Quatre never mentioned what had happened between he and Mr. Darlian to anyone. Even though the incident had made him very uncomfortable, he wasn’t certain if Relena’s father’s intention had been to hurt him and didn’t want to risk offending any of his new friends by bringing it up. Plus he was terrified of any possible repercussions from Mr. Darlian if he was correct. Instead he kept quiet, opting to stay as far away from the man as he could.
One particular day he and his recently acquired playmates were discovering the entertainment value of the huge apple tree in his back yard. Eliza had thought it a nice day and brought Duo and Relena over to join Quatre for a picnic. Of course there was that hunk of ulterior motive, too.
As Eliza made herself comfy alongside Rashid on the grass, the children attacked the tree. First up was Relena who, with a boost from Duo, climbed up into the tree and quickly claimed her place among the top branches. Duo followed, but seemed content to hang by his knees on one of the lower branches. Quatre stood at the base of the tree, trying to figure out the mechanics of tree climbing when his train of thought was interrupted by a cough from Wu Fei.
“Where did you come fwom?” the petite blond asked of the China boy comfortably sitting against the trunk.
“I was always here.”
Quatre’s face soured, for he knew this wasn’t true.
“Did Wu Fei invite himself over again?” came from the top of the tree.
“Shut up woman!”
Relena stuck her tongue out. “Make me!”
Wu Fei rolled his eyes, pulled a book out of his pack and began to read.
“Didn’ think you would,” Relena harrumphed. “Hey! You comin’ up?” she turned her attention to Quatre.
“I don’ know how.”
“Easy!” said Duo. “Grab a branch and pull yourself up.”
Quatre tried to do just that, but found it quite difficult to get his bottom half up and onto the branch, especially while clutching a blanket. After many failed attempts and much laughter from Duo, an arm reached down in assistance. Duo scowled at Relena for ruining his fun. Relena retorted with a raspberry. Quatre giggled at the exchange from his perch on the lowest branch. Wu Fei merely sighed and brushed apple blossom petals from his book.
“Lunch time!” Eliza called up to the trio of make believe monkeys.
“Food!” cried Duo as he leapt to the ground and dashed to the table where everything had been laid out.
“Do we hafta come down?” whined Relena.
“It would certainly make serving the potato salad a lot easier.”
“Don’ like ‘tato salad!”
“Then you don’t have to eat it, Master Quatre,” Rashid sternly pointed out, joining forces with Eliza beneath the tree. “But I do think it would be in your best interest if you be a good host and show your guests proper behavior.”
Quatre sulked at the words. A time out. That’s what he would get if he didn’t show “proper behavior”. He sighed, admitting defeat by holding his arms out to Rashid.
The mammoth bodyguard reached up and took his charge and his blanket into his arms. “Wise decision, Master Quatre.” he whispered to the boy before turning to Eliza. “Will you need my assistance with that one?” he nodded toward Relena, who had no intention of moving.
“I believe I can handle it, but thank you,” replied the nanny.
“Do not hesitate to call me if you need me.”
“I won’t,” Eliza smiled at the large man as he carried the little blonde over to join Duo at the table. She then turned her attention to the other small blonde, the one that was still in the tree. “Relena?”
“I’m not comin’ down.”
Eliza opened her mouth to count “three”, but before the word could leave her lips the tree began to shake as Relena squirreled her way back down.
“Wo-man!” The nanny spun around at the sound of the formerly so-quiet-you’d-easily-forget-he-was-there Wu Fei. With Relena in her arms, the two females laughed to see the young Asian completely covered with petals. Then Relena gasped in surprise. “Wu Fei! You got glasses!” The young girl slipped out of Eliza’s arms and onto the ground. Standing before him, she said with admiration, “They make you look real smart.”
Wu Fei, stunned by the lack of criticism similar to what he had been receiving in school about the subject, didn’t know what to say. Not that he had a chance to say it if he did as Relena had quickly taken him by the hand and was leading him over to the others, leaving a trail of petals behind them. Eliza followed, smiling.
At the table Duo had already piled several inches of lunchmeats between the two halves of a Kaiser roll. Across from him sat Quatre, who was licking his fingers between bites of cold fried chicken. Relena, eyes wide at the size of Duo’s sandwich, sat down next to her braided friend, asking for her own roll. Wu Fei placed himself next to her. “You must learn to respect your elders,” he whispered in her ear, “but I admire you strength in resistance.”
Relena giggled and wrapped her arms around the boy for a hug, a display of affection Wu Fei was obviously not used to, or at least not willing to admit it. “Hey!” he cried, trying to squirm out of her grasp. “No need to get girly about it!”
Relena hugged him harder.
At some point Wu Fei managed to get himself free and fed. Relena turned her interest to a jar of olives and began sucking the pimento out of each one before shoving them onto her fingertips. Duo followed suit by placing one on the tip of his tongue. Quatre showed he could hang with the “in crowd” by cramming an olive up each nostril, much to Rashid’s dismay.
