Samantha's Playroom Tales

Classic Playroom Vacation. Samantha trying to keep everyone safe while they insist on putting themselves in harm’s way.

Samantha Meet Her Match

            By: Detective #52

Miss Samantha Parkington believes she has her whole life figured out. As one of the oldest members of the Playroom she’s had more than her fair share of ups and downs.  Ever since she’s been snatched up from her life in 1904, Samantha has learned to move on and forget her former life. Now more than ever she seems one step closer to the happily ever after she’s always dreamed of. But when an old neighbor reappears from her past (this time for good unfortunately) her second chance at a happy ending is smashed to pieces. So come along and join in on the mysteries as we watch to see if Samantha finally meets her match.

-Detective # 52

The bright Australian sun shone down on the citizens of Sydney as another perfect summer day dawned. One man in particular walked briskly down the lane his red curls bouncing with each step. I love vacation; he thought and then entered the lobby of a hotel. Yet the sight he saw stopped him making his breath catch and his heart pound. At the check in counter was a young lady who was at once strange and vaguely familiar.

          I must know her, hethought with a confidence that surprised him, because how could one forget someone so beautiful? Without thinking he stepped in line behind the girl. He heard her rattle of a list of names like she didn’t know who her hotel room was booked under. He was only half listening until he heard her say. . .

          “Parkington!” he exclaimed then lowered his voice. “Why I haven’t heard that name in ages!”

          Instantly Samantha spun around. She looked at him with a cold suspicion in her eyes. “Yeah and what’s it to you?”

          The boy swallowed hard feeling as though he had been caught red handed. “You don’t mean Parkington as in Miss Samantha Parkington, do you?”

          “How do you know my name?”

He was saved from replying when the lady at the register asked Samantha “Is he bothering you?”

          “No,” she began and then stopped. A smile crept up her face, a smile he had seen far too many times before to know enough to be scared. “Why yes he is.”

          “Okay,” said the hotel employee. “Guards could I have you escort that man off the premises?”

          “No!” he shouted as the guards grabbed him and started to drag him away. He protested the whole way, “But this is my hotel!”

          Samantha exhaled in relief when he was gone. She felt the weirdest sensation when he was there. She knew him because he clearly knew her and he was so familiar. He reminded her of someone but she just couldn’t put a finger on whom. . .

          Whatever, she shrugged. It’s not like I’ll ever see him again anyway, she thought before walking off to rejoin her family.

******************************************************************

          “All right, Felicity, Big D, Marie-Grace and Martha are in group one. Everyone else is in group two. Group one goes first followed by group two. I’ll drive,” Samantha ordered as everyone strapped on their scuba gear. 

          “Who made you in charge?” asked Gwen putting on goggles that were much too big for her. Samantha thought they made her look even more bugged eyed than usual. “Can’t you let anyone else be in charge for once?”

          “Okay, so you want Bitty to drive the boat?”

          “No! That’s not what I meant!”

          Samantha nodded. “That’s what I figured.” She turned back to the steering wheel.

          “Um. . . Samantha?”

          “What do you want now, Gwen?” Samantha rolled her eyes.

          “You might want to turn around.”

          “Yeah right, I suppose there’s a big scary monster behind me then?”

          Gwen hesitated. “Not quite but you really should——-”

          BOOM!

          An explosion hit the side of the boat encasing it in a sticky, gummy, pink wad. Samantha did turn around at this and was fuming at Gwen when the next explosion hit.

          “Take cover!” screamed Gwen as she hit the deck.

Samantha looked up to see a gum ball headed straight for her and she ducked barely missing it. She scrambled to the wheel and crazily spun it so the boat sped off dodging bullet after bullet. “Gwen, do something!” said Captain Samantha.

          “Like what!”

          “I don’t know and I don’t care, just do something!”

Gwen took that to mean desperate times called for desperate measures so she loaded the cannon. This one wasn’t a gum ball cannon and their attackers would be in for a nasty surprise.

          Once they were a safe distance away, Samantha looked out at the horizon and put a hand to her forehead to shade her eyes from the sun. What she saw on the other boat made her gasp. It was the boy from the lobby. He had the same familiar freckles, red hair, and laughing eyes that seemed to taunt her with every breath like someone she knew. . .

Yet each time she tried to place him the memory slipped away leaving the name on the tip of her tongue.

“You!” she growled. What right had he to stalk her like this while endangering her family in the process?

“Who, me?” said Gwen nearly toppling overboard as she straddled the cannon searching for why it wouldn’t fire.

“No, the boy from the lobby is stalking me.”

Gwen’s bug eyes widened. “A creepy guy from the lobby is stalking you?”

Just then Bitty F. hit the deck screaming, “Incoming!”

Both sisters looked up to see a black cannon ball–one not made of gum–come hurtling at them. Samantha jumped to taking the actions that would save them. But it was to no avail because someone had rigged a system of gumballs that filtered into the engine forcing it to die after a while. Deciding it was hopeless, Samantha hit the deck alongside Bitty.

Only Gwen continued, hurriedly striking a match in order to fire the cannon. It quickly dawned on her that the cannon might literally backfire and blow up their ship instead. Precious seconds ticked away as Gwen thought, if only I could unclog it, so she stuck her face in and reached.

BOOM!

The incoming cannon ball hit the ship just as Gwen’s exploded in her face. Water seeped in causing the boat to sink as Gwen tried to put out her flaming hair.

Mournfully, Samantha stood up. Vacation was ruined. Anger blazed in her eyes when she saw the smirk on the stranger’s face. Samantha shook her fist at him. “I’ll get you—whoever you are!”

******************************************************************

          Speeding off into the distance, the creepy boy from the lobby threw back his head and laughed. What a sweet sound it was, to hear the threatening voice of Samantha Parkington after all this time. Music to his ears it was. Then his grin grew even wider, if such a thing were possible, as he thought of another unwelcoming surprise to hit Samantha with next.

******************************************************************

Since their scuba plans were sunk, the family went to the beach in hopes of enjoying at least part of the day. Everyone wanted to know what happened and Gwen had no trouble in recounting her heroic efforts.

“Then, just after I had saved Bitty’s life, the real bomb came hurtling towards me and——”

“Why don’t I remember this?” Bitty F. said, a confused crease forming on her forehead.

“Because,” said Gwen. “The octopus ink wiped your memory as it tried to eat you.”

“Oh brother,” muttered Samantha.

“I guess that makes sense,” Bitty said.

Everyone seemed captivated except Felicity, who knew better than to trust Gwen and Marie-Grace who noticed Samantha’s reaction to the story.

“So there I was,” said Gwen, “hovering between life and death itself when time seemed to stop. Slowly I turned, inch by inch, step by step, to see Samantha making googly eyes at our attacker.”

“What!” cried Samantha. “It didn’t happen like that and you know it! Put a sock in it or I’ll. . . ”

“You’ll do what exactly?” Gwen smirked mirroring the stranger exactly. Gwen knew she had crossed a line and in fear of Samantha’s wrath she hastily retreated. “I mean you’re right, it didn’t happen like that, but you can’t deny the fact that a creepy boy from the lobby is stalking you.”

Samantha growled as everyone else gasped with shock.

“Who?” said Felicity?

“Why?” inquired Marie-Grace.

“Why would anyone want to stalk Samantha?” Bitty asked. “She’s not at all interesting enough.”

“Gee thanks,” said Samantha. “But whatever his reason, he’s up to no good and as a detective it’s up to me to get to the bottom of it.” And get to the bottom of it she would.

******************************************************************

 The rest of the beach day passed uneventfully, on a Playroom scale of course. Samantha hurried back to the resort to change out of her wet bathing suit, the stranger completely forgotten in the leisurely summertime relaxation.

But it was he who ruined her illusion of happiness by showing up at the door next to hers. Samantha dashed into the shadows as he fumbled with the key pass. Samantha’s hands curled into fists as she seethed with anger. How dare him! First he knew her name and refused to make his identity known. Then he puts her family in danger with that little stunt of his and now he has the nerve to park himself in the room next door. Not to mention that he makes her feel so. . .

Samantha failed to grasp the right word just like how she couldn’t put the mystery together with all the clues sitting right in front of her. Some detective I am, she thought miserably. Samantha stepped into the hotel room and marched over to the closet. As she opened it, beetles, bugs, and insects of every kind came tumbling down.

******************************************************************

          On the other side of the wall, the stranger chuckled to himself. To his delight he heard her scream at the top of her lungs:

                     “GLOGAN! You’ll pay for this one!”

He heard the protest of innocence and the running feet of Gwen as she fled the building. This brought him back to the good old days when it was his name she yelled followed by threats she fully intended to carry out. Overcome by a fierce longing for the past, his smile faded until he realized old days might become new days. ******************************************************************

Upon hanging up with the exterminator Samantha said, “Come on Emily we have a stalker to stalk.”

          “Why me?” said Emily woefully trailing behind her.

          “Because Nellie’s not here and I need someone to help me catch the culprit.”

******************************************************************

          The entrance to the hotel was bustling with activity, making it the perfect place to watch for the boy. A big leafy tree sat to the side of the building covering a dirty alley way behind. Samantha’s binoculars peeked out from the greenery as she carefully watched for that annoying yet familiar stranger. They were there for almost an hour before Emily started tugging on Samantha’s sleeve.

          Samantha shook her off. “Not now Emily. Can’t you see that I’ve almost got him?” She laughed evilly.

          Emily just rolled her eyes. “Oh brother, if this is what it’s like to be noticed then I want no part of it.”

          As she expected, Samantha wasn’t listening and half shooed her away. “Watch from that side of the alley way Emily, in case he went out the back door.”

          The alley ran parallel with the building and was open to the street behind. Emily obeyed Samantha but at that moment there happened to be a commotion in the street.

          A police officer ran and blew his whistle. “Thief!” he shouted. “Come back here you street rat!”

          The urchin naturally wasn’t looking where he was going and bumped into Emily sending her crashing to the ground. He darted for cover in the dark alley behind her. Emily picked herself up and dusted herself off. The policeman asked, “Miss, have you seen him?”

          Emily looked down at the eyes glowing in the alley and then up at the officer’s stern gaze. Slowly she nodded but then thief leaped out of hiding, tackled Emily, and finally took off running as the policeman called, “Come back here boy! And unhand that girl!”

          Samantha, who was oblivious to all, this gave up on her quest. “I guess you’re right Emily,” she said. “This is probably a waste of time.”

          She turned around and hesitantly tiptoed down the alley. “Emily?” Samantha called out. Realizing her adopted sister was gone Samantha ran off into the city in the vain hopes of finding her.

******************************************************************

          Back in the hotel room, Marie-Grace played with the Babies as Gwen played with a game on her phone while debating strong magical weapons with Felicity.

          “A German konker is way more effective than a French flutermonger,” argued Gwen.

          “No,” Felicity shot back. “All a konker does is knock you not your enemy unconscious whereas a——”

          Just the door flew open and in came Samantha looking as though she had been attacked by a flock of wild geese.

          “Look what the cat dragged in,” Gwen said gleefully as Marie-Grace exclaimed, “What happened to you and——”

          “Where’s Emily?” Felicity finished.

          Samantha sighed tiredly. “Shut up, it’s a long story and I don’t know where Emily is.”

          “What do you mean you don’t know where Emily is?” Marie-Grace asked worried.

          “She was with me in the dark alley——-”

          “You mean you took our sweet little Emily to a dark alley?” Felicity interrupted.

          “Yes,” Samantha snapped. “And I’ve searched everywhere for her so if you’ll excuse me I’m going to read in the lobby now.”

          After the door slammed shut Gwen couldn’t resist adding, “Sure she’s going to ‘read’ in the lobby.”

          Puzzled Marie-Grace asked, “What do you mean by that?”

          But Gwen just went back to her game muttering, “It’s a long story.”

******************************************************************

          The noisy lobby was hustling and bustling around Samantha as she was “reading.” Occasionally, she’d peek over the top of her book as she listened to conversations swell. Her eyes darted back and forth scanning the area for one guy in particular.

          Finally she spotted him talking in the corner with another guy who was dressed historically. The familiar stranger glanced in her direction. Samantha, who didn’t want to be caught looking at him, broke eye contract and focused on her book for several long minutes. When she dared to look again he was gone. Darn! She thought. And I almost had him too.

          Then she felt a hand on her shoulder and a voice in her ear that said, “You can’t get rid of me that easily Samantha Parkington.”

          Samantha almost jumped because she could almost swear that someone had said those same words to her once upon a time. Instead she glared at the stranger but he was gone before she could do anything else.

******************************************************************

          Samantha groaned softly to herself as she sank lower into a comfortable chair in their suite. She was having the worst vacation in the history of relaxation. First there was the weird but vaguely familiar boy in the check in line who clearly knows who she is. Next there was the odd set of practical jokes someone was playing on her and although the culprit hadn’t yet confessed Samantha was sure it was Glogan messing with her.  Emily was still missing while the Babies were off who knows where doing who knows what. Now she had to deal with this the incessant knocking on her door. Sometimes it was tough to be the oldest and today was one of those times. She could feel the headache building as she wondered, who am I bailing out of jail this time?

Samantha opened the door mid knock and demanded, “Who are you and what do you want?”

Her jaw dropped in surprise to see a tall handsome stranger standing in the threshold holding a bundle of her favorite flowers. Trying to act natural, Samantha draped herself elegantly across the doorway and fluttered her eyelashes in what she hoped was an attractive manner.  

“What I mean to say is,” Samantha paused for dramatic effect. “How may I be of assistance?”

The tall handsome stranger suppressed a smile, desperately trying to choke back the laughter that consumed him on the inside. He couldn’t believe this disguise was working. And even if she did see through it, his real identity was still a secret. She would only believe that this was the reason “the creepy boy from the lobby,” as Gwen so eloquently put it, was following her. If only she knew, he thought. Then this would have been a very different scene. In the smoothest tone he could manage he said, “Is Miss Samantha Parkington in residence?”

Samantha blushed imagining the sight her tattered dress may have appeared. “I am she.”

With a wave of his arm, he presented her with the bouquet. Samantha glanced down at them inhaling their sweet aroma. “They’re beautiful,” she said.

The stranger met her gaze. “So are you.”

His words combined with his dashing attire swept Samantha off her feet but luckily he didn’t give her time to dwell on it.

“Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the opera? I have an extra ticket because my brother is busy and can’t make it so I thought——-”

She put a finger to his lips to silence him. Samantha had been around many guys before but none had ever made her feel like this. Never had one gazed at her so intently or with such care. It was almost as if….

Impossible, she thought before returning to the conversation. “Of course I’ll go with you.” Samantha looked down at her ruined outfit once more. “Just give me an hour.”

He nodded and walked off as Samantha slipped back inside her hotel room. She leaned against the door smelling the flowers. Again a stranger knew her name. How coincidental was that? Instead of being alarmed this time, Samantha calmly wished to know the answer. But that could wait until after the opera. Besides, before she could figure anything else out she needed to know who was behind it all. She thought of the stalker’s smirking grin that reminded her of . . . . .

Someone. Oh well, she thought. I’ll figure it out eventually and it’s probably not important anyway.

******************************************************************

          Samantha’s laughter, both merry and sweet, trickled down the street utterly contagious to the gentleman at her side.

          “What happened next?” the stranger prompted.

          “Well,” said Samantha trying to remember. “Gwen starts swinging from the chandelier and the museum guards begin screaming at her while the rest of us make our escape.”

          He chuckled and she took his arm as they strolled through the park across from the Sydney Opera House.

          “All that happened just because Bitty accidently locked herself inside one of the exhibits?”

          “Yes, but it probably wasn’t an accident.” It was such a joy for Samantha to speak openly to someone who wasn’t technically related to her yet cared about her family just the same.

          “That Gwen sure sounds like a goofy character,” he said.

          “She’s an idiot,” Samantha agreed. “But we’re all weird. I guess that’s what makes us special.”

          They rounded the corner and came to a pavilion. Samantha stopped suddenly and faced him. “You don’t mind, do you?” she asked anxiously.

          He frowned. “What don’t I mind?”

          “That I’m one of them, a wack-o who lives on play road.”

          The young man smiled as he shook his head in wonder. This girl would never cease to amaze him. Here she was worried about where she lives when it was his identity that posed the greater threat.

          “Of course not, Sam. In fact I couldn’t be more pleased.”

          She exhaled in relief.

          “Besides,” he continued carelessly. “Even back in time you were a slight touch crazy.” Oops, he wasn’t supposed to say that!

          Now it was Samantha’s turn frown. “What? What did you just say?”

Realizing his mistake just a little too late, he pretended not to hear her and rushed over to the bandstand where someone had provided a picnic meant for two.

He stretched out on the blanket and said, “Care to join me?”

With their conversation momentarily forgotten, Samantha joined the stranger for a lovely picnic. It was one of the most wonderful afternoons she’d had in a long time. Vacation seemed a little bit brighter and she would even get to enjoy his company for a few more hours when they attended the opera. But for some strange reason she could not fathom she felt as if she knew him . . . .

******************************************************************

Samantha smiled blissfully lost in her own little world as she practically skipped down the hall to her family’s hotel room.

“Samantha!” a voice called. Samantha spun around to see Nellie, who should be in Central America, holding up a post card. Guilt instantly washed through Samantha.

“What is the meaning of this?” Nellie demanded. “I didn’t do anything to you!”

Samantha quickly snapped herself out of her love struck daze. “Are you sure? Because someone has been pulling pranks on me and I already questioned Glogan and I know it wasn’t them.”

“Well, it wasn’t me,” said Nellie. “And why would I do that? I’m your best friend!”

Samantha’s gaze dropped to the floor. “I’m sorry, Nellie. I was angry and looking for someone to blame because I don’t know who the stranger that keeps following me is.”

“That’s okay,” said Nellie. “I forgive you. Wait, did you say there’s a stranger stalking you?”

“Yes,” Samantha said slowly.

“And has this stranger been around every time something like this happens?”

“Maybe——”

“Well then,” said Nellie. “He’s the culprit.”

“But why? Though he does seem a bit familiar.”

“Familiar!”

“And he knows my name——”

“He knows you!”

“Okay, yes.” Samantha admitted. “He knows me but then there was this other slightly familiar stranger who came by and took me to the opera.”

Nellie gasped. “And you didn’t think they were probably the same person?!”

Samantha’s face reddened. “But I had a wonderful time!”

“That may be but it doesn’t make him any less guilty!”

Just then Gwen walked past on her way out of the hotel room. Upon hearing their conversation she said, “Leave it to Samantha to go out on a date with her stalker.”

“Shut up, Gwen!” both girls shouted. Gwen shrugged and went on her merry way.

“Anyway,” said Nellie. “What type of tricks has this boy been playing?”

Before answering, Samantha looked both ways and darted into their hotel room with Nellie. “Well, the first one was a bit extreme but it mostly involved gum.”

Nellie nodded and gestured for Samantha to continue. “Then someone put insects in my wardrobe, I fell in the mud on our way back from the opera though I could have easily been pushed and I lost a wad of cash just before the church got a mysterious donation of a million bucks.”

Nellie thought for a moment then broke the silence by saying, “I hate to say it but aren’t those all things that you did to Eddie Ry——”

NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” Samantha paled as her eyes widened. “And in case you didn’t hear the first five times, NO! NO! NO! It just can’t happen! It’s impossible!”

“I’m sorry, Samantha. But——”

“No buts! He can’t be here! He doesn’t even know about time travel and I’ve finally escaped that pest he couldn’t have possibly followed me!”

“Samantha calm down! I’m not saying that he is just that it’s a possibility.” Nellie braced herself for another rant of denial. When it didn’t come, she relaxed.

“Eddie . . . ,” Samantha stopped and winced for she could not bring herself to say his whole name. “That rat,” she amended, “does not know about PFV never mind magic and time travel.”

 “You didn’t either,” Nellie pointed out. “And look where you are today.”

Samantha scowled then reached for the door.

“Where are we going?” said Nellie.

“To get some answers,” Samantha said firmly.

******************************************************************

 In the hotel room next door, the familiar redheaded stranger calmly ate an English muffin and read the newspaper as his crazy neighbors went about their vacation. He planned on going out later to escape the noise when his door flew open and in came Samantha with her best friend Nellie O’Malley. He got up to greet them but Samantha would have none of it. She flipped the table which caused paper to fly all over the room.

Her eyes burned with fury. “Who are you?!”

Not understanding he blinked and said, “What?”

Samantha marched up to him and shouted, “We know it was you who played all those mean tricks on me and Nellie here brought up a good question: your identity.”

The poor boy couldn’t do anything except stand there helplessly as Samantha continued her rant. “Are you or are you not Eddie Ryland?”

He hesitated which made Samantha take it as a yes but what he said next made her pause, uncertain in her assumption.

“Who do you think I am?”

Samantha looked at Nellie who looked back at her. Samantha knew what she should say but instead answered, “I…. I…..think. . . .” She didn’t know what to think because all the evidence pointed to him being that jerk she detested but he wasn’t anything like the boy she knew. But there was something Samantha didn’t take into account: people change especially after time travelling.

In the most confident voice she could muster she said, “I believe you are not.”

“Not what?” he prompted.

“You are not Eddie Ryland!” she practically yelled.

In the background Nellie muttered, “Come on Samantha, really?”

The boy who was apparently not Eddie gripped her shoulders as he looked her square in the eyes, “Really, there’s nothing at all familiar about me? Nothing to remind you of an old friend, perhaps?”

Samantha squirmed under the intense weight of his gaze. “No,” she barely managed to squeak. Although she wanted to bust a gut laughing on the word friend and say, “Friend? That’s the word you’d use?”

But she didn’t. He released her and swore under his breath sending her stumbling backwards. He, the coward that he was, secretly hoped that she would figure it out so he wouldn’t have to tell her. He was mad and a bit hurt until he realized he could use this to his advantage. Because if Samantha even suspected his real identity (and clearly she did) she would rather die a million deaths than admit she liked spending time with him.

Nellie, who was by now quite aggravated by this whole exchange said, “Just tell us if you’re Eddie Ryland or not.”

“Yeah, what she said,” echoed Samantha.

The stranger sweated a little and looking everywhere except Samantha said, “I am not you think I am.”

Nellie stared him down and the boy held his breath. “Look me in the eye and say, ‘I am not Eddie Ryland.’”

He restrained form wiping his brow in relief. He could probably lie straight to Nellie’s face but he knew he could never manage it under Samantha’s piercing gaze.

Unblinking, he stared deep into Nellie’s eyes. “I am not Eddie Ryland.”

She held his gaze for a few agonizing minutes searching for the truth. Finally, Nellie nodded and headed for the exit. Samantha started to follow but stopped.

“If you’re not Eddie Ryland,” she said bringing up a very good point. “Then who are you?”

On the inside he cringed, wishing he had thought of that sooner. “I’m. . . Troy Ryland,” he said using his middle name.

Samantha frowned. “Are you a descendant of Eddie Ryland?”

“Yes,” he said his lips twitching into a smile. “Eddie Ryland is my ancestor.”

“Okay,” she said. “As long as you’re not actually him.”

 “Oh, I’m definitely not.”

Samantha nodded. “Good.” Then she stormed out of the room as quickly as she had come.

“Oh, honey,” said Troy as soon as she was gone. “You’re in for a very nasty surprise.”

******************************************************************

  The next adventure scheduled for their trip to Australia was exploring the outback. In PFV at least, most of Australia is made up of the outback, a vast desert land made up of the rare animals like the Tasmanian devil, kangaroos, and koalas. It is home to many desert nomads including bandits, thieves and other convicts from Europe with the only settled regions being near the coast.

As you can imagine with playroom people staying overnight in such a place something, whether it be good or bad is bound to happen to everyone. They started off in groups but between the sandstorms, Tasmanian devil attacks, and conflict with hostile native tribes, the family succeeded in getting themselves separated.

   Marie-Grace spent most of her time chasing after the Babies whereas Gwen spent her day getting attacked by wild animals. She was even mangled by the friendly koalas. Felicity got tangled up in a crazy convicts plan to build an army to take revenge on England for banishing them. Sure enough Martha had a hand in stirring up conflict among the desert nomads so they would side with her in her plan to take over the world. Even sweet little Emily was used against Britain by a sneaky criminal.

But Samantha had issues all her own, most of which revolved around Troy Ryland otherwise known as the familiar stranger. Since they are both detectives working on the same case in the Australian outback they were bound to run into each other. The only logical thing to do was team up. That way Samantha had more time to chase her family and Troy got the one thing he desired most in the world: time to spend with Samantha. Although the day didn’t quite go as she had planned, it was still nice for Samantha to work with another serious detective who wasn’t Nellie because she had only become one at Samantha’s insistence.

  Soon night had fallen over the Australian landscape; the family was tucked into beds in the British Spy Network/American Detective Agency Camp because it was far too late and dangerous for them to make the trek to the hotel that night. And since they had helped save the world (or at least Australia) the Parkington half of the playroom family had special access into the abandoned buildings that were used as military bases to stop evil plots like the one that happened today.

Stars twinkled overhead as Samantha Parkington tossed and turned in her sleep, pleasant dreams morphing into nightmares.

In one Samantha held hands and skipped down the lane with the mysterious stranger. He was wearing a foolish grin that matched her happiness completely. Then a clock appeared turning back minutes which changed into days, weeks, months, years. It took Samantha and the boy back decades until they had reached a century. The clock chimed the year 1904 and Samantha and the boy looked as they did when they were ten. Samantha didn’t change much but the difference in the boy was incredible.  Samantha stared in horror then woke with a jolt, screaming bloody murder.

******************************************************************

Samantha pounded her fist on the door to where Troy Ryland was staying with the detective agency. “Open up!” she demanded. She was mid knock when the door swung open. Half-dressed and half armed Troy’s eyes wildly searched for danger.

“Samantha, are you all right? What’s happened? Is it an emergency? Are you sure you’re okay?”

He was so full of concern that Samantha felt silly. He couldn’t possibly be the boy from her past and besides not all dreams come true anyway.

           “Nothing,” she said. “Go back to sleep. I’m sorry I disturbed you.” She turned to go but he grabbed her arm and pulled her back onto the porch.

“Tell me,” he said. “There must be a reason you’re breaking down my door in the middle of the night.”

Samantha gulped loathing to admit her subconscious thoughts. Seeing her uncertain hesitation he invited her in and made her a cup of tea. He sat her down on the sofa beside him and took her hand in his.

Instinct told Samantha to flee but the pull of the hot tea combine with his strong warm body snuggled up next to her was too powerful to resist especially for someone still half asleep. She rested his head on his shoulder even though being in a man’s company dressed only in her nightgown would usually make her uncomfortable.

“Now what is it you wanted to say?” He whispered in her ear.

She yawned. “Nothing.”

“Come now, you can tell me,” he said.

“A nightmare.” Her eyes closed.

“Care to explain?”

“No,” and with that she was asleep.

The young man smiled touched that he had come to him for comfort. Even though she was asleep he savored this moment for he knew this was something Samantha would have never allowed if she was awake or simply knew his real name.

******************************************************************

          Deep in the Australian outback, Samantha Parkington woke to find herself on a stranger’s couch, in a stranger’s quarters, and in a stranger’s arms. To enhance her mortification she was even in pajamas. Figures, the one night of the whole year she doesn’t go to bed fully clothed. As the memory of last night came tumbling back Samantha calmly sat up despite the fact that every ounce of her entire being said to run from the room screaming. She forced herself to calm down and she almost settled back down when she noticed the time.

          “What!?” she exclaimed. “How did it get so late?” She leapt from seat and began pacing back and forth. She debated whether she should just leave, write a note and then leave, or simply wake him up. The decision was made for her when the man in question stirred and noticed her pacing.

          “Whatever is the matter?” he asked rubbing the sleep form his bleary eyes.

          “Everything,” said Samantha resuming her pacing.

          He grabbed her wrist. “What in greater detail please, is the problem?”

          “Well let’s see.” She jerked her hands away from his and made a show of thinking about it. “I’m who knows where in the Australian outback with a man I’ve just met, I spent half the night in a man’s liar dressed in practically nothing, half the morning is gone, my family most likely left without me, I need to be in Sydney for Bitty’s opera this afternoon but I can’t show up looking like a dirty ragamuffin and I’ll never make it in time considering it took me all day yesterday to walk here.”

          He considered what she said. “I don’t see a problem.”

          “What!” she cried in disbelief.

          He nodded. “I have a solution for every one of those issues.”

          “You do not!”

          “I do too!”

          “Do not!”

          “Do too!”

          “Do not!”

          “Do too!”

          “Fine,” said Samantha finally giving up. “Then let’s hear it.”

          “Okay. You’re not lost because I know exactly where we are, it’s not like we did anything wrong last night so I guess it’s okay but if it makes you feel any better we won’t do it again. Technically more than half the morning is gone and your family most certainly left without you.”

          “Thanks, that makes me feel a whole lot better!”

          “Wait, I wasn’t done yet—–”

          “Yeah well I don’t see how this helps me,” said Samantha.

          “Will you please listen? Being a respected detective in this agency I happen to have the authority to use the top secret rocket powered jeep so I can have you back in your hotel with plenty of time for you to get gussied up for your sister’s opera. And as for having just met,” his eyes sought hers. “I would hope you’d know that we’ve known each other all our lives.”

          Samantha didn’t understand what he was talking about. She shoved the matter from her mind and broke eye contact getting back to business. “When can you get this jeep?”

          He hung his head in defeat for the moment has been lost. “Immediately.”

          She nodded in satisfaction. “Good.”

******************************************************************

          The lights in the opera house dimmed as a hush fell over the crowd. The magic was about to begin. The famous Bitty Fatterson walked up to the microphone glittering under the spotlight in her sparkly dress. She cleared her throat and everyone covered their ears as a terrible screeching noise filled the house.

          “Testing . . . Is this thing on?”

          “Yes!” everyone groaned when it screeched again.

          “Hello, welcome one! Welcome all! To the Sydney Opera House conveniently located in Sydney Australia. I’m Bitty Fatterson partner to the even more famous director/producer/actor/musician/musical protégée Bitty Quansa!”

          She paused as everyone went nuts at the mention of her friend. “But for tonight I single handily put together a special presentation for you in the form of an opera. I hope you enjoy!”

          “Hey,” said Big D. jumping out of her seat. “I helped too!” But the show had already started and she was merely shushed by a captivated audience.

          “Geesh,” said Big D. “The things I do around here for you people.”

This brought on another chorus of shushing and Big D. sat back in her seat quietly surrendering. Poor Big D. thought Samantha. She’s so unappreciated. Samantha sat a few seats down from her with the other remaining family members who weren’t in the play. It was business as usual except tonight Samantha had a man by her side. She smiled up at Troy (she couldn’t bear thinking his last name) who was looking as handsome as ever in his sharp suit.

He’s not at all like his rotten ancestor, she thought. He’s such a nice, caring, thoughtful, funny, and sweet guy. It’s too bad he is distantly related to he who must not be named. But she supposed she’d have to get used to it along with the unusual circumstances in which they met. And besides, it wasn’t his fault there was a bad egg in the family tree yet she couldn’t help but wonder where the real Eddie Ryland had ended up, or rather who he had ended up married to. 

          Just then, Troy caught her gazing at him and smiled reassuringly while on the inside guilt ate away at him. This couldn’t continue, he had to come clean. He squeezed her hand in anticipation. Tonight then was the night he’d confess.

******************************************************************

          After the show, the young man took Samantha for a moonlit stroll in the park. The stars above shone brightly creating the perfect atmosphere for a romantic meeting. As Samantha took his arm, a piece of her felt happy. Happier than she’d been in a long time, like maybe this was where she was meant to be and like maybe this was who she was meant to be with, even if he did come from a horrible line of people.

          “Samantha?” The young man’s voice cut back the darkness.

          “Yes,” she said as equally searching. “That is indeed my name.”

He laughed lightly and she could tell he was nervous but about what she couldn’t be sure. “There is something I need to discuss with you. You may not want to hear it,” Boy, was that the understatement of the year. “And I may not want to say it but I have to for both our sakes.”

Wordlessly she nodded knowing he was serious but also knowing that whatever he said wouldn’t be good. He let out a deep breath. Here goes nothing, he thought. And if all went well, they might be friends before the night was out.

“Do you remember,” he began. “Those two guys who were friends with Jessica and Jackie, the women who adopted you?”

“Yeah, there names were John and Francis, right?”

“Right, except they were never really friends.”

Samantha a spoke quietly and a little sadly, “I kind of figured since they are never around anymore.”

He sensed her pain. “I know. They were only hired help and you guys just assumed there was more.”

She held his arm tighter as he continued. “They eventually went on to start their own adopted family like the ones your moms started only with boys instead of girls.”

“What!” The shock was evident in her voice. “So they. . . ”

He nodded in confirmation. “They also went back in time and searched today’s time for sixteen boys instead of sixteen girls. Only your moms had it easy with the time travel company American girl.”

“How do you even know that?” Samantha regretted asking the moment the words left her mouth. Something had clicked in her memory. A face she had once forgotten now came to light. A fleeting picture in her mind now paralyzed her as she thought of a reason why he felt so familiar.

“Because I am one of them, I was taken from 1904,” Just like you, rang in both their ears.

The realization hit her like a ton of bricks. Suddenly it all made sense: the gum, the bugs, falling in the mud, and even the stolen money graciously donated to the church were all things she had done to . . .

Samantha choked back a gasp horrified at the very idea. He reached out a hand to steady her and she wanted to recoil but instead forced herself to accept his hand and look into his eyes for any sign at all that might prove her suspicions wrong. She found nothing except a twinkle of mischief. This was one truth the sleuthing Samantha would rather not uncover, a fact the well-dressed gentleman knew with great certainty.

A whirlwind of doubts, denials, and yes, fear rushed through her mind but were all silenced as the young man cupped her face in his hands and kissed her. Fireworks exploded and the whole world seemed to sparkle. This was nothing like kissing Andrew her western cowboy or any other guy in general for that matter. But as the kissed deepened even that thought was banished from Samantha’s mind. So lost in each other neither could imagine another moment more perfect or more right than the one they shared now. As the kiss drew to a close, he knew the jig was up and that he had to tell her.

“Samantha?”

“Yes?” she sighed dreamily.

He held her close and looked her straight in the eye saying, “I have something important to tell you.”

A thrill went through Samantha and feeling a bit dizzy she gripped him tightly for support.

Softly he whispered, “I was your first kiss.”

Instantly Samantha froze for he could either be Eric, the evil boy from Florida who almost took over the world and made her his queen or her real first kiss who she had left behind more than a century ago. Samantha pulled herself away from him and looked at his laughing red hair that reminded her of . . .

Samantha stared in horror for the face she was looking up into was none other than Eddie Ryland her pesky next door neighbor.

“I’ll get you good someday Samantha Parkington!” Eddie swore the last time they had met and here he was. Samantha had never been more humiliated in her life.

Eddie saw the meaning of his secret message dawn on her face and was crushed beyond repair as he watched her expression change from one of love and admiration to one of hatred and disgust. Not even Grandmary’s strictest rule GIRLS DON’T FIGHT could save him now as Samantha’s fist landed in his face.     She took off running as Eddie clutched his jaw calling, “Samantha, wait!”

But it was too late for Samantha was long gone.

To be continued . . . . . .

Where

  Madness

     Begins

Take a walk down Play road with Samantha Parkington and Eddie Ryland

                            By: Detective #52

Mr. Edward Ryland has made the terrible mistake of existing, at least in Samantha Parkington’s mind. By coming to PFV, Samantha had thought she’d seen the last of that grinning fool but clearly she was wrong. He harassed her this summer with a series jokes Samantha once played on him then he disguised himself to get her to spend time with him. Finally vacation is over and the whole family is headed back to the playroom for even more fun in the sun. Samantha is sure she’s lost Eddie for good by ditching him in Australia only she comes to find out he was vacationing too! In reality he only lives a couple streets over and they’re neighbors once more. Can they call a truce or will they keep pushing the limits until one of them is pushed over the deep end in madness?

-Detective #52

Samantha kept on running as fast and as far as her legs could carry her. Her stomach balled itself into an angry wasps nest and her heart constricted at the irony of meeting her greatest rival here in her sanctuary. Never in her wildest dreams, except perhaps in her worst nightmares, did Eddie Ryland appear from her past to taunt and torment her forevermore.

For years, Samantha had struggled to feel at home in the year 2000 and now when she thought she’d finally found her place he shows up and ruins everything. Her eyes watered and before she knew it, hot, sticky tears blurred her vision as she raced on. In Samantha’s world, Eddie’s reappearance did far more than merely disgust her, this time he had crossed the line by reopening old wounds of homesickness, the only disease for which there is no cure.

But besides conjuring up a fierce passion for the past, Eddie Ryland’s presence added another complication to the mix. One of a more romantic nature though Samantha refused to think of it that way.

Yet the kiss continued to replay over and over and over again in her mind, her body swept up in the sensation of the moment, her brain caught in the turmoil of meeting, and her heart…

Samantha couldn’t bear to relive what her heart said. “Life isn’t fair,” she murmured to herself. “And I hope Eddie Ryland falls off a cliff.”

She couldn’t even find consolation in wishing the worst upon him for the little part of her that actually cared screamed out in protest.

Samantha looked up from her misery long enough to realize she had no idea where she was. Great. The last thing she needed right now was to be lost in a foreign country. Samantha hung her head in defeat as she plopped herself down in the nearest dark alley. Maybe getting lost is a blessing, she thought as she began to sob. This way, she wouldn’t have to deal with the harassment her family was sure to give had they witnessed this scene.

******************************************************************

Eddie stood there for quite some time, the sting of Samantha’s rejection echoing like a slap across his heart. He could not unsee her sweet smile morphing into a look of utter horror the moment she realized what she thought was the truth: Eddie Ryland her greatest nemesis back from the past to haunt and humiliate her even more.

And could he blame her? For most of their childhood Eddie had teased her to no end. In his defense, Samantha would tease and threaten him right back and she would often pull a trick more mean than his own. If he were the same boy Samantha’s disgust would please him. But he was a young man now, almost completely grown up and all it did was bring him pain.

He’d always admired Samantha, bright and sweet, pretty and sophisticated, yet she had an edge as sharp and as smooth as a knife blade. But most of all she was someone he could talk to, in rapid fire insults, and laugh with despite how much she believed he laughed at her.

Eddie wondered when his childhood companion had become something more. Something deeper. Something nearer and dearer to his heart in no way he’s ever experienced before. He wondered when childish affection had become love.

Love just thinking the word made him feel freer, like he could fly all the way to Pluto and back for Samantha. Samantha his darling, his sweetheart Samantha, was probably off hating his guts right now.    

