Ehl 1pt5 3 musketeers 2


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As the first generation begins to grow up, new friendships begin, old ones grow, oaths are sworn, and parties have cake.

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Ehl 1pt5 3 musketeers 2

  1. 1. The Three Musketeers Part 2<br />
  2. 2. “Ara, where are we?” Achenar asked as they trekked down the dirt road, recently plowed clear of snow. Spring wasn’t far off, but the winter chill and drifting white flakes had yet to abate.<br />“We’re going to the Greenleafs’ house,” his sister replied from ahead of him, “Nymea and Rean invited me over, because Nymea becomes a teen today.”<br />“Then why’d you bring me?”<br />“They told me to bring a friend, and they have a little sister who’s the same age as you,” Aranel explained.<br />
  3. 3. “Oh, Okay,” Achenar replied, “but I’ve gotta leave soon, because Calla and Elir are inviting me over. Calla says we’re all probably best friends.”<br />“Really,” Aranel replied shortly, trying to keep the jealousy out of her voice. It wasn’t so much that she didn’t want him to be friends with the twins – they were too little to be proper friends for her anyway – but that things were just so easy for him. Though she’d befriended a couple of kids at school, there were still days when they teased her about her pointy ears and odd clothes. She couldn’t honestly say she had a best friend outside of her family, and now her baby brother had two, without even trying.<br />At that moment, the occupants of the house came running out to greet them.<br />
  4. 4. “Hey,” drawled the girl, close to Achenar’s age, who came to greet them, as she slowed to a slouchy stop, “You’re here for my sister’s party?”<br />“Oh, hi Idalese,” Aranel replied, sounding a little less than enthusiastic, “Where’s Nymea?”<br />“Dunno,” Idalese replied, before looking around absently, “Who’s that?” she added, pointing at Achenar.<br />“My brother,” Aranel replied coolly. <br />Idalese shrugged. “Wanna play cops an robbers?”<br />Achenar shook his head but didn’t say a word. The girl had no idea what she was getting into.<br />
  5. 5. “Hi,” the brown haired boy who had just reached them said as the two girls began to jump around, “I’m Rean. You must be Aranel’s little brother.”<br />Achenar sighed inwardly. He had known that coming to see Aranel’s friends from school wouldn’t be the same as hanging out with Calanthe and Elirand, but he had hoped that he wouldn’t be treated like a little kid. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to be friendly to them.<br />“I’m Achenar,” he replied.<br />
  6. 6. Before he could say anything else, a redheaded girl ran up. “Hey, Hiyah, I’m Solevig,” she babbled, “Ida said come at ten, where’s the party?”<br />Achenar blinked at the girl’s lightning fast speech as Rean turned away from him to greet the newcomer. “You and Achenar can play with Ida,” he instructed her seriously.<br />“New kid?” she asked, looking curiously at Achenar, her head on one side like a bird.<br />“Ara’s kid brother,” Rean explained pompously, “And you elementary school kids should probably go inside before you freeze.”<br />
  7. 7. Once inside, Solevig and Idalese settled down to lazily float toy cars through the air, sitting as close as they dared to the big girls. Nymea and Aranel, who considered themselves too old for such childish amusements already, sat close together on the floor to have a long talk. They ignored the younger girls entirely. <br />Rean and Achenar stood awkwardly. It was clear to Achenar that no one really wanted him here. Nymea thought he was too little, Idalese didn’t care a fig whether he was there or not, and Rean was obviously only being polite.<br />
  8. 8. “So what do you think junior high will be like?” Aranel asked Nymea curiously. She was a little jealous that her friend would become a teenager before her, but she was more interested in what the future held. <br />Nymea shrugged as if it were all old news. “Bigger. Taller people. Oh, and I heard that we get to chose some of our own classes.”<br />“Does that mean I don’t have to take simlish anymore?” Ara asked eagerly, “I hate grammar worksheets!”<br />“No. We still hafta take the four basic classes, math, history, simlish and science, plus gym.” She made a face.<br />“I like gym,” Aranel protested, “It’s lots more fun than the other classes. And you can bean people with dodge balls. Plus, it’s time out of all the boring classes.”<br />
  9. 9. “Well, I don’t.” Nymea replied as if that settled everything, “Coach is a meanie and I hate having to do what he says. Besides, the games are dumb anyway.”<br />“Betcha there’s better ones to play in junior high. But what classes can we pick?”<br />Nymea shrugged, “Art, music, drama. Oh, and there’s a cooking class and a shop class, plus a computers class. Or if you don’t like any of them, you can take study hall. We’re supposed to pick two.”<br />“Easy,” Aranel replied, “Music and Art.”<br />“Ew, no!” Nymea objected, “Please, Ara! Music’s for geeks, and people who take art are loners. I thought you wanted us to be the most popular girls in school.”<br />“We will be,” Aranel replied.<br />
  10. 10. “Not if you’re going to become a band geek.” Nymea replied dismissively.<br />“Even you don’t get to call me a geek, Nymea,” Aranel objected, eyes narrowing, “for one thing, I can and will kick your butt at anything you want. For another, knowing people from art and music means I’ll have more friends, because I’ll be the most awesome person there. You can bet on that.”<br />Nymea couldn’t argue with that logic. But she hid a smile, since she knew at least one thing that her friend didn’t. In the meantime, she changed the subject.<br />“Okay. I’m just glad I won’t be riding the bus with Rean and Ida anymore. They’re such losers!” She said it loudly enough that Rean, who was sitting behind Ara, could hear. He shot her a hurt look, while Idalese continued making loud rocket noises.<br />
