So there she was, their little girl, Yenn thought. Whoever she was now.
Unlike her original disguise, the new one didn’t make her look like her parents’ daughter. But looks could be deceiving. As long as she was happy here, Yenn decided.
“Astrid,” Monty hugged his princess tightly. As a new grandpa, he had plenty to keep him busy in Newcrest, but Astrid was his baby.
“Dad, it’s Estrella now,” Astrid muttered.
“Err, right,” he nodded. Monty was always too direct to fully get his daughter’s mind. But did anyone?
“So this is my home,” Astrid showed them around the tiny house.
“It’s really lovely,” Scarlet acknowledged with a bright smiled. As always, she tried really hard around the girl, but Astrid always seemed to keep her distance.
“Dad, would you like to try some local cheese?”
“Wow, now this is really tasty,” Monty exclaimed. And gorged down the entire thing, of course.
“Windenburg’s finest,” Astrid smiled approvingly. For a moment, it seemed like the good old days, with the two gluttons giggling together as if they knew world’s best kept secret.
But of course, it was nothing like the good old days. The more glimpses Yenn got to Astrid’s new life, the less the puzzle seemed to come together.
Because Yenn knew there was a puzzle to be solved.
The afternoon was filled with sightseeing.
“So this is the town centre,” Astrid said proudly. “I used to paint here a lot… ooh, and over there we have a small park with a beautiful chess setup! You’ll love it aunt Yenn!”
It seemed like a good time to bring it up: “So, who is Estrella Blossom, and why has she arrived?” Yenn asked.
Astrid seemed taken aback for a moment: “I… it’s no big deal, really. It’s an artistic pseudonym. And you know what’s amazing? This new identity has allowed me to completely reinvent my painting style! I’m not stuck with a signature one, I can experiment so much more… It’s really great.”
Yenn carefully inspected the girl’s unfamiliar face. If it was really that great, why did she look like she was going to burst into tears any minute?
The following day, Astrid took her family to the painters’ hangout she’d set up, eager to show it off.
Leaving Monty and Scarlet oohing and aahing, she dragged her aunt across the plot.
“Why can’t you just be happy for me?” Astrid burst out as soon as they were out of ear’s reach.
“Look at this place I’ve created,” Astrid went on. “As a fellow painter, I thought you’d appreciate the beauty of it all! The gift I’ve given to the community! You seem to be disapproving of everything in my life!”
Yenn looked directly into the girl’s eyes: “My dear, I’d love to be happy for you, but are you happy for you?”
Astrid opened her mouth, but no words came out. “I’ll go find dad and Scarlet,” she said. “We’ve got a lot to more to see today, so we should get going.”
The ruins impressed the whole family, and for a moment, the balance was restored.
But that moment was short-lived.
“And over here… oh,” Astrid stopped in her tracks as everybody’s eyes shot to the happy couple.
“This is my friend Candy and her fiancé Paolo,” Astrid said courtly. “They’re getting married soon, at the Von Haunt Estate,”
“Congratulations,” Yenn smiled. “We’ve just seen the mansion earlier, it’s very impressive, and what an interesting history it has! Seems like a beautiful spot for a wedding.”
“Every girl’s dream,” Candy agreed happily.
It hadn’t escaped Yenn’s eyes how uncomfortable Astrid seemed around her friend.
And even a blind person would notice the way Astrid seemed to feel about Candy’s fiancé.
“Can we talk, Estrella,” Yenn gestured towards a bench nearby. “Nice to meet you both, and best wishes for the wedding.”
“Those two seem nice,” Yenn said neutrally.
“They are,” Astrid cleared her throat. “They were the first people I met here, and definitely the greatest.”
“Interesting,” Yenn replied. “So how did they take it when they had to part ways with Astrid and meet Estrella?”
Astrid’s face fell: “They… they don’t know, exactly.”
“I see,” Yenn answered. “Darling, whatever happened between you and the two of them, don’t you think it’s time to stop reinventing yourself and face it?”
“You don’t understand…”
“No, you don’t,” Yenn interrupted. “Astrid, living life means taking actions. And taking actions leads to consequences, some of which you might not exactly like. But it’s all a by-product of living. A fresh start can be a good thing, but not if your life turns into a series of fresh starts. Because then you don’t live at all. And the others around you do, just like your friends.”
“They would have never gotten engaged, if it wasn’t for me,” Astrid said sharply.
“What are you angry about, their engagement, or the fact they kept on living?” Yenn said.
“Enough of this,” Astrid yelled out. “Clearly you have no interest in supporting me, so why are you even here? I think it’s time for you to go back to Newcrest! You’ve seen enough of my life here, and you hate every bit of it, so please just do what your dying to do and leave me the plum alone!”
But Astrid just stormed off. She never wanted to speak to her aunt again.
Little did she know she’d get her wish. Yenn passed away shortly after returning to Newcrest.