Chapter 9: Lani

My garden was my safe haven. It was the one place that really felt mine at the palace.

But I always liked the times Finn and Benny joined me despite the sunlight.

I was slowly getting to know them better. Benny was easier to read–his face changed so much while he was talking. He really liked butlers and butler accessories.

I could tell that Finn was more like me, even though he wasn’t my real father. He was quiet, like he was always thinking, and always tried to make Benny and me happy.

I didn’t tell them that I didn’t really want to watch the princess shows they always put on for me, so I just pretended to like the princesses who were always dressing up for balls and falling in love with princes. I was just happy Finn and Benny wanted to sit next to me and talk.

And I liked how even though they loved each other, they still made room for me.

I felt safe with them…

But I always felt safest in my garden. Whenever Finn and Benny asked if I wanted to go somewhere, I said I was happy in my garden instead. They made this place for me, and it was all I needed.

Benny’s voice carried on the wind as I watered the flowers. He and Finn must’ve walked out onto the deck. “I’m concerned, Finn,” he said. “She doesn’t seem to want to leave the house. Shouldn’t she meet children her own age?”

“She’s still adjusting,” said Finn. “I think it’s normal. We don’t want to push her too hard before she starts school in the fall.”

Had I made a mistake by choosing the garden over trips to the park or the mall? But those places had so many people, so many strangers who’d know with just one look that I wasn’t really their daughter…

And then all of a sudden it started pouring–but it wasn’t a sunshower, not with the darkened skies and thunder in the distance. I was protected by the overhang over my garden, but the cold made me shiver.

I should probably go inside before they worried–worried even more. I hadn’t meant to become a burden.

So when Finn and Benny asked if I wanted to go with them to work, I said yes.

I never expected their work to be so strange…

My new uncle–Leopold–was there, and so was was my cousin Caspian. My cousin came up to Benny right away and wouldn’t stop talking to him…

You have your own father, I wanted to say, but I knew I didn’t have a right to feel like that. A real uncle counted more than a pretend father, didn’t it?

Was I supposed to say hello to my uncle? Even when he was smiling, he seemed kind of scary, no matter how much he looked like Benny…

Finn was talking to a man in what Benny had quickly taught me was a “butler uniform.” There was something strange in the air between them, but I couldn’t say what.

I didn’t think it was possible for Finn to dislike someone, or for someone to dislike him, but the man (who looked like the villain in a movie) didn’t seem to like him much.

There were too many people in this room, so I quickly made my escape into another. Maybe there was a garden I could hide in.

Safe.

But I wasn’t alone. There was a girl, sitting in a wheelchair. She’d have a hard time getting adopted, I thought immediately. A part of the orphanage would never leave me, no matter how much I wanted to forget.

My second thought was how pretty her voice was–she was singing to herself, a song I didn’t know. And then I realized my other cousin, Anders, was in the room too.

He was watching her. Or maybe listening to her sing.

The girl stopped singing. “‘Sup,” she said.

Was she talking to me? Maybe she was talking to Anders… She had no reason to talk to me.

“Yo, I know you noticed my sweet ride.” She smirked at me. “Don’t worry, not gonna run you over–no reason to be scared, I swear.”

“I’m not scared.” I was, a little. “You have a pretty voice. What were you singing?”

Her eyes widened. “You’ve never heard the Voidcritter theme song? What, you been living under a–oh. You’re Lani, right? Benny and Finn’s new kid?” She didn’t wait for me to answer. “I’m Ellie, daughter of the once-famous Hamlet Richardson,” she said dramatically. “You may remember him from little-known films like Baguettes in Summer or the one-season wonder Blood and Bishops–but probably not. Otherwise, he’s the duder in the red butler threads.”

“The one who looks like a villain?” I blurted.

“That’s the one,” she said cheerfully. “I keep telling him to get one of them cushy superhero villain gigs and just ham it up for the camera and make us millions, but does he listen, Lani? No, no he does not. Oh, he’s super gay, bee-tee-dubs.” What? “I popped out of a special egg, like a Voidcritter, so just the one dad for me. How do you like having two? They were majorly excited to get you, like seriously.”