  11. 11. Aranel nodded. “I know what you mean,” she said, “My baby sister’s just the same. But she makes stupid noises like your sister’s doing with that rocket because she can’t talk yet.”<br />“She won’t get better after she’s a kid,” Nymea warned, “I thought all toddlers were annoying, but the little tagalongs only get to be worse. She’s still just a whiny little baby.”<br />“Brothers are more awesome,” Aranel agreed.<br />“No way,” Nymea declared firmly, “Rean’s a pathetic loser. All boys are – look, he’s playing by himself because he has no friends, and your brother’s talking to the nanny. Both of them are weirdos.”<br />
  12. 12. Everyone in the room heard it and turned to look at the birthday girl, including Achenar, who just stared. Aranel’s mouth twisted as she hitched herself forward by wrapping her arm around her knees.<br />“Take it back, Nymea,” she ordered. “If you don’t say you’re sorry and you didn’t mean it right now, I won’t be your best friend anymore.<br />Nymea scoffed. “Who says I need you for a best friend? Once we go to junior high, I bet I’ll make tons more friends than a band geek like you.”<br />“But if you don’t take it back, I’m going to leave your party,” Aranel threatened, “And since you just insulted everyone else here, I’m pretty sure it will ruin your whole birthday.”<br />
  13. 13. Nymea thought about it. “Okay, whatever,” she replied, “Your brother isn’t a complete loser. Now can we stay friends?”<br />“Actually, my little brother is pretty awesome as far as little kids go,” Aranel replied stubbornly, giving Nymea a glare. “And I’m going to walk him to his friends’ house once we have lunch. If I feel like it, I’ll come back to your party later.”<br />
  14. 14. Lunch was quiet. Achenar sat by Aranel and didn’t say a word. Idalese and Solevig made slow conversation at the end of the table, with Rean occasionally speaking up. Nymea and Aranel eyed each other levelly. Nymea stuffed her face, pretending not to care.<br />Aranel ate more politely, but scowled. Nymea had to learn not to pick on Achenar. Once she got that down, they could be friends. But it wouldn’t do to tell her that out loud. She was going to be the one in charge, since she was going to be heir. <br />“See you in junior high,” was all Aranel said when she and Achenar walked out of the door.<br />
  15. 15. Should there be a bit about Ara and Enar talking on their way home? Maybe.<br />
  16. 16. Earlier…<br />“Well, kids, it’s a new house.” Talon declared brightly, “how do you like it?”<br />Chalimyra grinned. “It’s gorgeous,” she replied, “Just look at that lake!” If she was perturbed by the loss of the home in which she had spent the early years of her marriage, she showed no sign.<br />“It’s pretty, dad, but what was wrong with our old house?” Calanthe asked.<br />“Well, um…” Talon fumbled.<br />Fortunately for him, I decided to take things in hand.<br /><It was glitched.> Everyone jumped a little. I really need to talk to these sims more often.<br />
  17. 17. “What was that?” Elirand whispered in his sister’s ear.<br />“Just scribbles,” Calla replied merrily, “Weren’t you paying attention when mom and dad explained about her on our birthday? She’s the one who takes care of time, and laws of physic and stuff.”<br />“No,” Elirand admitted, “And what are those laws of… of psy – fisic? Mom always talks about her work, and she’s never mentioned those. Also, what kind of head judge speaks out of thin air?”<br />“Not Laws, laws,” his sister explained. “Science stuff.”<br />Elirand’s heart sank. “We really need to go to school soon, don’t we?”<br />
  18. 18. Before they began unpacking, Calla called up the Elvensong household.<br />“Uh huh Mrs. E,” she said, “Achenar can come over after lunch. No, I’m sure. Daddy said it was all right, since there wasn’t lots to unpack. We got new furniture and everything.”<br />“…..”<br />“It’s not really far, no.”<br />“Tell her we have a beach,” Elirand interjected. His sister made shushing motions with her hand as she listened. <br />“Okay, thanks a lot Mrs. E.” Then she turned to her brother and gave him the thumbs up. “He’s coming,” she said, her face breaking into a big smile.<br />
  19. 19. Achenar was worried as he walked slowly down the sidewalk. Tomorrow was his first day of school, but now that he’d been to the Greenleafs’ house, he wasn’t sure that anyone there would like him. <br />Of course, an excited screech was all that it took to break in on his thoughts.<br />
  20. 20. “You hafta come see this!” Calanthe exclaimed, “The beach is amazing!”<br />Achenar looked around and concluded that the beach was amazing. The sand was yellow and looked warmer than it should have been, and the lake sparkled invitingly blue in the distance. The snow had mostly melted away during the time he had been at Nymea’s party, leaving nothing but puddles behind in the late winter sun. It didn’t seem like winter any more. In fact, it was almost spring like.<br />
  21. 21. “Here, you guys finish this: we need shells for the top.” Elirand was already deep into the process of piling up sand when Calanthe and Achenar made it down to the beach.<br />“What’s that?” Achenar asked, puzzled. <br />“Um, I dunno,” Elirand admitted, scratching his head with sandy fingers, “but the sand’s great. It’s not at all like grass, because you can dig in it and build stuff with it.”<br />
  22. 22. Calanthe settled happily down to work, eyeing the blob of sand speculatively. “What do you think we should make it, ‘Enar?” she asked.<br />“Definitely a castle,” he replied, “No, wait: a fortress!”<br />“With a tower!” Calanthe exclaimed, instantly warming to the idea, “And a drawbridge!”<br />
  23. 23. All three of them dug in eagerly. For a little while, Achenar forgot his worries. School on Monday couldn’t be that bad… after all, he already had two best friends. And Calanthe’s smile was contagious.<br />For a happy half hour, they chattered about the details of their sandcastle, tearing into the damp sand and smashing it into shape beneath their hands. <br />
