Romancing the Apocalypse Chapter 17 –Twenty Somethings
                                        (Part 2- Rachel)
Welcome ba...
After visiting with her grandmother, Robin couldn’t wait to get home to make amends with her sister.
“Hi, are you feeling ...
“I’m so sorry for everything, Rachel. Sisters don’t treat each other like that, they just don’t.”
“You’re right, they don’...
“Good! I’ve kind of come up with a plan.”
“A plan for what?”
“A plan to help you with yours.”
“... What did you have in mi...
“This is Disco Apocalypse. Isn’t it great, sis?”
“I don’t know, it just doesn’t do anything for me.”
“Really? Okay, I’ve g...
“This is The Abyss. Doesn’t it kind of look like we’re underwater?”
“It does look cool.”
“See Karen, the one in the bowlin...
But Karen was much more interested in one Kennedy Cox.
Or rather, beating the snot out of him.
“Robbi, I’m not really into this place either. I like it better at college.”
“So you want to go?”
“If you want to stay, th...
“Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“No, this was supposed to be for you. I’m just disappointed you didn’t enjoy yourself.”
“Sa...
Rachel hadn’t spent all her time in roach-infested misery during her sister’s woohooing spree. She enjoyed exploring the c...
The place was cheerful, and she preferred working on her assignments there.
But best of all, it was full of friendly faces that made Rachel tingle with excitement. Like Sunny and Brenda and Jeff.
Si...
“You’re so pretty, like an exotic model or something.”
“Oh, but you have classic beauty, Brenda.”
“I always thought I look...
“I was hoping you were serious. Call me sometime?”
“Hey, where’s my hug?”
“Oh Jeff,” Rachel giggled.
Faces like Mehrissa and Gunnar and Craig. Craig had a quiet self confidence Rachel was immediately drawn to, and she could...
Two more semesters came and went, and one night found the twins spending a rare quiet evening at home.
“Robbi, as much as ...
It was even quieter at home than expected, with the “triplets” at school and their mom at work.
Robin plucked her dad’s gu...
“My daughter the show off. You’re getting so good you could be a Rock God yourself,” Mark said, dropping a couple hundred ...
“College certainly seems to agree with you.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot.”
“So, how’s your love life?”
“I’ve met someone who c...
“Is college everything you hoped for?”
“Oh, yes. It’s exciting and fun and scary and hectic and...”
“Scary? How’s it scary...
“Since you’re obviously too dumb to feed yourselves properly, here... take the snapdragon.”
“How did you know?”
“None of y...
Yes, it was easy for Rachel to find potential loves at Uni, though Nicole wasn’t one of them, because as Rachel learned: “...
They spent hours working on their dance moves, and Rachel could feel the coveted Bust A Move getting closer by the minute....
“Hello! Gordon Nott? Three Lakes Gordon Nott!”
“Omigosh, I can’t believe it’s you!”
Gordon wondered what Rachel would think if he gave in to his impulse to start jumping...
“Did Juan come with you?”
“We’re not that good of friends. As far as I know, he’s still in Three Lakes.”
Rachel found she ...
“Robin’s fine, she’s really fine. She just... well, there are some things she will want to tell you herself.”
“Should I ca...
Rachel was almost bursting with excitement when she returned home.
“You’ll never believe who I saw today.”
“Gordon Nott?” ...
“I didn’t. I was kidding. Y-you mean you saw him, for real?”
“Yes! Isn’t it great? He’s really excited to see you again.”
...
“Your... thing for woohooing is so not any of my business, even if I wanted it to be, which I don’t.”
“I don’t know if I c...
“Will you stop it? You are not ruined!”
“I don’t know how I can... I just can’t face him right now.”
“Robbi... Trust me on...
If Rachel thought that would reassure her, she was wrong. Robin huddled, shaking, in the bathroom.
“Robbi, are you all rig...
And so Rachel was put in charge of screening incoming calls.
“I’m not here!”
“It’s Sandy!” Rachel hollered back, her face ...
Robin’s social life came to a screeching halt, not that she cared. She was actually enjoying her classes now that she was ...
Rachel met two very cute guys, Keith and Shaun, but that was only the beginning of the evening’s excitement.
She was taken by limo to the most impressive structure she had ever seen. Sure, her family’s cabin at Three Lakes was very...
“Craig! You’ve been up to no good, I see.”
“Welcome to the Secret Society,” he said, taking her hands in his.
“I can’t bel...
But the warmth of Craig’s hands in the cool night air felt very real.
“Do you know, I don’t think our jacket has ever look...
She was not disappointed by the interior either.
She had maxed her Logic skill before ever going to Uni, but chess in these surroundings was somehow just more fun.
Her favorite find, though, was the dart board. She had never played darts before.
Several games later, a grandfather clock chimed in the distance.
“Uh-oh, the bewitching hour strikes. Last call for all Ci...
“Man, did I screw up,” she muttered as she fled the Secret Society house. The incredibly huge Secret Society house.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry, promise to never come back!” Rachel chanted as the limo approached. She got in, ordered “Home, James...
She was pretty much drained by the time she returned home.
Man, I’m sick of these, she thought as she scarfed down her sec...
The call Rachel was both excited and dreading to receive finally came.
“She can’t talk right now, Gordon.”
.....
“I know I...
Robin was being such a good Uni student, she ran out of assignments and went to work on her last two Creativity points.
Th...
It was Gordon Nott, in the flesh!




*jumping up and down and lots of squeeing at autonomous appearance and reunion*
(Leap Into Arms was the only command I gave.)
*SQUEEEEE!!!*
“Would you like to come inside?”
“Absolutely,” he said, falling into step beside her.
“We’re trying to redecorate, so it’s...
“So, this is the couch. What do you think?”
“It’s my favorite part so far.”
“Robin, Robin... I hope this isn’t just another dream.”
Robin hugged him tight. She could pretend for now at least that sh...
“Would you like to go see my place?”
“I would love that. Let me change first.”
“Is this okay?”