With this his happiness fell into a wave of disappointment. But then, he’d always known Samantha would be a hard catch to reel in especially since it was him doing the fishing. This is why he stalled for more time as a stranger so Samantha would be forced into giving him a chance before she slammed the door in his face. Eddie knows Samantha very well and could predict her actions with some (not complete) accuracy. 

It occurred to him that unlike last time he couldn’t let her get away. He lost her once before when she travelled to the future. She couldn’t leave him, not now when they’ve just rediscovered each other. And as he ran after her, Eddie Ryland vowed that he would get Samantha Parkington to declare her love for him, one way or another, no matter how long it took. ******************************************************************

Marie-Grace Gardner skipped happily down the streets of Sydney, thrilled with another performance well down. As always she had the starring role in Bitty’s opera and was still humming the songs long after the musical numbers had ended.

In the distance, a tall ship flying the Jolly Roger rose high over the water. When most people saw that flag they ran in terror. But not Marie-Grace for she just smiled and kept going, dreaming of an evening spent with her Pirate, dancing the night away on his ship.

Her smile only faded when she heard a half strangled cry arise from a connecting alleyway. She tentatively crept over to the yawning mouth of the black side street to see a historically dressed young woman hunched over in sobs.

Marie-Grace gasped. “Samantha?” Samantha had been living in PFV for nine years and no one in that entire length of time rarely ever saw her cry.

Yet here she was crouched on the ground in one of the dirtiest corners of Sydney with tears streaming down her cheeks. At least, Marie-Grace thought they were tears, with Samantha you could never be sure.

Marie-Grace rushed over to her adopted sister and gently knelt beside her. “Samantha,” she said softly.

Samantha moaned.

“Samantha, are you alright?” Clearly not, but one never knew.

Samantha picked her head up and let out a sob. “I hate him, I hate him, I hate him!” She howled. “And I’ll never stop hating him!”

“Who?” asked Marie-Grace.

“Eddie Ryland,” she spat as she cried some more. Marie-Grace had heard of him, though she didn’t know all the details. But she did know that if anyone from any Playroom person’s past suddenly reappeared then it would release a flood gate of emotions.

“He’s a jerk,” Samantha continued. “Who is supposed to be stuck in 1904 and I’ll never stop cursing him for intruding on my life!”

“Oh, you can’t mean that!” Marie-Grace exclaimed.

“Yes I do!”

“But what has he ever done that’s so terrible?” It must have been a silly childhood rivalry, thought Marie-Grace thinking it would be easy to dismiss.

Samantha growled at her with an animal like rage. Marie-Grace flinched but didn’t back down. “Everything he does has an evil motive plotted to attack me. He’s out to get me!”

Then Marie-Grace realized that this was something that couldn’t be dismissed, not as long as Samantha kept living in the past. “Samantha, maybe there’s a reason he ended up here -”

“Don’t you think I thought of that already?!” Samantha screamed shrilly, the kiss still lingering on her lips.

“Um. . .”

“And don’t you think that the mere idea,” she gagged, “makes me want to be violently ill?”

“But -”

“No, I don’t want to hear it because not all of us can get perfect pirates like you,” Samantha snapped coldly.

 Marie-Grace winced yet she still sighed and took Samantha’s hand. “You’re right Samantha. Not everyone gets to live happily ever after with seafaring criminals. But here’s where you’re wrong. Just because Eddie isn’t the prince you imagined doesn’t make his love any less true.”

Samantha quickly snatched her hand away. “You just don’t understand!” she sobbed. “No one knows what it’s like to have happily ever after ripped away from them!”

“I do,” said Marie-Grace said quietly.

Samantha turned to face her. “What did you say?”

“I said, ‘I do’ because I know exactly what it’s like.”

“What?!”

Marie-Grace nodded. “You’re not the only one who thought she’d found a home at the end of their books nor will you be the last. For me, I thought I was finally home in New Orleans after a long and lonely childhood in the northeast.”

“I was alone too,” Samantha whispered.

But Marie-Grace shook her head. “Not as lonely as me because you had a house full of servants, a boat load of friends, and a pesky neighbor boy to play with. All I ever had was a grumpy housekeeper and a father who was often working late.”

“Oh,” said Samantha.

“But then I was home at last in New Orleans until that was ripped away from me by coming to the playroom.”

“Okay yes,” said Samantha. “We both lost a true home and then we both found one in the playroom. But you’ve never had to deal with Eddie Ryland.”

Marie-Grace took a firm hold of her shoulders and almost shook her. “Is this about Eddie Ryland or is this about missing your life back in time?”

Samantha whimpered. “Both.”

Marie-Grace thought for a moment, debating how she should go about this. She had never been a good friend to Cécile and right know she hoped she could be a better sister to Samantha.

“Our happy endings back in time were apparently not meant to be,” said Marie-Grace. “But this family in the future is and as time travelers it’s our time now to build new beginnings for ourselves. For me happily ever after came on a ship with a Pirate Captain. But for you. . .” She trailed off hoping Samantha would fill in the rest. But Samantha had no reaction or sarcastic comment.

“Eddie Ryland crossed a century to reach you Samantha. Can’t you see what a glorious opportunity a life with Eddie has to offer?”

Silence.

Then both Samantha and Marie-Grace paused to hear footsteps and see a shadow of a man standing in the mouth of the alley.

Marie-Grace jumped feeling a bit nervous but Samantha recognized the outline and rolled her head back muttering, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Not quite as jumpy, Marie-Grace moved to greet the unwanted guest as Samantha desperately tried to free herself of any last trace of tears. She heard her sister say, “I think you’d better go. She needs some time alone.”

Eddie Ryland started to leave but Samantha called out, “No. let him come see my tears so he can have something to gloat about later.”

Eddie strode over to her. “Samantha I –”

“You’ve finally collected your revenge now go back to Mount Bedford where you belong.”

Momentarily ignoring her, Eddie held out a hand offering to help her up but she shoved it away and struggled to stand on her own.

Once she was up, Eddie searched into her eyes and decided to try again. “You don’t understand –”

“I understand plenty.”

He struggled to keep his own temper in check. Fine then, if that’s how she wanted to play. “What do you understand?”

“That’s it’s your personal mission to make me miserable.”

“Baloney! Samantha Parkington you are full of baloney!”

“I am not!”

“You are too!” Anger exploded out of him now so much so even Samantha couldn’t fail to notice how his eyes blazed and his jaw set. “If you even knew me at all then you’d know that that is not at all why I’m here!”

Samantha barred her teeth. “Stop following me! All my life you’ve followed me so you could taunt, tease, and humiliate me! The only thing I can’t figure out is why! Why do you care so much?”

I love you, he almost shouted. Quickly he bit his tongue and instead said, “Fine. I’ll get out of your life!”

“Good.”

“Great.”

“Good riddance Ryland! I hope you crawl back under whatever rock it is you came from and stay there like the toad you are!”

“Good bye Parkington! I hope someone in your family has better sense than you do!”

They stood staring each other down with their hands on their hips in a ridiculously childlike fashion until Samantha couldn’t take it any longer. Her heel came down hard on her foot and she stomped away screaming, “I’ll get you, Eddie Ryland! Even if it’s the last thing I do!”

“Ha! I’d like to see you try!” Eddie yelled holding his injured foot. He was about to go after her and give her a piece of his mind when Marie-Grace laid a hand on his arm.

“Don’t,” she said. “You’ll only make it worse and if there’s any hope of winning her over then you need to use all that charm Samantha thinks you don’t have.”

A light of understanding dawned on him as he saw her angle. “That’s brilliant! But I fear that no matter what I do, it’ll never satisfy Samantha.”

****************************************************************** 

 For Samantha and her family the next couple of days passed in a blur. After the whole Eddie Ryland incident, Samantha just had to get out of Australia and as the oldest she had the power to plan a spontaneous trip to Asia. She scheduled as many overlapping activities as she could while she lead her family through the highlights of Japan, China, and India in two days.

With eight children from Play road it was chaotic craziness. But Samantha didn’t mind because it kept her mind off of you know who. She was determined to forget about him but that didn’t stop a thought or two from sneaking in. Fearing more nightmares, Samantha didn’t book a hotel and instead kept them busy through the night. By the end everyone was sleep deprived and more than a little aggravated, Samantha most of all. She did, however, manage to bike the Great Wall of China and Climb Mount Everest all without cracking. It was the postcard from Nellie that finally did it. It reminded Samantha that even half a world away her best friend was having the same crazy problems of her own with her family.

******************************************************************

Note to reader:

I decided to not insert Nellie’s postcard here mostly because it is very long, has almost nothing to do with this story, and is filled to the brim with Playroom jargon making it difficult to understand. But it is still interesting to see what Nellie and her family were up to while Samantha was meeting her match. So Nellie’s postcard can be found under its own tab in the table of contents.

Samantha’s reply is also included under Nellie’s tab. In it Samantha tells Nellie about the mysterious stranger proving to Nellie that she was right about his identity all along. Nellie writes another postcard to Samantha and even though Samantha will never dare admit it, this one greatly influences her thoughts and feelings towards the whole Eddie Ryland situation. This whole postcard exchange ends when both Playroom families decided enough is enough and that it’s time to go home.

******************************************************************

 Samantha really didn’t like the way Glogan were acting. She never does but today they seemed especially odd with their heads bowed together as they deep in discussion as they scribbled notes on a piece of paper. After being apart for a few weeks it was only natural that they would spend time together but this was ridiculous. For the whole plane ride home Gwen had her phone glued to her ear and now Glogan were relatively quiet for the first time in ten years.

It was that and the fact that they kept glancing in her direction that should have tipped Samantha off, but she was just so exhausted from the Asia trip and she knew the truth would come out eventually so why bother? This was a decision Samantha would come to regret and a mistake she’ll likely not make again.

******************************************************************

 As Samantha stepped into the Playroom one day, her heart skipped a beat when she saw a familiar stranger standing in her area.

“Nice place you got here, Sam,” he said.

Instead of being polite and saying hello, she marched over to him and demanded, “What are you doing here?!”

“Now, Now, Miss Samantha, is that anyway to treat a guest? Whatever would Grandmary say?” said Eddie Ryland.

“You’re not a guest,” Samantha grumbled. “You’re an unwanted trespasser.”

“That’s not what Glogan told me when they invited me over.”

“What!”

Just then a herd of Playroom guys came through the door for an unexpected visit including –

“Howdy there my partner, Samantha!”

Samantha winced. “Hello Andrew.” Samantha met Andrew exactly one year ago today when she and Nellie went out West while their moms went camping in the real world.

“Well, well, well,” said Eddie. “Who do we have here?”

“My name’s Andrew,” said Andrew as he shook Eddie’s hand.

“Aren’t you going to introduce us, Sam?” Eddie said.

“It seems you’re doing just fine on your own,” said Samantha. This was one of the most awkward conversations of her life with both her current boyfriend and the boy who made it perfectly clear he’d like to be.

“I reckon you’re Eddie Ryland,” said Andrew. “That annoying kid from Samantha’s childhood.”

Eddie raised an eyebrow at Samantha as he told Andrew, “Yes, yes I am. But who the heck are you?”

Andrew’s smile fell. “You mean Samantha hasn’t mentioned me at all?”

“Nope, not a word,” said Eddie.

Samantha wanted to kill Eddie for making her look bad because surely, Andrew must have come up at some point.

Suddenly, the door slammed closed and was bolted shut with a blast of magic as a stage appeared in the middle of the room. “As much as I hate to interrupt all this,” said Logan. “I need Eddie to help me tie Samantha to that chair on the raised platform, center stage.”

“What!” Samantha shouted as Eddie wrapped his arms around her. “Put me down!”

“No can do, sweetheart.” Eddie said fighting with a struggling Samantha. “If we could be sure you’d be a good little girl and not run off then we wouldn’t have to do this. Now wish me luck.”

“For what?! What’s going on?”

Both Eddie and Andrew took seats on either side of Samantha as the curtain rose and Logan took her place by the microphone. “Welcome to Logan’s love triangle!”

“Gwen’s,” Gwen whispered from the side.

“Fine,” said Logan. “Glogan’s love triangle the game show where we take a lovely young woman–” the spotlight moved to the seething Samantha. “—and the two young men fighting for her and ask them questions to find out who is really her true love! I’m your host Logan Buckingham!”

“What!” Samantha shouted. “This is perfectly ridiculous! I refuse to be part of it!”

“It’s too late now,” said Gwen. “If you haven’t noticed you’re tied to a chair and we’re on live television.”

“Yeah, all you have to do is sit there and look pretty.” Aside to Gwen, Logan said, “And she’s not even capable of that.”

They snickered as Samantha said, “I heard that! And I demand a commercial break!”

“Hey! You can’t call commercial!”

“Sorry,” said Parker the cameraman. “But she just did. We’re on commercial.”

Logan threw down her mic in a huff. “Take five everyone but leave Samantha tied up.”

Eddie walked over to Samantha. “Not so close,” she warned. “I bite.”

He grinned. “I know which is why I’m going to win.”

“You are not. Andrew knows me better.”

“Ha! That boy has no idea what’s in store for him if he’s involved with you!”

“Like you would know! And you know nothing about Andrew!’

“Um, guys, standing right here,” said Andrew.

He was ignored as Eddie said, “Worried I might win, Sam?”

“Don’t call me that!” she snapped.

“Why, it’s your name.”

“My name is Samantha! Only Uncle Gard called me that.”

“Who is Uncle Gard?” said Andrew.

“See?” said Eddie.

Parker said, “We’re on in 10. . . 9. . . .”

As everyone scrambled into position Eddie Ryland said, “Oh honey, did I forget to mention that I live on Castle Street and just happened to be on vacation in Australia this summer, too?”

“You followed me?!” Samantha screeched her voice rising three octaves.

He smiled and winked at her. “Anything for you, love.”

Samantha snarled as she yearned to wrap her hands around his neck and strangle him.

Seeing this whole exchange, Andrew took one glance at the pair of them and knew he had lost. Everyone in the audience knew it too so he resolved to end this as quickly and painlessly as possible. There was only one person cheering his name and that was Samantha herself. But deep down, she really didn’t mean it because in her heart she was in love with Eddie.

“Eddie Ryland!” Samantha shouted. “There is no possible way that you’ll win!”

“Watch me, Samantha Parkington! Just watch!”

“Okay and we’re live,” said Parker.

“Welcome back to Logan’s love triangle!” announced the game show host.

“Glogan’s,” Gwen coughed from the side.

“Whatever,” said Logan. “Sorry about that brief interruption, we just had to take care of a few technical difficulties.” She glared at Samantha. “So this is how this works: I’ll ask a question and whoever hits the buzzer first gets to answer, if they get it wrong, the other person has a chance to answer for double points.”

“Double?” Samantha echoed. “How does that make any sense?”

“It doesn’t,” Gwen said cheerfully.

The host continued, “First question: What is Samantha’s middle name?”

Andrew and Eddie hit the buzzer at the same time. “After you,” said Eddie as he smiled dangerously.

Andrew gulped. “Um . . . Rose.”

Samantha smacked a hand to her forehead as Logan said, “I’m sorry, that is incorrect.”

From the studio audience Gwen chanted, “Let’s go Eddie, let’s go!”

“Mm, let’s see.” Eddie stroked his chin as he pretended to think about it. “She calls her Grandmother Grandmary, so I’m going to go with Mary.”

“That is correct!”

“Come on Andrew,” Samantha pleaded. “It was only one question, you can do better I know you can.”

Andrew mumbled, “I wouldn’t be so sure of that.”

“Next question,” said Logan. “What is Samantha’s favorite ice cream–?”

Andrew hit the buzzer. “Strawberry!”

“You’re supposed to wait until I finish the question!” Logan whined.

“You’re pathetic Andrew,” said Eddie as he slammed his fist into the buzzer. “Because everyone knows it’s peppermint.”

Before Samantha could react the host said, “Right again. Eddie, you’re on a roll. Andrew, you’re not doing so hot. You should try harder with this next question: Who ruined Samantha’s tenth birthday party?”

It was Eddie who hit the buzzer first this time but before he could answer Samantha yelled, “This contest is rigged!”

“Yeah, so?” said Gwen. “Aren’t all game shows?”

“I’m deeply wounded Sam,” said Eddie. “It seems you don’t want me to win.”

“I don’t!”

“Just answer the question!” said the frustrated gameshow host.

“Eddie Ryland!” yelled both Samantha and Eddie.

“If you don’t want me to win,” said Eddie. “Then why did you give me the answer?”

Samantha gave him a pointed glare. “You knew it anyway.”

“Okay, moving right along,” said Logan. “What year was Samantha born?”

“1904!” Andrew shouted just as Logan said, “Wrong again.”

Samantha put her face in her hands. She felt like crying out in agony especially when Eddie said breezily, “1895.”

“That’s correct!”

“That was so unfair!” Samantha screamed.

“How?” said Logan. “Anyone who can do math could figure it out.”

Samantha grumbled angrily, but the host ignored her. “What magical creature is Samantha?”

Andrew practically threw himself at the buzzer. He paused though, when he realized he actually knew the answer. “Um . . . she’s a . . . um,” Andrew stalled. “I don’t know.”

“Then why did you hit the buzzer!” the host demanded.

Samantha was shooting daggers at him as Eddie said, “With a temper like that, she is most definitely a dragon.”

Samantha was fuming but there was no use in denying it.

“Right again,” said Logan. “Here is the last and final question which you’ll both have a chance to answer: What is your relationship status with Samantha?”

Andrew hit the buzzer first.

“Someone is a little eager,” said the host. “Take it Andrew!”

Andrew glanced at Samantha who turned on the charm and was smiling radiantly at him and then at Eddie who frowned and gave a shake of his head so slight Andrew almost missed it. Andrew took a deep breath. It was time.

“Samantha and I,” he paused, his eyes darting between the two of them once more. “We—”

“Spit it out boy!” the host shouted.

“— Are just friends.”

The audience gasped, Eddie let out a sigh of relief, and Samantha well, if looks could kill hers sure would have.

Andrew turned his back to Samantha. “We have only ever been friends—”

“Liar!” Samantha growled the betrayal evident in her voice.

“No,” said Andrew. “The truth is that we’ve never even kissed and I haven’t heard from her since last year when we met.”

“That’s a lie!” Samantha protested. “We exchange cards at every holiday and he came to all the Playroom parties we invited him to!” Only too late did Samantha realize how that sounded.

In the studio audience, Nellie muttered, “You blew it Samantha, you really blew it.”

Eddie Ryland couldn’t stop himself from grinning. He cleared his throat and all eyes turned to him. “If I may,” he said. “Let me tell you what my relationship with Samantha is like.”

Samantha jumped to her feet with the chair still tied to her backside. “Eddie, no!”

“Sorry Samantha, but we mustn’t tell secrets. Our relationship must come into the open.”

WHAT?!!”

“Samantha and I,” he paused dramatically putting a hand over his heart, “are madly in love.”

The audience went nuts as Samantha’s jaw went slack. “Congratulations Eddie! You won!” said Logan the game show host. “That’s all the time we have for today, folks, but we hope to see you next time on Logan’s love triangle!”

“Wait a minute,” said Samantha. “We’re your only contestants?”

“Maybe,” said Gwen.

They could literally see the smoke pouring from Samantha’s ears.

“Run,” whispered Logan. But it was too late for Samantha had already transformed into a dragon and scooped Glogan up in her talons to drag them off to meet their doom.

“And this is why,” said Gwen, “when Samantha isn’t happy nobody’s happy.”

After they had left, Eddie turned to Andrew. “I just love her when she’s mad, don’t you?”

With his eyes already widened in terror, Andrew shook his head violently before running from the Playroom screaming.

Eddie Ryland sighed, “Wimp.”

******************************************************************

 Poor Samantha didn’t seem to catch a break because the next torturous thing fate had in store for her was set up by the Bitties in the form of a musical.

“This is the best idea ever!” said Bitty Fatterson.

“I know right?” said Bitty Quansa. “We have so many people who look alike. I wonder why we’ve never thought of it before. We just can’t let Samantha see the cast list.”

“And why can’t we let Samantha see the cast list?” said a voice behind them.

“Oh, hi Samantha,” said Bitty Q.

“Because. . .” said Bitty F. “you’re in it.”

“Yeah, right,” said Samantha. When you have PFV’s most famous director living in your house, you get tired of begging for a spotlight that will never be yours.

“No, it’s true,” Bitty Q. said. “You’re girl number one.”

“Let me see that!”

CLONES: The Musical

Scene 1: Aliens are creating clones

                     Song: Put it together

Scene 2: Prank war Girls on one side of the mountain Boys on the other things are flying over the Mountain Man in the middle.

                     Song: G.N.O.

Scene 3: One girl (Girl #1) falls in love with a boy on the other side of the mountain

          Scene 4: More prank war while Mountain man sings

                     Song: Work this out

Scene 5: Two girls are switched with clones (Not Girl #1)

Scene 6: Another love scene (Girl #1 and Guy #1)

                     Song: You are the Music in Me

Scene 7: The girls who aren’t switched realize there is something wrong but they can’t figure out what.

Scene 8: Another clone switch

Scene 9: All guys except Guy #1 fall in love with the clones

                     Song: So this is Love

Scene 10: Love scene with clone (Clone #1 and Guy #1)

                     Song: You are the Music in Me (Sharpay version)

Scene 11: Guy #1 finds out about the Aliens and their Clones then tries to convince the other guys to save the real girls

                     Song: I don’t Dance

Scene 12: Battle scene Guys and Girls vs. the Aliens and their Clones

          Song: The Other Side of Me

FINALE: Best of Both Worlds

I think this is the worst play they’ve ever written,” said Nellie reading over Samantha’s shoulder.

“Tell me about it,” said Samantha. “But I don’t care how bad it is because we’re finally getting a chance to be in it.”

          “We’ve been in plays before.”

          Samantha gave her a look, “Yeah, as extras.”

“Hey, the only reason we’re in this one is because Molly and Emily make perfect clones for us.”

          “I’ll take what I can get,” said Samantha.

          “Me too,” said Nellie, “but I wonder who Guy #1 is.”

“Who in the world could it possibly be, I wonder?” said Eddie Ryland as he stepped into the Playroom.

“Oh no,” Samantha moaned.

“Oh yes,” said Eddie.

          Samantha yanked the cast list off the bulletin board and her heart sank as she read it:

                                         Cast

                     Aliens:            Cécile, Parker, Big D., Bitty F.

       Girl #1: Samantha               Clone #1: Molly               Guy #1: Eddie Ryland

Girl #2: Nellie                  Clone #2: Emily               Guy # 2: Brad Jack

Girl #3: Felicity               Clone #3: Kelsey             Guy #3: John

Girl #4: Elizabeth            Clone #4: Marie-Grace   Guy #4: The Pirate

Mountain Man: Gwen                Mountain Man’s Clone: Logan

“This cannot be happening to me!” Samantha cried.

“You better believe it Sam,” said Eddie as he put an arm around her and painted a picture in the sky with his other hand, “Because tomorrow, we’ll fall in love, sing a duet in front of billions of people, and save the world from aliens and their clones.”

Samantha scowled and plucked his arm off of her.

“Oh, that’s right,” he said. “I’ll be doing all the saving while you’re abducted by aliens.”

Samantha decided to ignore him. “You know what, Nellie?”

“What?”

“This is my big break and I’m not going to let someone like Eddie Ryland ruin it!”

Even though she was talking to Nellie, it was Eddie who answered. “That’s the spirit, Sam! I look forward to working with you.”

Samantha sighed in frustration. “Why do I get the feeling that everyone in this family is in cahoots with him?” She jerked her head in Eddie’s direction.

Nellie said, “You and me both, sister, you and me both.”

******************************************************************

   “QUIET!” Bitty F. shouted.

“Thank you Bitty,” said Bitty Q. “Now that you’re all costumed be careful not to change until AFTER the performances tomorrow. We’re putting on all three shows, Clones, Aliens, and the Detective Show.”

Samantha said, “Why is it that when they have actual Detectives available they put us all in Clones instead?”

“Hey,” said Nellie. “You should just be grateful you’re here at all.”

“Mountain Men!” Bitty F. said sharply. “How is the cloning machine coming?”

“Great,” said Gwen.

“We’re almost ready to start it up,” said Logan.

“You do know that we’re not actually going to clone people, right?” said Bitty Q.

“Aw, man!” said Logan.

“A cardboard box with a crayon sign that says Clone Master 2000 would have been fine,” said Bitty F.

“Told you so!” said Gwen.

Eddie said, “Would you mind starting rehearsal? I know Samantha can’t wait.”

“Yeah,” Samantha mumbled. “I can’t wait until this is over.”

“Scene 1, take 1,” said Bitty F. into a bull horn.

“Where are my Aliens?” Bitty Q. demanded. “I need them and my cloning machine on stage pronto!”

Like usual, dress rehearsal started off as a train wreck yet somehow, Bitty Quansa and company would always manage to pull it off for the actual performance. But thanks to Samantha, the chance of that happening this time was slim to none.

“Scene 3, take 103,” Bitty F. said glumly.

“I’m sorry,” said Samantha. “This would be so much easier if you had lines telling me what to say!”

Eddie said, “Is it really that hard to fall in love with me?”

“Yes!”

“This is why we don’t use Samantha,” Bitty F. whispered to Bitty Q.

Bitty Q. nodded, then told Samantha, “We’ve been over this, why should we waste time writing out lines you can’t memorize when you’re perfectly capable of coming up with something on the spot?”

“You know what?” said Bitty F. “Let’s just skip this scene for now.”

“But Bitty,” said Bitty Q. “What if she can’t do it by tomorrow?”

Bitty F. shrugged. “We’ll do what we always do. We’ll slip out of the theater and be in Mexico before it’s over and then let Glogan take credit for this whole mess.”

“Good idea, Cue Mountain man!”

******************************************************************

“Scene 6, take 1!” said Bitty F.

“Since Samantha is incapable of acting,” said Bitty Q, “Let’s skip right to the duet.”

Song Key:                        Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Yeah

Red= Samantha                You are the music in me

Blue=Eddie                      You know the words once upon a time

Purple= Both                    Make you listen

                                         When you dream there’s a chance you’ll find

                                         A little laughter, or happy ever after

                                         Your Harmony, to the melody

                                          It’s echoing inside my head

Single voice

                                         Single voice

          Above the noise

                               Like a common thread

                               Mm, you’re pulling me

                               When I hear my favorite song

                               I know that we belong

                               Oh, you are the music in me

                               Yeah it’s living in all of us

                               And it’s brought us here because

                               You are the music in me

          Na, Na, Na,                                Oh yeah

                                                   Na, N –

Samantha suddenly stopped singing. “Cut the music!”

          “Why?” said Eddie. “Do you think you’re not the music in me?”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” said Samantha reaching for the trash can.

“Samantha!” said Bitty Q. “It’s only two scenes, pull yourself together! Do you want to be part of this or not?”

“I just can’t do it,” Samantha whispered before rapidly exiting the Playroom.

Eddie made a move to go after her but Bitty F. grabbed his arm saying, “The show must go on!”

“That goes for you too, Nellie!” Bitty Q. snapped. “We’ve already lost one cast member; we’re not going to lose you guys too!”

“But we need Samantha!” Eddie protested.

“That’s too bad!” said Bitty Q.

Bitty F. said, “She’s not important for the rest of this scene anyway, not as long as we have you.”

“Alright,” said Bitty Q. “Let’s pick it up in scene seven where the clones enter.”

          For the rest of dress rehearsal, Eddie Ryland was stuck trapped in a room with the craziest people on earth without even Samantha for company. He played his part well, but it wasn’t worth it to him if Samantha wasn’t there to tease. How could she just leave like that? It didn’t make sense but everything about Samantha ceased to make sense a long time ago. If it were just him he’d understand, but the whole family was counting on her. He knew that no matter what happened she couldn’t bring herself to let them down so the moment rehearsal ended he planned to go after Samantha. The Playroom people had worked too hard and too long on this play for her to just throw it all away.

******************************************************************          

The last drops of afternoon light filtered down through the leaves of a neatly clipped hedge. Samantha sat hugging her knees in the lilac tunnel which was an exact replica of the hedge back in time separating Grandmary’s yard from the Ryland’s. When Samantha had first come to PFV, she recreated the hedge with magic as a symbol of her friendship with Nellie. Now, however, it serves all the Playroom citizens for many best friend heart to heart talks and secret meetings. Today though, Samantha was beginning to remember that before she even met Nellie she spent a great deal of time in that hedge with her annoying, obnoxious, rotten, pesky neighbor.

Samantha’s tears dried up when she heard footsteps leaving the Playroom. She had been in the Playroom far too long to know enough that lifelong humiliation comes as a result of being caught unprepared. “What is it Nellie?”

But as her annoying, obnoxious, rotten, pesky neighbor made his way in uninvited Samantha said, “Oh, it’s you, what do you want?”

Eddie Ryland grinned as he crawled in on his hands and knees. “Well, it’s nice to see you too.”

Suddenly Samantha saw him as a little boy when she remembered their fights in this tunnel. She paired that with the image of him now, a tall well-dressed young man tangled in the branches next to her. Samantha couldn’t help laughing hysterically at the sight especially when she thought of what Grandmary would say if only she could see them now. As she imagined the scandal this would have created back in time, she laughed a Samantha laugh, bright, hearty, and of course crazy. And that was just the way Eddie liked it.

“See, aren’t you glad I’m here?” He wiped the last trace of her tears away. “I dried up all that rain.”

Samantha’s laughter died on her tongue. She wanted nothing more than to snap his finger in half. Instead, she let it slide and tingled at the warmth of his touch. “There never was any rain,” she said stubbornly.

Eddie just rolled his eyes. “Puh-lease, maybe I’ll pretend to believe that like I pretend to believe you don’t love me.”

“I don’t!”

“Ha! Then why can’t you keep your hands off me?”

“WHAT?! And just what do you mean by that, Eddie Ryland?”

“This,” he said as he crushed his lips to hers in a powerfully passionate, desperate, unrelenting kiss. And as much as she denied him, Samantha couldn’t stop herself from enjoying every second of it.

As soon as it was over, Samantha slapped him hard across the face. “You sir, are -”

“Irresistible?”

“No, I was going to say -”

“Undeniable?” He grinned no doubt feeling very pleased with himself.

She shook her head and said, “Never mind.”

Eddie sighed sadly. “I know we had our differences Sam, but this is ridiculous even for you.”

“Don’t call me that,” she hissed. “And I despise you!”

“That kiss proved anything but! Do you think I’m stupid? I might have been a hundred years ago, but this is 2014 for crying out loud! If you must continue to be stubborn then I guess I have no choice.”

Samantha frowned. “What do you mean?”

“If you won’t do the play because of me then think of your family.”

“My family? What have they got to do with it?”

“Without you, how can the show go on?”

“Any one of them would be better than me,” she whispered fiercely. “The Bitties certainly seem to think so.”

“Who?  Do you want this to be another show starring Marie-Grace? This is your chance to shine Samantha and I can’t believe you’re letting your conflicted feelings about me get in the way!”

“I –”

“I don’t want to hear it, Sam, because we are getting on that stage tomorrow whether you like it or not.”

Samantha crossed her arms. “You can’t force me to do anything.”

Eddie threw his hands in the air. “For the love of –”

“What?”

Eddie shook his head as he grumbled, “Never mind.” He tried to be the perfect, charming, gentleman Marie-Grace said Samantha wanted but he just couldn’t. The girl was so dang frustrating! How did anyone put up with her? Then he had a better idea. He didn’t need to be charming all he needed was to speak Samantha language, a land where properness doesn’t exist.

He said, “Could you do us all a favor?”

Her eyes narrowed in suspicion as she spoke without hesitation, “No.”

“Please? I’ll do anything.” He saw the question on her lips and nodded. “Name anything and it’s yours.”

And then she smiled. She smiled that unsettling smile of hers, the one that always meant bad news for him. “Maybe,” she said. “What is it and what’s in it for you?”

Smart girl, he thought. He had to play his cards just right or disaster would strike. “For the play, could you at least give it a chance? I know you like to pretend you hate me, and as flattering as that may be, can you put that aside just for the play at least?”

Instead of arguing, Samantha considered his offer.

Eddie didn’t know how to interrupt her silence so he said, “If it’s really too much, then picture Andrew’s face instead of mine.”

Samantha was shocked. “Really, you’d allow that?”

          He nodded knowing this was something he would come to regret. “If you are seriously more in love with him than you are with me, which I highly doubt, then do it.” Eddie would do whatever it took to get Samantha up on that stage even if he would pay for it in the long run.

In that moment, Samantha knew she could never be satisfied with plain, boring, old Andrew ever again. But she wasn’t about to tell Eddie that. “Okay Eddie, I’ll do it.”

Feeling like he had just made a deal with the devil, Eddie Ryland shook her hand.

“But remember,” she said. “You owe me.”

He shuddered for he hated nothing more than to be in debt to Samantha Parkington.

******************************************************************

          Because the plays weren’t until tomorrow, the Playroom People had to come up with something to do that didn’t involve changing out of their costumes. So it was market day in the Playroom where they all set up booths to exchange their “goods.” Some were more useful than others like Samantha and Nellie’s where they tried to distribute the nobody bag of clothes. Others were more fun and dangerous like Glogan’s carnival games. By far the most popular booth belonged to Parker and Big D.

          In PFV, most everyone has a magical creature. Samantha is a dragon, Nellie is a mermaid, Molly is a werewolf, Logan is a leprechaun, Gwen is the long lost elf princess etc. Some require a transformation like the dragon, mermaid, werewolf etc. but others don’t like the elf, leprechaun, and Big D.

          Big D. is a seer and in PFV a seer is someone who sees glimpses of the future. The future is never set in stone so most of what they see doesn’t ever come to pass. But most people do not know that and it makes seers seem a little frightening.  They’re harmless, mostly. Except when a seer gazes into a person’s eyes a certain way they can cause that person to see their worst nightmare. This is probably why Big D.’s eyes are the way they are. She is using them to see beyond the ordinary. Also, seers are usually old hags so that explains her potato shaped head and hunched back.

          For the market, Parker set up Molly’s tent in the middle of the room and guarded the doorway as he sent people in to see Big D. or rather Madame Dolly. Meeting with a seer are very personal and usually kept private. But what did Logan do as soon as Samantha went in? She wired the tent so everyone could hear what was going on in there.

“Alright Big D, what’s my future?”

Big D. closed her eyes and stretched her hands out towards Samantha. “Shh, darling, don’t rush Madame Dolly.”

“Okay, Madame Dolly,” said Samantha. “We both know this is a two second process, so out with it.”

Madame Dolly took a long, deep, relaxed breath. “Hush, you know nothing about my craft.”

“And what’s with the accent?”

“Impatient, are we? Well fine, Parker escort Samantha out.”

As Parker entered the tent, Samantha said, “No, wait! I’ll be quiet.”

“Good,” said Madame Dolly, “Never mind Parker.”

Parker glared at Samantha. “Do not upset Madame Dolly, she tires easily.”

Madame Dolly’s hand fluttered to her forehead. “Oh, Parker!” she wailed. “Get me some grapes; I must restore my magical powers!”

Parker bowed. “Yes Madame Dolly, whatever you say Madame Dolly.”

“And a fruit smoothie couldn’t hurt either!”

“As you wish, Madame Dolly.”

A few minutes later Parker returned with the smoothie and Madame Dolly was sipping loudly from a bendy straw.

“If you’re not going to tell me my future,” said Samantha. “Then I’m just going to go.”        

“No, stop!” said Big D. gripping her forehead, “Brain Freeze!”

“Yeah, I’m leaving,” said Samantha.

“Wait! I’ll tell you your future but you’re not going to like it.”

 Samantha frowned. “What am I not going to like?”

          “Well . . .,” Big D. gulped some more of her smoothie. “On the path we’re on right now, you break Andrew’s heart by ending up with Eddie.”

          “That’s it? But that’s practically already happened!”

Madame Dolly held up a hand. “There’s more. Take a seat and I’ll tell you.”

Reluctantly, Samantha moved away from the door and took a seat across from Madame Dolly.

“You’re future is split, meaning there are two ways this could all go down.”

“Are they both bad?” Samantha asked.

“Yes and no. In both you have a big fight with Nellie.”

          “Fight?” said Samantha. “We almost never fight!”

          “Well, in the future you do,” said Madame Dolly. “You fight about . . . well, that’s not important, but it comes to a choice between your best friend and Eddie Ryland.”

Outside the tent, Nellie gasped. “Ouch,” said Logan. “That’s gotta hurt.”

“How does that feel?” said Gwen, “Your best friend choosing Eddie Ryland over you.”

“Shut up, Gwen!” said Nellie.

“Who do I choose?” Samantha asked Madame Dolly.

“It’s the future,” Madame Dolly explained. “It’s always moving and changing based on the actions we take today until it eventually becomes the present, and finally the past. Only you can decide Samantha, I can give you only a glimpse of what will happen if you choose one way but only you can change it.”

“Tell me both then.”

Madame Dolly said, “Very well. In the one where you choose Nellie you give up Eddie”

“But that’s good, isn’t it?”

Big D. shook her head. “No, in fact you’re miserable without him and you’re torturing yourself with what ifs. You gave up all your dreams of a fairy tale ending for Nellie.”

Nellie was quiet, staring at the tent yearning yet at the same time dreading to hear more.

“And the other?” Samantha said.

“You marry Eddie and never see Nellie again. She ends up alone with thirty cats.”

“Married?! To Eddie Ryland?! I can’t imagine a worser fate!”

“Actually,” said Big D. “You’re very happy except you’re missing Nellie.”

“Okay, that’s enough!” Nellie cried as she pulled the cord to the speakers.

An earsplitting screech filled the air and this prompted Samantha to leave the tent.

“Glogan!” shouted Samantha, “You micked the tent?”

Gwen nodded guiltily as Logan said, “It was Gwen’s idea!”

“No it wasn’t!” said Gwen.

“How much did you hear?” Samantha asked.

“Every word,” replied Nellie before leaving the room.

          “Nellie wait,” Samantha said. “I’m sorry.”

           Nellie whirled around. “You’re sorry? For what?”

          “I –”

“Come on,” Nellie grabbed her arm and pulled her into the lilac tunnel.

Gwen and Logan looked at each other, nodded, and stepped out into the sunshine.

“We need to talk,” said Nellie as they settled into the hedge.

Samantha hung her head. “We do.”

They were quiet, each one wanting to speak yet at the same time feeling too awkward to break the silence.