  24. 24. As the sun began to sink from it’s zenith, the sandcastle grew beneath their hands and in their minds. <br />“It’ll be the best castle ever,” Calla declared proudly.<br />Achnenar smiled. “You really think so?” he asked.<br />“Of course,” she shrugged, “It’s awesome because we made it. And we can make more every day after school from now on.”<br />It all came crashing down at that moment. <br />“You think we’re ready for school?” Achenar asked nervously, <br />
  25. 25. “Of course,” Calanthe answered immediately, “Why wouldn’t we be?”<br />“Well, other kids whose birthdays aren’t on the weekend go to school right away,” he replied worriedly, “so we’ve already missed two days. What if we’re behind?”<br />Calanthe shrugged. “We’re probably better prepared,” she told him, “think of all the stuff we’ve done that we wouldn’t have gotten to do normally. Lots of kids just wake up the morning after their birthday and go to school without knowing anyone there. This way at least we can all go together.”<br />He nodded, a small smile forming on his face.<br />
  26. 26. All three of them straightened up and brushed off their sandy hands, looking at the castle that had finally risen out of the sand.<br />
  27. 27. “Now what do we do?” Elirand asked.<br />“It’s a castle,” Achenar replied slowly, thinking, “so someone has to attack it and we can defend it.”<br />“Wait a minute,” Calanthe interjected, “how are we going to attack the castle? If we step on it, it’s going to fall down.”<br />
  28. 28. “Simple,” Elirand replied with a grin, flourishing a large red water balloon. “We have an epic water-balloon fight.”<br />“Wait for me to come back,” Calanthe instructed him, before turning and running back up the hill to the house.<br />“Fraidy cat!” Elirand yelled after her, “It’s just water!”<br />“Mom told me not to get my dress wet, so there,” she replied from the back porch, sticking her tongue out at him, “so there. I’m gonna get my swimsuit.”<br />“I’m not waiting for that,” Elirand grumbled as the door closed behind her, “That’ll take all day.” <br />
  29. 29. He looked from side to side and then grinned. “Think fast!” he exclaimed, bursting the balloon in Achenar’s face.<br />“Hey! Not fair!” Achenar sputtered, dripping, “Calla said to wait.”<br />“She’ll be back out in a minute,” Elirand replied, “Or are you too much of a baby to start without her?”<br />“Oh, you’re going to get it for that,” Achenar promised, laughing. “Now where did you hide all the water balloons?”<br />
  30. 30. After half an hour, all three of them flopped down on the rocky promontory, exhausted. Their water balloon fight had ranged up and down the beach, until they had spied a gap in the large rocks collected at the far corner of the lakefront, leading out to a narrow and sandy spit of land, protected from the crashing waves by the boulders surrounding it. Occasionally, a vigorous wave threw a sheet of fine spray up over the tops of the boulders, and it rained down on the trio of explorers.<br />“Wow,” Achenar looked around at the rocks that towered above them and hid the twins’ house from view, “This is amazing.”<br />
  31. 31. “Probably no one knows about it but us,” Elirand agreed. “It’s like a super-secret hideout.”<br />“Betcha no one would be able to find us if we hid out here,” Achenar added enthusiastically.<br />“It’s our fortress,” Calanthe said dreamily, watching the sparkle of the waves, “Our very own castle. But we have to defend it: so long as we remain true, no one can capture it.”<br />
  32. 32. “True to what?” Elirand asked his sister as a brief cloud passed overhead.<br />“To us, of course,” she replied, leaning forward confidingly, “To the Three Musketeers. But first we have to swear an oaf.”<br />“Oaf or oath?” Achenar asked.<br />“The second one,” she replied, waving a hand, “Like knights do before they go on a quest. They swear that they’ll finish it, no matter what, and always continue until the quest is over or they die.”<br />“Die? You’re taking this too seriously, sis.”<br />“Well, they take it seriously. But that isn’t our oath.”<br />
  33. 33. “Then what is it?” Achenar asked, ignoring the sudden waterfall of spray that drenched his back.<br />“Our oath is a very special oath,” Calanthe began in a dramatically solemn voice, holding up her hands, “We three were born on the same day, at the same hour --”<br />“Not exactly,” Elirand interrupted.<br />“Close enough,” Calla replied, shooting him a glare, “Now, I was saying, because we were all born so close together, we share a magical connection. Together, the three of us can do what no one can do alone. But if we’re apart, it’s no good. So today we all have to swear that we’ll never let anyone separate us, and that we’ll always work together to help each other.”<br />
  34. 34. Achenar nodded. “All for one and one for all.”<br />“Yeah,” Elirand nodded enthusiastically, “like the original musketeers. But I wish you’d picked something awesomer, Calla. We could have been superheroes – the three musketeers didn’t have any cool powers.”<br />“But we can travel around the world together,” Achenar put in, “and we’d have to be grown-up to be superheroes. Plus, superheroes are only there when the world needs to be saved. They don’t get to do fun stuff.”<br />
  35. 35. “Are you gonna swear or not, Elir?” Calla asked, leaning back. “Or are you a fraidy cat?”<br />“Of course I’m gonna swear,” Elirand huffed, “only you haven’t said the oath yet. You made it up, so you have to go first.”<br />“Before you do, you should put in something about time,” Achenar added, “We have to swear to be best friends for all of time, no matter how old we get.”<br />“Deal,” Elirand said immediately.<br />“All right then.” Calla took a deep breath. “Repeat after me. Only use your name instead of mine.” They nodded. “I, Calanthe Vespertine Elkthorn do solemnly swear…”<br />
  36. 36. That from this day forward, at school and at home, I will always be loyal to my two best friends. No matter how much time passes, or how old we get, I will always be on their side and help them whenever they need it. I will keep their secrets better than I keep my own, and tell them no lies. What one of us cannot do alone, the three of us will do together. Each one of us will do everything together, and if one is separated by forces outside our control, they will return. We will live by the oath of the Three Musketeers, “All for one and one for all,” putting each other before ourselves and relying on each other until the end of time. This I swear by everything I know, cross my heart and hope to die.”<br />