“You look perfect. Ready to go for a walk?”
She nodded eagerly.
As they neared the outer boundaries of the campus, Gordon said, “Okay, I want you to close your eyes. I have a surprise fo...
“Okay, now!”
Her eyes opened wide as he picked her up and plopped her smack in the middle of a deep, lazy stream, the shoc...
“Make yourself useful and warm me up,” she said, hauling him against her.
They found a soft grassy spot where the sun could finish drying them.
“So, this is what you call sparse, huh? That’s a ver...
And wished at that moment she could reclaim her innocence...
“What are you thinking?”
“... I’m just wondering what the deep dark secret is.”
“W-what secret?”
“The one you’ve been keep...
Robin took a deep breath. “You got me. There is something... something big I haven’t told you.”
“Are you going to now?”
“I...
He was beside her in a flash.
“Robin, I swear, you can tell me anything.”
“This is serious, as in I’m terrified-of-losing-...
By the time they returned to Robin’s lot, he knew all about her secret.
“But I want you to know, ever since I left Three L...
“I’m not playing at anything.”
She leaned her head against his, thinking, Well, that was easy.
A little too easy.
“Gordon,...
She’d sent him away to give him time, to make him think, and as much as he hated leaving her, he knew she was right. What ...
She rose from the water, as she always did in his dream,
her eyes as blue as his own, blue as a mountain sky at twilight.
Their kiss, one born of desperate loneliness.
Now knowing her secret.
The dream, it never lasted long enough...
and nothing short of forever would ever be long enough...
Robin hadn’t been able to fall asleep, or concentrate on reading or TV or writing or anything else, so she settled for veg...
Her heart sank for more than one reason when she saw who was waiting on the front lawn.
“I didn’t expect to ever see you a...
“Hey, where do you think you’re going?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Stop!” He kept going. “Ratna!” She cursed the pleading ton...
And just like that, crappy turned to happy.
She ran full speed to her beloved and planted a big wet one on him.
“You came back,” she said through happy tears.
“Really, was there any doubt?”
“No, I guess not.” Her voice was shaking fro...
“And we end with the bedroom,” Robin said, completely calm now. “Gordon, I have one more confession to make.”
He looked in...
“Rachel, hi! I didn’t hear you come in. When did you get home?”
“I thought you were taking a nap or something.” She looked...
“That’s right, Rach, he’s here. In the flesh,” she added, grabbing his hand.
“And... how’s it going?”
“Just peachy. How ab...
“If you’re talking about my date with Craig, then yes, I had a lot of fun. He’s really great.”
“Glad to hear it,” Robin said, giving Rachel a knowing look, her fingers playing with Gordon’s.
“Just what are you insinua...
“Did you get a hold of him?”
“No. I’ll just have to keep trying.”
“Rachel, I hate interfering in your love life, honestly, but Ratna Miguel is bad news. I just feel it.”
“Don’t be ridiculo...
“I’m worried, Rach, this isn’t like you. It’s like you’re, I don’t know, hyper-obsessed with him or something.”
“Like you ...
“I’m sounding like a hypocrite, I know, but... Gordon gives back, you know? He’s an open book. I find comfort with him.”
“...
The shower was the best place in the house to think undisturbed, and Rachel was disturbed. Disturbed by the outing comment...
After several fruitless attempts to reach Ratna, Rachel was ecstatic when she finally succeeded, especially so when he agr...
The perfect place turned out to be a new one called Hot Tub Haven.
Rachel stepped gingerly into the hot tub, gratified to ...
That changed however when she heard footsteps begin crunching across the lot, and then the first gasp of shock, followed b...
And overcame her qualms by sheer force of his will, his experience, his sophistication. She forgot all about their surroun...
“Rachel!”
“Say hello to my mother. Want to try it in front of yours next?”
Ratna pushed her off of him and stood behind her as she c...
“Impeccable timing as always, Mom.”
“Rachel,” Jane said with deceptive calm.
“.....”
“I’m not going to judge you.”
“That’s...
“Do you really think he’s the right sort of man for you?”
“How do you know what my sort of man is?”
“He’s... he’s so... oh...
“Why do you always insist on treating me like a child?! I know what I want!”
Standing before her mother at that moment, Ra...
Meanwhile, Robin was having a close encounter of the unpleasant kind.
“Are you spying on me?” Ratna demanded with a scowl....
“I didn’t expect to see you here, too.”
“Just checking out the new hot tubs,” Robin said lightly.
“Did you see Rachel? She...
Ratna was doing his best to pick up where he and Rachel had left off.
“Come back to the hot tub.”
Rachel shook her head wi...
“But, Ratna, this is our first real date. I don’t... uh, I’m sorry, but I don’t do that. I just can’t.” Rachel shrugged. “...
Time dragged as Rachel waited for Ratna’s call... a call that wasn’t forthcoming.
Craig came by to see her and he was sweet and tender, as he always was with her. She found herself almost wishing she had ...
Because Ratna was in her blood, that’s why.
She had tried her best to wait him out, but the waiting became unbearable and ...
Ratna smothered Rachel’s greeting and backed her into the bedroom, never breaking the kiss.
They settled themselves on the bed, Rachel nervously threading and unthreading her fingers that rested on her belly.
“You ...
“Call me when you’re really ready. If you’re ever ready.” He moved slowly, calculatingly, toward the door, never looking b...
“So, this means you’re ready after all?”
“Mm-hm,” she said, almost resentfully.
“Are you sure, Rachel?”
No, I’m not sure. I’m not sure at all.
He pulled back. “Rachel.”
Was that a warning in his voice? ...
Did it always have to be so easy? He knew her better than her sister would ever believe, better than she herself would eve...
Rachel tried to remember what she had envisioned her first time with Ratna to be. She had expected experience, and for tha...
She had gone out to check the mail and found a love letter from... who was it again?