I hadn’t known that. I think I managed to mumble something about liking them a lot, but my head was still spinning. She talked so fast, and used so many words I didn’t understand.

“Anyway, since you obvs don’t know what a Voidcritter is, I’ll show you. I consider it my solemn duty as your new bestie.” She pulled out a book from under the seat of her wheelchair. “This is Arcticorn on the cover, my personal fave. My dad named me Ellie after one of the characters on the TV show, but her main ‘Critter is Meduso.”

I could only stand and watch and try to absorb the many, many names, “types,” and “moves” she rattled off…

Someone cleared their throat behind us. “Good day, cousin Lani,” Anders said. “Ellie, would you care for a refreshing beverage?”

“If I did, I’d get it myself, tyvm.” Tee-why-vee-em?

“I’ll just…drink it myself,” he said. “Over here.”

“You do that, duder.”

She waited until we were alone again–mostly–to keep talking. “Is having two dads, like, super suffocating sometimes?” she asked me. “I had to force mine to do this show, otherwise he’d never leave me alone. You need to work, Dad–I don’t care if your kid has ‘special needs’ or whatevs. Tough skittles.”

“Finn and Benny gave me my own room,” I said, “and my own garden. They don’t push me to do anything I don’t want to do.” I did it anyway, to make them happy.

“You call them by their first names, huh? I get it–having two strangers pop up outta nowhere and be like, hey, we’re your dads now, Lani, just call us Daddy, eyebrow waggle, totes not weird at all.” She shrugged. “It was easier for me, since Dad had me since I was just an egg. He’s paying all this money to try to find the lady he got my egg from–he’s got questions, okay–but I’ll never think of her as my mom, you know?”

I didn’t know, but I knew something else–that I liked her. I hadn’t had friends at the orphanage–none of us had, really, when there wasn’t any point. We all had to survive on our own, and if we were lucky, we wouldn’t be there for long.

But maybe now…maybe. It would make Finn and Benny happy, to see me make friends with “kids my own age.”

“I’ll text you, bestie,” she said when it was time for me to leave. “You can come over for a sleepover. Don’t worry, my dad may be a washed-up actor, but we totes ain’t living in squalor or nothin’, promise.”

“I’ll come over soon,” I promised, surprised by my own excitement.

But my excitement didn’t last long after overhearing Finn and Benny’s conversation…

“Is it too uncomfortable?” Benny asked. “Working with my former boyfriend? I know he’s very grateful for the opportunity, after the unfortunate trajectory of his career…”

“It’s fine, Benny,” Finn said. “I think Hamlet will make a good host this season–he has natural charisma. And he looks good in a butler uniform.”

“…You’ll understand if I refrain from agreeing with you on the latter point.”

Finn laughed. “I appreciate it.”

So Ellie’s father and Benny had been together before Benny and Finn? And now Finn had to work with Hamlet almost every day…

Ellie’s house was so close to Finn and Benny’s (she told me it was the one with the big ramp right across from theirs), but now…now I knew I had to stay away.

Was I not supposed to talk to her? I hadn’t known whose daughter she was. Well, she’d told me, but I hadn’t known who Hamlet Richardson was…

Finn and Benny had given me a phone, so they’d be able to talk to me no matter where I was, and they even taught me how to use it. I was sad to have to use it now…

I don’t want to be your friend, I wrote in my message to Ellie. Even if it wasn’t true.

It started to rain.

Was Ellie watching the rain now too? Was she hoping to spend time with someone other than her father?

It was suddenly hard to breathe. It felt like I was choking on the air, each breath more like a gasp.

My garden. I had to get to my garden.

But I didn’t make it very far before the thunder scared me…

I would never have any friends. Why hadn’t it bothered me before now? Did Ellie hate me? I didn’t want anyone to hate me.

“Lani.” Finn’s soft voice competed with the howling wind. “It’s dangerous out here.”

“I-I’m sorry.” My teeth chattered.

“We just got a call from Ellie’s dad,” he said. “Benny and I won’t force you to be friends with someone if you don’t want to, but…is there a reason you don’t want to be friends with Ellie? She seemed to think you two hit it off.”

