Nora’s eyes glimmered with laughter as the child before her bubbled with happiness. It was such a nice day out that she had decided to invite her friends out to go to the park with her. Yet currently, she was beginning to regret her decision as they took great pleasure in teasing her at the slightest of reactions.
“Look Nora, I think Lieutenant Fluffy has set his eyes on you!” Sam giggled, as she lifted her teddy bear up to Nora. The teddy bear soon blocked her view, so that it was the only thing visible in her line of sight. Nora could hear her friends snickering from behind her.
“Congrats, you got yourself a real man right there, Nora.” Nathan guffawed from her left. Sam scrunched her face up and stomped towards Nathan. Unfortunately for him, Nathan failed to notice as Sam crept up from behind. She raised her right leg, aiming for the back of his left shin and swung. Nathan lost balance, his laughter cut off as he cried out in pain.
“Lieutenant Fluffy isn’t a man. He’s a bear! And a knight in shining armor too!” Sam glared down at him whilst clutching her teddy. Nathan grumbled under his breath as he gripped his foot in pain.
“Looks like Nate just got his as handed to him by a toddler,” Felix chuckled, as Nathan shot him a dirty look.
“I’m not a toddler, I’m almost four!” Sam raised four fingers in an accusing manner to prove her point, before spinning back around and bouncing towards her sister.
“Nora guess what?” Sam gleamed brightly, her mood doing a total one eighty within seconds.
“What’s up squirt?” Nora chuckled, still laughing at Nathan’s fallen figure.
“Robyn read me a book yesterday and I learned about Nora’s Bark,” Sam beamed with pride.
“Oh, really? I’m pretty sure it was ‘Noah’s ark,’ but I guess I must have had it wrong all this time,” She turned to look down at Sam in amusement.
“Yep, he even had a really big bark,” Sam emphasized before falling into another fit of giggles.
“Nora’s bark... You know what? It kind of suits you,” Robyn snorted. Nora pursed her lips in indignation.
“Sure, why not,” the elder sibling rolled her eyes in exasperation.
“Then you’ll be Nora like from the story. But you have to promise,” Sam lifted her teddy bear up to her sister once more, “If there’s ever big food, you have to save lieutenant Fluffy first.”
“You mean a flood?” her sister corrected her.
“That too. Now promise!” Sam pouted, urging her sister to hold the bear.
“Alright, alright. I’ll save Lieutenant Fluffy first,” Nora relented, shaking her head as she took the bear from her sibling and placed it into the crook of her arm. Sam’s eyes lit up at this and Robyn couldn’t help but grab the kid, grinning as she practically squeezed the life out of her.
“Robyn no!” Sam complained, giggling as Robyn began to tickle her sides.
“I swear that kid is a demon in disguise,” Nathan grumbled underneath his breath as he stood beside Nora, “a very cute disguise, but a demon nonetheless.” Nora released a shaky breath as she tried to reign in the laughter threatening to spill from her lips. Eyeing sweeping over her surroundings, Nora couldn’t help but think of how lucky she was to have such amazing people by her side. Her lips curved upwards slightly in the faintest of smiles.
“So how are you holding up?” Nathan broached quietly, interrupting her train of thought. Nora fixated her eyes on Sam and Robyn, feigning temporary deafness.
“You can keep up that act for as long as you want but you’re not fooling me,” Nathan sighed whilst running his hand through his hair in frustration. Nora peered at him from the corner of her eyes as he waited patiently in expectation.
“He’s not around very often and she’s starting to ask questions,” Nora murmured, reverting her focus back onto Sam.
“So it’s safe to assume that this little outing was arranged as a distraction no?” he guessed.
“Hmm... Nothing ever really gets past you, does it?” she suppressed a small laugh.
“We’re here for you, you know that right?” Nathan felt the need to point out to her.
“I know, I know. I just...” she trailed off unsure of what to say anymore.
“I get it, but I’m just a bit worried about you. You know it’s not healthy for you to bottle it all up.”
“I just need time...I...I’m still figuring things out. Everything will be fine,” she attempted to reassure him, but despite this, Nathan felt as though her words were meant to convince herself more than him. He sighed in resignation.
“Today is meant to be a distraction... not only for Sam but for me as well.” She muttered under breath. Nathan nodded, catching the underlying meaning. This was her way telling him to let it go, at least for the time being.
That day turned out to be one of the most memorable days for both siblings. They spent that entire afternoon with the people they cared about the most, pushing aside all of their worries.
At the time they felt as though nothing could go wrong. All of their worries were forgotten and to Nora it felt as though all of the suffering they had been forced to endure could someday be forgiven. It was time for them to be reckless without having to worry about any possible consequences. Time itself had stopped for them, allowing them to relish in joy underneath the sun’s rays. It was about their happiness and nothing else mattered because they deserved it.
Unbeknownst to Nora, that day would be the last day her sister would be able to laugh in such a carefree manner. They were completely unprepared for the tragedy that would soon befall them.