It could have been Guy or Mehrissa or Joseph
or Martin or Shaun or Sunny
or Jasmine or Zoe or Gunnar
or Jerry or Venkat or Kennedy
or the lovely Professors Toyonaga and Trottier
or that bad penny from Three Lakes himself, Juan Harris
or perhaps “They Call Me Mister Hugs” Jeff Yang, or Keith Ryan, who had the honor of being Number Twenty
or, last but certainly not least, classic beauty Brenda Lum, or Craig Larrea, with whom she did find comfort...
She couldn’t remember now, because Ratna Miguel had accepted her invitation.
They became friends, and he agreed to go on a...
she wasn’t nice enough,
or funny enough,
or attractive enough...
Was that Robin’s outing or her own? Wait, Robin said she couldn’t get as far as an outing, and Robin most definitely wasn’...
That was why she had wanted to go home. That was why she had begged Rose for the snapdragon.
And that was why she was considering moving Ratna Miguel in. That, and loving him, making him love her, was her biggest ch...
Romancing17 2
Romancing17 2
Romancing17 2
Romancing17 2
Romancing17 2
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Romancing17 2

  1. 1. Romancing the Apocalypse Chapter 17 –Twenty Somethings (Part 2- Rachel) Welcome back to Romancing the Apocalypse! In Part 1, Robin stopped just one WooHoo shy of reaching her twenty somethings after some unpleasant consequences hit her twin sister Rachel. Will Robin find the boy she met on vacation? Will Rachel find twenty loves despite the rough journey she’s had so far? For the most complete set of rules for Pinstar’s Apocalypse Challenge, check out www.apocalypsechallenge.boolprop.com. Note: I have installed and am playing this Apocalypse through the Bon Voyage expansion only, so none of the new Borg rules apply.
  2. 2. After visiting with her grandmother, Robin couldn’t wait to get home to make amends with her sister. “Hi, are you feeling any better?” “You know me, I’m tough. A little more rest and I’ll be good as new.” “I saw Grandma Mel tonight. She helped me get my head on straight.” “That’s nice.” “It was really nice. Can you forgive me? I promise, I’m done with the woohooing for good.” “Congratulations. How does permaplat feel?” “I stopped at nineteen.” “But you’ve come so far. I’m not going to hold it against you if you get one more.” “I don’t feel like it anymore.” “Is it because of me?” “Mostly. And Grandma had a theory for why I can’t reach Gordon on the phone. She thinks maybe he’s here at Sim State and playable. I mean, then it makes sense that he wouldn’t have a phone, right?” “Oh, you still like him!” Rachel said, happily resettling into the role of confidante.
  3. 3. “I’m so sorry for everything, Rachel. Sisters don’t treat each other like that, they just don’t.” “You’re right, they don’t.” “So can you forgive me?” “Calling me Mom was a low blow.” “Please, I’m begging you!” “... Of course I forgive you.”
  4. 4. “Good! I’ve kind of come up with a plan.” “A plan for what?” “A plan to help you with yours.” “... What did you have in mind?” “I know tons of people. I can introduce you around.” “Er, I think I can do this on my own.” “Oh, come on, it’ll be fun, the two of us going out together.” “Well... okay,” Rachel agreed reluctantly. “It’s going to be great, you’ll see.”
  5. 5. “This is Disco Apocalypse. Isn’t it great, sis?” “I don’t know, it just doesn’t do anything for me.” “Really? Okay, I’ve got another one.”
  6. 6. “This is The Abyss. Doesn’t it kind of look like we’re underwater?” “It does look cool.” “See Karen, the one in the bowling shirt? Go introduce yourself. She’s one of my favorites to hang out with.” “Right. Karen, bowling shirt.”
  7. 7. But Karen was much more interested in one Kennedy Cox.
  8. 8. Or rather, beating the snot out of him.
  9. 9. “Robbi, I’m not really into this place either. I like it better at college.” “So you want to go?” “If you want to stay, that’s fine, but yeah, I’m gonna go.” Robin decided she didn’t care for the look Sandy shot her way. “That’s okay, I’ll go with you.”
  10. 10. “Are you sure you don’t mind?” “No, this was supposed to be for you. I’m just disappointed you didn’t enjoy yourself.” “Sandy’s staring at us.” “Oh, let her. She’s harmless.” “She still gives me the creeps.”
  11. 11. Rachel hadn’t spent all her time in roach-infested misery during her sister’s woohooing spree. She enjoyed exploring the campus when she wasn’t in class, and a small Student Services building became her favorite place to hang out in.
  12. 12. The place was cheerful, and she preferred working on her assignments there.
  13. 13. But best of all, it was full of friendly faces that made Rachel tingle with excitement. Like Sunny and Brenda and Jeff. Sim State was more, so much more, than she had ever hoped for!
  14. 14. “You’re so pretty, like an exotic model or something.” “Oh, but you have classic beauty, Brenda.” “I always thought I looked kind of plain.” “No, you could be a heroine in a Jane Eyre novel.” “Classic...” Brenda considered thoughtfully, and then she smiled. “You’re so nice.” “Wanna make out?” Rachel teased with a twinkle in her eye. Brenda stood up. “As much as I would love to continue this conversation, I have to go.” “I’m sorry, that was a joke,” Rachel said, standing up too.
  15. 15. “I was hoping you were serious. Call me sometime?”
  16. 16. “Hey, where’s my hug?” “Oh Jeff,” Rachel giggled.
  17. 17. Faces like Mehrissa and Gunnar and Craig. Craig had a quiet self confidence Rachel was immediately drawn to, and she could tell he was drawn to her too.
  18. 18. Two more semesters came and went, and one night found the twins spending a rare quiet evening at home. “Robbi, as much as I love Uni, I could use a break. I was thinking about going home for a visit.” “Do you miss it?” “I didn’t at first, but now... sometimes, yeah. Sometimes it’s like a rollercoaster here.” “But never boring.” “... No, never boring.” “... I think I’ll come with you.”
  19. 19. It was even quieter at home than expected, with the “triplets” at school and their mom at work. Robin plucked her dad’s guitar, letting some pretty extraordinary memories wash over her.
