Kimberly vividly remembered the day when Ellen first appeared on their doorstep. Her grandmother had brought Ellen to the house, holding her hand. The skinny, frightened girl tried to hide behind the woman and did not dare to look up. Kimberly remembered how she decisively reached out her hand to Ellen and cheerfully offered, “Let’s make friends! My name is Kimberly, and this is my grandmother.” These words made the strange girl even more confused, and tears appeared in her eyes. “No, mine,” she said quietly.
Greta decided to intervene to prevent the girl’s introduction from turning into a quarrel. In a conciliatory tone, but firmly enough, she said to both of them, “Now, I am your common granny, and I do not allow anyone to argue and quarrel. We will live peacefully and amicably, and you will definitely become real sisters.” With these words, she pulled both orphans close and hugged them with all the tenderness and love her big heart was capable of.
Kimberly soon found out that the new girl, Ellen, was a year younger than her. This discovery calmed her down a bit, making her feel more grown up at six. She decided to take care of her newly acquired younger sister, Ellen, who had recently lost her mother. Ellen often cried and asked Greta to take her to her. Kimberly saw that her grandmother was very upset every time she heard these words. It made Kimberly sad too, and in those moments, she would move closer to her grandmother, trying to press her cheek against the warmth of her body.
Grandmother always smelled perfect, sometimes of apple soap, sometimes of sweet baked goods, and sometimes of mint tea, which she loved to brew in a small old teapot with a chipped spout. Kimberly never knew her mother; Greta’s daughter died in childbirth, and her grandmother had stepped in to replace the little girl’s mother at birth. She also did not remember her father; her grandmother told her that for the first six months, he lived with his daughter. Then he went to another city to earn money and only appeared in their house a few times when he came to the city to renew some documents. In the last few years, there was no news of him, but Kimberly herself did not remember him. He remained for her as an unknown figure with an old picture.
Greta often told Kimberly about her mother. The girl loved to go through her mother’s pictures in an old album, where she was a very young girl with braids sticking out in different directions. Kimberly found out where Ellen had come from in their house much later. One winter evening, her grandmother decided to tell the girls about her acquaintance with Kimberly’s mother.
“I was working as a nurse at our local hospital at that time. Maggie, my daughter, was still small, and I gave birth to her late at 40. Your mother, Ellen, I was like a mother to her because there was almost a 20-year age difference between us. We worked together with your mother, Ellen, for almost 15 years. She, like me, couldn’t give birth to a child for a long time. I remember how she often complained to me, and I comforted her and said, ‘Look at me, God gave me a child when I was 38 when I did not expect it, and he will bless you.’ And she did wait. I remember how Michelle rejoiced when she learned that she was expecting a daughter. She baked a big cake and treated us all.”
“Then I retired. My house wasn’t excellent after Maggie’s death, and I had to take care of Kimberly. That’s how your mother and I lost each other for a while. But when I found out that Michelle died of heart disease, I immediately went to you, Ellen. I know Michelle raised you alone; she had no relatives, and no one knows who your father was. Michelle didn’t say anything about him. I came, and you were such a scared little mouse. My heart couldn’t take it, and I took you to my home. I’ll never forgive myself for losing Michelle like that. It was hard for me, and it wasn’t any easier for her. We had to stick together. You little girls may not be blood sisters, but I’m sure you’ll be closer to each other than some blood sisters. So don’t ever lose each other. Together, you can handle any trouble.”
Despite the age difference, Greta put the girls in the same class. She didn’t want to separate them, and she did the right thing. The girls always stood up for each other and didn’t let anyone hurt them. Ellen and Kimberly always sat together at the same desk, went to school together, and came home together. They fell in love with the same boy for the first time and almost quarreled because of him. But soon, they made peace with each other, vowing never to quarrel over trivial matters again. They even decided to enroll in the same college. However, full-time education proved costly, and money was always in short supply. A year later, Kimberly and Ellen switched to distance learning. The girls immediately found jobs as cleaners in a small company and worked hard on their college lectures after work.
However, Kimberly couldn’t endure the hectic life for half a year. Saying goodbye to her grandmother and sister, she went to conquer the capital. For the first time in many years, the sisters went their separate ways. Ellen was distressed about Kimberly, who became less frequent with her. She thought it was due to the bustling life in the capital. Unfortunately, Ellen’s worries increased when her grandmother’s health took a sharp turn. Whether it was loneliness or old age, Greta’s eyesight had deteriorated significantly. She was nearly blind and moved around the house with great difficulty.
“When will Kimberly come?” the elderly woman used to ask anxiously. “I’ll go blind soon and won’t see my granddaughter anymore.” Ellen now tried to spend as much time as possible with her grandmother. This became increasingly challenging because Ellen had met a man. One day, Ellen confessed to her grandmother that he had proposed to her. “Wonderful, granddaughter! We will have your wedding, and Kimberly will come too. It will be so good. I’ve already given up on seeing her again. A city dweller has forgotten about us,” Greta said.
