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Five Secrets Peaches Never Told (And One She Never Kept)

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One

Peaches is not ashamed of her real name. Priyadharshani Kaluwitharana is a name one wears with pride, not shame. Yes, her name is the longest in her family, but that is because she is named after the founder of the Kaluwitharana Syndicate, before her family started shortening their names for the sake of the British, and she takes a sort of perverse pleasure in making her neighbors struggle over the entire thing.

Her mother and father call her Priya most days anyway, though her grandparents insist on the full thing: Grandma Punya because Punya is like Priya and likes to be perverse for the sake of being perverse and Grandpa Dharma because he likes to roll his r’s and linger over the “sh” sound. Her great-grandmother Yuvani calls her “precious,” which makes Priya wrinkle her nose.

And then there is her great-grandfather.

Kiribaba Kaluwitharana is old man, ancient by four-year-old Priya’s standards. He doesn’t do much, just sits in his bed and watches weird movies in weird languages, but her mother is stern and so Priya goes to sit with him every day, and he smiles warmly at her, and she learns about Bollywood movies, which aren’t from their country, but Baba enjoys them anyway. When she says something about wanting to see a real Sri Lankan movie, he brightens, and the next day, there are three shifty looking people in the room with Baba, setting up a projector, and she settles in next to him for a marathon, and he explains the plot of Rekava, Kurulubedda, Gamperaliya, and Hanthane Kathawa. It’s all a bit beyond Priya- her Sinhalese is not particularly good- but Baba looks so happy; he bounces up and down in the bed, sings along with the songs, and cries sometimes, at the end of the stories. When they are all done, he looks down at her, and smiles.

“You are sweet, to put up with me,” he says, and Priya shakes her head.

“No, Baba,” she says, honestly, and smiles back at him. “This was fun.”

He laughs. “Sweet, sweet!” he roars. “Like peaches!”

It turns out peaches are Baba’s favorite fruit, so Priya brings one for him every day when she visits. He starts calling her Peaches, teasing her, and he eats his peach while they watch a new Sri Lankan film. He improves her Sinhalese, scolding her accent, and they sing the duets together in the film, his a firm tenor despite how old he is, hers a thin soprano that, admittedly, is a little shrieky. Yuvani shakes her head from the doorway.

“The alley cats sound better,” she sighs, “and they are diseased.”

They watch their way through the classics of the sixties and the seventies, Baba’s favorites, and then the films get darker, and Baba explains about the start of the civil war.

And perhaps it is because she is too young to really understand all of this, or perhaps it is because they don’t live with their family in Sri Lanka anymore, but it doesn’t make sense to her. Because she is Sinhalese, and Muslim, as are her mother and father and grandparents, but she knows that Baba is Tamil and Hindu, and the words he is using don’t make sense to her.

Priya frowns and looks down at her hands, because she is young, yes, but they are family, and family cannot be so different than country, and war tore their country apart.

She thinks he sees her distress, because he swoops her into his lap and presses a kiss to the top of her head. “But this is no talk for my beloved Peaches, the sweetest of the sweet,” he booms. “You are a peacemaker, not a warrior! Choose a movie, Peaches, one that will make you smile again.”

She points at random, and they watch “Beauty and the Beast” and sing along. It’s no Sri Lankan film, but Baba bounces up and down in the bed anyway, and the Beauty and the Beast song makes him cry, and he makes her rewind it so they can waltz around the room together.

Not too long afterward, Baba gets really sick, and her mother tells her she cannot see Baba anymore. Apparently, Baba disagrees, and Yuvani sneaks her in for five minutes every day. Baba looks scary, with machines everywhere in his room, wires connected to his body and a mask attached to his face, but he smiles brightly every time he sees her, and no matter how sick he looks, he always takes off the mask long enough to say, “Peaches,” in a rough voice before Yuvani clucks at him and forces him to put it back on. She holds his hand carefully until Yuvani hustles her away, and she sits outside his door for an hour afterward, listening to Yuvani’s monologue about pancreatic cancer on the other side of the door.

And then one day, Baba is gone.

They are woefully unprepared for Baba’s death. Yuvani just collapses in on herself and can’t do much of anything. Punya does her best, but her father is dead, and so Dharma and her mother take over, Nimala weeping but keeping her chin up, Dharma grim and silent. Baba kept no records of what was to be done after he died, and the rest of the family is Muslim, so Nimala sits and researches how Hindus like things to be done. Priya watches, despite her father trying to get her to come away. She won’t. Baba was her great-grandfather. He was important. He was hers.

