Round Robin Chapter 5
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Round Robin Chapter 5

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    Round Robin Chapter 5 Round Robin Chapter 5 Presentation Transcript

    • It was one of the last beautiful days of the year, an unexpectedly warm and clear afternoon in late fall. And while the forecast had been for rain there was no cloud on sight. It was the perfect day for the rooftop wedding of the soon to be Mr and Mrs Green.
    • The ceremony went off without a hitch. Even the gaggle of small children in attendance managed to sit still in in their seats while vows were exchanged, the promise of cake mostly responsible for any good behaviour. Soon rings were being traded, people were clapping and the bridge and groom were kissing and the children instantly surged to their feet and scattered for the nearest non boring things.
    • “Whatchya doing?” Madeleine asked, tentatively approaching Roger and Freddie Butler who had discovered the pin ball machine. “Can I play.” “No! No girls allowed!” Roger declared authoritatively giving first Madeleine then Felicity Cleveland a warning look, the little red head puffed up her chest in indignance. “Fine then I’ll go play over here without you.”
    • Maddie crossly found something else to distract her and wondered where Alice was. If Alice had been around they could have play together. But she was nowhere in sight so Maddie quietly began to play with a little toy car sitting idly by, vrooming it angrily around the floor.
    • She was so caught up in being annoyed at boys that she did not notice there was an obstacle in her way until the red car smashed full speed into a pair of perfectly polished black leather shoes. “Hey!” Maddie cried out indignantly “Get out of my way! Beep Beep! MOVE!” “Young Lady that is not very polite. You ought to apologize for running your toy into my feet.” The pair of legs quickly sidestepped the red car and made their way inside, leaving Maddie no choice but to take a step back to continue her effort of glaring up at the man.
    • “That’s stupid.” Maddie crossed her arms, determined to stand her ground “You should apologize to me for kicking my car. Also, I bet you’re not even supposed to be here anyway. I didn’t see you at the wedding.” Armand DeBateau regarded the small creature curiously “I had a prior engagement for work, I have however come slightly belatedly to give the newly weds my best wishes.” “It’s not ok to be late for things.” Maddie declared “I know that because I’m always trying to be late for school and mommy always says that!”
    • “Then your mommy is a very clever person.” Armand smiled down at the little girl, then attempting to make peace and get her to stop glaring at him with those sharp little brown eyes of her he asked “Do you like cars?” “They’re ok I suppose...” Maddie said warily “I can’t drive real ones yet you know.” She confided. “Is that so?” Armand laughed, warming to the small girl. “I can do lots of other stuff though!” Maddie piped up again quickly “At school I have to do music and I’m really good at that. And I’m really good at colouring! Wanna see some of my drawings? They’re at home.”
    • Before Armand could respond a familiar voice cut across the conversation “There you are Maddie!” Tara smiled, as she spied her eldest “Alice is looking for you. She’s guarding a piece of wedding cake for you quite fiercely actually.” She turned her smile to Armand “I hope she hasn’t been...oh...” Tara’s words trailed off as she recognized her father. For a moment they stared silently at each other. “What kind of Cake?” Maddie piped up obliviously.
    • “I don’t know what kind of cake sweetie.” Tara smiled at her daughter, keeping her eyes carefully off her father “Why don’t you do mommy a favour and run off and find Alice and Daddy ok, can you do that?” She smoothed Maddie’s white skirts carefully. “Of course I can do that.” Maddie smiled “I was just telling Mister here how I can do lots of things.” “Ok, good girl, now scoot.” Tara straightened as the little girl scampered off as fast as she could in search of her sister, leaving her mother and her grandfather alone.
    • “She’s lovely.” Armand said as Tara turned a little hesitantly towards him. “Thank you.” Tara took a deep breath as she examined her father “You look...older” Armand ran one hand ruefully through his white hair “Yes well...the years will do that to you. And you, you look different.” “Well being a parent will do that to you.” “Ah...of course. I must confess, I’ve rather missed it. Being a parent that is.”
    • Tara nodded soberly “I’ve missed having a parent.” “You could’ve called.” “The phone works both ways Dad. And we’re both too stubborn to use it. Besides, I’m not the one who needed to admit I was wrong.” Armand quirked a sad smile at her “I must admit, I was expecting you to call first...to call soon...I thought you would need my help.”
    • “We managed.” Tara smiled and she fancied she saw a little bit of pride at her family’s achievements as he nodded. “Yes I can see that.” He hesitated “It was never about the money Tara you must know that. Fathers always have trouble watching their little girls get married, I thought I was helping you. Helping you to not ere down the same path of heartbreak I’d been down... And I was angry at you, for leaving.” “We both said things we shouldn’t have. Dad I-” “Mommy!”
    • “Mommy I found Alice just like you said, except I wasn’t sure what you wanted me to do after so I brought her back here.” Alice eyed Armand curiously as she followed her sister “Who’re you?” Armand gave a sideways glance at his daughter “I’m a friend of-” “Girls this is Mr. DeBateau.” Tara interrupted “He’s your grandfather.”
    • The girls looked blankly at each other then up at the old man “I didn’t know we had a grandfather.” “Are you sure about this mommy, because I was just talking to him and he didn’t say aaaanything about that.” Tara laughed “You can take my word on this one girls. Now be polite and say hello.” “Hi Grandpa.” The girls chorused obediently, Armand beamed at this. The simple word coming from them made him feel more light-hearted than he had in a long time.
    • “Let me get a look at you two.” Armand knelt down creakily smiling at Alice “You look so much like your mother at her age you know.” “Yeah I know! People keep telling me that!” Alice sounded almost exasperated “Geez. I don’t know why it surprises everyone, I’m her kid!” Armand laughed as he turned to Maddie “And you young Lady look just like your father.”