  20. 20. “My daughter the show off. You’re getting so good you could be a Rock God yourself,” Mark said, dropping a couple hundred into the tip jar. “Do you still miss being a Rock God?” “Every day, Robin.”
  21. 21. “College certainly seems to agree with you.” “Yeah, I get that a lot.” “So, how’s your love life?” “I’ve met someone who could be called a big catch.” “Who is it?” “I don’t want to say, you know, in case it doesn’t work out.” “Oh...” “I think it will work out, but... well, just in case.” “Take your time and make sure.”
  22. 22. “Is college everything you hoped for?” “Oh, yes. It’s exciting and fun and scary and hectic and...” “Scary? How’s it scary?” “It’s not a big deal, we just had a couple of scares with the food situation.” “I see. Well, please do be careful.” “We’re being extra diligent now.” “Good. So... how’s your love life?” “I’m hopeful, Dad.”
  23. 23. “Since you’re obviously too dumb to feed yourselves properly, here... take the snapdragon.” “How did you know?” “None of your business.” “That’s... nice of you, Rose. Thank you.” “Ah-ah, you know I have an aversion to that word.” “Nice nice nice nice nice.”
  24. 24. Yes, it was easy for Rachel to find potential loves at Uni, though Nicole wasn’t one of them, because as Rachel learned: “My mom Ciel is your grandfather Jake’s sister.” “That must mean I’m going to college with my aunt! Isn’t that crazy?” “I think I’m actually your first cousin once removed.” “Oh, I always get so confused on that second cousin, cousin twice removed stuff.” “It’s simple, really. Your great-grandparents and my grandparents Kate and Corey are our common ancestors.” Nicole leaned over one of the computers, deftly calling up a cousins-for-dummies type of website. “Check out this chart and see if you think I’m right.” Rachel peered at the chart over Nicole’s shoulder, and after a cursory inspection, straightened up. “I’ll take your word for it, because honestly? I think ‘Old Dead Guys That Thought Stuff’ are less confusing.” Nicole straightened as well, and a song playing on the College Rock station caught her attention. “Do you know how to Bust A Move?” “I wish.” “Would you like to learn together, cousin?” “Heck, why not, cousin?” Rachel agreed happily. (Apologies to Nicole if I misread the cousins chart.)
  25. 25. They spent hours working on their dance moves, and Rachel could feel the coveted Bust A Move getting closer by the minute. “That guy must have a humongous class load,” Nicole commented. “I mean, look at the pack on him.” “What guy?” Rachel turned, and her jaw dropped. Robbi..! “Please excuse me, but I have to talk to him.” She gave Nicole a light squeeze and, her heart thumping with excitement, approached the guy Nicole was referring to.
  26. 26. “Hello! Gordon Nott? Three Lakes Gordon Nott!”
  27. 27. “Omigosh, I can’t believe it’s you!” Gordon wondered what Rachel would think if he gave in to his impulse to start jumping up and down like a little kid. Instead, he opted to play it cool. “If it isn’t Three Lakes Rachel. College really agrees with you.” “How long have you been here?” “Not very long... I found a spot to pitch my tent, and came here to check out the amenities.” “You’re roughing it?” Gordon shrugged. “I’m used to living light. Anything else I need I can get here.” “Oh... okay.” “How’s Robin?” “She, um... she’s okay,” Rachel said vaguely. Gordon felt a sense of déj{ vu as she stumbled over her answer. He dropped his eyes and said, “I’m going to get some fresh air.” Darn you, Robbi, could you have made it any more difficult? “Hey, can I join you?” she asked quickly, reluctant to let him out of her sight. He nodded in a gesture for her to follow him.
  28. 28. “Did Juan come with you?” “We’re not that good of friends. As far as I know, he’s still in Three Lakes.” Rachel found she wasn’t too disappointed at his answer. She was perfectly happy exactly where she was, and didn’t really want to revisit Three Lakes. “Gordon?” “Yeah,” he said morosely, scuffing the toe of his boot along the grass.
  29. 29. “Robin’s fine, she’s really fine. She just... well, there are some things she will want to tell you herself.” “Should I call her or stop by in person? What do you suggest?” “Do you have a phone?” “You bet I’m getting one now.” “Not Three Lakes level primitive, I see,” she teased. “You know that spot I found? I found a treasure chest.” “Get out of here!” “Seriously! For all I know, I could be sitting on a gold mine. I’m not camping because I have to, I just like to.” “I think it would be best if I told her you’re here first, okay?” “... If you say so. I have to sign up for classes and get some stuff anyway.” “I promise, no more than a couple of days.”
  30. 30. Rachel was almost bursting with excitement when she returned home. “You’ll never believe who I saw today.” “Gordon Nott?” Robin asked with a pensive sigh. “... How did you know?”
  31. 31. “I didn’t. I was kidding. Y-you mean you saw him, for real?” “Yes! Isn’t it great? He’s really excited to see you again.” “Wait a minute. You talked to him?” “I did.” “What did you tell him?” “I was friendly with him... and frankly, I didn’t bother to hide that I was happy to see him. Happy for you, Robbi.” “.....” “I didn’t spill the beans, if that’s what you’re worried about.” “.....” “Robbi?” “I almost wish you had,” Robin mumbled.
  32. 32. “Your... thing for woohooing is so not any of my business, even if I wanted it to be, which I don’t.” “I don’t know if I can face him, Rach.” “Why? This is good news, great news, surely?” “It would’ve been a few semesters ago.” Robin heaved a sigh. “We were so innocent in Three Lakes. Now I’m anything but.” “What if the roles were reversed... that he had done all the woohooing?” “Of course I would understand. But he is not Romance!” Robin said with conviction, her voice raised in agitation. “Robbi, your woohooing does not make you a bad person.” “You and I know that, but will he?” “How will you know unless you give him a chance?” “Going after those stupid woohoos has ruined me, and for what? Those people don’t even mean anything to me.”
