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|4th Mar 2018, 8:39 PM||#26|
Join Date: May 2007
Erin and Erik are tangential characters in this update, but added an amazing amount of value. I like what they add to the perspectives of the families. Jimmy and Lucy are oh, so very young and naive! I hope Lucy can settle down just enough to meet the demands of a baby. This is a lengthy and often thankless commitment she's making.
|4th Mar 2018, 8:55 PM||#27|
Join Date: Jul 2016
Everytime I'm in here I just want to write my Crowborough the same way as you do with this story, and that makes me jealous because I know i'm too lazy to write that shit when i already have my book to write.
I build small houses *^*
|6th Mar 2018, 7:06 AM||#28|
@bbostic8 Hahaha! I don't know if this was supposed to be a bit meta but I cracked up at Lucy claiming it took two hours to make food for her visitors because it really does seem like it takes two in-game hours for them to prepare a meal that's not and instant meal or that goes into a microwave oven.
It's interesting to see how you portray Jimmy, he's one of the few sims that came with the game that I took and incorporated into my play. I like how fun-loving your Jimmy is, kind of like a suave class clown. I always thought he was one of the most handsome uni premades (along with Mattew Hart) and you have made him handsome inside and out
Here's some more of that 'three dimensional writing' I mentioned tha tI loved in this installment: the way you described the guys getting out of the pool to go to the hot tub, the way Lucy's voice carries in an emptier house, Jimmy's job description which goes into depth of what he does, and the effects of Jimmy's personality on Lucy was just all very beautifully written, engaging and put me into the story. I think this is actually my favorite post on this thread so far!
Other little quips I liked was Swain's Ovulation Nation and Jimmy trying to call John 'Dad' and John not having it.
There's a lot of sims stories out there but ones that engage me are few and far between so I can agree with your reply, even more so, it's extremely rare to get me excited about premades because so many people play with them, because I feel it's redundant to read about them so kudos to you for your excellent work in drawing me in and making me feel excited to read--it speaks to the excellent quality of your narration skills! So by all means your time is very well used I too try to write what I like to read and do so in an engaging way. My group thread which I saw you commented on is more informational but I do have stories out there if you ever have time to read some, I'd love to know what you think!
Can't wait for the next post!
|20th Mar 2018, 4:54 AM||A Pleasant Place: The Brokes #29|
A Pleasant Place
Across the road at the other corner of Main Street lies the smallest slice of suburban nostalgia blanching in the sun. Kitschy pink reminders of the proverbial "good ole days" frame the windows and pave the way through the tamed wild greenery of what once had been a sprawling valley, all the way to the front door. There's always noise, usually happy, but sometimes unseemly and cacophonous -- frantic barking, the high-pitched whine of a child in need, the deep tonal notes of an E minor chord struck to drown out all the other noise. Even on the bad days, it's a pleasant place to be.
|20th Mar 2018, 7:30 AM||#30|
I like that you write about the Premades because I have always played the Premades myself. I am sure that I play them differently than others including yourself, but that does not really matter as part of the enjoyment for me is reading how others play them differently than I do.
I really do like your writing and your writing about the Brokes was no exception. Really good pictures.
for info on changing the Mac Open File Limit check out my post here http://www.insimenator.org/index.ph...html#msg1628939
Curiosity killed the cat,
but satisfaction brought it back.
|20th Mar 2018, 8:56 PM||#31|
Join Date: May 2007
I loved this look at Brandi Broke's extended family. She has her flaws, but she's a great mother and grandmother. Brittany is adorable, and I liked her mature sit-down with her parents to ask for a violin. I think Summer is going to enjoy getting to know her father's family, and from the sound of her mother, she's going to need them. Amber makes me laugh; I like her.
|21st Mar 2018, 5:40 AM||#32|
I have to say, this update was fantastic! The ending, is my absolute favorite thing from your entire thread so far <3
|12th Aug 2018, 2:35 AM||A Pleasant Place: The Ottomases #33|
A full house is a happy one. Or at least, that's what Babaanne Dora used to say. Her son, Peter, lived by those words, however much he questioned their validity in his younger years. Today, even after the loss of their dear Babaanne, the Ottomases are a close-knit clan, seven strong.
|13th Aug 2018, 6:25 AM||#34|
Awesome update! Even though it was short, it was very informational and ofc well written as always!
|19th Aug 2018, 9:53 PM||A Pleasant Place: The Goths #35|
Ask after a Goth and one will show you a moneyed traditionalist. Fiercely private. An intellectual and a progressive, despite the outward appearance of old timey pomp and class. Still, cloyingly sentimental. On the self-same grounds of the proud Goth manor, its newest iteration stands solemnly, waifishly eclipsing the horizon with its black Victorian spire and ash colored shakes. Certainly, the Goth manor has a charming new skeleton, but all the same problems lie chafing and splintering just behind closed doors.
Cassandra Goth considered herself a daddy's girl, once. She remembers her small brown fingers clasped against his leg, wrinkling the fabric of his trousers as she used his body as a shield from whatever eccentric lie in wait for her on the other side. She remembers his smooth voice rippling through his chest like an echo in a deep, dark cave as she rested her cheek against it while he perused the morning paper. She remembers the smell of fresh ground coffee beans as she tumbled down the stairs, her rump bounding off each step until finally her feet hit the floor, then leaping over the threshold and into the kitchen. He'd turn from the coffee maker and beam brighter than the sunlight stabbing in through the blinds masking the window behind him, then open his arms like the pearly gates to heaven and invite her, wordlessly, into an embrace.
Isolated in those golden, sun-kissed memories in a dress shirt and trousers tucked beneath a red smoking jacket, with a pair of slippers on his feet; this is how Cassandra will always remember him.
She watches with a swollen, blissful heart as her own daughters play, embarking on childhood adventures entirely unique to themselves. Tears sting her eyes and worry wrinkles her brow as she wonders how they'll come to remember her someday.
Her knees ache and click as she pulls herself up from the floor, reminding Cassandra that "someday" fast approaches. She shoves the sour thought aside and makes her way to the kitchen. She languors in the clanging of the frying pan as it clashes with the stovetop and reverberates down the hall. She scoops globs of ground meat onto the sizzling surface and grins indulgently as savory smell fills the air. Two of the cats, Lucretia and Lazarus, apparate on the kitchen floor. It's getting close to dinner time, and they're just as entranced by the scent of browning meat as she is.
Cassandra casts a sly look over her shoulder at the cat and tosses her a generous chunk of meat.
She can't resist a pretty face.
Cassandra's husband trawls through the kitchen, eyes fixed forward. He rummages through the refrigerator for a moment before pulling out cold leftovers and finds his seat in the dining room.
Cassandra calls to him, "Hey, Jim? I'm already making dinner in here. It'll be done in a second if you wait."
The silence gnaws at her ears. It's been days since there's been a single word between them.
Some scraping of forks and the smearing of food on little faces later, Cassandra hikes the stairs to the girls' rooms. A halo of soft lamplight casts a sleepy spell across the sage colored walls and warm wood floors. Small brown eyes flicker awake and drowsy, then finally rest at a close. Cassandra plants a kiss each on either of her daughters' foreheads, and cradles their heads as she lays them down to rest. She flicks the light switch as she creeps from the room, enveloping the precious space in a down blanket of darkness.
Her heart is full in moments like these.
And yet it feels so far away when it comes time to look her partner in the eyes. She's a little surprised to see him here. Usually he slips into the office to peck away at the keyboard and play a steady stream of classical music to drown out the sound. A large part of her is comfortable with this setup, with the silence and the lack of eye contact. It's far from the smell of ground coffee and honey-colored sunlight of her childhood, but it feels familiar all the same.