    • On cue David stepped into the room “Daddy!” The girls cried out happily as Armand straightened “Did you know we had a grandfather?” “I did. Actually you have two you know. Most people do.” “Well how come you never told us!” They traded indignant looks as David raised a questioning eyebrow silently at Tara. She gave an imperceptible nod.
    • “Nice to see you again Armand.” David shook his father in law’s hand politely even as the girls decided they were already bored. “Daddy we’re going to play!” David smiled down at them. “Ok, you two have fun.” The last word was not out of his mouth before they were bolting for the door.
    • “You have two very special little girls.” Armand said as the three adults watched the girls dash around outside. “Three. “ Tara corrected absently “Our youngest is home with the sitter.” “You know...” David put in carefully “It’s her birthday tonight. We weren’t going to make a huge thing out of it, after the wedding today. Just family. Would you like to join us to celebrate?” Armand looked surprised, but he wasted no time in nodding “I would love nothing more. Thank you David.”
    • “Grandpa’s here!” Alice greeted Armand at the door that evening with an enthusiastic hug and a bright familiarity that did not even hint that having a grandfather was a foreign notion to her until that morning. “Good evening Alice.” “Grandpa I’m so excited we’re having cake and soon Eloise is going to be big enough to play with, come on hurry!” Armand laughed “Of course dear but first I have a little something for you!”
    • “For me?” Alice looked curiously at the white and red package. “Yes of course. I believe your own birthday was not long ago, and I missed it so this is to begin making up for it. Your mother mentioned you are quite the energetic active little knee scraper. I think it is good to have an outlet for that sort of thing.” “You bought me an outlet?” “I bought you a basketball. The net will be installed in your back garden shortly.” Alice's face lit up “Cool!”
    • “A piano?” Maddie raised a sceptical eyebrow as her grandfather produced a small box that seemed unlikely to contain the promised instrument “Well...ok, but the one I play at school is a bit bigger than that.” Armand laughed “And so will yours be. This is just the sheet music, as a token. The piano is being delivered tomorrow.” Maddie’s face instantly brightened “You mean I get my own one! That’s so awesome” She hugged his waist quickly before rushing off to find Alice and compare presents, both seemingly completely forgetting it was someone else’s birthday.
    • “Dad you really didn’t have to.” Tara approached her father as he grinned foolishly after Maddie’s retreating back. “I mean not that I’m not grateful, I am...but I don’t want you to feel like you have to buy your way into their hearts. They already love you.” “No, no, it’s my pleasure Tara. I love seeing the smile on their faces...and yours. I’ve missed you very much you know.” “I’ve missed you too...and about all the things I said...I’m sorry. You know I didn’t mean them. Without you I wouldn’t be who I am...I wouldn’t have...them. I’m sorry...”
    • She reached out impulsively and pulled her father into a hug which he returned fiercely “Don’t be sorry sweetheart. I am the one who should be apologizing, again. That young man has brought you a lot of happiness I shouldn’t have doubted him. I was just...not ready for you to leave me so soon. And I was foolish, so I ended up losing you altogether.” “You’ll never lose me altogether. You’re my dad. The only one I have.” Tara swallowed a lump in her throat rapidly “Come on, let’s go get some cake.”
    • The whole family cheered loudly as David brought his youngest daughter to her cake. He considered a little nostalgically that he would miss having a little baby in the house. But his other girls were blowing their party horns loudly and enthusiastically enough to remind him that what came after the baby years wasn’t so bad either. He smiled fondly at all of them before helping Eloise blow out her candles.
    • Unlike her sisters who took strongly after one parent, Eloise was a blend of both, she had her mother’s nose like Alice, and her father’s pointy ears like her Maddie, though the bright red hair fell in such a way to conceal them from view.
    • Her sisters wasted no time in embracing Eloise in the sisterly bosom, which, with Madeleine and Alice and their boundless enthusiasm, was very similar to smothering. Though Eloise didn’t seem to mind. The three girls could often be found spending hours locked away together building imaginary worlds in the nursery.
    • In spite of Maddie’s initial reticence about school, with Alice there she found herself quickly befriending other children. In particular Virginia Butler. The two girls shared a love of banister sliding, bed bouncing, boy tormenting and attempted murder with baseballs. They were best friends in no time flat.
    • But Madeleine also relished the time she got to spend alone. The day after Eloise’s birthday, as promised, her piano was delivered and Maddie took to it in no time flat. She declined her grandfather’s offer to pay for her to have private piano lessons and spent hours bashing away at the keys until noise turned to music.
    • It wasn’t long before she was confident enough in her skill on the instrument to play in front of her family. “YAY! YOU’RE AWESOME!” Alice beamed encouragingly at her older sister. “You sound great sweetheart” Her parents encouraged as the last few notes faded away and Maddie beamed proudly.
    • “My sister is like that guy More Zart!” Alice grinned embracing Madeleine proudly. “What’s that mean?” Maddie looked curious. “I dunno, I read it somewhere. It’s a compliment. Will you play another one!” Maddie beamed under the compliments “Sure!”
    • Maddie slid herself eagerly back in front of the piano and laid her fingers delicately against the black and white keys. Instantly her hands clanged dissonantly against the keys. She frowned and tried again. Again the sound that emerged was a horrible clanging nosie. Unbidden, tears welled up in Maddie’s eyes.
    • “Daaaaadddy” She sniffled, flinging herself into his arms “I forgot how to play!” “Oh sweetie.” David passed a hand across her face compassionately, “I don’t think you have, I’m sure it’ll come back.” He gave Tara an anxious look even as Maddie sniffled into her sleeve. “Alice...can you help mommy with an experiment...” Tara glanced down at the dark haired girl “Will you try the piano for a minute.” Alice looked bemused “What for, I can’t play...” “Exactly.”