  33. 33. “Will you stop it? You are not ruined!” “I don’t know how I can... I just can’t face him right now.” “Robbi... Trust me on this, take the chance. I could tell, he’s got it bad for you, sis. Oh, and he’s probably getting a phone as we speak.”
  34. 34. If Rachel thought that would reassure her, she was wrong. Robin huddled, shaking, in the bathroom. “Robbi, are you all right?” “No! I don’t know what to do!”
  35. 35. And so Rachel was put in charge of screening incoming calls. “I’m not here!” “It’s Sandy!” Rachel hollered back, her face scrunched in dislike. “... Still not here!” “Did you hear that, Sandy? Don’t bother calling again!”
  36. 36. Robin’s social life came to a screeching halt, not that she cared. She was actually enjoying her classes now that she was paying some attention to them. What was there not to love about Underwater Basket Weaving and such? “Come on, let’s go out, Robbi. You can’t hide out here 24/7.” “I’m being a good Uni student, hiding out is only a bonus.” “You’re full of it. Come with me to Student Services. Studying is hecka more fun there.” “Thanks, but no thanks. I, um, can think better in my jammies.” “Suit yourself. I’m going out.” “You have fun, Rach, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” “Haha, thanks for the advice.”
  37. 37. Rachel met two very cute guys, Keith and Shaun, but that was only the beginning of the evening’s excitement.
  38. 38. She was taken by limo to the most impressive structure she had ever seen. Sure, her family’s cabin at Three Lakes was very spacious, but the Secret Society was enormous, a real mansion, the likes of which she had only imagined while immersed in historical romance novels. “Oh, Rachel...” called a familiar voice to her left.
  39. 39. “Craig! You’ve been up to no good, I see.” “Welcome to the Secret Society,” he said, taking her hands in his. “I can’t believe this is happening!”
  40. 40. But the warmth of Craig’s hands in the cool night air felt very real. “Do you know, I don’t think our jacket has ever looked this good on anyone before tonight.” “Get out of here.” “Really, Rachel.” And she thought, I think I love Craig more than any of the others. “You should go inside now. This is your night... feel free to make yourself at home.”
  41. 41. She was not disappointed by the interior either.
  42. 42. She had maxed her Logic skill before ever going to Uni, but chess in these surroundings was somehow just more fun.
  43. 43. Her favorite find, though, was the dart board. She had never played darts before.
  44. 44. Several games later, a grandfather clock chimed in the distance. “Uh-oh, the bewitching hour strikes. Last call for all Cinderellas to make their escape,” Joseph announced. Rachel froze. “Oh no, I have to leave. Now!” “Hey, it was a joke!” he said to Rachel’s retreating back. “Not for me. See you, Joseph!”
  45. 45. “Man, did I screw up,” she muttered as she fled the Secret Society house. The incredibly huge Secret Society house.
  46. 46. “Sorry, sorry, sorry, promise to never come back!” Rachel chanted as the limo approached. She got in, ordered “Home, James!” to the driver, and cranked her head to stare wistfully at the beautiful building as it faded into the distance.
  47. 47. She was pretty much drained by the time she returned home. Man, I’m sick of these, she thought as she scarfed down her second Chef Salad. Okay, going into the building was my only screw-up. I never saw the kitchen, didn’t get any skill points, didn’t make any friends, and everything else there was legal. So nya!
  48. 48. The call Rachel was both excited and dreading to receive finally came. “She can’t talk right now, Gordon.” ..... “I know I said that, but she... she’d kill me.” ..... “Look, it’s not you, it’s just... things.” ..... “I can’t tell you that.” ..... “Because she’s scared to death, that’s why!” *click* Forgive me, Robbi, but you were getting yourself nowhere...
  49. 49. Robin was being such a good Uni student, she ran out of assignments and went to work on her last two Creativity points. The doorbell rang and she muttered, “Better not be that old geezer making me do sit-ups again...” She went to the door and yanked it open, only the caller wasn’t an old geezer...
  50. 50. It was Gordon Nott, in the flesh! *jumping up and down and lots of squeeing at autonomous appearance and reunion*
  51. 51. (Leap Into Arms was the only command I gave.)
  52. 52. *SQUEEEEE!!!*
  53. 53. “Would you like to come inside?” “Absolutely,” he said, falling into step beside her. “We’re trying to redecorate, so it’s a little hodge-podge right now.” “I’m sure it’s very nice. I mean, compared to my place.” “Oh? What’s it like?” “... Sparse.”
  54. 54. “So, this is the couch. What do you think?” “It’s my favorite part so far.”
  55. 55. “Robin, Robin... I hope this isn’t just another dream.” Robin hugged him tight. She could pretend for now at least that she didn’t have a care in the world...
  56. 56. “Would you like to go see my place?” “I would love that. Let me change first.”
  57. 57. “Is this okay?” “You look perfect. Ready to go for a walk?” She nodded eagerly.
  58. 58. As they neared the outer boundaries of the campus, Gordon said, “Okay, I want you to close your eyes. I have a surprise for you.” She played along, and he took her hands in his, slowly backing up several paces. Robin giggled. “Where are we going?” “No peeking. Just a few more steps...” He released her hands and put his on her waist. She lifted her face, expecting a kiss any second now...
  59. 59. “Okay, now!” Her eyes opened wide as he picked her up and plopped her smack in the middle of a deep, lazy stream, the shock of cold water taking her breath away. “Oh, you dirty rotten..!” she panted. She bent over and shoved two scoops of water on him. He returned the favor, making her gasp again, and then she was scrambling up the bank and out of splashing range. She kicked off her soggy sandals and bent down to wring the water from her skirt. He joined her and said sheepishly, “I’m sorry, I didn’t ruin your clothes, did I? And such pretty clothes,” he lamented. Robin shook her head, gazing around the lot, her teeth chattering. “It’s b-beautiful here.” “Ah, you really are cold. I’m sorry.” “Are you going to stand there and apologize all day?” “I don’t know. Maybe?” he said, tapping the toe of his boot against the ground. “Ooh, I have an idea...”