“Hamlet,” I croaked. “He…and Benny…” My cheeks were wet, but maybe it was only the rain. “I don’t want to be her friend if I’m not supposed to. You and Benny are so nice to me…”

“We’re your parents,” he said. “We love you, Lani, and I’m not just saying that–we want our daughter to be happy. You don’t have to worry about Hamlet Richardson, and especially not me. I trust Benny–and our marriage–completely.”

He scooped me up and held me against his chest, carrying me through the rain and not flinching at the sound of thunder. He was like a real father, like Ellie had.

I couldn’t hear his words over the roar of the storm, but I knew they were comforting.

He set me down in the bed he and Benny had given me. They’d given me so much…

His hand was cool against my head. “Please don’t ever feel like you have to do something just for our sakes, okay? Not when it makes you sad.” He smoothed my hair. “It’ll all be okay, Lani.”

I believed him.

When I went to Ellie’s house the next day, it was sunny. Her dad watched her speed down the ramp–and right toward me.

“Hello,” I said. Should I move out of the way…?

“Cool beans, I didn’t mow you down.” Ellie must’ve known what I was thinking. “Would make for a sucky sleepover, am I right? My dad usually waits at the bottom so I don’t get hit by a bus or whatevs, but my arms are super strong.”

Her father was still watching–and he still looked like a villain. I didn’t like him, I decided.

I hoped he wouldn’t talk to me on the way inside, but he did. “You kids have fun,” he said. “Tell me if you need anything–or if Ellie needs anything.”

“…Yes, sir.”

“Told you we’re not a bunch of dirty poors,” Ellie said once we were inside, pointing at a pool. “We can’t go in without my dad though, in case I drown–note the safety gates.” She rolled her eyes. “I know what you’re thinking–yeah, I can totes swim, but mostly using my arms. So basically I’m like Kampos”–she nodded at the yellow seahorse sticker on the glass–“who doesn’t use his tail to swim either.”

She really did know what I was thinking. Could she read my mind? “It’s okay,” I said. “I don’t know how to swim.”

“Just stick with me, kid.” She turned her head and scowled. “Dad, stop lurking.”

“I’ll be here if you need me, sweetie.”

“No duh.”

We had to take an elevator to get to her bedroom. The only other time I’d used an elevator was at the airport, but it was less scary here. I didn’t know that some people had one in their own homes.

“He wanted to move,” Ellie said when I told her. “After my legs started crapping out and all that. But this is my home, you know? I don’t need someplace more ‘wheelchair accessible.’ So we got an elevator and a ramp instead.”

Her room didn’t surprise me at all.

She showed me where to get a sleeping bag and talked about the Voidcritters all over her room, and then we took the elevator down so we could play the “latest shameless cash-grab Voidcritter spinoff fighting game.” Her dad helped her onto the couch, and then she ordered him out of the room.

I wasn’t very good at the game…

But she didn’t seem to mind, and I stopped worrying and started having fun.

I liked how she snorted when she giggled, and how her freckles seemed to move every time she smiled.

And I liked having my very first sleepover.

But most of all, I liked having a friend.

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45 thoughts on “Chapter 9: Lani

  1. ELLIE ❤️❤️❤️
    YES! See? This is exactly what a girl like Lani needs; an Ellie to launch her into the universe (maybe literally, so keep an eye on that 😬)
    I friend(ship) this so hard ❤️
    Also, Ellie is totes my kind of bean; sassy, colourful, savvy, and a bit of a gamer there I see too (not shocking bc Hamcritter rly)

    I loved Lani deciding she didn’t like Ham, she’s all like “nope, you shall not pass” 😈

    HAI LEO AND LEO’S NABOOS ILU❤️❤️❤️
    (What, no Daisy tho?)