    • Muttering something about the silliness of adults Alice slid herself onto the seat of the piano and began to move her hands across the instrument. She had the strangest sensation of knowing exactly what she was supposed to do, even though she had no clue. Instinctively she hit the right note, then the one after that then after that. A short melody played from the piano under her fingers and then Alice quickly snatched her hands away as if burned.
    • The heartbroken look Madeleine gave her as Alice hurriedly turned to face her sister sent a pang of guilt rushing through the little dark haired girl. “You took it...why would you do that?” Maddie demanded “I thought we were friends.” “I’m sorry...I didn’t mean to I swear, it just happened. I’m really sorry!” Alice chewed her lip anxiously. “Now girls.” Tara quickly took Maddie in one arm pulling her to her, the other wrapping itself around Alice “Don’t fight, we just need to have a talk.”
    • It took quite a while of carefully edited explaining for David and Tara to make the girls understand what they had deduced about Alice’s accidental absorption of other people’s talents through nothing more than touch. But by the end of it they had managed to convince Maddie that her sister had not intentionally tried to deprive her of anything. “So are we all good?” “Yes mum” the girls chorused, exchanging apologetic looks. “Ok, good, now you two run off and have fun ok.” And yet as they watched their two girls scamper off cheerfully, David and Tara couldn’t help but worry about what more damage Alice might accidentally cause in the future.
    • “I hope you are aware of how side splittingly hilarious this whole pantomime of normalcy you are acting out is Sammy Dear.” “Good morning Kimberly.” Samantha’s gaze flicked upwards curtly “Don’t tell me I need to renew the protection spell on this place already.” “Of course not dear. Your house is quite impenetrable. However there does not seem to be any magical force bullying me off your roof at the moment so I assume you limited your wards to the inside of the house. Not terribly thorough I must say.” “I’ll do my best to fix that as soon as possible, I promise you.”
    • “You have done quite an impressive job up here I must admit. A garden like this down town, in the cold.” Kimberly’s gaze swept the rooftop garden appraisingly “I see you are growing everything from Rosemary and Rue to Yellow Lilies. Now tell me, this man you married, is he so singularly stupid he has not yet questioned your ability to keep all your lovely plants from freezing to death in this dead winter or have you gone and confessed everything?” When Sam remained silent Kimberly’s lip twitched upwards “I thought not.” she muttered pushing herself lightly off the ledge and drifting down to stand face to face with her sister in a cloud of carefully controlled magic.
    • “You know I was terribly wounded you did not invite me to your wedding, I must say. I expected to be a bridesmaid, all decked out in black just like the old days...But I did watch, from the sky. I must say all those little flower girls in attendance looked delicious, I don’t know how you resisted them. But it seems you have your own little bun in the over for me to consume later on.” Sam laid one hand over her swollen stomach “If you think I will not protect this child you are deluded.”
    • Kimberly burst out laughing “Oh surely you must see how funny this all is Sammy! You, trying to pay your penance. It’s classic! First you go and marry a children’s doctor, but not just any children’s doctor, one who spends his days fruitlessly trying to cure the children we despoiled of a soul. And then you go and begin bringing children into this world to try to make up for those we stole from it in the first place. It is simply too droll!”
    • Kimberly plucked her broomstick from thin air and smiled at the her twin “I wonder when the guilt is going to become so overwhelming that you end up confessing all to that nasty little red headed creature you’ve been befriending. I wonder how she will react when you tell her that we killed her mother...Well...I say we, it was your idea after all. You always had such delightfully...terrible ideas when you weren’t sane. I loved those ideas. But if this sane mind of yours has any intelligence left in it Samantha, you won’t ever tell her a thing. You know as well as I do that no good can come of confessing witchcraft , especially not the daughter of a witch hunter...it runs in the blood don’t you know.”
    • Kimberly’s high pitched laugh stayed with Samantha long after her sister had flown away from the roof.
    • “It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday, it’s my biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirthday!” Maddie was trilling the verse happily to no one in particular as she zipped down the banister of the stairs. “Careful sweetheart.” David warned absently as usual, Maddie barely listening. “It’s my birthday and I’m having a paaaaaarty!”
    • “Hey Alice! Guess what!” Maddie caught sight of her sister as she leapt off the banister and jumped the last two steps “It’s my birthday.” “I know.” Alice replied dryly “You’ve been shouting about it so loud I bet people in space know it’s your birthday.” She looked at her sister a little shyly all of a sudden “So...can I give you a birthday hug before you get all big, or are you going to need to show off on the piano later?”
    • Maddie did not reply instead she just reached out and pulled her sister into a tight hug, and grinned at her as they broke apart “Come on I think my guests are arriving! Let’s go get cake!”
    • Maddie considered over her cake for some time, debating what she should wish for, there was so much she wanted to do, wanted to see, to experience... And then it occurred to her all of a sudden, and grinning mischievously she leaned over and blew out her candles as family and friends cheered, before stepping back and letting the sparkles do their thing and make her a teenager.
    • “Not too bad” Maddie smiled running her hands experimentally over her new teenaged curves “The outfit will have to go, but I can live with this.” “What did you wish for Maddie?” Alice piped up impatiently, arching a dark brow at her now much taller sister. The red head grinned “You’ll understand when you’re older.” Maddie told Alice enigmatically flicking one of her dark pigtails on her way past as the little girl wrinkled her nose. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
    • “You don’t look half bad.” Virginia Butler nodded approvingly at her best friend as she returned to the party in considerably less mismatched clothes. “Thanks...neither do you actually.” Maddie smiled at the other girl who had had her birthday a few days earlier. “I would kill for you legs...” Virginia scoped her friend out enviously “You’re going to have boys knocking down your door to ask you out you know.”