Finally Samantha said, “I’m sorry Nellie. If it means we aren’t friends anymore then I’ll –”

“Samantha,” Nellie interrupted gently. “I don’t want you to give up Eddie for me.”

“But –”

“Don’t waste time denying it. If Eddie makes you happy and you really love him, then go for it. I don’t want to stand in the way of that.”

“What? But Big D. said—”

“Big D. also said I have thirty cats,” said Nellie. “And we both know I’m not a cat person.”

Samantha laughed a little. “You’re right, it’s just that . . .”

“What?”

“It’s just that I don’t want to be one of those girls who brings home a guy her family doesn’t like.”

“Like Marie-Grace?”

Samantha nodded. They both knew how Cécile and the rest of the family felt about The Pirate. “Not just her though, it’s Felicity too. Remember how well Smith and Elizabeth got along?”

Nellie snorted. “I doubt anyone is going to make that mistake again.”

“And,” said Samantha, “I always thought I’d meet my prince charming somewhere private and secret then after I knew for certain I’d present him to the family and everything would be perfect.”

“Life doesn’t work like that, Samantha.”

“I know.”

“Glogan, the Babies and everyone else seems to really like Eddie.”

Samantha said, “A little too well, I’m afraid.”

Nellie laughed. “There’s that too.”

“But you don’t,” said Samantha. “Like him, I mean.”

Nellie hesitated. “No but—”

“I knew it!” Samantha said. “And I don’t want to be with him if it makes you unhappy.”

“Samantha, listen! You need to not worry about what everyone else thinks and make yourself happy. I remember the old Eddie, the one who treated me like the servant I was. You say he’s changed, has he?”

“Oh yes, he —”

“I haven’t met this new and improved Eddie Ryland yet. Give me a chance and then I’ll see what I think.”

Samantha breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“But that doesn’t mean you should plan your life around what I think.”

“I’m not saying that I do,” Samantha said slowly. “But if I did care–” she gagged on the word, “about him, then what?”

A faint smile touched Nellie’s lips as she said, “Then I would be okay with that and I would encourage you to go for it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes Samantha, I’m sure.”

Samantha gave her a hug. “Thanks, Nellie. You’re a true friend. What did I ever do to deserve you?”

Hearing everything they needed, Gwen and Logan dashed into the Playroom before Samantha and Nellie emerged from the hedge. Glogan threw themselves in their shelf and tried to look casual as Samantha and Nellie came in.

“Don’t worry,” said Logan innocently. “I fully approve of your boyfriend.”

Samantha glared at her knowing full well they had been eavesdropping. “Eddie Ryland is not nor will he ever be my boyfriend!”

Logan shrugged.

 “Well whatever he is,” said Gwen. “We fully approve.”

“Yeah,” added Logan. “The only thing wrong with him is that he’s in love with you.”

“Gee thanks guys,” said Samantha. “Like your opinion really matters considering you’re on the same level of annoying as Eddie Ryland!”

“Aw,” said Logan. “So you do love us.”

“More like barely tolerating,” mumbled Samantha.

Gwen teared up a bit. “I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to us.”

Both Samantha and Nellie rolled their eyes. “Boys,” they muttered.

******************************************************************

Lights, camera, action! Show time was almost here and there was a lot to do. CLONES the musical would be performed first followed by ALIENS and then the Detective Show with as little transition time as possible.

          In PFV, real aliens live on the moon and the people of earth have been at war with them for centuries. Tonight, there were some aliens in the audience which sent the Bitties over the edge because they knew the real aliens might take offense to their artistic interpretations and that could lead to another war. But right now, Bitty Quansa’s most pressing concern lay with Samantha.

          “Is the private jet ready to go?” Bitty Q. murmured to Bitty F.

          “Yes, but I just hope we can make it there before the aliens annihilate us all first.”

          “Do you think she’ll be able to do it?”

“Not a chance,” said Bitty F.

 “Where is that girl anyway?”

  “I’ll go find out,” said Nellie.

***************************************************************

          Samantha was backstage in a dressing room breathing in and out, forcing herself to relax. How Marie-Grace did this all the time was beyond her. All she could think about with a growing horror was the fact that she would be on stage falling with Eddie Ryland in a few moment’s time. Her thoughts were disturbed, however, when the mailman appeared in a puff of smoke.

          “Mail,” he said. “From some guy named Andrew. You might not want to read it.”

          Samantha gave him a look. “And did it ever occur to you that you shouldn’t read it either?”

The mailman shrugged and disappeared. Samantha sighed as she opened the letter:

Howdy, partner!

       After that game show, I just thought I’d take a minute to say what’s on my mind. I like you and I have a feeling you like me too. But it’s never been more than that, has it? I don’t know who that other guy on the show is, but whether or not it was rigged he still seems to know you a lot more than I do. What I mean is this: I could never fill his shoes so if he is the guy for you then run to him and let nothing stop you. My love for you is as vast and rolling as the western landscape and I love you enough to let you be with someone else. But remember this Samantha, our story maybe un-special, unknown, and a classic case of country boy meets city girl, but it’s something I’ll treasure forever, even if you find your heart elsewhere. I’m a big boy Samantha; I can handle a messy breakup. My plan is to lose with dignity to the better man and wait with open arms for my own true love.

Maybe we can still be friends,

Andrew

*****************************************************************                 Samantha was stunned and time seemed to stop even though she knew this had to happen. Samantha liked Andrew, of course she did or he wouldn’t be her boyfriend. But…

His mere presence didn’t send her heart into spasms.

He never made her knees weak as her lips burned with heated passion under the weight of his kiss.

He didn’t steal her breath away or simply make her nervous by being on the same continent during the same time period.

He was an average country farmer boy from the present. Unlike someone else she knew…

And Eddie Ryland, well, all he ever did was grin stupidly at her, the rascal.

Samantha was beyond mad. She was furious. But she was more furious with herself for being in love with a dope like Eddie in the first place.

There was a soft knock on the door as Nellie entered. “Samantha? We’re almost ready to start and everyone is wondering —”

She broke off when she noticed Samantha’s expression. “Is everything alright?” 

“I don’t know,” Samantha said simply. “I think Andrew just dumped me.”

To be continued . . .  

Where Madness Begins

Where

  Madness

     Begins

Take a walk down Play road with Samantha Parkington and Eddie Ryland

                            By: Detective #52

Mr. Edward Ryland has made the terrible mistake of existing, at least in Samantha Parkington’s mind. By coming to PFV, Samantha had thought she’d seen the last of that grinning fool but clearly she was wrong. He harassed her this summer with a series jokes Samantha once played on him then he disguised himself to get her to spend time with him. Finally vacation is over and the whole family is headed back to the playroom for even more fun in the sun. Samantha is sure she’s lost Eddie for good by ditching him in Australia only she comes to find out he was vacationing too! In reality he only lives a couple streets over and they’re neighbors once more. Can they call a truce or will they keep pushing the limits until one of them is pushed over the deep end in madness?

-Detective #52

Samantha kept on running as fast and as far as her legs could carry her. Her stomach balled itself into an angry wasps nest and her heart constricted at the irony of meeting her greatest rival here in her sanctuary. Never in her wildest dreams, except perhaps in her worst nightmares, did Eddie Ryland appear from her past to taunt and torment her forevermore.

For years, Samantha had struggled to feel at home in the year 2000 and now when she thought she’d finally found her place he shows up and ruins everything. Her eyes watered and before she knew it, hot, sticky tears blurred her vision as she raced on. In Samantha’s world, Eddie’s reappearance did far more than merely disgust her, this time he had crossed the line by reopening old wounds of homesickness, the only disease for which there is no cure.

But besides conjuring up a fierce passion for the past, Eddie Ryland’s presence added another complication to the mix. One of a more romantic nature though Samantha refused to think of it that way.

Yet the kiss continued to replay over and over and over again in her mind, her body swept up in the sensation of the moment, her brain caught in the turmoil of meeting, and her heart…

Samantha couldn’t bear to relive what her heart said. “Life isn’t fair,” she murmured to herself. “And I hope Eddie Ryland falls off a cliff.”

She couldn’t even find consolation in wishing the worst upon him for the little part of her that actually cared screamed out in protest.

Samantha looked up from her misery long enough to realize she had no idea where she was. Great. The last thing she needed right now was to be lost in a foreign country. Samantha hung her head in defeat as she plopped herself down in the nearest dark alley. Maybe getting lost is a blessing, she thought as she began to sob. This way, she wouldn’t have to deal with the harassment her family was sure to give had they witnessed this scene.

******************************************************************

Eddie stood there for quite some time, the sting of Samantha’s rejection echoing like a slap across his heart. He could not unsee her sweet smile morphing into a look of utter horror the moment she realized what she thought was the truth: Eddie Ryland her greatest nemesis back from the past to haunt and humiliate her even more.

And could he blame her? For most of their childhood Eddie had teased her to no end. In his defense, Samantha would tease and threaten him right back and she would often pull a trick more mean than his own. If he were the same boy Samantha’s disgust would please him. But he was a young man now, almost completely grown up and all it did was bring him pain.

He’d always admired Samantha, bright and sweet, pretty and sophisticated, yet she had an edge as sharp and as smooth as a knife blade. But most of all she was someone he could talk to, in rapid fire insults, and laugh with despite how much she believed he laughed at her.

Eddie wondered when his childhood companion had become something more. Something deeper. Something nearer and dearer to his heart in no way he’s ever experienced before. He wondered when childish affection had become love.

Love just thinking the word made him feel freer, like he could fly all the way to Pluto and back for Samantha. Samantha his darling, his sweetheart Samantha, was probably off hating his guts right now.    

With this his happiness fell into a wave of disappointment. But then, he’d always known Samantha would be a hard catch to reel in especially since it was him doing the fishing. This is why he stalled for more time as a stranger so Samantha would be forced into giving him a chance before she slammed the door in his face. Eddie knows Samantha very well and could predict her actions with some (not complete) accuracy. 

It occurred to him that unlike last time he couldn’t let her get away. He lost her once before when she travelled to the future. She couldn’t leave him, not now when they’ve just rediscovered each other. And as he ran after her, Eddie Ryland vowed that he would get Samantha Parkington to declare her love for him, one way or another, no matter how long it took. ******************************************************************

Marie-Grace Gardner skipped happily down the streets of Sydney, thrilled with another performance well down. As always she had the starring role in Bitty’s opera and was still humming the songs long after the musical numbers had ended.

In the distance, a tall ship flying the Jolly Roger rose high over the water. When most people saw that flag they ran in terror. But not Marie-Grace for she just smiled and kept going, dreaming of an evening spent with her Pirate, dancing the night away on his ship.

Her smile only faded when she heard a half strangled cry arise from a connecting alleyway. She tentatively crept over to the yawning mouth of the black side street to see a historically dressed young woman hunched over in sobs.

Marie-Grace gasped. “Samantha?” Samantha had been living in PFV for nine years and no one in that entire length of time rarely ever saw her cry.

Yet here she was crouched on the ground in one of the dirtiest corners of Sydney with tears streaming down her cheeks. At least, Marie-Grace thought they were tears, with Samantha you could never be sure.

Marie-Grace rushed over to her adopted sister and gently knelt beside her. “Samantha,” she said softly.

Samantha moaned.

“Samantha, are you alright?” Clearly not, but one never knew.

Samantha picked her head up and let out a sob. “I hate him, I hate him, I hate him!” She howled. “And I’ll never stop hating him!”

“Who?” asked Marie-Grace.

“Eddie Ryland,” she spat as she cried some more. Marie-Grace had heard of him, though she didn’t know all the details. But she did know that if anyone from any Playroom person’s past suddenly reappeared then it would release a flood gate of emotions.

“He’s a jerk,” Samantha continued. “Who is supposed to be stuck in 1904 and I’ll never stop cursing him for intruding on my life!”

“Oh, you can’t mean that!” Marie-Grace exclaimed.

“Yes I do!”

“But what has he ever done that’s so terrible?” It must have been a silly childhood rivalry, thought Marie-Grace thinking it would be easy to dismiss.

Samantha growled at her with an animal like rage. Marie-Grace flinched but didn’t back down. “Everything he does has an evil motive plotted to attack me. He’s out to get me!”

Then Marie-Grace realized that this was something that couldn’t be dismissed, not as long as Samantha kept living in the past. “Samantha, maybe there’s a reason he ended up here -”

“Don’t you think I thought of that already?!” Samantha screamed shrilly, the kiss still lingering on her lips.

“Um. . .”

“And don’t you think that the mere idea,” she gagged, “makes me want to be violently ill?”

“But -”

“No, I don’t want to hear it because not all of us can get perfect pirates like you,” Samantha snapped coldly.

 Marie-Grace winced yet she still sighed and took Samantha’s hand. “You’re right Samantha. Not everyone gets to live happily ever after with seafaring criminals. But here’s where you’re wrong. Just because Eddie isn’t the prince you imagined doesn’t make his love any less true.”

Samantha quickly snatched her hand away. “You just don’t understand!” she sobbed. “No one knows what it’s like to have happily ever after ripped away from them!”

“I do,” said Marie-Grace said quietly.

Samantha turned to face her. “What did you say?”

“I said, ‘I do’ because I know exactly what it’s like.”

“What?!”

Marie-Grace nodded. “You’re not the only one who thought she’d found a home at the end of their books nor will you be the last. For me, I thought I was finally home in New Orleans after a long and lonely childhood in the northeast.”

“I was alone too,” Samantha whispered.

But Marie-Grace shook her head. “Not as lonely as me because you had a house full of servants, a boat load of friends, and a pesky neighbor boy to play with. All I ever had was a grumpy housekeeper and a father who was often working late.”

“Oh,” said Samantha.

“But then I was home at last in New Orleans until that was ripped away from me by coming to the playroom.”

“Okay yes,” said Samantha. “We both lost a true home and then we both found one in the playroom. But you’ve never had to deal with Eddie Ryland.”

Marie-Grace took a firm hold of her shoulders and almost shook her. “Is this about Eddie Ryland or is this about missing your life back in time?”

Samantha whimpered. “Both.”

Marie-Grace thought for a moment, debating how she should go about this. She had never been a good friend to Cécile and right know she hoped she could be a better sister to Samantha.

“Our happy endings back in time were apparently not meant to be,” said Marie-Grace. “But this family in the future is and as time travelers it’s our time now to build new beginnings for ourselves. For me happily ever after came on a ship with a Pirate Captain. But for you. . .” She trailed off hoping Samantha would fill in the rest. But Samantha had no reaction or sarcastic comment.

“Eddie Ryland crossed a century to reach you Samantha. Can’t you see what a glorious opportunity a life with Eddie has to offer?”

Silence.

Then both Samantha and Marie-Grace paused to hear footsteps and see a shadow of a man standing in the mouth of the alley.

Marie-Grace jumped feeling a bit nervous but Samantha recognized the outline and rolled her head back muttering, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Not quite as jumpy, Marie-Grace moved to greet the unwanted guest as Samantha desperately tried to free herself of any last trace of tears. She heard her sister say, “I think you’d better go. She needs some time alone.”

Eddie Ryland started to leave but Samantha called out, “No. let him come see my tears so he can have something to gloat about later.”

Eddie strode over to her. “Samantha I –”

“You’ve finally collected your revenge now go back to Mount Bedford where you belong.”

Momentarily ignoring her, Eddie held out a hand offering to help her up but she shoved it away and struggled to stand on her own.

Once she was up, Eddie searched into her eyes and decided to try again. “You don’t understand –”

“I understand plenty.”

He struggled to keep his own temper in check. Fine then, if that’s how she wanted to play. “What do you understand?”

“That’s it’s your personal mission to make me miserable.”

“Baloney! Samantha Parkington you are full of baloney!”

“I am not!”

“You are too!” Anger exploded out of him now so much so even Samantha couldn’t fail to notice how his eyes blazed and his jaw set. “If you even knew me at all then you’d know that that is not at all why I’m here!”

Samantha barred her teeth. “Stop following me! All my life you’ve followed me so you could taunt, tease, and humiliate me! The only thing I can’t figure out is why! Why do you care so much?”

I love you, he almost shouted. Quickly he bit his tongue and instead said, “Fine. I’ll get out of your life!”

“Good.”

“Great.”

“Good riddance Ryland! I hope you crawl back under whatever rock it is you came from and stay there like the toad you are!”

“Good bye Parkington! I hope someone in your family has better sense than you do!”

They stood staring each other down with their hands on their hips in a ridiculously childlike fashion until Samantha couldn’t take it any longer. Her heel came down hard on her foot and she stomped away screaming, “I’ll get you, Eddie Ryland! Even if it’s the last thing I do!”

“Ha! I’d like to see you try!” Eddie yelled holding his injured foot. He was about to go after her and give her a piece of his mind when Marie-Grace laid a hand on his arm.

“Don’t,” she said. “You’ll only make it worse and if there’s any hope of winning her over then you need to use all that charm Samantha thinks you don’t have.”

A light of understanding dawned on him as he saw her angle. “That’s brilliant! But I fear that no matter what I do, it’ll never satisfy Samantha.”

****************************************************************** 

 For Samantha and her family the next couple of days passed in a blur. After the whole Eddie Ryland incident, Samantha just had to get out of Australia and as the oldest she had the power to plan a spontaneous trip to Asia. She scheduled as many overlapping activities as she could while she lead her family through the highlights of Japan, China, and India in two days.

With eight children from Play road it was chaotic craziness. But Samantha didn’t mind because it kept her mind off of you know who. She was determined to forget about him but that didn’t stop a thought or two from sneaking in. Fearing more nightmares, Samantha didn’t book a hotel and instead kept them busy through the night. By the end everyone was sleep deprived and more than a little aggravated, Samantha most of all. She did, however, manage to bike the Great Wall of China and Climb Mount Everest all without cracking. It was the postcard from Nellie that finally did it. It reminded Samantha that even half a world away her best friend was having the same crazy problems of her own with her family.

******************************************************************

Note to reader:

I decided to not insert Nellie’s postcard here mostly because it is very long, has almost nothing to do with this story, and is filled to the brim with Playroom jargon making it difficult to understand. But it is still interesting to see what Nellie and her family were up to while Samantha was meeting her match. So Nellie’s postcard can be found under its own tab in the table of contents.

Samantha’s reply is also included under Nellie’s tab. In it Samantha tells Nellie about the mysterious stranger proving to Nellie that she was right about his identity all along. Nellie writes another postcard to Samantha and even though Samantha will never dare admit it, this one greatly influences her thoughts and feelings towards the whole Eddie Ryland situation. This whole postcard exchange ends when both Playroom families decided enough is enough and that it’s time to go home.

******************************************************************

 Samantha really didn’t like the way Glogan were acting. She never does but today they seemed especially odd with their heads bowed together as they deep in discussion as they scribbled notes on a piece of paper. After being apart for a few weeks it was only natural that they would spend time together but this was ridiculous. For the whole plane ride home Gwen had her phone glued to her ear and now Glogan were relatively quiet for the first time in ten years.

It was that and the fact that they kept glancing in her direction that should have tipped Samantha off, but she was just so exhausted from the Asia trip and she knew the truth would come out eventually so why bother? This was a decision Samantha would come to regret and a mistake she’ll likely not make again.

******************************************************************

 As Samantha stepped into the Playroom one day, her heart skipped a beat when she saw a familiar stranger standing in her area.

“Nice place you got here, Sam,” he said.

Instead of being polite and saying hello, she marched over to him and demanded, “What are you doing here?!”

“Now, Now, Miss Samantha, is that anyway to treat a guest? Whatever would Grandmary say?” said Eddie Ryland.

“You’re not a guest,” Samantha grumbled. “You’re an unwanted trespasser.”

“That’s not what Glogan told me when they invited me over.”

“What!”

Just then a herd of Playroom guys came through the door for an unexpected visit including –

“Howdy there my partner, Samantha!”

Samantha winced. “Hello Andrew.” Samantha met Andrew exactly one year ago today when she and Nellie went out West while their moms went camping in the real world.

“Well, well, well,” said Eddie. “Who do we have here?”

“My name’s Andrew,” said Andrew as he shook Eddie’s hand.

“Aren’t you going to introduce us, Sam?” Eddie said.

“It seems you’re doing just fine on your own,” said Samantha. This was one of the most awkward conversations of her life with both her current boyfriend and the boy who made it perfectly clear he’d like to be.

“I reckon you’re Eddie Ryland,” said Andrew. “That annoying kid from Samantha’s childhood.”

Eddie raised an eyebrow at Samantha as he told Andrew, “Yes, yes I am. But who the heck are you?”

Andrew’s smile fell. “You mean Samantha hasn’t mentioned me at all?”

“Nope, not a word,” said Eddie.

Samantha wanted to kill Eddie for making her look bad because surely, Andrew must have come up at some point.

Suddenly, the door slammed closed and was bolted shut with a blast of magic as a stage appeared in the middle of the room. “As much as I hate to interrupt all this,” said Logan. “I need Eddie to help me tie Samantha to that chair on the raised platform, center stage.”

“What!” Samantha shouted as Eddie wrapped his arms around her. “Put me down!”

“No can do, sweetheart.” Eddie said fighting with a struggling Samantha. “If we could be sure you’d be a good little girl and not run off then we wouldn’t have to do this. Now wish me luck.”

“For what?! What’s going on?”

Both Eddie and Andrew took seats on either side of Samantha as the curtain rose and Logan took her place by the microphone. “Welcome to Logan’s love triangle!”

“Gwen’s,” Gwen whispered from the side.

“Fine,” said Logan. “Glogan’s love triangle the game show where we take a lovely young woman–” the spotlight moved to the seething Samantha. “—and the two young men fighting for her and ask them questions to find out who is really her true love! I’m your host Logan Buckingham!”

“What!” Samantha shouted. “This is perfectly ridiculous! I refuse to be part of it!”

“It’s too late now,” said Gwen. “If you haven’t noticed you’re tied to a chair and we’re on live television.”

“Yeah, all you have to do is sit there and look pretty.” Aside to Gwen, Logan said, “And she’s not even capable of that.”

They snickered as Samantha said, “I heard that! And I demand a commercial break!”

“Hey! You can’t call commercial!”

“Sorry,” said Parker the cameraman. “But she just did. We’re on commercial.”

Logan threw down her mic in a huff. “Take five everyone but leave Samantha tied up.”

Eddie walked over to Samantha. “Not so close,” she warned. “I bite.”

He grinned. “I know which is why I’m going to win.”

“You are not. Andrew knows me better.”

“Ha! That boy has no idea what’s in store for him if he’s involved with you!”

“Like you would know! And you know nothing about Andrew!’

“Um, guys, standing right here,” said Andrew.

He was ignored as Eddie said, “Worried I might win, Sam?”

“Don’t call me that!” she snapped.

“Why, it’s your name.”

“My name is Samantha! Only Uncle Gard called me that.”

“Who is Uncle Gard?” said Andrew.

“See?” said Eddie.

Parker said, “We’re on in 10. . . 9. . . .”

As everyone scrambled into position Eddie Ryland said, “Oh honey, did I forget to mention that I live on Castle Street and just happened to be on vacation in Australia this summer, too?”

“You followed me?!” Samantha screeched her voice rising three octaves.

He smiled and winked at her. “Anything for you, love.”

Samantha snarled as she yearned to wrap her hands around his neck and strangle him.

Seeing this whole exchange, Andrew took one glance at the pair of them and knew he had lost. Everyone in the audience knew it too so he resolved to end this as quickly and painlessly as possible. There was only one person cheering his name and that was Samantha herself. But deep down, she really didn’t mean it because in her heart she was in love with Eddie.

“Eddie Ryland!” Samantha shouted. “There is no possible way that you’ll win!”

“Watch me, Samantha Parkington! Just watch!”

“Okay and we’re live,” said Parker.

“Welcome back to Logan’s love triangle!” announced the game show host.

“Glogan’s,” Gwen coughed from the side.

“Whatever,” said Logan. “Sorry about that brief interruption, we just had to take care of a few technical difficulties.” She glared at Samantha. “So this is how this works: I’ll ask a question and whoever hits the buzzer first gets to answer, if they get it wrong, the other person has a chance to answer for double points.”

“Double?” Samantha echoed. “How does that make any sense?”

“It doesn’t,” Gwen said cheerfully.

The host continued, “First question: What is Samantha’s middle name?”

Andrew and Eddie hit the buzzer at the same time. “After you,” said Eddie as he smiled dangerously.

Andrew gulped. “Um . . . Rose.”

Samantha smacked a hand to her forehead as Logan said, “I’m sorry, that is incorrect.”

From the studio audience Gwen chanted, “Let’s go Eddie, let’s go!”

“Mm, let’s see.” Eddie stroked his chin as he pretended to think about it. “She calls her Grandmother Grandmary, so I’m going to go with Mary.”

“That is correct!”

“Come on Andrew,” Samantha pleaded. “It was only one question, you can do better I know you can.”

Andrew mumbled, “I wouldn’t be so sure of that.”

“Next question,” said Logan. “What is Samantha’s favorite ice cream–?”

Andrew hit the buzzer. “Strawberry!”

“You’re supposed to wait until I finish the question!” Logan whined.

“You’re pathetic Andrew,” said Eddie as he slammed his fist into the buzzer. “Because everyone knows it’s peppermint.”

Before Samantha could react the host said, “Right again. Eddie, you’re on a roll. Andrew, you’re not doing so hot. You should try harder with this next question: Who ruined Samantha’s tenth birthday party?”

It was Eddie who hit the buzzer first this time but before he could answer Samantha yelled, “This contest is rigged!”

“Yeah, so?” said Gwen. “Aren’t all game shows?”

“I’m deeply wounded Sam,” said Eddie. “It seems you don’t want me to win.”

“I don’t!”

“Just answer the question!” said the frustrated gameshow host.

“Eddie Ryland!” yelled both Samantha and Eddie.

“If you don’t want me to win,” said Eddie. “Then why did you give me the answer?”

Samantha gave him a pointed glare. “You knew it anyway.”

“Okay, moving right along,” said Logan. “What year was Samantha born?”

“1904!” Andrew shouted just as Logan said, “Wrong again.”

Samantha put her face in her hands. She felt like crying out in agony especially when Eddie said breezily, “1895.”

“That’s correct!”

“That was so unfair!” Samantha screamed.

“How?” said Logan. “Anyone who can do math could figure it out.”

Samantha grumbled angrily, but the host ignored her. “What magical creature is Samantha?”

Andrew practically threw himself at the buzzer. He paused though, when he realized he actually knew the answer. “Um . . . she’s a . . . um,” Andrew stalled. “I don’t know.”

“Then why did you hit the buzzer!” the host demanded.

Samantha was shooting daggers at him as Eddie said, “With a temper like that, she is most definitely a dragon.”

Samantha was fuming but there was no use in denying it.

“Right again,” said Logan. “Here is the last and final question which you’ll both have a chance to answer: What is your relationship status with Samantha?”

Andrew hit the buzzer first.

“Someone is a little eager,” said the host. “Take it Andrew!”

Andrew glanced at Samantha who turned on the charm and was smiling radiantly at him and then at Eddie who frowned and gave a shake of his head so slight Andrew almost missed it. Andrew took a deep breath. It was time.

“Samantha and I,” he paused, his eyes darting between the two of them once more. “We—”

“Spit it out boy!” the host shouted.

“— Are just friends.”

The audience gasped, Eddie let out a sigh of relief, and Samantha well, if looks could kill hers sure would have.

Andrew turned his back to Samantha. “We have only ever been friends—”

“Liar!” Samantha growled the betrayal evident in her voice.

“No,” said Andrew. “The truth is that we’ve never even kissed and I haven’t heard from her since last year when we met.”

“That’s a lie!” Samantha protested. “We exchange cards at every holiday and he came to all the Playroom parties we invited him to!” Only too late did Samantha realize how that sounded.

In the studio audience, Nellie muttered, “You blew it Samantha, you really blew it.”

Eddie Ryland couldn’t stop himself from grinning. He cleared his throat and all eyes turned to him. “If I may,” he said. “Let me tell you what my relationship with Samantha is like.”

Samantha jumped to her feet with the chair still tied to her backside. “Eddie, no!”

“Sorry Samantha, but we mustn’t tell secrets. Our relationship must come into the open.”

WHAT?!!”

“Samantha and I,” he paused dramatically putting a hand over his heart, “are madly in love.”

The audience went nuts as Samantha’s jaw went slack. “Congratulations Eddie! You won!” said Logan the game show host. “That’s all the time we have for today, folks, but we hope to see you next time on Logan’s love triangle!”

“Wait a minute,” said Samantha. “We’re your only contestants?”

“Maybe,” said Gwen.

They could literally see the smoke pouring from Samantha’s ears.

“Run,” whispered Logan. But it was too late for Samantha had already transformed into a dragon and scooped Glogan up in her talons to drag them off to meet their doom.

“And this is why,” said Gwen, “when Samantha isn’t happy nobody’s happy.”

After they had left, Eddie turned to Andrew. “I just love her when she’s mad, don’t you?”

With his eyes already widened in terror, Andrew shook his head violently before running from the Playroom screaming.

Eddie Ryland sighed, “Wimp.”

******************************************************************

 Poor Samantha didn’t seem to catch a break because the next torturous thing fate had in store for her was set up by the Bitties in the form of a musical.

“This is the best idea ever!” said Bitty Fatterson.

“I know right?” said Bitty Quansa. “We have so many people who look alike. I wonder why we’ve never thought of it before. We just can’t let Samantha see the cast list.”

“And why can’t we let Samantha see the cast list?” said a voice behind them.

“Oh, hi Samantha,” said Bitty Q.

“Because. . .” said Bitty F. “you’re in it.”

“Yeah, right,” said Samantha. When you have PFV’s most famous director living in your house, you get tired of begging for a spotlight that will never be yours.

“No, it’s true,” Bitty Q. said. “You’re girl number one.”

“Let me see that!”

CLONES: The Musical

Scene 1: Aliens are creating clones

                     Song: Put it together

Scene 2: Prank war Girls on one side of the mountain Boys on the other things are flying over the Mountain Man in the middle.

                     Song: G.N.O.

Scene 3: One girl (Girl #1) falls in love with a boy on the other side of the mountain

          Scene 4: More prank war while Mountain man sings

                     Song: Work this out

Scene 5: Two girls are switched with clones (Not Girl #1)

Scene 6: Another love scene (Girl #1 and Guy #1)

                     Song: You are the Music in Me

Scene 7: The girls who aren’t switched realize there is something wrong but they can’t figure out what.

Scene 8: Another clone switch

Scene 9: All guys except Guy #1 fall in love with the clones

                     Song: So this is Love

Scene 10: Love scene with clone (Clone #1 and Guy #1)

                     Song: You are the Music in Me (Sharpay version)

Scene 11: Guy #1 finds out about the Aliens and their Clones then tries to convince the other guys to save the real girls

                     Song: I don’t Dance

Scene 12: Battle scene Guys and Girls vs. the Aliens and their Clones

          Song: The Other Side of Me

FINALE: Best of Both Worlds

I think this is the worst play they’ve ever written,” said Nellie reading over Samantha’s shoulder.

“Tell me about it,” said Samantha. “But I don’t care how bad it is because we’re finally getting a chance to be in it.”

          “We’ve been in plays before.”

          Samantha gave her a look, “Yeah, as extras.”

“Hey, the only reason we’re in this one is because Molly and Emily make perfect clones for us.”

          “I’ll take what I can get,” said Samantha.

          “Me too,” said Nellie, “but I wonder who Guy #1 is.”

“Who in the world could it possibly be, I wonder?” said Eddie Ryland as he stepped into the Playroom.

“Oh no,” Samantha moaned.

“Oh yes,” said Eddie.

          Samantha yanked the cast list off the bulletin board and her heart sank as she read it:

                                         Cast

                     Aliens:            Cécile, Parker, Big D., Bitty F.

       Girl #1: Samantha               Clone #1: Molly               Guy #1: Eddie Ryland

Girl #2: Nellie                  Clone #2: Emily               Guy # 2: Brad Jack

Girl #3: Felicity               Clone #3: Kelsey             Guy #3: John

Girl #4: Elizabeth            Clone #4: Marie-Grace   Guy #4: The Pirate

Mountain Man: Gwen                Mountain Man’s Clone: Logan

“This cannot be happening to me!” Samantha cried.

“You better believe it Sam,” said Eddie as he put an arm around her and painted a picture in the sky with his other hand, “Because tomorrow, we’ll fall in love, sing a duet in front of billions of people, and save the world from aliens and their clones.”

Samantha scowled and plucked his arm off of her.

“Oh, that’s right,” he said. “I’ll be doing all the saving while you’re abducted by aliens.”

Samantha decided to ignore him. “You know what, Nellie?”

“What?”

“This is my big break and I’m not going to let someone like Eddie Ryland ruin it!”

Even though she was talking to Nellie, it was Eddie who answered. “That’s the spirit, Sam! I look forward to working with you.”

Samantha sighed in frustration. “Why do I get the feeling that everyone in this family is in cahoots with him?” She jerked her head in Eddie’s direction.

Nellie said, “You and me both, sister, you and me both.”

******************************************************************

   “QUIET!” Bitty F. shouted.

“Thank you Bitty,” said Bitty Q. “Now that you’re all costumed be careful not to change until AFTER the performances tomorrow. We’re putting on all three shows, Clones, Aliens, and the Detective Show.”

Samantha said, “Why is it that when they have actual Detectives available they put us all in Clones instead?”

“Hey,” said Nellie. “You should just be grateful you’re here at all.”

“Mountain Men!” Bitty F. said sharply. “How is the cloning machine coming?”

“Great,” said Gwen.

“We’re almost ready to start it up,” said Logan.

“You do know that we’re not actually going to clone people, right?” said Bitty Q.

“Aw, man!” said Logan.

“A cardboard box with a crayon sign that says Clone Master 2000 would have been fine,” said Bitty F.

“Told you so!” said Gwen.

Eddie said, “Would you mind starting rehearsal? I know Samantha can’t wait.”

“Yeah,” Samantha mumbled. “I can’t wait until this is over.”

“Scene 1, take 1,” said Bitty F. into a bull horn.

“Where are my Aliens?” Bitty Q. demanded. “I need them and my cloning machine on stage pronto!”

Like usual, dress rehearsal started off as a train wreck yet somehow, Bitty Quansa and company would always manage to pull it off for the actual performance. But thanks to Samantha, the chance of that happening this time was slim to none.

“Scene 3, take 103,” Bitty F. said glumly.

“I’m sorry,” said Samantha. “This would be so much easier if you had lines telling me what to say!”

Eddie said, “Is it really that hard to fall in love with me?”

“Yes!”

“This is why we don’t use Samantha,” Bitty F. whispered to Bitty Q.

Bitty Q. nodded, then told Samantha, “We’ve been over this, why should we waste time writing out lines you can’t memorize when you’re perfectly capable of coming up with something on the spot?”

“You know what?” said Bitty F. “Let’s just skip this scene for now.”

“But Bitty,” said Bitty Q. “What if she can’t do it by tomorrow?”

Bitty F. shrugged. “We’ll do what we always do. We’ll slip out of the theater and be in Mexico before it’s over and then let Glogan take credit for this whole mess.”

“Good idea, Cue Mountain man!”

******************************************************************

“Scene 6, take 1!” said Bitty F.

“Since Samantha is incapable of acting,” said Bitty Q, “Let’s skip right to the duet.”

Song Key:                        Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Yeah

Red= Samantha                You are the music in me

Blue=Eddie                      You know the words once upon a time

Purple= Both                    Make you listen

                                         When you dream there’s a chance you’ll find

                                         A little laughter, or happy ever after

                                         Your Harmony, to the melody

                                          It’s echoing inside my head

Single voice

                                         Single voice

          Above the noise

                               Like a common thread

                               Mm, you’re pulling me

                               When I hear my favorite song

                               I know that we belong

                               Oh, you are the music in me

                               Yeah it’s living in all of us

                               And it’s brought us here because

                               You are the music in me

          Na, Na, Na,                                Oh yeah

                                                   Na, N –

Samantha suddenly stopped singing. “Cut the music!”

          “Why?” said Eddie. “Do you think you’re not the music in me?”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” said Samantha reaching for the trash can.

“Samantha!” said Bitty Q. “It’s only two scenes, pull yourself together! Do you want to be part of this or not?”

“I just can’t do it,” Samantha whispered before rapidly exiting the Playroom.

Eddie made a move to go after her but Bitty F. grabbed his arm saying, “The show must go on!”

“That goes for you too, Nellie!” Bitty Q. snapped. “We’ve already lost one cast member; we’re not going to lose you guys too!”

“But we need Samantha!” Eddie protested.

“That’s too bad!” said Bitty Q.

Bitty F. said, “She’s not important for the rest of this scene anyway, not as long as we have you.”

“Alright,” said Bitty Q. “Let’s pick it up in scene seven where the clones enter.”

          For the rest of dress rehearsal, Eddie Ryland was stuck trapped in a room with the craziest people on earth without even Samantha for company. He played his part well, but it wasn’t worth it to him if Samantha wasn’t there to tease. How could she just leave like that? It didn’t make sense but everything about Samantha ceased to make sense a long time ago. If it were just him he’d understand, but the whole family was counting on her. He knew that no matter what happened she couldn’t bring herself to let them down so the moment rehearsal ended he planned to go after Samantha. The Playroom people had worked too hard and too long on this play for her to just throw it all away.

******************************************************************          

The last drops of afternoon light filtered down through the leaves of a neatly clipped hedge. Samantha sat hugging her knees in the lilac tunnel which was an exact replica of the hedge back in time separating Grandmary’s yard from the Ryland’s. When Samantha had first come to PFV, she recreated the hedge with magic as a symbol of her friendship with Nellie. Now, however, it serves all the Playroom citizens for many best friend heart to heart talks and secret meetings. Today though, Samantha was beginning to remember that before she even met Nellie she spent a great deal of time in that hedge with her annoying, obnoxious, rotten, pesky neighbor.

Samantha’s tears dried up when she heard footsteps leaving the Playroom. She had been in the Playroom far too long to know enough that lifelong humiliation comes as a result of being caught unprepared. “What is it Nellie?”

But as her annoying, obnoxious, rotten, pesky neighbor made his way in uninvited Samantha said, “Oh, it’s you, what do you want?”

Eddie Ryland grinned as he crawled in on his hands and knees. “Well, it’s nice to see you too.”