  37. 37. “So, which would be easier for all three of us to go on an adventure with?” Achenar asked an hour later, as the three of them sat in the middle of the dining room, the sounds of Aranel’s birthday party ringing around them.<br />“Well, we could escape from your sister pretty easy on a rocket ship,” Elirand replied sourly. Though Aranel had greeted them at the door, he was still angry that she had announced that she wasn’t playing with the “little kids” as soon as her friend Nymea had arrived. <br />“I think a boat would be cool,” Calanthe put in, “because we could launch it from our house!”<br />
  38. 38. “So if your family’s so rich, how come there’s not much furniture?” Nymea asked as Aranel lined up for her shot, “And I don’t see any of those paintings you said you made either.”<br />“Mommy took them down today because the new wing’s being built,” Ara replied, “And we’re going to get the rest of the furniture when it’s finished, she says.”<br />Nymea shrugged. “It’s still not much of a party. I was expecting more decorations and stuff, given that your mom’s a famous lecturer and your dad’s a surgeon. They must not want to make this a big deal.”<br />
  39. 39. “This is the third party this weekend,” Aranel protested, “Darn it Ny! You made me miss my shot!”<br />“You play darts like a baby,” Nymea replied huffily, “I didn’t make you miss anything. Your shot sucked already, without me having anything to do with it. Don’t blame me if you’re terrible at darts.”<br />“I am not!”<br />
  40. 40. “That’s such a stupid, babyish thing to do,” Nymea said, “Trying to start an argument just because someone told you you’re not good at something. But you’re still just a kid, I guess you can’t handle admitting it.”<br />“I’ll prove to you that I’m good at darts,” Aranel replied angrily, “Why, I beat my brother every time. I can even get a bulls eye!”<br />“Your brother is barely out of diapers,” Nymea said as the second shot went wild, “How hard could it be to beat him?”<br />
  41. 41. The third shot thunked into the wood. Aranel surveyed the results ruefully as it quivered in the far corner of the board.<br />“You know I can do better than that,” Aranel protested as Nymea smirked and collected the darts, “Now let’s see how you do when I distract you talking about money and furniture and stuff.”<br />“You can’t be that good if one little question distracted you that bad.”<br />
  42. 42. “Aw, come on Ny! Why do you always have to be like that?”<br />“Don’t call me Ny. It’s a stupid, childish nickname and I’m too old for it. And now you’re whining like a little kid. I can’t believe you’re going to be a teenager in a couple of hours.”<br />“I’m not whining,” Aranel protested, “And you didn’t mind me calling you Ny yesterday.”<br />“Yesterday I wasn’t a teenager,” Nymea replied with a shrug, “That’s how it is. You’re a little kid one moment and the next you’re too old for these childish things. They’re not cool, and no one at school is going to like you if you don’t give them up: they’re just going to think you’re a whiny little baby.”<br />
  43. 43. “Good news, Viri,” Eluisa began, unable to restrain her grin as the redhead approached her.<br />“You found her? How is she? Is she sick? Is the baby all right? Does she have a job? Does she need money, someplace to stay?”<br />“She and the baby are healthy, yes,” Eluisa replied, “I didn’t ask about the job or money – don’t frown at me, we were in company, how could I? – but I do know she has a place to stay.”<br />“With someone?” Viridia asked sharply, “Elu, you know that –”<br />“No, I didn’t ask,” Eluisa interrupted, “but I have eyes, you know, and believe me when I say that this place is what she wants.”<br />
  44. 44. “What she says she wants, you know she’s too proud… why didn’t you bring her back here with us, where she belongs? She shouldn’t be out there - she’s probably staying with some strange man just to keep a roof over her baby’s head - and you didn’t even think to bring her back to her friends who can help her. Why didn’t you make her come back?”<br />Eluisa sighed. “Well, first of all, she said she didn’t want to come.”<br />“And you believed her?” Viridia’s voice was rising, “Don’t you even remember? There is some man, he’s making her say that, just so he can stop her from being able to leave!”<br />
  45. 45. “Maybe she’s not! Maybe she does have a job! She could be married for all I know, it’s been a year! Don’t you think she wouldn’t want to leave her husband and his kid?”<br />“Well, did you look to see if she was wearing a ring?”<br />“No, but it was dark and that’s not the point! I found her, she’s all right! We’ve got her back now and we don’t need to worry anymore!”<br />“But just because you’ve seen her doesn’t mean she’s all right!” Viridia burst out, “It doesn’t mean she’s not hungry, unemployed, homeless…”<br />“Happy? Maybe she’s happy, Viri. Maybe she doesn’t like to depend on anyone. She’s proud, and maybe there’s dignity in being able to take care of your family without anyone’s pity. I don’t know.”<br />
  46. 46. “Do you really think she can be happy? Elu, she ran away to an unfamiliar place, she has a baby out of wedlock and hardly any skills, and she had almost no money when she left. It’s hard enough to raise a child with a roof over your head and two people’s income. Do you think she’s happy, living in some trailer or run-down apartment? Could you be happy, living like that?”<br />“I wouldn’t make myself miserable by dwelling on what I didn’t have, if that’s what you mean.”<br />
  47. 47. “Elu, you know that she belongs here, where we can help her.”<br />“You want to know the truth, Viri? She’s ashamed. She knows that she’s made bad decisions, but she also knows that if she came back, you’d just try to wipe it all away. Maybe she feels guilty about getting into a situation where you want to swoop in and save her. Maybe she’d feel guilty if she accepted your help.”<br />“I don’t see why she should be too proud to take help from her friends! After all, last time we –”<br />“Last time we helped her to run away. This time it’s us she’s running away from.”<br />
