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  1. 1. Romancing the Apocalypse Chapter 14 – Honky Tonk Girl Welcome back to Romancing the Apocalypse! Episode 13 ended the drama-filled reign of third-generation heir Jake and his wife, Melissa Fancey. Now it's time to turn the challenge over to their son Mark and his chosen one, Jane Cho. Will the fourth generation be less angst-filled? For my sanity, let's hope so! The Apocalypse Challenge created by Pinstar can be found at in the "Other Challenges" section. More Apocalypse goodness can be found in the forums at
  2. 2. Previously in Romancing the Apocalypse... Sara was excited when Ciel kept her promise to Shannon and invited them over to try out her hot tub. Once they got in though, she noticed Shannon wasn't gabbing and splashing and giggling like the rest of them. She sent another arc of water Shannon's way. “, or I'm getting out.” “Sheesh, what's wrong with you? You're kind of being a downerrrr.” “Easy for you to say, Miss I-Have-A-Clear-Conscience. You weren't the one who lied right to Dad's face. What if the vacation backfires, then what? Who's gonna take the heat? You? No.” “Pff, it's not like you knew you couldn't join them later on, so it turned out not to be that big of a lie. Just tell them that if they ask you. Besides, you're the one who said Mom sounded fine on the phone. If things were going bad, they could just cut the trip short, right?” Shannon sighed. “Yeah, I suppose. I just want their trip to be over with... this suspense is really getting to me!”
  3. 3. “I don't think you have anything to worry about,” Ciel chimed in. “I bet your dad is a big ol’ pussycat where you guys are concerned.” “Except for the homework. Right, sis?” Shannon shrugged. “I guess…” Ciel continued, “We used to be at each other's throats all the time, and he didn't hold a grudge against me. He's even been super sweet to me sometimes... heh, he's kind of a big pussycat, period.” “See, Shan? If anyone would know, it's Auntie Ciel.” “Darn straight. Noogies from hell aside,” Ciel gingerly touched her head, “I sit here before you without a scratch.” Shannon's worry finally subsided, then she was giggling and splashing along with everyone else. A couple of hours later Sara declared, “Mm, I'm getting hungry. Should we go, sis?” Nicole piped up, “Aw man, I wish you guys could stay. A barbeque would be fun.” “I wish we could too, Nicki,” Shannon agreed, “but the good thing is the fish we catch now is really good and way filling.” They all rose from the water. “This was fun... thanks for everything, Auntie Ciel.” “My pleasure. You know you’re welcome anytime.”
  4. 4. “You're home!” “Looks like you've been busy today. Nice trees... nice hot tub.” “I spent a very nice afternoon with my nieces. Oh yeah, the hot tub... did I ever tell you Mom gave me the one you gave her?” “Ooh, free hot tub... even nicer.” “Wanna get in?” “Sure, but what about the kids?”
  5. 5. “Emily took the bus home with Trevor so she's at Haley's for the afternoon.” “Isn't that like twice this week?” “Yeah, I think she's totally taken with him. Haley says that boy is irresistible, that he single-handedly made enough friends for Blue to become a Media Magnate.”
  6. 6. “Nicole’s upstairs. She's such a kick to come home to, but I'm not sure how much more the fridge can take.” “Hehe, now that's a girl after my own heart.”
  7. 7. “And Mina's got Neil covered.”
  8. 8. “Aww, it seems like only yesterday that the girls were babies themselves. Remember when Nicole used to terrorized Sake?”
  9. 9. “Yeah, thank goodness she grew out of that.”
  10. 10. “And before we knew it, our first baby was in school.”
  11. 11. “How about when Nicole became a teen and Mina started school?” “It doesn't seem possible, does it?”
  12. 12. “And our old boy Sake to me... *sigh* He just wasn't the same after being around for so long, no matter how much we loved him. *sniff* Even two batches of Kibble of Life couldn't change that.” *mmmr*i...tired
  13. 13. “That was the hardest thing we ever had to do, deciding to let him go.” “ *sniff* Yeah.” “.....” “.....” “I locked my want to resurrect him, but I don't know if we should.” “ *sniff* Mine's locked too, but I don't know either.”
  14. 14. “You know, Nemo, I was gonna ask what you thought about moving to a bigger house, but just now I'm thinking... so many memories. Maybe we should stay here a while longer.” “At least until we see his ghost.” “Yeah. But it's already been years…” “That just gives us more time to find the perfect one. Besides, I'm in no rush, are you?” “Not at all. Everything I want is right here with you.” ....