Cassandra thinks back to her first marriage. She remembers long and painful silences as she lobbed questions at him across the dinner table.
"Where were you all night?"
More hesitantly, she'd said, "Is...is there someone else?"
Then finally, angrily, "How long are you going to put off having a baby, Don? It means everything to me. You know that."
Never a goddamn answer.
But that marriage is years older and years underground. Today, it's the home she shares with Jim. It's the two beautiful daughters, the three cats, the large swath of grass in the backyard, the work, the heartfelt conversations that run until the sunshine spills in, the look he gets when he sees her and the touching that follows, and the laughter and the music that has all but disappeared since the day she kissed that man.
And ever since that day, she's been cooling her heels in a cold, familiar silence -- only it's her at the other end of the table.
Jim scowls at her then, and Cassandra knows she deserves it.
Cassandra's heart races when he sits beside her anyway. It feels like a chance, and a massive piece of her grabs hold and sings she should take it.
"Jim," she starts, then pauses as a decade of futile chances and empty declarations of love swallow her whole, "What are we doing here if you're not going to talk to me? Think about Mathilde and Isadora. What kind of a life is it for them if we don't work together?"
There's a beat as Jim turns away from her. She watches as his shoulders pitch and drop with his every seething breath.
Finally, he turns back to her, eyes steely and distant. "How could you say that to me after what you've done? 'Think of Mathilde and Isadora'? That's bullshit and you know it, Cassandra. Did you think of them when you cheated on me? Were you thinking of what kind of life they'd have when you hacked our marriage in two?"
Cassandra rolls her eyes at this. "Jim, you're a rational guy. So please, let's not act like I slept with someone."
He's taken aback and stares at her in rage and incredulity. "Oh, I'm sorry, were you looking for a marriage where we both go around kissing other people? Because I don't remember that being a part of our wedding vows."
"Of course not --"
"So why do it? Did I deserve that?"
"Did you even consider our family?"
"That's not --"
Jims' fingers grip the back of the couch and his glassy blue eyes are alight, boring into his wife's. "You want to know why I haven't spoken to you, Cassandra? Because I can't believe you. All you've been through, all the conversations we've had about goddamn Don Lothario and your father and your dad's second wife -- all of the baggage I spent years working through with you to allay any fears you have, and you pull this shit with me."
Cassandra sets her jaw and cradles her cheek with one hand as though she's been struck. "I...I'm sorry."
"Yeah. You are." he says, and stalks away.
That night, Cassandra curled up with a duvet on the rocking chair in Isadora's bedroom. She was the twin who had the most trouble staying asleep, and Cassandra hardly had intentions of being able to fall asleep regardless. After several hours' time, Cassandra tired enough of making that ritualistic march from the chair to the crib that she cradled her daughter in her arms and roosted upon the rocking chair with her. It was only then that either of them were able to dredge up enough peace to find sleep.
Today is a momentous day for the Goth-Menon family, however extenuating circumstances may jeopardize it. It's Isadora and Mathilde's birthday, and both their parents are ecstatic and anxious to see them through to childhood, wherein real memories and emotional trappings are formed. Cassandra grins nervously across the table at her husband, though his words echo in her head.
She is sorry, isn't she?
She's astonished to find the gesture returned.
The girls transition without much fanfare, as neither parent is fond of social gatherings even without the fate of their marriage being at question. Isadora grows into a restless child who cares very little for other people and is more concerned with her own fun. Cassandra worries most about her. Mathilde is a charming and gleeful personality who gets on easily with others, though her focus is squarely fixed upon philosophical questions. At her age, it's little things like "Why is the sky blue?" and "Why are Mom and Dad different colors?" but both Jim and Cassandra anticipate a fierce activist to be borne of that ceaseless curiosity. They worry about her too.
Tonight is Jim's night to lay the girls to bed, so Cassandra uses the time to shower and groom herself. She's noticed a lack in her self-care since her cheating. She feels a bit like she doesn't deserve the time -- that washing her hair and changing her clothes is somehow flaunting a level of joy and confidence in the face of her partner, who's suffered a painful infidelity. At least she's thinking in terms of his perspective now. That's progress, isn't it? Is that worth anything, after what she's done?
Cassandra raps her knuckle against the door frame, hoping to steal Jim's attention from the computer screen for a few precious moments.
To her surprise, Jim abandons the activity all together, and meets her halfway into the room. He watches her through expectant, alert eyes, his hands planted staunchly at his hips. He's opened the door to conversation, and Cassandra's hands quake at the thought that she'll ruin it again. It may be her last chance. She closes her eyes and exhales sharply before opening again, this time a little more open and a little less proud.
"I know that I've betrayed your trust, Jim," she begins, "I knew it when I did it, I knew it when you saw he and I -- I knew I was in the wrong and that you didn't deserve that. There's no excuse for the choices I've made, for belittling your feelings and disregarding the terms of our partnership -- a lot of which are ones I insisted because of my own insecurities -- I know what I've done. I hope it's not unforgivable."
Cassandra feels herself shrink under is skeptical, distrusting eyes. She kicks herself for what she's done to be deserving of it.
"Even worse, we have a family. And I put myself and my selfish, thoughtless, ugly desires before you, before the twins, before the life we have worked so hard to build together. Even worse than a single kiss, I willingly ignored all that to pursue whatever awful thing I wanted to without acknowledging the consequence."
Cassandra chuckles joylessly.
"I can't even say that that's not who I am. As much as I want to create distance between what I've done and who I am, that is me. I've become the expressionless, unfaithful, self-serving dickhead who's thrown a wrench into all your plans. And until now, I wouldn't even admit I was wrong. It's everything I hated about my last marriage, and I've dragged it in through our own front door. I'm that guy, now. And lord, does that put me in a shitty place, mentally."
"But the point is, I love you. Choosing you has brought me everything I ever could've dreamed for myself, and even if you choose not to forgive me, to divorce me, and wash your hands of me -- which is completely valid -- it won't change that my life is ineffably better because you were in it."
Jim's expression softens. He relents in his stance and his eyes which gazed upon her like a stranger only moments before, glisten with unshed tears as he relives each and every painful, loving, intimate, angry, honest, perfect, and awful memory he has with his wife. He glances away from her and down at the floor, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. He grits his teeth, then flicks his gaze up at the sky, pleading with whatever deity, if any, why they'd put him in this, of all scenarios.
He sighs. He looks at her.
"Let's...let's work on it, then," he finally says.
|20th Aug 2018, 8:10 PM||#36|
This was an intense, emotional, entry! I would love to see more of this family and if the trust ever returns between Cass and Jim, also interested to see the ripples of Cass's actions and how it affects the rest of the community or if it does. The writing here was so intimate and intricate, very well done, as always!
|27th Aug 2018, 4:53 AM||A Pleasant Place: The Ramaswamis #37|
The condominiums on Lilac Street are inundated with pollution of all kinds. The waves of working folk passing by foot, train, trolley, bus, and car swallow the entire street in a cacophony of sound. The clip-clopping of high heels on the pavement, the sounds of a thousand manifold voices chatting idly or urgently into cellphones -- the "Tell Sandra I won't be able to make the reunion, I've got a meeting with a major investor this evening," kind of calls and those of the "What did that bitch say this time?" variety. Smog blots out any remnants of blue sky, most days. The incongruous and clashing scents of food spill out into the street from open windows, restaurant doors, hotel balconies, and the revolving cycle of delivery boys bearing searing boxes of pizza, steam streams following them from curbside to doorstep.
It's a hectic place to be. No time of day seems to slow from the constant stream of life and activity. Nothing matches. A lot of the same faces and cars streak by on an endless thoroughfare of meet and greets and handshakes and cheek kisses and lunch breaks and power walks and chirping cellphones, but nothing seems to tie them all together aside from the need to be somewhere other than here.
