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Fireside Girl(s)

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The bottom of the ancient cardboard box fell out with a whoof and the tearing of scotch tape as Candace descended the stairs, the assorted clothing in various states of folded-ness (or not) streaming out onto the steps and tumbling every which where.

“Oh, come on,” she exclaimed. “You have gotta be kidding me.”

Isabella turned around at the landing of the stairs, her arms still full of a more-intact box (if only slightly), and raised her eyebrow. “I told you to be careful with the ones with clothes in them. Stuff’s heavy, you know.”

“Yeah, I know,” Candace grumbled, tossing the empty cardboard shell haphazardly over the banister and letting it fall down to the first floor as she knelt to begin collecting the mess. “Why did Mom even keep so many of my old clothes anyway?”

Isabella chuckled, setting her own box down on the floor with a jostling of glass and metal, and leaned against the wall, crossing her arms. “Probably the same reason we’re here to fetch your boxes in the first place.”

“And what does that have to do with anything at all?”

“Because you, my friend, will not throw away so much as your used toilet paper unless I sneak out after you fall asleep and collect it from your stash.”

Candace rolled her eyes. “Oh, please with that.”

“What? You know I’m right.”

Smirking, Candace flung an old, rather threadbare pink tanktop in Isabella’s vague direction. It unfolded rather unceremoniously in mid-air, flopping back to the ground a foot or two short of it’s intended target. “Why don’t you stop lecturing and help me get all this stuff picked up before someone trips on it. Isn’t that what girlfriends are supposed to do?”

“Maybe.” Isabella smiled coyly. “Or maybe I’ll just stand here so I can have a nice vantage for when you go bending over again.”

“Oh, woooooow, if that wasn’t the corniest thing I’ve ever heard.” Snatching up another random wad of fabric, Candace tossed it again – and this time it stayed together well enough to sail through the air and hit Isabella directly between the eyes. Candace pumped her fist. “Killshot!”

“Right.” Isabella caught the wad as it fell towards the ground. “Say, would you look at that?”

“What, my awesome throws?”

“No, I’m serious, look,” she repeated, holding it up and letting it unfurl for Candace to get a better look. It was an old shirt, a tiny one, in a dirty-looking kind of orangey-brown color that had probably once been a lot brighter and more pleasing to the eye. “It’s your old Fireside Girls' cadet uniform.” She hesitated. “Well, part of it, at least. Though knowing you, the rest is probably around here somewhere, too.”

“Huh, neat,” Candace returned idly, straightening up, her arms filled with clothes. “I see your plan to get out of helping here. You’re not clever, you know.” She descended the stairs, stopped on the landing as Isabella reached out and touched her upper arm.

“You quit. I’m trying to get reminiscent here, you know? It reminds me that you are still a Fireside Girl, technically. Maybe you could squeeze into this and come down to our next meeting.”

Candace raised an eyebrow. “If I could my head through that hole, I’d be scared that I wouldn’t be able to get out again. Though I’ve gotta say I’m surprised to hear you never kicked me out of your little club, considering how I… never did anything with it after that one single day.”

“What? No.” Isabella faked a shocked expression, raising her hand to her mouth and gasping. “I could never do such a thing to my girlfriend.”

“I don’t think I was the one on your mind back then, you know. Call it a… hunch?”

Isabella smirked. “No, as I remember, I didn’t want to upset your brother, and the Girls and I eventually forget to keep including it in the minutes, so it never really came up again. Which is why you’re still on the books, technically.”

“Ah, I should have known that it had something to do with Phineas.” Candace poked her girlfriend in the shoulder. “It wouldn’t be you otherwise.”

“Hey!” Isabella retorted smilingly. “Don’t act like you weren’t just as obsessed with him, too.”

“I was not.”

“Candace.”

Candace blushed. “Maybe a little.”

“Right.” A crooked grin cracked over Isabella’s face. “It occurs to me that I might be able to award you the ‘Understatement of the Year’ patch right now. And then the ‘Longest Interlude Between Two Patch Earnings’ patch, too. What’s it been, like seven or eight years?”

“Something like that.” Candace shrugged. “Fifty patches is a lot more impressive for a day, not so much for a decade.”

“You could remedy that, you know.” Isabella winked, stretching up on her toes and holding the small, teenager-sized shirt against Candace’s chest. “We’d probably have to get you in a bigger uniform first, though. One less… tiny.”

“I don’t think so,” she snorted. “You have fun with that, because it is so not my style. Even back then it was only so I could into that band or whatever, remember?”

“Oh, I remember. I also remember that you didn’t listen to me even back then.” Isabella elbowed her in the ribs lightly. “Not much has changed, eh?”

“It has not,” Candace confirmed. “And I won’t start now, either. You aren’t getting me back in that uniform no matter what.”

“Aw.” Isabella pouted, sinking down from her tip-toed position. “What if I said that I thought it would be kinda hot, though? You know, the little beret and the sash and the whole get-up?”

Candace’s eyebrow quirked upwards quizzically. “I would tell you to lay off making stuff up, that’s what I would say.”

Isabella laughed. “Fair enough, then. Guess we’ll never know.” She chucked the uniform top onto the pile of clothes in Candace’s arms, then knelt and retrieved her own box from the floor.

“Nope.” Candace dumped her armful into a… not too unorganized pile next to the bottomless box on the floor, preparing to go upstairs and retrieve a fresh one from from the stash. “A great mystery it will always be.”

Balancing her box on one arm, Isabella reached up and grabbed onto Candace’s shoulder, pulling her down and planting a quick kiss on her cheek, a grin cracking over her features. “If you insist, then, dear.”

“Oh, I very much do, Mom,” Candace shot back, snatching up a wad of fabric from the pile and hurling after Isabella as she ducked around the corner, giggling mischievously all the way. Candace rolled her eyes, heading back up the stairs.

“Hey, Phineas!” she called into the attic. “Any empty boxes up there still? The last one you gave me had the bottom rip out.”

His head appeared at the top of the attic stairway. “Oh, there you are. I thought you two’d just up and run off on me. I can’t carry all these boxes myself, you know. Why are you even saving all this old stuff?”

“Call it a habit I picked up from you, Mr. Backyard Hodgepodge,” she called back, clambering up the stairs and popping her head into the attic.

“Fair,” he conceded. “Anyway, yeah, here you go.” He snatched up an empty plastic tub and slid it across the attic floor towards her. “There’s not actually that many spiders up here anymore, you know.”

“Right, well, good for you.” Candace shuddered, then turned around, heading down the stairs down. She stopped, though, two steps down, and turned around. “Say, Phineas…”

“Hmm?”

She hesitated. “You wouldn’t happen to know where I could get ahold of an adult’s Fireside Girl uniform, would you?”