    Omg, Binny couch snuggling with Lani about burst my poor cockles ☺️
    They’re such a sweet little family, and it seems like Lani is slowly figuring the situation out, and Finn coming to come get her out of the rainnnnn! 😭
    It struck me how much he’s a lot like Graham, but he comes at it in a different way; STRONG GRAHAM VIBES

    ANYWAY, enough about Graham, wasn’t even in this chapter! BUT SRSLY, if this Fangs business doesn’t work out for you, you could seriously just produce a Lani x Ellie buddy cop series just think about it ok it would be amazing ty u could do it anyhow 👀

    Seriously tho, I’m living for this friendship ❤️
    I love your kids, can’t wait to see how they all crash into each other in the future 😈

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ❤ ❤ ❤

      Eee, I hoped you'd like Ellie!! I knew last gen that she'd be this weird, confident, sassy little creature, and I wanted to write a kid who'd totally get along with your weird, confident, sassy little creatures too.

      Lani giving Ham the stink-eye…LOL. Funny how parents' opinions can color our own–or what we think our parents opinions are, anyway.

      You'll see Daisy again, don't worry! ❤

      Ha, being like Graham isn't necessarily the worst thing in this instance. Finn knows what's up. Though surprisingly, Benny picked up on anxieties that Finn didn't, possibly because he isolated himself out of fear and insecurity when he was young too.

      I'm excited for future Lani and Ellie chapters. ❤ Truly BFFAEs. I hope you like them! And I can't wait to crash them into each other too…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hamlet sighting! 😱😱😱😍😍😍 (Totally didn’t make a noise or anything… 😂) Lani may think he looks villain-like, but I think he’s looking pretty darn good 😉 And he’s such a sweet dad (if maybe a bit overprotective haha)

    What an awkward situation for all three adults here… but they seem to be handling it quite well! And I’m so glad Finn had that sweet talk with Lani and helped her see that it was okay to reach out to Ellie (who is so adorkable, ahh! Haha just like her dad 😂). Lani needs a friend so badly. I’m glad she found one! ❤️Ellie will take good care of her I’m sure 😉 (and it looks like Anders wants to take care of Ellie…? Hehehe all these cute little kid ships brewing!)

    Lani seems to dream about and/or be around a lot when it storms or rains 🤔 Keeping my eye on that… 😛

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ha, I thought you might enjoy the Hamlet sighting. 😉 Life goes on, even for exes. He is a sweet dad, even if he drives Ellie nuts.

      Ellie takes after him in the geekery department though, LOL–and just being comfortable being her weird little self. And Ellie really does need a friend.

      As for the weather, it’s this Seasons pack, okay! It’s always raining. 😉

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Lani! ❤️❤️❤️ I adore this little girl that is scared and uncertain how to behave and tried to please. All the love she is getting is overwhelmingly her. But she adores her fathers – they love her so much. The pose with Finn with his head in Benny’s lap and her snuggled up next to Benny was so adorable. ❤️❤️❤️ There were so many sweet feels in this chapter. Then when Finn found her in the rain. ❤️❤️❤️ I fell in love with Lani even more.

    I am glad Finn found her and told her it’s okay to be friends with Ellie. She’s a hoot! And Anders totally cracks me up. He is sooo cute and sooo much like scary Leo. 😂😂😂 She is right, Leo looks scary. And Caspian with all that hair! OMG! 😍

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ❤ ❤ ❤ Ty for the Lani love! She is pretty overwhelmed and confused–she doesn’t know what to make of it all. But at least Finn seemed to get through to her a bit. ❤

      Lani definitely needs a friend–and probably a friend like Ellie, LOL. She's too shy and hesitant to initiate friendships on her own, so this just what she needed. Glad you liked little weirdo Anders too!!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Omg! Ellie is so cute! And I totes have an idea where her egg came from. 😂😝 I was sad when Lani felt as if she needed to be loyal to her dads. So funny how she hates Ham. Well…he is Finn’s rival.

    Oh that rain scene between her and Finn was so sweet! I loved every daddy moment. I’ve never seen rain come down that hard! It’s kind of a pain, but it worked beautifully for that time.

    Poor Hammy is a washed up actor? I never would have guessed! But I’d forgotten he lived across the street from Finn. Awkward. No wonder Ham wanted to move. 😲

    I loved the opening family scenes. I’m hoping she’ll become more settled with her dads as time goes on. And yay for besties! Ellie is a perfect yin to Lanis yang. ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ❤ ❤ Her egg came from outer space, clearly. 😉 And luckily Hamlet was an overprotective dad and called Finn and Benny despite the awkward history, or Lani might have continued to avoid Ellie.