  60. 60. “Make yourself useful and warm me up,” she said, hauling him against her.
  61. 61. They found a soft grassy spot where the sun could finish drying them. “So, this is what you call sparse, huh? That’s a very... interesting description.” “Okay, so it’s a little better than sparse.” Robin lay back with her head in his lap. “It’s a little piece of heaven, is what it is,” she said dreamily, closing her eyes...
  62. 62. And wished at that moment she could reclaim her innocence...
  63. 63. “What are you thinking?” “... I’m just wondering what the deep dark secret is.” “W-what secret?” “The one you’ve been keeping from me. When I asked you at Three Lakes. Your sister was little evasive, too.”
  64. 64. Robin took a deep breath. “You got me. There is something... something big I haven’t told you.” “Are you going to now?” “I don’t want to... but I know I have to.” “You know I fell head over heels for you at Three Lakes, right?” “So did I.” “So doesn’t that make it easier?” “No! No, it doesn’t!” Robin cried and stood up, nervously shaking out her skirt. “That makes it way harder!”
  65. 65. He was beside her in a flash. “Robin, I swear, you can tell me anything.” “This is serious, as in I’m terrified-of-losing-you serious.” He shook his head adamantly. “Whatever it is, I promise it’ll be all right. I won’t let you get away again so easily.” She shook her head sadly. “Say that again after I tell you.” She looked around his lot, taking in its wild pristine beauty, and couldn’t bear the thought of telling him here. “Walk me home, and I’ll tell you...”
  66. 66. By the time they returned to Robin’s lot, he knew all about her secret. “But I want you to know, ever since I left Three Lakes and my whole time here, you’re the only one I ever wanted to fall in love with. I wanted to see you again so bad and I tried to call you but I couldn’t reach you and I was sure I’d never see you again and I went crazy.” “Boy, I’ll say.” “You’ve got to believe me, I’m so done with that now.” “I believe you.” “And... do you forgive me?” “You don’t have to ask me that.” “But I don’t understand..?” “I wasn’t here, you couldn’t reach me, you had your... flings, and I’m pretty sure that was all by design.” “.....?” “When I came to your house today, our reunion wasn’t staged, wasn’t forced, and it was perfect. It was just the two of us being us with each other, and we were perfect. You’re perfect the way you are... how can I not believe that, knowing you love me?” “You are seriously determined to play the romantic hero, aren’t you?”
  67. 67. “I’m not playing at anything.” She leaned her head against his, thinking, Well, that was easy. A little too easy. “Gordon, I want you to do something.” “Do what?” “Go home and think about what I’ve told you? Really think about it.” “I mean it, Robin, I’m not going to leave you again.” “Do it for me? Do it for us. Wrap your head around it, let it really sink in. I want, I need to be sure that you’re sure.” “I’m already sure.” “Please.” “.....” “Please.” “... I’ll do it, but I’m coming back tomorrow.” “Thank you.” Please let him come back...
  68. 68. She’d sent him away to give him time, to make him think, and as much as he hated leaving her, he knew she was right. What she had told him was not something to be taken lightly. His head was a jumble, and no wonder... more had happened on this day than all his other days combined. He lay on the ground, no place in the world he would rather be, except Robin’s (house, arms, bed...) He gazed at the stars, some dim and some bright against a deep indigo sky, crickets chirping, a gentle breeze roaring softly through the pines, water lapping gently against a stone across the steam. He closed his eyes and they took on another form...
  69. 69. She rose from the water, as she always did in his dream,
  70. 70. her eyes as blue as his own, blue as a mountain sky at twilight.
  71. 71. Their kiss, one born of desperate loneliness.
  72. 72. Now knowing her secret.
  73. 73. The dream, it never lasted long enough...
  74. 74. and nothing short of forever would ever be long enough...
  75. 75. Robin hadn’t been able to fall asleep, or concentrate on reading or TV or writing or anything else, so she settled for vegging out on the bed. She must have eventually nodded off, because the doorbell startled her awake just as it was getting light outside. She bounded off the bed and flew to the door.
  76. 76. Her heart sank for more than one reason when she saw who was waiting on the front lawn. “I didn’t expect to ever see you again, Ratna Miguel. What brings you here?” “I’m here to see Rachel,” he replied, at once charming and dismissive. “You know Rachel,” Robin stated skeptically. “Yes, I know her... better than you would ever believe.” “That’s funny, because she’s never said a thing to me about you.” “She’s a big girl, she doesn’t have to tell Sister everything.” “Well, she’s not at home.” He raised a dubious brow. “Really?” She rolled her eyes. “Yes, really.” “Where is she?” “Out.” “Out. This time of day.”
  77. 77. “Hey, where do you think you’re going?” “I don’t believe you.” “Stop!” He kept going. “Ratna!” She cursed the pleading tone in her voice. He stopped and gave her a deliberate look. “Where is she again?” “I honestly don’t know,” she admitted grudgingly, too crushed and shaken by his unexpected appearance to be up for a confrontation. He considered her for another moment and must have been satisfied because he turned to leave. “Tell her I stopped by, will you?” Robin exhaled a sigh of relief, glad to be done with the pompous jerk. As an afterthought he turned back and said, “Oh, and if you don’t tell her, I expect she’ll be very upset.” Robin made a face at his retreating back, unable to relax completely until he faded out of sight. “What a crappy way to start my morning,” she grumbled, walking dejectedly toward the house. “Robin!” She whirled at the sound of his voice.
  78. 78. And just like that, crappy turned to happy. She ran full speed to her beloved and planted a big wet one on him.
  79. 79. “You came back,” she said through happy tears. “Really, was there any doubt?” “No, I guess not.” Her voice was shaking from nerves and excitement. “Is everything all right?” “Yes, now,” she said, still breathing heavily. She took a deep calming breath and added, “Would you like a tour of the rest of the house?”