  15. 15. Jake and Mel returned from vacation on a rainy morning to Mark and Shannon’s exuberant hugs. “Mom, your hair! It’s nice! How are you? How was it?” Mark asked anxiously. “I-I’m not up to talking right now,” Mel said with a weary sigh. “I’m really exhausted, Mark.” “Dad?” “You heard your mother,” he said tersely.
  16. 16. He doesn't sound like a pussycat to me, Shannon worried. “Mom, I'm so glad you guys are finally home! Are you... is everything okay?” “The trip was...not easy. I'm afraid it took its toll on both of us,” Mel said with a quiver in her voice. “Mom, I...have something to tell you.” “Please, Shannon, can't it wait?” “No, it can't! I've waited too long as it is! I'm Chief of Staff now!” “Oh. I see.” “That's it?” “I really need to lie down…” “But…” “I'll talk to you later... when I'm up to it.” Jake and Mel lugged their suitcases up the stairs, leaving behind a bewildered Mark and Shannon.
  17. 17. Later that afternoon, they sat down to a meal of grilled fish, thanks to a thoughtless Mark. We are seriously lame, Shannon thought, bracing herself. “I like your hair, Mom.” “Thanks.” Mel savored her first bite of the sparkly fish. “Mm-mm, delicious. What kind of fish is this again?” “Bass.” “That's, um, some kind of water fish, isn't it? I'm a little rusty with my fish terms. Darn, it's on the tip of my tongue. Something water fish...” “Fresh. Fresh water…” “That's right, how stupid of me! Fresh-water fish. Funny how fast the water got fresh around here. Unbelievable. Miraculous really.” Jane paused, her fork in mid-air. “…Okay, Mom, you're onto us!” Shannon blurted. “I would say Chief of Staff for some time, yes? This fish wasn't just slapped on the grill, cooking it this well takes practice.” “Okay, I admit it! I never was demoted! We wanted you guys to go on the vacation alone. But I really thought I could join you later.” “......” “Mom, I'm so sorry it didn't work out…” “Why, whatever do you mean?”
  18. 18. “I saw how upset you were when you got up from your nap today. You were crying! The whole thing backfired, didn't it? *sniff* We've ruined everything!”
  19. 19. “Oh, did you happen see that?” “Yes, and I feel terrible.” "A fine performance, don't you think?” “W-what?” “That was for your benefit, dearest daughter.” “Y-you mean… How long have you known?” “Your dad and I fell for it at first, but once we compared notes, we had our suspicions. You did make me waste a wish on Jumbok though.” “I'm sorry.” “You know what they say... ‘All's well that ends well’?” “You mean... you and Dad…?” “We're not happily ever after yet, but we're doing better, a lot better. Good enough to move out of this house together, okay?” Shannon smiled weakly. “Okay.” “Shannon?” “Yeah?” “Thank you. Your dad and I love you for what you did.” Shannon sighed in relief. “That's why I did it, because we love you guys too.”
  20. 20. That same evening, Sara returned home from work and promptly spun into adulthood alone.
  21. 21. Oh yeah, Shannon will love this. Definitely an aspiring Hall of Famer. But Sara's initial joy would soon turn to dismay...
  22. 22. Jake played along with Mel and let her have her fun with Shannon. After everyone had put their cards on the table and the dust had settled, he put his vacation skilling perk to good use and with his usual gusto, got started on earning his gold flower- arranging badge.
  23. 23. He did not take kindly to the interruption when Ciel dropped by unannounced. “I'm busy. What do you want?” “Oh, nothing,” Ciel said nonchalantly. “Can't I pay my brother and nieces a little visit?” “Truthfully? I'd rather you didn't.” “What is your problem?”
  24. 24. “You didn't really think it wouldn't come out, did you? I don't appreciate you telling my daughters I'm a big pussycat!” “Ho-hum, I couldn't care less that they told you. Anyway, just telling it like it is... if you don't believe me, ask Mom.” “Mom is different, so leave her out of it! And I don't care what you think, I say that kind of talk undermines my authority.” “Yeah yeah. Newsflash, Jake, your kids are adults now. Isn’t it a little late to be exercising your authority...?” “Just because you live in that ridiculous time vacuum and yours aren’t yet...” “Sim absurdities are not my concern.” “Neither are my girls, so butt out, you spoiled brat!”
  25. 25. “Spoiled brat?!” “You heard me. Brat! Daddy's girl!” “Hey! I was just trying to reassure your daughter. She was a nervous wreck worrying that you would be upset with her.” “Well, I wasn't upset with her! You on the other hand... you need to mind your own business!” “What takes place at my house is my business!” “.......” “Cat got your tongue?” “.....I'm still mad at you.” “Ditto!”