Finally the kids were done eating and back in their tree, this time with Wu Fei joining them among the branches. Rashid and Eliza were cleaning up the mess left behind, occasionally stealing glances at one another and “accidentally” bumping into one another. Wanting to strike up another conversation with the bodyguard, she decided to ask about Quatre’s sisters. “Relena tells me he has seventeen of them, but I would think I would’ve seen one by now, if that were so.”
“It is so, but his sisters are still back in Saudi Arabia, driving us all completely insane,” Rashid smiled to let Eliza know he was joking, even if the statement were partially true.
“Why are they still in Saudi Arabia, or driving us insane?”
“Why they’re still in Saudi Arabia,” Eliza laughed.
“It started with the Visas. American immigration policy is rather strict–even for the daughters of wealthy Arabian business men.” Rashid held open a trash bag for Eliza to place the used plates in. “Master Winner,” he continued, “had no trouble obtaining one for himself as he is regularly in this country.”
“Master Quatre was born here.”
“That explains alot,” Eliza began to place lids back on their corresponding jars. “But you implied that there’s more.”
“When the final Visa application had been approved the eldest daughter, Ilea, announced she had changed her mind and wanted to stay in Saudi Arabia. Although she is of age to be on her own, she is needed to help care for her younger siblings. Master Winner asked that she reconsider, reminding her of all he had been through to obtain the necessary documents. She refused. Then the chain reaction began.”
“They all wanted to stay?”
“I can see the frustration. Does he know what he’s going to do about it?”
“Not yet. Master Winner is still going over his options, though I’m sure the thought of dragging them over here by their hair has crossed his mind.”
A chuckle came from Eliza as she pondered the mental image.
“Master Winner loves his children dearly, but he will not tolerate a spoiled brat.”
Eliza nodded in agreement. Gathering the last of the paper cups she realized that everything she hadn’t brought was ready to be taken back into the house. “You guys be careful!” she called the the kids, “Rashid and I are going to take this stuff inside.”
“Okay!” somebody in the tree called back.
Meanwhile, back in the tree, the kids were too busy having themselves a good time to pay too much attention to Eliza’s warning. Wu Fei had now joined the others and was declaring himself the newest reigning royalty of the tree. Relena, trying to feign indifference over the loss of her throne, sat on a lower branch next to the house staring at a lizard attached to the wall, that was pretending it was invisible in hopes the girl would leave it alone.
“Ow!” she yelped as something stung her in the leg. The lizard took advantage of the distraction and scurried off. “Ouch!” This time it was in the arm. “Duo!”
“You know what. Now stop it!”
Duo looked at his friend as if she had lost her mind. “I didn’ do anything!” Then he smiled at Quatre who was trying to suppress a giggle, and pulled another rubber band out of his pocket.
“I’m not doin’ anything!”
“Do it again an’ I’m gonna hit you!”
“But I’m not doin’ anything!”
Quatre was now holding onto his branch for dear life, enveloped in a fit of giggles.
“Du-oh!!!!” Relena cried out as she lost her balance, lost her grip and hit the ground. Hard.
Quatre, being on the lowest branch, was the first one to Relena’s side. She was crying, holding onto her right arm as if it would fall off. Before he knew it he found himself clutching his own arm in pain.
“Get away!” Duo yelled, roughly shoving the little blond away. He knelt beside Relena and asked, “Are you okay?”
“Leave me alone!” Relena swung at the boy with her other arm. Duo distanced himself to avoid being hit.
Quatre was now in tears, too. Partly from Duo’s attack, but mostly because of Relena. He couldn’t understand why he was hurting so bad. Hurting like his friend. He slowly crept back over to her in hopes that just maybe comforting her would ease his pain.
“She said leave her alone!” Duo shoved him away again.
“Nu-uh! She say you leave her alone!” This time Quatre shoved back.
Duo lost his balance but quickly regained it to push Quatre down on his back. “I say leave her alone then!”
“What the hell is going on here?!” Duo backed off of Quatre and both boys sat up to see Eliza and Rashid, with Wu Fei beside them. Eliza ran to her charge. “Where does it hurt, sweetheart?” she asked, doing her best to comfort the child.
“Her wight ahm hurts the most,” Quatre answered for her.
“It appears it may be broken, ” the large Arab pointed out.
“And what where you two thinking? ‘Our best friend is hurt, let’s start a fight?'” Eliza spat at the boys.
“He started it!” Quatre sobbed.
“He was gonna hurt her!”
“I will take care of these two,” Rashid said as he grabbed each boy by the arm. “I will also call for an ambulance.”
Eliza nodded, acknowledging what had been said. As Rashid led Quatre and Duo away, she turned back to Relena and spoke soothing words to her.
Wu Fei watched from a distance, hoping for the best for his friend.