    • “Vee!” Maddie flicked the other girl, lowering her voice conspiratorially “keep it down. Our Dads are right there. Do you want them out buying shotguns?” Virginia laughed “You’re right sorry, we’d better be careful or we’re going to end up locked in some tower in the middle of the woods.” “Or in some convent, away from the reach of all things boy-shaped.” The girls both burst out giggling.
    • “Actually” Maddie piped up, stifling her laughter with one hand “I wouldn’t be all that bothered by the lack of boys...would you?” She gave Virginia a questioning look. The other girl opened her mouth to reply but before she could say anything their fathers interrupted.
    • “What are you two on about?” “Nothing.” Maddie said quickly winking at her friend conspiratorially “Right Vee?” Virginia blushed a little under her tan skin “Nope...nothing at all.”
    • The next day Maddie started high school, and her parents were surprised to find her boarding the bus with no protest and only one sarcastic remark about classes. It had suddenly occurred to her that there were plenty of other things to interest her at school besides the actual learning thing.
    • She returned that afternoon with Virginia and one of her litany of younger brothers in toe. Virginia could barely keep track of her siblings herself, so she hardly expected anyone else to. But Freddie was closest to them in age, and he resembled Vee so much Maddie had no trouble remembering him. “Maddie Doran, when did you get so hot?” Freddie gave her once over while his sister rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry! He’s not staying long. He’s only here because he had to tell mom and dad he was somewhere. He’s heading down the arcade with his idiot friends in a minute. As soon as he creates an alibi by dialling mom and dad from your number.” “Clever.” Maddie nodded appreciatively.
    • “Hey, I don’t have to go anywhere if you don’t want me to Maddie.” Freddie grinned at her in what the red head girl presumed was an adolescent attempt at looking dashing “We could stick around here. Hang out, get rid of my annoying sister. Just the two of us...” Maddie grinned at the boy “And what exactly would we possibly do Freddie?” “We could...get to know each other a little better.” he grinned suggestively at Maddie and she could not help but feel a pleasant tingling sensation all over.
    • “Ok, stop being creepy at my friends now.” Virginia smacked her brother hard around the head. “Ow! Vee! What the hell. I was working here.” “Oh I don’t mind.” Maddie smiled at Freddie who grinned goofily back. “Ok, get moving. Go to the arcade and do whatever you want there. Blow stuff up, drink, hit on the cute girl who runs the till for all I care. Just go.” Obediently but reluctantly Freddie slinked away down the road as Virginia took a firm grasp of her best friend’s arm and guided her inside.
    • “I mean come on! Freddie? Really?” Maddie glanced over at Virginia who was pouting a little as she flipped listlessly through a book on the bedroom floor. Maddie grinned in spite of herself, Virginia had a very pleasant pout after all. “Are you still going on about that.” “Come on he’s my brother Maddie! Ewww.” “He’s cute...he looks like...exactly like you, I mean...of course he’s cute.”
    • “Yeah but he’s an idiot...I mean all he does is hang around all the time with his stupid friends and play video games. You remember when he used to hold down first graders and spit in their mouths right? He’s a jerk. You could totally have anyone you wanted. Why would you want him.” “Wow Vee, if I didn’t know better I would think you were jealous.” “Well maybe you don’t know better.” Virginia snapped in irritation pushing herself to her feet.
    • “He hey hey” Maddie stepped in her friend’s path as the other girl began to huff towards the door “Don’t take it that way Vee.” “Well...how am I supposed to take it.” Virginia pushed a strand of choppy black hair ineffectually from her face, which was still graced with the most charming pouting glare Maddie had ever seen.
    • “Well...” Maddie, looked up at Vee coyly through her eyelashes. It was a look she had been practicing on boys at school all day, they seemed to find it totally devastating, a little anxiously she hoped it might have the same effect on girls...mostly this girl “Maybe I was just trying to make you jealous.” “Really?” Virginia bit her lip anxiously “I...didn’t think you...” “I didn’t know if you either...” Maddie was aware of her cheeks flushing bright red.
    • Seizing her courage with both hands Maddie leaned forwards. The kiss was full of innocence and hesitance, and when they broke apart the two girls looked at each other, shyly once more before bursting into giggles.
    • “So the whole thing of you flirting with my brother...” Virginia looked questioningly at Madeleine as she slipped her arms around her neck, “that was a bluff?” “Well...” Madeleine wrinkled up her nose “not exactly. Your brother is very cute after all...I wouldn’t totally hate getting to know him a bit better.” Virginia pouted again which made Maddie want to kiss her again “Don’t look at me like that Vee! Just...life if full of exciting possibilities lots of different kids of...possibilities I want to try out. And even if I do think some guys are kind of cute, I find you way more interesting.”
    • “Of course you do.” Virginia rolled her eyes imperiously “We are the fairer gender for a reason you know. Boys are idiots. But I’ll forgive you for being less singly focused than most of us if you kiss me again.” Maddie was happy to oblige this request and was very effective in managing to get Virginia to completely forget to be cross with her.
    • “Ok you need to put all this on hold for now.” A small commanding voice sounded from the doorway startling the two girls. Alice cross her arms imperiously over her chest “There will be plenty of time for you to canoodle later. Right now there’s snow outside and Maddie, you promised we’d play! So let’s go!”
    • “Alice, we’re going to have to have a talk about knocking aren’t we?” Maddie gave her sister a hard look which Alice blithely ignored. “Yeah yeah scowl at me all you want. You promised! Now let’s go!” She reached out as if to seize her sister’s hand then remember herself, and quickly pulled away before touching her. “You promised.” Maddie caught the small gesture and felt any annoyance dissipate, she gave Virginia a small smile over her shoulder “Sorry Vee...I did promise.”
