The De Luca Family Face A Long, Hot Summer In The Desert. Will They Remain The United Family They Currently Are? Or Will The Heat Start To Get To Them?
Summer, Year 3
“Come on, shoot him!” Alex shrieked as his character besieged his opponent. “YES!!!!”
“No, come on! You can do it!” Tara begged as her opponent battered her character.
Che looked up, amused. he was training his Voidcritter card and listening to his siblings as they battled their friends. The group were having a small competition in the treehouse at Wood Valley and already, Che could tell there’d be tears and tantrums if either of them lost.
Thankfully, Alex was victorious. Che was quite relieved; an angry Alex would probably take it out on him and while a smug Alex was almost impossible to live with, an angry one was worse.
Tara, on the other hand, suffered a dramatic loss. She vowed to take down her opponents but even Che knew it wouldn’t happen. Tara was growing out of the Voidcritter cards; she’d probably just abandon them soon. He hoped she might give her to him, so he’d stand a better chance against Alex.
“Oh Tara,” Zoe rolled her eyes but hugged her sister. It was one o’clock in the morning and Tara was still convinced there was a monster under her bed. “You’re dressed as a BEAR for goodness sake. A bear could defeat this monster of yours, couldn’t it?”
“I’m not sure,” came the muffled reply.
“Look, this is crazy. You’re 11, Tara. Isn’t it time to grow up a bit? You’re starting senior school in the autumn. You really need to stop believing in monsters under beds, ghosts and all the other horror stories Alex and Emilio keep telling. Honestly, it’s also time to get out of this daft costume. You look silly!” Zoe laughed and shook her head. “Come on, let’s go back to bed. You’ll feel better tomorrow. Honestly you will.”
Tara didn’t feel convinced but she allowed her sister to guide her back to bed. Maybe Zoe was right, after all.
Riccardo stirred the lemonade thoughtfully. He was home alone and it gave him the opportunity to reflect quietly without his siblings or parents interrupting him.
He’d finally decided to go ahead with the Biology course. He’d arranged to visit Foxbury later that week, to take down notes and apply for the course there. If he could get onto that one, all the better. Andrea had told him all about the conservation program she worked for and it sounded perfect. All he needed now was an acceptance to Foxbury and he’d be all set!
He heard a commotion out the front.
“I said, I’ll talk to your father when he gets home from work,” Marie said firmly. “Emilio, I know how much you love basketball but please be patient. I’ll talk to your father.”
“What’s the problem?” Riccardo called from the back garden.
“Madre said she won’t let me try for the basketball team at school this year!” Emilio whined.
“I never said that!” Marie looked exasperated. “Riccardo, I said I’d talk to your father. Emilio’s results were not wonderful last year and I want us to discuss this first.”
“Well MY results were fine. So why do I need to have a ‘discussion’?” Zoe asked, sulkily.
Marie sighed heavily. “We’re having a discussion with you because it’s your last year this year. You’re off to University next year, Zoe. I want to make sure you have your priorities right.”
Riccardo smiled. The family bickering was one thing he definitely wouldn’t miss this autumn.
Riccardo could feel the strain at the family meal that evening. Zoe and Emilio were still sulking; Magnus had stated he wanted to talk to then individually before the new school term and neither were happy about it. His own announcement about applying to the Universities had shocked the table into silence, however.
“You’re leaving?” Zoe asked incredulously. “When?”
“Well, if I get accepted, in the autumn.” Riccardo smiled. “It won’t be that bad, guys!”
The family didn’t look convinced.
Zoe sobbed in her room later that evening. She was upset that her parents didn’t feel she was responsible enough to handle her Party Planning club and her last year of school. However the thought of Riccardo moving away in a few months was worse. It had felt so weird to lose Jared; losing Riccardo too was widening the hole Zoe could feel.
After Jared had graduated University, he’d moved to the city. Now he was living with his girlfriend there and they were talking about moving away eventually; but maybe not to Oasis Springs. If Riccardo left, where would he go after graduating?
Riccardo creaked an eye open to see his youngest brother, Che, standing before him. His eyes were red and tear-stained.
“Che, mate, what’s the matter?” Riccardo wrapped his arms around his young brother. “What’s keeping you awake?”
“I don’t want you to leave,” came the tiny reply.
“Oh, listen. It won’t be so bad. I won’t be far away and I’ll come back often. I’m not going to leave you, little guy. I’m still your big brother.” He hauled himself out of bed and hugged Che again. “Come on, let’s get you back to bed.”
“‘Kay.” Che sniffed and allowed Riccardo to guide him back to his room.
Once there, Riccardo crouched down. “Listen. I’ll make sure I come back lots, okay? I wouldn’t want to lose you, Che. I promise.”
Nodding tearfully, Che climbed back into bed.
Later in the week, Riccardo got the train to Foxbury to check out the facilities. The sun beat down on his neck as he made notes of the course schedules and other useful details that would help his application. He liked the campus a lot. It was very fresh and modern and he could feel the excitement building for attending this university, should everything go according to plan.
He stood in front of the statue and prayed for luck.
“Do you think Ricky’s really going to go?” Alex asked. He was playing a mad party game with Emilio and Zoe on the television.
“To Uni? Yeah, course he will.” Emilio shrugged. “It’s his life, isn’t it? Nothing to do with us.”
“Won’t you miss him?” Alex asked.
“Well yes. But he’ll visit. Like Jared does.”
“Jared hardly ever comes home!” Alex protested.
“He’s got a busy job, Alex. He visits when he can,” Zoe said wearily. “Now shut up, it’s your turn again.”
Alex had been scribbling away in his journal for half the morning. Curious, Emilio checked to coast was clear and flipped the book open. He settled down and scanned the pages.
“HEY!” came a screech from behind him. “What are you doing? That’s my journal!”
Emilio jumped and spun round in his seat. Alex was standing behind him with furious tears pouring down his cheeks.
“Emilio!” Magnus’ voice could be heard from outside the kitchen.
Riccardo was relieved when Jared phoned and invited him, Emilio and Zoe out for the evening. It had been a really long day and by the time Riccardo had returned home from Foxbury, he’d found his parents shouting at Emilio for reading Alex’s journal. So the opportunity to get out of the house was very welcome.
“So it looks like you’re all set?” Jared asked. He’d guided his siblings to a table outside his apartment so they could chat in the cool air.
“I think so,” Riccardo replied. “I’ve sent my application in, so fingers crossed!”
“What about you guys?” Jared asked. “How are things with you?”
“A bit rough. Apparently we need to have discussions before we can reenroll for out activities,” Emilio said glumly.
“Okay. So convince them you’ll be fine,” Jared replied. “Make sure you dedicate the time to get homework done. Madre will get off your case if she sees you doing your homework every night. You can even come over to our place, if you want. Come and study here.”
“Really?” Zoe asked, excited.
“I see no reason why not!” Jared beamed.