  26. 26. “Why is Lorin making us do this stupid school cheer?” “You know... she likes to pretend everything is okey-dokey between us?” “Heh, she actually thought we would play along for a nice little reconciliation scene.” “Sheesh, what a sap.” “Yeah, we showed her.” “Well... now that we set the record straight, I guess I'll be on my way. Say hi to my nieces. You can go pound sand.” “So long, brat.” “Suffer, fool.”
  27. 27. Jake was revved into overdrive after his row with Ciel, and it took him two days with nonstop outings to earn his gold badge. He left a snapdragon for the family before he and Mel moved out.
  28. 28. Shannon moved out the following day, feeling carefree for the first time in weeks, and grateful to start her new life with nothing more to worry about than finding the perfect home.
  29. 29. She found this adorable little Tuscan/Mission-style at MTS2, part of a starter set created by General Oohoh, that is compliant at this stage of the Apocalypse (even the tree and flower beds are in the 8x8), the only exception being the tiny lot.
  30. 30. The walls and furnishings were changed to cozy it up a little.
  31. 31. Also changed were the bathroom walls and flooring, along with two windows and the bedroom carpet to cozy-up the second level. It's so cute!
  32. 32. An uncharacteristically blue Sara called Shannon. “Hey, sis.” “I know it's only been a day, but I can miss my sister, can't I? *sniff* ” “No, nothing bad really, I'm just feeling kinda down, that's all.” “It's just... I know it's not supposed to be a big deal when you're all grown up, but my birthday kinda sucked, okay?” “No, I'm not blaming anyone, I know it was mostly bad timing.” “Yeah, that's all. Oh, just double checking, we're still going on a vacation together right?” “Good! That makes me feel a lot better.” “Really? D’you think there’s enough room?” “Heck yeah I want to. I can't wait to see it! Thanks, sis. Bye!”
  33. 33. “Mark, I'm going to miss you so much.” “Aww, Mom, it’s not gonna be that bad. You know we'll be inviting you over all the time, right?” “You'd better!”
  34. 34. “I'm sorry we missed your birthday.” “That's okay, it wasn’t anything to write home about. You and Mom are going to be all right, right?” “Yeah, we're going to be fine.” “Promise?” “Absolutely promise.”
  35. 35. They finally moved out, fulfilling Mel's long-time wish to be free of the house that, in her mind, contributed to much of the unhappiness that she and Jake had endured over the years. There was no perfect little house for them, so they're staying on an empty lot with their cell phones until they can build something that suits them.
  36. 36. As another reminder of his dad looked on, Mark sold all the useless one-tile items stored on the roof and began stargazing.
  37. 37. A still rather subdued Sara was quickly climbing her way to the upper levels of the Athletic career. She had all the required skills since she was a teen, and prepared for her next day at work with a night on the town.
  38. 38. At daybreak she was on her way out of LuLu's when she heard a familiar voice call her name. “Grandpa!” she called back and loped over to him. “Boy, am I glad to see you!” “Are you okay? What are you doing out so early?” “Not early, late.” “Oh. Got it.” “Hey, d'you have time to hang out with me? We can go sit inside.” “If you don't mind, I'd like to hang outside instead. I've had enough of being indoors to last a lifetime. Or two. Or three.”
  39. 39. They sat down right where they had stood, Corey basking in the early-morning sun. “So... how’s life, Sara?” “Pretty good, I guess. I really like my job.” “That's good to hear. So who was that guy I saw you leaving with... anyone special?” Sara shrugged. “That was Alvin.”
  40. 40. “But no kidding, Grandpa, you should've been there... that vampire chick was right next to me when she sank her fangs into Jan Tellerman. Creeeepy.” “Take care when you're out at night, and keep a close eye on the Contessa... word is she bites at least once a night now. And take it from me, being Fortune and a vampire isn't a lot of fun unless you want to spend most of your time wishing you weren't one.” “Thanks for the tip, Grandpa, I'll be extra careful from now on.” “Good girl.” “So, about Alvin...”
  41. 41. “He’s cute and pretty nice, but... *sigh* ” “That's okay, you don't have to explain anything to me...” “No, it's not that, it's just... it's kind of a long story.”
  42. 42. “See, I had a really crappy birthday. It was the same day Mom and Dad got home from their vacation, and I didn't even get to see them because I had to go to school and then straight to work. So I get home and there I am, all alone and I didn't have time to go on a date to dodge the bullet like Shannon did... you know, the whole uneducated thing...” “I'm sorry. Your grammy knows about that all too well.” “I heard Mark come down, but I didn't want him to see me like that, so I just stayed low and kept quiet.”