    • “Snowman!” Maddie and Alice looked up from their construction to find Eloise gazing happily up “I can help?” She questioned eagerly. “Uuuhhh...I don’t think so squirt.” Alice said bluntly. “Help? Play?” Eloise asked again, anxious to be included. “Yeah yeah sure you can help by playing over there.” Maddie waved a hand at the snow, causing Eloise’s innocent face to break into a huge grin.
    • “Helping!” She laughed gleefully as she began to send the snow flying wildly around her tiny self as her sisters remained involved in their own distraction.
    • “Aren’t you supposed to be like...watching her.” Alice piped up after a few moments. “I am watching her.” Maddie replied, not looking up “Why what’s she doing?” “Putting snow in her mouth. Couldn’t that be bad for her?” “Nah, it’s just water. She’s hydrated this way.”
    • “There all done!” The two older girls stepped back to admire their work “Whatchya think squirt?” Alice looked down at Eloise. The smallest Doran stopped shoving snow in her mouth and looked up at the huge snowman looming over her and instantly burst into tears.
    • “Of for the love of crumb cake.” Maddie sighed scooping up her little sister quickly “Don’t cry, you cry baby, it’s a freakin’ snowman!” “SCAAAARY!” Eloise wailed clinging to her sister as tightly as she could with chubby snowsuit clad arms. “I think it’s kind of badass.” Alice said candidly. “BAAAAADAAAAASSSS!” Wailed Eloise, earning Alice a look from Maddie. “Great Alice. How am I supposed to explain this to mom and Dad?”
    • “I dunno.” Alice shrugged, leaping up to grab a monkey bar, apparently incapable of staying still for more than a few seconds “Just tell them you suck with kids.” “Oh yeah I’ll go and do that right away.” Maddie rolled her eyes “Come on Eloise, let’s get you inside and all warmed up before your party. And if your hands freeze to that thing out here don’t think I’m coming to rescue you.” She shot at Alice turning away, a still clinging Eloise in her arms. “I didn’t think you would, ‘cause like I said, you suck with kids.” “Ignoring you.”
    • Having thoroughly failed to detach Eloise from the death grip on her neck by the time the little girl’s party rolled around that evening, Maddie had the honour of taking her littlest sister to her cake. She grinned down at the little girl. “Ok, so we’re going to go ahead and wish for you to become a little bit less of a sensitive flower with age ok wimpy?” “Ok Maddie! Love you!” Eloise beamed back as together they leaned over the cake and blew out her candles.
    • After blowing out her candles and rushing off to change her clothes Eloise returned in search of her sisters only to find both completely occupied with other activities, such as beating grown men at basketball even though they were only half their size. Leaving little Eloise to rush around earnestly trying to get to know as many people as she could, and see who would be to be her friend in absence of her sisters, before her parents finally packed her off to bed.
    • The following day was marked by yet another party, though for once this one was not at the Doran household. As friends cheered Samantha Green, balanced her son John on the swell of her stomach that prophesized the end of his time as an only child. Samantha felt a mingling of relief and apprehension at the moment. She had done everything she possibly could to protect her son from her sister, and as she blew out the candles she knew it meant both a step away from the safety of her constant supervision and a step towards an age where he would no longer be at risk from her.
    • As cake was doled out and the birthday boy ran off another little girl, looked a little uncertainly around the party. Everyone else seemed to be occupied with people who were not here, and she was aware of a small stab of frustration at the situation of being the baby in every situation.
    • “Hi.” Eloise started as a small voice came from behind her. “Hello!” She turned and grinned brightly at the new arrival. “I’m John Green! It’s my birthday.” He told her earnestly. “I know who you are. Your cake was yummy. I’m Eloise Doran.” “My Mummy baked my cake.” He beamed happily “I helped.”
    • The children smiled foolishly at each other for a moment before John looked away suddenly seeming anxious “My mommy says tomorrow I start school. I don’t know anything about school. Is it hard.” “Nu-huh. School is fun. And there’s lots of other kids to play with.” Eloise explained with such authority no one would ever have suspected she had only just had her first day of school that morning. John rubbed his neck “Gee...I don’t know any other kids.” “That’s ok.” Eloise smiled encouragingly “You’ll know me! I’ll be your friend.” This seemed to cheer John considerably “Do you want to play!”
    • Eloise of course always wanted to play, especially with people who were willing to play with her. She and John spent the better part of the afternoon chucking snowballs at each other, both completely oblivious to the ice dripping down the back of their coats and the gradual numbing of their extremities.
    • So it was that they both had blue lips, bright flushed cheeks and completely numb fingers by the time David appeared to drag Eloise home at the end of the party, and the two children hugged goodbye as if they had known each other for years. “See you at school tomorrow!” Eloise beamed excitedly. “See you tomorrow!” John grinned back.
    • The heavy snow of winter had begun to clear by the time Alice’s birthday came around a few days later. She tapped her foot in impatience as everyone gathered around her and her cake, and wasted no time before eagerly jumping up and blowing out her candles.
    • “Not too bad.” Alice grinned approvingly “This whole thing is going to have to go though.” she tugged distastefully at the hem of the dress. Alice had inherited her mother’s somewhat petite form and the dress did nothing to make her look taller. But Alice had other priorities. Before new clothes there would need to be cake.
    • “So what’ve you decided to be. Other than totally hot?” Freddie Butler grinned at the newly teenaged Alice had he grabbed his own slice of cake and sat down next to her. “Yeah just because I’m younger than Maddie doesn’t mean lines like that are going to work on me.” Look on Armand could already tell his grand daughters were going to prove a handful.