Suddenly Samantha saw him as a little boy when she remembered their fights in this tunnel. She paired that with the image of him now, a tall well-dressed young man tangled in the branches next to her. Samantha couldn’t help laughing hysterically at the sight especially when she thought of what Grandmary would say if only she could see them now. As she imagined the scandal this would have created back in time, she laughed a Samantha laugh, bright, hearty, and of course crazy. And that was just the way Eddie liked it.

“See, aren’t you glad I’m here?” He wiped the last trace of her tears away. “I dried up all that rain.”

Samantha’s laughter died on her tongue. She wanted nothing more than to snap his finger in half. Instead, she let it slide and tingled at the warmth of his touch. “There never was any rain,” she said stubbornly.

Eddie just rolled his eyes. “Puh-lease, maybe I’ll pretend to believe that like I pretend to believe you don’t love me.”

“I don’t!”

“Ha! Then why can’t you keep your hands off me?”

“WHAT?! And just what do you mean by that, Eddie Ryland?”

“This,” he said as he crushed his lips to hers in a powerfully passionate, desperate, unrelenting kiss. And as much as she denied him, Samantha couldn’t stop herself from enjoying every second of it.

As soon as it was over, Samantha slapped him hard across the face. “You sir, are -”

“Irresistible?”

“No, I was going to say -”

“Undeniable?” He grinned no doubt feeling very pleased with himself.

She shook her head and said, “Never mind.”

Eddie sighed sadly. “I know we had our differences Sam, but this is ridiculous even for you.”

“Don’t call me that,” she hissed. “And I despise you!”

“That kiss proved anything but! Do you think I’m stupid? I might have been a hundred years ago, but this is 2014 for crying out loud! If you must continue to be stubborn then I guess I have no choice.”

Samantha frowned. “What do you mean?”

“If you won’t do the play because of me then think of your family.”

“My family? What have they got to do with it?”

“Without you, how can the show go on?”

“Any one of them would be better than me,” she whispered fiercely. “The Bitties certainly seem to think so.”

“Who?  Do you want this to be another show starring Marie-Grace? This is your chance to shine Samantha and I can’t believe you’re letting your conflicted feelings about me get in the way!”

“I –”

“I don’t want to hear it, Sam, because we are getting on that stage tomorrow whether you like it or not.”

Samantha crossed her arms. “You can’t force me to do anything.”

Eddie threw his hands in the air. “For the love of –”

“What?”

Eddie shook his head as he grumbled, “Never mind.” He tried to be the perfect, charming, gentleman Marie-Grace said Samantha wanted but he just couldn’t. The girl was so dang frustrating! How did anyone put up with her? Then he had a better idea. He didn’t need to be charming all he needed was to speak Samantha language, a land where properness doesn’t exist.

He said, “Could you do us all a favor?”

Her eyes narrowed in suspicion as she spoke without hesitation, “No.”

“Please? I’ll do anything.” He saw the question on her lips and nodded. “Name anything and it’s yours.”

And then she smiled. She smiled that unsettling smile of hers, the one that always meant bad news for him. “Maybe,” she said. “What is it and what’s in it for you?”

Smart girl, he thought. He had to play his cards just right or disaster would strike. “For the play, could you at least give it a chance? I know you like to pretend you hate me, and as flattering as that may be, can you put that aside just for the play at least?”

Instead of arguing, Samantha considered his offer.

Eddie didn’t know how to interrupt her silence so he said, “If it’s really too much, then picture Andrew’s face instead of mine.”

Samantha was shocked. “Really, you’d allow that?”

          He nodded knowing this was something he would come to regret. “If you are seriously more in love with him than you are with me, which I highly doubt, then do it.” Eddie would do whatever it took to get Samantha up on that stage even if he would pay for it in the long run.

In that moment, Samantha knew she could never be satisfied with plain, boring, old Andrew ever again. But she wasn’t about to tell Eddie that. “Okay Eddie, I’ll do it.”

Feeling like he had just made a deal with the devil, Eddie Ryland shook her hand.

“But remember,” she said. “You owe me.”

He shuddered for he hated nothing more than to be in debt to Samantha Parkington.

******************************************************************

          Because the plays weren’t until tomorrow, the Playroom People had to come up with something to do that didn’t involve changing out of their costumes. So it was market day in the Playroom where they all set up booths to exchange their “goods.” Some were more useful than others like Samantha and Nellie’s where they tried to distribute the nobody bag of clothes. Others were more fun and dangerous like Glogan’s carnival games. By far the most popular booth belonged to Parker and Big D.

          In PFV, most everyone has a magical creature. Samantha is a dragon, Nellie is a mermaid, Molly is a werewolf, Logan is a leprechaun, Gwen is the long lost elf princess etc. Some require a transformation like the dragon, mermaid, werewolf etc. but others don’t like the elf, leprechaun, and Big D.

          Big D. is a seer and in PFV a seer is someone who sees glimpses of the future. The future is never set in stone so most of what they see doesn’t ever come to pass. But most people do not know that and it makes seers seem a little frightening.  They’re harmless, mostly. Except when a seer gazes into a person’s eyes a certain way they can cause that person to see their worst nightmare. This is probably why Big D.’s eyes are the way they are. She is using them to see beyond the ordinary. Also, seers are usually old hags so that explains her potato shaped head and hunched back.

          For the market, Parker set up Molly’s tent in the middle of the room and guarded the doorway as he sent people in to see Big D. or rather Madame Dolly. Meeting with a seer are very personal and usually kept private. But what did Logan do as soon as Samantha went in? She wired the tent so everyone could hear what was going on in there.

“Alright Big D, what’s my future?”

Big D. closed her eyes and stretched her hands out towards Samantha. “Shh, darling, don’t rush Madame Dolly.”

“Okay, Madame Dolly,” said Samantha. “We both know this is a two second process, so out with it.”

Madame Dolly took a long, deep, relaxed breath. “Hush, you know nothing about my craft.”

“And what’s with the accent?”

“Impatient, are we? Well fine, Parker escort Samantha out.”

As Parker entered the tent, Samantha said, “No, wait! I’ll be quiet.”

“Good,” said Madame Dolly, “Never mind Parker.”

Parker glared at Samantha. “Do not upset Madame Dolly, she tires easily.”

Madame Dolly’s hand fluttered to her forehead. “Oh, Parker!” she wailed. “Get me some grapes; I must restore my magical powers!”

Parker bowed. “Yes Madame Dolly, whatever you say Madame Dolly.”

“And a fruit smoothie couldn’t hurt either!”

“As you wish, Madame Dolly.”

A few minutes later Parker returned with the smoothie and Madame Dolly was sipping loudly from a bendy straw.

“If you’re not going to tell me my future,” said Samantha. “Then I’m just going to go.”        

“No, stop!” said Big D. gripping her forehead, “Brain Freeze!”

“Yeah, I’m leaving,” said Samantha.

“Wait! I’ll tell you your future but you’re not going to like it.”

 Samantha frowned. “What am I not going to like?”

          “Well . . .,” Big D. gulped some more of her smoothie. “On the path we’re on right now, you break Andrew’s heart by ending up with Eddie.”

          “That’s it? But that’s practically already happened!”

Madame Dolly held up a hand. “There’s more. Take a seat and I’ll tell you.”

Reluctantly, Samantha moved away from the door and took a seat across from Madame Dolly.

“You’re future is split, meaning there are two ways this could all go down.”

“Are they both bad?” Samantha asked.

“Yes and no. In both you have a big fight with Nellie.”

          “Fight?” said Samantha. “We almost never fight!”

          “Well, in the future you do,” said Madame Dolly. “You fight about . . . well, that’s not important, but it comes to a choice between your best friend and Eddie Ryland.”

Outside the tent, Nellie gasped. “Ouch,” said Logan. “That’s gotta hurt.”

“How does that feel?” said Gwen, “Your best friend choosing Eddie Ryland over you.”

“Shut up, Gwen!” said Nellie.

“Who do I choose?” Samantha asked Madame Dolly.

“It’s the future,” Madame Dolly explained. “It’s always moving and changing based on the actions we take today until it eventually becomes the present, and finally the past. Only you can decide Samantha, I can give you only a glimpse of what will happen if you choose one way but only you can change it.”

“Tell me both then.”

Madame Dolly said, “Very well. In the one where you choose Nellie you give up Eddie”

“But that’s good, isn’t it?”

Big D. shook her head. “No, in fact you’re miserable without him and you’re torturing yourself with what ifs. You gave up all your dreams of a fairy tale ending for Nellie.”

Nellie was quiet, staring at the tent yearning yet at the same time dreading to hear more.

“And the other?” Samantha said.

“You marry Eddie and never see Nellie again. She ends up alone with thirty cats.”

“Married?! To Eddie Ryland?! I can’t imagine a worser fate!”

“Actually,” said Big D. “You’re very happy except you’re missing Nellie.”

“Okay, that’s enough!” Nellie cried as she pulled the cord to the speakers.

An earsplitting screech filled the air and this prompted Samantha to leave the tent.

“Glogan!” shouted Samantha, “You micked the tent?”

Gwen nodded guiltily as Logan said, “It was Gwen’s idea!”

“No it wasn’t!” said Gwen.

“How much did you hear?” Samantha asked.

“Every word,” replied Nellie before leaving the room.

          “Nellie wait,” Samantha said. “I’m sorry.”

           Nellie whirled around. “You’re sorry? For what?”

          “I –”

“Come on,” Nellie grabbed her arm and pulled her into the lilac tunnel.

Gwen and Logan looked at each other, nodded, and stepped out into the sunshine.

“We need to talk,” said Nellie as they settled into the hedge.

Samantha hung her head. “We do.”

They were quiet, each one wanting to speak yet at the same time feeling too awkward to break the silence.

Finally Samantha said, “I’m sorry Nellie. If it means we aren’t friends anymore then I’ll –”

“Samantha,” Nellie interrupted gently. “I don’t want you to give up Eddie for me.”

“But –”

“Don’t waste time denying it. If Eddie makes you happy and you really love him, then go for it. I don’t want to stand in the way of that.”

“What? But Big D. said—”

“Big D. also said I have thirty cats,” said Nellie. “And we both know I’m not a cat person.”

Samantha laughed a little. “You’re right, it’s just that . . .”

“What?”

“It’s just that I don’t want to be one of those girls who brings home a guy her family doesn’t like.”

“Like Marie-Grace?”

Samantha nodded. They both knew how Cécile and the rest of the family felt about The Pirate. “Not just her though, it’s Felicity too. Remember how well Smith and Elizabeth got along?”

Nellie snorted. “I doubt anyone is going to make that mistake again.”

“And,” said Samantha, “I always thought I’d meet my prince charming somewhere private and secret then after I knew for certain I’d present him to the family and everything would be perfect.”

“Life doesn’t work like that, Samantha.”

“I know.”

“Glogan, the Babies and everyone else seems to really like Eddie.”

Samantha said, “A little too well, I’m afraid.”

Nellie laughed. “There’s that too.”

“But you don’t,” said Samantha. “Like him, I mean.”

Nellie hesitated. “No but—”

“I knew it!” Samantha said. “And I don’t want to be with him if it makes you unhappy.”

“Samantha, listen! You need to not worry about what everyone else thinks and make yourself happy. I remember the old Eddie, the one who treated me like the servant I was. You say he’s changed, has he?”

“Oh yes, he —”

“I haven’t met this new and improved Eddie Ryland yet. Give me a chance and then I’ll see what I think.”

Samantha breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“But that doesn’t mean you should plan your life around what I think.”

“I’m not saying that I do,” Samantha said slowly. “But if I did care–” she gagged on the word, “about him, then what?”

A faint smile touched Nellie’s lips as she said, “Then I would be okay with that and I would encourage you to go for it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes Samantha, I’m sure.”

Samantha gave her a hug. “Thanks, Nellie. You’re a true friend. What did I ever do to deserve you?”

Hearing everything they needed, Gwen and Logan dashed into the Playroom before Samantha and Nellie emerged from the hedge. Glogan threw themselves in their shelf and tried to look casual as Samantha and Nellie came in.

“Don’t worry,” said Logan innocently. “I fully approve of your boyfriend.”

Samantha glared at her knowing full well they had been eavesdropping. “Eddie Ryland is not nor will he ever be my boyfriend!”

Logan shrugged.

 “Well whatever he is,” said Gwen. “We fully approve.”

“Yeah,” added Logan. “The only thing wrong with him is that he’s in love with you.”

“Gee thanks guys,” said Samantha. “Like your opinion really matters considering you’re on the same level of annoying as Eddie Ryland!”

“Aw,” said Logan. “So you do love us.”

“More like barely tolerating,” mumbled Samantha.

Gwen teared up a bit. “I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to us.”

Both Samantha and Nellie rolled their eyes. “Boys,” they muttered.

******************************************************************

Lights, camera, action! Show time was almost here and there was a lot to do. CLONES the musical would be performed first followed by ALIENS and then the Detective Show with as little transition time as possible.

          In PFV, real aliens live on the moon and the people of earth have been at war with them for centuries. Tonight, there were some aliens in the audience which sent the Bitties over the edge because they knew the real aliens might take offense to their artistic interpretations and that could lead to another war. But right now, Bitty Quansa’s most pressing concern lay with Samantha.

          “Is the private jet ready to go?” Bitty Q. murmured to Bitty F.

          “Yes, but I just hope we can make it there before the aliens annihilate us all first.”

          “Do you think she’ll be able to do it?”

“Not a chance,” said Bitty F.

 “Where is that girl anyway?”

  “I’ll go find out,” said Nellie.

***************************************************************

          Samantha was backstage in a dressing room breathing in and out, forcing herself to relax. How Marie-Grace did this all the time was beyond her. All she could think about with a growing horror was the fact that she would be on stage falling with Eddie Ryland in a few moment’s time. Her thoughts were disturbed, however, when the mailman appeared in a puff of smoke.

          “Mail,” he said. “From some guy named Andrew. You might not want to read it.”

          Samantha gave him a look. “And did it ever occur to you that you shouldn’t read it either?”

The mailman shrugged and disappeared. Samantha sighed as she opened the letter:

Howdy, partner!

       After that game show, I just thought I’d take a minute to say what’s on my mind. I like you and I have a feeling you like me too. But it’s never been more than that, has it? I don’t know who that other guy on the show is, but whether or not it was rigged he still seems to know you a lot more than I do. What I mean is this: I could never fill his shoes so if he is the guy for you then run to him and let nothing stop you. My love for you is as vast and rolling as the western landscape and I love you enough to let you be with someone else. But remember this Samantha, our story maybe un-special, unknown, and a classic case of country boy meets city girl, but it’s something I’ll treasure forever, even if you find your heart elsewhere. I’m a big boy Samantha; I can handle a messy breakup. My plan is to lose with dignity to the better man and wait with open arms for my own true love.

Maybe we can still be friends,

Andrew

*****************************************************************                 Samantha was stunned and time seemed to stop even though she knew this had to happen. Samantha liked Andrew, of course she did or he wouldn’t be her boyfriend. But…

His mere presence didn’t send her heart into spasms.

He never made her knees weak as her lips burned with heated passion under the weight of his kiss.

He didn’t steal her breath away or simply make her nervous by being on the same continent during the same time period.

He was an average country farmer boy from the present. Unlike someone else she knew…

And Eddie Ryland, well, all he ever did was grin stupidly at her, the rascal.

Samantha was beyond mad. She was furious. But she was more furious with herself for being in love with a dope like Eddie in the first place.

There was a soft knock on the door as Nellie entered. “Samantha? We’re almost ready to start and everyone is wondering —”

She broke off when she noticed Samantha’s expression. “Is everything alright?” 

“I don’t know,” Samantha said simply. “I think Andrew just dumped me.”

To be continued . . .  

Where Madness Begins

Miss Samantha Parkington enjoying a peaceful cup of tea before Eddie Ryland comes along to ruin her day.

Where

  Madness

     Begins

Take a walk down Play road with Samantha Parkington and Eddie Ryland

                            By: Detective #52

Mr. Edward Ryland has made the terrible mistake of existing, at least in Samantha Parkington’s mind. By coming to PFV, Samantha had thought she’d seen the last of that grinning fool but clearly she was wrong. He harassed her this summer with a series jokes Samantha once played on him then he disguised himself to get her to spend time with him. Finally vacation is over and the whole family is headed back to the playroom for even more fun in the sun. Samantha is sure she’s lost Eddie for good by ditching him in Australia only she comes to find out he was vacationing too! In reality he only lives a couple streets over and they’re neighbors once more. Can they call a truce or will they keep pushing the limits until one of them is pushed over the deep end in madness?

-Detective #52

Samantha kept on running as fast and as far as her legs could carry her. Her stomach balled itself into an angry wasps nest and her heart constricted at the irony of meeting her greatest rival here in her sanctuary. Never in her wildest dreams, except perhaps in her worst nightmares, did Eddie Ryland appear from her past to taunt and torment her forevermore.

For years, Samantha had struggled to feel at home in the year 2000 and now when she thought she’d finally found her place he shows up and ruins everything. Her eyes watered and before she knew it, hot, sticky tears blurred her vision as she raced on. In Samantha’s world, Eddie’s reappearance did far more than merely disgust her, this time he had crossed the line by reopening old wounds of homesickness, the only disease for which there is no cure.

But besides conjuring up a fierce passion for the past, Eddie Ryland’s presence added another complication to the mix. One of a more romantic nature though Samantha refused to think of it that way.

Yet the kiss continued to replay over and over and over again in her mind, her body swept up in the sensation of the moment, her brain caught in the turmoil of meeting, and her heart…

Samantha couldn’t bear to relive what her heart said. “Life isn’t fair,” she murmured to herself. “And I hope Eddie Ryland falls off a cliff.”

She couldn’t even find consolation in wishing the worst upon him for the little part of her that actually cared screamed out in protest.

Samantha looked up from her misery long enough to realize she had no idea where she was. Great. The last thing she needed right now was to be lost in a foreign country. Samantha hung her head in defeat as she plopped herself down in the nearest dark alley. Maybe getting lost is a blessing, she thought as she began to sob. This way, she wouldn’t have to deal with the harassment her family was sure to give had they witnessed this scene.

******************************************************************

Eddie stood there for quite some time, the sting of Samantha’s rejection echoing like a slap across his heart. He could not unsee her sweet smile morphing into a look of utter horror the moment she realized what she thought was the truth: Eddie Ryland her greatest nemesis back from the past to haunt and humiliate her even more.

And could he blame her? For most of their childhood Eddie had teased her to no end. In his defense, Samantha would tease and threaten him right back and she would often pull a trick more mean than his own. If he were the same boy Samantha’s disgust would please him. But he was a young man now, almost completely grown up and all it did was bring him pain.

He’d always admired Samantha, bright and sweet, pretty and sophisticated, yet she had an edge as sharp and as smooth as a knife blade. But most of all she was someone he could talk to, in rapid fire insults, and laugh with despite how much she believed he laughed at her.

Eddie wondered when his childhood companion had become something more. Something deeper. Something nearer and dearer to his heart in no way he’s ever experienced before. He wondered when childish affection had become love.

Love just thinking the word made him feel freer, like he could fly all the way to Pluto and back for Samantha. Samantha his darling, his sweetheart Samantha, was probably off hating his guts right now.    

With this his happiness fell into a wave of disappointment. But then, he’d always known Samantha would be a hard catch to reel in especially since it was him doing the fishing. This is why he stalled for more time as a stranger so Samantha would be forced into giving him a chance before she slammed the door in his face. Eddie knows Samantha very well and could predict her actions with some (not complete) accuracy. 

It occurred to him that unlike last time he couldn’t let her get away. He lost her once before when she travelled to the future. She couldn’t leave him, not now when they’ve just rediscovered each other. And as he ran after her, Eddie Ryland vowed that he would get Samantha Parkington to declare her love for him, one way or another, no matter how long it took. ******************************************************************

Marie-Grace Gardner skipped happily down the streets of Sydney, thrilled with another performance well down. As always she had the starring role in Bitty’s opera and was still humming the songs long after the musical numbers had ended.

In the distance, a tall ship flying the Jolly Roger rose high over the water. When most people saw that flag they ran in terror. But not Marie-Grace for she just smiled and kept going, dreaming of an evening spent with her Pirate, dancing the night away on his ship.

Her smile only faded when she heard a half strangled cry arise from a connecting alleyway. She tentatively crept over to the yawning mouth of the black side street to see a historically dressed young woman hunched over in sobs.

Marie-Grace gasped. “Samantha?” Samantha had been living in PFV for nine years and no one in that entire length of time rarely ever saw her cry.

Yet here she was crouched on the ground in one of the dirtiest corners of Sydney with tears streaming down her cheeks. At least, Marie-Grace thought they were tears, with Samantha you could never be sure.

Marie-Grace rushed over to her adopted sister and gently knelt beside her. “Samantha,” she said softly.

Samantha moaned.

“Samantha, are you alright?” Clearly not, but one never knew.

Samantha picked her head up and let out a sob. “I hate him, I hate him, I hate him!” She howled. “And I’ll never stop hating him!”

“Who?” asked Marie-Grace.

“Eddie Ryland,” she spat as she cried some more. Marie-Grace had heard of him, though she didn’t know all the details. But she did know that if anyone from any Playroom person’s past suddenly reappeared then it would release a flood gate of emotions.

“He’s a jerk,” Samantha continued. “Who is supposed to be stuck in 1904 and I’ll never stop cursing him for intruding on my life!”

“Oh, you can’t mean that!” Marie-Grace exclaimed.

“Yes I do!”

“But what has he ever done that’s so terrible?” It must have been a silly childhood rivalry, thought Marie-Grace thinking it would be easy to dismiss.

Samantha growled at her with an animal like rage. Marie-Grace flinched but didn’t back down. “Everything he does has an evil motive plotted to attack me. He’s out to get me!”

Then Marie-Grace realized that this was something that couldn’t be dismissed, not as long as Samantha kept living in the past. “Samantha, maybe there’s a reason he ended up here -”

“Don’t you think I thought of that already?!” Samantha screamed shrilly, the kiss still lingering on her lips.

“Um. . .”

“And don’t you think that the mere idea,” she gagged, “makes me want to be violently ill?”

“But -”

“No, I don’t want to hear it because not all of us can get perfect pirates like you,” Samantha snapped coldly.

 Marie-Grace winced yet she still sighed and took Samantha’s hand. “You’re right Samantha. Not everyone gets to live happily ever after with seafaring criminals. But here’s where you’re wrong. Just because Eddie isn’t the prince you imagined doesn’t make his love any less true.”

Samantha quickly snatched her hand away. “You just don’t understand!” she sobbed. “No one knows what it’s like to have happily ever after ripped away from them!”

“I do,” said Marie-Grace said quietly.

Samantha turned to face her. “What did you say?”

“I said, ‘I do’ because I know exactly what it’s like.”

“What?!”

Marie-Grace nodded. “You’re not the only one who thought she’d found a home at the end of their books nor will you be the last. For me, I thought I was finally home in New Orleans after a long and lonely childhood in the northeast.”

“I was alone too,” Samantha whispered.

But Marie-Grace shook her head. “Not as lonely as me because you had a house full of servants, a boat load of friends, and a pesky neighbor boy to play with. All I ever had was a grumpy housekeeper and a father who was often working late.”

“Oh,” said Samantha.

“But then I was home at last in New Orleans until that was ripped away from me by coming to the playroom.”

“Okay yes,” said Samantha. “We both lost a true home and then we both found one in the playroom. But you’ve never had to deal with Eddie Ryland.”

Marie-Grace took a firm hold of her shoulders and almost shook her. “Is this about Eddie Ryland or is this about missing your life back in time?”

Samantha whimpered. “Both.”

Marie-Grace thought for a moment, debating how she should go about this. She had never been a good friend to Cécile and right know she hoped she could be a better sister to Samantha.

“Our happy endings back in time were apparently not meant to be,” said Marie-Grace. “But this family in the future is and as time travelers it’s our time now to build new beginnings for ourselves. For me happily ever after came on a ship with a Pirate Captain. But for you. . .” She trailed off hoping Samantha would fill in the rest. But Samantha had no reaction or sarcastic comment.

“Eddie Ryland crossed a century to reach you Samantha. Can’t you see what a glorious opportunity a life with Eddie has to offer?”

Silence.

Then both Samantha and Marie-Grace paused to hear footsteps and see a shadow of a man standing in the mouth of the alley.

Marie-Grace jumped feeling a bit nervous but Samantha recognized the outline and rolled her head back muttering, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Not quite as jumpy, Marie-Grace moved to greet the unwanted guest as Samantha desperately tried to free herself of any last trace of tears. She heard her sister say, “I think you’d better go. She needs some time alone.”

Eddie Ryland started to leave but Samantha called out, “No. let him come see my tears so he can have something to gloat about later.”

Eddie strode over to her. “Samantha I –”

“You’ve finally collected your revenge now go back to Mount Bedford where you belong.”

Momentarily ignoring her, Eddie held out a hand offering to help her up but she shoved it away and struggled to stand on her own.

Once she was up, Eddie searched into her eyes and decided to try again. “You don’t understand –”

“I understand plenty.”

He struggled to keep his own temper in check. Fine then, if that’s how she wanted to play. “What do you understand?”

“That’s it’s your personal mission to make me miserable.”

“Baloney! Samantha Parkington you are full of baloney!”

“I am not!”

“You are too!” Anger exploded out of him now so much so even Samantha couldn’t fail to notice how his eyes blazed and his jaw set. “If you even knew me at all then you’d know that that is not at all why I’m here!”

Samantha barred her teeth. “Stop following me! All my life you’ve followed me so you could taunt, tease, and humiliate me! The only thing I can’t figure out is why! Why do you care so much?”

I love you, he almost shouted. Quickly he bit his tongue and instead said, “Fine. I’ll get out of your life!”

“Good.”

“Great.”

“Good riddance Ryland! I hope you crawl back under whatever rock it is you came from and stay there like the toad you are!”

“Good bye Parkington! I hope someone in your family has better sense than you do!”

They stood staring each other down with their hands on their hips in a ridiculously childlike fashion until Samantha couldn’t take it any longer. Her heel came down hard on her foot and she stomped away screaming, “I’ll get you, Eddie Ryland! Even if it’s the last thing I do!”

“Ha! I’d like to see you try!” Eddie yelled holding his injured foot. He was about to go after her and give her a piece of his mind when Marie-Grace laid a hand on his arm.

“Don’t,” she said. “You’ll only make it worse and if there’s any hope of winning her over then you need to use all that charm Samantha thinks you don’t have.”

A light of understanding dawned on him as he saw her angle. “That’s brilliant! But I fear that no matter what I do, it’ll never satisfy Samantha.”

****************************************************************** 

 For Samantha and her family the next couple of days passed in a blur. After the whole Eddie Ryland incident, Samantha just had to get out of Australia and as the oldest she had the power to plan a spontaneous trip to Asia. She scheduled as many overlapping activities as she could while she lead her family through the highlights of Japan, China, and India in two days.

With eight children from Play road it was chaotic craziness. But Samantha didn’t mind because it kept her mind off of you know who. She was determined to forget about him but that didn’t stop a thought or two from sneaking in. Fearing more nightmares, Samantha didn’t book a hotel and instead kept them busy through the night. By the end everyone was sleep deprived and more than a little aggravated, Samantha most of all. She did, however, manage to bike the Great Wall of China and Climb Mount Everest all without cracking. It was the postcard from Nellie that finally did it. It reminded Samantha that even half a world away her best friend was having the same crazy problems of her own with her family.

******************************************************************

Hi Samantha!

I’m upset about Brad. It wouldn’t be so bad if he just turned into a traitor. It’s worse that he’s been playing me the whole time. I thought he loved me! I think Jack (the guy in Bitty’s tech crew) likes me. I’m going to tell him I just want to be friends. After all, I did just break up with Brad this afternoon. I’m not ready for love, not yet; I don’t want to get involved with another guy who doesn’t even like me. Albert (Logan’s new friend) is familiar in a sick bad way. I don’t want her to be crushed. She claims they don’t like each other that way but I know better. He’s good with a sword and dagger (or so she says). Should I tell B.E.N. about Albert? B.E.N. and Logan don’t seem to like each other much. Do they? I don’t know but it’s one thing Logan won’t tell her detectives (us). This Albert character reminds me of someone, but I’ll tell you later, after we come home.

The German boy came back to woo Elizabeth. She convinced him that they should just be friends. Something tells me he’s not going to settle for that though. The Swedish guy knows Elizabeth and believes they are true loves. I’m sooo happy for Molly, now that she knows the truth about Peter/Phillip. But the person I’m extremely happy for is Cécile. After she herself was missing for months James was lost for months too. But now he’s back! He even gave her a late birthday necklace that actually fits her! I feel absolutely terrible for Parker! He finally made a friend with the princess but now she’s gone! Turns out she doesn’t like life as a princess! How horrible would that be, to be forced into something you strived for yet really think the worst of. How is your vacation? Has anyone done anything important or met anyone special? I hope no more really traumatic things happen.  

Oh yeah, you know how I mentioned James is a little broken? Well, he’s not looking good, to me anyway. He saw a doctor, is on crutches, and has an eyepatch but it still isn’t helping. I can tell Cécile thinks similarly but she’s trying to ignore it. Maybe she’s hoping it’ll go away and he’ll heal just fine. Maybe he will. You should see the necklace he made for Cécile. It fits perfectly. It’s not engraved but I believe there is a secret message only she can read. At first she refused the gift saying having him back was gift enough but finally she accepted with great thanks. I wish Brad had been that romantic or even liked me as a friend. But I have a suspicion he might have despised me. Maybe I’ll find love someday.

What mysterious things have your family been up to? It’s too quiet on your side of the fence. I heard you’re seeing everything in China in one day. Wow! Good luck girl. Have fun on Everest! It’s really hard to climb but it gets worse because you have to carry an oxygen tank because the air is so thin. One of us (I don’t remember who) passed out and fell off the mountain. I doubt they won the race because they had to start over. That’s the rule: if you fall you start over from the bottom.

I heard the dragon festival was “interesting.” Did you turn into a dragon? Speaking of which, is it hot in China now? It’s hot here but the performance hall must have A.C. because I saw frost inside the windows! Weird, right?

Speaking of Everest, the number one cause of mountain deaths is avalanches. It’s summer so it’s melting season. NO LOUD NOISES! That will be hard with your family. Remember, it’s everyman for himself. Don’t let them beat you to the summit or they’ll win the race! Whatever you do, don’t do what Gwen tells you because Logan probably tricked her. She’s been doing that all vacation.

I can’t wait to go volcano boarding. It’ll be scary but fun. I learned today that when we go through the Panama Canal, we are stopping to dig it out! The entire thing! Vacation is just sooo much fun!! Well, it’s better than being at home!

I forgot to mention I met a friend named Margret. She’s really nice. She’s an orphan who lives with her blind Aunt who has three dogs, two turtles, and a bird. They live in England but are on vacation now. Their house is right on the water but was ransacked by pirates! She hates pirates. I told her I live on 742 Play Road because what’s the point of having a friend if they don’t look past that? At first she laughed and didn’t believe me. But then she realized I was serious and decided it really doesn’t matter.

I hope your vacation is good and continues that way!

                           Your Best Friend,                          Nellie O’Malley  

This whole postcard exchange ends when both Playroom families decided enough is enough and that it’s time to go home.

******************************************************************

 Samantha really didn’t like the way Glogan were acting. She never does but today they seemed especially odd with their heads bowed together as they deep in discussion as they scribbled notes on a piece of paper. After being apart for a few weeks it was only natural that they would spend time together but this was ridiculous. For the whole plane ride home Gwen had her phone glued to her ear and now Glogan were relatively quiet for the first time in ten years.

It was that and the fact that they kept glancing in her direction that should have tipped Samantha off, but she was just so exhausted from the Asia trip and she knew the truth would come out eventually so why bother? This was a decision Samantha would come to regret and a mistake she’ll likely not make again.

******************************************************************

 As Samantha stepped into the Playroom one day, her heart skipped a beat when she saw a familiar stranger standing in her area.

“Nice place you got here, Sam,” he said.

Instead of being polite and saying hello, she marched over to him and demanded, “What are you doing here?!”

“Now, Now, Miss Samantha, is that anyway to treat a guest? Whatever would Grandmary say?” said Eddie Ryland.

“You’re not a guest,” Samantha grumbled. “You’re an unwanted trespasser.”

“That’s not what Glogan told me when they invited me over.”

“What!”

Just then a herd of Playroom guys came through the door for an unexpected visit including –

“Howdy there my partner, Samantha!”

Samantha winced. “Hello Andrew.” Samantha met Andrew exactly one year ago today when she and Nellie went out West while their moms went camping in the real world.

“Well, well, well,” said Eddie. “Who do we have here?”

“My name’s Andrew,” said Andrew as he shook Eddie’s hand.

“Aren’t you going to introduce us, Sam?” Eddie said.

“It seems you’re doing just fine on your own,” said Samantha. This was one of the most awkward conversations of her life with both her current boyfriend and the boy who made it perfectly clear he’d like to be.

“I reckon you’re Eddie Ryland,” said Andrew. “That annoying kid from Samantha’s childhood.”

Eddie raised an eyebrow at Samantha as he told Andrew, “Yes, yes I am. But who the heck are you?”

Andrew’s smile fell. “You mean Samantha hasn’t mentioned me at all?”

“Nope, not a word,” said Eddie.

Samantha wanted to kill Eddie for making her look bad because surely, Andrew must have come up at some point.

Suddenly, the door slammed closed and was bolted shut with a blast of magic as a stage appeared in the middle of the room. “As much as I hate to interrupt all this,” said Logan. “I need Eddie to help me tie Samantha to that chair on the raised platform, center stage.”

“What!” Samantha shouted as Eddie wrapped his arms around her. “Put me down!”

“No can do, sweetheart.” Eddie said fighting with a struggling Samantha. “If we could be sure you’d be a good little girl and not run off then we wouldn’t have to do this. Now wish me luck.”

“For what?! What’s going on?”

Both Eddie and Andrew took seats on either side of Samantha as the curtain rose and Logan took her place by the microphone. “Welcome to Logan’s love triangle!”

“Gwen’s,” Gwen whispered from the side.

“Fine,” said Logan. “Glogan’s love triangle the game show where we take a lovely young woman–” the spotlight moved to the seething Samantha. “—and the two young men fighting for her and ask them questions to find out who is really her true love! I’m your host Logan Buckingham!”

“What!” Samantha shouted. “This is perfectly ridiculous! I refuse to be part of it!”

“It’s too late now,” said Gwen. “If you haven’t noticed you’re tied to a chair and we’re on live television.”

“Yeah, all you have to do is sit there and look pretty.” Aside to Gwen, Logan said, “And she’s not even capable of that.”

They snickered as Samantha said, “I heard that! And I demand a commercial break!”

“Hey! You can’t call commercial!”

“Sorry,” said Parker the cameraman. “But she just did. We’re on commercial.”

Logan threw down her mic in a huff. “Take five everyone but leave Samantha tied up.”

Eddie walked over to Samantha. “Not so close,” she warned. “I bite.”

He grinned. “I know which is why I’m going to win.”

“You are not. Andrew knows me better.”

“Ha! That boy has no idea what’s in store for him if he’s involved with you!”

“Like you would know! And you know nothing about Andrew!’

“Um, guys, standing right here,” said Andrew.

He was ignored as Eddie said, “Worried I might win, Sam?”

“Don’t call me that!” she snapped.

“Why, it’s your name.”

“My name is Samantha! Only Uncle Gard called me that.”

“Who is Uncle Gard?” said Andrew.

“See?” said Eddie.

Parker said, “We’re on in 10. . . 9. . . .”

As everyone scrambled into position Eddie Ryland said, “Oh honey, did I forget to mention that I live on Castle Street and just happened to be on vacation in Australia this summer, too?”

“You followed me?!” Samantha screeched her voice rising three octaves.

He smiled and winked at her. “Anything for you, love.”

Samantha snarled as she yearned to wrap her hands around his neck and strangle him.

Seeing this whole exchange, Andrew took one glance at the pair of them and knew he had lost. Everyone in the audience knew it too so he resolved to end this as quickly and painlessly as possible. There was only one person cheering his name and that was Samantha herself. But deep down, she really didn’t mean it because in her heart she was in love with Eddie.

“Eddie Ryland!” Samantha shouted. “There is no possible way that you’ll win!”

“Watch me, Samantha Parkington! Just watch!”

“Okay and we’re live,” said Parker.

“Welcome back to Logan’s love triangle!” announced the game show host.

“Glogan’s,” Gwen coughed from the side.

“Whatever,” said Logan. “Sorry about that brief interruption, we just had to take care of a few technical difficulties.” She glared at Samantha. “So this is how this works: I’ll ask a question and whoever hits the buzzer first gets to answer, if they get it wrong, the other person has a chance to answer for double points.”

“Double?” Samantha echoed. “How does that make any sense?”

“It doesn’t,” Gwen said cheerfully.

The host continued, “First question: What is Samantha’s middle name?”

Andrew and Eddie hit the buzzer at the same time. “After you,” said Eddie as he smiled dangerously.

Andrew gulped. “Um . . . Rose.”

Samantha smacked a hand to her forehead as Logan said, “I’m sorry, that is incorrect.”

From the studio audience Gwen chanted, “Let’s go Eddie, let’s go!”

“Mm, let’s see.” Eddie stroked his chin as he pretended to think about it. “She calls her Grandmother Grandmary, so I’m going to go with Mary.”

“That is correct!”

“Come on Andrew,” Samantha pleaded. “It was only one question, you can do better I know you can.”

Andrew mumbled, “I wouldn’t be so sure of that.”

“Next question,” said Logan. “What is Samantha’s favorite ice cream–?”

Andrew hit the buzzer. “Strawberry!”

“You’re supposed to wait until I finish the question!” Logan whined.

“You’re pathetic Andrew,” said Eddie as he slammed his fist into the buzzer. “Because everyone knows it’s peppermint.”

Before Samantha could react the host said, “Right again. Eddie, you’re on a roll. Andrew, you’re not doing so hot. You should try harder with this next question: Who ruined Samantha’s tenth birthday party?”

It was Eddie who hit the buzzer first this time but before he could answer Samantha yelled, “This contest is rigged!”

“Yeah, so?” said Gwen. “Aren’t all game shows?”

“I’m deeply wounded Sam,” said Eddie. “It seems you don’t want me to win.”

“I don’t!”

“Just answer the question!” said the frustrated gameshow host.

“Eddie Ryland!” yelled both Samantha and Eddie.

“If you don’t want me to win,” said Eddie. “Then why did you give me the answer?”

Samantha gave him a pointed glare. “You knew it anyway.”

“Okay, moving right along,” said Logan. “What year was Samantha born?”