Ellen called her sister, and she seemed happy for her. But Kimberly’s voice was somewhat distant and seemed a little upset. “What’s going on with you? Why haven’t you called?” Ellen asked. “Grandma has become very ill. She sits by the window more and more often with your pictures. Even though she can hardly see anything, she tries to catch a glimpse of you on the path leading to the house. Are you going to come to my wedding at least?”
“Ellen, I’ll try my best. I’ll come, and you’ll see for yourself what’s going on with me. I don’t know if our meeting will be happy or not, but I simply can’t miss admiring you in your wedding dress,” Kimberly’s strange hints aroused even more suspicions in Ellen. She couldn’t sleep and kept thinking about what her sister was hiding from her. She never told them the time of her arrival. The elderly lady watched her granddaughter from her unchanging post, catching the first rays of the sun. “Ellen, look who’s coming!” she would shout every time a shadow appeared on the horizon. “No, grandma, that’s not Kimberly. That’s Mr. Smith going to the store. And who’s behind him? Oh, that’s Mrs. Campbell carrying the mail.”
When Kimberly finally appeared on the path in front of the house, no one could believe it was her. The woman didn’t look like herself at all. She had dyed her long blonde hair a dark chestnut color. But that wasn’t what bothered Ellen. Kimberly was at least six months pregnant. Greta did her best to see her beloved granddaughter and couldn’t believe that the plump woman was her tiny, fragile Kimberly. “Yes, it’s me, Grandma,” Kimberly laughed, and Greta cried with joy. “This is my Kimberly’s voice. Come to me, baby, and let me hug you. How big you’ve become. Are you pregnant? Why didn’t you tell us anything?” Alan asked, hurt. “Are we strangers to you?”
“What’s there to say? You see, I went to the capital and achieved success and recognition,” Kimberly replied bitterly and sarcastically. “My job was the simplest. I was a waitress in a restaurant. Now I don’t work there anymore. They asked me to leave. My belly is too big. I’ve returned to you for good, if you’ll have me back.”
“Of course we will. And what about the father of the child?” Ellen asked. “Father? Well, he doesn’t need me, and he doesn’t need my children either.”
“Children? Are you having more than one child?” Ellen exclaimed happily and hugged her sister. Then Kimberly and Greta also sat hugging each other for a long time. Kimberly cried like a child, complaining about her fate, and her grandmother pitied her, just as she used to when she was a child. “Kimberly, what happened to your man? Did he chicken out?” Greta asked carefully.
“Perhaps he got scared, or maybe he listened to his mother. I thought he loved me and I trusted him, but it turned out he was a mommy’s boy. His mother taught him to leave me, and he obeyed like a trained puppy. I cried for a whole week. I couldn’t even go to work. And when I finally did, I was told that I was laid off. I tried to find a job in the capital, but I worked somewhere else for a while. But who needs a pregnant woman? It’s a good thing Ellen called and invited me home. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have dared to show up like this, a complete failure and pregnant too.”
“Don’t talk nonsense. This is your home. You are welcome here at any time of day or night,” Grandma said sternly and kindly, just as she used to in childhood. “And your children will be welcome here too.”
“Of course, this is confirmed,” Ellen said. “We won’t abandon you. We will help you.”
Kimberly came to Ellen’s wedding with a smile on her face. Her heart had calmed down a bit, and she felt the support of her loved ones. She was happy for Ellen, who was getting married for love and was blooming like a delicate, fragile flower with thin, transparent petals and a heady aroma. Time flew quickly after the wedding, but the last few months were very difficult for Kimberly because of her huge belly, which constantly hurt her back. She worried about her constant weakness.
Kimberly tried not to worry, but her condition was getting worse. The doctors didn’t like her symptoms, and it was decided to schedule the birth two weeks earlier to examine Kimberly as soon as possible and find the cause of her constant weakness. When the first snow covered the ground, two brothers were born, Timothy and David. The boys were very weak, but the doctors reassured them that there would be no serious problems with the babies. After examining Kimberly, the doctors gave her a terrible diagnosis—cancer.
“How can this be?” Ellen cried. “You’re still so young.”
The terrible news shook both sisters. Ellen walked as if in a daze, while Kimberly seemed to lose all her life force. “Shortly, we won’t tell grandma,” Ellen decided. “She won’t be able to handle such news. We will fight together, you and me. I will go with you to the doctor, sit next to you, and hold your hand. If you really feel bad, it won’t work with just one of us. We have to be with the children, and we’ll have to tell Grandma. Otherwise, she’ll never forgive us.”
“I’ll try to pull through for the sake of the children. I have to live so that my babies won’t be orphans like us. But when the apple trees bloomed in the garden, they buried Kimberly. Cancer had destroyed her in a matter of months, giving her no chance to fight for her life. During those few months, Kimberly was dying from a terrible disease; everything around her was falling apart. Ellen and her husband’s relationship gradually deteriorated. Their newly blossoming love couldn’t withstand the heavy trial.”