  80. 80. “And we end with the bedroom,” Robin said, completely calm now. “Gordon, I have one more confession to make.” He looked into her eyes and saw nothing but playful wide-eyed innocence. “What is your confession, my child?” “You know that... thing you gave me at Three Lakes?” His interest perked up. “Yeah?” “I was... naughty and brought it back with me.” He tried to look scandalized, but couldn’t make it work with his wide grin. “You’ve been a very bad girl.” “He, I know!” “Your penance shall be a game of Red Hands.” “And then you kiss ’em better.” Which he did, among other things... A while later, they heard a faint sound coming from the living room.
  81. 81. “Rachel, hi! I didn’t hear you come in. When did you get home?” “I thought you were taking a nap or something.” She looked up from her book and it fell onto her lap. “Gordon! You’re... you’re here.”
  82. 82. “That’s right, Rach, he’s here. In the flesh,” she added, grabbing his hand. “And... how’s it going?” “Just peachy. How about you? Did you have fun doing whatever it is you were doing?”
  83. 83. “If you’re talking about my date with Craig, then yes, I had a lot of fun. He’s really great.”
  84. 84. “Glad to hear it,” Robin said, giving Rachel a knowing look, her fingers playing with Gordon’s. “Just what are you insinuating? You know I’m not... like that.” “Oh, I know that. Though Ratna Miguel might...” “Ratna? What about Ratna?” “He came by early this morning. Not a pleasant way to start my day, that’s for sure.” “I can’t believe I missed him! Why didn’t you say something earlier? You could’ve at least called me!” “Calm down, sis, I didn’t even know you knew him.” “What did he say?” “He was a little suspicious when I told him you were out.” “Well, no wonder. It does sound... suspicious, me being out that time of day.” “Oh, and he wants you to call him.” “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” Rachel demanded, pulling out her cell phone. “Now he’s going to think...” “Who cares what he thinks? What is up with you?” “Nothing,” Rachel insisted as she headed for the bedroom.
  85. 85. “Did you get a hold of him?” “No. I’ll just have to keep trying.”
  86. 86. “Rachel, I hate interfering in your love life, honestly, but Ratna Miguel is bad news. I just feel it.” “Don’t be ridiculous.”
  87. 87. “I’m worried, Rach, this isn’t like you. It’s like you’re, I don’t know, hyper-obsessed with him or something.” “Like you are with Gordon?”
  88. 88. “I’m sounding like a hypocrite, I know, but... Gordon gives back, you know? He’s an open book. I find comfort with him.” “Ratna gives back.” “... Did I ever tell you I, ah, tried to... get to know him, you know, when I was..?” “He told me. He told me you and he were like oil and water. He knew what you were trying to do, and he wanted no part of it. True?” “True. He was the coldest person I’ve ever met. It was like no matter what I did or how hard I tried, I couldn’t be nice enough, or funny enough, or attractive enough...” “... Did you try to go on an outing?” “I couldn’t even get that far.” “You were lucky,” Rachel said under her breath. “What? I didn’t catch that.” Did I say that out loud? Where did that come from? “... Like I said, he knew what you were up to.” “Do you find any comfort at all with him, Rach?” “... Look, Ratna isn’t Gordon. I don’t want a Gordon. Ratna is my business, not yours.”
  89. 89. The shower was the best place in the house to think undisturbed, and Rachel was disturbed. Disturbed by the outing comment. She felt like she was standing on a foundation made of shifting sand... where had it come from? Or did she really want to know? She held her hand in front of her face and, starting with her pinky and ending with her thumb, counted backwards slowly and deliberately: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The thoughts swirling around in her head stilled and then dissipated...
  90. 90. After several fruitless attempts to reach Ratna, Rachel was ecstatic when she finally succeeded, especially so when he agreed to go out with her. “I thought you didn’t care when I stopped by the other morning and you weren’t home.” “Ratna, of course I care. I felt awful that I missed you. I called immediately after Robbi told me...” “Water under the bridge,” he said magnanimously. “Let’s see if we can make this one better than the last, hm?” He saw her confused frown and quickly added, “It’s beautiful outside tonight. I know the perfect place where we can enjoy it to the fullest.”
  91. 91. The perfect place turned out to be a new one called Hot Tub Haven. Rachel stepped gingerly into the hot tub, gratified to see a flash of surprise cross Ratna’s face, and she held her breath in anticipation of his next move. Almost immediately he scooted over and nudged her side, squashing her arm awkwardly between them. He was careful to keep his eyes at a respectful level as she lifted her arm to rest more comfortably across his shoulder. “A woman free of those pesky inhibitions... they’re such a waste of time. I do believe I’m in hot tub heaven, Rachel.” She gazed into his eyes, and her heart began to pound as his look intensified with a desire she had never seen in a lover’s eyes before, certainly not for her. And at that moment, she was very, very glad she wasn’t shy.
  92. 92. That changed however when she heard footsteps begin crunching across the lot, and then the first gasp of shock, followed by another, then another... She hid her face in his neck and whispered, “I think I’m a scandal. Maybe we should get out.” Ratna ran a caressing hand from her shoulder to the side of her neck.
  93. 93. And overcame her qualms by sheer force of his will, his experience, his sophistication. She forgot all about their surroundings as he kissed her with a white-hot passion she had never experienced before. “You’re driving me wild... I want you now, Rachel...” “Not here,” she protested, without much conviction. “Yes. Here.” And then she could no longer think, only feel... Another shocked gasp and a familiar voice pierced through the waves of passion she was drowning in, dousing her like a bucket of ice water. “Not here!” Rachel meant business this time and heaved Ratna off of her, the momentum of the water carrying her with him to the back side of the hot tub.
  94. 94. “Rachel!”
  95. 95. “Say hello to my mother. Want to try it in front of yours next?” Ratna pushed her off of him and stood behind her as she climbed out of the hot tub, blocking her from curious eyes, and one set in particular. Once she was dressed, he sauntered off, in no mood to talk to anyone’s mother.