“1904!” Andrew shouted just as Logan said, “Wrong again.”

Samantha put her face in her hands. She felt like crying out in agony especially when Eddie said breezily, “1895.”

“That’s correct!”

“That was so unfair!” Samantha screamed.

“How?” said Logan. “Anyone who can do math could figure it out.”

Samantha grumbled angrily, but the host ignored her. “What magical creature is Samantha?”

Andrew practically threw himself at the buzzer. He paused though, when he realized he actually knew the answer. “Um . . . she’s a . . . um,” Andrew stalled. “I don’t know.”

“Then why did you hit the buzzer!” the host demanded.

Samantha was shooting daggers at him as Eddie said, “With a temper like that, she is most definitely a dragon.”

Samantha was fuming but there was no use in denying it.

“Right again,” said Logan. “Here is the last and final question which you’ll both have a chance to answer: What is your relationship status with Samantha?”

Andrew hit the buzzer first.

“Someone is a little eager,” said the host. “Take it Andrew!”

Andrew glanced at Samantha who turned on the charm and was smiling radiantly at him and then at Eddie who frowned and gave a shake of his head so slight Andrew almost missed it. Andrew took a deep breath. It was time.

“Samantha and I,” he paused, his eyes darting between the two of them once more. “We—”

“Spit it out boy!” the host shouted.

“— Are just friends.”

The audience gasped, Eddie let out a sigh of relief, and Samantha well, if looks could kill hers sure would have.

Andrew turned his back to Samantha. “We have only ever been friends—”

“Liar!” Samantha growled the betrayal evident in her voice.

“No,” said Andrew. “The truth is that we’ve never even kissed and I haven’t heard from her since last year when we met.”

“That’s a lie!” Samantha protested. “We exchange cards at every holiday and he came to all the Playroom parties we invited him to!” Only too late did Samantha realize how that sounded.

In the studio audience, Nellie muttered, “You blew it Samantha, you really blew it.”

Eddie Ryland couldn’t stop himself from grinning. He cleared his throat and all eyes turned to him. “If I may,” he said. “Let me tell you what my relationship with Samantha is like.”

Samantha jumped to her feet with the chair still tied to her backside. “Eddie, no!”

“Sorry Samantha, but we mustn’t tell secrets. Our relationship must come into the open.”

WHAT?!!”

“Samantha and I,” he paused dramatically putting a hand over his heart, “are madly in love.”

The audience went nuts as Samantha’s jaw went slack. “Congratulations Eddie! You won!” said Logan the game show host. “That’s all the time we have for today, folks, but we hope to see you next time on Logan’s love triangle!”

“Wait a minute,” said Samantha. “We’re your only contestants?”

“Maybe,” said Gwen.

They could literally see the smoke pouring from Samantha’s ears.

“Run,” whispered Logan. But it was too late for Samantha had already transformed into a dragon and scooped Glogan up in her talons to drag them off to meet their doom.

“And this is why,” said Gwen, “when Samantha isn’t happy nobody’s happy.”

After they had left, Eddie turned to Andrew. “I just love her when she’s mad, don’t you?”

With his eyes already widened in terror, Andrew shook his head violently before running from the Playroom screaming.

Eddie Ryland sighed, “Wimp.”

******************************************************************

 Poor Samantha didn’t seem to catch a break because the next torturous thing fate had in store for her was set up by the Bitties in the form of a musical.

“This is the best idea ever!” said Bitty Fatterson.

“I know right?” said Bitty Quansa. “We have so many people who look alike. I wonder why we’ve never thought of it before. We just can’t let Samantha see the cast list.”

“And why can’t we let Samantha see the cast list?” said a voice behind them.

“Oh, hi Samantha,” said Bitty Q.

“Because. . .” said Bitty F. “you’re in it.”

“Yeah, right,” said Samantha. When you have PFV’s most famous director living in your house, you get tired of begging for a spotlight that will never be yours.

“No, it’s true,” Bitty Q. said. “You’re girl number one.”

“Let me see that!”

CLONES: The Musical

Scene 1: Aliens are creating clones

                     Song: Put it together

Scene 2: Prank war Girls on one side of the mountain Boys on the other things are flying over the Mountain Man in the middle.

                     Song: G.N.O.

Scene 3: One girl (Girl #1) falls in love with a boy on the other side of the mountain

          Scene 4: More prank war while Mountain man sings

                     Song: Work this out

Scene 5: Two girls are switched with clones (Not Girl #1)

Scene 6: Another love scene (Girl #1 and Guy #1)

                     Song: You are the Music in Me

Scene 7: The girls who aren’t switched realize there is something wrong but they can’t figure out what.

Scene 8: Another clone switch

Scene 9: All guys except Guy #1 fall in love with the clones

                     Song: So this is Love

Scene 10: Love scene with clone (Clone #1 and Guy #1)

                     Song: You are the Music in Me (Sharpay version)

Scene 11: Guy #1 finds out about the Aliens and their Clones then tries to convince the other guys to save the real girls

                     Song: I don’t Dance

Scene 12: Battle scene Guys and Girls vs. the Aliens and their Clones

          Song: The Other Side of Me

FINALE: Best of Both Worlds

I think this is the worst play they’ve ever written,” said Nellie reading over Samantha’s shoulder.

“Tell me about it,” said Samantha. “But I don’t care how bad it is because we’re finally getting a chance to be in it.”

          “We’ve been in plays before.”

          Samantha gave her a look, “Yeah, as extras.”

“Hey, the only reason we’re in this one is because Molly and Emily make perfect clones for us.”

          “I’ll take what I can get,” said Samantha.

          “Me too,” said Nellie, “but I wonder who Guy #1 is.”

“Who in the world could it possibly be, I wonder?” said Eddie Ryland as he stepped into the Playroom.

“Oh no,” Samantha moaned.

“Oh yes,” said Eddie.

          Samantha yanked the cast list off the bulletin board and her heart sank as she read it:

                                         Cast

                     Aliens:            Cécile, Parker, Big D., Bitty F.

       Girl #1: Samantha               Clone #1: Molly               Guy #1: Eddie Ryland

Girl #2: Nellie                  Clone #2: Emily               Guy # 2: Brad Jack

Girl #3: Felicity               Clone #3: Kelsey             Guy #3: John

Girl #4: Elizabeth            Clone #4: Marie-Grace   Guy #4: The Pirate

Mountain Man: Gwen                Mountain Man’s Clone: Logan

“This cannot be happening to me!” Samantha cried.

“You better believe it Sam,” said Eddie as he put an arm around her and painted a picture in the sky with his other hand, “Because tomorrow, we’ll fall in love, sing a duet in front of billions of people, and save the world from aliens and their clones.”

Samantha scowled and plucked his arm off of her.

“Oh, that’s right,” he said. “I’ll be doing all the saving while you’re abducted by aliens.”

Samantha decided to ignore him. “You know what, Nellie?”

“What?”

“This is my big break and I’m not going to let someone like Eddie Ryland ruin it!”

Even though she was talking to Nellie, it was Eddie who answered. “That’s the spirit, Sam! I look forward to working with you.”

Samantha sighed in frustration. “Why do I get the feeling that everyone in this family is in cahoots with him?” She jerked her head in Eddie’s direction.

Nellie said, “You and me both, sister, you and me both.”

******************************************************************

   “QUIET!” Bitty F. shouted.

“Thank you Bitty,” said Bitty Q. “Now that you’re all costumed be careful not to change until AFTER the performances tomorrow. We’re putting on all three shows, Clones, Aliens, and the Detective Show.”

Samantha said, “Why is it that when they have actual Detectives available they put us all in Clones instead?”

“Hey,” said Nellie. “You should just be grateful you’re here at all.”

“Mountain Men!” Bitty F. said sharply. “How is the cloning machine coming?”

“Great,” said Gwen.

“We’re almost ready to start it up,” said Logan.

“You do know that we’re not actually going to clone people, right?” said Bitty Q.

“Aw, man!” said Logan.

“A cardboard box with a crayon sign that says Clone Master 2000 would have been fine,” said Bitty F.

“Told you so!” said Gwen.

Eddie said, “Would you mind starting rehearsal? I know Samantha can’t wait.”

“Yeah,” Samantha mumbled. “I can’t wait until this is over.”

“Scene 1, take 1,” said Bitty F. into a bull horn.

“Where are my Aliens?” Bitty Q. demanded. “I need them and my cloning machine on stage pronto!”

Like usual, dress rehearsal started off as a train wreck yet somehow, Bitty Quansa and company would always manage to pull it off for the actual performance. But thanks to Samantha, the chance of that happening this time was slim to none.

“Scene 3, take 103,” Bitty F. said glumly.

“I’m sorry,” said Samantha. “This would be so much easier if you had lines telling me what to say!”

Eddie said, “Is it really that hard to fall in love with me?”

“Yes!”

“This is why we don’t use Samantha,” Bitty F. whispered to Bitty Q.

Bitty Q. nodded, then told Samantha, “We’ve been over this, why should we waste time writing out lines you can’t memorize when you’re perfectly capable of coming up with something on the spot?”

“You know what?” said Bitty F. “Let’s just skip this scene for now.”

“But Bitty,” said Bitty Q. “What if she can’t do it by tomorrow?”

Bitty F. shrugged. “We’ll do what we always do. We’ll slip out of the theater and be in Mexico before it’s over and then let Glogan take credit for this whole mess.”

“Good idea, Cue Mountain man!”

******************************************************************

“Scene 6, take 1!” said Bitty F.

“Since Samantha is incapable of acting,” said Bitty Q, “Let’s skip right to the duet.”

Song Key:                        Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Yeah

Red= Samantha                You are the music in me

Blue=Eddie                      You know the words once upon a time

Purple= Both                    Make you listen

                                         When you dream there’s a chance you’ll find

                                         A little laughter, or happy ever after

                                         Your Harmony, to the melody

                                          It’s echoing inside my head

Single voice

                                         Single voice

          Above the noise

                               Like a common thread

                               Mm, you’re pulling me

                               When I hear my favorite song

                               I know that we belong

                               Oh, you are the music in me

                               Yeah it’s living in all of us

                               And it’s brought us here because

                               You are the music in me

          Na, Na, Na,                                Oh yeah

                                                   Na, N –

Samantha suddenly stopped singing. “Cut the music!”

          “Why?” said Eddie. “Do you think you’re not the music in me?”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” said Samantha reaching for the trash can.

“Samantha!” said Bitty Q. “It’s only two scenes, pull yourself together! Do you want to be part of this or not?”

“I just can’t do it,” Samantha whispered before rapidly exiting the Playroom.

Eddie made a move to go after her but Bitty F. grabbed his arm saying, “The show must go on!”

“That goes for you too, Nellie!” Bitty Q. snapped. “We’ve already lost one cast member; we’re not going to lose you guys too!”

“But we need Samantha!” Eddie protested.

“That’s too bad!” said Bitty Q.

Bitty F. said, “She’s not important for the rest of this scene anyway, not as long as we have you.”

“Alright,” said Bitty Q. “Let’s pick it up in scene seven where the clones enter.”

          For the rest of dress rehearsal, Eddie Ryland was stuck trapped in a room with the craziest people on earth without even Samantha for company. He played his part well, but it wasn’t worth it to him if Samantha wasn’t there to tease. How could she just leave like that? It didn’t make sense but everything about Samantha ceased to make sense a long time ago. If it were just him he’d understand, but the whole family was counting on her. He knew that no matter what happened she couldn’t bring herself to let them down so the moment rehearsal ended he planned to go after Samantha. The Playroom people had worked too hard and too long on this play for her to just throw it all away.

******************************************************************          

The last drops of afternoon light filtered down through the leaves of a neatly clipped hedge. Samantha sat hugging her knees in the lilac tunnel which was an exact replica of the hedge back in time separating Grandmary’s yard from the Ryland’s. When Samantha had first come to PFV, she recreated the hedge with magic as a symbol of her friendship with Nellie. Now, however, it serves all the Playroom citizens for many best friend heart to heart talks and secret meetings. Today though, Samantha was beginning to remember that before she even met Nellie she spent a great deal of time in that hedge with her annoying, obnoxious, rotten, pesky neighbor.

Samantha’s tears dried up when she heard footsteps leaving the Playroom. She had been in the Playroom far too long to know enough that lifelong humiliation comes as a result of being caught unprepared. “What is it Nellie?”

But as her annoying, obnoxious, rotten, pesky neighbor made his way in uninvited Samantha said, “Oh, it’s you, what do you want?”

Eddie Ryland grinned as he crawled in on his hands and knees. “Well, it’s nice to see you too.”

Suddenly Samantha saw him as a little boy when she remembered their fights in this tunnel. She paired that with the image of him now, a tall well-dressed young man tangled in the branches next to her. Samantha couldn’t help laughing hysterically at the sight especially when she thought of what Grandmary would say if only she could see them now. As she imagined the scandal this would have created back in time, she laughed a Samantha laugh, bright, hearty, and of course crazy. And that was just the way Eddie liked it.

“See, aren’t you glad I’m here?” He wiped the last trace of her tears away. “I dried up all that rain.”

Samantha’s laughter died on her tongue. She wanted nothing more than to snap his finger in half. Instead, she let it slide and tingled at the warmth of his touch. “There never was any rain,” she said stubbornly.

Eddie just rolled his eyes. “Puh-lease, maybe I’ll pretend to believe that like I pretend to believe you don’t love me.”

“I don’t!”

“Ha! Then why can’t you keep your hands off me?”

“WHAT?! And just what do you mean by that, Eddie Ryland?”

“This,” he said as he crushed his lips to hers in a powerfully passionate, desperate, unrelenting kiss. And as much as she denied him, Samantha couldn’t stop herself from enjoying every second of it.

As soon as it was over, Samantha slapped him hard across the face. “You sir, are -”

“Irresistible?”

“No, I was going to say -”

“Undeniable?” He grinned no doubt feeling very pleased with himself.

She shook her head and said, “Never mind.”

Eddie sighed sadly. “I know we had our differences Sam, but this is ridiculous even for you.”

“Don’t call me that,” she hissed. “And I despise you!”

“That kiss proved anything but! Do you think I’m stupid? I might have been a hundred years ago, but this is 2014 for crying out loud! If you must continue to be stubborn then I guess I have no choice.”

Samantha frowned. “What do you mean?”

“If you won’t do the play because of me then think of your family.”

“My family? What have they got to do with it?”

“Without you, how can the show go on?”

“Any one of them would be better than me,” she whispered fiercely. “The Bitties certainly seem to think so.”

“Who?  Do you want this to be another show starring Marie-Grace? This is your chance to shine Samantha and I can’t believe you’re letting your conflicted feelings about me get in the way!”

“I –”

“I don’t want to hear it, Sam, because we are getting on that stage tomorrow whether you like it or not.”

Samantha crossed her arms. “You can’t force me to do anything.”

Eddie threw his hands in the air. “For the love of –”

“What?”

Eddie shook his head as he grumbled, “Never mind.” He tried to be the perfect, charming, gentleman Marie-Grace said Samantha wanted but he just couldn’t. The girl was so dang frustrating! How did anyone put up with her? Then he had a better idea. He didn’t need to be charming all he needed was to speak Samantha language, a land where properness doesn’t exist.

He said, “Could you do us all a favor?”

Her eyes narrowed in suspicion as she spoke without hesitation, “No.”

“Please? I’ll do anything.” He saw the question on her lips and nodded. “Name anything and it’s yours.”

And then she smiled. She smiled that unsettling smile of hers, the one that always meant bad news for him. “Maybe,” she said. “What is it and what’s in it for you?”

Smart girl, he thought. He had to play his cards just right or disaster would strike. “For the play, could you at least give it a chance? I know you like to pretend you hate me, and as flattering as that may be, can you put that aside just for the play at least?”

Instead of arguing, Samantha considered his offer.

Eddie didn’t know how to interrupt her silence so he said, “If it’s really too much, then picture Andrew’s face instead of mine.”

Samantha was shocked. “Really, you’d allow that?”

          He nodded knowing this was something he would come to regret. “If you are seriously more in love with him than you are with me, which I highly doubt, then do it.” Eddie would do whatever it took to get Samantha up on that stage even if he would pay for it in the long run.

In that moment, Samantha knew she could never be satisfied with plain, boring, old Andrew ever again. But she wasn’t about to tell Eddie that. “Okay Eddie, I’ll do it.”

Feeling like he had just made a deal with the devil, Eddie Ryland shook her hand.

“But remember,” she said. “You owe me.”

He shuddered for he hated nothing more than to be in debt to Samantha Parkington.

******************************************************************

          Because the plays weren’t until tomorrow, the Playroom People had to come up with something to do that didn’t involve changing out of their costumes. So it was market day in the Playroom where they all set up booths to exchange their “goods.” Some were more useful than others like Samantha and Nellie’s where they tried to distribute the nobody bag of clothes. Others were more fun and dangerous like Glogan’s carnival games. By far the most popular booth belonged to Parker and Big D.

          In PFV, most everyone has a magical creature. Samantha is a dragon, Nellie is a mermaid, Molly is a werewolf, Logan is a leprechaun, Gwen is the long lost elf princess etc. Some require a transformation like the dragon, mermaid, werewolf etc. but others don’t like the elf, leprechaun, and Big D.

          Big D. is a seer and in PFV a seer is someone who sees glimpses of the future. The future is never set in stone so most of what they see doesn’t ever come to pass. But most people do not know that and it makes seers seem a little frightening.  They’re harmless, mostly. Except when a seer gazes into a person’s eyes a certain way they can cause that person to see their worst nightmare. This is probably why Big D.’s eyes are the way they are. She is using them to see beyond the ordinary. Also, seers are usually old hags so that explains her potato shaped head and hunched back.

          For the market, Parker set up Molly’s tent in the middle of the room and guarded the doorway as he sent people in to see Big D. or rather Madame Dolly. Meeting with a seer are very personal and usually kept private. But what did Logan do as soon as Samantha went in? She wired the tent so everyone could hear what was going on in there.

“Alright Big D, what’s my future?”

Big D. closed her eyes and stretched her hands out towards Samantha. “Shh, darling, don’t rush Madame Dolly.”

“Okay, Madame Dolly,” said Samantha. “We both know this is a two second process, so out with it.”

Madame Dolly took a long, deep, relaxed breath. “Hush, you know nothing about my craft.”

“And what’s with the accent?”

“Impatient, are we? Well fine, Parker escort Samantha out.”

As Parker entered the tent, Samantha said, “No, wait! I’ll be quiet.”

“Good,” said Madame Dolly, “Never mind Parker.”

Parker glared at Samantha. “Do not upset Madame Dolly, she tires easily.”

Madame Dolly’s hand fluttered to her forehead. “Oh, Parker!” she wailed. “Get me some grapes; I must restore my magical powers!”

Parker bowed. “Yes Madame Dolly, whatever you say Madame Dolly.”

“And a fruit smoothie couldn’t hurt either!”

“As you wish, Madame Dolly.”

A few minutes later Parker returned with the smoothie and Madame Dolly was sipping loudly from a bendy straw.

“If you’re not going to tell me my future,” said Samantha. “Then I’m just going to go.”        

“No, stop!” said Big D. gripping her forehead, “Brain Freeze!”

“Yeah, I’m leaving,” said Samantha.

“Wait! I’ll tell you your future but you’re not going to like it.”

 Samantha frowned. “What am I not going to like?”

          “Well . . .,” Big D. gulped some more of her smoothie. “On the path we’re on right now, you break Andrew’s heart by ending up with Eddie.”

          “That’s it? But that’s practically already happened!”

Madame Dolly held up a hand. “There’s more. Take a seat and I’ll tell you.”

Reluctantly, Samantha moved away from the door and took a seat across from Madame Dolly.

“You’re future is split, meaning there are two ways this could all go down.”

“Are they both bad?” Samantha asked.

“Yes and no. In both you have a big fight with Nellie.”

          “Fight?” said Samantha. “We almost never fight!”

          “Well, in the future you do,” said Madame Dolly. “You fight about . . . well, that’s not important, but it comes to a choice between your best friend and Eddie Ryland.”

Outside the tent, Nellie gasped. “Ouch,” said Logan. “That’s gotta hurt.”

“How does that feel?” said Gwen, “Your best friend choosing Eddie Ryland over you.”

“Shut up, Gwen!” said Nellie.

“Who do I choose?” Samantha asked Madame Dolly.

“It’s the future,” Madame Dolly explained. “It’s always moving and changing based on the actions we take today until it eventually becomes the present, and finally the past. Only you can decide Samantha, I can give you only a glimpse of what will happen if you choose one way but only you can change it.”

“Tell me both then.”

Madame Dolly said, “Very well. In the one where you choose Nellie you give up Eddie”

“But that’s good, isn’t it?”

Big D. shook her head. “No, in fact you’re miserable without him and you’re torturing yourself with what ifs. You gave up all your dreams of a fairy tale ending for Nellie.”

Nellie was quiet, staring at the tent yearning yet at the same time dreading to hear more.

“And the other?” Samantha said.

“You marry Eddie and never see Nellie again. She ends up alone with thirty cats.”

“Married?! To Eddie Ryland?! I can’t imagine a worser fate!”

“Actually,” said Big D. “You’re very happy except you’re missing Nellie.”

“Okay, that’s enough!” Nellie cried as she pulled the cord to the speakers.

An earsplitting screech filled the air and this prompted Samantha to leave the tent.

“Glogan!” shouted Samantha, “You micked the tent?”

Gwen nodded guiltily as Logan said, “It was Gwen’s idea!”

“No it wasn’t!” said Gwen.

“How much did you hear?” Samantha asked.

“Every word,” replied Nellie before leaving the room.

          “Nellie wait,” Samantha said. “I’m sorry.”

           Nellie whirled around. “You’re sorry? For what?”

          “I –”

“Come on,” Nellie grabbed her arm and pulled her into the lilac tunnel.

Gwen and Logan looked at each other, nodded, and stepped out into the sunshine.

“We need to talk,” said Nellie as they settled into the hedge.

Samantha hung her head. “We do.”

They were quiet, each one wanting to speak yet at the same time feeling too awkward to break the silence.

Finally Samantha said, “I’m sorry Nellie. If it means we aren’t friends anymore then I’ll –”

“Samantha,” Nellie interrupted gently. “I don’t want you to give up Eddie for me.”

“But –”

“Don’t waste time denying it. If Eddie makes you happy and you really love him, then go for it. I don’t want to stand in the way of that.”

“What? But Big D. said—”

“Big D. also said I have thirty cats,” said Nellie. “And we both know I’m not a cat person.”

Samantha laughed a little. “You’re right, it’s just that . . .”

“What?”

“It’s just that I don’t want to be one of those girls who brings home a guy her family doesn’t like.”

“Like Marie-Grace?”

Samantha nodded. They both knew how Cécile and the rest of the family felt about The Pirate. “Not just her though, it’s Felicity too. Remember how well Smith and Elizabeth got along?”

Nellie snorted. “I doubt anyone is going to make that mistake again.”

“And,” said Samantha, “I always thought I’d meet my prince charming somewhere private and secret then after I knew for certain I’d present him to the family and everything would be perfect.”

“Life doesn’t work like that, Samantha.”

“I know.”

“Glogan, the Babies and everyone else seems to really like Eddie.”

Samantha said, “A little too well, I’m afraid.”

Nellie laughed. “There’s that too.”

“But you don’t,” said Samantha. “Like him, I mean.”

Nellie hesitated. “No but—”

“I knew it!” Samantha said. “And I don’t want to be with him if it makes you unhappy.”

“Samantha, listen! You need to not worry about what everyone else thinks and make yourself happy. I remember the old Eddie, the one who treated me like the servant I was. You say he’s changed, has he?”

“Oh yes, he —”

“I haven’t met this new and improved Eddie Ryland yet. Give me a chance and then I’ll see what I think.”

Samantha breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“But that doesn’t mean you should plan your life around what I think.”

“I’m not saying that I do,” Samantha said slowly. “But if I did care–” she gagged on the word, “about him, then what?”

A faint smile touched Nellie’s lips as she said, “Then I would be okay with that and I would encourage you to go for it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes Samantha, I’m sure.”

Samantha gave her a hug. “Thanks, Nellie. You’re a true friend. What did I ever do to deserve you?”

Hearing everything they needed, Gwen and Logan dashed into the Playroom before Samantha and Nellie emerged from the hedge. Glogan threw themselves in their shelf and tried to look casual as Samantha and Nellie came in.

“Don’t worry,” said Logan innocently. “I fully approve of your boyfriend.”

Samantha glared at her knowing full well they had been eavesdropping. “Eddie Ryland is not nor will he ever be my boyfriend!”

Logan shrugged.

 “Well whatever he is,” said Gwen. “We fully approve.”

“Yeah,” added Logan. “The only thing wrong with him is that he’s in love with you.”

“Gee thanks guys,” said Samantha. “Like your opinion really matters considering you’re on the same level of annoying as Eddie Ryland!”

“Aw,” said Logan. “So you do love us.”

“More like barely tolerating,” mumbled Samantha.

Gwen teared up a bit. “I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to us.”

Both Samantha and Nellie rolled their eyes. “Boys,” they muttered.

******************************************************************

Lights, camera, action! Show time was almost here and there was a lot to do. CLONES the musical would be performed first followed by ALIENS and then the Detective Show with as little transition time as possible.

          In PFV, real aliens live on the moon and the people of earth have been at war with them for centuries. Tonight, there were some aliens in the audience which sent the Bitties over the edge because they knew the real aliens might take offense to their artistic interpretations and that could lead to another war. But right now, Bitty Quansa’s most pressing concern lay with Samantha.

          “Is the private jet ready to go?” Bitty Q. murmured to Bitty F.

          “Yes, but I just hope we can make it there before the aliens annihilate us all first.”

          “Do you think she’ll be able to do it?”

“Not a chance,” said Bitty F.

 “Where is that girl anyway?”

  “I’ll go find out,” said Nellie.

***************************************************************

          Samantha was backstage in a dressing room breathing in and out, forcing herself to relax. How Marie-Grace did this all the time was beyond her. All she could think about with a growing horror was the fact that she would be on stage falling with Eddie Ryland in a few moment’s time. Her thoughts were disturbed, however, when the mailman appeared in a puff of smoke.

          “Mail,” he said. “From some guy named Andrew. You might not want to read it.”

          Samantha gave him a look. “And did it ever occur to you that you shouldn’t read it either?”

The mailman shrugged and disappeared. Samantha sighed as she opened the letter:

Howdy, partner!

       After that game show, I just thought I’d take a minute to say what’s on my mind. I like you and I have a feeling you like me too. But it’s never been more than that, has it? I don’t know who that other guy on the show is, but whether or not it was rigged he still seems to know you a lot more than I do. What I mean is this: I could never fill his shoes so if he is the guy for you then run to him and let nothing stop you. My love for you is as vast and rolling as the western landscape and I love you enough to let you be with someone else. But remember this Samantha, our story maybe un-special, unknown, and a classic case of country boy meets city girl, but it’s something I’ll treasure forever, even if you find your heart elsewhere. I’m a big boy Samantha; I can handle a messy breakup. My plan is to lose with dignity to the better man and wait with open arms for my own true love.

Maybe we can still be friends,

Andrew

*****************************************************************                 Samantha was stunned and time seemed to stop even though she knew this had to happen. Samantha liked Andrew, of course she did or he wouldn’t be her boyfriend. But…

His mere presence didn’t send her heart into spasms.

He never made her knees weak as her lips burned with heated passion under the weight of his kiss.

He didn’t steal her breath away or simply make her nervous by being on the same continent during the same time period.

He was an average country farmer boy from the present. Unlike someone else she knew…

And Eddie Ryland, well, all he ever did was grin stupidly at her, the rascal.

Samantha was beyond mad. She was furious. But she was more furious with herself for being in love with a dope like Eddie in the first place.

There was a soft knock on the door as Nellie entered. “Samantha? We’re almost ready to start and everyone is wondering —”

She broke off when she noticed Samantha’s expression. “Is everything alright?” 

“I don’t know,” Samantha said simply. “I think Andrew just dumped me.”

To be continued . . .  

The Road to Happily Ever After

Miss Samantha Parkington is faced with a life altering choice, and it comes in the for of a diamond ring in a velvet box in the hands of a man down on one knee.

The Road

To Happily

Ever After

Is such a thing even possible for Samantha Parkington and Eddie Ryland?

By: Detective #52

Miss Samantha Parkington is madly in love with her old rival, Mr. Edward Ryland, yet she is frantically trying to deny it. Lucky for her, the rest of her Playroom family are willing to help. First Glogan made up a game show featuring her love triangle, then Madame Dolly hinted at her future, and now the Bitties are finally giving her a chance in the spotlight. There’s only one catch and that is she has to share it with Eddie Ryland, the boy from her past who teased her to no end. And to make matters worse, Andrew, a western farmer from the present who somehow became her boyfriend, broke up with her right before the show starts. Will Samantha ever learn to move on and get over the fact that it’s Eddie she’s in love with? Or will she forever see the man she loves as the boy she despised? There’s only one way to find out and it’s on the road to happily ever after.

“Oh Samantha,” Nellie breathed. “And he didn’t even do it in person.”

          Samantha thought about how the last time she had seen Andrew she had been an angry, fire breathing dragon. “Can you blame him?”

          “Are you going to be okay?” Nellie asked.

          “I think so,” said Samantha. “I feel more relieved than anything else. And besides, we all knew this was going to happen anyway.”

          “On the bright side,” Nellie added. “Madame Dolly was wrong.”

          This earned a chuckle from Samantha.

          “And now you’re free to . . . you know, be with someone else,” Nellie continued. “But he was your boyfriend.”

          “Maybe,” Samantha said softly, “but I didn’t love him.”

They were interrupted by a harsh knock on the door and a gruff male voice that said, “Samantha open up! The show is about to start! You can’t hide in there forever!”

Nellie opened the door and scolded, “Go away! Can’t you see we’re having a crisis here?”

Eddie Ryland pushed her aside but paused when he noticed the letter in Samantha’s hands and the expression on her face. His frustration immediately turned to concern as he asked anxiously, “Who died? It’s not Grandmary is it?”

          “Not exactly,” said Nellie, “Andr——”

          Samantha elbowed her in the ribs. “Nobody died, but if you want to get technical about it, the year is 2014 so in this century Grandmary is most likely dead.”

“Ah, the benefits of time travel,” said Eddie. “Wait, if nobody died, then what’s the crisis?”

Samantha and Nellie looked at each other. Nellie decided she’d better let Samantha take this one or else she’d risk the wrath of the dragon.

“Typical man,” said Samantha. “Someone has to die for it to merit being a crisis.”

“What?” said Eddie. “I never said—–”

Samantha just smiled sweetly which only puzzled Eddie more. She took his arm with one hand, as ladies and gentlemen often do, and crumpled up Andrew’s note with the other. She tossed it in the trash can as she whispered to Nellie, “I’ll tell him later.”

Nellie nodded but as soon as they were out of sight she reached her hand in the barrel and pulled out Andrew’s letter.

******************************************************************

          Eddie knew there had to be something seriously wrong for Samantha to be acting like this. She seemed he was shocked to even think this, glad to be in his company. He leaned down to whisper in her ear, “You’re not that good an actor, Sam. What’s really the problem?”

          For a split second, Samantha’s expression clouded over. Then she recovered and was smiling brightly again. “What makes you think something is wrong?”

          He scowled at her. “You know just as well as I do that best, you can barely tolerate me. There has to be news of some kind in that letter, something bad, that you don’t want me to know about.”

          Samantha laughed lightly, a little unnerved by his guess. “Please, maybe I’m just getting into character.”

          “Or maybe, you’re a rotten liar as well as a rotten actress.”

          As they neared the doors to the stage, Samantha shocked him even further by planting a tentative kiss on his cheek. “What’s wrong with getting into character? After all, we do have two whole scenes in front of billions of people and aliens.”

          Eddie frowned at her as she took her place upstage left. She was definitely hiding something and being a detective, he was determined to find out what. But for now, he was going to enjoy this suddenly love-struck Samantha for as long as it would last.

******************************************************************

          Samantha stared at the closed curtain in front of her as if it were a ticking time bomb. No, scratch that, dealing with any type of magical explosive would be easier than this.

          Bitty Q.’s voice rang out over the speakers, “Welcome! My friend Bitty and I have three great shows planned for you tonight!”

          “We hope,” Bitty F. muttered.

          “Shh!” Bitty Q. shushed her. “They don’t need to know that yet.”

          The crowd laughed and Bitty Q. said, “These microphones just seem to pick up everything!”

          She turned to glare at the curtain behind her where Glogan were arguing over something stupid. Gwen poked her head out, her mountain man beard sliding off the side of her head. “I am not a clone!”

          “Yes you are!” Logan shouted.

          Bitty Q. tried to smile at the audience while she said to Glogan through gritted teeth, “And if you two don’t shut up, there won’t be any mountain men!”

          Gwen was about to reply, but Bitty F. interrupted, “Okay, let’s get this show on the road. Bitty Quansa—–”

          “And company!” Gwen added.

          Bitty F. rolled her eyes. “Fine. Bitty Quansa and company proudly present: CLONES the Musical!”

          There was an earth shattering applause and as the curtain began to rise Samantha Parkington broke out in a cold sweat. For someone living in a world of magic and danger to the extreme, Samantha wasn’t very often afraid. But for the first time in her life, fear of the spotlight and all that came with it griped her heart. She took a deep breath and glanced over at Eddie. Just the sight of his casual, lopsided grin he flashed in her direction was enough to steady her fluttering bundle of nerves. His eyes danced in challenge, almost as if he were daring her to give up the fight and give this galaxy a show they would remember. Everything between them had always been a game to Samantha, a teasing and twisted desire to win.

          Scene one began and to Samantha’s relief it wasn’t yet time for their grand entrance. The house lights dimmed and the colorful spotlights moved around bathing the stage in random splotches of neon. The “aliens” or Parker, Big D., Bitty F. and poor, humiliated Cecile danced out on stage. They were dressed in utterly ridiculous costumes that supposedly made them aliens. 

          Bitty F. ran across the stage shouting, “Who-an-na-na, who-na, na, na!”

          Big D. rolled back and forth, her alien tentacles flapping in the breeze.

          “Ah-iii-iii-i!” Parker almost ran off the stage as the squishy magic urchin attached to his head flopped over into his eyes and started spraying ink everywhere.

          And Cecile, good ole Cecile, kept her head down and tried to look casual as she rolled out a cart carrying Glogan’s Clone Master 2000.

          It could only get worse from there as Clones one through four (Molly, Emily, Kelsey, and Marie-Grace) came out on the conveyor belt. The music started and Disney’s song “Put it Together” blared from the speakers. Chaos reigned as it became more of a random dance party than an actual scene from a play.

From her director chair down front, Bitty Quansa was horror stricken by the nightmare playing out on stage. She glanced at the real Alien’s expressionless faces before announcing to herself, “We’re doomed!” She closed her eyes tight. “I just can’t watch!” Then she reached for her phone and punched in a number. “Hello? Yeah, it looks like we are going to need that private jet a lot sooner than expected.”

******************************************************************

          Backstage, Samantha grimaced wishing that she too could escape to Mexico. This play had gone from bad to worse and she hadn’t even stepped out on stage yet. To everyone’s relief, the scene finally ended. The human audience clapped hesitantly and looked at each other as if to say, “What did we just witness?”

          Bitty Q. gestured frantically to the stage hands, “Close the curtain!”

          “Uh?” said the clueless stage hand.

          “Close the curtain! Now!”

          “Oh.” He yanked on the rope and the curtain swung open even wider to reveal chaos in the wings.

          Bitty Q. rolled her eyes as she jumped up on stage, “Oh for Pete’s sake! I can’t get any good help around here, can I?”

          As soon as the curtain was successfully closed, Bitty F. took a moist towelette and wiped the sweat and alien makeup off her face. “That was awesome!”

“It was?” said both Samantha and Bitty Q.

 “Yeah,” said Bitty F. “Did you not see those aliens in the audience? They look like they’re having the time of their lives.”

“What?!” Bitty Q. exclaimed. She peered out from behind the curtain and realized her friend was right. These archenemies of the human race were laughing and smiling as if they had real emotions and feelings. They were probably making fun of them, but that didn’t bother Bitty Q. “Alright, let’s move onto scene two. We’re not giving up yet!”

“What?” Samantha’s eyes widened in panic. And they had been so close to avoiding this whole disaster! “But . . . but. . .”

“You heard her,” said Bitty F. “The show must go on!”

Everyone moved into position and within seconds of their entrance, Samantha once again found herself looking to Eddie for reassurance. He mouthed to her from across the stage, “Picture Andrew.”

But Samantha didn’t want to think about Andrew. She was about to reply that she wasn’t going to picture Andrew; that when she closed her eyes it was Eddie Ryland’s dashingly handsome face she saw. Andrew was completely out of the picture now that it was Eddie’s arms she longed to be in. But Samantha never had a chance to utter a word of this to Eddie. In a daze, she was ushered out on stage by Clone four, Marie-Grace.

Marie-Grace smiled at her. “Enjoy it. It will be over in a moment. Don’t let yourself be consumed by fear or else you’ll never discover real magic under those spotlights.”

Samantha’s heart was pounding but she still managed to nod at Marie-Grace before stepping out on stage. Let the magic begin.

******************************************************************

The show continued on, more or less as the script intended. Scene four had just finished and Gwen was headed backstage to relax after her big mountain man solo. As she entered the dressing room, Gwen saw her clone smiling as she read a dirty, crumpled up piece of paper. “What do you have there?”

Logan smile widened as she handed the letter to Gwen. “I think we just hit the jackpot.”

******************************************************************

It turned out that the Bitties didn’t need their private jet that night after all. The Aliens were literally over the moon with the accurate, lifelike aliens they saw on stage. They even congratulated the Bitties for getting their difficult language right which was completely coincidental on the Bitties part. And Bitty Quansa’s real nightmare, Samantha, did better than anyone could have imagined.

As she promised Eddie, for that night only did Samantha let go of every ounce of hostility, every wave of anger, every longing for the past and every other confused and conflicted emotion she felt whenever she was with Eddie. That night, it all melted away effortlessly under the spotlight.

That night, Samantha shone under her once in a lifetime limelight.

That night, she was simply a girl in love with a boy who had grown up teasing her, the rest didn’t matter.

That night, Samantha Parkington kissed Eddie Ryland like she was madly in love with him (which she was) as the whole world and even the moon watched.

Marie-Grace was right; Samantha mused as they took their final bows. She looked up at Eddie and smiled. There is magic in show business.