      Aww, I figured you'd be into the dads and daughter scenes. ❤ ❤ I know how you love your Binny, LOL. And the weather, aaa…it can be a pain wrangling with it, but when it works, it works!

      Poor Hamlet, yeah. 😦 At least he lives in a nice house, as Ellie is quick to point out.

      And things are looking up for Lani from here. ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Finn gets all the trophies for Best Dad Ever!!!!! 🏆🏆🏆
    I loved that moment between him and Lani. It was the sweetest thing!

    Hamlet aged well. I kinda like him more now because of the beard. Though I am curious about Ellie’s mother. *Cue conspiracy theory* What if Ellie and Lani have the same mother and they are actually sisters?!?! 🤔

    I seriously hope Lani listens to Finn and realises she doesn’t have to so everything that everyone likes all the time if it’s not what she wants. Hopefully, having a friend as outspoken as Ellie will bring her out of her shell. Andrew I ADORE Ellie! Now that I know who she is I am curious about that green dude sitting on her lap in the banner, especially since it’s clear Anders has a thing for her. We still haven’t met Ophelia and Finn’s kids so he could be Romeo? I’ll just have to wait and see.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Finn is a really good dad. ❤ ❤

      And I agree with you about Hamlet. I had a hard time with his makeover at first, like, HOW DO I MAKE HIM LOOK DADDER since he has such a youthful face. Beards are cheating, rofl. Interesting conspiracy theory. 😉

      Having a friend like Ellie can only help Lani, that’s for sure. Ellie’s good at breaking the ice. And everything else, really. I’m so happy you like her! ❤ As for green dude, hmm, you'll meet him soon…ish. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Dark WitcHazard: You’ve done it again! How am I suppose to enjoy the main cast if they’re side characters keep stealing the show! Just like how in my opinion Silas will always upstage Belle, Elle certainly isn’t holding punches against Lani! But Lani keeps her third place crown cause her doubtful skepticism will always be funny to read! Love the line ‘don’t you already have a father!’ Woah there Lani that’s some Silas level sass!

    Lover WitcHazard: Wow didn’t think much of Hamlet he was hot but now that he’s a daddy it gives him a certain edge I can’t put my finger on! Also sweet sweet Anders it doesn’t look like Elle is interested!😝 Aslo Caspien spotting!❤️

    Shipper WitcHazard: Lanelle the best new friend Ship there is! Lani really needs someone like Elle in her life!

    Emotional WitcHazard: Aw a new friend always makes life better glad she’s getting closer to Benny and Finn just hope she’s more open with them in the future I’m sure they won’t mind since they genuinely want her to be happy!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Darn side characters, always getting in the way and making a big impression. 😉 Lani can’t hide her jealousy where her parents are concerned–damn Caspian and his glorious mane for getting in the way.

      LOL, so Daddy Hamlet ups his attractiveness huh? Kind of like what happened with Papa Byron for some people. 😉 Poor Anders though, Ellie definitely isn’t interested…

      Benny and Finn want their daughter to be happy–and that happiness is within reach…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ellie is not at all what I was expecting, but she is everything I need 😍 I’d have loved a friend like her growing up! I mean, I definitely had the dorky friends, but none of them with quite her personality. This took me back to my Pokemon days, lol!

    Lani is still so precious. I really wonder what her life is going to bring, kind of like I am for Clem. Two very different characters, but I’m so curious to see where they end up! Velvet, too, those three 🙂

    Also, poor Anders! Ellie dismissed tf out of him 😂😂 He’s so much like Leo, it’s adorable. I’d say it reminds me a little of Leo and Daisy, but I’m not ready to ship any of these characters yet since they’re all still children. I’m content (and excited) to wait and see what unfolds 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ha, I’m curious what you expected from Ellie! And I had a couple friends like her growing up–I was the Lani to their Ellie, always shy and trying to hide how I really felt, whereas they liked what they liked and didn’t care who knew.