They figure out that it has to be a funeral pyre, and holy water, and they must wear white, and there is a mourning period of thirteen days, and there are rice balls, called pinda. Well, they live in Britain, and there is a criminal organization to be run, but they do the best they can. They wear the white, which makes all their bodyguards nervous, and John, Priya’s personal bodyguard, makes her stay closer than usual. They have Baba cremated, and they sprinkle water over his ashes. A priest comes home with them and gives them instructions about how to mourn properly. Nobody tells Priya how to do it, so she spends most of her time in her room with John, watching Sri Lankan films and crying, listening while her mother and father greet community members downstairs. John asks her if she wants to go to them, but she ignores him. The priest did not tell her how to mourn Baba the Hindu way, she thinks, and so she will mourn him her way. She watches Ganga Addara and eats peaches until she throws up.

Thirteen days later, Priya is summoned from her room for the ceremony of Kria, which she is told is essential. Priya puts on her best white dress, wipes her eyes, and asks her mother what they are to do.

“We are offering thanks for the life of Baba,” she says, and hands Priya some pinda. “The priest will walk us through this,” she confesses as she walks down the hallway. “I am not entirely sure of how to do it.”

Priya thinks about it, and then slips away from her mother and into the kitchen quickly, knowing what she wants to do. She grabs what she needs, and then slips back before Nimala really notices that she is missing. She wonders if anyone in her family has noticed her missing these past several days, but doubts it. Baba’s absence has been hard on all of them.

The priest is kind to them, leading them all gently through the proper Hindu mourning rituals. It is remarkably easy, actually, and Priya offers her pinda and milk up easily, smiling shakily at the portrait of Baba, which is draped in garlands. When they have finished, the priest smiles broadly at them and says that they are finished, that the ceremony of Kria is done, and that Kiribaba has moved on to the next life.

Punya looks at the priest, and then presses a hand to her mouth. “Oh, Allah,” she says, laughter and tears in her voice. “Baba would kill us. We’re the worst Hindus ever.”

Yuvani snorts, and then the entire family is laughing, and crying, and Priya just stares at the little balls of pinda, and thinks about her Baba. She reaches into her pocket, pulls out a peach, and then puts it onto the mantle in front of Baba’s picture. It isn’t part of the Hindu funeral ritual, but she likes to think that Baba would forgive her. She likes to think he would understand. She stares at the peach for a moment, wipes away her tears, and stands upright.

“I want to be called Peaches from now on,” she says loudly. The family slowly stops laughing and look at her, curious.

“Why is that, precious?” Yuvani asks. Priya licks her lips, staring at the peach.

“Just because. I want a nickname.”

Yuvani doesn’t make the connection, and no one else ever heard Baba’s nickname for her, but when Nimala shrugs and nods, the rest of the family shrugs and nods with her, and from that day on, she is Peaches, not Priya, and no one can figure out why. They venture guesses (her favorite is that she has played Super Mario Brothers and she likes the princess), but they are always wrong, and she never tells them.

She is not ashamed of her birth name. And she is certainly not ashamed of Baba. But there are some things that should be a secret between family members. Baba cannot tell the secret, and so it is hers alone until she is ready to share.

Two

Of course, she will inherit the Kaluwitharana Syndicate from her mother, Nimala Kaluwitharana. It is passed from daughter to daughter. Nimala inherited it from Punya who inherited it from Yuvani, and Peaches will pass it to her daughter. The Kaluwitharana line is full of strong, proud women who hold their chins high and their fists higher.

Despite all this, Peaches likes her father more.

It’s a shameful secret. She should like her mother more. Nimala is- she’s so admirable, even Peaches knows that. She strides about in sharp black pants suits, looking fierce and unapproachable. She holds court over half of the criminal world and half of the respectable world. Punya whispers to Peaches that Nimala runs the business better than anyone ever has before. She’s tough, but fair. Empires rise and fall beneath her hands.

And she loves her family, Peaches cannot deny that. She dotes upon Peaches and her little brother, Chandradasa. Nimala showers them with kisses and gifts and compliments and, when the occasion calls for it, discipline. She isn’t an absent mother, like some career mothers could be. Chandra certainly adores her. It’s just that Peaches loves her father more.

Her father, Suresh, is a simpler man to love. He’s a constable in the National Crime Squad, which her parents both find amusing. Peaches won’t inherit anything from him, other than a really ugly tie collection, though she supposes that might actually go to Chandra. He isn’t the best at his job. He’s good, but not the best. He doesn’t hold court- he’s just part of the crowd, one of the courted. Empires are not his to control.

