adored her ballet lessons as a child, and the xylophone as a toddler. Still, up until a few weeks before she graduated even Maria had been saying she was going to go into Business, so the shock was understandable! She had even opted for an entry level position, rather than going for a higher level that she would have surely been given with her grades and attitude.
‘I want to learn everything I can,’ she had shrugged when Cassie had questioned her decision. ‘I don’t want to miss out on anything by skipping a few levels. Besides, the family’s wealthy enough at the moment. I’d rather do something that I loved and only earn a little bit for a while, and work up to earning loads when I need to. It makes sense to me!’
With her ambitious nature it hadn’t taken Maria long to start creeping up the career ladder. Despite having only worked in the industry for a relatively short amount of time, she was already the band’s manager! ‘You should’ve seen Zelda Mae’s face!’ Maria laughed over her strawberry crepes. ‘She’s been there for eons, and she’s still only a stagehand! She was flapping like a flamingo when Stiles told her that I was getting the job! Still, she deserves it. All she does is try and flirt with the boss, everyone’s so annoyed with it! She’s so childish too. Hah!’
Cassie couldn’t help joining in with Maria’s laughter. She’d heard one too many tales of Zelda Mae since Maria had started work and knew a little too much about her antics! ‘Aw, Maria, I’m really proud of you. Who’d have thought the little brat I had to chase around the play park all those years age would end up managing a band!’ she teased.
‘Oi, you! You knew full well that I had lots of potential,’ Maria replied in mock indignation. ‘Still, couldn’t have done it without you.’ She smiled warmly at her former nanny. ‘So, what’s new with you anyway?’
Cassie paused, dipping a strawberry into the mound of cream at the centre of her crepes. She wasn’t entirely sure how to word it, now that she had the opportunity to ask for help.
‘Cass? Is everything okay?!’
‘Yeah. Um… I was going to ask you, if your Dad still had any lawyer contacts?’
‘Of course he does, why do you ask? Oh gnomes, the police haven’t reopened your case have they? James sorted that all out years and years ago!’ Maria grew alarmed.
‘No, no! It’s not that. It’s…’ Cassie trailed off.
‘What? What is it, Cassie!’
‘Matt thinks he’s found Ivy.’ Just saying the words sent goosebumps shooting over Cassie’s arms.
‘Eh? Oh… Oh!’ Comprehension dawned on Maria’s face. ‘Ivy? Your Ivy?’
‘Yup. Our Ivy.’ Cassie stabbed the piece of strawberry she’d been playing with and stuffed it into her mouth.
‘But… That’s brilliant news, surely?’ Maria sounded simultaneously overjoyed and confused. ‘Why aren’t you happy, Cass?’
Cassie sighed and put down her fork. ‘I am happy. If it definitely is her, that is.’
‘What? You don’t know for sure?’
‘No. Tristan somehow bumped into her and has been hanging out with her, totally oblivious bless him. Matt ran into the pair of them in Central Park. He thinks she looks exactly like me, plus he found out that she doesn’t have parents… Well, she thinks that anyway. But she does, Maria! Matt and me! We have to be!’
Maria looked across at her friend’s earnest face, understanding completely. ‘And let me guess, there’s a bunch of stupid legislations in place stopping you from finding out for sure?’
‘Yeah’ Cassie answered glumly. ‘As ever.’
‘Well then!’ Maria brightened up. ‘We’ll just have to get you kitted out with a lawyer, won’t we!’ She whipped out her mobile phone and started scrolling through the calendar. ‘Now then, I have Dad’s schedule here… Hmm… Hey, it’s Tristan’s birthday in a couple of days!’
‘Yes, I know! What does that have to do with anything?’
‘Aha!’ Maria’s expression grew mischievous. ‘Well, looking at this it seems Dad won’t be able to see you until then. You know how we already said, he’ll be popping along to yours with Tristy’s birthday present as I’ve got meetings all day that day? I’ll get him to sort you out some law contacts then. But, I was thinking… If he and Ivy are friends, why not get him to invite her to his party? I know it was going to be family only, but say you’ve changed your mind and he’s allowed one friend or something. At least you’ll get to see her then, and you can always explain that away with ignorance if the powers that be come knocking!’ She winked, taking a sip of her orange juice and leaning back in her chair.
Cassie was speechless. ‘Maria… You’re a genius,’ she breathed.
The two finished their meal and stood up to leave. Maria suddenly drew her friend into a huge hug.
‘I really hope this all works out for you, Cass. You deserve to have her back. And hey, I want to meet my sister!’
* * *