“Well,” said Xenia, “I’m keeping Uncle Henry and Aunty Belle.”
“That’s not the way divorce works, dear.” Grandma Kelsey smiled indulgently. “Your mother is divorcing your stepfather, so you won’t be related to his brother anymore.”
“But Mum’s the one who’s getting divorced, why should I have to give up the relatives I like?” Xenia was old enough to have a sense of fairness and to have half understood the discussions going on around her. “Besides if people are getting stuff ‘in the settlement’ and ‘custody,’ why can’t I have Uncle Henry and Aunty Belle?”
“Because that’s not the way it works, dear,” her grandmother sighed and pulled Xenia to her for a cuddle.
Six years later, on her first day of high school, the two girls in her class from her old primary school and the older girls who’d been trying to push them around looked from the departing senior boys and back to Xenia. “How do you know them?” That was Sybil, the leader of the older putsch.
“Yeah,” her friend Audrey echoed her, “why would they care about a squirt like you?”
“They’re my brothers,” Xenia told them sunnily.
“Tom and Jack don’t have any younger sisters,” sneered Sybil. “Can’t you tell the truth?”
“My mum was married to Jack’s dad for a while and my dad used to be married to Tom’s mum,” Xenia explained. Then she added happily, “They’re good brothers, so I kept them in the divorces.”
The older girls looked at her. It was Sybil who spoke, “You can’t do that, can you?”
Xenia’s friend, Samantha, came back with, “She’s been doing it since we were in kindergarten.”
At her wedding, thirteen years after starting high school, Xenia’s father cringed as he looked at the assembled guests. “It’s like a montage of snaps from all of my weddings.”
“It’s a montage of snaps from our previous weddings,” his ex-wife corrected him. He’d been married to Carla so many years and marriages ago he would probably have lost all contact with her if they hadn’t had a child together. “If you bail now, she has a replacement all lined up to walk her down the aisle.”
“Who?” He looked indignant.
“As Henry Griggson can’t walk very well at the moment, the ‘crazy’ brother of someone you used to be married to. He’s over there, talking to the groom’s father, in the olive suit with the long ponytail. Apparently they know each other.”
Xenia’s father looked at where the two men were talking animatedly. “Crazy Mike and the Colonel? The man will barely give me the time of day.”
“It could be worse,” she patted his arm consolingly. “She invited two of my ex-husbands, the ones she still introduces as ‘my stepfather.’ I swear she has more family than either of us…”