Andrea had slipped out to send the owl to her father, and then decided to not come back in, not to wake anybody else.
Mia hadn't been jesting, about questioning their ability to keep up with Tristan and her.
Although honestly, none of them found it that difficult. They all just needed the sleep afterwards though.
Except that Andrea was using that challenge as an excuse from some of the activities. Oh, she went every time they were going to a place for the first time, but she was sometimes skipping repeats.
For one thing, there was so much to explore here - different climate, different soil, everything different... some plants she recognised - some she didn't. Many she didn't. She'd procured some information (how hard was it to get the receptionist to do things for a sweet nine-years-old girl?), and she spent the time she could persuade them to go without her - observing. Exploring.
Also, she still found it easier right now to be... alone. Silent.
When her dad had left the first time, for a couple of days, when Harry Al had been so upset, she'd been the first to run to him and hug him tight when he returned. He'd come back, and everything was going to be all right, and she was glad - and he had to know.
... and then he'd gone away again. And stayed away for so much longer. And it wasn't all right, the first coming back hadn't made things all right, and the more he'd stayed away, the more she'd come to realise that.
She'd grown silent. Not like Clara from that muggle movie, when she wouldn't speak to anybody and if there was something important, she'd write notes. No. She'd answer when spoken to, and when something had to be said, she would. But... she'd not wanted to speak up much. And since everybody knew her well enough, and kept asking her questions, she'd taken to unconsciously avoiding them. During the day, she'd spend more time than needed tending the orchids, and the rest of her dad's garden. And when she couldn't use that excuse, she'd spent time curled with a book. Or even sitting on her own in the area - they'd never turned it into a cupboard - under the stairs.
That's where she'd been when her father'd come back, so she'd heard some of the conversation with her mother, up until after Harry Al had gone to bed, and she'd quietly followed him up the stairs.
She hadn't come down to tell him good evening.
Because she'd not wanted him to see she was crying. That wasn't a proper welcome home. It was relief, that he really was well enough to be walking around, and he'd talk and... everything.
And she'd missed him so much, but he was home now, and...
And whatever she could tell him, that'd not stop him from staying away if he decided to. Whatever any of them said, would stop him.
She hadn't been crying the next morning (the morning is wiser than night, isn't that people said?) and things were kind of back to normal, a little, and she was glad. But still, she was... quiet. She felt like she didn't have much to say, it wasn't a decision she made, and she wasn't sullen or pretending. Just quiet.
Seeing how everybody was looking more tired, more worried, less happy. Reading up what was being published in the papers that ended up at the house.
The family meals were still... there. The hours of reading or play after dinner were still... together. But things weren't really good, not the way they had been a year ago for example, and while the visible things were only very small ones, and everybody was trying, it just wasn't the same.
Not in the way her mum would - she'd never nod off over her book, of course, but would be staring at a page without reading it for minutes, too tired to concentrate. The way the amount of discussion (and there were always questions, NOTHING could stop that) had dropped to clarifying points, and not beyond. Unassumingly, of course, nobody said things like, hush now, I don't have the energy to answer questions, that never ever worked anyway. Things just... died our more quickly.
And there were double shifts, and extra work.
And the first news that seemed to have made their mother at least somewhat more excited and vivacious - was about Mia's offer to take the four of them away. She had been honestly excited about that, and the sincerity, PLUS looking forward to Disney World! had gotten them on their way quickly enough.
And it was just beautiful here.
But... watching the moon set, Andrea had realised that now, it was her who was away. Well, them, but... she wasn't home. And that seemed to be how things were supposed to be. Even though it was usually the place of all of them to be there, and cheerful, and help their dad not do to much, and smile a lot more.
It was her turn not be there. Was that why dad had been away? Because he had to? Because it was better that way?
That's what had made her feel bad about her quietness. That maybe it really wasn't because he hadn't wanted to be with them.
She'd not even known that that was what had been the problem. That it was what she had feared. But when she realised it, she couldn't help feeling guilty. Of course he cared for them. Of course he wanted them.
It was such a good thing that she'd taken to not speaking. It was bad enough that for some obscure reason, deep inside, she'd doubted. It would have been a hundred times worse if she had spoken anything, anything at all, like that.
Because it simply wasn't true.
... It was about then that she finally saw it. In her walks, when she was alone, she usually was looking for one particular plant that she'd read about, and she knew was... local. Sarracenia psittacina. Notable for being the most effective carnivore of its genus. She sat cross-legged beside it, taking in the rather pretty blossoms. The way it looked, normally, the condition of the soil, how humid it was, what other plants were around it...
One day, maybe it could be something she could research as a potion ingredient. And make a difference somewhere, for someone.
But for now, she sat and observed, until faint noises told her that it might be a good idea to head back.