******************************************************************

Nothing could ruin that night for Eddie. Not even the fact that behind Samantha’s love-struck gaze it was probably Andrew she was thinking about could damper his mood. He knew that after the show she would go back to her hissing and scratching self again but in those few precious moments under the spotlight with her, it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered because at long last he held the girl of his dreams in his arms and she was looking at him with eyes of love, not hate. For Eddie Ryland, that was reason enough to love the musical Clones.

And then it was over. Samantha and Eddie stood together with their hands clasped above their heads. The final applause was still ringing out, the confetti was still falling and the music was still fading when the curtain closed abruptly.

“That’s a wrap! Good show everyone!” Bitty Q. announced.

“What?” Eddie shook his head as if awakening from a really good dream. “It’s over already?”

“Already?!” Bitty Q. exclaimed. “That was the longest, most agonizing show I’ve ever had to sit through!”

“But we pulled it off,” said Bitty F. “Now onto ALIENS. Where’s our star Felicity?”

“I’m here!” Felicity shouted as she spiked her hair and tugged on some crazy colored leg warmers.

“And you thought CLONES: the musical was bad,” Eddie muttered to Samantha.

Samantha laughed. “Oh, it was awful, especially since I had to share it with you.”

“Yeah, well it was no picnic for me either,” Eddie said even though he had loved every minute of it.

“You see, Samantha?” said Bitty Q. “You could do it.”

“I always knew you had it in you!” said Bitty F.

“And even after Andrew broke up with you too!” Gwen added.

Logan cringed as she hurriedly clamped her hand over Gwen’s mouth. Gwen pried Logan’s hand away. “What, was I not supposed to say that?”

Logan slapped a hand to her forehead. “No Gwen, you were not supposed to say that.”

All the activity on stage ceased as Eddie turned to Samantha. “Andrew what?”

Samantha’s face went bright red but she recovered quickly and glared at Glogan. “And who told you that?”
          “Nellie did it!” Logan shouted.

“Hey, don’t look at me,” Nellie said. “They’re Glogan, how do you think they found out?”

“So it’s true?” Eddie wanted to know.

There was no one daring enough to respond as Eddie griped Samantha’s shoulders. His fingers gently lifted her head up to meet his gaze. “Is it true, Sam?”
          Samantha looked away and bit her lip. “Maybe.”

So that’s a yes, Eddie thought. His eyes blazed as he demanded, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Samantha didn’t answer, but then, Eddie didn’t really expect her to. His detective brain whirled as he tried to put all the pieces together. First it was the letter which was probably from Andrew, then her expression, but she didn’t seem too heartbroken because she was able to “act” like she was in love. He knew she was a terrible actress but during the show she had seemed so in love. If she wasn’t mooning over Andrew, Eddie realized, then it must mean . . .

  Eddie would have kissed her in delight right then or cheerfully strangled her if it wasn’t for the fact that her family was circling them like vultures. Slowly, he released her and smiled. It was the smile that scared Samantha most of all. It was an expression of pure evil. A smirk Samantha was masterful at first displaying and then executing for it meant ultimate doom for whomever it was directed too. Unfortunately for Samantha, she was finding herself at the receiving end of this one.

The activity around them resumed as the playroom people scurried to prepare for their next performance of the night. Samantha tried to flee, but Eddie grasped her arm. “We need to talk.”

Her eyes widened and she violently shook her head no. In the chaos that surrounded them, Samantha was saved by Bitty F.’s shriek. “Gwen! I need some help lifting this clone machine over here!”

“Aw, but I want to watch—–”

“Things are just starting to get interesting!” Logan put in.

Both Samantha and Eddie gave her a withering look.

“Glogan!” Bitty F. demanded. “Show starting in. . . .”

“Oh, alright,” grumbled Logan. “We’re coming.

“Don’t move!” Gwen commanded the stars of CLONES: the musical. “We’ll pick this up where we left off later.” Bitty grabbed both Gwen and Logan by the scruffs of their necks, rolling her eyes in annoyance as she did so.

“Well, well, well,” said Eddie gazing down into Samantha’s warm, melted chocolate brown eyes. “Alone at last—–”

“Samantha!” Marie-Grace exclaimed giving her adopted sister a big hug. “You did amazing tonight! I am so proud of you! And did you discover. . . . ..?” She shyly glanced at Eddie.

“NO!!!” Samantha exploded. A long night of exhausting emotional trauma after exhausting emotional trauma didn’t exactly do wonders for her attitude. Her first instinct was still denial. “I didn’t discover anything other than the fact that I HATE the musical Clones and I HATE—–”

“You just hate how you love me,” grinned Eddie.

Samantha glowered at him. “I wouldn’t love you Eddie Ryland even if you were the last human being on planet earth!” With that, Samantha spun on her heel and disappeared into the abyss of actors, costumes, props, and bossing Bitties.

“Ouch,” Marie-Grace shuddered.

Eddie stared after her disappearing form his smile melting as crushing disappointment clouded into his heart. He hoped, no he truly believed, this performance would have convinced Samantha of what they both know is true. But he had been so wrong about her, her stubbornness, and her ability to hold a grudge. Would Samantha ever give him the time of day? Or would he have to keep stealing hate filled moments for the rest of their lives? Should he give up the chase or would she be worth it in the end?

Marie-Grace, still in a somewhat shocked daze over seeing someone so in love speak so meanly, said, “That was kinda harsh.”

Eddie sighed deeply. “That’s Samantha for you. Always letting the anger of the dragon get the best of her.”

“She’ll cool down.”

“I know,” said Eddie quietly swallowing the lump in his throat. “She always does.”

“No, I mean she’ll cool down about being with you. She’ll accept it eventually.”

“Eventually.” Eddie laughed bitterly. “Yeah, that will be the day!”

“Don’t give up,” pleaded Marie-Grace, the sudden thought of Samantha not ending up with her prince unbearable for her romantic heart. “Never give up on true love.”

Eddie grew sober, his gaze uplifted to the horizon and a dreamy look stealing over his features. “I won’t,” he promised to himself more than Marie-Grace. “I love Samantha Parkington and I will fight until my dying day to make her mine. Even if it means taking sides in a war she’s having against herself. Even if it means putting up with all her irritating siblings and loving them like they’re my own family. Even if it means our happily ever after will be filled with interruptions and anguish over every playroom drama. Even if it means we’ll fight like cats and dogs for the rest of eternity. Even if it means I’ll spend the rest of my life pursuing her. I love Samantha Parkington and I am not going to let anything, especially not her foolish stubbornness stand in my way of winning her!”

Marie-Grace cheered. “That’s my boy!”

Eddie strode off into the upheaval of utter chaos like a knight in shining white armor to hunt down his evasive beloved. Marie-Grace watched him go, hoping against all despair that for once Samantha would just thaw like butter in his arms and let him take care of her for once. Of all the playroom people, Samantha deserved a happily ever after the most. As she pondered her adopted sister’s predicament, Marie-Grace was oblivious to the tall shadow creeping up behind her. An arm snaked its way around her waist while a voice whispered low in her ear, “Je t’aime. Great job tonight ma cherie, even if you were only clone #4 and not the star. You shined in my eyes.”

Startled, Marie-Grace jumped only to smile softly at her pirate captain. She relaxed against him and he kissed the tip of her nose. He observed where she had originally been looking, at Samantha smartly dodging her pursuer by crawling under a cardboard space rocket, amazingly similar to the clone machine with a new crayon job, as Eddie tried to shove a costume rack that was tangling tentacles out of the way in order to reach her. The pirate glanced back and forth before landing his gaze on his own true love. “I am sooo glad we’re not like them.”

Marie-Grace sighed contently. “So am I, so am I.”

******************************************************************

          Eddie didn’t have a chance to say two words to Samantha after the musical that night. She kept herself so busy fetching things for the stage hands, fixing torn costumes with magic, and any other odd job she could beg someone, anyone to let her do it was impossible for him to approach her. Usually during the performances Samantha is lazily lounging in the last row watching. The babies usually didn’t like extra people who are not in the musical buzzing around and getting in the way, but tonight they were swamped with other, bigger issues. Namely the little problem of trying not to offend the real Aliens in the audience and start another war with the moon. At this point, as long as the show was a success and the audience was happy they didn’t really care who was working backstage. Samantha attended to every need so diligently the real backstage crew was kicking back and putting their feet up while Samantha did everything for them.

          Samantha might be able to ignore him for now, but she would not be able to escape the after party. There were many places at a grand ball where a gentleman could sneak off to have a private moment with his lady. He should know for he had been too way to many balls in his lifetime to count. The mere thought of the celebrity party made Eddie grin wickedly in delight, she can run but she cannot hide. Tonight, you, Samantha will be all mine.

******************************************************************

Samantha returned home utterly exhausted. She pulled a Felicity by theatrically flinging herself across her mattress and burying her face into her pillow. “Mail!” came the unwelcome voice of the mailman as he stepped into the playroom. “Mail here for Samantha Parkington!”

Samantha groaned and buried her face deeper into her pillow. “Not again!”

“But this one is good news,” said the mailman reading the letter. “Poor kid, twice in one night. At least this one isn’t—–”

“Just give it to me!” Samantha lifted up her arm to take it.

The mailman shrugged and tossed it to her. He made a move to exit, but then stopped suddenly to say, “What a strange musical those Bitties put on. I try not to watch those shows your family puts on, but unfortunately for me my wife is a big Quansa fan and forces me to attend with her. Clones? Really? I wish I could unsee that! They just keep getting crazier, don’t they?”

Samantha’s face burned red. “Yeah, tell me about it.”

The mailman left, never daring to admit that he feels quite sorry for this least nuts girl out of all the playroom people. Though the mailman hates the prank mail masters Glogan with a burning passion he didn’t really mind Samantha the one who tries to police the amount of prank mail and meddling they do to him.

Samantha turned her attention to her mail and gasped when she read the return address. Yes! At long last it was the letter she had been waiting for. Months ago, Samantha decided she wanted a real career besides playing mom to her adopted sisters. She longed to be a true detective and thought she had the skill set necessary in order to do it. Dealing with her family and how often they saved the world together made Samantha excel at finding clues and putting them together. While Felicity and Glogan could handle the weapons and battle tactics, Samantha could quietly whiff out the truth before those three had their heads on straight. Working as a team, they had prevented many villains from taking over the government. Unofficially, Samantha had worked as a detective for Logan. But she wanted more than being under her little adopted cousin’s command. So with a glowing reference from Logan, possibly forged by Samantha, Samantha had written to a secret detective agency asking for a place among their agents. If Bitty Quansa could sneak out to take sky diving lessons at night then Samantha thought there was no reason why she couldn’t live a double life and work as a detective at night. During the day, she could still monitor her family but this way she could have something for her own enjoyment. Now for the moment of truth, would the detective agency accept her or not?

Dear Miss Parkington,

Thank you for your application if somewhat  unformal. Logan is known to us through her status as national hero and black market activities. A reference from her can either bode well or unwell for you. In this case, we are willing to give you a chance to prove yourself to us. If you succeed in your first case then you will be welcomed among us a full-fledged member despite you not having any former training in the discipline. If you fail, you will be brain washed of any memory of us. All of our agents work in partners. Agents are NEVER sent out solo, it’s much too dangerous to fly alone and we find we lose too many agents that way. We always partner men with women. Call us old fashioned, but that’s just the way we do things. We find it is better protection for our female agents and it is better book smarts for our male agents. Your partner’s name will not be revealed to you until you meet him. He will be close to your age. He has trained with us for several years, but this will be his first real case too. He has the details for your first case. Meet him at this location tomorrow night. 742 Castle Street. It is an abandoned mansion. Please destroy this message before it falls into the wrong hands.

Looking forward to brain wash—-I mean your success!

Thank you,

The detective agency

“Wow,” Samantha breathed hardly daring to let herself believe it. She was actually going to live her dream. Andrew would never understand her desire to bust criminals, but maybe Eddie. . . .. .

No! Eddie will never know about this either. Samantha wondered about her partner. Would he be as handsome as. . . . .

No! Maybe she’ll fall in love with her partner and forget all about. . . . .

Her train of thought was interrupted by a stampede of girls tromping in the  through the front door. “Alright!” Bitty F. clapped her hands together to get everyone’s attention. “It’s party time!”

There was a cheer from tried crew of stage girls and within a few seconds they were all dressed in in the nines in their finest ball gowns.

“What?” choked Samantha.

“You know we always have a big ball after any of our performances,” said Bitty F. fashioning a stylish wig to her bald head.

“Why aren’t you dressed yet?!” demanded the director Bitty Q.

“Because I’m not going,” replied Samantha stiffly.

“Oh, yes you are,” said Bitty F. “Even if it means I have to hog tie you and carry you there myself.”

Bitty Q. whispered in her ear, “Do you even know what hog tie means?”

“Nope,” answered Bitty F. “But it sounds right. I heard it somewhere once. Maybe it’s got something to do with hogs.”

“Oh, brother,” muttered Samantha. “If you don’t know what word means then don’t use it and I am NOT going.”

“If you star in a play,” reminded Bitty Q., “then you suffer through the after party. With Guy #1.”

“He has a name you know. We all do!”

“Okay Girl #1,” said Bitty F. deliberately not using her real name, “Guy #1 will be here any minute to escort you to the ball and I suggest you get dressed.”

“What should I wear?”

Bitty F. slapped a hand to her forehead. “Not this again. We’ll be here all night!”

“Let me see if I can help,” Nellie interjected. “Here, how about the lavender one you got for Give Me Presents day? It’s new, he’s never seen you wear it. Plus it’s not super fancy. This isn’t a royal ball so medieval gowns are not required.”

Samantha rolled her eyes. “Oh, do I have to wear that one? It’s just so—-”

“Oh, for crying out loud!” Bitty F. said impatiently. “Just put on the stupid dress!”

There was a knock at the door and a voice proclaiming, “You can run but you can’t hide Miss Parkington. Your favorite escort is here.”

Nellie snapped her fingers and the dress appeared on Samantha in a heart-beat.  Give Me Presents Day, a.k.a. Jessica’s birthday, was a national holiday for the playroom kids because they were showered with new dresses and stuff for no other reason than that it was their adopted mother’s birthday. This new dress was a gift. Three or four years ago, the real world time travel company American Girl put their Samantha in the archives. Honestly, Samantha didn’t like to think about American Girl too much because it brought up the subject that every girl that comes out of there is actually a clone of some real girl living back in time. Most people don’t like to dwell on  the fact that they might not really be who they think they are but are instead a clone living a lie and being sold to millions of children all across real world America. It’s gets confusing really fast when one thinks of a company like American Girl magical Pretend Friend Ville terms, and it’s just better not to dwell on it too much. For the Samantha living in the playroom, American Girl archives meant no new dresses on Give Me Presents Day. However, this last summer American Girl brought Samantha back from the archives only it was a dismayed horror for they completely changed everything about her and labeled it “BeForever.” Samantha didn’t want any of these strange new clothes from this wacko version of herself, but lo and behold she got two new dresses for Give Me Presents Day. The problem Samantha had with the dress was that it didn’t seem authentic to her. It was skin tight, very short, and very, very shiny. In Samantha’s time, there comes a point in a young woman’s life when she stops wearing short skirts of a child and settled for something much more grown up. Growing up in her day meant skirts come down and hair goes up. Wearing this dress meant for a ten year old as a mature sixteen year old meant she would be a laughing stock. Not to any people at the party because they didn’t live back in her time and short tight dresses were all the rage right now. To Samantha, it was humiliating. And then to be seen by Eddie who knows full well the fashions of their own time period was just an added horror. The dress itself wasn’t horrible. In fact, it was a lovely color with lots of lacy bows. The shoes were knee high boots with pearl buttons and they matched perfectly. The only problem was how tight and short it was. Samantha, along with everyone in the playroom, believed American Girl was deliberately trying to be cheap, save fabric and cheat the customers. Their quality went way down over the last few years. It was very disappointing to witness especially on Give Me Presents Day. So Samantha wore the new lavender dress to the star party, hating every wretched moment of it.  

Eddie was about to knock again when suddenly the door opened. Eddie dropped the bundle of flowers he was holding, gazed down at Samantha and whistled. He raised an eyebrow. “Nice dress you’ve got there Sa—-”

“Shut up,” she snapped taking his arm. She stepped over the wilting flowers as if they weren’t even there.

Eddie only grinned stupidly at her, making her heart melt.

******************************************************************

“Well,” said Eddie awkwardly. “I think this is probably the worst ball I’ve ever attended.” The after party was held at a palace on the beach. Quansa and company sure knew how to party. It was perhaps, one of the best balls they’ve ever hosted for both aliens and humans a like put aside their differences and came together as one to enjoy the finest musical high cultured society could create. Tonight’s festivities were rivaled by none other than the annual “ball of the century” on New Year’s Eve, the biggest bash of all.

“The worst by far,” muttered Samantha.

“May I have this dance?”

“NO.”

“Aw, come on!”

“You got your dance in the musical.”

“Drum roll please,” announced Bitty Q. at the microphone. The drummer obeyed. He knew where his nonexistent pay check came from.

          “And now,” added Bitty F. mysteriously, “the moment you’ve all been waiting for!”

          Bitty Q. said what Samantha was dreading, “Our stars from our latest hit musical Clones will now dance together!”

          Samantha scowled as Eddie smirked. “My lady, this dance?” Samantha had no choice but to comply. As she spun and twirled in and out of his arm’s Samantha was keenly aware of all the people watching them. “Smile Sam,” Eddie said through gritted teeth. She “accidently” stomped on his toe. “Your fans are watching.” They danced for hours, losing track of time as they continuously gazed into one another’s eyes. Samantha had been to many balls in her lifetime but never had any been as wondrous as this one despite her irritation with her outfit. Although Samantha was a frequent ball goer, she almost never had anyone to dance with. She mostly went to watch her sisters. Now Samantha could finally experience the joy of balls and felt she could dance the whole night away as long as it was with Eddie Ryland.  

          Suddenly, there was a loud scream. Samantha’s heart stopped. She knew that voice better than anyone and it was coming from the beach. When your baby, who never learned how to swim, is screaming somewhere near the direction of the raging surf.

Samantha fled from Eddie’s arms faster than a cheetah on the hunt. “Sam, wait!” Eddie called after her. Samantha didn’t wait, couldn’t afford to not when she knew something must be terribly wrong for her little Bitty Fatterson to scream like that. Bitty is always very loud, but this time it was different and Samantha could tell the difference immediately.

Samantha and Eddie arrived at the scene to Nellie half transformed into a mermaid and standing knee deep in the crashing waves. Bitty F. was standing on the shore looking out to see and crying. Samantha enfolded her little sister in her arms. “Shh,” she soothed as she rocked her back and forth rubbing her back. “Bitty, what’s wrong? I need you to tell me.”

“B-b-itty!” She hiccupped.

“Yes? What about Bitty?”

“In the water! We were in the lighthouse. She wanted to trick you and Eddie into getting together. I came up with a plan and she jumped and riptide and—-” the rest of Bitty’s words were unintelligent amidst her blubbering.

Samantha was frantic with worry for her little cousin. She inhaled deeply trying to calm herself. It would not due to have a panic attack because then she couldn’t rescue Bitty. This was not the first time Bitty Q. had gotten herself lost nor would it be the last. But it was the first time she had ever been lost at sea. And for a girl who couldn’t swim. .  ..

Samantha shook Bitty F. by the shoulders. “What were you thinking?!”

Bitty burst into tears. “We were just trying to help you!”

“Samantha!” Nellie scolded gathering Bitty up in her arms. “Don’t be mean to her. It’s not her fault Bitty decided to—-”

“Yeah, well, she caused it!” muttered Samantha.

“Bitty!” Bitty F. wailed.

Samantha softened. “I know Bitty. We’ll find her, I promise.”

Bitty was far from comforted. “You don’t care! You don’t care about us anymore because you only have eyes for Eddie!”

Samantha blinked, for the first time utterly speechless. Then the anger set in and her face turned red as her hands balled into fists at her sides. “And who is to blame for that? Who is the one who wrote a musical—-”

“Samantha that’s enough!” interrupted Nellie. “Now let’s all—”

Bitty screamed again.

“If I may,” started Eddie and Samantha glared at him. “Fine, if you don’t want my help then I won’t give it!” he shouted and stalked off.

“Eddie, wait!” Samantha ran behind calling after him.
          “There she goes again!” Bitty sobbed.

Nellie sighed angrily, her frustration mounting. “Alright Bitty, sit here and don’t move. I’m going in after Bitty.” She dove head first into the swelling tide instantly transforming into a mermaid.

******************************************************************

          “Eddie Ryland!”

He stopped walking and whirled around to face Samantha. “What?”

Samantha didn’t know what to say from here. She desperately wanted, no needed, his help to find her little adopted sister but she was repulsed by the mere thought of asking him of all people for help. Still, she must do whatever she can to save Bitty even if it meant humiliating herself by submitting to her wildest nightmare and ask the dreaded Eddie Ryland for help. “Please,” she whispered. “I need to save Bitty. I don’t have time to argue.”

Eddie couldn’t stop the grin from leering down at her. “And?”

“And what?” Samantha wanted nothing more to slap the slimy smirk off his face.

“Isn’t there something else you want to say to me?”

She rolled her eyes. “Fine. I’m sorry.”

“That doesn’t sound very sincere, now does it?” Then he gazed down into her tight face and realized now was not the time to play games with her. Not when her family was in danger and they were depending on her to save the day. Suddenly, she was in his arms shivering not from cold, but from fear. “We’ll find her, Sam.” He murmured low in her ear. “Don’t worry. I’m here to help, you don’t even have to ask.” She nodded gratefully, shining eyes staring up into his. He wanted nothing more than to lean down and press his lips against hers, but they had a job to do and they needed to hurry if they were going to find Bitty before it was too late. “Come on, let’s go to my yacht. We’ll find her faster by sea.”

“You have a yacht?”

“Of course. Don’t you?”

“And it just happens to be docked at this resort where the ball is being held?”

He blushed. “I was hoping.. . .”

Samantha wasted no more time in asking dumb questions. It was clear what he was hoping and now he was getting his wish if in a somewhat unexpected way. As Eddie spoke to the captain, Samantha stood at the bow and whispered to the wind, “I’m coming Bitty, wherever you are.”

******************************************************************

An hour passed with everyone on board scanning the waves with their eyes peeled for Bitty. The desperation in Samantha was growing more intense with each passing minute. Even Eddie was grim, but he tried not to show it for Samantha’s sake. Suddenly, there was a large splash on the starboard side. “Nellie!” Samantha squealed as her fishy friend scrambled aboard. She flopped about on deck for a while until her shimmering aqua tail morphed back into human legs, fully clothed ones at that.

“Did you find. . . .?” asked Eddie solemnly.

Nellie scowled. “No.”

Samantha’s heart sank. She clutched Eddie’s hand and he squeezed it in return. Nellie glanced down at their clasped hands wondering not for the first time if she was losing her friend for good. 

          “Ahoy there mateys!” bellowed a loud voice behind them. Samantha, Nellie, and Eddie lifted their downcast faces to see the Captain of the French Pirates bringing his ship up alongside theirs. “Look who we found!”

          Bitty Baby Quansa was curled up sound asleep on Marie-Grace’s lap. A soggy ball gown was heaped on the deck next to them while Bitty wore footie pajamas and was swaddled in a pink blanket.

          “What?!” gaped Eddie.

          “How?” breathed Samantha.

          “Where?!” demanded Nellie.

          Marie-Grace put a finger to her lips as Bitty stirred in her arms. “Shh!”

          “I’ll tell you later!” The pirate cupped his hands and called softly. “But she’s safe now and I’m taking them home.”

          Nellie nodded and gave him the thumbs up.

“Well,” said Samantha turning to Eddie her face slightly reddening in embarrassment. “I guess your services are no longer needed. Home please.”

Eddie grumbled under his breath, “Oh, so now I’m your chauffeur?” He was strangely disappointed in the pirate’s heroic act of saving Bitty Quansa’s life. Eddie knew the pirate had a long history with the young girl and it was probably best the captain had been the one to rescue her, but he had hoped that by saving her youngest sister he might have proven to Samantha that he cares about her family as much as she does and that he is capable of helping her sometimes. She needn’t shoulder it all alone when he’s there to give her a hand.

They arrived back at the party sooner than Eddie would have liked. Before they disembarked he grabbed Samantha’s hand and kissed her knuckles gentleman like, “I’ve enjoyed this day with you, Sam, even though you insist you don’t. Would you like to come to tea at my home on Castle Street tomorrow afternoon? You can bring Nellie and meet my adopted family.”

Samantha opened her mouth to refuse when Nellie spoke up, “She would love to!”

“No!” Samantha protested. “We are not—-”

“Samantha Parkington! You had better say yes! You don’t realize what you have and you can’t let it slip away. You had better go but you had better not bring me along. I am not going to be a third wheel.”

“Nellie,” gasped Samantha in a shocked tone of betrayal. “Is this because you’re upset it’s Eddie—-”

“No, that’s you. Yes, I’m not happy it is Eddie. But you are madly in love with him and I’ll accept it unlike you—-”

“What are you saying?”

“Oh, forget it! Just go off and leave us and—-”

“One minute you’re telling me to go be with Eddie and the next you’re telling me to—”

“How can you not understand?”

“Me?! You’re the one being ridiculous! I thought you were my friend!”

“And I thought you were mine but I guess we both thought wrong!”

“How dare you accuse me of—-”

“How dare you say—-”

Then the arguing and yelling really began and it was a full blown cat fight. Eddie Ryland snapped his fingers and a pair of ear plugs appeared in his ears. Only when Nellie disappeared in a puff of smoke did Eddie take them out to hear Samantha sigh deeply. What was wrong with them? For their entire lives together, Samantha and Nellie rarely ever fought. Samantha could count on one hand the amount of times they’ve fought over the years and now when they’re on Eddie Ryland’s yacht they had the worst spat of their entire friendship. Mustering every ounce of dignity she could Samantha Parkington said, “Yes, Eddie, I will come to tea at your home on Castle Street tomorrow afternoon. I cannot say if Nellie will be there or not. Thank you for today and goodbye.”

As she turned and walked proudly down the gang plank Eddie couldn’t suppress a grin. The day was far from over, the best was yet to come. Oh, if only she knew what she was in for tonight. 

******************************************************************

          “Hello?” Samantha called timidly as she carefully tiptoed over shards of broken glass. It was midnight and she had arrived at 742 Castle Street. Castle Street was a long road, with the grand stately houses with big yards starting at number one and ending with number one thousand. The Ryland residence was address 152 which was far enough away for Samantha to feel comfortable that she wasn’t going to run into her old rival on this night. Her heels clicked against the scratched wood floor. Neon graffiti covered every wall in this abandoned, vandalized home. The plaque outside the building said it was built in 1902. What a coincidence, Samantha thought wryly, since that is our era. “Hello?” she called again feeling uneasy at the sight of a lone male figure standing in the darkened back doorway where not even the moon shown for light. “Are you to be my partner?”

          The stranger slid a bundle of paper in her direction. Startled, Samantha flinched a little and then knelt to pick it up. “Is this our assignment?” She flipped through the pages. “Hmmm, a traitor in Washington? Someone in the Senate is betraying the U.S. to the alien soldiers on the moon! This is our mission? To find out who—-”

          “Shh!” scolded the shadowy man, his voice awfully familiar. “Don’t talk about your mission so openly like that! You never know who might be listening.”

          “Yeah, right. In this abandoned house?”

          Abruptly there was a clatter on the second floor landing and two burly men stumbled down the stairs burlap sacks of money slung over their shoulders. Samantha recognized them immediately. They were the stinky bandits who kept robbing banks all across the continental U.S. and blaming their crimes on Gwen and Logan. For months, Glogan tracked them down to clear their names with no success. These robbers were famous for hiding out in condemned buildings and then sneaking off in the dead of night. Right now, it looked like they had just emptied Bitty Quansa’s bank account.

          The men pounced forward and Samantha had no chance to run. They kept stalking towards her until she was backed into a corner with no way to escape. In a flash, her presumed partner was on them attacking wildly. A shaft of moonlight lit his face in a glow. Savage rage animated his features as he fought off the two thugs. Samantha’s heart nearly stopped. “Eddie? You’re my detective colleague?”

          “Yes!” he panted. “And I can really use some help over here!” Eddie had one robber in a choke hold while he kicked the other one who fell stumbling into the crumbling wall behind them. He didn’t stay down for long, he immediately bounced up to prowl around Eddie like a predator stalking its prey.

          “What do you want me to do?” Samantha shouted in panic.

          “I don’t know! Think of something! You’re supposed to be the brains of the operation!”

          She scanned the debris on the floor for something useful. Spying a rusted rake she paused motionless over the wrestling men on the ground poised to strike. “Hold still!” she commanded Eddie. “I don’t want to hit you.”

          The thrashing trio would most certainly not hold still. Eddie was huffing and puffing, his cheeks red and the fight going out of him. Samantha quickly sought to distract him. “You didn’t seem surprised to see me.”

          “Now is really not a good time Sam!”

          But Samantha knew it was in fact a great time for a verbal war. If he kept his focus on arguing with her then he would better use his aggression against his attackers. Eddie wasn’t a classically warrior trained like the French pirate and so he was relying on instinct and adrenaline alone. He would function better in a fight if he was distracted and didn’t think too much about what he was doing because the moment he thought about it too much it was all over. The stinky bandits tackled Eddie Ryland to the ground smothering him under their heavy sacks of money.

          “Did you know I was going to be here tonight?” she asked accusingly.

          “Um. . . .Yes. I mean no! No! You, Samantha, a detective? Ha!” He laughed. In a sudden burst of strength, he pushed the two criminals off of him and leaped to his feet staggering under another blow.

          “And what’s so funny about that?” Samantha demanded with her hands on her hips the rake forgotten.

          “Creeping around at night? Won’t you be scared?”

          Not as long as I have you, the unbidden thought startled Samantha so her cheeks reddened a bit. But all she said was, “Ha! It sounds like someone is missing his mommy, scaredy-cat.”

          “I am not scared! I’m more afraid of having to deal with you than any danger—-”

          “Oh, so you’re afraid of me now too?”

          Infuriated, Eddie pummeled one bandit so hard he slumped against the wall unconscious. Samantha beat him with the rake for good measure. Together they cornered the other hooligan. Eddie turned to Samantha and the look in his eyes made her heart whimper pathetically. “No. I was never afraid of your dragoness—”

          The bandit’s eyes widened at the mention of a dragon. Samantha’s dragon sense could smell the fear radiating off of him.

          “Even in 1904,” continued Eddie, “I always thought or hoped rather you and I—-”

          “Funny,” Samantha paused to punch the bank robber in the nose while Eddie hand cuffed him to an exposed pipe in the wall. “I always thought you would end up with Edith Eddleton.”

          “Eddie Eddleton?” Eddie echoed. “Are you crazy?! She was Mount Bedford’s most annoying stuck up little know it all who had no regard for anyone but herself!”

          “Like someone else I know,” Samantha teased.

          “Really, and who’s that?”

          She shrugged. “I always thought you guys would be perfect for each other. You both lived to torture me.”

          Eddie appeared mortally wounded by that comment. “Sam, I may have been a jerk, but I never meant any of it in the same way she did. How could you have ever thought so lowly of me?”

          His hurt expression was more than she could bear. She crossed her arms and snapped, “Just forget it, okay? It doesn’t matter anymore.”

          “Of course it matters,” he said gently. “It clearly matters to you and so it’s important to me too.”

          “Don’t we have a job to do here?”

          He colored slightly and cleared his throat. “Yes, we do. Look, you’ve had a long day—-”

          “You can’t get rid of me that easy! This is my chance to—-”

          Eddie held up a hand in surrender. “I’m not trying to undermine you or take over or anything even though you may think I am. You’ve had a long day. Take the case file, go home, read it over. I have some theories and I want to know what you think. And above all, get some rest. You need it. I’ll deal with these delinquents and take them down to the jail so you don’t have to.”

          “What about clearing Glogan’s names?” They were her sisters after all and Samantha felt it was her duty to make sure they are still not going to be charged with these bad guy’s crimes.

          He  nodded. “I’ll work on that too. Do you trust me?”

          “Looks like I’m going to have to, if we’re really going to be working together.”

          “That’s the spirit, Sam. Now go to bed.”

******************************************************************

Samantha was far from the picture of perfect restfulness when she awoke bleary eyed early the next day to Felicity’s high pitched scream. The girl was riding her horse in circles around the room. “Urgh,” Samantha groaned, not wanting to deal with Felicity and still wondering if last night’s excursion with Eddie was a really bad dream or not. “Felicity! How many times have I told you–”

“Not to ride in the house,” Felicity finished. “But Penny loves it in here! The rug is so nice and soft under her hooves. She told me so and—-”

“You were banned from the park again, weren’t you?”

“Yup,” Felicity said gleefully sprinkling Peter Pan’s brand name “You can fly!” powder on the mare’s mane. The horse whinnied as her strides began to lift them off the ground. “Logan, turn off the fan. It might spook her.”

“Not my problem,” Logan muttered rolling over in bed to play more video games.

Spooked by the ceiling fan, Penny bucked and reared tossing her head and neighing while Felicity clung on for dear life. “Can someone open the window?”

Samantha rubbed her forehead, a massive headache mounting. She glanced at the clock and gasped. It was after one o’clock in the afternoon. Eddie Ryland would be here any minute—–

“Parkington!” A pounding knock at the door echoed throughout the house. “You’re not backing out on me are you? Not after you gave your word to come today?”

“Well, after you kept me out all hours of the night,” Samantha mumbled darting to the left to avoid a horse apple dropping from the sky. She called in a louder voice, “Just a minute!” With a snap of her fingers, she was wearing a long blue dress she had also received for Give Me Presents Day. This one was much more comfortable than the lavender number she wore yesterday and much more appropriate too. She opened the door to see Eddie’s adoring grin. He offered his arm and said, “Shall we?”

Samantha’s heart fluttered in the realization she was quite looking forward to this. Me?! She thought in growing horror. Enjoying Eddie Ryland’s company?! Could it be? Yes, Samantha realized she craved his presence and awaited every grin with delicious anticipation.

******************************************************************

Nellie decided to take Eddie up on his invitation after all. Except Samantha and Eddie had already gone without her leaving Nellie to show up on the Castle Street doorstep alone as an awkward third wheel. Nellie was not a happy camper and she felt disappointment in her friend immensely. To be fair, Samantha had no idea Nellie wanted to come and after their fight yesterday assumed she would not.

So Nellie arrived late to be ushered in by a butler to sit in a parlor full of strange boys. While the adopted Playroom family was made up of all girls save one, the adopted Castle street family was made up of all boys. The adopted brothers welcomed Nellie and promptly informed her Mr. Ryland was giving Miss Parkington a grand tour of the mansion and was under no circumstances to be disturbed. Seething, Nellie submitted and sat quietly sipping tea. She was torn between being happy for her friend to cheer Samantha on for accepting a date with Eddie and being jealous and upset for herself.

******************************************************************

In the highest tower of perhaps the largest fortress on Castle Street, Eddie Ryland and Samantha Parkington stood frozen together at the windowsill gazing at the glowing embers of a fiery sunset. Neither one spoke, although a light smile touched Eddie’s lips.

“I can see my house from here!” Samantha exclaimed.

“I know, I’ve gazed at it many a time thinking of you.”

She almost slapped him. “You stalking creep!”

His smile fell into a depressed sigh. “Sam, tell me the truth. If I had showed up on your doorstep seven years ago when the playroom was first built what would you have done?”

 Samantha didn’t like to think about that. “I—-”

“Exactly. Would you have given me the time of day? Would you have abandoned your ever expanding adopted family to put me in my place? I would have distracted you from raising those kids. I would not have been welcomed. You would have had even more reason to hate me. It simply wasn’t time yet. So I watched from a distance knowing in my head it was wrong to spy on you and your family yet in my heart my adoration and admiration for you was growing stronger by the day.”

Samantha’s breath caught. He had been living within sight of her for years, practically next door neighbors, and because of her negative attitude towards him he never felt like he could reveal himself to her. Never before had she felt so cruel or so guilty. Desperately desiring to flee, Samantha took a step back and another and followed by another drawing ever closer to the spiral staircase behind her.

“Samantha!” he cried in distress. “No!”

It was too late for Samantha had already tumbled backwards down the stone steps. Eddie rushed toward her. In his haste he tripped and went rolling down the seven story staircase after her. Samantha hit the dirt first her back slamming against the solid stone floor. Eddie landed practically on top of her, his arms extended in an almost push up like pose so not as to squish her. Concern was etched on his every feature. “Samantha! Are you alright?”

No response.

“Oh good heavens, I’ve gone and killed her! Sam! Not on my property! If you’re going to die then do it on Play Road so I don’t get stuck with the lawsuits.”

Her eyelids fluttered open and she smacked him hard on the arm. “How dare you! You think I’m dying and you’re only concerned about whether you’ll be sued or not?”

A foolish grin lit up his face. “I knew you were only pretending.” She growled in aggravation. “Have to do better than that next time you want to trick me.”

He gazed down into her eyes and Samantha’s heart almost really did stop for a minute. She reached a hand up to flick away a lock of hair that had fallen into his eyes. Grandmary would have been horrified to see them in this improper position with not even Glogan as chaperone. Somehow, Samantha no longer cared what Grandmary would have thought of her latest antics. “Someone needs a haircut.”

“Any recommendations for a good barber? I’m new in town.”

“You are not!”

“True,” he said thoughtfully. “But I have to make up for lost time here. I’ve got seven years of—-”

“I think you’ve more than made up for it already.”

“Really?” The grin grew wider. “So what’s it going to take for you to admit you love me?”

Samantha smiled sweetly up at him. “If you say it first.”

Eddie Ryland brought his lips down to hers in a kiss. “Well, Miss Samantha Parkington. I am—-”

“Speechless?” She offered.

He shook his head. “No, although the mere sight of you makes me breathless.”

Samantha struggled to keep her heartbeat and the temperature of her face under control. This was the moment she had been waiting for her whole life, a moment every girl dreams of. The moment when prince charming came to sweep her off her feet. And it just happened to be with the person she thought she had despised most in the world.

“I am certainly smitten, consumed completely, undeniably and utterly in love with you.”

Samantha, with her defenses down and emotions running high, was just about to open her mouth and say——

“Breaking news!” announced PFV’s most annoying herald.

“Oh, not again!” Samantha moaned. Eddie hung his head for he knew that after this interruption she would not say what he had been hoping to hear.