      Ha, guess Belle’s life trajectory is much easier to predict than the other three girls. 😉 But it’s up in the air for Lani–having Ellie at her side will help for sure.

      Ellie has zero patience for Anders. NONE. Poor kid. Curious who you’ll ship once they start hitting the teenage years…!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was the Lani in my friend group, too! I still am IRL, lol. Lani just needs to learn how to use her computer, it’s so much easier to be yourself online 😂

        I do love Belle, I wouldn’t say her life is easier to predict because anything could really happen and throw a wrench into those predictions. Just gotta wait until something happens to really shift her life, and then I’ll be like, “Omg what’s going to happen!” Like, Velvet now has plant-pee-mom, and Ellie and Lani have each other 🙂

        I’m gonna ship Lani and Ellie as the biggest most badass BFFEs ever
        Platonic shipping! At least until you’re 16.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Ha, MMOs were my social retreat. I was much more comfortable communicating online (and still am, no surprise there!).

        With Graham as a dad and Bianca as a mom, anything could happen. (Plant-pee-mom, ROFL.)

        You’ll actually see the first of the teenagers on Monday…!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I wasn’t allowed MMO’s growing up 😦 I played Runescape because it was free for a while, but didn’t get into WoW until I was 18. Mostly because then I could pay for a subscription I knew my parents would never pay for LOL.

        Omg, they grow up so fast 😭

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I was in marching band, which ended up being like one big family of nerds, so I was lucky I think to have so many friends. But I had my best friend, too, who was just as weird as me (if a bit less dorky).
        I remember I got into RP at a very young age, though, through Neopets forums – don’t judge me ;n; I spent a lot of time doing that, and then writing stories just in-general. Like that awful vampire story I began at 13 I think I told you about, and then abruptly trashed when Twilight got popular 😂😂

        Liked by 3 people

      1. LOL! I ship these kids seven ways from Thuesday; lining them all up like Rockettes in my brain… haven’t decided if Lani x Ellie is right for a helicopter yet, but nothing is off the table!
        I’m going to hit those teen years correct if it’s the last thing I do! 😈😈😈

        Liked by 3 people

  8. Oh man, I really thought you were going to leave us with “I don’t want to be your friend” and I would have DIED. Especially since I’ve always had a soft spot for Hamlet. I’m so happy to see the girls hit it off.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ellie Ellie Jelly Belly! ❤ I think I'm gonna like this fiery redhead who descended from an egg! (I mean, we all did, but her egg story is a little more convoluted. It's Fangs, anything can happen! 🙂 ) I love her confidence; she gives no fucks about being a "special needs child" and owns the SHIT out of it. Way to be, Ellie! ❤

    And then there's her BFFAE Lani. Lobster, by the love of all that is good, how are you able to make her so tragically perfect???? She is sweet to a fault and breaks my heart! It will be interesting to see what kind of teen she is, after being such a humble little girl.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aww, I’m glad you like Ellie! Her confidence and lack of self-consciousness was partly inspired by my mom–she developed MS and started using a wheelchair when I was very young, and I remembered asking her why everyone stared at her.

      She looked at me, smiled, and said, “Because I’m so beautiful.” She was incredibly outgoing, both before and after the wheelchair. (She also loved to swim!)

      I’d been thinking a lot about Lani since last gen, so that helped me flesh her out. ❤ (Though I guess I can say the same for a lot of the kids!) She becomes a teen in her next chapter…

      Liked by 5 people

  10. “A real uncle counted more than a pretend father, didn’t it?” ouch that gets Lani one demerit for homophobia infertilephobia. Yeah. 😛

    Anyways this chapter was 100% a crucial argument for gay parenting and adoption rights. A story of just those two girls and their dads sharing occasional awkward glances would be enough for me. They have good chemistry too! I’d ship them if Anders wasn’t shaping up to a worthy fighter already. Damn his lemonade.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HA, I was telling someone the other day that I could totally write a story about just these two girls. And I hope you like their chemistry when they get older too! They’re one of my favorite pairings, despite being platonic. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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