  43. 43. “And then the last person you want to show up on your birthday showed up on mine.” “Aww, yeah, Kate knows all about that, too.” “ *sniff* Yeah. So the doc pointed out that I had jumped up to level 6 MVP, and that made me feel quite a bit better.”
  44. 44. “And before he left he gave me a phone number, just in case, he said.”
  45. 45. “Even though the doc's visit helped, I was still really down in the dumps. I was even panhandling as if our family was destitute. I mean, how crazy is that?!” “But that's why the doc gave you her number.” “Yeah... the gypsy's.” “You don't sound like you like her very much.” “Yeah, well, right now I don’t know what to think of her.”
  46. 46. “So the gypsy's like all razzle dazzle, claiming she can fix me up with the man of my dreams if I'm willing to pay the right price. And I'm thinking I need someone quick, and five thousand seemed like plenty to get me someone special...”
  47. 47. “...and she sent me Alvin.”
  48. 48. “I mean, he looked like he would be nice enough, but he was also stand-offish... but I thought maybe that was because he seemed kind of shy... But I couldn't even get him to go on a date with me! That was the whole reason I called her in the first place, you know? And the thought of wasting five thousand simoleons was unacceptable to me.” “Oh yeah, that would be a difficult pill to swallow.”
  49. 49. “But don't feel too bad about it, Sara. Most people don't find 'the one' right off the bat. Well, except Kate and I did... I'm sorry, that doesn't really help you though, does it?” “But the gypsy should know what she's doing, right? What if he is 'the one’? And dating him is good for my aspiration.” “I don't know what to tell you, kiddo.” “I guess I'll just muddle along until I figure it out.” “You know, if you ever see your great-gramma Eileen around, you could see what she says. She checked out quite a few guys in her day, me included if you can believe that, before she chose your great-grampa Sullivan.” “Hehe, you and great-gramma Eileen?” “I know, right?” “Hm. Well, I'm really glad we got to hang out.” “Me too, Sara. Be sure to tell your brother and sister not to be strangers, okay? We love seeing you guys.”
  50. 50. Corey went on his way, and just as Sara was about to leave for the second time... “I can't believe it! Great-Gramma Eileen, right? I was hoping I’d run into you, just didn’t think it would be this soon.” “I'm sorry, dear, but who are you? My relationship panel is malfunctioning, I think we have one too many generations going here.” “Yeah, mine's messed up too, but I know who you are. I'm Sara, Jake's daughter.” “Ah yes, Jake. I do remember my grandson. So...Sara...why were you hoping to run into me?” “Grandpa Corey thought maybe you could give me some insight about a guy I’m seeing. Maybe you could give me some advice?” “Well, I don't know you well enough to give you advice. Why don't you tell me about yourself first, and we'll go from there?” Sara gave Eileen the condensed version of her life story. “...and now here I am after a night out with Alvin.” “And this was your first date out with him?” “Yeah, but we’ve been on a few at the house before.” “So what happened on this date?”
  51. 51. “Well, it got off to a promising start with a Slow Dance.”
  52. 52. “And I had this huge want for my first kiss, so I was doing all kinds of flirting with him to build up our relationship. He seemed to be enjoying all the attention...”
  53. 53. “...and then he got all persnickety!” “Dear lord, what do you think his problem is?” “I wish I knew! I swear, I don't know if I'm coming or going with him.”
  54. 54. “I headed over to the pool table in a huff, and guess who was playing? None other than Pinstar himself!” “Pinstar's still around? I haven't seen him since...since my very first day in this neighborhood! Oh dear, that was much much much too long ago...”
  55. 55. “Turns out, I actually gave Pinstar a run for his money, which definitely put me in a good mood. When Alvin came over to me again, I wasn’t mad anymore.”
  56. 56. “And I still wanted my first kiss with him...”
  57. 57. “…and it was wonderful!”
  58. 58. “And the rest of our date was really nice.”
  59. 59. “So, Great-Gramma Eileen... Gramma Ei...?” “Please, or we might be here all day.” “Hehe. So what do you think?” “Oh, I don’t think you really want my opinion.” “Come on... please?” “…If you ask me, that boy sounds like a royal pain.” “But what about the gypsy?” “She should be ashamed of herself.” “I hate wasting all that money, but I'm trying really hard, and I think we're finally getting somewhere.” “Exactly my point. It shouldn't be this hard.” “......” “You may not believe this from an old woman, but I remember all too well what hard work it can be to find the right person. And when I met Sullivan, loving him wasn't any work at all. Our life and our choices were hard, but with him at my side, everything was easier. And that, my dear, is all I can really tell you.”