Kabir Ramaswami watches the commotion from his bedroom window. His attention flits between the landlord scraping at leaves with the clawed end of his rake to the busy commuters on the street, to the sand-dollar sized disc of steam breathed upon the glass in front of him. His whole life has been lived in this house which is really not a house, but a vertically built condo sandwiched between two others, full of people living entirely separate lives with only a few inches of drywall between them. He isn't as familiar with the new neighbors as he was with the last ones, who've all gone and skittered off to other parts of the city, to other cities in general.
Kabir was relieved when the Gavigans moved away -- their youngest kid Jesse was a terror who used to park himself at the top of the slide in the park and wait for him to emerge from his house, then slide to the bottom and kick him in the shins. This went on for a decade. He was sorry to hear that Mrs. and Mr. Gavigan were getting a divorce, but asked his mother to make gulab jamun to celebrate that he may never see the likes of Jesse ever again. Jesse's older brother, Isaiah, was dating his babysitter, who lived in the unit on the other side of the Ramaswami house. She was a blonde haired, honey-skinned goddess with eyes like clovers. She was kind and funny, and sang like an alley cat trapped in a dumpster. Kabir loved her dearly, and was devastated to see her go.
Her name was Tina. She fell pregnant halfway into high school and finished her studies remotely once her belly grew too big and travel from home to school and back again became too difficult. She'd hang around the play structure in the afternoons while Isaiah was away at work, and Kabir would revolve around her like a moon to its planet. One day, the park laid bare all day long and well into the night thereafter. There was some shuffling from the Gavigans' house and everyone piled into a taxi, and after that, it was rare to see Tina. Kabir later found out she'd given birth to twins, then shortly after, earned a scholarship to college. She left, and he'd hardly seen her since.
Now it's Kabir's turn to cash in his scholarships and haul a laundry bag full of all his earthly possessions to some school full of people from all over the state. He's full of warm nostalgia, though his teeth grit and his stomach lurches with fear of the looming change.
Downstairs, Kabir's mother eagerly prepares an early dinner. The wooden spoon in her hand makes an ungainly sound as it squishes and squelches against raw vegetables, spices, and ghee. To Priya, tonight is the beginning of her son's life, and the part she most looked forward to when Kabir was a mere whispering in the back of her head on especially wistful days, or after a hard rain and she found herself alone wrapped in a blanket, dreaming of the boy she might someday come to know. The cusp of adulthood is a precious time -- it certainly was for her. She longs for the sting of her heart as she watches the taxi peel down the street and out of sight carrying her only son off to university. If Kabir can make it to college and survive on the skills she's imbued him with -- emotional intelligence, musicianship, logic, and grace, of course -- she'll feel like a success. The hallmark of a good mother is her son's aptitude to survive without her. Letting go is an art, and Priya thinks she's done exceptionally well.
And, following a conscious effort to change out of their comfort clothes on a Sunday evening, the Ramaswamis gather in the dining room downstairs. The entire house is rife with the warming scent of turmeric, the bite of chopped chilis, and the crispness of freshly shorn cilantro leaves, Priya's favorite. Kabir is the last to come in. He's wearing the maroon button-down his father bought him, the one Priya begs him to wear more often because it makes him look so grown up. Priya smiles kindly at her boy and gestures for him to join her and his father at the table. He obliges, but he feels a little distant.
"Is your room all packed away?" she asks in a voice more sugary than the norm. It's noticeable to everybody.
Kabir scrapes at his food with a fork, not meeting her eyes. "All my clothes are in a bag, yeah."
"And the sheets?" she adds, more stern this time.
He nods. "In the bag."
Sanjay clucks his tongue and spreads a frown across his face. Conversation isn't usually this terse at home, and it makes his skin crawl. "Is something the matter son?"
Kabir takes a big breath and reels his eyes up to meet his parents'. "I just kinda want to see my friends."
Sanjay looks puzzled. "We're having the Tinker twins over tonight, aren't we?"
"Yeah," Kabir nods, a hint of dread creeping up his throat, "and that's cool, but they've already been in college for a whole semester. I kinda wanted to see my high school friends before I go."
"Beta," she says lovingly, the saccharine sound flowing from her lips like song, "Who better to see you off than your future schoolmates? And I thought you loved Tom and Abigail."
The boy sighs and knits his brow, visibly frustrated. "I do, Ammaa, but...Abigail and I haven't even talked since she left for school. I don't --"
Sanjay cocks his head towards his wife a bit and says lowly, though he knows everyone can hear, "Perhaps he's trying to avoid her, hm?"
Priya pats her husband's arm. "He'll be fine."
The doorbell rings quite suddenly, stabbing clean through whatever remained to be said at the table. There's a dense silence between Kabir and his parents for a long moment as Kabir scours the eyes of either Priya and Sanjay, then to the uneaten bowl of food before him. He says nothing and scoots from his chair and walks briskly, purposefully out of the room and toward the front door. He throws it open and beholds his friends, plastering a broad smile across his face and lifting his voice to high heaven to feign enthusiasm.
"You made it!" he exclaims, and invites them in with all the showmanship and warmth that he's lifted from years of watching his mother do the same.
"My mom made some potato tikka, so help yourselves," Kabir gesticulates grandly towards the back of the kitchen at this, "How was your drive? Decent, I hope."
He notices that Abigail averts her eyes immediately and darts for the food. She can't wait to be anywhere else, he's sure. He sets his jaw and wills the balloon of anxiety rising in his chest to quell just another moment longer. He rests his eyes upon Tom Tinker, Abby's twin brother. If he notices her reticence, he doesn't say so. Really, it isn't all that unusual for Abigail to allow her shyness to overshadow any obligatory social niceties. She's always been the quiet one. In fact, when Kabir and her were dating (are they still, he wonders?), they spent most of their time indoors, binge watching television shows and waiting for movies to come out online rather than seeing them in the theaters. To Kabir, the social butterfly, this was always a bit of a disappointment, but he loved (loves?) her, so concessions were made.
Tom is a man after his own heart, though. He's an astronomical personality who captivates a room as though he's just transmuted all his joie de vivre and energy into a literal burning star, right there on display in some guy's living room. Kabir can't get enough of him.
"What's been going on?" Kabir asks, a grin creeping unto his face already.
Tom rears back as though the breadth of his experience is far too much to disclose in a single, paltry conversation. He'll try, though. "Oh, man. College is a trip, Kabir. I've been running all over the place trying to put together my frat."
"You're in a frat?" Kabir inquires, shock and eagerness drawn across his face.
"I'm vice president of a frat!" Tom bursts with joy, "So like, I knew I wanted to be in a frat way before I got to school anyways, but I show up and who do I meet but Brittany Upsnott -- who's like, the sorority queen. She's worried the sorority is gonna die because none of her girls have what it takes to take over, blah blah, I mention I was hoping to join the frat and that sets her gears turning. We petition the dean to have a co-ed frat, make some appearances, start some protests and boom -- we've got a co-ed frat."
"That's amazing, dude. I'm really glad to hear you're making things happen, especially after...well, your mom."
Tom nods, as solemn as his jolly face can approximate. "Hey, thank you, man. I gotta keep going, y'know? If I slow down, all that shit will catch up to me."
Kabir nods quietly, though he can feel himself cling to Tom's philosophy. Running is always an option.
Kabir tires pretty quickly of watching Tom and his dad go back and forth on the bass upstairs. He drags a hand across his face, exhausted, as he roams downstairs to try and catch a moment of solitude. He hears his mother's and Abigail's voices commingling sweetly in a thoughtful but soft conversation. He overhears words shared about Wanda and Stephen, Abby's parents, whom his mother met just once before their deaths. A heavy silence blankets itself over the whole room, and then Abigail follows it up with a rushed and forcibly upbeat "Well, I really should be going now."