“We just received word from the moon front. The aliens on the moon are now allied with the Martians on Mars to destroy the planet earth. The human race is divided over how to handle this problem. This morning the United States and Canada have declared war against Russia, England, and France while Brazil and Mexico declared war on China, Japan, and Australia. Other countries have joined the ban wagon in fighting against each other rather than the extraterrestrials for the full list check out our website at http://www.PFVbreakingnewsguy.com. Spy services are working around the clock to find out more of how this could have happened. The army is calling for recruits. I don’t mean to sound grim but if the aliens attack right now we’re all doomed. This is not a drill. Repeat. This is not a drill. World War III is happening. Please prepare the best you can. The safe houses on Venus are no longer a safe evacuation option. Please stay on the planet earth. The playroom’s Martha Keabl was spotted in her rocket departing for the moon this morning. She is a prime suspect. New report. This just came in now. Breaking news! Martha Keabl has declared herself queen of the aliens. That’s all for now folks, but stay tuned for your latest WWIII updates.”

Samantha’s face went pale. Her adopted sister was responsible for starting World War III! Wars just don’t suddenly start all by themselves. Gradually, all the signs manifest into . Because Samantha was so busy flirting with Eddie, she never noticed what her adopted sister Martha was up to. It’s stressful to live with a villain for you never know when they might next plan to take over the world.

 “Samantha,” Eddie said softly. “This is not your fault.”

“Yes it is!” Samantha cried. “Martha did this. I could’ve stopped her—-”

“There was nothing you could do. You can’t single handily stop a war—”

“I’ve done it before. When we vacationing in Germany last winter and Felicity met the assassin Reginald who was working for Martha to—-”

“Okay, yes, you’ve stopped Martha before. But this time is different. She has a whole planet under her control! You can’t face all those aliens—-”

“I guess you’re right,” Samantha sighed. “I could have prevented Martha from going evil—-”

“Sam,” Eddie almost shook her. “Stop going down this path. Don’t let your brain do this to you. You’re going to need every ounce of energy to fight this war with your family.”

“My family! I have to get home before Felicity—”

“Samantha!” Nellie called sharply. “Did you hear the news?”

“I have to get home,” Samantha told Eddie. “See you tonight?”

In all honesty, Eddie didn’t know if he wouldn’t be overseas as a soldier or not. But he couldn’t tell her that now. “Yes. Go stop Felicity before she goes to the moon to wipe out all the aliens.”

******************************************************************

One year and six months ago. .. . . .

          “No!” Logan shouted. She was tied up on the floor of the train car flopping around like a fish out of water. She had managed to get the gag off of her mouth,  but she hadn’t yet had success with the rest of the ropes binding her up. Five minutes earlier Felicity Merriman had been arrested for attempting to time travel to the future. The officers did not know Glogan were aboard and they zapped away with Felicity leaving the out of control train to speed forward at the alarming pace of faster than the speed of light. A very unusual sight indeed for the time travel train can only ever go backwards. One cannot time travel to the future because it has not happened yet. Felicity’s quest to do the impossible even by PFV standards was probably going to wipe them all out of existence.

          “Huh?” said Gwen. “Why not?”

          “Nooo!” screamed Logan. It was too late. Gwen had already thrown open the door to the outside. The moment she did a swirling black hole entered the car. The wind was howling and a black dust covered the surface of everything in its wake. Realizing her mistake, Gwen tried with all her might to shut the door and failed miserably. The dark mass of magic sucked her up like a vacuum. She shut her eyes tight knowing she was about to be blown out of this world. “Goodbye, Logan! It was nice knowing you!”

          A cord landed over Gwen’s head. She cautiously opened one eye to see Logan’s grim face staring at her on hard concentration the loose hair from her pigtails wiping around her head. Logan had finally managed to free herself and was now using those very same ropes to lasso Gwen.

          The brakes squealed as the train suddenly came to a grinding halt.  The black hole evaporated in a surge of light. A disk dropped from the cloud in a burp. The train started moving backward slowly at first and then gradually gaining speed. Logan reached for the DVD before Gwen could grab it. A message was scrawled across the cover that read:

Help us! Stop World War III

          Logan looked at Gwen and Gwen stared back at Logan. “Wow,” breathed Gwen.

          “Whatever we do—–”

          “Don’t tell Samantha!”

They went home and sealed themselves in their cave like room on their bookshelf. They popped the DVD in and screamed bloody murder for several days. On the shelf above them Martha Keabl was hard at work marking red dots on a map labeled “My next world conquest. WWIII. Mwhahaha!”

           Nellie heard Glogan’s screams and said to Samantha, “Should we be worried about that?”

          Samantha waved off her concern. “I’m sure it’s nothing serious. We’ve heard worse coming from that shelf.”

          “True that, true that. You’re right, Logan is probably just experimenting on Gwen in her lab again.”

          For the next eighteen months, Glogan were obsessed with the DVD from the future and spent countless hours trying to come up with a plan to prevent the next world war from happening. Logan overestimated the date and believed it wasn’t going to happen for another fifty years. Even so, they worked hard to come up with a plan. Little did they know then that their efforts were futile and the war was approaching much more quickly than either one could ever anticipate.

******************************************************************

Back in the Present. . . . .

            Gwen heard the breaking news guy and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Logan! Major problem here!” She hyperventilated and the cowered to the ground in her classic Gwen is panicking pose.

          “What?” said Logan emerging from their shelf wearing a white lab coat, big bug eyed googles and giant rubber gloves. “I’m kinda in the middle of something important here!”

          Gwen gasped for breath and pointed to the T.V. Logan dropped the cauldron on Gwen’s foot. Utterly shocked and horrified, Logan was paralyzed with terror and began to panic too. A moment later, she had snapped out of it and was commanding Gwen, “Get the—-”

          “Already on it,” said Gwen pulling out a clipboard. “Do you want to try plan A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, or—-”

          Gwen was scared by the glint in Logan’s eye. “Plan Z.”

          Gwen’s eyeballs nearly popped out of her head. “You don’t mean. . . .?”

          “Oh, yes I do. It’s time to show those aliens who is boss.”

******************************************************************

          September passed, followed by October and then November. The war raged on. Aliens were invading earth at full force. The people of earth were too busy fighting each other to deal with the enemy in their midst. The playroom did everything they could to help with the war effort, but even they were forced to admit that until the humans could come together undivided then they would never be able to defeat the aliens.

          Felicity obeyed Samantha and did not run off to be a soldier. However, she did play a much more crucial role than any common soldier and it was a position much more dangerous too. Felicity spent most of her time smuggling weapons, spying on foreign governments, playing messenger by delivering secret documents to the underground war effort, training soldiers to fight aliens because it is an art more complicated than point and shoot, and giving grand speeches to all the bigwigs in congress and other important circles to try and drive it through their thick skulls that the humans are not the ones we should be fighting here. The underground war effort was a hidden group of rebels who believed the governments could squabble and argue all day sending millions of boys off to their deaths fighting with other countries but the only people who can actually stand up to the aliens need to rally and fight. There was an underground war effort in every nation and they were plotting how to use government troops in battle tactics against the aliens and not each other. Felicity’s job as messenger was to deliver messages to and from the underground in all nations. Samantha almost wished she would be a soldier because Felicity was taking higher risks than any common recruit. Still, even Samantha could realize the good Felicity was doing and was secretly quite proud of her.

          Molly went to work in a weapons factory designing and engineering new weapons to try against the aliens. Her scientific mind was perfect for this highly technical job. Emily was a news reporter, trying to create her own newspaper and news channels in which she could give unbiased, uncorrupted news to the people. She also worked closely with the underground although Samantha did not know this. Elizabeth sometimes accompanied Felicity in her travels, but when she was sick of Felicity she sometimes assisted Molly or Emily.

          Martha and Kelsey were obviously on the moon and sometimes Mars, their new allies. They were busy acting as evil dictators over the aliens. They were living it up in their high positions and were perhaps celebrating a little too early because the war wasn’t won yet.

          The babies, Bitty F. Bitty Q. Parker, and Big D were too young to do anything useful. They mostly stayed home and out of the way.

          Marie-Grace, Cecile, and Nellie worked in orphanages and setting up homes to watch the children of parents who were off fighting. It was Marie-Grace’s idea to set up community homes run by a couple adults for children who had both parents off fighting somewhere. Their work was the most devastating for they saw the horror and trauma of war devastating the supposed to be carefree childhoods of kids. The pirate didn’t fight in the war. Being a pirate, he belonged to no country, not even France, and the government could not make him fight. So the pirate also worked closely with the underground resistance movement against the aliens when he wasn’t by Marie-Grace’s side that is. His ship was used for transport, shipping kids to safer areas away from war zones and shipping in food and basic necessities like toys and blankets. Marie-Grace and the pirate were a great team in WWIII. He could fight and protect those children from any unexpected alien raid yet at the same time be a gentle caring friend. Marie-Grace admired him with love-struck eyes thinking he would make the perfect husband and father someday while the pirate gazed at his beloved Ti-Marie believing she would be the perfect wife and mother.

          As for Samantha. . . . .

          Samantha and Eddie were swamped with new cases. The months of war were wearing on Samantha as she took care of her family by day and worked with Eddie all night. They never completed that first case assigned to Samantha. With the war, the detective agency was recruiting people left and right giving them full status despite the fact most of the newbies didn’t complete every challenge as well as the ought. They were not judged as harshly as they would have been had there not been a war going on.

Samantha was starting to realize she loved every moment working alongside Eddie. Together, they solved many mysterious and helped the war effort in secret, unknown ways. World War III was every bit as horrifying as Glogan imagined when they first watched the DVD all those months ago. It was a living nightmare, but they were surviving and that was all Samantha could dare to hope for.

Eddie Ryland had something he wanted, no needed, to tell Samantha. It would crush him to say it just as it would devastate her to hear it. For the last several months he had been thinking about this and now it was finally time for him to act on it.

However, the night Eddie planned to say what was on his heart Samantha didn’t show up to her midnight office. Nor the next night or the next. They still met and conducted most of their business at 742 Castle Street. It served as a neutral non suspicious location away from Play Road and the detective agency where they could work on most of their cases. Eddie was puzzled by this for he had received no note or phone call. Where could Samantha be? After a week passed, he finally marched down to 742 Play Road and demanded to know what the heck is going on.

“Oh, Eddie.” Samantha fell into his arms. “Felicity is missing in action.”

Dumbfounded he said, “What? She’s—”

Samantha nodded, tears welling in her eyes. “That girl is going to get herself killed. I always knew the day was coming but now it’s finally—-”

“Don’t talk like that. This isn’t the first time she’s—-”

“But this is the first world war she’s tried to stop. The revolutionary war was a whole different ball of wax.”

“Come on, this is Felicity we’re talking about! She won’t die no matter how many villains try to get the deed done.”

Samantha giggled. “I suppose you’re right.” Then she grew grim again. “The alien aggression is growing stronger. Especially in the area where Felicity—–”

 “Shh,” he put a finger to her lips and looked around them. “The walls have ears. Loose lips sink ships. Don’t worry about her too much, Sam.”

She snuggled against his chest. “You’re right.”

He staggered. “I’m what?” Did Samantha Parkington really just say. . . .? Her faced flushed crimson, but before she could speak he said, “If we had stayed back in time, we would have been dealing with World War I right now.”

“I’m thankful every day that we’re not there right now,” she whispered. “Because then you would have been. . . .”

He cleared his throat. “Yes, well—-”

“I know this war is difficult. How we as humans are so divided we cannot come together to stop a common enemy to save an entire planet. But I’m glad we never stayed back in time. World War I was almost the same, minus the impending alien attacks, fighting and killing each other for no real reason. If we had stayed back in time you. . …and I cannot bear the thought of you. . . ..”

“Sam,” he broke off her sobs with a kiss. “Sam, for that very same thought I have decided something. I know our work as detectives is important, but there are so many new recruits I’m not really needed here. We’ll always wonder what might have happened back in time. We’ll always wonder now if I don’t.” He disappeared in a puff of smoke leaving Samantha alone to hope this war was just a really bad nightmare.

What he should have added yet neglected to, “I’m shipping out with the other soldiers tomorrow morning at dawn.”

**************************************************************

          Felicity Merriman was most definitely not M.I.A. She was on the moon trying to negotiate with the aliens, not to end the war per say but to at least come to a congressional meeting in Washington D.C. to talk to some humans about why they were fighting. A week ago Felicity stowed away on an alien raider’s rocket and then snuck into the alien palace behind her adopted sister Martha’s back. The aliens were sick and tired of obeying Martha’s every command. They didn’t care for earth and had no desire to inhabit that garbage dump of the solar system. Many alien groups under Martha were leaning towards rebellion. Felicity believed if she could get the aliens to rebel against Martha then they would be too focused on their own civil war to attack earth. She also thought if she could get the aliens talking with the humans then both sides would see how ridiculous this war really was.

          All of this coming from a girl who just last month tried to marry her best friend off to an alien prince in hopes that a marriage alliance between earth and the moon would put an end to the fighting. Alas, it did not stop the war and now Elizabeth Cole had an alien husband for nothing. The marriage was void on earth of course, but on the moon Elizabeth was technically married. Felicity could sense divorce looming in the unhappy couple’s future and Elizabeth could sense years of pay back for this in Felicity’s future.

*****************************************************************

          Bitty Baby Fatterson frowned hard at a piece of paper sticking out from under her cradle. Samantha had ordered Bitty to clear all the junk out of her bed so she could maybe sleep in it instead of curling up in Samantha’s bed or crashing on the floor. So Bitty proceeded to take the mess residing in her bed and stuff it underneath. Except everything didn’t quite fit as nicely as she had hoped and now her bed was levitating several inches above the ground. “Do you think Samantha will notice?” she asked her best friend Bitty Q.

          “She better not!” Bitty Q. was perched at the edge of her bed which was several feet in the air. “Think she’ll notice?”

          Samantha stormed into the playroom. “Where is Eddie?”

          “How should I know?” said Bitty Q. “You’re the one who hogs him.”

          Samantha ignored her comment. “I looked at 742 Castle Street. I contacted the agency and even checked one of those alien space ships that kidnaps civilians to hold as prisoners of war. I’ve been by the orphanage and asked Nellie—-”

          “Did you call his butler at Castle Street?” asked Bitty F. Every time someone from the playroom calls Eddie’s mansion the annoying butler always answers the phone.

          “Good idea!” said Samantha reaching for the phone. “Yes? Hello? Castle Street? Have you seen Eddie Ryland? I am looking for a Mr. Edward Ryland. Oh, I see. Yes sir. Goodbye.”

          Bitty Q. jumped as Samantha slammed the phone back on the hook. “Judging by the look on your face Eddie is in big trouble, isn’t he?”

          “He’s about to be,” said Samantha with dragon magic flaring in her eyes.

******************************************************************

“EDWARD TROY RYLAND!” boomed a great and terrible voice in the distance. He cringed imagining the rest of the rage that was sure to follow. “You had better kiss me this instant and prove to me that you’re still alive or so help me I’ll—-”

Eddie Ryland didn’t waste a moment. He ran to her and lifted her up in his arms spinning her around. Her skirt flared out, but neither one noticed as they only had eyes for each other. He brought her in for a graceful landing and did as she commanded by kissing her soundly. They were both starry eyed and breathless until she promptly started hitting him with her handbag. “Don’t you ever—-”

“Oww!”

“Scare me like that—-”

“Ouch!”

“Again!”

“Ow,” he whined. “Would you please stop doing that?”

“Oh honey, if you think that hurt then you just wait until a real bullet hits you. Promise me you’ll never do that again!”

Despite the pain of injured pride, Eddie grinned. “If it will spark this type of reaction then I’ll run off to war every day.”

“Don’t even joke about that. You could have been hurt or worse.”

He was touched by her concern for him, hoping it meant she would say what he was waiting to hear and what everyone else in the playroom wished she would hurry up and say already.

Her phone rang. “Sorry, I have to take this.”

He nodded.

“Nellie? Yes, I found Eddie.”

“Oh, Samantha! We’ve having a big problem here. Where are you anyway? Never mind, we’ve got more important fish to fry. Felicity just got back from space.”

“Space! What was she doing up there?”

“Having a nice relaxing vacation on Pluto! No, where do you think she was? The moon! Apparently she talked the alien government into meeting with our government—-”

“You can’t be serious?!!!!”

“Oh, but it gets worse. There is a big congressional meeting this afternoon in Washington D.C. Bitty and Bitty are convinced their musical is the reason this whole war started—-”

“I’m sure the musical didn’t help any.”

“Yeah, but they’re babies. It’s not—-”

“Nellie, cut to the chase. What are they up to?”

“Well, since they feel so guilty about the war being all their fault they are going to crash the government meeting to explain and apologize to the aliens for–”

“Oh, no! we can’t let that happen. Hang on Nellie, we’re coming to Washington D.C.” She hung up on Nellie and turned to Eddie Ryland. “Come on, Eddie, let’s go.”

“I can’t just leave!”

“Oh, yes you will. By the time we’re done with congress the war will have either ended peacefully or the whole planet of earth knocked out of existence.”

******************************************************************

          “Welcome to my planet! And thank you all for coming in peace today.” Felicity paused as the alien translator standing beside her on the platform struggled to keep up. “My name is—-”

          “Stop!” a loud director’s voice intruded.

          “Yeah, what she said!” added Bitty F.

          “We know why you hate us,” Bitty Q. said sadly. “And we are very sorry.”

          Puzzled, the aliens looked at each other in confusion.

          “Bitty!” Felicity hissed from the side. “What do you think you’re doing?”

          Bitty Quansa ignored her and stared dramatically into the crowd of alien officials and human politicians. “I know why you attack earth. Earth is filled with horrible human beings who have no respect for the culture of other planets. They mock you in their musicals, laughing at you in mockery instead of with you in friendship. They hate the idea of you so they portrayed you as stinky, squishy and disgusting freaks that are not capable of love and emotion.”

          “Bitty Baby what are you doing?!” Felicity squealed as the body guard Parker restrained her. Truth be told, the aliens had forgotten all about that offensive yet hilarious musical. Now that Bitty so kindly reminded them the rage was like fire to be exploded

          “But not all humans are bad,” Bitty F. was quick to add. “Actually, most of them are good little monsters that love and cherish their alien neighbors. However the person who wrote that musical—–”

          “You!” grunted the aliens struggling to make the human word come out.

          “Oh, no,” said Bitty Quansa. “It was NOT my friend Bitty Baby and  me who wrote it. It was Martha Keabl. She wrote the script and then framed it on us because she knew you would hate it and that if you knew she wrote it then she would never have been able to conquer you.”

          “That’s right,” said Bitty F. “Martha Keabl conquered you the proud and noble alien race so she could enslave you to do your bidding. It’s not all humans you have problems with. It’s just her.”

          “Martha,” growled the aliens.  

          Just then, Gwen and Logan came charging into the center of the stadium. “Nobody move!” shouted Gwen.

          “That’s right!” Logan agreed. “Nobody move because if you do then I’ll press this button!” She held up a gray remote with a giant red button on it. “For the past several months my friend Gwen and I have been tunneling on the moon to set up the universe’s biggest explosive ever built. This button with activate the bomb at the center of the moon blowing up the moon and destroying everyone there and everyone on earth. If we cannot reach some sort of peace agreement today then I am going to put us all out of our misery by—-”

          “Wait!” cried Samantha Parkington running breathlessly with Eddie Ryland by her side. “We have something to say!” Samantha had completely missed what was happening here but she figured a distraction from whatever nonsense her adopted family was spewing at the aliens would be a wise diversion.

          “My partner and I are detectives,” said Eddie. “And we—-”

          “Do you mind?!” shouted Logan. “I’m kinda in the middle of something here?”

          “Oh, put a sock in it Logan,” said the newly arrived Nellie. “Let’s hear what they have to say.”

          “Thank you Nellie,” said Samantha. “As I was saying—”

          Eddie cleared his throat. “As we were saying we are detectives and as detectives one of our cases was to discover a traitor in congress. While we have you all gathered here—”

          “The traitor is none other than John Jacob Jingle Himer Smith, our president!” Samantha interrupted.

          Gasps of horror filled the room. “No, it can’t be!”

          “Not John!”

          “He’s been our president for almost two centuries!” In PFV,  the presidential office is for 400 years instead of 4.

          Mr. President exclaimed, “But I’m innocent!”

          There was a commotion by the rear exit as Parker wrestled an escaping congressman to the ground. He was the senator from Alaska. “Oh, alright! You caught me! I’m the traitor! Not the president.” He was hauled off to jail.

          Samantha blinked. “Well, I was really not expecting that.” Samantha knew the president was innocent. This accusation was just a rouse to divert the alien’s wrath on her family.

          Suddenly, the aliens began to chant their national anthem. Then they formed a huddle and talked softly in alien language for a few minutes. Things were increasingly tense on the human side and Samantha wished they would hurry up. Finally, the alien mob broke away from each other and one brave little alien stepped forward speaking perfect human English, “My brothers and I have come to  a decision. The war is over. We call a truce. Please do not push the red button. We have found Martha Keabl guilty of writing mean musicals and taking over our planet. We will deal with her accordingly when we return home. We would like to work with that young lady over there—-” the alien used all six hands to point to Felicity “—to work with us on behalf of the humans on the terms of a treaty to end World War III. Thank you. We come in peace.”

          “Aw, man!” cried Logan. “But I wanted to work on the treaty!”

          “Then you should not have spent the last 3 months implanting explosives on the moon,” Felicity said smugly taking the lead alien’s arm. They entered a private conference room and got to work. Congress was dismissed in triumph. World War III was over!

Fortunately, Samantha Parkington and Eddie Ryland were able to steal a quiet moment to themselves before having to deal with the aftermath trauma of war.

“Wow,” Samantha shook her head. “Felicity is actually going to

Eddie pulled her close. “Samantha?” he murmured.

“Uh-huh?”

“Can you not talk about your family for thirty seconds? I want to enjoy this moment forever.”

“We survived.”

“I know.”

“I never want to go to war with aliens or humans ever again.” 

“Neither do I.” His voice grew soft and tender as he thought of all the dangers they both could have so easily lost each other to. “I love you, Sam. Don’t you see?” He tilted her head back so that her eyes sparkled up at him.

“I love you, Samantha Parkington,” Eddie Ryland said again his voice growing in strength. “And I want to be with you. I don’t care if we are teasing ten year olds, sleuthing sixteen year olds, or dying eighty year olds for that to happen. I just want to be with you,” he added in a calmer tone that melted Samantha’s heart. “And that’s all I’ve ever wanted since the moment I first laid eyes on you in 1904.”

She swallowed hard, wishing that she could be anyone or anywhere else than right here in this moment listening to her old rival proclaim his undying love for her. Then Eddie brought his lips down to meet hers in the fiercest, most intense kiss either had ever shared. Ashamed she may be, Samantha couldn’t help melting like butter in his embrace. Until finally, Samantha threw her arms around his neck and whispered those long awaited words, “I love you, Eddie Ryland.”

He murmured low and lightly teasing in her ear, “It took you long enough, Sam.” The road to happily ever after was being paved, whether Samantha liked to admit it or not.

******************************************************************

Family Vacation January 2015

Mount McKinley Alaska

 “Let It Go” Samantha style

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight not a footprint to be seen

A crazy house of whack-os and it looks like I’m their queen

The wind is howling like this churning storm inside

Never let him in

Heaven knows I tried. . . .

Don’t let him in

Don’t let him see

Be the proper girl you always have to be

Conceal, don’t feel

Don’t let him know. . . .

Well, now he knows

Let it go! Let it go!

Tell him the truth of my core

I don’t care what he’s going to say

Let our love rage on

He’s never really bothered me anyway

It’s funny how some time travel

Makes everything seem small

The life that once controlled me

Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what we can do to solve this case and break through

No villain, no obstacle no challenge too great for us

We’re free!

Let it go! Let it go!

I am one with this guy

Let it go! Let it go!

You’ll never see me cry

Here I’ll stand and here I’ll stay

Let our love rage on. . . .

My disgust flees through the air and into the ground

Love is spiraling in frozen fractals all around

And one thought crystalizes like an icy blast

I’m never going back the past is in the past!

Let it go! Let it go!

And we’ll rise like the break of dawn

Let it go! Let it go!

Grandmary’s girl is gone!

Here I stand in the light of day

Let our love rage on

He’s never really bothered me anyway

Paid

Parkington                                                                         

Ice Fishing Hut Alaska

PFV Winter 2015

Nellie O’Malley

Somewhere in Japan

PFV Winter 2015

Dear Nellie,

       Well, I finally did it. Now that World War III is over I feel like I can actually relax and enjoy this vacation. Ha! Vacations with our family are far from your typical family pleasure cruise.

       Bitty Fatterson called Bitty Quansa to tell her about the best idea for a new musical. Camp Werewolf. An average summer camp where a teen girl falls in love with a werewolf. They’re really excited about it. No word on cast yet but I’ll let you know if I hear anything. Big Dolly is pining away for Parker. Since Bitty Q is not here Big D has to listen to Bitty F. jabber on as she writes the script for the latest musical.

We’ve seen so many werewolves on this vacation, what with the strange hunting going on. Have you heard the news? 152 girls in the U.S. have gone missing due to werewolf attacks this winter. I know Molly is a werewolf, but she’s a good one. If a werewolf takes their shots like they’re supposed to they can live without attacking humans. These rabid werewolves we’re seeing mean certain death. Did you know werewolves only eat young girls? A red cloak and proper hunting tools are the only way to protect yourself. Gwen and Felicity are teaching me more about what weapons to use against werewolves than I ever wanted to know. Yesterday we were almost attacked by a whole pack. Felicity saved our lives, I must give her credit for that.

Martha is still MIA. I don’t know whether to be pleased I don’t have to deal with her or scared of how she’s going to try to take over the world next.

Gwen is still recovering from wrestling a grizzly bear this morning. I can hear her whining about it as I write this. She was werewolf hunting with Felicity and what she thought was an enemy werewolf was actually a hibernating bear. Werewolf weapons don’t work on bears and so an annoyed, grumpy grizzly had fun beating up on Gwen.

Felicity is convinced Martha’s lair is in Mount McKinley and is determined to blow up the whole mountain to find her. She’s insisting Martha is recruiting werewolves next and the werewolf palace in McKinley is a great place for it. Paranoid much? Felicity has also become an expert werewolf hunter and won’t rest until she rids the world of all those wretched creatures. Werewolves are people too! Tell Molly to send more anti-wolf potion.

The pirate ship showed up in the harbor today. Marie-Grace is gone, I suspect the pirate kidnapped her. He didn’t want her to risk her being so close and surrounded by werewolves all the time so he must have taken her on his ship. Werewolves are deathly afraid of water. They can swim okayish but idea that they would attack a boat in the middle of the ocean is impossible. I’m torn between marching down to his ship and demanding she come back on this vacation with us and just letting her go with him because it’s one less person I’m responsible for, One less person I’m worried will be eaten by a werewolf. .

       I’m very worried about Emily. She’s hiding something. She keeps disappearing in the woods at odd times.

And as for me, well. . .

I finally broke down and melted like a snowman in July in Eddie Ryland’s arms and told him I love him. Things will sure be different around here. We’ll never stop teasing and arguing because that’s who we are only now it has a much sweeter taste. There’s nothing like a world war against the aliens to make one realize what’s right in front of them and how easily I could have lost him. Nellie, what made me at long last tell Eddie I love him is the thought of how easily I could have lost him in that war. If we had stayed back in time we would have been fighting in World War One instead of World War Three. I’m grateful we put an end to that and I’m grateful if nothing else came of the war the at least Eddie and I are happily admitting our love for each other.

So yes, Eddie and I are officially together now. And our next official case as detectives together is this werewolf problem. He’s staying at the fishing hut across the street from us and in my spare time we’re working on cracking this case. Why are these werewolves suddenly attacking? Is Felicity right and is it Martha behind it? On a more personal level, what about Emily? I have the awful suspicion she’s sneaking out to see a werewolf.

Does Molly know what’s going on with Emily? Geovanni showed up in town today. He’s frantically looking for Smith. He found Smith’s room covered in dark brown fur, blood on the walls and all of his clothes ripped. The old man is terribly worried about Smith. He’s like a son to him. So of course, now Felicity is involved and determined to hunt down the werewolf who ate Smith.

I love Eddie Ryland and I’m not afraid to shout it to the whole world! Our relationship is so much nicer now. I’m a fool for not realizing it before. Hope you liked my song. It better not end up in one of Bitty’s musicals. How is you vacation going?

Love your best friend

Samantha Parkington

******************************************************************

          A year passed in utter bliss. It was the best year of Samantha’s life so far, filled with playroom chaos and love from her partner in crime Eddie Ryland. There were many grand adventures in this period of peace and prosperity. Stories you dear reader may read all about in good time. Samantha still kept charge of all her adopted siblings with her best friend Nellie O’Malley, but now Eddie was there too. Eddie to exchange flirty banter with, Eddie to fight crime and solve mysterious with, Eddie to wrap his strong arms around her, lead and guide and help her in the care of her family. At first, Samantha resented how her sisters would sometimes turn to Eddie for comfort and advice instead of her. Gradually, Samantha became accustomed to his support and welcomed it whole heartily. He was the essential male person in their lives that the girls had lacked for so long. Poor Parker had been surrounded by females for his entire life so far and needed a male figure he could look up to. Of course, there was always the French pirate but being a pirate there was a certain mistrustful wariness of him. The pirate was still very much a part of the fabric that made up the playroom yet he didn’t quite steal into their hearts the way Eddie did.

          Samantha, who hates change, felt life like this should go on forever. She lived and breathed the playroom. Now she had the added bonus of the wondrous romantic love with Eddie. Samantha’s only worry, however, lay with Nellie. She feared part of Madame Dolly’s prediction would come to pass for there was a certain drifting, a closeness being lost in their friendship. Nellie didn’t have a steady boyfriend like Samantha did. Indeed, she just suffered through another painful break up and had no desire to try again. She wanted a prince like Samantha but believed it wasn’t possible for her. Nellie wasn’t as happy with her life in the playroom. Samantha was the one who bandaged mortal flesh wounds, gave motherly advice, doled out fair punishments, and tucked the girls in at night. Nellie was just along for the ride.

          One day, Nellie mentioned this to Samantha after tea time at Castle Street with Eddie and his family. They were both changing their clothes behind screens in their closets. “So, when are you going to run off and marry Eddie and live happily ever after? The poor boy is helplessly in love with you and you won’t give him what he wants because you’re always chasing after us.”

          Samantha almost choked, but then laughed instead. “I don’t know what you mean. I love Eddie, and someday we will be married. Someday far far away when we’re both older. But not now. Now I’m needed here.” She held up her blue dress in one hand and her red skirt in the other debating which one to wear.

          “Oh, come on. You love Eddie. You guys are perfect together. You can’t make him wait forever. The playroom will always be here. You’re not really going to give that up to live here forever are you?” Nellie had shimmied out of her tea dress. Samantha could see it in a heap on the floor under the screen.

          “No. . . .”

          “And I’m not going to be here forever either.”

          “Nellie, don’t talk like that, please.” Samantha wearing nothing but her undergarments clutched the blue gown close against her chemise. “Where would you go? The playroom is your home!”

          “Yes. I love everyone here, but Samantha, I’m not happy here.”

          Samantha felt like she had just been punched in the gut. “Not happy? But you’ve got all of us. We keep Felicity out of trouble and we sleuth out criminals at night and we—-”

          “Samantha,” Nellie said gently. “Those are things you like to do. What do I do here? I’m not a detective like you. I don’t have the prefect boyfriend. I don’t take care of everyone like you do.”

          “But you’re still needed here. I need you.”

          Nellie shook her head, frustrated Samantha couldn’t understand. “No, you don’t. I miss my family back in time—-”

          “We all do Nellie.” Now Samantha was angry. “We all have a part of us that wishes to go back. But we can’t. Once we find where we belong here then we can finally be happy with our lives here. I know it’s hard finding what you’re meant to do but if you just—-”

          “What if I’m supposed to go back in time?” Nellie said quietly. “What if my mission is back then and not now?”

          Samantha didn’t have an answer for that. They were interrupted by a brisk knock at the door. Eddie had arrived to escort them to the theater for the evening. Bitty was putting on another musical and for the first time Samantha was grateful, not bitter, that she wasn’t in it. It meant the end of this discussion between Samantha and her best friend, but she knew it would come back to bite her in the butt later.

          It seemed everyone in the playroom wanted to discuss the future. In Pretend Friend Ville, happily ever after is not so far out of reach. The normal real world rules do not apply and it is expected most people will find true love and live happily, or crazily, ever after forever. It is only a rare minority that don’t taste the sweetness of a fairy tale ending. Just like in modern real world America it is expected most kids will go to college, in PFV is expected most kids will grow up to live happily ever after. For some, it may come later in life than others but it is still just as real. At this point in the lives of the playroom people, it was only common that their thoughts should be racing toward what the future in this magical realm of PFV would bring.

Nellie, being somewhat more practical than Samantha, knew their life together in the playroom as a family couldn’t last forever. Nellie was aching for her former life in 1904, Emily longed for college, Marie-Grace was practically engaged to the pirate, the elves might want their princess back someday, and who knows what else the future might bring to each individual? What the rest of their stories would look like? Would 18 year old Samantha Parkington who already had her perfect dream job and prince charming really wait for each playroom kid to grow up and leave before settling into her own happily ever after with Eddie? Samantha could see growing old here without Eddie in the playroom. It tore her apart to think about. And where would everyone else end up? The majority didn’t want change either. Felicity especially and the younger set were in the category of “I won’t grow up! I won’t! Never!” There were rumblings of worry over what the future had in store for the playroom. There was an awful lot of talk over who would be the first to be married, Marie-Grace or Samantha? There was a poll about it and the majority of bets were on Marie-Grace. There was even pressure on the pirate to propose! But Marie-Grace was only 16, both she and the pirate were not thinking of that at all. Samantha did everything she could to discourage this kind of gossip. Although Samantha tried to deny it, the playroom was chomping at the bit to know where the road to happily ever after would lead.

          Meanwhile, Eddie Ryland was plotting something. Something big. Something thrilling and wonderful yet terrifying and dastardly horrible all at the same time. Eddie was two years older than Samantha, therefore two years wiser although they were both seemed older than they really were. He was smart about money and had just inherited a large fortune from some obscure relatives who had died suddenly back in 1904. He had a stable job as a detective and knew with absolute certainty that this was the dream job he was meant to do with the rest of his life. He bought himself a house and said good bye to his own adopted brothers. His family was definitely not as close as the playroom, but they still keep in touch. Finally, he has the girl he loves more than anyone else in his arms. He wished for more. He understood and loved her family like they were his own, yet he still wasn’t part of this amazing family as much as he wanted to be. He wanted to come home to her after a long day and never have to leave for the night. He yearned for her to be his in every sense of the word, his friend, his childhood sweetheart, his beloved, his partner and his soon to be. . . .

          What Eddie longed for, ached for with every ounce of his being more than anything else in the world was to make Samantha Parkington his wife. He was ready, and he believed she was too, to embark on their own adventurous quest through this mystery called life. He patted his breast pocket where he kept a precious velvet black box that held a pure diamond ring. He let out a long breath he didn’t realize he was holding and gulped nervously. Should he dare risk the ultimate rejection?

******************************************************************

          742 Castle Street Friday Evening August 2015

          “Where are you taking me, Eddie?” giggled the blind folded Samantha. Amazing how the trust had formed. Just last year Samantha never would have allowed him to take her hand and lead her somewhere without her knowing what he had in store for them.

          He tried to smile, but failed in the attempt. Was he ready to have his heart broken? Or would she say yes? He knew they were a little on the young side by today’s standards. Back in time, however, they fell right in the average age range. He gently turned her to face a different direction. Samantha felt the sturdy sidewalk under her feet change to uneven bricks with patches of grass poking through. He stopped and said, “May I?”

          Mutely she nodded, confused over what he was asking. Before she could protest Eddie scooped her up in his arms and mounted a set of stairs. She heard a door creak open, and with a flourish he set her down.

          “Where. . . .?” she started to ask. He removed the blindfold. She gaped. “What are we doing here?”

          Here was the old abandoned Castle Street mansion, built in 1902 it now laid in utter ruins. It was the same Castle Street palace where Samantha had met Eddie as her detective partner for the first time. Not realizing she would be paired with him of all people she had given him quite a roller coaster ride in those first few weeks of their career together.

          Eddie grinned sheepishly. “I bought the old place.”

          “Bought it?” Samantha squeaked.

          He nodded. “Thought I might fix it up, make it into a real home. I have the funds to restore it to her former glory.”

          “W-why ever would you need a grand house like this?” Samantha regretted asking the moment the words left her mouth.

          His lopsided grin caused her knees to shake and her heart to patter rapidly in her rib cage. “Miss Samantha Parkington.”

          “Yes?” she uttered softly. “That is my name.”

He laughed nervously and then launched into his speech, his eyes meeting hers. He mistook her expression as one where she might actually say yes and allowed himself to hope. Indeed, she was desperately trying not to cry, but these were not the happy tears of a bride to be. Oh, no. No. Eddie, NO! This can’t be happening! Don’t ruin. . . .

          “I have chased you every day since our first childhood encounter on Grandmary’s lawn in 1904. I time traveled a hundred years to find you. I hunted you down in Australia, put up with every kick and every biting hissing sting of rejection you’ve thrown my way. I’ve quarreled and teased you until I thought my heart would burst. I put aside my pride and humiliated the both of us by being contestants on your sisters game show and stars in their musical Clones. I fought in World War III for you and have shared in all the triumphs and sorrows of our jobs as detectives protecting you from danger and listening to your every theory always encouraging your dreams, never once telling you not to sleuth it out. I never paused in my quest to pursue and win you despite the pain and frustration it sometimes brought me. But I wouldn’t change a thing, as hard as the uncertainty of your angry words were for me to bear. The whole time I’ve only had my sights set on one thing. You. I love you, Sam. I want us to be bound together in true love for the rest of our lives, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, in good times and in bad. Even if you say no to me now, I will never stop loving you. I love you Miss Samantha Parkington, angry fire breathing dragon that you are. And I want us to have the life together that we have both always dreamed of, a big house, your playroom family, careers worthwhile, maybe someday a big adopted family of our own, and making a difference in this world for the better. I love you Sam, I always have and I always will.”

In one sweeping fluid motion, Eddie Ryland was down on one knee before her. He fumbled in his pocket for a moment. Samantha gasped and a hand flew over her mouth to cover her shock. “Eddie Ryland, don’t. . . .”