  60. 60. Sara still hadn't figured out if Alvin was 'the one,' but her job performance went through the roof every time she went on a date with him.
  61. 61. Sara achieved her dream to become a Hall of Famer. With Athletic lifted, large objects could be moved around, there was no limit to the number of items that could be stored in inventory, the punching bag and other exercise equipment could be used, and best of all for this romantic neighborhood, lovers now had the strength to leap into each other's arms.
  62. 62. Mark, on the other hand, wasn't finding it at all easy to stay in the Music career. What he didn't tell his dad when he called from Twikkii Island was that he had darned-near starved to death after being demoted to Record Store Clerk and sent home early without a meal. That morning someone had prepared and ate a single bowl of cereal. The family meditated through the day, but Mark, knowing he could eat on the job, went to work hungry.
  63. 63. Now witness Lorin in panic mode as potential disaster unfolds: So at five o'clock Mark arrived home with his Hunger bar completely red, and I thought there was a good chance he wouldn't make it until midnight. And Jane wasn't even pregnant yet. Go to the car and Try for Baby! Nope, was either too hungry or not enough privacy - they wouldn't do it. Try for Baby in bed. Nope, wouldn’t do it... *growing panic* What if he died before they could try for a baby? Wait! Outings, stupid! Nope, too hungry, won't accept the outing *Gasp!* My challenge may be over! Sh--, sh--, sh--! Then... OMG, wouldn't that blow the readers away! And then...*angel choir* Ciel!! Jane could plead for his life, and they had the Bone Phone for backup. The Paranormal lift used for *story purposes only in this Apocalypse* meant... hehe, there is no fricking way I will fail the challenge! Go ahead and starve, Mark! I had switched him to Knowledge a while back to be more compatible with Knowledge Jane, and he wanted to be saved from death anyway. This would be so cool for the story…
  64. 64. Alas, by some miracle, Mark managed to last until midnight. Also by some miracle, LucyPepperR, the queen of perseverance herself, showed up. “So, Lucy, Lorin says you can spin a very exciting tale,” Mark said hopefully. “Haha, please, you must take what Lorin says with a grain of salt,” Lucy said modestly. “Do you know, my head actually exploded a couple of times after reading her effusive compliments?” “No, really, she says Chapter 23 is just what we need to take our minds off my ordeal.” “I dunno, you might think it's rubbish. Most of my readers don't even watch 24, and I know it's not shown in this neighbourhood.” “Ahem,” Jane interjected. “Babe, let me handle this.” She turned to Lucy. “Lorin says to tell you Corey loves you, too.” “…He does? Teehee!” “So will you? Please?” “Oi. Lorin knows I have a soft spot for Corey. *sigh* Very well... It's called 'I am Jack Obsession, and this is the longest day of my life'...” Thus Lucy regaled Mark and Jane with her hilarious tale of murder, suspense and intrigue… “Hehe, that was great, Lucy, just what we needed.” “Happy to help. Might I also suggest snogging as another diversionary tactic.” “…Whoa, good idea. I think we can take it from here…”
  65. 65. Woo. Another Chance Card, and it was back to the record store.
  66. 66. Before submitting her resignation in these grim economic times in order to pursue her dream to become a Mad Scientist, Jane searched far and wide for someone worthy to become her successor. “Nemo, you continue to impress me -thump- with your business acumen, but most important, it is your -WHAP!- hehe! dignified manner at the -thump- office that cemented my decision to make you -thump- my replacement as Business Tycoon.”
  67. 67. The first child of Generation 5 arrived, a girl with gray eyes named Rose. Observant readers may notice that Jane is wearing an engagement ring. For Jake and Mel, it worked well for the plot. I forgot to have Mark and Jane get married in time again, so Rose is technically Rose Cho. But after the wedding she will be Rose (Cho) (Fancey) Jones, at least in my book.
  68. 68. His career in the pits, Mark cleared the remaining stuff off the roof and got busy planning his wedding to Jane. “Better late than never, eh?” “This is really nice, Mark, I'm sure Jane will love it.” “Can you think of anything I forgot?” “I don't think so... wait, let's check our formalwear just in case. We wouldn't want anyone looking goofy at the wedding.” “Good thinking, sis!” “And whatever you do, don't forget about Mom. She would be crushed to miss your wedding.” “So true. She's first on my list of invites.” Luckily, everyone's formalwear checked out...