He watches, unnoticed as she all but flees from the house, and something inside demands he follow. He runs for the door.
"Hey, Abby?" he says.
Kabir pulls open the front door after her, but she's nowhere to be found. He watches after a taxi ambling down the street, its cab light flicked on. In the briefest of moments he catches the glimmer of sour yellow lamplight on her long black hair, and then nothing, as the cab light flicks off and the taxi drives out of view. He mops his brow with his hand.
The next morning ensues just as expected. Priya and Sanjay stand at the curbside, elbowing away the onslaught of Monday morning commuters to bid blessings and brief goodbyes to their son as he begins the next chapter of his life. At Priya's behest, no tears are shed. Kabir is uncharacteristically quiet, as he was the night before, and though Sanjay feels a profound desire to press a hand to the boy's shoulder and exchange words, he doesn't. Instead, he hands him his bag and stands at the ready by the cab door, ready to close it once he's situated. He does, and his only son, his boisterous, excitable, friendly Kabir, leaves his family home for the first time.
Priya quickly makes her way to her office, thereafter, offering no words of support because, of course, today is supposed to be a happy one.
Sanjay sulks off to Park Pleasant to contemplate why it doesn't feel that way.
A young woman claims the seat beside him. Immediately, the smell of cheap perfume, like that of a teenage girl's, overwhelms the senses and elicits a wrinkle from Sanjay's nose. Her hair is sheared close to her scalp, though a short crop of striking red hair fans across her forehead on top. Sanjay, who supplies bass tracks for a number of recording artists in the state, isn't unfamiliar with girls like her. He takes particular notice of her protruding belly.
"What're you looking at?" she asks sharply.
He's a bit taken aback, but answers sincerely. "You, I suppose. Sorry. I'm Sanjay."
The girl studies him a moment before guardedly replying, "Lilith."
She rolls her eyes and sucks in a breath impatiently. "So what brings you to the park at ten in the morning on a Monday, huh? You don't seem like you're coming down from a long night partying. Retiree?"
Sanjay chuckles, though his pride is a little wounded. When did he get this old? "My son left for college this morning, so I took a mental health day. You?"
Lilith jams her thumb toward her belly. "Knocked up."
Sanjay chuckles again. "I see. Your kid's lucky -- you're taking time off to walk in the park. My wife worked all through her pregnancy till her boss sent her home one day. They didn't want to have to deliver a baby in the middle of the office."
"Shit, she must be really into her job," Lilith looks a little forlorn at this, "I know how that is. My mom is really..."
"Your kid's gonna be okay. College is stupid and intense, but it only lasts a little while. He'll be back before you know it."
The corners of Sanjays eyes wrinkle as a smile unfurls across his lips. "I hope so."
|27th Aug 2018, 8:25 AM||#38|
I really hope that Kabir has a good time at college. I wonder what happened between him and Abby?
|20th Sep 2018, 5:16 AM||A Pleasant Place: The Brokes #39|
Dustin Broke hates his apartment. The pipes swell and groan in the summer months, crooning a creaky, awful chorus in the ceiling until cold weather sets upon them and they freeze over entirely. What the landlord calls "stucco" peels and flakes in palm-sized chunks and litters the concrete beyond the walls. Despite being an abomination of steel beams and asbestos, the whole building sags and sighs as it settles in the evening. It's only ever just enough to keep him awake, but not enough to mask the sound sex coming from the unit next door. He's elbowed at the wall a couple of times, but it only ever seems to encourage them -- applause from a tired, tightened fist.
His wife and daughter don't seem to mind it much. Summer loves feeling the curls of cheap carpet between her toes. She says the electric hum of the dryers down in the laundry room soothe her at night, and whisk her off to sleep with thoughts of swirling socks and stockings, the imagined smell of lavender dryer sheets and powdered soaps. It's not so much about the little things, Dustin's wife always says, it's that she can take her daughter's hand and walk down to the corner store without fear. For the freedom to walk hand in hand in sunny or stormy weather, Meadow will endure just about anything. And besides, it's only temporary.
Or at least, that's what she said ten years ago.
It's afternoon and the sun beats a little less harshly on the pavement as Meadow Broke steps out of her coworker's car. She doesn't get so much as a moment until the clickity clacking of plastic heels kisses her ears and steals her heart. She's swallowed up in a warm embrace, skinny little arms encircling her neck and a dainty, thoughtful kiss planted upon her cheek. Meadow laughs softly at her good fortune -- a daughter whose heart quickens at the sight of her mother from the bleary bus window, who leaps onto the sidewalk and races toward her, arms outspread. The woman wraps her arms around her daughter and breathes in the scent of strawberries and sweat from the girl's hair.
"Hey!" Meadow says, relieved and overjoyed, "How was the day?"
Meadow can imagine Summer's face pinched in consternation as she drags the morning up from the back of her mind. There's a pause, then she exclaims.
"Oh! Liam forgot his lunch again and his mom had to bring it, but this time she brought along Liam's baby brother! He's small and cute and only knows a couple words, but if you ask him about what noise a cow makes, he moos. Liam's mom let me pick him up, even."
Meadow tugs back her freedom and meets her daughters eyes, a feisty grin on her face.
"I'd rather pick you up!" Meadow growls playfully. She grabs her daughters hands and leverages the girl's weight against her's, sending the girl soaring through the air but anchored at her hands.
Summer gasps. The wind licks across her face and a warm smile unfurls across her cheeks. She's home.
Effervescent laughter and contented, happy banter lulls into contemplative quiet as Summer sits, puzzled and intrigued by a good book. Meadow takes perch at the mirror as always, watching her expression carefully and minding the volume of her voice as she practices her opening remarks for the next town hall meeting. She cringes a little internally as she narrows her focus on her pores, larger now than they've ever been. Her voice carries on, unwavering, though her focus is slipping. She doesn't remember her laugh lines being so deep. The last few years have brought with them a lot of joy so naturally there'd be something there as testament. Meadow's shoulders heave and her eyes fall half-mast as a sentimental, sort of sad sensation finds her slightly numb. How long has it been since college, anyway?
How long since never-ending nights and fervent heartbeats and eager hands in public bathrooms? How long since clandestine looks in the cafeteria, holding hands under tables, and flirty texts in the dead of night? It's sped by like a car into darkness, memories skittering in its wake like autumn leaves across the asphalt. Things are a lot less complicated now, but more mundane to be sure. Her and Dustin's tawdry, secret romance has gelled into stable matrimony. The insatiable anticipation for the future has slowed to a feeble crawl, staring at her wristwatch under the fluorescent glow of town hall, willing the minutes away. Youth's freedom has died a little death as well, with soccer games and doctor's visits and work and parent-teacher conferences hanging in the balance of a well-managed calendar.
Meadow bites her inner lip and tightens her brow.
Another night sees Meadow, Summer, and Dusting all together again -- a rarity. The air outside is balmy and thick with summertime. The window is just open enough to feel a hot breeze seep in and disrupt the stagnant air inside. Sweat dribbles down Dustin's temple, his hairline slick with sweat. He's underdressed for tonight, he knows, and a pang of self-consciousness pulls at him. He glances over his shoulder and observes the elegant frame of his wife, still clad in work clothes and suffering the same heat in silence.
She would want him to dress up.
He bites the inside of his cheek and jerks back to face his daughter, steeled in his own stubbornness. He wears what he wants. She knows that.
"Summer, you know what's happening tonight, right?" Dustin says in that darling tone of voice reserved just for his daughter.
Summer purses her lips and then shakes her head no, time still just a vague shadow of an idea to her young mind. "No, what?"