Like Nimala, Suresh loves his family, but it’s a little less fierce, a little less daunting. He’s a little more absent-minded with his love, kissing Peaches on the top of her head while reading the newspaper, slapping Chandra on the back while searching for his keys. He forgets to show up for parent-teacher conferences, and Nimala has to leave notes on his briefcase about Chandra’s school plays and when to pick them up from practices.

Nimala never forgets, of course. She is always perfectly on time. She bakes cookies for Chandra’s plays and holds up banners with Peaches’ name on it at her fencing tournaments. Even though all the other mothers avoid her, she chats with them about their children and how amazing they are.

The thing is, when she looks at her mother, Peaches sees her future. She sees what she will have to be when she grows up. The perfect businesswoman, the perfect mother, the perfect wife. Perfect hostess. Perfect woman. And it terrifies her a little. When she looks at her father, she sees- just a father. An uncomplicated man, a man who loves her because he just does, not because he has to, because it’s the role he has to play, because he was destined to have heirs. He loves Peaches and Chandra because he just does.

So Peaches loves Nimala, yes, because Nimala genuinely loves her, but when it gets overwhelming and suffocating, she goes into her father’s office and asks if she can sit on his lap. And he pulls her on, and they just sit, and after a while he’ll pull up The Simpsons on his computer and they’ll watch it and laugh at simple family antics (oh, Apu and Manjula!) and Peaches will snuggle back against Suresh’s chest and just listen to him breathe.

She’d feel worse about loving her father more if she didn’t see how Nimala looks at Dharma, her grandfather. Some things, she thinks, repeat through the years. Maybe some things are really an open secret.

Three

It’s a little embarrassing, maybe, that she finds him dreamy, but she does. Most Posh Totties put pictures of their crushes above their beds, or in their diaries, or keep them tucked in their bras, but Peaches is a little more private about her crushes. Crushes are the heart’s song. They are not meant for other people’s ears.

So no one knows about her crush on the new Education Minister, Geoffrey Thwaites. She reads the newspaper everyday, casually, and if her heart beats a little faster whenever his picture appears, well, it’s no one’s business but her own.

Peaches followed him when he worked in the prison system, of course. She’d had to. He’d been the topic of much discussion at the family table- Nimala ranting about him, Suresh praising him. They’d always demanded her opinion, and Punya had always insisted that she have her own opinion, not just take the opinion of the louder voice, so she’d done her research, and unfortunately, her opinion had mostly been, “he has the prettiest eyes,” which had made her mother roll her eyes and ask Allah for a stronger daughter and her father to laugh and remind Nimala about youthful hormones, at which point Peaches had removed herself from the table as soon as possible. After that, she had confined herself to political opinion, and everyone had assumed that his pretty eyes had disappeared from her mind.

Oh no.

Now he’s the Education Minister, and all Peaches can think about is the remote hope that he’ll come to St. Trinian’s and put her naughty schoolgirl self in her place.

Other Posh Totties comment on Geoffrey Thwaites. Chelsea thinks he’s a FILF (“What?” she says, looking at everyone. “If there are MILFs, it stands to reason that there are FILFs!”), but Chloe thinks he’s ugly and old and probably can’t get it up, and really, she doesn’t understand why people have a thing for older men. Anoushka thinks he’s probably kinky, which she likes, but probably the bad kind of kinky, the kind that gets scary, the kind where you’re in alleys and praying to your deity of choice that you come out of this alive.

“That’s not kink,” Bella says flatly. “That’s just evil.”

They all mutter an affirmative, and Anoushka shrugs, tossing her hair over her shoulder casually. “I am not saying that it is. I am saying you go in for a little spanking, and you come out holding your Mace and calling 999.”

Peaches shifts uncomfortably while putting on her makeup and tries to ignore the chatter around her. She doesn’t mind imagining a kinky Geoffrey Thwaites, but a creepy, abusive Geoffrey Thwaites is not something she wants associated with her crush. She applies her eyeliner carefully, waiting for someone to suggest a romantic Thwaites. Someone will. They’re Posh Totties. They don’t all go for kink.

“He’s probably romantic,” Saffy gushes. There it is. Saffy always goes for romance. “He probably likes candlelight dinners and gondola rides and Lady and the Tramp spaghetti circumstances. He would probably propose after one date!”

A few girls squeal, but Anoushka snorts and stands up.

“If he proposes after one meal, get a restraining order. You are underage.”

