The door opened slightly, and a timid-looking girl appeared in the doorway.
Her dirty blonde curls matched her tan complexion and reached the waist of her brightly colored tribal print dress. With one of her hands she clutched the embroidered strap of her burlap messenger bag and in the other she held a camera. Its neon pink strap dangled from it, unused. She had set down beside her an American Girl shopping bag. It was obvious it was filled with her clothes.
“SURPRISE!” the dolls shouted in unison, waving their arms around and rushing towards her.
Kaya on the other hand, was confused and didn’t know why her sisters were shouting after they’d just insisted she’d be quiet. But being her 5-year-old-like self, Kaya copied then, happy to have an opportunity to shout and be loud.
The girl gasped. Her expression was one of horror, which soon turned to shock. “What…What are you doing here? Who are you?” Her hand flew to her messenger bag, as if protecting its contents.
“We’re your sisters!” Jamie exclaimed. She was taken aback by the strange reaction.
“Welcome home Lea!” Kanani said, coming forward to give the girl a hug.
Lea stepped back, away from Kanani. Kanani paused, not coming any closer, but feeling a little hurt that Lea didn’t want her hug. “What’s wrong?” Kanani asked, genuinely concerned.
“It’s…uh…” Lea stammered, trying to calm down, “It’s nothing.” Her heart was pounding. No one bothered to tell her that she was going to be greeted by 6 other girls!
“Oh. Okay,” Kanani said slowly, not quite believing her. “We’re your sisters, like Jamie said. You’re going to live with us! So you are part of our family now.”
Lea just nodded.
“Welcome home Lea,” Kanani added, giving Lea a hug before she knew what was happening.
The hug felt cozy and warm, Lea decided, but she didn’t particularly like being hugged by a stranger. So she didn’t resist, but she didn’t hug Kanani back. It was an awkward moment for both of them. As soon as Kanani realized what was happening, she reluctantly stepped back with an embarrassed smile and took a minute to study Lea.
Lea was shifting from foot to foot, uneasy under the stare of the 6 dolls. She was still clutching her messenger bag, and her fingers picked at the golden buckles. She looked anxious about something, but what? Kanani didn’t know and it bothered her.
“I’ll show you your room,” Grace offered, breaking the silence.
“What about the treats?” Kaya asked. She couldn’t wait another minute, let alone ten.
“Oh, right.” Grace led Lea over to the table with the pastries. The rustic table contrasted with the ceramic cake stand piled high with the homemade treats. “These are for you,” Grace explained, “As a ‘welcome home’ gift. You can eat one now if you want.”
“Thank you,” Lea said, choosing a vanilla cupcake. She looked around at the other dolls watching her and smiled weakly. “You guys can have some too,” she offered, trying to focus their attention on something other than herself.
Kaya was the first one over to the table. She had begun eating a little sugar, and all the pastries in the house had slightly changed her taste buds. Kaya still tried to pick the treats with the least amount of sugar, which is why she chose the croissant first.
Lea stepped back away from the table and watched the other dolls make grabs for the treats. She wondered why they were so excited about them. Raising the cupcake to her nose, Lea inhaled the tempting aroma of sugar, butter and flour and cautiously took a bite. Then she understood why the treats were so coveted. Her eyes opened wide as she swallowed. “This is really good,” Lea said, taking another bite.
“Thank you,” Grace said. She blushed and turned around to face Lea. “I made them from scratch.”
Lea looked up from her cupcake in disbelief. “You made these?” she asked, her mouth still full.
Grace nodded, “I got the recipe online from a French website. All of my treats are French because I have my own business called ‘La Petite Patisserie’ and I…” Grace paused. Lea was focused on the cupcake and didn’t seem to be listening. Isabelle noticed Grace’s disappointed sigh and gave her a sympathetic smile.
Once the dolls had finished the pastries and saved some for Lea to eat later, Sarah decided it was time to start the conversation.
“So Lea, where are you from?” Sarah asked casually, leaning on the table.
Lea looked down at the floor. “Uh…I…”
“Oh, silly me,” Sarah laughed, “I forgot you were from Brazil.”
Lea didn’t have the heart to speak up and tell Sarah that she wasn’t, so she was glad when Grace said, “Why don’t I show you your room, Lea?”
*To be continued*