Dustin snickers. "Well, your mom and I are going out, and your aunt Amber is coming to keep an eye on you while we're gone. We're gonna wrap up dinner here in a minute, then take care of your homework,"
"Because we absolutely can't trust your aunt to make sure it gets done," Meadow adds from afar.
"You told her we've got beer in the fridge?" Meadow asks tentatively.
He nods and tugs his lips into a toothy smile, "She wouldn't be coming if we didn't."
Underscored by the sound of forks scraping and dishes clattering, Dustin and Summer stalk back to Summer's room to tend to the day's homework assignments. Mrs. Ottomas is an immeasurably engaged teacher, for which Meadow tends to sing her praises, but something about her cuts right to Dustin's core. He remembers trudging down the linoleum floors of his daughter's elementary school with arms folded taut before his chest, breathing through his teeth. He relents as he finds his fingers curling themselves into fists at his sides.
Oh, give her a chance. Just because you had some shitty teachers doesn't mean they all are,, Meadow's voice rings on in his head. He can hear the tonal quality and everything. It sounds just like church bells, soaring and ethereal, making the listener aware of their own smallness and fragility. And she's right.
She's always right.
Dustin grows painfully aware of himself as he listens to his daughter sigh in frustration, knotting her fingers in her hair. He softens.
"Summer? You doing okay?"
"It's just. Ugh. Mama usually helps me with spelling stuff. I --" She seethes and crumples the corner of her paper. "I'm just no good!"
Something like grief wells up inside, and he speaks gently, a tentative smile etched across his lips.
"You get that from me. Sorry." His footsteps are soundless as he nears the little girl's work space. "But I can certainly try to help."
Unlike the busted old system at the apartment complex, the air conditioning at Casa Casanova works perfectly. Dustin relishes the feeling of cool air upon his skin, pressed and glossy playing cards betwixt his fingers, the smell of cigarette smoke in the air, and even the sticky feeling of sweat drying at the nape of his neck. There in the periphery, men hurl curses at each other over what's likely their third or fourth round of drinks. A woman rushes to the restroom, cupping her mouth with one hand and a cell phone in the other, her high heels punching into the floor tiles. A couple of the guys around the table coyly steal glances at Meadow, their lascivious eyes lingering at her lips and chest.
Dustin doesn't laugh so much as he expels a breath from his nostrils, shaking his head. They're rancid pigs, the lot of them. But still, that familiar balloon of self-importance swells under his ribcage, puffs out his chest, and plants his hand upon his wife's thigh with a flourish. He leers at her from the corner of his eye himself, captivated momentarily as the world crumbles away.
She's objectively beautiful, as true as Mars is red and wheat fields sway in the wind. The light catches her cheek as she smiles and betrays her hand. She's just happy to be here. She's not noticing them noticing her, nor the way it makes him feel. She's here, boundlessly cheerful just to share the same space for a change. She never even asked him to change his shirt.
How long's it been since they were together like this?
He leads her by the hand under a streetlamp. It flickers weakly as they step, drenching them in darkness as it dies above them. Dustin chuckles more nervously than he'd like as he slips his arms around his wife's waist and pulls her close.
"I feel like we don't see much of each other these days."
She peers up at him from the pall of her hair, cheeks flushed, "That's life, isn't it? We want happily ever after, but we've gotta work to maintain it."
Her face falls. She smears her hand across her forehead. "God."
He catches her jaw in his hand just as she moves to turn from him. "Hey. I love you, y'know?"
"Of course." she says in a hapless birdsong. She presses up from the balls of her feet to brush her lips against his ear. "I love you too."
And he realizes that's enough. He pulls her ever closer. Their lips collide.
|21st Oct 2018, 11:33 PM||A Pleasant Place: The Pleasant-Martins #40|
As perfect as it is in theory, a white colonial style house with two stories, a big blue front door with a golden knocker emblazoned on the front is terribly unrealistic for life in the city. The property alone required for that sprawling backyard would cost a fortune worth several lifetimes over. Not to mention the price of that immaculate green lawn out front. Then there's the cost of the never-ending parade of gardeners for the grounds, housekeepers for the rooms, plumbers for those four bathrooms she insists were absolutely necessary, and of course, a nanny for the children, because how dare he expect her to renounce her career just because she's created a life. How god damn dare he.
But no. Of course that's a ridiculous fantasy for a working couple living in the heart of Downtown Pleasantview. There's the cost. There's all that space, mocking her with its unresponsive emptiness. And moving back to the suburbs is obviously out of the question. The thought of being walking distance from her mother and sister makes her heartbeat spill into her ears. Not again.
Besides, the apartment is nice enough. Nevermind that the floors creak and the porch light still isn't fixed after sixteen weeks of asking.
The apartment is cool inside, despite the heat of the day pooling just outside the kitchen window. Her tiny porcelain cups of wheat grass and soil are appreciative for the unobstructed light. Angela's gaze doesn't falter from looking across the table to admire her plants, proud as she is.
A jolt of pain leaps up from the small of her back and across her vertebrae, then comes to rest somewhere at the base of her skull. Heat and throbbing soreness moans warily from the bottoms of her feet. Her skin chafes every second of every minute to accommodate her growing belly. To cope, she frantically applies butters and creams to her stomach at every trip to the bathroom. Sometimes she looks at her body in the mirror and grins, eager to meet the person sleeping inside it. Other times, she sobs as her mind suffers to reconcile her swollen belly and tired legs with the image of herself she's known for forever until now. Sometimes she plucks the hair from her scalp to regain some sense of control over the metamorphosing landscape of her own physical form. Sometimes she screams into a folded towel. Every time, she blots a makeup sponge under her eyes, reapplies her lipstick, and returns to society all clean and pretty.
Gazing back at his wife from across the table, Jake can't help the upward tilt of his lips. She's glowing. People always say that about pregnant women, but he's seen pregnant women, and nobody radiates like Angela. The muted scent of lavender and linen trails after her wherever she goes. Distant starlight catches the green of her eyes and blinds him with her absolute perfection. It wads his stomach in knots to look upon her and then remember himself.
She knows she's too good for him. She doesn't have to say as much, of course.
The entire world showers cherry blossom petal praise and congratulations for her charming manner, pretty face, and sharp wit, then recoils in horror when they realize that man beside her is her husband. The sweet, sticky odor of hair gel and body spray heralds his presence before he even enters a room. Years of drunken revelry and cigarette smoke has made his voice husky. He saunters from place to place, constantly late, his attentions and affections carried on an unpredictable wind. They've moved more than twice because asking him to turn down the volume of his music is an assault on his creative expression. His reputation precedes him everywhere.
"Him?" they all say.
And it's getting harder to respond.
Her eyes linger on him as he walks past. She wrinkles her brow and implores his broad back to explain just what it is that tethers her to him. She hardly noticed him at all in college. He was her sister's plaything back then. Jacob Martin existed merely as a deep voice comingling in the raucous laughter that emanated from behind her sister's door. He was the nonchalant arm draped around Lilith's shoulders at the cafeteria. He was the lazy cheek kisses and the napping body beside her on the couch in the common room. He was an accessory to her antics, equally directionless and shallow.
But a single drunken night of dancing and stolen kisses under the yellow glow of a streetlamp, and he's Mr. Pleasant-Martin.
Angela smiles a meek smile. It had been a fun night, at least.
He perches on the couch beside her, crossing his legs at the ankles.
"Angie, I've been thinking," he says.
Angela cringes at the bastardization of her name. It's Angela, she wants to say. It's been six fucking years, Jacob, you know I like it "Angela", not "Angie", "Angel", or even goddamn "Jelly".
But she steals a moment with eyes pinched close, a wrinkle of the nose, then responds, "What's that, babe?"
