Sempervirens’ best friend, Jennifer Harmonson, has adopted Cradle Rock as her second home. After her visit here with Vi, when she discovered how nice her best friend’s grandparents, great grandpa, and great aunt were–and how delicious the food was–she started dropping by often.
She began to think that maybe this was really her true home. Can somebody else’s home feel like your own?
Something about Cradle Rock felt right to Jennifer. She felt she shone brighter there than anywhere else.
Sempervirens’ family was friendly, the food was delicious, the artwork and stuffed animals were fun, but mostly, this feeling of being at home was because of her best friend’s grandmother, Redbud.
Jennifer felt comfortable and relaxed whenever she was around Redbud.
Redbud ate the same way she did–great big huge mouthfuls at a time–and she never told her to eat more slowly and chew.
“I like to eat, too,” said Jennifer.
“You and me both!” said Redbud. “Isn’t breakfast scramble delicious?”
When Jennifer was with Redbud, she felt that she was with someone just like her. Maybe, Jennifer thought, there’s a reason we’re so similar. Maybe I’m a foundling, and Redbud is my real ma.
While Jennifer loved her sister Bridget, she never really felt like they came from the same stock. They didn’t look that much alike. And they didn’t talk alike or think alike, either.
Bridget, with her red hair, looked a lot like their mother, Jayden.
But Jennifer? She didn’t look anything like their mom.
She looked like Redbud Bough. And she felt like a Bough, too, in her heart of hearts.
What could have happened that Jennifer Bough ended up Jennifer Harmonson, a little girl who called Jayden Harmonson mom? And for what purpose?
For a while, this puzzled Jennifer. Then one night, after she and Redbud watched the stars together, a thousand twinkling lights rained down, and Jennifer discovered what might be the answer.
“Listen!” said Redbud. “Can you hear the lights singing? That’s what Aunt onezero calls the thousand mommies!”
As Redbud looked at them closely, a big shaft of light encircled her and began to draw her up.
“Here I go!” Redbud said. “I guess the thousand mommies want to talk with me! Head on home, Jenni, and I’ll catch you later!”
And with that, Redbud was swooped up into sky!
When Jennifer got home, her sister was so excited to see her.
“Jen-Jen!” she said. “Look! There are lights over there! They’re singing!”
There by the side of the house, three lights were indeed dancing and singing–and inside each circle of light, were thousands of tiny lights, all singing their own song!
“Mom!” called Jennifer. “Something’s going on out here!”
Her mom came out and examined them with a smile of wonder.
“Oh, these!” she exclaimed. “I’ve seen these before! Why, last time I saw these was the day I brought you two back from the hospital!”
Then, just like with Redbud, the lights began to encircle Jayden.
“Oh! I remember! It feels kind of creepy at first!” she said.
“Say hi to Redbud when you get up there!” Jennifer called.
It had to be! This had to be the answer to the mystery of how she, natural born daughter of Redbud Bough, could have been delivered to Jayden Harmonson, to be raised by her, with her own natural born daughter, Bridget, as if they were twins!
The thousand mommies must have known that this was for the best.
Jen suspected the purpose of her being there. One hug from her sister confirmed it: nobody at Cradle Rock needed her. But here, at the Harmonson house, here was a sister who needed a steadfast friend. That was something that Jennifer could be: a sister and friend.
She was glad to have a purpose! And as long as she could still visit Cradle Rock, then she could have the best of both worlds!
She felt it was prudent to keep the secret for a while. Her real ma would let her know when they could stop pretending. Maybe, she’d bring Sempervirens into the secret sometime, because isn’t that what best friends were for? But nobody else needed to know.
Of course, lots of things made it fun to live here with Jayden and Bridget in the Harmonson house. For one, they lived next to the park.
Jennifer loved to eat her breakfast there.
“What are you eating?” Mario Behr asked.
“Froot Loops,” Jennifer answered.
“That’s weird,” said Mario. “I never eat my breakfast cereal at the park.”
“It’s a free world,” said Isabella Pope. “If a girl wants to eat at the park, she can eat at the park.”
“Plus, I just live right there,” said Jennifer, pointing towards her house. “So this is like my backyard.”
“No, it’s not,” said Mario, who stormed off.
But there was never a shortage of park kids.
Jennifer and Bridget often played there with Lucas Munch, Lil Penguin, and Elsa Bjergsen.
Elsa didn’t really like Bridget.
“I heard what you said to your sister,” she told her one day. “That wasn’t very nice.”
“Oh, that’s ok!” said Jennifer. “I don’t mind. Bridget just gets voices inside sometimes that tell her to say things. I never take it personally.”
“It’s still not nice,” said Elsa. “I believe that everyone should be nice to everyone else all the time.”
Lil Penguin had a different perspective.
“I think I understand your sister,” she said to Jennifer. “And I think you do, too!”
“Yeah, I do!” said Jennifer.
“So, you and me, we can be the Super Special Understanding Team, right?”
“We need a passcode we can say when we need to call on our super powers.”
“I know! Llama butts!” Lil Penguin shouted.
“Um. That’s weird, Lil.”
“OK. Penguin Power is good.”
Whenever the other kids couldn’t stay and play, Jennifer would invite over her best friend.
Sempervirens loved the flowers and rocky bluffs that lined the walkways and play area.
Vi always arrived with her pockets full of jokes.
“So! Why did the llama cross the road?” she asked. “So she could say hi to her mama!”
“Is that even funny?” asked Bridget.
“Beats me!” said Jennifer, “but Vi is laughing, so it must be, right?”
They usually headed over to the Harmonson house when they got too hot playing in the sun.
“Come on!” said Jennifer. “Let’s play ‘Don’t Wake the Llama!'”
One evening, when Redbud stopped by to visit, Jennifer figured out that, if her theory were correct, then she was really her best friend’s aunt! No wonder they were best friends! She decided not to mention it to anybody–not directly, that is.
“Do you ever wish you had an aunt?” she asked Bridget. “I’ve always heard that aunts make the best friends!”
Redbud laughed. “I’ve always been good friends with my aunts, that’s for sure! There’s just something very special about aunts.”
“That’s just what I was thinking,” said Jennifer, with a snicker.
Bridget and Jennifer’s dad, Solomon Portillo, came over.
“Hi, Solomon!” said Redbud.
“Oh!” said Jennifer. “You know my dad?”
“Sure,” said Redbud. “He’s been a family friend forever!”
Jayden joined them.
“Hey, sweetie,” she said to Solomon. “How you doing?”
Solomon was a little tense. Much as he loved his kids in particular, he hated kids in general, so every time he dropped by, it took him a little bit of time to relax.
“Jen, do you have to take such big bites?” he asked.
“That’s just a sign of love of life!” she said. “Right, pumpkin?”
And just like that, Jennifer felt at home.