Ellen was constantly with her sister and her babies, and her husband was moving away from her more and more. Ellen saw this, but she couldn’t sacrifice her sister for the sake of a man. Grandma had finally gone blind. The terrible news of her granddaughter’s illness hit her like a huge stone. She seemed to have cried out the remnants of her vision and now lived in complete darkness.
The only ones who brought a little happiness to both women were Timothy and David. The boys were growing stronger every day. “What will happen to the kids now?” Greta looked into the void in front of her with her sightless gaze. “I guess you’ll have to put them in an orphanage, Ellen.”
“It’s a pity for the boys, but I can’t take care of them myself. I need help myself, and you’re still so young. Your family is falling apart; you’ve had enough of taking care of everyone with us. It’s time for me to think about myself.”
“What are you talking about, Grandma?” Ellen protested, hearing her words. “You didn’t give me away to an orphanage, but now you’re suggesting to give up Kimberly’s children? I’ll never abandon them, I promise, and I’ll adopt them. If my husband doesn’t support me, let him go. Why do I need a man who won’t lend a hand in a difficult moment?”
“Ellen, my girl, how will you cope alone?” Grandma asked.
“I’ll manage somehow. And you, for now, will help me with your kind words, if not deeds.” Ellen pressed the little ones to herself, hugging their warm, little bodies. Remembering her dead sister, she often cried softly and bitterly. She didn’t want to upset her grandmother and tried to seem strong, but she was terribly scared inside.
The Children’s Welfare authorities could easily take the boys away from them to adopt them. It was necessary for Ellen’s husband to give his consent. He categorically refused, and divorce loomed on the horizon. Ellen didn’t know if it would solve the adoption problems. She decided
to find the boys’ father. Ellen remembered what Kimberly said about him—a weak-willed mommy’s boy. Maybe he didn’t know anything about their fate or about the children. After all, he was sent somewhere in France for an internship at some Michelin-starred restaurant.
Ellen was determined to find him in the capital, but first, she had to solve the problem of who would temporarily take care of the kids and the grandmother while she was away. But the world is not without kind people, as her grandmother used to say. After agreeing with kind neighbors to look after the children and grandmother, Ellen headed to the capital.
She only knew that the child’s father’s name was Peter, and he was the administrator of a restaurant that belonged to his mother. On her first day in the city, Ellen found the place where her sister Kimberly used to work. The capital’s restaurant was very respectable and clearly brought considerable income to its owners.
“Hello, I need Peter,” she decisively announced to the waiter.
“Mr. Baron?” he clarified.
“Yes, probably he worked here as an administrator two years ago. He’s the owner’s son. We have a different administrator now. Maybe you need to go to him,” the waiter suggested.
“I don’t need an administrator. I need Peter. I have a personal matter with him,” Ellen said assertively. She had to remind herself that she wouldn’t be timid in front of the people in the capital. There was too much at stake, and realizing this, she spoke confidently and even a bit arrogantly.
But the experienced waiter just smiled and said, “Mr. Baron is on a procurement run now. But his mother is here. Maybe you want to talk to her?”
“Great, she’s the one I need. Let me through,” and Ellen resolutely walked into the hall. There were many visitors, but with some unerring intuition, she identified the owner—a stately, slender lady closely watching as a young man and impeccably uniformed staff moved between tables. She remembered what Kimberly told her about the rules at the previous job—no frivolity with customers, no romance between employees.
“Mrs. Baron,” Ellen addressed her. “Do you remember Kimberly Dua? Ellen?” She went on the offensive right away.
“Quietly, girl. This isn’t the place to shout. Let’s go to my office and talk calmly,” Constance said, and they went into the director’s office. Constance gestured for Ellen to sit down.
“Who are you to Kimberly?” Constance asked. She tried to remain calm, but it was clear that she was nervous.
“I’m her sister.”
“And what do you want, sister? Money? A job?” the woman hissed, her whole body beginning to shake with anger.
“Did you know she was expecting a baby?”
“Of course. You have known. She gave birth to twins. Excellent, congratulations. But what does that have to do with me? You have nothing to do with it, except that you did everything you could to make the children grow up without a father.”
Both women were so excited about the conversation that they didn’t notice Peter entering the office. He was still a very young man, but it turned out that the last two years spent in France among independent and enthusiastic people had not passed without a trace for him.
But he had children now, and there was Ellen, whom they considered their mother, and there was an elderly woman who raised Ellen and Kimberly. After that conversation, there were many more meetings and conversations. In the end, Ellen forgave Peter’s mother. Constance met her grandchildren and became attached to them with all her heart. It was impossible not to love these two little ones who looked like two peas in a pod and like their dad in their childhood.
More time passed, and Ellen and Peter got married. And soon, Ellen told her grandmother that she would become a great-grandmother again. After all, Timothy and David were going to have a little sister.
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