He blossoms. Pet names are rare. "I want to throw you a baby shower. I promise, nothing big, just a little get-together for family and friends here at the house. I'll be conservative with the music, I'll leave the menu to you, and it'll just --"
The corners of Angela's lips bow in not quite a smile. "It sounds great. Let's do it."
Of all the extended family, Jacob's dad is the over the most often. Angela thinks their relationship is unhealthy. Codependent. Jacob thinks that that's an overdramatic, assumptive assertion that she makes because she lives in abject fear of her own mother, and can't comprehend a relationship that deviates from that. He would never say so, but it's what he thinks.
"Dude!" Jacob cries as he bats his father's hands away, "Don't tickle me, I'm like thirty."
Andrew grins a lopsided grin and buries his fingers in Jacob's sides, "Shut up, you love it."
They share a laugh.
Antithetical as they are, the two family groups mix without incident most of the time. Mary-Sue attempted a conversation with Jacob's father once. While the conversation languished around stocks and the state of the economy, she was perfectly enthused. Once Andrew decided to dust off the fart noises and impressions, Mary-Sue had written him off as an intellectual dead end. These days, she greets him with a single nod of acknowledgement and nothing more. Andrew, who cannot bear the thought of not being liked, nurses his hurt feelings with food every time he and Mary-Sue are in the same room. It works for them.
Lilith and Jacob remain friends, though not as close as they used to be. They lounge around the house together watching television or playing video games under Angela's skeptical surveillance. Neither one has any interest in rekindling their sexual relationship, but Lilith likes the anxiety in brings to her twin's stupidly immaculate household, so she lets Angela worry.
Angela's eyes flit between her sister's face and the protrusion of her own pregnant stomach. She surveys with displeasure the shaggy red tresses that drape across her twin's forehead and curl near her ears. It's better than when she was bald for a year, sure, but not by much. Angela finds it hard to look at her sister for more than a few minutes at a time. The familiarity of those features -- that same freckled nose and pale face, those same, cutting green eyes staring back into her own -- makes her want to peel her skin off and inhabit someone, anyone, else.
She dips her chin downward to draw attention to Lilith's belly. "That's new. Don's the dad?"
Lilith smirks. "Sure is."
"I'm glad we're pregnant at the same time, this way our kids can --"
Lilith cups her hand before her lips and shakes loose a yawn. "Angela, nothing would be more boring to me than playing the whole 'twinsies' game with our kids and forcing ourselves together for Sunday brunch or whatever contrived, inauthentic bullshit you've concocted to appease our terrible mother."
Anxious, incensed butterflies flood Angela's stomach. Their sickly yellow wings bat against each other. Scarlet heat rises to the surface of her skin. Her face flushes. Her ears numb. She can feel the blood swirling beneath her flesh, and it makes her sick. She fixes a smile upon her face as she winds her fingers into fists at her sides. She pictures glass fracturing in the beds of her palms, sheer edges pressing to her skin and alleviating the thrum of her heart, the rage in her veins, for just a moment.
"Congratulations, Lilith." she softly says.
It's fine. Angela is a great daughter-in-law. She's intelligent. She's lovely. She's kind. She is an excellent addition to any family, and anyone who doesn't see her value is obviously worthless, themselves. She throws her arms around her father-in-law and wraps him in a warm embrace. He smells like paperwork and brandy, and for a moment, Angela worries that he's driven here. Nevermind. She pulls back.
"Andrew, thanks for coming. We're always so happy to have you."
She wonders if he can tell her words are hollow.
Angela's mouth begins to water and her stomach lurches. Nausea blurs her vision and burns her throat. She touches a few fingertips to her lips and heads for the bathroom.
A melodic voice cuts through the mental noise awash in Angela's head.
"Angela!" the voice says, "Congratulations, sweetheart! Have you picked out any names?"
Her throat constricts and the gushing, angry bloodflow ebbs for a moment as she registers Meadow Broke's face. She can feel her pupils reduce to pinpricks in the center of her eyes, a thieving raccoon caught in the glow of a flashlight. Her attention bounds between Meadow and the man approaching behind her. Oh good, Dustin's here. It was only a kiss and she didn't know they were engaged. Either way, Meadow stole him from her first, so really, it all cancels out. They're over it. It's fine.
"Hey!" she says too loudly, "Th-thanks for being here. I have a few names I really like, but Jacob wants to wait until we meet the baby to decide."
Meadow chuckles. "And it's driving you crazy, right?"
She presses the inside of her lip between her teeth, then forces a laugh.
Mary-Sue Pleasant has a way of looking through to the core of people. She sees through the miles of coping mechanisms, aesthetic distractions, and defensive walls to the heart of their character. In another life, she may very well have made an excellent therapist. But in this one, her perception and intuition about people is stained by the inky black streaks of judgment she paints upon them, deeming them worthy or not of her respect, her acceptance, her praise. Currently, she looks upon the unkempt frame of her son-in-law at a party he's cobbled together to celebrate the impending arrival of the child he's made with her daughter. Mary-Sue is elated at the thought of meeting this darling bundle of untapped potential, but immeasurably disappointed when she considers its father.
"Hello, Jacob," she says dully as he makes his approach. He looks stern.
"We need to talk. Before the baby comes, before anybody makes any decisions about childcare, education, expectations -- whatever -- you and me have to talk."
Mary-Sue cocks a brow and leans onto one hip, her arms fanned confidently at her sides and and utterly unimpressed frown scrawled across her face. "I agree, we do need to have a discussion."
Jacob parts his lips, but Mary-Sue plows through his opportunity.
"I'm not like everyone else, Jacob. I'm not going to do this dance with you, protect your flimsy self-esteem. Let me be transparent: I am unhappy with the choice my daughter has made. I don't think you're right for her or for this family, but I cannot make her decisions for her. What we're looking at is an eternity tethered to each other through this child, and while that's obviously not ideal for either of us --"
"I don't have a problem with you, Mary."
"Mary-Sue. And fine, obviously it's not ideal for me. But seeing as there's no way around it, there are a few things I'm going to need from you. One, find a real job. I will not have my daughter and grandchild's fate hinging on the potential for upward mobility for a DJ."
Jacob scowls. "Emcee."
"That is literally the exact same thing, Jacob. Do you even hear yourself?" The older woman sucks in a breath and releases it with great effort. "One, real job. I can get you a job at Dirk Dreamer's firm, and you will take it. Two, the child will attend private school and university, nonnegotiable. Three, get a real house. I will not have my grandchild raised in an apartment of this condition on the poor side of the city. Are we clear?"
Jacob grits his teeth. "You're being insanely demeaning to me in my own home at a party I threw to honor your daughter, and I won't take your --"
Mary-Sue clucks her tongue and shakes her head softly. "Mind your tone, Jacob. It's Angela's party and we don't want to cause her any undue stress, do we? Think of the baby."
Jacob sighs. "Fine. But we'll continue this later."
Mary-Sue chuckles. "If we must."
"Oh, hey Angela. You feeling okay?"
Angela brushes her wrist across her mouth, having emerged from the bathroom renewed. She glances down at Jules O'Mackey, sitting sentinel upon the sofa.
"Me? Yeah, I'm great."
Jules warms to her just a little. "Well, good. I've watched you run around all night long, and I wanna be sure you're okay. Want to sit?"
Angela shakes her head with a neighborly smile. "No, but thank you. I prefer to stand."
"Alright. Just mind your stress, alright? I have no doubt you can handle it, I'm just thinking of that kid in there."
Jules glimpses some space else with a wistful sheen in her eyes. "I just can't believe Jake is having a kid. I mean we're all at that age, right? Everyone's got their partners now, Dustin and Meadow have Summer, and -- it's silly, but as a kid I was so sure Jake and I were gonna end up together. I wonder if he'll say anything about me to that little guy of yours."