Saffy pouts. “Why do you have to ruin everything, Anoushka?”

“I am Russian. We are as bleak and depressing as our country, do you not know?”

Chelsea smacks her, and the conversation descends into whether or not people are like their countries, and if countries are really like their stereotypes, and whether or not this is really a conversation worthy of Posh Totties and if they shouldn’t foist it off to the Geeks instead. Peaches doesn’t really listen. Because she just has a crush on Geoffrey Thwaites. It isn’t as if she is expecting him to appear at her window one night and take her away, her knight in shining armor. He’s- he’s just nice to look at. It’s like a celebrity crush, she thinks. It’s just nice to dream.

She nurses her crush and continues to read the newspaper. She reads “A Shot in the Arm” with pleasure, because it means that he’s going to come to St. Trinian’s. Everyone knows that their school is the worst in the country. It’s a school for bad girls, after all. Peaches beams to herself. She’s going to meet him. She is going to meet Geoffrey Thwaites.

Well. She’ll see him up close, anyway. Maybe.

When she does, though, it’s the most horrific thing in the world. She stares at him, with his trousers around his ankles, his silly little excuse about being lost, and she thinks, “Chloe and I are seventeen, Chelsea is sixteen, and your daughter is our age- what are you doing?” Her ridiculous crush, the part of her that thinks he’s dreamy, turns to bile, and she feels it rush to her mouth. He’s been standing here, in their room, and they’ve barely been dressed, and they’re Posh Totties, but they are not whores, and-

“Let’s throw him out the window,” she hears herself say.

And they do.

She never tells anyone why she suggests it. She never tells anyone about her crush on Geoffrey Thwaites. She never likes him, though, and if she laughs louder than anyone else about his exposé about being exposed, no one asks why. Peaches does sit with Anoushka, though, and drink vodka with her one night. Anoushka doesn’t ask, and Peaches doesn’t offer.

Four

The volume of a sphere is not “quite loud,” and Peaches knows it.

Of course, it isn’t pi times the radius cubed, either, and she knows that, too.

The answer, she knows, as soon as Stephen Fry turns to Cheltenham, is 4/3 times pi times the radius cubed, and she’s mortified, because she knew that, she did, and she stares as Jemima is told that she’s right, when she’s blatantly wrong, and Stephen Fry just lets her get the points, and Peaches may be panicking too much to actually be getting the answers right, but come on, that just isn’t fair.

The fact of the matter is, Peaches is not stupid. The cheating is just a way to keep up the appearance that she’s stupid. No one expects the Posh Totties to be intelligent, and Peaches would like to keep up the impression that she is a beautiful body and not a brain. She could have been a Geek, but that’s a secret that they will have to drag out of her with pliers, and she will never say it out loud. She has known all the answers in the quiz show so far, because they are actually fairly simple, but she’ll never admit it.

Besides, she has horrible stage fright. Stick a light in her face and she freezes.

Hence, “quite loud.”

Punya is going to kill her. She’d taken Maths in University.

They manage to win the show, barely, because Chelsea finally gains some confidence in herself (Peaches knows that Chelsea is smart) and Chloe decides to ignore the lifelong advice of her family (keep your head down, smile prettily, and if you act stupid enough, maybe some rich boy will deem you good enough to marry), and Peaches pretends that Punya is coming after her with lunu miris, which she hates, and that gets her through. She giggles and blinks vapidly, and manages to convey general stupidity and dumb luck, and hopefully no one watching thinks she’s particularly intelligent.

She has a strategy, dammit, and she cannot risk it.

The thing is, her mother has been running the Kaluwitharana Syndicate for nearly thirty years now, and she wants to retire fairly soon. Peaches has plans. If they think she is stupid, they’ll relax when she takes over. And then she’ll sweep the rug out from under them, and the Syndicate will take over, and they won’t own a third of the underworld, they’ll own two-thirds, and she’s been cultivating this stupid persona for years, and she can’t let it get out that she’s actually quite intelligent, thank you. She has a business to run, you see.

But she has her pride.

And Jemima got that answer wrong.

After the painting is returned, and they’re interviewed, and Peaches gets the opportunity to act even stupider (oh, she can just imagine her family cringing, except for her mother, who is probably watching her enemies snigger with a quiet, sharklike pleasure), she slides into a black catsuit, tells Chelsea and Chloe that she has a date, and crawls out the window.

It’s really not that far to Cheltenham, especially when she takes the moped.