    • “Much better” Alice smiled at her reflection as she examined the way her new clothes hung off her diminutive frame with approval. “Much less ‘hit on me’ much more ‘I hit on you’, or ‘I can just plain hit you’...” she added after a moment of consideration.
    • Alice however did not have time to do any hitting, on, of, or otherwise. She had barely changed her clothes when a police car arrived at the house to disperse the party on the grounds that they were making too much noise. Much to the teenagers’ annoyance, as making noise was their primary goal in life.
    • Soon after Alice’s birthday spring was upon Belladonna Cove, the weather intermittently glorious and unpredictably wet. And Madeleine found that most of the time she didn’t spent with Virginia, or someone else who technically speaking was not Virginia, though she was refused to qualify it as cheating, she spent with her piano. She was actually fairly certain Vee was more jealous of her affair with the inanimate object than the few times she’d caught her flirting with someone else.
    • Others shared Virginia’s dislike of the inanimate object that Madeleine had nicknamed Gertie, but for wholly different reasons. “Maddie. It’s nearly 1 a.m. I can hear that right through the wall! And it is reaching the point that I am going to kill you very very soon if you play any more Stevie Wonder.”
    • “Sorry Alice, but I have to perform at school tomorrow, you know that, and I want to make sure I have this down pat. I’ve never played for anyone other than you guys.” “You have it down pat already. Geez sis. You can take my word for it I’ve been listening to you for the last eight hours.” Alice laid her hand reassuringly on her sister’s shoulder as she said with mock gravity “Even with my head buried in a pillow I can tell that you sound good. So shut up already.” “Ok, but hold on, just let me play you this one part and tell me if it sounds smooth to you.”
    • Maddie settled down at the Piano and began to play, badly. Alice winced as her fingers clanged on the keys. “Sorry...that’s my bad...I didn’t think when I grabbed your arm...I was just trying to shake some sense in you not...you know...shake your skills out of you.” Maddie ran a hand tiredly across her face and Alice felt herself overwhelmed by guilt “You know what, it’s fine.” She said the words with obvious effort “I should probably get some sleep anyway, you’re right. I’ll just, work on it in the morning.”
    • “Sorry Maddie.” “It’s ok...it’s not your fault...just remind me not to accept any good luck hugs from you in the morning.” Maddie tried for lightness, but Alice knew she was dead serious.
    • “It is so moronic that I have to wear dress for this. Wearing a dress does not make me a better pianist. Ok...we have to go already. I can’t be late for my own recital!” Maddie twitched the fabric of her dress anxiously as Eloise galumphed enthusiastically down the stairs. “Maddie you’re going to be so good!” She beamed at her. “That’s the plan.” Maddie took a deep calming breath, before turning to her parents “Just try not to embarrass me with photos or anything.”
    • “We’ll be good.” David pledged, grinning proudly at his first born “Now lets go.” “Everyone all ready?” Tara looked around “Where’s your sister.” “Right here!” Eloise stuck up her hands, worried that she was being overlooked. “I see you sweetie.” Tara laughed, “I meant Alice, has anyone seen her?”
    • “She shoots. She scores.” Alice smiled happily as the basketball swished through the net and she caught it on the first bounce, twirling it in her hands. “The crowd goes wild, before falling into a reverent hush as she lines up her next shot. Aaaaand-” “It’s Alice right?”
    • Alice jumped as a male voice behind her drew her out of her own little world and back into the present. She raised an eyebrow at the boy “Yeah. Do I know you?” He looked somehow familiar but she couldn’t quite place him. “I’m Marcus Baldwin. We have Simlish together.” “Ah right...that class is right after girl’s basketball practice. I tend to sleep through it...” “I’ve noticed.” Marcus grinned at her in amusement.
    • “That’s a little creepy I’m not going to lie.” Alice crossed her arms at the boy and glared “And a bit stalkerish to be honest.” Marcus ignored that jibe neatly “So what’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?” He teased. “Avoiding my sister’s piano recital. For her own good believe it or not. You?” “Came down to practice shooting some hoops actually. But I see it’s a little occupied. You’re pretty good, you know...for a girl.”
    • “And you’re exactly the right level of jackass for a guy.” Alice replied, beginning to turn away. “Well how about a little match then. Winner gets the court.” “Oh you are so on. I hope you enjoy being humiliated by girls Marcus Baldwin. Because that’s what’s about to happen.”
    • In spite of all the smack talk that ensued throughout the game Marcus and Alice were pretty evenly matched. Within a few hoops Alice had forgotten to be angry at him and by the time they were both breathing hard with the effort of keeping up with one another she was actually enjoying herself. He was a worthy opponent at least.
    • Until finally with an unpleasant clunk and bounce, followed by an unmitigated amount of cursing from Alice, she missed a basket. “So if I make this...looks like I win.” Marcus grinned at her, twirling the basketball. Alice licked her lips, salty with sweat “Yeah well, winning the basketball court all for yourself isn’t going to do you much good now. Looks like you’re about ready to collapse.” “You’re right. You’ve given me quite the workout. What do you say we raise the stakes.”
    • “If I make this basket you let me take you out on a date.” “Are you serious?” “Worried I’ll make it? Or that I won’t make it? Or are you just too intimidated to go out with me?” “Oh Marcus, you really don’t know what you’re getting into if you do make this shot.” “So that’s a yes then?” “You have yourself a bet.”
    • Alice didn’t even need to look, she heard the basketball go through in with a satisfying swish of net. Marcus grinned as he leaned towards her. “So I’ll pick you up around seven?” “You got lucky.” Alice countered, though she couldn’t keep the grin off her face. “That’s the idea.” Marcus laughed.
