The family was going away on a holiday.
Well, their family was. She didn’t have one. Yes, people knew her as the youngest child of the Daley family, but that wasn’t strictly correct. Families were built on more than just blood as the common denominator; mutual feelings, understanding, and empathy were a given for a happy family, and although they were a happy family, they weren’t her happy family. She was unsure of what to do with the revelations that had been brought on by this holiday trip.
Dad – was it still appropriate to use the term – was a busy man. From what little time she’d spent on the planet, they hadn’t had a lot of family trips. It was usually their mother taking them on vacations, with him joining in for a day or two at the most. This time was special; their father would take them all on a two-week tour of Europe. All of them did not include her as she later found out.
The first major event had occurred two days before they were meant to embark on a journey of a lifetime, or so she’d written in her itty bitty journal. It was mostly a scribble of thoughts and doodles, every now and then, but ever since the news of their vacation had reached her ears, she had all her words organized neatly and wrote almost every time she could when she wasn’t preparing for the trip. She knew exactly what was essential for the trip, and had borrowed her elder brother’s personal computer for the task of finding about every location they would visit. Travel websites said it was important to learn at least a little about the customs and traditions of their destination. Naturally, she made a portfolio of all the hotspots, the low-key places not a lot of tourists bothered to go, restaurants that specialized in local cuisine, what souvenir shops to avoid and the like. She had excitedly joined her elder siblings as they used map tacks to pin down the cities they would explore.
She had run to her parents to ask if they could stay at this one small island near Sicily, which was still untouched by pesky tourists – even if they would be tourists too – when she was met by the sight of her mum and dad in the middle of an argument. They were clearly having an uncomfortable talk, and her elder sister had taught her to leave them be, were she to ever witness them like that. She was far too excited to stop, and so barged right into their room.
“Mum, mum, mum,” she shrieked in delight, “we found this island we wanna go to! Can we please go there?”
Her request was met with a sigh from her mother, who glared pointedly at her husband. Naturally, she turned to the only man she loved with all her being.
“Daddy, can we please go here! It’s got all sorts of really cool things to do, and the barbeque is to die for,” she went into a detailed explanation of all the reasons they should really, really, really, go to the island. Her parents listened for a while, before the man being addressed held up a hand.
“Liz, here’s the thing,” he began, “Auntie Katie’s really sick right now. Her mental health is deteriorating day by day, and you know about Harry, right?” At her confused nod, he continued, “she couldn’t handle his death very well. So, to make her feel better, you’ll be staying with her.”
The poor thing couldn’t have looked more confused and disheartened.
“But that was four years ago, daddy,” she insisted, “and you never go with us anywhere! You’re always working, and I really want to have fun with you.”
He stood up and put his hands on his hips. It was an intimidating move, but to her looked a little off-kilter, as if someone was trying rather too hard to come across as in charge.
“We’ve already promised Aunt Katie, and there’s no going back. We don’t break our promises, remember? Be a good girl, and make sure you have everything for your stay.” He started to walk out of the room but she took ahold of his arm and stopped him.
“I stayed with Uncle Henry last time, and Mrs. Eton the time before that,” she told him as she hung on, “but this time, I want to go with all of you! Please let me come along.”
Before he could shake her off, her mother stepped forward and extracted her from his arm.
“Oh for goodness’s sake, Elizabeth,” she snapped at her, “listen to the man for once, will you! You’re staying with Auntie Katie, and that’s that. The poor woman is going through such a tough time in her life, and here you are being selfish,” Liz almost to pointed out how none of her other siblings were ever sent away to live with distant relatives, “she needs comfort, poor Harry’s death took a toll on her! Wouldn’t you want people to be with you if someone you loved died?”
Liz murmured a forlorn agreement. At least it made her mother calm down. She looked imploringly at her father for one last time and exited the room when he shook his head. Her siblings didn’t look surprised when she told them she wouldn’t be joining them. They mostly went quiet, shrugged, and went back to their plans.
Among the hustle and bustle of shopping and packing, Liz sat back and observed. Besides, it wasn’t as if anyone wanted her opinion. They were a family, and she wasn’t part of it.
They would do well on their own, even if she was the only one alone.