  48. 48. “How can you even say that? We’re trying to help her!”<br />“But it’s true. Listen to yourself, Viri, every minute you’re saying she should do this or that, she belongs here: you want to help, but by helping you’d just make her decisions. We helped her run away from people who took away all her decisions.”<br />“Don’t even suggest –”<br />“Just ask yourself what could possibly make her not want to come back,” Eluisa snapped back at her.<br />
  49. 49. There was a moment of silence. “I’m not going to go see her then,” Viridia said softly, “If this is how she chooses to live her life, running away from all her mistakes, then fine. But if she’s going to run away from her friends, then I’m not going to go and beg her to come back. In fact, I’m not even going to –”<br />“Viri, be reasonable –”<br />“Just let her go then! She doesn’t stop to think about how much we must have worried, how long we’ve looked for her –”<br />“She only needs time –”<br />
  50. 50. “Attention! Hey guys, over here!” Ara paused and then, seeing that she did indeed have the attention of the whole room, proceeded at a less ear-splitting volume. “It’s five thirty-five, and this takes a while, so everyone gather around the cake now. Yep, just like that.” She smiled, “Now before anyone asks, I’m not telling you what I’m going to wish for, so don’t ask!”<br />
  51. 51. Viridia turned away from Eluisa, still scowling. Fortunately, her daughter was busy laughing at something Calanthe had said, and didn’t see.<br />“That’s right, Calla! Shortest in front, so everyone can see.” Aranel grinned widely as everyone circled around her, unaware of the tension between friends, the secrets, the dissapointment, jealousy and petty bitterness, and the lack of one elven immigrant in particular. Every person who was a part of her life was gathered here around the table now, and that was what mattered.<br />
  52. 52. Smiling at her father, Aranel said, “Well, isn’t anyone going to sing the birthday song?”<br />Haldir and Chalimyra were the first to start, out of tune with one another at first. Nymea scowled, first at Chalimyra, then at the birthday girl, feeling the unfairness of it all. She just didn’t understand why everyone went out of their way to oblige these stupid, childish requests. And when the voices of the crowd melded at last into a sort of harmony, she refused to lift hers.<br />The song trailed off, and broke into a chorus of cheering, with the spinning of noisemakers and the blowing of paper horns.<br />
  53. 53. All around Viridia, the cheers and excitement seemed to dim. It was at that moment she saw, as clearly as if they stood before her, all of her children walking away into the distance, never looking back. Was this how her mother had felt, knowing that once Viridia left their village, she would never come back? She couldn’t do it, couldn’t face it… I knew they’d grow up, she told herself firmly, I knew they’d start to leave me, begin walking down the path that I can’t follow. I knew when I decided to leave Elphemerea that I would be loosing the family and friends that stayed behind. But I never expected that I could be separated from the ones that came with me.<br />I didn’t know how much it would hurt.<br />
  54. 54. “Wish for something good!” Elirand called out.<br />“Don’t worry, I will!” said Aranel, before putting her head to one side to consider. Of all the wishes in the world, what wish would she make? There were so many good things that came to mind.<br />She smiled, because there really had never been a question of what to wish for. She already knew what she wanted most, and had in fact made her wish.<br />For a second, she wondered if having said it out loud before she wished it would stop it from coming true.<br />
  55. 55. I want them all to like me best.<br />
  56. 56. And with her wish, the lights surrounded her, lifting her feet from the ground. The feeling of flying was all too familiar, and for a moment she regretted that she hadn’t remembered to include it in her wish.<br />But even as she thought it, the lights faded into her skin, and the tickling of their firefly dance ran briefly through her body before blazing forth one last time into the day.<br />
  57. 57. Her hair burst from it’s bun to fall over her shoulders, and she blinked a little as the afterimage faded. She’d expected to be taller, but she was still acutely aware of the fact that her legs were longer, her elbows pointier, her whole body unfamiliar.<br />She raised a hand to brush hair out of her eyes, and discovered that a strand of it had made its way into her mouth as well. <br />“This has got to go,” she muttered, “There’s just too much of it.”<br />Then she looked down, and her hair was driven out of her mind.<br />_____________<br />Aranel turned into a pop sim, with the lifetime want to become the mayor. I should also remind you that her stats are 4/6/9/5/1.<br />
  58. 58. “Okay, the pants can stay for now, but the shirt belongs to a kindergartener,” she announced. Then, noticing that Nymea was snickering, she frowned. “What? Don’t tell me you had any better luck!”<br />The other teenager stopped snickering, but raised an eyebrow ironically. “You really want to keep the mom-jeans? That’s what everyone at school’s forty year old mothers will be wearing.”<br />“I have a lovely dress for you in the dresser,” Viridia put in quickly, “Why don’t you go and –”<br />“Nah… Cake!”<br />
  59. 59. “All right, here’s the plan,” Aranel announced to her friend as soon as they sat down, “You and I are going to meet as many people as possible tomorrow, so that we can have as many friends as possible. That way, everyone will want me to be the heir.”<br />Nymea, who had just stuffed her first bite of cake into her mouth, couldn’t reply, so Aranel just went on.<br />“Since you don’t want to take band or art, we’ll split up for electives so that we can meet more people. Also, make sure to invite anyone who seems cool to our lunch table, because that way we won’t just be in the popular crowd, we’ll be the ones who decide who’s in it.” She stopped and grinned , “I give it about a week before we start getting invited everywhere.”<br />