    • “Marcus Baldwin? Isn’t he kind of an ass?” Maddie perched on Alice’s bed. “Yeah but he’s kind of hot...in a weird...ass-ish way.” Alice replied, rummaging through her drawers. “You know who’s hot actually. Sofia. She’s his sister right? The senior. You should totally set me up.” “I have it on good authority Sofia’s straight, and also a in a committed relationship. Don’t you listen to school gossip.” “Psssh, she just hasn’t met me yet.” “A common lament, I’m sure.” Alice muttered.
    • “Also you’re dating Virginia and second-also it would be weird. Come on Maddie, I might actually really like this guy.” “Well in that case I suppose I will have to forgive you for missing my recital.” Alice winced a little, “It’s ok.” Maddie added, smiling a little sadly “I know why you did. And I also know it’s not your fault and you can’t control what you do. You shouldn’t be punishing yourself for it.” “Why do I have nothing to wear.” Alice piped up neatly avoiding her sister’s last comment.
    • “Because you’re not very good at being a girl.” Maddie laughed, allowing for the subject change as she got to her feet “Here...let me.” “No, there will be not sexyfying of me.” “Whatever you say.” “I mean it.” “I know you do. How do you feel about mini skirts.” “I hate you.”
    • Marcus arrived promptly when he promised and Alice managed to drag him away with minimal grilling from her father. Tara just thought the whole thing was incredibly amusing. Eloise bounced around anxious at being excluded from whatever was happening, even though she was unclear what that was and Maddie helped by deciding to kick up a fuss over the fact that David had never given Virginia a hard time when she’d started dating her.
    • “Seriously” Maddie looked mildly put out as Alice and Marcus made their escape “I don’t think I’m asking too much. Just a “Don’t take advantage of my daughter young lady” would totally suffice! I’m hurt that you worry more about Alice’s virtue than you do mine.” “No, of course not sweetheart” David smiled at Maddie indulgently “Just with you and Vee, I think if anyone was going to get the taking advantage speech it would really have to be you. So I’ll leave it to her Dad, how about that?” “It’s very hard to imagine you being taken advantage of honey.” Tara agreed soberly. Leaving Maddie to mutter under her breath as she went to visit with Gertie the Piano.
    • The date was, Alice was forced to confess, a lot of fun in the end. It turned out she and Marcus had a lot in common, from their competitive streak to their joint ability to talk for hours about subjects as wide ranging as basketball to art, after all you didn’t grow up with Tara as a mother without picking up a little bit of knowledge on everything under the sun.
    • “Ok, I’ll admit it. I had a good time.” Alice confessed as Marcus walked her home. “I did too. And you look really beautiful.” Alice made a disgusted noise “Don’t say that. Now I’ll have to admit to my sister that she was right! She spent like twenty minutes obsessing over the inadequate size of my boobs, to put me in a décolleté.” “Sorry...I retract it. You look terrible. Truly repulsive. And your breasts are definitely an inadequate size.”
    • “Shut up.” Alice laughed, taking any bite out of her words. The pair had stopped in the pool of a streetlight, that cast them both with an eerie glow and Alice was keenly aware of Marcus moving towards her. She took a step back “You’re going to kiss me aren’t you.” Marcus, for once, looked flustered “Well...that was sort of the plan yeah...but if you’re not ok with that...”
    • “No no...I’m definitely...agreeable for the kissing. Just...before you do, you should probably know. I’m...bad luck. Like not for me...just...for other people sometimes. People I am close to on a regular basis, they sometimes find I....hinder them in certain things and they get upset. Like a really bad luck charm...and I just think you should know that before we get invested in anything serious...like kissing.” Marcus grinned at her “I didn’t know you were so superstitious. It’s cute.” “I’m not superstitious! And this is not cute. I am in no way cute. I am totally serious and not cute!”
    • “I’m willing to take my chances with you being a bad luck charm. If I get lucky enough maybe I’ll even cancel it out.” “You are a complete ass.” Alice glared at him. “Well” He smiled at her as he pulled her back into his arms “That makes you a kiss ass then doesn’t it?”
    • “So now Maddie and Alice both have a girlfriend and a boyfriend. And they seem to have a lot of fun going out with them. And I asked Mommy why I couldn’t go play with them when they go out at night, ‘cause in the day time they take me to the park and stuff. And it’s not fair. And then mommy said I was too young. And then Daddy said I’d always be too young because I’m his baby girl. So then I went and asked Maddie and she said I’d understand when I was older. So it looks like “Older” is the thing to be these days.” Eloise summed up her story to her friend very seriously as the two swung side by side in her backyard.
    • “So whatchya gonna do?” John asked, pumping his legs and looking at Eloise earnestly as he swung past her. “I dunno...my birthday is in...four days and then maybe I’ll understand.” Eloise wrinkled up her nose. “Well if you want I can be your boyfriend until then.” John offered generously. Eloise looked at him curiously, scuffing her heels in the ground and jumping off the swing, John following her lead.
    • “Really you’d do that for me?” Eloise grinned. “Sure!” John smiled enthusiastically, before suddenly looking concerned “’Cept I’m not sure I know how to be a boyfriend.” “Course you do. We’re friends and you’re a boy! All sorted out!” Eloise looked happy at this decision as she reached out and pulled the boy into a hug.
    • “You two-” David pointed a fork accusingly at his elder daughters “Are a bad influence on her.” “We didn’t do anything!” Alice protested waving a fork emphatically, sending the beans still attached to the end flying. “If anything this is your guys’ fault.” Maddie interjected “For letting us be around impressionable children. We’re clearly not very good role models.” “Clearly.” Alice agreed seriously.
    • “You know sometimes I think you for my basket ball net.” Alice sighed, leaning back as she watched Marcus dribble a few times. “Of course not, I’m just using you for the making out.” “Not funny.” Alice rolled her eyes. Laughing Marcus turned towards her.