  69. 69. ...except, of course, the only one who didn’t get around to checking hers. “I have never been so mortified, yet happy, in my life.”
  70. 70. “I can hear him snickering, Mark!” “Just ignore it.” “Where's your mother anyway? Someone needs to keep him in line.” “That's probably my fault.”
  71. 71. “Did you hear that?” Jane hissed. “He called me Queen of the Night!” “Nah, he wouldn't dare.” “This is ridiculous, why isn't your mother here?” “She could be anywhere. I sort of forgot to invite them to a wedding. This is just a plain old party.” “Oh. Well, I guess that means we're even then.” “Not quite. I gotta go to work now. Bye, babe!”
  72. 72. After a futile dash to the car, Mark headed back up the stairs. “Hey, man. Nah, I was too late, they wouldn't even let me in. Why? Cuz I just got hitched is why. Yeah right, you guys have fun on the road, I'll just suffer at home with my beautiful wife wishing I was there with you. Later, dude.”
  73. 73. “Aw, Rose is the sweetest thing,” Mel smiled. “I really can't fathom why I was so afraid of you when you were this age.”
  74. 74. “Argh. Quick, take her. I'm having a terrible flashback.”
  75. 75. “Rosey-posey pudding and pie, kissed the boys and made them cry.” “ghhh” “Kiss the boys 'n' make 'em cry, kiss the boys 'n' make 'em cry. Huh, pumpkin?”
  76. 76. “Oh my, Rosey-posey, what long hair you have! I'm Sara.” “Sawa!” Rose is a 9/9/9/3/1 Aries, identical to Mark except 3 less nice points. Or identical to Jake but with 2 more outgoing points.
  77. 77. “Come on, Rose, say mommy.” “Ma-ma.” “Mama. Very good!”
  78. 78. “Ma-ma.” “Aw, Rosey.” Awwww, I'm beginning to really love Jane.
  79. 79. Jake's snapdragon was placed wherever Rose was learning her toddler skills. Needing only nap breaks, and she mastered all three with plenty of time to spare.
  80. 80. “We should've dressed Rose for her birthday.” “I think she is dressed for her birthday… isn’t she?” “Heck if I can remember.”
  81. 81. Rosey-posey inherited Mel's oh-nosey, but whew, now we know it will mellow out when she becomes a teen.
  82. 82. Jane, at Top Secret Researcher, meditated past the car pool, and just like Mark on their wedding day, was too late to even make it with the car. They decided to have another baby, and Jane orbed herself a new Lifetime Want to be Chief of Staff.
  83. 83. “Is Grandpa Jake supposed to come over today?” Rose asked casually. Jane felt her hackles rise. “Absolutely not! What makes you think that?” “Oh, nothing... Hey, Grandpa!” “Ooh. Where is he?” “Heheheh.”
  84. 84. “Mama, looky here, I got an A-plus!” “Wonderful,” Jane panted, “but can’t you see I'm busy puuuushiiiiing.” “But A-plus!” “But baby!” “A-plus!” “Baby.” “A-plus.” “Tell Daddy to be useful.” “A-plus, Daddy!”
  85. 85. Robin, a girl with Sullivan's blue eyes, arrived after a quick dozen rolls of the CAS dice. A score for genetic diversity!
  86. 86. “Babe, you know when they say ‘It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings’?” “Jane darlin’, you ain’t fat.” “And I ain’t singin’ either.”
  87. 87. Rachel, another girl with gray eyes, arrived.
  88. 88. “Hey, Grandpa Jake, come over and play catch with me for my birthday, pleeease?”
  89. 89. Another beautiful day dawned, and another of Rose’s birthdays was celebrated outside.
  90. 90. “Hey, princesses aren’t supposed to be this good.”
  91. 91. “Teehee! You didn’t think I’d let you smash me like you did my dad?”
  92. 92. It took one cartwheel for Rose to get her really big wish to be best friends with Jake, becoming platinum for her birthday.
  93. 93. “Beatcha again, Grandpa. I wanna win another one.” “Your wish is my command, milady, but only because it's your birthday.” “Cool!” “It’s Princess for a Day and then it’s back to no mercy.”
  94. 94. At which point Rose's aspiration couldn't get any higher, so she threw herself into an early birthday spin.
  95. 95. Rose and her grandpa shared a long look before he burst out laughing. “Ho-ho, we got ourselves a Honky Tonk Girl!” “Whad'ya mean, Grandpa?” “Sorry, princess, it's just too much... the Rock God and Tattoo Chick end up with the spittin' image of Loretta Lynn. This is the best birthday ever.” “Can it, Jake,” Jane said with murder in her eyes.