Cheltenham security is pathetic, and she breaks in with ease. Her contact in the school, the daughter of a member of the Syndicate, meets her and gives her directions to where Jemima sleeps, and Peaches slides through the school, taking in the scenery with interest. It’s a bit dull, really. She much prefers St. Trinian’s. She finds Jemima quickly, grabs her, gags her when she wakes up and tries to scream, meets her contact in the hall, and follows her to an empty classroom.

She ties Jemima to a chair, locks the door, draws the blinds, and then removes the gag. Jemima immediately starts shouting at her.

“You stupid slag! What do you think you’re doing here! Let me go!”

“Oh, Jemima,” Peaches says, sighing and removing her gloves. “I really can’t do that. You see, you got five points you didn’t deserve.”

Jemima stops shouting and stares at her. “That’s what this is about? That stupid contest?”

“It didn’t seem so stupid when you were competing in it, now did it? Only stupid when you lose,” Peaches says, smiling brightly. She pulls out a DVD from her bag and turns to the DVD player in the classroom. Of course Cheltenham would have the best technology. If St. Trinian’s had this stuff, it would get pawned on the black market everyday.

“You cheated,” Jemima spits, struggling against the ropes. Peaches tuts.

“Now, now,” she says, closing the DVD player and pulling up the menu. She and Polly had worked on this DVD for three hours today. She’s quite proud of it really. “Do you really think we would have gotten so many wrong if we were cheating?”

Jemima splutters. “You- you were strategizing!”

Peaches walks over and grabs Jemima’s chin, leaning close, mouth thin. “I’m a stupid slag. I don’t strategize.”

The DVD starts playing. It’s a simple enough image- just a sphere spinning and turning different colors- and a voiceover saying, over and over, with different voices, of different St. Trinian’s girls- “4/3 times pi times the radius cubed.” Simple. Elegant. Jemima looks at her, and starts laughing.

“That’s it?” she asks. Peaches smiles.

“No.”

She grabs her bag and pulls out two modified eyelash curlers. Jemima looks at her curious, but doesn’t say anything. Peaches shouts, and her contact walks in from the hallway, behind Jemima. “Hold her still,” Peaches says, and then begins attach the eyelash curlers so that they’ll prevent Jemima from blinking. Jemima tries to yank her head away, but her contact holds her steady, and soon Jemima is staring at her wide-eyed, trying to glare but failing.

“What are you doing?” she snaps. Peaches smiles.

“What do you think I’m doing?”

“I don’t know!”

“Really? Let me give you a hint- it’s part of a major book and film. Nana does not play a part.”

Jemima shakes her head. Peaches shrugs and hands her contact a bottle of eye drops.

“Make sure her eyes stay wet. Keep her awake. And don’t let her see you. Let the teachers or students find her; don’t get caught.”

Her contact nods. Peaches hums to herself, double checks the DVD, and then comes back over to kiss Jemima on the cheek.

“The Geeks say hello. They really don’t like it when you get the math wrong,” she whispers, and waves her fingers good-bye. Jemima shouts at her, but Peaches just slides out the door and down the hall, giggling to herself. Jemima will be fine. There will be no permanent damage, other than never forgetting the formula for the volume of a sphere. She’s pretty sure she covered her tracks fairly well, and that Jemima will blame her for carrying out the plot, but not the plot itself.

And who hasn’t read Clockwork Orange, really?

Five

Peaches really doesn’t know why Chloe chose orange bridesmaid gowns. They’re horrendous, and they make even Chelsea look like a puffed up cockatoo, but there you are. What the bride wants, the bride gets. At least Peaches now really does look like a peach. She smoothes the taffeta (taffeta, and really, did Chloe get all the Posh Totty-ness sexed out of her?) and looks over at Chelsea, who appears to be doing her best to hold back tears.

“Chelsea?” she asks. Chelsea looks over and sniffles.

“Our girl,” she chokes, “is getting married!”

Yes, Peaches thinks. To a right tosser, too. But she can’t say that. James Newellen is a lovely man. She’s been saying it for months now, ever since Chloe announced she was pregnant. She can’t turn back on her prepared lines now.

“Yes,” she says instead. “To a lovely man.”

“I just, I thought someone else would get married first,” Chelsea says, wiping carefully at her eyes so as to not smudge her makeup. “Maybe Lilabet, or Gerthe, or- or Rose. Or you! Maybe you, Peaches!”

Peaches laughs. “I may have heirs to produce, but I need to find me a good Sri Lankan man first, Chelsea.”