  60. 60. “Okay,” Nymea replied once she’d chewed and swallowed, “But are you sure you want to take band? You won’t meet any cool kids there.”<br />Ara shrugged, “Well, if none of them turn out to be cool, they’ll pretty much worship me as the coolest person in the class.”<br />Nymea raised an eyberow, “You’d just better not look like a band geek when you show up to school,” she replied. “Put on some makeup – sneak it from your mom if you have to, mine’s so old-fashioned she doesn’t think I should wear any – and wear cool clothes. So no mom pants.”<br />“No mom pants – check.”<br />“Put your hair up, too – only emo girls and shy nerds let it hang in their eyes.”<br />“See, this is why you’re my best friend. I wouldn’t have thought of that.”<br />
  61. 61. She immediately turned her attention to her plate and began shoveling the cake into her mouth.<br />“Ew, Ara!” Nymea said, pulling her plate away.<br />“What?” Aranel asked , wiping frosting from her chin with a finger.<br />“Have you never heard of napkins? Or maybe manners?” Nymea hissed disgustedly, “It’s one thing for little kids to shove the whole slice in their mouths –”<br />“And you’re suddenly the eating police because…?”<br />
  62. 62. “One: it makes you look like a pig. No one is going to like you if you eat like your food’s going to run away. I can hardly stand to be at the same table as you when you hunch over and start stuffing your face, and I’m your best friend. Imagine what will happen if you do that at lunch.”<br />Aranel’s face fell. “I didn’t think of that,” she said quietly, “Do you really think they won’t like me?”<br />Nymea looked long and hard at Aranel. “Well, if you fix up your table manners and we make you pretty, then maybe they will,” she replied with a shrug.<br />“Make me pretty?” Aranel asked, nonplussed.<br />“Well, you’re not going to be pretty on your own.”<br />
  63. 63. Up until ten minutes ago, Aranel hadn’t cared at all what she looked like. Now all her awkward new angles and curves all seemed to poke out grotesquely. Still, she wasn’t going to shy away from the facts.<br />“About me… how not-pretty are we talking about, exactly?”<br />Nymea shrugged. “I’m sure there are worse.” Then, seeing Aranel look disappointed, she continued, “It’s not so much that you’re hideous: you could be pretty if you put your mind to it. Actually, you could be pretty enough that you’ll be popular automatically, but it’s not going to happen on it’s own. You’ve been too much of a tomboy, always running around in the dirt, for you to be pretty without makeup and a different hairstyle now.”<br />
  64. 64. “The truth is,” continued Nymea, gesturing with her fork, “that teenagers are shallow. Unless you’re pretty, they won’t like you, and if you’re pretty, they’ll accept you no matter what. It’s just like those movie actresses who are always in the news – they’re famous for being pretty, and since they’re girls it doesn’t matter what they do, just what they look like.”<br />“I haven’t seen the news,” Aranel admitted, “we don’t have a tv.”<br />“You’re kidding me? As rich as your family is?”<br />“Rich?”<br />“Well, obviously you’re not super rich, or else you wouldn’t be living in this backwater. But you’ve got this big house and all this land…” Nymea trailed off as a realization struck her. “Hah! You’re as poor as anyone else!” She grinned widely, “Here everyone at elementary school thought your family was rich because your dad’s a doctor, but you’re really not!”<br />
  65. 65. “Everyone thought I was rich?” Aranel asked, confused.<br />“Well, yeah, why else would your family be respected around here? Your parents are immigrants just like mine, yet all the kids at school know that your parents are important.”<br />“It’s the legacy, not money.”<br />“But legacies are supposed to be these old-money families,” Nymea protested, “With all this fuss about who’s going to be the heir and inherit all the dough. If you don’t have anything to inherit, what’s the point?<br />“Well, there’s tradition, I guess.”<br />
  66. 66. “Tradition? Puh-lease,” Nymea scoffed, bending to put the last bite in her mouth, “No one at school is going to care about your parents’ traditions or whatever. They’re not cool. The only reason you were popular in grade school was because all the kids thought you were rich.”<br />“I never said I was.”<br />“But that’s the two things you need to be really popular. You need to be pretty and rich. Other things help, like dating popular guys, but those are the main things. You can be rich, and everyone will pretend you’re pretty, but it’s harder to be pretty without being rich. The poor girls are never popular.”<br />
  67. 67. “So what do we do?” Aranel asked worriedly, but at that moment her mother arrived.<br />“I hope you girls are having fun,” Viridia said as she bent to pick up their empty plates.<br />“Yes, the cake was delicious, Mrs. Elvensong,” Nymea replied sweetly, earning herself a smile.<br />“Ara, if you’d like to get changed now your new dress is in the bureau,” Viridia told her daughter, who nodded.<br />
  68. 68. Aranel returned to the party feeling self-conscious. The dress was beautiful, but she had liked the freedom of jeans, with no hem to trip over. Plus, her old dress had been comfortable and loose enough for her to run around in. The new one was tight in the top and swished around her legs, getting in the way.<br />Nymea eyed her with envy. Aranel looked suddenly taller and skinnier, more like a princess from some story book. And the dress was beautiful. It shone silkily when she moved, not at all like the dull fabric of her own cheap dress. She plucked at one of the sleeves in distaste. Maybe Aranel wasn’t as rich as she had thought, but her family could still afford to give her nicer things than what Nymea had.<br />