  96. 96. “Nice going, slick,” Jane continued. “Loretta Lynn? She’s probably embarrassed enough as it is.” “Where's your sense of humor, Jane? How can you not appreciate this delicious irony?” Jake turned to Rose. “You know I think you look great, don'tcha, princess?” “Yeah, Grandpa and I are having fun, Mom. Besides, I… like this outfit.” “That’s very brave of you, Rose, but don’t worry, I’ll take you shopping.” “No, I really like it and I’m staying this way!”
  97. 97. Jake called, “Atta girl, Rose. Can ya sing a song for us?” “Sure can, Grandpa! ‘…We was so happy, my heart was in a whirl, But now I'm a Honky Tonk girl.’” Jake whooped. “More, princess, more!” “‘So turn that jukebox way up high And fill my glass up while I cry I've lost ev'rything in this world And now I'm a Honky Tonk girl.’” Jane groaned. “Babe, make them stop.” “Aww, Jane darlin', you gotta admit it's funny. And who in an Apocalypse has ever pulled off the western shirt so well?” “Thanks, Daddy.” “Welcome, pumpkin.”
  98. 98. “Uh... hello, Mark. I don't gotta admit anything, so quit feeding the beach bum wanna-be. Please?” “Whatever you say, darlin'. Nothing wrong with Rose having a little fun on her birthday though, hmm?” Jane was silent for a moment, then she gave a resigned sigh and nodded. “Rose, I’m sorry, I didn't mean to be such a wet blanket on your birthday. Forgive me?” “Okay, Mom, but maybe you could try not sounding like such a snob, y'know?” Jane's eyes widened in surprise. “ not a snob!”
  99. 99. Robin caught Jane's eye, and she hurried over to her, thankful for the distraction. “That's it, sweetie, can you walk to me?” “Mama.” “That's such a big girl! And you won't listen to anything your sorry grandpa says, ever, will you?” “Papa!” “Ooh. He got to you too, huh?”
  100. 100. Jane glanced back at Rose and admitted her daughter’s words had struck a nerve. Was she a snob? The very idea went against everything Jane believed in. After all, it wasn't too long ago that she fought against those who believed people with tattoos didn’t belong in the business world.
  101. 101. Eventually the party moved from outside and everyone went upstairs. Everyone, that is, except Robin. “MA-MA! DAAA-DAAAA!”
  102. 102. “Coming, pumpkin, I got your bottle right here...” “NO, DA-DA. No boddo. BAD WADY!!”
  103. 103. “Hello, Rachel, I'm your Auntie Shannon. I bet all that fresh air made you sleepy, didn’t it?” “Seepy!” “Aw, are you ready for a nap?” “Pway!” “Deal... first play, then nap.”
  104. 104. Sara spent her time off helping with the twins while Jane worked her way up Medical. Mark became a Criminal Mastermind, working in the evenings, stargazing all night with the snapdragon, and sleeping during the day, which is why he hasn't been in this chapter very much. Even with three adults and a snapdragon, it was a challenge to raise the twins well.
  105. 105. Leaving the nest so soon, Robin? Where are you off to? “I'm escited. Today's my birfday.”
  106. 106. With much less fanfare than their older sister, the twins grew up. “Hi, Rachel,” Robin greeted her sister. “Helllooo me!” chortled Rachel.
  107. 107. “Sara, thank you. This doesn't come close to expressing our gratitude for all you've done to help us, but it's the best we could come up with.” “You don't have to do this, Jane. I loved every minute I spent with the girls. What is it, anyway?” “You'll just have to wait until the next chapter to find out.”
  108. 108. Sara invited her mom and sister over for a last-minute family chat. “Well, I'm all done here, Mom. I'm so looking forward to living the single life for a while.” “You're more than welcome to come live with your dad and me.” “Pff, on the empty lot?” “We're building, we're building! You could help us, you know.” “Er...thanks for the offer, but I'm moving in with Shannon. You know... we'll kind of have a bachelorette pad thing going.” “Oh, I think that's a wonderful idea.” “My place is a little cramped,” Shannon admitted, “but buku cute definitely makes up for it.” “And there's still that vacation with our name on it, right, sis?” “Definitely a vacation.” “How're things with you and Alvin?” Melissa asked. “Any plans to take him on your vacation?”
  109. 109. “You know, I got tired of trying to figure Alvin out. The final straw was when he had a cow after I accidentally stepped on his foot.” “What a baby!” Shannon sniped. “Honey, I'm sorry it didn't work out.”