“Will you marry me?”

          Time stood still. For a long, long, moment Samantha left him there on his knee saying absolutely nothing, her thoughts whirling a million miles an hour. He continued to grin at her, his eyes sparkling in the fading twilight. She wanted to say yes, oh, how she really wanted to say yes and melt into his arms but one thought stopped her cold in her tracks. The playroom. Barely auditable, “No.” She whimpered pathetically and it ripped her heart out like it destroyed his. “I’m sorry. But I can’t marry you. Not now.”

          And then she ran. She was like a lightning bolt streaking across the sky, a little blur of color and then she was gone.

          Eddie crumpled like a rag doll, feeling more pain than he’d ever felt in his young life. He wanted to chuck that ring into the sewer, but pocketed it instead realizing it might yet end up on her finger. All hope was not lost, not yet. He gave her a ten second head start before starting after her. He knew where she was headed and decided to cut her off by taking a secret shortcut only he knew about. Finally, she was in his line of sight. They reached Play Road and when he saw her leap into the playroom, he knew it was over. He couldn’t follow her in there without the risk of alerting the whole family of his blunder. They probably were not in favor of the idea which is most likely why Samantha said no. Rationally, he knew this. Emotionally, he did not.

          The door was open just a crack, enough for a slip of a girl like Samantha to scurry in unnoticed. He was about to come charging in after her when he suddenly saw a small brown head peek out. He frowned, realizing it was Gwen. What did she know this biggest blabber mouth of the whole family? Was Samantha even now crying in her arms? Gwen glanced in behind her at the silently sobbing Samantha and then at the distraught Eddie on their doorstep. She glanced back and forth a few times as if deciding something. Slowly, she put a finger to her lips as a signal to remain quiet and then shook her head ever so slightly.

          Eddie got the message and left, not knowing if he would ever have the courage to return after this night’s trauma.

******************************************************************

          Eddie’s fears about Gwen mentioning something to the rest of the family were unfounded for Gwen, oddly enough, said not a word about it to anyone. Maybe it was mark of the immature girl growing up or maybe she just didn’t want to antagonize Samantha and end up in the dog house more than she already was. Probably the latter. Either way, the nightmare of a proposal stayed as a tense secret between Samantha and Eddie. A whole month passed, a long time of agony for Eddie. Samantha tried to pretend like it never happened and go on as if life were normal. Well, Eddie couldn’t blow it off and pretend so easily. It haunted him day and night. Samantha trying her hardest to forget it wasn’t making life easy for anyone. She lashed out at her family, not that they noticed. To them, Samantha didn’t seem to be acting out of the ordinary at all. If Nellie weren’t distracted with her own life longings then maybe she would have caught on, but she didn’t and Eddie was at a loss as far as what to do. He decided to play along and let Samantha weary herself by playing this game. He was a patient man, and a girl like Samantha was worth the wait. He had waited a hundred years before speaking to her the first time and he would wait a hundred more if he had to. There would never be anyone else for him, only his beloved darling Samantha Parkington. It was a month of jerky conversations, strained relations, and fewer visits from Eddie.

          Until the playroom people did find out. Then all madness broke loose. It didn’t happen until Marie-Grace and the pirate found themselves at the center of a cruel practical joke.

          Marie-Grace and Glogan were the only kids home that day. Samantha was off wallowing in misery by serving up a particularly nasty punishment for Felicity who had used the clone machine 2000 to make a clone of herself so she could live in both Virginia 1775 and Play Road 2015 and not be homesick for either place. An ill-fated course of action that is against every time travel and cloning law that exists. Elizabeth was trying to appeal to Samantha’s good side and bribe the government into letting Felicity go. Molly and Emily were touring colleges in England while Cecile visited James at his house on Blueberry Lane. Cecile was the only smart one in that she never invited her prince to the playroom she always went to him. The Bitty Babies were enjoying a celebrity autograph signing and promotional ads propaganda session in downtown Boston. They were designing the newest version of their famous French pirate plush doll to sell to a nationwide market of crazy fans. The toy says ten phrases if you pull the string. Bitty and Bitty still could not agree on good catch phrases for him to say. Madame Dolly and her henchman were conning innocent beach goers into having their fortunes told. Martha and Kelsey were hanging out in Martha’s evil lair trying to come up with a new plan for world domination since World War III didn’t work out the way they wanted.

          “I’m going out!” Marie-Grace announced suddenly. She hurriedly threw some clothes and a lunch box in a bag, grabbing a wrapped present on the window sill on the way out.

          “Where are you going?” Gwen called from the door. Marie-Grace was already more than halfway down the street.

          “The pirate ship and then a wedding. I’ll be gone a while don’t expect me back anytime soon.”

          “Okay,” said Gwen extremely hesitant on the word ‘wedding.’ “As long as you don’t run away with him or anything.”

          A light bulb went off over Logan’s head. “Ding, ding, ding! Gwen, I just got a great idea!”

******************************************************************

To Whom It May Concern,

By the time you read this note it will be too late so don’t try to stop us. I have kidnapped Marie-Grace this time I’m not letting her go. We love each other and are running away together to be married. Marie-Grace didn’t want to go behind your backs but I convinced her this was the only way because you people would never give us your blessing. Please don’t try to find us. Afterwards we will sail around the world on my ship pillaging everything we see. Know that we’re in love and living happily ever after.

The French Pirate

Marie-Grace Gardner

Samantha and Nellie pored over the note, reading and rereading until their eyes became blurry. “Are those their signatures?” Nellie asked.

“Unfortunately, yes.” Samantha sighed. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

“What doesn’t?”

“The fact that they would just run away together.”

“Well,” said Nellie thoughtfully stroking a cat. “They both knew how we disapprove of their age and think they’re too young for this.”

“Yeah, but I know for a fact the pirate didn’t want to settle down yet. He says his ship is much too dangerous a place for Marie-Grace and doesn’t want to risk harming a hair on her precious head. He hasn’t got his life sorted out yet and neither does Marie-Grace. She mentioned PFV School a few times because she wants to learn more about magic, more than what she’s just picked up by living here. They’re definitely true loves but they want to wait a few years for that. Marriage is in their plans for the long term, but not the immediate. Plus, they both promised Bitty Fatterson and Bitty Quansa that they would have the ‘wedding of the century’ whatever that convoluted plan includes.”

“How do you know?” asked Nellie.

“Eddie and I were interrogating—I mean having a nice peaceful conversation with them about it.” Actually, Samantha thought Eddie scared the pirate silly by playing the role of the mean dad. Of course, the pirate appeared just as tough defending himself and Marie-Grace. He even pulled out his sword. Samantha could tell the pirate was awed into respecting Eddie for holding his ground and caring also about his treasured Marie-Grace’s wellbeing.

“Maybe they changed their minds.”

“Maybe,” Samantha said doubtfully. “Come on, Nellie. We’ve got to go—”

“After them? Way ahead of you girlfriend. Which way to do you want to travel? Mail ourselves to them, magic carpet, or just appear in a puff of smoke on his ship?”

“We better do puff of smoke. I can’t stand carpets they’re much too windy and I’m having a spat with the mailman right now.”

******************************************************************

Nellie finally noticed something was wrong with Samantha because she wasn’t enraging mad charging at the captain for threatening to take away her baby sister Marie-Grace. If anything, it seemed all the fight had gone out of Samantha like a deflating party balloon.

It was Nellie who did the heavy lifting here, scolding the pirate and ranting about how they are much too young to even think beyond next week never mind sneak off and get married behind everyone’s back. Why did they think about how much they had hurt the rest of the family by doing this? The pirate tried to protest that the note was forged by Glogan, but Nellie in her tirade would not let him get a word in edgewise. Marie-Grace was horrified anyone would think so lowly of them for they never once thought of eloping. That idea was pure nasty rumor in the first place.  In reality, the pirate and Marie-Grace attended Mime #52’s wedding. The mime had finally found his true love, she also happened to be a mime, and they were destined to live happily ever after as they silently roamed the parks of Paris practicing their craft.

While Nellie let the rebellious teens have a piece of her mind, Samantha stayed strangely silent. The bags under her sleep deprived eyes grew darker with each word and she winced and blushed right along with Marie-Grace. At last, it was all sorted out. The pirate and Marie-Grace were found innocent and Glogan guilty of meddling.

“Okay, what is wrong with you?!” Nellie exclaimed on their way home.

“Who, me?” Samantha said tiredly.

“Yes, you! You didn’t back me up at all! You miss bad cop did not go all mama bear with me like you promised! That’s so unlike you! You never miss out on an opportunity to yell and boss people around!”

“I’m sorry, Nellie. I’m just dealing with something right now is all.”

Nellie stopped walking. “Are you okay? What’s bugging you?”

“Nothing,” Samantha growled.

“Something. Tell me, come on Samantha. I’m your best friend you can honestly tell me anything no matter what.”

It took a half hour of begging and pleading on Nellie’s part before Samantha relented and blurted out, “Eddie proposed.”

“WHAT?!!!! How romantic! Congratulations! When’s the big day?”

“No, didn’t you hear me?”

“YES!!! Eddie actually proposed! I can’t believe it! I’m so excited for you!”

          “I said no.”

          Nellie froze. “You did WHAT?!!! Why on earth would you do that? Eddie is your true love—”

          Samantha said one word and it was enough for Nellie to understand exactly why Samantha royally blew it with Eddie.

“Eddie loves you sooo much and you.  . . .. I can’t believe you! Where is he? Go to him right now and—-”

          “He proposed a month ago.”

          “A MONTH?!!! AND YOU DIDN’T TELL ME?” Nellie’s shock was evident in her voice.

          “I can’t go to him and say yes—-”

          “Oh, Samantha.” Nellie drew her in for a hug. “You can. I mean, you do want to marry him, right?”

          “More than anything,” said Samantha her voice laced with misery. “I’ve never regretted anything so deeply. I wish I could go back and snatch up at moment from history and—-”

          “Then go to him. He’ll know. Just fall into his arms and say one word.  Although Felicity would say time travel will make it better.”

          This last comment earned a little giggle from Samantha. “Wait,” added Nellie, “first we need to do your hair and get you decently dressed and—-”

          “Nellie, that’s not necessary—-”

          “Oh, yes it is!”

          As Nellie started fixing the rat’s nest called her hair, Samantha began having doubts. “Should I really do this?”

          “YES!!!”

          “But how will the rest of them take it?”

          “Samantha,” Nellie put her hands on Samantha’s shoulders and firmly looked her in the eye. She could still see the traces of tears. Poor girl had been tormented too long over what should have been the happiest moment of her life. “They love you. They want what’s best for you though they may never say it. Yes, it will be a big change for all of us. But we’ll get through as we always do, as a family. We’re not losing you. We’re just gaining a brother. Never forget that. I can handle what the playroom thinks and so can you. Yes, it is going to be hard to break it to them but Eddie will help. They may lash out and their reactions may not be ideal, but they’ll get over it and hopefully come to be as deliriously happy as I am right now. You deserve this more than anyone. I’m just so happy for you! Wow, my beautiful friend is all grown up! You’re really going to marry him! Oh, I’m just glowing thinking about how wonderful it will be to plan your wedding! The first step on the road to the perfect fairy tale beginning is to say yes to that proposal. Now, go!”

          Samantha ran the whole way to Castle Street, feeling better than she had in a long time. Despite Nellie’s work in gussying her up she arrived with wind swept hair and a muddy hem. She smiled a little and actually let herself be excited. If only he would still have her after the vicious way she had acted. Poor Eddie, she really didn’t deserve him.

******************************************************************

          Eddie Ryland sat hunched up in the tallest tower of the crumbling 742 Castle Street Mansion singing a mournful, downer song the French Pirate sang at the end of Bitty Quansa’s musical Captured By French Pirates that summed up Eddie’s life quite well at the moment.

I was the one who had it all
I was the master of my fate
I never needed anybody in my life
I learned the truth too late
I’ll never shake away the pain
I close my eyes but she’s still there
I let her steal into my melancholy heart
It’s more than I can bear
Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she runs away
She will still torment me
Calm me, hurt me
Move me, come what may
Wasting in my lonely tower
Waiting by an open door
I’ll fool myself, she’ll walk right in
And be with me for evermore
I rage against the trials of love
I curse the fading of the light
Though she’s already flown so far beyond my reach
She’s never out of sight
Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she fades from view
She will still inspire me
Be a part of everything I do
Wasting in my lonely tower
Waiting by an open door
I’ll fool myself, she’ll walk right in
And as the long, long nights begin
I’ll think of all that might have been
Waiting here for evermore


          There was a light knock on the half unhinged door that had several bullet sized holes in it. Eddie lifted his gaze to behold the most beautiful creature to have ever walked the earth. “Sam,” he breathed in awe. Suddenly, she was right where she belonged. In his arms.

          “Oh, Eddie,” murmured Samantha as she collapsed into him. She was shaking now, from a combination of nerves and the overwhelming need to say that one simple word, yes.

          Nellie was right, Eddie instinctively knew exactly why she had come. “Say it Sam, I need to hear you say it.”

          “Oh, Eddie I—”

          “Is that a yes?”

          “Yes, oh yes, a thousand times yes I will marry you.”

          Eddie looked at her intensely and she stared never before feeling as happy as she did in that moment. He gazed down into her eyes for what seemed like an eternity of bliss, one hand cupping her cheek and the other hand running through a loose lock of her hair. Eddie reached into his pocket, a question on his eyes. She nodded and he slipped the ring on her finger.

He picked her up, spun her around and set her down neatly before kissing her soundly.

          “I love you,” she said.

          Another kiss and Eddie said, “I know.”

          “I don’t say it often enough.”

          He kissed her cheek this time. “I know that too.”

          “I’m sorry.”

          “What for?”

          Samantha seemed near tears now. “For putting you through madness. You don’t deserve this. For rejecting you time and time again when really. . . .”

          “What?”

          “When really I’ve been secretly certain, without a doubt, one hundred percent certain you are the one.”

          A lengthy, tension filled pause passed for Samantha but Eddie only smiled softly at her. “I knew. You didn’t have to tell me for me to know but I am so glad you did.”

          “So am I.”

          “I don’t mind being rejected just as long as you’re mine at the end of the day. It makes the triumph of winning the struggle that much sweeter.”

          Samantha, almost, but didn’t, smack him. “In that case. . .”

          Before she could threaten to reject him again Eddie said, “You do realize that you’ll have to become my wife.”

          She grimaced. “I know.”

          “We’ll be stuck with each other always and forever,” he warned, “For better and for worse. For sweet moments and crazy ones.”

          “Unfortunately yes. I won’t be able to escape your evil clutches.”

          “Come on, I’m not that bad.”

          “Yes, yes, yes you are,” said Samantha. “Who is going to tell my family?”

          He winced. “Oh, yeah, them. Well, you are—-”

          She opened her mouth to protest, and he quickly added, “But I will be right there by your side.”

          She nodded gratefully, and he held her close neither one speaking for a while. “Mrs. Samantha Ryland,” he said thoughtfully. “I like the sound of that.”

          This time she did smack him playfully. “I don’t.”

          “You’ll get used to it.”

          “I won’t.”

          He laughed lightly as they walked together down the rickety, disintegrating stairs.  “You will.”

          “Won’t.”

          “Yes,” said Eddie.

          “No,” replied Samantha.

          And their arguing continued like clockwork, both not really meaning it, but continuing the game just the same.

******************************************************************

Samantha and Eddie arrived at the playroom to behold a chaotic, frantic scene. Bitty F. was curled up on the floor rocking back and forth her eyes flooded with tears. Felicity was punching a wall while Elizabeth stared at the ground unmoving, making no effort to stop Felicity’s violent destruction. Molly and Emily were hugging with tears streaking their cheeks. Logan was yelling, Parker was hiding under the bench cowering, and Gwen cried bitterly as she collapsed into her pillow. “What on earth is going on in here?” Samantha demanded to know.

“Nellie is gone!” wailed Bitty Q.

“And she’s never coming home!” Bitty F. blubbered.

A cold icy hand wrapped itself around Samantha’s heart. “What?”

“Her stuff is gone,” sniffled Gwen. “Her bed and her case and. .  . .” People in the playroom run away all the time, but they always come back. Unless of course one has taken their belongings with them. If you leave your bed behind then there’s a good chance you’ll be home soon. If your furniture is gone then no one knows when or if you’ll ever come home.

Big D. cried, “I want her floor space!”

“No,” Logan argued. “I called it first!”

“Who lives on a shelf here?” questioned Bitty Q.

“I need the space more than you do,” said Molly pulling out a measuring tape.

“Guys!” Felicity shouted over the noise. “Nellie ran away and is never coming back and all you care about is who gets her space?! Unbelievable! You have no loyalty to this family!”

There was a polite cough and a knock on the open door. “Mail here for Samantha Parkington!”

All noise ceased. Eddie grabbed the letter from the mailman and ushered him out quietly closing the door behind him. He almost didn’t give it to Samantha, but thinking better of it he handed it to her. All eyes focused on Samantha as she tore open the envelope. All eyes were drawn to the sparkling ring on her finger. There were gasps of horror at the sight of it. There was an uproar of accusations and threats. Bitty Q. stared moodily out the window as Bitty F. cried, “Nellie left us and now Samantha is too!”

Samantha’s face grew quite pale as she read Nellie’s missive. She prided herself on being one of those strong women who didn’t pass out every time something upsetting occurred. First time in her life she fainted dead away landing softly in Eddie’s arms. It seemed Madame Dolly’s prediction was coming true.

To be continued. .  ..

A Silent Conversation

Will this change crush the family? Or can they pull together and do something nice for Samantha for once?

A Silent Conversation

          “But not everyone was overjoyed for us. The rest of the Playroom people weren’t happy at all with this wedding idea just like I knew they’d be. But I never considered that they might support me the way they did. Even though they are sad to see me go and some of them don’t want things to change, they are still giving me their blessing to go get married and live my life. And for this, I have never been more proud of them.”

The introduction to Flashbacks to the Past

*** Note: The following content was taken from the actual notebook the real Playroom people wrote their responses in. Please be respectful because some of them wrote really personal and brutally honest pieces. Detective #52 cannot be held accountable for what is written here.***

********************************************************************

          Hi Nellie! Its Samantha here and I really wanted to talk to you so Emily suggested this method. I thought we’d give it a try.

          This whole wedding idea has sent all my emotions spinning in turmoil. It seems so sudden even though I’m ready to become Eddie’s wife. Who would have thought? A hundred years ago this was revolting as well as impossible but now it’s actually going to happen.

          It’s not the wedding itself I’m most scared of, it’s what comes after. Eddie and I have never been alone with each other for twenty four hours or more. What if we really cannot stand each other (which we can’t) or realize we really do despise each other?

          Eddie has left all the details of the honeymoon to me. He wants me to be happy even if I pick a place he hates. It’s tempting for sure but I know I could never do that to him. Where should we go? How long should we be gone? Eddie’s one request is that we’re gone as long as possible with NO and he means ABSOLUTELY NO contact with the Playroom. He said after the honeymoon it doesn’t matter how much time I spend on Play Road but the honey moon is his and he doesn’t want any stupid distractions with their craziness. Eddie is insistent that after ten years of managing you people I need a real vacation. He is certain our honeymoon is the only way I’m going to get it and I tend to agree. But is it wrong to do that to you and the rest of the Playroom people? Honestly Nellie, what do you think?

          I’ve finally realized that Eddie Ryland is my true love and there is no one else I’d rather spend the rest of my life (with even if he can be such a nincompoop at times). I’m ready to leave the Playroom and begin my life with Eddie, but what if the Playroom isn’t ready to let me go?

          If it were up to Eddie, we would have been married yesterday. But despite how much he wants this, he is willing to wait if that’s what the Playroom people want. He really does care about what you guys have to say. Do you think I would marry a man who doesn’t?

          We are both in agreement (for once) about this. We will cancel the wedding if even so much as one person is really against it.

          I know Glogan don’t want me to go but they are still willing for it to happen. It kills me to say this, but I can’t believe how grown up they are being about this. I have never been more proud of them than I am in this moment.

          Eddie and I want to know what they Playroom is thinking. I want to talk to each of them to see how they’re doing. Is this a bad idea?

                                         Please respond Nellie, I’m begging you.

                                                              Love,

                                                   Samantha Parkington

Samantha,

How did Emily get this idea? Who does she talk on paper to?

This wedding is going to be a big change and it’s going to be weird, but you’re ready, we’re all ready. As far as spending more time with Eddie goes, you’ll be fine and who knows? Maybe you’ll get tired of fighting. 

          As I see it you have one big question to answer for the honeymoon, Europe or tropical? Before you even plan the rest, you need to pick. It’s good to keep your honeymoon private. I’ll keep everyone out of your way. Can I write postcards if I choose to? Late June sounds great. It really depends on how it’s going. If it’s amazingly wonderful, then just write to me to say you’re staying longer. It’s not wrong to have no contact, just write every week or so.

          I think it’s good to ask everyone how they feel. Weddings are a big thing and it has everyone thinking about the future (except I hope not Felicity because she’ll just travel there to find out).

          I, also, am very proud of Glogan.

                                         Sorry I took so long to respond,

                                                              Nellie

Of course you can write to me! Just keep it hush hush because if anyone else finds out they’ll protest. I was indeed planning on writing a big letter addressed to everyone at least once a week. I’ll write privately to you too.  Emily was talking on paper to Charles Fredrick George Wilmington the Third. Don’t tell Felicity! As far as where we’ll go on the honeymoon, I think we’ll go to a variety of places. First we’ll go European then to the beach and I want to rent a mountain cottage in the Adirondacks (where Piney Point was in 1904). What do you think? Who should I speak to first?  

          I’ll keep it hush hush. Ooo . . . I won’t tell Felicity. I love your honeymoon plan. Sounds so romantic. You can talk to anyone but I suggest NOT starting with Glogan or the Bitties, as they are the most upset, but don’t end with them either.

*********************************************************************

          Good morning, Molly!

          This is Samantha speaking and I would like to talk on paper to you about something important. It’s what all the cool cats (Emily & Charles) are doing nowadays. It’s important to both Eddie and me that we find out how people feel about the wedding. So, honestly, what are thinking about all of this?

          Well Samantha, I think it’s about time you recognize what you have and give that poor boy what he deserves. Marry him. I’m not sure how your side of the family will function, but Emily and I can step in. Emily has the good ideas and I can boss people around. I’m just not sure who we can get to be as angry as you. Well, I guess we can go without that for now. I hope you enjoy your new life!  Molly 

*********************************************************************

Hey Felicity! Nellie here and me, Samantha, and Eddie, want to know how everyone feels about the whole wedding thing. So be honest – I mean it.  

Oh Nellie! One minute I’m sooo happy for them and the next I’m sobbing my eyeballs out like right now. I don’t want to be supreme ruler of the Playroom like Samantha is now. I’ve been crying my eyeballs out all night. Is it possible for someone to cry so much their eyeballs fall out? I think that’s happening to me. I don’t wanna look like Madame Dolly! I love Samantha. I don’t want her to leave. Even though it’s a tough love she has for me she’s the only one who sorta understands me. She lets me live and have fun but she also makes sure I don’t go too crazy. This last vacation we had a taste of life without her and it was PURE HORROR!!!! It was AWEFUL!!!!! If she leaves there will be a hole the size of the sun in my heart and in my family too. But she must marry Eddie. I don’t want to be the one to kill her happiness after she has worked so hard to give me mine. Tell Samantha yes, she has my blessing.  Don’t worry about little old me and my endless ocean of pain and sorrow. 

          Oh Felicity! I didn’t know this upset you so much! I know it hurts a lot right now, but trust me, soon we’ll replace out tears of “pain and sorrow” with tears of joy for Samantha. You said it yourself. Life without her was pure horror but doesn’t that make you feel that since you’ll be the oldest you should step up and fix the current horrible mess?

          Oh Nellie! My eyeballs are rusting. I’m gonna look like Big D. soon. So you mean I have to be supreme ruler after all? That’s sooo much work! I won’t have time to live my own life if I’m taking care of everyone else! Is that why Samantha is always so angry? Nellie, you’ll have to help me if you’re really expecting me to do this. Oh, how I miss her already. Can I tell krakalacapus? I don’t think he knows yet.

          Felicity, if they’re invisible tears your eyes won’t rust. I’ll help you learn the ropes. Go ahead and tell krakalacapus (that’s Charles right?).

*********************************************************************

          Hello Elizabeth,    

          I hope you’re not bitter over the fact I didn’t make you a bridesmaid. Speaking of the wedding, what are you thinking and/or feeling about it? Please, be honest,  

                               Samantha

          Oh Samantha! I’m going to miss you so much! Once you’re gone Felicity might have to step up and I’m the only one who can keep her in check besides you. But you’re been doing it so long, it’s time you got a break. Some responsibility will do Felicity some good, I think. You have my blessing,

                                                                                  Elizabeth

          Thank you, Elizabeth. I really hope you can stop Felicity from destroying everything I’ve worked for over the last ten years.

*********************************************************************

          Hi Emily! It’s Nellie, I hear you do this with Wilmington. What do you think about Samantha and Eddie getting married? I don’t have to tell you to be honest.

          It’s about time! I will miss her of course but she deserves this more than anyone I know besides you. I want Samantha to marry Eddie and not have to worry about us. We have to find a way to prove to her this is possible. We’ve held her captive here for ten years, its past time she had a chance to live her own life. At the same time though, I’m worried about my own safety here in the playroom. Samantha is the only one who can stop Felicity from tearing me to shreds. I don’t know why she doesn’t like me. It’s not like I ever did anything to her. Is it too selfish of me to be worried about Felicity when we need to prep Samantha for her big day?

          I’m glad you’re so on board. It’s definitely not selfish of you at all. Elizabeth and I and probably Charles with keep Felicity from “tearing you to shreds.” I just talked to Felicity, don’t tell her I told you, but she’s really upset. She’s worried about life without Samantha too.

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          Logan, this is Samantha. I know you’re upset about the wedding. How could you not be? You’re more of a sister to me than your idiot friend Gwen. Don’t tell her I said that. But I want you to know that I’m sooo proud of you for letting me do this. Please, talk to me.    

          ***Note: The following heartfelt conversation between Samantha and Logan has been deleted from these pages as it is has been deemed too personal, private, and only meant for Samantha’s eyes. Plus, this detective could find himself terminated by Logan for betraying her confidence. ***

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          Hey Gwen, it’s Nellie. I know you’re upset about this wedding thing, but honestly, tell me how you feel.

          Honestly? I don’t think I’m hurting as much as Logan right now. As soon as she met Eddie I just kinda knew, you know? Why else do you think I made a survey of the future? I wanted to get an idea of what life in the Playroom would be like if something like this happened. Can I tell you a secret? One night last month I saw Samantha come home from being out with Eddie and she was crying. I asked her about it and she said not to worry, that everything was going to be fine. I think she was trying to reassure herself more than me. I poked my head out the door and I saw Eddie standing a little ways down the street. He looked like . . . . like his whole world had ended, like all meaning of the word happy just died. I looked back at Samantha, sobbing silently in her bed muttering about change and life being perfect just the way it was.  I took a look back at Eddie and just knew. Before I realized what I was doing, I shook my head ever so slightly and he walked away. I think it’s time for Samantha to get married. She has waited a long time to love someone like she loves Eddie. I’ll miss her; but it’s not like I’ll never see her again. She’ll still be in the same town, almost on the same street. I think without Samantha we will all be forced to grow up a little. I think it’s because she’s stayed so long we haven’t been able to grow up at all. She’s always been there to take care of us. Now we have to take care of ourselves. Isn’t that the definition of growing up? Yeah, things won’t run as smoothly but that’s the way it’s supposed to be. This is the Playroom. We thrive on change. 

          Wow. That was insightful, heartfelt, and mature. Who are you and what have you done with Gwen? I’m just kidding, of course. I’m glad you see things so clearly. And your support is just what Samantha needs. We’re both very proud of you two. Don’t tell Samantha this, but I’ve wanted to leave for some time now. I wouldn’t run of and get married (who would I marry) but I wanted to go somewhere, do something, but I couldn’t leave knowing Samantha has her true love but wouldn’t leave the Playroom because someone needs to run it. I can’t go now when there’s a wedding to plan and Samantha’s about to leave; someone needs to help the Playroom through this and everyone is already upset enough about the loss of Samantha. Sorry, I shouldn’t unload all this on you when you’re already dealing with so much. On another note, you’re allowed to be a bridesmaid if you want to, but you don’t have to. You can also help Eddie and Logan with renovations to the house on Castle Street if you wish. You don’t have to though. If there is anything else you need or want to do let me know. Logan will probably ask you for your help on her half of the speech.

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          Hey Parker! It’s Samantha and I want to know how you feel about me getting married.

          Get married, don’t get married, I don’t really care. It’ll just be one less person to boss me around.

          Thank you, I appreciate your support. And you shouldn’t let the other babies boss you around.

          Whatever.

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          Hi Big D.! It’s Nellie. Tell me: how do you feel about this whole wedding idea? And I’m asking Big D. NOT Madame Dolly, so no weird fortunes.

          Aw, but Madame Dolly feels different than Big D.! Big D. feels very sad right now. But Madame Dolly is having an “Ah, ha! I told you so,” moment. Samantha doesn’t affect Big D.’s playroom life very much. She wants to be happy but feels we need another background check on Eddie. However, Madame Dolly knows this isn’t necessary. Madame Dolly is very relieved it’s not Marie-Grace getting married because she saw something horrible in her future. In Samantha’s future with Eddie, Madame Dolly sees lots of bickering, lots of love, and lots of children. She sees Samantha’s dreams of happily ever after coming true. Big D. is upset. She is feeling extremely young and vulnerable right now. She isn’t ready to lose her older sister. Madame Dolly thinks its past time Samantha left the nest. She has become more of a mother to the Playroom people than a sister. Madame Dolly is warning you NOT to invite the historical family to the wedding because she sees us all in the Supreme Time Travel Government Jail on Samantha’s best day. A family feud that last the rest of our lives as well as some brainwashed Playroom citizens will occur if they come. Madame Dolly wants Nellie to leave too but Big D. doesn’t want to lose both of her older siblings. Madame Dolly says Nellie should tell Samantha about her dreams of leaving the Playroom but not today because Samantha is already an emotional mess trying to console us all. Both Big D. and Madame Dolly want both Samantha and Nellie to live their dreams of happily ever after.

          It’s going to be hard for everyone especially to you because you are so young.  But you’re right in that Samantha should live happily ever after. Why can’t I invite her family from back in time? I was really hoping to have Uncle Gard give her away. L I’m not leaving anytime soon.

          Good, Big D. is happy you’re staying. No! Nellie must leave and she will, you just watch. Alright, maybe you can invite them, but use magic so they can’t see they’re in the future. Get court permission but make sure they don’t know Felicity is going to be there. Samantha and Eddie will probably want to come when you invite them. Samantha should definitely come with you.

          I’ll get court permission, but I’m surprising Samantha. Eddie can invite his own family if he wants to, but we’re not telling Samantha. I have it all worked out.

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          Hi Bitty Q.! I know you’ve talked on paper to Bitty before. Now tell me what you think about my upcoming wedding.

          Is this Samantha?

          Yes

The world is ending                                            

Bitty’s heart is breaking                                     

Bitty is done                                                        

With all her faking

Over the years,

Bitty has lied a lot

Bitty doesn’t want to live here

No, she does not

The wall she put up                                            

Of fame, fortune, & fun                                      

Has broken down                                               

It’s dead and done                                               

All the plays

All the fun

It was great

But now it’s done

I hope you understand

The things I say

All in third person

For you today

What you have just awoken                                     

Is my heart, now it is broken                                    

But Bitty, fun                                                           

Will never be done                                                   

Not until each and every one of us

Is gone and turned to dust.

Bitty doesn’t need to lie

But she needs to tell us why

Where will she go?

Anywhere, she just needs to say so

Bitty please tell us the truth

Don’t make me go and sleuth

Whatever you decide, just know how much

I love you & remember it’s your hand I’ll always clutch

There’s something else I need to say                                 

Something you need to hear today                                     

I wasn’t done                                                                      

I’ve still got left a little fun                                                

I’ve still got plenty

Smiles and laughter

And I want Samantha

To live Happily ever after

  I do not want to tarry

I will go and marry

Someday if I ever do

Have a daughter, I want her to be just like you

Go get married                                                         

Live your life                                                           

I hope you like the title                                            

Mr. Edward Ryland’s wife                                       

Thank you for all you’ve done

The memories come like a flood

I see you’ve finally realized

That Eddie’s not a dud

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Hi Bitty! It’s Nellie. I was just wondering how you feel about Samantha’s wedding.

          How I feel?? How I feel??!!! I feel awful. How could I not? I’m just a baby and the only person who takes care of me doesn’t want to anymore. She’s going to marry HIM, the boy she says she hates. I don’t understand. I just don’t understand. She’s going off to marry him and she’ll have her own kids and forget all about me. who wants a fat, old Bitty who they’re not even related to when they could have a cute, new baby of their own. She’s going off with him to travel the world, live her life, and have her own adventures without me. It’s like how I felt when Marie-Grace first met The Pirate only a thousand times worse than that. Samantha will have so much fun with her new husband she won’t want to come back. She says she does but she really doesn’t know. She’s never been married before. Why do you think I do crazy things? No one cares about me when I don’t. Samantha wouldn’t do anything with me if I didn’t act up, you know? My parents failed at taking care of me, the government failed, the person who adopted me failed, and now the one person who makes the word family come alive and mean something is leaving me.

          Bitty, Samantha is still going to see you, she’s only moving up the street. No matter how much she says or thinks she hates Eddie Ryland, she doesn’t. If Samantha ever does have kids, she won’t forget about you. In fact, she’ll need you to use how she raised you to help raise her kids. She’s known you since the day she came to PFV how could a relationship like that ever be forgotten or replaced? Of course she’ll come home to us now and then and if she doesn’t I’ll drag her there kicking and screaming.

Everyone cares about you Bitty! Crazy or not, we all love you no matter what we say or do. We just express it very well. I care about you Bitty. I think about you all the time, the amazing things you’ve done and the amazing things yet to come. Yes, Samantha is moving, but that doesn’t mean leaving. She’ll still see you, love you, and care for you. She’ll be there when you need her.

          Thanks, Nellie. That’s just what I needed to hear. Now let’s get this wedding started! I have a few ideas. . . Instead of having the wedding in peace valley, we should have it inside a historical mansion in Rhode Island. The reception should be on the beach. What do you think?

          Ooo . . . maybe, I’ll have to run it by Samantha.     

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          Hello Cécile! I know we don’t know each other very well, but I’d like to talk to you about my wedding. Samantha

          What about it?

          What do you think? How do you feel? Some people are very upset and others aren’t. Be honest and tell me how you really feel.

          I am happy for you and I think you deserve this. How do you feel?

What I feel is complicated. One minute I wish the wedding is tomorrow and the next in twenty years. I’m sad to be leaving the Playroom but overjoyed at the fact of being with Eddie. One moment I’m rather pleased with the ten years I put in here and the next I don’t want it to end. When I think about the Playroom and the people who live there, I want to cry. But when I think about Eddie and the beautiful future we have together, I want to leap into his arms and never leave. I’m terrified of becoming his wife and what it will mean; the independence I’m giving up and the commitment I will have with him. I’m scared for my family because I’m not sure if I trust them to handle themselves. I’m ready to go home with Eddie as his wife but I’m not sure if the Playroom is ready to let me go. Get married? Don’t get married? I’m so confused I don’t even know anymore. Sorry to dump this on you when you’re supposed to be dumping all your heartbreaking feelings onto me. But then again, you haven’t lived here very long and we’re not very close so I guess you don’t have many feelings to dump. 

Samantha, you’ve worked your butt of for ten years. Don’t you want to see all that work used? Don’t you want the Playroom to succeed with what you’ve taught them? Marrying Eddie will be a commitment, but isn’t it worth it? You have lived with fifteen other people and you think living with one with take away independence? Get married, we can handle ourselves.

You’re right Cécile, of course you are. I’m really going to do it, marry Eddie Ryland. And if I ever do get lonely in my nice, new, spacious, quiet house, I can always come to Play Road for a visit.

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Hi Marie-Grace! It’s Nellie and I just wanted to touch base with you. How do you feel about the wedding?

Mmm, how do I feel? I’m not really sure. I mean, I’ve only known Samantha for three years so I’m probably not as devastated as the people who have known her for ten. I know and understand exactly how she feels about Eddie as it’s something I myself have experienced with The French Pirate. I see her longing for Eddie even though she sees him every night and almost every day.  I believe I am happy for her. She deserves to start living more than anyone else here in the Playroom. She has put more work into helping care for the Playroom to grow and prosper that she hasn’t anything left for herself. Eddie deserves this too, especially after being rejected so many times. It’s time the Playroom had some change, and besides weddings are just sooo romantic.

It’s good to have some positive support!

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Oh, Nellie dear, it’s your turn. Everyone else has already spilled their guts including me the bride. Now it’s your turn. Be honest and relax, I’m not going to cancel the wedding because you tell me something personal. If you have anything to say, I’d rather hear it now before the wedding than after I’m already married.

Can I talk to someone else first?

Yes, pick anyone you’re comfortable with except Glogan, the Babies, and Felicity.

Hi Emily! I know I’ve already talked to you, but Samantha wants me to spill my guts.

I’ve wanted to leave the Playroom for a little while now. Not like, “I don’t want to live here, you people stink,” kind of leaving. It’s more of a “what’s next” and “where do I go from here” kinda thing. Tell me, what do I do here in the Playroom?

  • I’m not a starring actress
  • Not the comic relief
  • I don’t save the world
  • Don’t secretly write best-selling novels
  • Don’t write famous plays
  • I’m not a detective with the perfect boyfriend from back in time

The only time I even boss people around and take care of the Playroom is during vacation. I know this is going to sound weird and, well almost insane, but I want to go back in time. I wanted to grow up and live there. I know I can’t but I still think about it.

As for the wedding goes, I’m very happy for Samantha. I want to help her as much as possible and I’m glad that she is finally getting her own happily ever after,

after ten years. I know Eddie is a great guy and that he’ll love and cherish Samantha with his whole heart for the rest of their lives but every time I see that boy I think about the past. I know now that’s he’s a good person, but I can’t stop the memories from playing.

          I’m really going to miss Samantha; we have a long history together (pun intended). Some things I read today were reassuring and others were heart rendering. 

                               Nellie

P. S. Samantha might as well read this

          Samantha!!! Read from where you finished to here!