  69. 69. “Better?” Aranel asked as she finished putting her hair up.<br />“Yeah, it’ll do,” Nymea replied impatiently, “Now stop posing in front of the mirror and listen to my plan.”<br />“Listening,” Aranel said, putting her hands on her hips and turning slowly before her reflection.<br />“Here’s what we do. We don’t tell anyone, and I mean anyone, that we aren’t rich. Let them think whatever they want, assume we have whatever, and we’ll be popular.”<br />“But won’t they want proof? It’s going to look suspicious when they realize that we don’t have expensive stuff.”<br />“Our parents are immigrants: they’ll assume our stuff is foreign, and therefore more expensive, even if it doesn’t look like it. No, the more important thing is to act rich.”<br />“Act rich?”<br />“Like you could get whatever you want, whenever. Trust me, It’ll work.”<br />With their plan made, the two of them returned to the party.<br />
  70. 70. Downtown, the shallow concerns of the teenage years were still a long ways away. Of more immediate concern were clean diapers and proper language skills.<br />“Come on, say something,” Makir told the toddler staring contentedly around the room, “Anything. How about chair? No? Bottle?” He waited a few moments, but got no response.<br />“Ah, well then. Maybe you’re going to be a quiet one.”<br />Midina, changing Orion’s diaper in the living room, laughed. “You really believe that, Makir? How many times has she woken us up by screaming in the middle of the night?”<br />
  71. 71. “Okay, so she prefers screaming to talking,” Makir replied, “Or maybe she’s just not going to do it for me, just like she won’t let me tuck her in.”<br />“Well, mama knows best.”<br />“Clearly.”<br />Lydia turned to face him and cocked her head to one side. “Magir.” She announced, before sticking her thumb in her mouth. There was a second of silence.<br />“Hey, Midi, did you hear that?” Makir asked excitedly, “She just said ‘Mother!’ Lydia can talk!”<br />
  72. 72. “Aw, who’s my clever girl?” asked Midina as she swooped her daughter into the air. The toddler giggled and kicked her feet.<br />“Ma!”<br />Midina laughed. “You’re wrong, Makir.”<br />“What?”<br />“When have we ever referred to me as her mother? We always say Mama, and that’s what she just said: ‘Ma.’ That means that she didn’t say mother before. She said Makir. Her first word was your name.”<br />Makir’s mouth dropped open as Midina passed the toddler off and went to retrieve Orion from the towel where she’d been changing his diaper. Before he could say anything, the doorbell rang.<br />
  73. 73. “Elu!” she cried when she saw who was at the door. “I thought you’d decided to come another day.”<br />“Sorry. Aranel’s party ran late and I forgot how long it takes to get here on a bus.” Eluisa apologized ruefully, “I hope I’m not disturbing anything.”<br />“Nah, the kids sleep at odd times anyway,” Midina replied, “I think they’re nocturnal.”<br />Eluisa laughed a little . “Is that…?”<br />“This is Orion, the baby. Makir and Lydia are in the kitchen. Why don’t you come in? I need to put him down for a nap, but I’ll be back in a second.”<br />
  74. 74. Lydia had, in fact, toddled after her mother into the living room and was proceeding to play with her blocks, intent on jamming a triangular peg into a square hole. She was also more than happy to mash Eluisa’s fingers with it while her mother put her brother to bed.<br />“No, it’s the one over here… here,” Eluisa instructed, laughing, as the toddler reached for the wrong hole. “This would be so much easier if you knew your left from your right.” She snatched her fingers away just in time as Lydia mashed the block into the correct hole and clapped her hands in celebration.<br />
  75. 75. “Why am I not surprised to find you playing with the toddler?” Midina asked, amused, when she returned.<br />“Hey, I’m just making up for all the time I haven’t gotten to see her,” Eluisa protested, “the only people with toddlers anymore are Viridia and the Greenmans.”<br />“But shouldn’t Daisy be a child by now?” Midina asked, confused. <br />“No, she’s an adult – or, well, it’s kind of hard to explain. But Rose and Jason finally had a baby. Actually, they had two and show no signs of stopping there. Their son Briar is a toddler, a little older than Anariel, and their daughter Azalea was just born earlier this rotation. They’ve got a third on the way, but they’re going to have to do some major remodeling soon with all those kids.”<br />
  76. 76. Midina smiled. “I’m glad. Those two have wanted a baby forever, and I know they’ve never had any luck with the adoption service. But tell me what everyone else has been up to!”<br />“Haldir and Viridia… well, they’re just the same, pretty much. Haldir’s still a specialist, but Midina got an offer to be a guest lecturer at SSU. Their new course in sustainability and environmentally friendly living has really gotten popular all of the sudden. Anariel’s a toddler – well, you knew that already, she’s older than Lydia – and I just came from Aranel’s teen birthday. Achenar’s a child, and really good friends with Talon and Chalimyra’s twins. They’re calling themselves ‘The Three Musketeers,’ and wherever you find one of them, the other two aren’t far away.”<br />
  77. 77. “And Chali and… Talon?” <br />If Eluisa noticed her friend’s hesitation, she didn’t show it. “Well, the twins are keeping them busy, but the Elkthorn inn is still in business, about the same as when you left. Only, the Greenmans have opened a farmer’s market, and since they’re as good with flowers as they are with all other plants, Talon’s actually got competition when it comes to selling flower arrangements. Not that he minds, since he wants to sell more local art anyway. Chalimyra’s still working in the law offices, but she’s due to take her bar test soon so that she can be a real lawyer.”<br />“What about you?”<br />“Well, looking for you, working, attending birthday parties… you know, the usual.”<br />