  110. 110. “Actually, I'm not. Gramma Ei was right, he is a royal pain. So I sent him packing, and it felt really good. Sure, it was five thousand simoleons down the tube, but it's worth it cuz now I know what I don‘t want.” “Well, I just have to say good for you for not settling.” “Oh, it definitely would've been settling with Alvin. I know I'll be having a lot more fun without him.” ....
  111. 111. The twins now demanded less of everyone's attention, and Jane was finally free to spend some one-on-one time with Rose, something she had been wanting to do ever since her birthday. One evening she offered to give Rose a driving lesson. “This is so exciting, Mom! Where should we go?” “How about the Zombie Outpost?” “...The new clothes store?” “Yeah, don’t you want to see what it’s like?” “But what if I don't want any new clothes?” Rose asked in a low voice. “Just drive, will you? Remember, ease your foot off the brake pedal and back out s-l-o-w-l-y. You shouldn't have to touch the gas at all...”
  112. 112. They arrived at the Zombie Outpost with only a couple of hiccups along the way, which to Rose's credit was due more to the car than the driver. “I dunno, it doesn't look like it's open. Maybe we should skip this place, I don't really wanna get anything here anyway.” “Rose, I hear you loud and clear. You don’t have to get anything, okay? We’re just checking it out. If it's closed, you can drive us somewhere else. Deal?” “Okay, deal.”
  113. 113. From the outside, the Zombie Outpost looked almost deserted, but inside the place was hopping. “Oh look, there's Lucy,” Jane exclaimed. “Sullivan! How are you, my friend?” Grrr! Joe Carr just had to pick a fight with Abhijeet Deppiesse. I really hate that dude.
  114. 114. “Lucy, nice to see you again! How are the Obsessions these days?” “The Obsessions are doing great... thanks for asking, Jane. Of course, I will feel better once the bloody Exchange is working again.” “Oh, Lorin too.” “I hope you and Mark have recovered from his near miss?” “Yes, all back to normal. Hehe, you were right, snogging is a great diversion. Speaking of diversions, we found your story on the Web! Only now Mark and I are hooked... sometimes we even fight over who gets the computer first.” “Watch it, Jane, it sounds like Lorin's feeding you your lines.”
  115. 115. “Oi. Don't look now, but…” Lucy averted her head and lowered her voice to a whisper, “Joe Carr is right behind you.” “Joe Carr!” Jane whispered back. “ *sigh* I go out for a nice little outing to bond with my daughter, and Lorin insists on using me in her personal vendetta against him.” “What does she have against him anyway?” “Heck if I know.” HE'S A JERK, LUCY! “Geez Louise!” Lucy exclaimed. “All right already... no need to yell.” “Umm…” Jane continued in a whisper, “you got a glass on you, Lucy?” “Lemme see... Yep, here you go.” “Perfect. Let me know what you think of this...”
  116. 116. “BUGGER OFF, you bloody wanker!” *whoosh splat!* “Well done, Jane, spoken like a true Brit.” “Hehe! I was hoping you’d say that.” “I think you might want to leave now though. They say Joe finds out where people live by stowing away in their cars.” “As in, you better check joe car first before driving home?” “Something like that.” “Thanks for the heads-up. See you around, Lucy. Rose! Come on, we're leaving.”
  117. 117. “Let's get out of here.” “Okay, but I'm driving.” “Honey, slow down… let me check the car out first.” Jane peered in all the windows, relieved to find nothing amiss. “Okay, coast is clear.”
  118. 118. The following day, Jane gave Rose her gift. “What's this?” “It's a belated birthday present. I know you said you didn't want any clothes, but I bought some for the twins last night and I figured what the heck.” “Oh. Well, thanks.” Rose turned to put the gift down. “Aren't you going to try them on?” “There's more than one?” “I thought it was a good idea.” “Well, uh, I can’t right now... I'm kinda busy.” “Oh really? Doing what?”
  119. 119. “You know, cleaning and stuff.” “Why don’t you humor me and try them on?” “.....First you gotta promise that I don't gotta wear 'em if I don't like 'em.” “Sure, yeah, I promise.”
  120. 120. Rose gasped in wonder. “MOM!!! I love them, they’re perfect! Thank you thank you thank you!” ……… And that’s it for this installment. Thanks for reading! Credit: ‘Honky Tonk Girl’ by Loretta Lynn – 1960 (a good year) Restrictions remaining: Artist, Criminal, Culinary, Journalism, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Slacker.