Chelsea sniffles again. “Fine. But Lilabet! Lilabet was always falling in love with someone. She was engaged every week to someone new. And now our Chloe is dressed in white-”

“And us in orange,” Peaches says mournfully, patting at the dress again.

“Dressed in white,” Chelsea says again, sternly ignoring her, “And we’re seeing her off into this new stage of her life.” Chelsea looks at her firmly and rushes across the room, grabbing Peaches by the shoulders and looking her in the eyes. Peaches blinks rapidly, but holds her gaze.

“Tell me honestly, Peaches. What do you think of James?”

There is so much Peaches could say to that. She thinks he’s a tosser. She thinks he’s sleazy and is only marrying Chloe because it’s improper to have children out of wedlock. She thinks he’s rude, and arrogant, and crass. She thinks he’s hateful to her and Chelsea, and how a man treats his bride’s friends is a good show of how he’ll treat his bride. She thinks he’s lazy, and if he works a day in his life it’ll be a miracle. She thinks he takes advantage of Chloe. She thinks he treats Chloe like she’s a prostitute, and he’ll never treat her like anything more.

And she thinks Chloe is ridiculously happy, and Peaches really doesn’t have a right to open her mouth, and if she did, she should have done so before the wedding day.

“I think- I think he’s a decent human being,” she says. It’s true enough, she supposes. There are worse sacks of scum out there. Somewhere. Probably in jail.

She’ll never tell how she really feels about James. She goes to the parties and smiles at him, chats with him, goes to the baptisms and watches the children get baptized Catholic even though she knows Chloe is Lutheran. She never says anything against him, just seethes quietly. And even after he’s dead, she never says that she hated him from day one. Just says, “I never saw it coming,” when asked, widening her eyes slightly, looking sad and horrified.

She feels so much guilt. She should have said something. She’ll never keep a secret like that again.

And One She Never Kept

The thing is, saying “I would kill for you,” is simple. Kaluwitharanas say it every day as part of a business transaction. It’s part of the contract. Whomever you’re buying weapons from needs to know that you’ve got their back, that you’ll mow down the people who come after them. There is no affection there, no love, just pure practicality. Peaches says it casually, does it casually, and gets her weapons on time, and people trust the Syndicate.

Saying “I would die for you,” though, is something no Kaluwitharana would ever say. It’s stupid. If you believe it, you keep it to yourself. Peaches knows her mother would die for either one of her children, for her husband, but she’ll never say it out loud. It encourages people. Nimala may not run the Syndicate anymore, but she’s still Nimala Kaluwitharana, and she’s- well. People piss themselves when they see her coming. So if you believe in dying for the people you love, you never, ever say it. It’s a secret. A song in the heart.

“I would die for you,” Peaches says, kissing Chelsea’s hair, and smiles. Then she looks at Chloe, who is holding Hazel in one arm and holding Hannah’s hand and generally looking harassed. “And I would die for you too. And your children.”

“My children don’t deserve it,” Chloe mutters. She isn’t paying attention to Peaches, instead glaring at Hannah, who is digging through the piles of information on Peaches’ desk. “Hannah, stop touching Peaches’ papers!”

Chelsea looks at Peaches and tilts her head to the side. “Do you know you say that every time we see you? It’s a bit weird, you know.”

Peaches shrugs and looks at her desk. It’s covered in paperwork- shipping inventories, mostly- and she needs to have it all done by this evening. She suspects she’ll be up late, but that’s all right. She got a new movie in from Sri Lanka, and she can put it in as background noise.

“I just don’t like to keep it a secret,” she says simply, grinning again. “It’s one of those things that you should know.”

“It’s morbid, that’s what it is,” Chloe says bluntly, looking up. “You’re morbid, Peaches. Hannah, I said stop!”

Chelsea reaches over and scoops up Hannah, and Peaches giggles. Chloe sighs and runs a hand through her hair. “Is that your way of saying yes, though? Is saying you’d die for us your way of saying yes?”

Chloe has come to ask for a favor, something to do with smuggling and her company. Peaches bursts into laughter and nods repeatedly. She could never deny her friends their small favors and really, these ones are nothing in the grand scheme of things. She writes them down, makes a few notes, they chat for a while, Peaches practices her BSL, and then they go off on their way, reminding her about Sunday tea. She watches them go, smiling happily, and sighs as she returns to her paperwork.

In the Kaluwitharana family, no one says aloud that they would die for their family, but it is an open secret. And while no one before her has considered someone outside the bloodline family, Peaches has always been a bit odd. Chelsea, Chloe, the others, they’re family. And Peaches has no problem with announcing that she would die for them.