In her stunned silence, Angela can hear the sound of Jacob's voice as he spins a mostly true story from the kitchen.
"Anyways, Lilith told me there was no way to crush a full can of soda against my head, and I said 'not with that attitude, there's not'. So that's how I wound up getting eight stitches in my head at the hospital on New Years Eve."
She watches Jules' smug, self-satisfied freckled fucking face, something monstrous bubbling to the surface. Her shoulders pitch and her nostrils flare once, then twice. She can feel her throat constrict and her muscles pull against the bone. She inhales through her nose and cool air meets her scalding lungs. She plants a loving hand upon her own stomach and glowers down the bridge of her nose at Jules. It's fine. It really is.
"Don't worry, Jules, I'm sure it'll happen for you eventually," she says, a cakey sweetness laden in her voice.
"And that's how I met Angela again after college!"
Angela steals away to the bedroom after most the guests take their leave. She sleeps an uneasy rest, drenched in sweat, sharp pains electrifying her skin and insides from her navel outward. She yanks her entire body upright and fumbles with the blankets, hands shaking. The sheets are drenched down to the mattress, and her body aches under the immense pressure building in her abdomen. She can't catch her breath. She throws herself from the bed and wails, grasping at her stomach.
"Jacob, wake up!" she screams.
"Wait a minute, let me call the hospital." Jacob mutters as he tears himself from the bed.
"Holy shit, is that--?!"
The minutes pass like small eternities, one by one, and eventually, where before there were two, there are three.
Angela pulls the baby to her chest and wipes away the sweat from her forehead with an arm. She presses a few tired kisses to the baby's skin before inhaling his scent.
"Whoo! You did it, Angie! And I'm only sort of traumatized for life."
Angela smirks against the baby's shoulder. "Wanna hold him?"
“What do we call him?” she asks.
There’s a palpable thickness to the silence between them. Jacob gazes into the brand new face of his child -- his child -- and two little brown eyes gaze back. He chokes on the wet wad of emotion that eases up his throat, then replies.
“His name is Munn.”
|22nd Oct 2018, 5:25 AM||#41|
I wasn't expecting her to pop the baby! It's interesting to see the writing of this happenstance because we based in reality would expect a hospital to be involved in this kind of situation but it draws back to these are sims and 100% of their births happen at home after some bouts of mother-to-be's shouting. Good descriptions of labor pain and the line from Jake to bring back humor about him being 'traumetized' (like all other sim fathers present for such an event) Those little jumps of surprise in the game never cease to amuse me, lol. P.s. I love that he's wearing a Kermit the Frog t-shirt as pajamas <3
|22nd Nov 2018, 7:17 PM||A Pleasant Place: The Delarosas #42|
Happiness is finding a perfectly preserved mussel shell in the sand. Its opalescent inner shell refracts the sunlight and glitters rainbow waves any which way it turns. The finder marvels at her discovery. She's taken by the way the oily pastel colors bleed into one another -- pink and blue, purple and silver. It's only when she turns the mussel over in her hands, on the car ride back home as ocean mists and farmland flit by in the window panes, that she realizes there were thirty little barnacles stuck to the outside the whole time. The sea water's dried and little flecks of salt spill from the mussel's edge and onto her lap. The oil has been leeched from the inside and the sunlight doesn't catch as well from inside the car. The opalescence fades to ash. It's not as good as she thought.
"That's happiness," Florence Delarosa says. "In time, it always turns to something different."
"Contentment is being thankful you live near the coast at all."
It's the first clear day in a string of cloudy, wet ones. Cordelia Delarosa dons a springdress to celebrate in her own little way. Sunlight cuts through the leaves and splashes upon her face as she gazes up into the tresses of the garden plum tree. She caresses each fruit to feel for readiness -- Mom is a real hardass about putting unripe fruit on a table. The aromatic scent of plump and ripening fruits dances down from the treetop and settles somewhere near her shoulders. She studies the branches and envisions someplace else.
Clementine presses the screen to hear ear and waits. It only ever rings once before he picks up.
His voice comes in low and caked with sleep. A smile reams across her face. She envisions him sprawled across his bed -- any bed, really; she has no idea where he's living these days -- face buried in a pillow with the curtains pulled shut. His room is bathed in the color of the drapes. He's likely wearing the clothes he wore the night before, at work. She envisions the room not unlike the ones she's found herself in lately, dark dens exuding masculinity, self-interest, and indulgence.
"Hey Dad! Did I wake you?"
"I just wanted to see if you're coming to Booger's birthday party tonight."
"Fuck, is that today?"
There's a shuffle on his end of the line. She can hear the mattress creak under his weight. Some time passes and she can hear the sound of flesh against flesh, then the scraping of his nails against his beard -- a nervous habit.
Clementine snickers. "He's turning thirteen. You coming?"
More shuffling. "Yeah. Yeah, I'll be right over."
And, true to his word, Don arrives shortly. He lingers a bit in the doorway as the household breathes its daily breath. Thatcher has his knees tucked beneath his activity table as he gingerly places a block at the precipice of the structure he's been working at for weeks. Clementine gnaws at the end of her pen and reads aloud under her breath, stumbling over one sentence, pausing, then repeating it once more. Cordelia is perched beside her, her pen streaking silently, methodically down the length of the page. She glances up intermittently at the clock, then rolls her eyes and returns to her work. She's complained before that school doesn't challenge her. Don's never had the opportunity to see her ennui in action.
He sidesteps the busy foyer and makes his way to the couch -- a purposeless piece in a machine that works just fine without him.
But Don wears "Dad" pretty well. "Dad" doesn't slide on simply like a well-loved smoking jacket. It doesn't ease onto his frame like the arms of his leather coat, doesn't delight him right away with the familiar scent of after-shave and cigarettes. He has to shrug it on, wrists and elbows first, then slide it over his shoulders with the worry that it won't hang just the way he likes it once all is said and done. "Dad" is a blazer he keeps tucked away in a box on the shelf of his closet. "Dad" is for special occasions, not everyday use. "Dad" is the coat he wears tonight, but Don's what they'll call him as soon as he steps out.
Don watches with a tug at his chest as Thatcher steps over the threshold and into adolescence. He reminds him of himself at that age, gawky and awkward with a knack for polishing and collecting a bunch of trivial facts and esoterica that nobody will ask for, and few will be excited to hear. He aches for the ridicule he'll face. He yearns for the bounce and fervor that comes with youth and dies with joint pains and experience.
Lucky kid, he thinks. Don sucks in a breath.
Thatcher's sisters weren't half as easy as he is to raise. Cordelia went and fell in love with a boy on her first day of middle school. Now, anything that isn't Jesse Gavigan struggles to keep her interest. Clementine loved school, but it didn't love her back. Don spent many nights nodding off to the sound of her frustrated tears on the other line as she begged him for help with one subject and the next. He was only ever good at biology, he'd said. She said that was good enough. And she made him believe it.
She's a good kid. They all are.
Cordelia hikes the straps of her dress over her shoulders and smooths the front of it over her thighs. She hopes nobody's noticed how long she's been gone from the party upstairs. She feels her soul spill into her eyes as she looks at him. Sweat beads at his forehead. He straightens his shirt across his chest. His brow is intense, like always, and his cheeks are flushed pink.
She steps toward him. A giggle erupts from her chest and he draws the back of his hand so sweetly across her cheek. She brushes her fingers along the length of his arm and meets his eyes.
"Was that...?" he begins.
She giggles again. "Awesome. Wh-when can I see you again?"
Jesse chuckles and threads his brow a little. "Any time, Cordelia. You call me and I'll be here."
The buzzing in her ears halts just long enough for Cordelia to register the sound of heavy feet plodding downstairs. The plush pink feeling of loving and being loved is sapped from her body with electric intensity. Her pupils shrink. Her face falls. He should go.