  78. 78. From the kitchen came an insistent wail of “Ma! Ma, ma, ma Ma!”<br />“And it’s time for a bottle,” Midina said, excusing herself, “could you keep her occupied for a second?”<br />“All right,” Eluisa agreed.<br />“Up!” the toddler insisted.<br />“Okay, up it is then,” Eluisa replied, lifting her under the arms. Instantly, Lydia began kicking and screaming.<br />“No! No, no, no, No!”<br />“Down you go,” Eluisa placed her back on the floor.<br />
  79. 79. “Yeah, she doesn’t always like being picked up,” Makir said as he emerged from the bedroom, “It must be the terrible twos.”<br />“Well, she’s tired,” Eluisa replied.<br />Midina laughed, “She’s picky, that’s the problem. Also crabby, demanding, and loud. So yes, it’s the terrible twos.”<br />Makir looked over at her with a smile. “If you’re done making that bottle, I’ll feed the terrible two and put her to bed.”<br />“I can do it,” she replied immediately.<br />“But you need to talk, and I don’t,” he pointed out.<br />
  80. 80. Midina protested no further. She and Eluisa talked long into the night. Beginning from their days in Elphemerea, Midina told her best friend what she had kept hidden, including her shameful desire for Talon, her irresponsible dalliances with dozens of men, and her fear of LeodMcGreggor. Eluisa listened with churning emotions of sympathy, disgust and righteous anger as Midina revealed the circumstances surrounding Orion’s conception, then went on to describe her departure from Lake Valley and her trailer in the city.<br />
  81. 81. Eluisa explained her search, always two steps behind, and the worry that they all had felt when Midina had disappeared. She also related her argument with Viridia at the party earlier, having decided that she didn’t need to spare her friend the details. If, after what she had gone through during their separation, she was still alive and well, then she was much less fragile than Eluisa had once thought.<br />“I knew Viridia wouldn’t understand,” Midina sighed when she had finished, “I mean, I wish it were different, but I knew that if I went back, even for the day, I’d have to deal with all the disapproval, all the pity… Sad as it is, Elu, I couldn’t have told them what I just told you. Viri and Chali are happy, and they live in a safe world – if they knew, they’d either drown me in sympathy or try to sweep it all under the rug. Not that I expect them to be comfortable with it – it is pretty screwed up – but it’s what happened to me, and I can’t forget that. I can’t live my life pretending like it isn’t there.”<br />
  82. 82. Eluisa shook her head. “Midi…” she began inadequately, before seizing her friend in a tight hug. “If I’d only found you sooner…”<br />“Don’t. It’s not as if you can go back and change what happened.”<br />Elu nodded. “I still wish you didn’t have to go through any of that. If there’s anything I can do…”<br />“Don’t worry, I have a phone now, so I will call,” Midina replied brightly, and Eluisa had to laugh.<br />“One last question,” she said, “Are you happy here?”<br />“Yes,” Midina answered immediately, her chin knocking against Eluisa’s shoulder when she nodded. And Eluisa knew, despite the tears falling in her hair and the matching moisture in her own eyes, that it was true.<br />
  83. 83. Well, this is a short chapter, so I’m leaving you with this shot of Calanthe swimming through the air. Apparently this is what happens when you raise a section of beach floor from beneath the waves and instruct someone to walk there. I’m extraordinarily proud of my ragged coastline here, including the rocky point and the tide pools, but this is a little ridiculous.<br />This is probably my shortest chapter yet in terms of sim time. Real time… not so much. The reason is that I had some plot that needed to be broken up into its own section, and I upped the date of a few more events. You’ll be seeing another interlude shortly after the last part of the Three Musketeers (last one for the founding generation, I promise!) and that’s going to take a lot of work.<br />
  84. 84. The other reason is that I’ve finally resolved most of my technical problems, including the issues with timing and lighting and skin tones…. And then as soon as I got it all fixed, my neighborhood became a fiery ball of doom. No problem, I have a backup! And it’s like two days old, because I made it when I installed SimPE… If you’re sensing sarcasm, it’s because that did not work out at all. The game files were okay, but I lost random pieces of custom content , both stuff that I had from my last backup and stuff that I’d just got. Some of it I can do without, some not so much. And then lovely, lovely simPE? It went berserk.<br />As a side note, I really, really adore Midina and Makir together, and neither they nor Eluisa will be disappearing from the story. This was shot, but never used, during the interlude, but this is all that they do if I leave them alone: flirt, heartfart, hug, dance, kiss, rinse and repeat. Occasionally they’ll play with the toddlers on their own.<br />Did I mention last time that Eluisa is a better searcher than I say she is? Because she came to nearly every lot that I shot the interlude at. <br />
  85. 85. Speaking of Eluisa, she is so amazing with children (left and right: Daisy Greenman) that it still boggles me why Lydia didn’t want her to touch her. Lydia’s a Leo with maxed outgoing and five nice points, and she asked for attention on her own. So I didn’t get the shot of Eluisa holding her like I wanted, but eventually I just shrugged and went with it. <br />But seriously, all my other toddlers can get themselves picked up by the visitors. All they have to do is toddle up to Eluisa, Chalimyra or Midina.<br />
  86. 86. Last but not least, here’s a cute toddler for the road. I managed to determine in body shop before simPE and my game ran away together that she does grow into her chubby cheeks… kind of. They’re never too bad, but they’re never gorgeous either. Though of course, having a toddler without strong traces of faces one, two, and fourth-from last mixed in with the elf is still a little strange for me. Lydia’s much prettier than Briar Greenman, so I’d say she’s the winner for the cute toddler contest this go-around.<br />