    • “Honestly...I’m dating you Alice Doran because you are a very sexy, fun, awesome girl and if I didn’t have you to keep me in line I would probably be an out of control jerk by now.” “Damn straight.” Alice grinned, claiming a kiss unthinkingly. “You should really go home and get showered. My sister’s birthday is tonight. I am expecting you to attend you know.” “Ok...just a few more shots and I’m gone.” Marcus grinned kissing her again.
    • The first shot he took clanged noisily against the rim, the second fell short, the next three went wide of the basket. Alice winced as her boyfriend cursed violently.
    • “What the hell is wrong with me today. I was doing fine a minute ago.” “We talked about this Marcus, remember? I’m not such great luck sometimes...” Marcus looked at Alice suddenly suspicious, as she raised one dark eyebrow at him “This isn’t going to be a problem is it? I thought we cleared this up before we started dating...” “Yeah but I kind of sort of thought you were exaggerating... I actually sort of thought you were being paranoid. I’m not a superstitious guy Alice...”
    • Alice looked at the other boy gravely “You’re not rethinking things are you?” She asked carefully. Marcus’s face cleared a little “No...of course not.” He kissed her reassuringly, then figuring as long as he was going to be short on sports ability anyway he might as well make the most of it he kissed her again, more thoroughly this time. “I should go, get showered, like you said. See you in a couple of hours.” Alice nodded as she released him.
    • That evening the guests for Eloise’s party arrived one by one at the house. Marcus among them. He paused for an instant by his girlfriend’s house, he could see her clearly through the window, laughing with Madeleine. Quickly he spun away and picked up the basketball resting by the wheel of the car.
    • He barely had to take aim. It went in the net with a satisfying swish that filled Marcus with a feeling of disquiet he couldn’t quite place as he turned away to go to the party.
    • Eloise beamed earnestly as her guests gathered around to watch her grow up into a teenager. Finally, she would be older, a member of that exclusive club where she would finally understand. In that last moment of childhood Eloise was blissfully unaware of the way her sister’s boyfriend was carefully avoiding touching her, and the way her other sister’s girlfriend was quizzing Maddie carefully on details of a rumour she had been making out with some girl who was not her behind the gym that morning.
    • Eloise just leaned over and made a wish. From everything she’d heard, clearly being a teenager would be much easier than being a kid.
    • “Is that my dress?” Alice gave Eloise a stern look as the younger girl reappeared after changing clothes to claim her slice of cake. “It was, you said you didn’t want it and it was just sitting in the closet, so I thought I’d try it on and I liked it. Is that ok? Do you want it back.” “Let the poor kid keep the damn dress and stop torturing her Alice.” Maddie rolled her eyes, digging into her own cake “But it’s my dress!”
    • “Oh yeah, if you like it so much, I will pay you ten simoleons to wear it to school tomorrow. I’m sure you’ll look adorable all done up in pink.” Alice muttered something inaudible into her cake and Eloise beamed at her eldest sister as the other red head winked back.
    • “It’s just now occurring to me...we have teenagers.” Tara shook her head as she perched on the edge of her bed, once they had managed to rid their house of guests. “Three of them.” “Mphgargle.” David replied inaudibly, his mouth full of toothpaste, he spat “We’re going to have to tell them soon you know. About...family matters, on both our sides.” “I know.” Tara watched her husband’s back for a moment before blurting out “I’m thinking of quitting my job.”
    • David spit out the remaining tooth paste quickly and turned to his wife “I didn’t know you weren’t happy with your job.” He looked so endearingly concerned Tara couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m not unhappy. Just...working with the ecology lab was great when the girls were young because I could do so much of it from home. But now they’re getting big and they don’t need me around anymore. And it’s not that I don’t like saving the planet but...” David grinned at her “But you love a challenge more” “Exactly.”
    • “So any idea what you’re going to do.” He settled into bed beside her as Tara shifted a little. “Well...actually. I’ve kind of been offered another job.” “Of course you have, you’re brilliant. Where?” “SCIA.” Tara froze as she waited for the reaction.
    • The reaction was for a moment a very long open mouthed stare “You’re going to be a spy...that’s...well...unbelievably sexy...” David said suddenly considering then, quickly remembering himself “and totally dangerous.” Tara wrinkled up her nose “They don’t want me to be a spy per-say. Research and investigation is the official title. You know all those kids who have been getting sick. It seems there’s some worry it might be...intentional. Some mad scientist gone...well...mad or something. They want me to look into it. And it got me thinking...if it were our kids wouldn’t you want someone to do something about it?” David gazed adoringly at his wife “You’re an exceptional person, you know that.”
    • “Just...promise me you’ll be careful, SCIA is dangerous and those other kids, they’re not worth ours becoming motherless.” “David I’m just going to be working in an office lab...thing. It’s totally safe.” “Uh-huh. Are they training you for combat?” “Maybe a little.” “Then I’m standing by my “be careful”, you’ve seen too many kung-fu movies you know.”
    • Tara laughed as he gathered her up in his arms “I’ll be careful on one condition. You be slightly more legal with your work in future.” “Hey! I resent that.” He grinned taking the bite out of his words. Tara flicked his ear “I’m serious. I really don’t want to have to arrest you.” “You won’t. Because I am careful.” Tara opened her mouth to retort but David ended the argument by kissing her and after that they completely forgot what they had been talking about.
    • And that is the end of a chapter, very accelerated with a lot of dating and cake, which means it’s time for some stats. Madeleine Doran: Romance, LTW: 20 Simultaneous Lovers Alice Doran: Romance, LTW: Celebrity Chef Eloise Doran: Popularity, LTW: Mayor I will see you extremely soon with the last chapter from me for this Generation! Until then I hope you’ve enjoyed 