"Y-you should go," she says.
"Hey, kiddo." Don surveys the room with a skeptical eye, and follows the boy's receding form as he slips through the garage door. "Your friend didn't have to leave so soon. Party's still going."
Cordelia rolls her eyes and sinks her gaze to the floor. "He was just on his way out."
The alluring call of powdered sugar and baked goods for breakfast beckons Cordelia to the table the next morning. She is reluctant to take a seat between her mother and stepfather, but the promise of syrup and french toast makes the decision for her. The girl slumps into her chair. She trains her gaze upon her plate, worried that Florence might catch her eye and read the details of last night in their depths.
"Good morning, Cordelia," Florence says in her kindly rasp.
The girl nods her reply.
"Your dad told me he scared Jesse off last night."
Cordelia sinks into her seat. "He didn't scare anyone."
"Well, I'd have liked to meet him," Gabe O'Mackey adds in a voice more puckish than his age would intimate.
Having spent a good part of his adulthood raising a teenage girl on his own, Gabe cuts a benign figure in the Delarosa house. He wears cat sweaters and sneaks sweets to the kids when their mother isn't looking. He's a fitting complement to some of Florence's more stringent ideals, but shares that indescribable, unattainable old-world charm that she effortlessly exudes. Their love is ample and their passion shy, but ubiquitous. It shows itself in lively debates over coffee, the brushing of hands as they weed the garden together on Sunday mornings, and the way she waits at the door with a novel in her hands, eager for his return from lecturing at the university.
"I'm sure she'll introduce the two of you when she's ready," Florence hums.
"She doesn't -- you don't have to, Cordelia. I didn't even think to ask -- is everything okay? With you and Jesse, I mean?"
Cordelia groans. "It's fine! Things are fine. Can we eat breakfast and talk about climate change or whatever, please?"
"My God," Florence's nostrils flare. A hot topic. "The ignorance of some people at the Garden Club. I'll never understand."
Clementine and Thatcher come skittering into the kitchen, hands wringing and lips smacking as they survey the space for food.
“Talkin’ about that climate denying bitch Tiffany Zarubin?” Clementine asks the room as she shovels a bite into her mouth.
Thatcher smirks. “She looks like she doesn’t believe in global warming.”
Gabe and Florence nod emphatically.
“Yes, unfortunately.” Florence sighs, her years etched across her face, “Clementine, don’t say ‘bitch’ at the table.”
With a plum in her hand, Florence Delarosa meanders through her garden before finding a seat. She raises the fruit to her lips and crushes the wine colored flesh between her teeth. Bitterness gives way to succulent sweetness as she ponders the life she’s led thus far.
Florence thinks as she appreciates her plum tree, with its fine, unmarred trunk and well pruned branches. She’s done well. Twenty years earlier, the seed was planted in a pile of fertile black earth. Florence herself had cared for it diligently until she placed a shovel in Cordelia’s two small hands. Clementine didn’t have the focus for it -- everything she plants withers away from lack of drink in weeks. But Cordelia, however reluctant, always returns.
Habit and hard work suits her. She shrugs, she whines, complains to her friends, but she’s still in the garden each morning, weeding and pruning and watering and harvesting. She’s getting good. Maybe she loves it. Maybe it’s guilt.
Florence chortles to herself. Maybe so.
She’s done well, she thinks, to grow where she’s planted.
“You’re not going out today?” Thatcher asks with some hesitation.
Clementine frowns pointedly.
“Nope,” she says.
“Not hanging out with Rafael and Santi?”
“Oh, she’s on her way over. But I’ve gotta stay home.”
Thatcher furrows his brow. “Why’s that?”
Clementine takes a deep breath to soothe her nerves. A smile betrays the nervous energy building inside. She bares her teeth.
“I applied to Sim State.”
A wordless pause lingers in the air.
“No...Cordelia applied to Sim State.”
Clementine punches at the boy’s arm. “And I did too, jerk!”
Thatcher snickers. “Clementine, you have to be able to read to go to college.”
She gasps, then takes another shot at him. “I can so read!”
“And he didn’t even say he was kidding. What an asshole! He and Cordelia can just crack open a textbook and get it in minutes, and they don’t even care about school. I would grind my right arm into hamburger meat if it meant I could actually write an essay instead staring at a blank screen for three hours, then stress-crying myself to sleep.”
Leslie Landgraab, a friend to Clementine from time immemorial, rests her arms upon her lap and leans forward. Her laugh twirls through the air like the black tendrils spilling over her shoulders. She shrugs them.
“School stuff is a sore spot for you. Thatcher knows that. He’s obviously just trying to bug you”
Clementine seethes. “Well, it’s working! He gets one chest hair and suddenly he’s making jokes at the expense of my fucking brain. What a dick.”
Leslie smiles. “He’s not so bad.”
“Actually, I think he’s kinda cute.”
“My brother? ...You’re so weird, dude.”
Gabe rises unhurried to a sharp sensation splitting down the center of his spine. His knees chafe as he hauls himself from bed and makes his way down the hall toward the bathroom. He throws open the door and leans in front of the sink. Water gurgles down the drain as the pipes shriek to life. Ge smooths a wet hand across his face, then his eyes adjust. He juts his chin toward the mirror and pinches his brows.
He looks powerlessly at his aged form. His jaw is lost beneath fat and stubble. His belly protrudes beneath his shirt. Creases make themselves seen at the corners of his mouth and under his eyes. He sweeps aside the greyed fringe from his forehead and sighs. He closes his eyes, then smiles softly, remembering.
He opens his eyes, another day older.
He’s surprised to find Cordelia at the kitchen table as he pads softly in to get a head start on breakfast. Something about the expression on her face beckons him to sit, and so he does. They both cringe at the groaning of the chair legs scraping against the tile. As the room settles, so do they.
“Cordelia,” Gabe finally says, “I don’t want to overstep, but...”
Cordelia smirks haplessly. “But you’ll power through.”
Gabe raises his brows with a smile, conjuring the wrinkles on his forehead. “I just want you to know that it’s normal to want to be alone with your partner. It’s not inappropriate or gross, or anything. We don’t want to tease you, don’t want to embarrass you. The main concern for your mom is that you’re being smart about it.”
She squirms in her seat. Her attention flees out the window, to the barren street outside.
Gabe’s shoulders fall and his tense expression eases. “You’re at the age where you’re exploring what you like and what you don’t. All we want is to make sure you can do that without fear of disease or being hurt.”
Cordelia frowns. “Or pregnancy.”
“Or pregnancy. Anything else is none of our business.”
She meets his gaze again, this time a little more confident. “Thanks. I...I’m being smart about it. Trust me.”
“I do.” He nods. “Waffles?”
She grins. He sets to work.
The fumbling of the paperboy outside the front door heralds the rising of the sun. Its warmth chases away the sterile, frigid stillness inside the house and summons Clementine from her bed. She shoves open the front door and crushes pebbles and earth beneath her feet as she chases after the boy’s receding frame.
He glances over his shoulder at her, then quickly averts his eyes. “Uh...goo-good morning?”
She taps her foot in the grass, dewdrops dribbling down her toes. “You have anything for me?”
He gulps and hands her a stack of envelopes. “I just gonna leave this in the mailbox, but you can take it.”
She nods and rifles through the stack. Her stomach knots and she furrows her brow. Finally, her name streams across an envelope accompanied by the logo for Sim State University. The other missives fall from her grasp and onto the lawn. She rends the paper from the adhesive seal and scans the documents inside.
She shoulders open the door and locks eyes with Thatcher as he noodles with his guitar.
“I’m going,” she chokes weakly.
He sets down the instrument. “What?”
She sobs. “I’m going to college.”