  96. 96. “Impeccable timing as always, Mom.” “Rachel,” Jane said with deceptive calm. “.....” “I’m not going to judge you.” “That’s very diplomatic of you.” “Look, this isn’t easy for me, okay?” “.....” “... Who were you with in the hot tub?” “You didn’t recognize him?” “Lips locked and on top of my naked daughter in a hot tub? I wasn’t exactly focusing on his face.” “Ratna Miguel,” Rachel said, a ring of triumph in her voice. “Celebrity Chef Ratna Miguel?” “You know any other Ratna Miguels?”
  97. 97. “Do you really think he’s the right sort of man for you?” “How do you know what my sort of man is?” “He’s... he’s so... oh, experienced, worldly, I suppose. I mean, you’re still so... so... young...” “You think he’s out of my league, don’t you?” “... In some ways, yes. And that’s not an insult to you.” Defiance was Rachel’s reaction to just about anything her mother said these days. “It’s too bad you feel that way, because I want Ratna, and Ratna wants me.” “You do realize if you two get together, that would make you the heir. Are you sure that’s a responsibility you want to take on?”
  98. 98. “Why do you always insist on treating me like a child?! I know what I want!” Standing before her mother at that moment, Rachel had never felt more determined. Determined to win over Ratna, which morphed into a determination to never again suffer the feeling of gnawing hunger on a daily basis, never again have to depend on dates and outings to feel that strange sense of satiety without food. She wanted pancakes and cookies and pork chops. She wanted effing Baked Alaska! “I’m sorry, Rachel, but you have to admit this a surprise.” “I’m done with this conversation, Mom,” Rachel said, becoming preoccupied as the reality of that kind of commitment began to sink in. Was it really what she wanted? Was she trying to prove something? And what about Ratna? He said he wanted her, but did he want her enough? And if he didn’t... She couldn’t bear to even think about the humiliation then...
  99. 99. Meanwhile, Robin was having a close encounter of the unpleasant kind. “Are you spying on me?” Ratna demanded with a scowl. Jane’s untimely interruption had put him in a foul mood. “Don’t flatter yourself, you’re not that interesting.” “Consider this fair warning... stay out of my business.” Then Rachel caught his eye and he ambled over to her. “Robin!” Robin turned, never so glad to see her mother.
  100. 100. “I didn’t expect to see you here, too.” “Just checking out the new hot tubs,” Robin said lightly. “Did you see Rachel? She was naked in one with... with...” “Now, Mom, calm down. She’s just wired that way, no need to freak about it...” “Say that when it’s your daughter. Still, I’m more concerned she was with Ratna Miguel. What do you think of him?” Robin bristled. “I try not to.” She saw her mom’s worried expression and placed a consoling hand on her shoulder. “Look, Ratna’s not the only one Rachel’s been seeing, okay? That could work in our favor.” “There are others? I hope you two have been keeping up your grades?” “High A-minuses. Also, there’re a lot of people who love Rachel, who only want what’s best for her.” “I’m glad to hear that.” “Try not to worry, Mom. How are the little squirts?” “Big squirts now, remember?” Jane said with a smile.
  101. 101. Ratna was doing his best to pick up where he and Rachel had left off. “Come back to the hot tub.” Rachel shook her head without breaking the kiss. “Then let’s go back to your place.”
  102. 102. “But, Ratna, this is our first real date. I don’t... uh, I’m sorry, but I don’t do that. I just can’t.” Rachel shrugged. “It isn’t me.” “.....” “Ratna?” “Fine.” “Y-you don’t look like it’s fine.” “That certainly wasn’t the impression you gave earlier. In fact, your... enchanting lack of inhibition led me to believe something very different.” Rachel blushed and looked down. “If you’re honest, you’ll admit you can’t blame me for thinking that.” “I-I’m sorry, I hope you don’t think I’m being a tease. I just... don’t know you well enough yet, for, you know, that’s a big step.” Ratna gave a resigned sigh. “Very well, have your way for now. I should warn you, though, patience is not one of my virtues, and I really don’t need to, nor will I wait forever.” Rachel stood her ground, but she couldn’t keep the quiver of fear from her voice as she said, “C-call me, okay?” His expression and voice softened. “Of course.”
  103. 103. Time dragged as Rachel waited for Ratna’s call... a call that wasn’t forthcoming.
  104. 104. Craig came by to see her and he was sweet and tender, as he always was with her. She found herself almost wishing she had never met Ratna, that he would just... drop off the face of the earth, cease to exist. Then she wouldn’t have to live in this limbo, a slave to the phone. Then she could let herself be loved by a guy like Craig who would adore her. So why couldn’t she let Ratna go and let herself be happy with someone like Craig?
  105. 105. Because Ratna was in her blood, that’s why. She had tried her best to wait him out, but the waiting became unbearable and her resolve finally cracked. “Ratna! Is everything okay?” (Why didn’t you call me?!) “I’ve been worried about you.” ..... “I’m sorry, of course your job must keep you very busy. Would you like to go out, maybe dancing?” ..... “How about the hot tubs?” ..... “No, I understand, you’re tired.” (Really? With three days off?) ..... (But I want to go out.) “... Sure, you can come over.” ..... (No, I don’t want to yet!) “No, I... I want you to...”
  106. 106. Ratna smothered Rachel’s greeting and backed her into the bedroom, never breaking the kiss.
  107. 107. They settled themselves on the bed, Rachel nervously threading and unthreading her fingers that rested on her belly. “You look nervous.” She gave being true to herself one last shot. “It’s, uh, like I said before, we don’t really know each other that well, we’ve only been out, I mean really out, just the once really...” “Hmm. Well, I certainly don’t want to force you into anything you’re not ready for...” He pushed himself up off the bed and gave an elaborate stretch.
  108. 108. “Call me when you’re really ready. If you’re ever ready.” He moved slowly, calculatingly, toward the door, never looking back. Rachel watched, stubbornly believing he would turn and look at her, say something... Three steps away, four steps away The ultimate game of Chicken. Five steps, six steps, seven steps “Ratna! Wait!” ... Eight, nine “Please!”
  109. 109. “So, this means you’re ready after all?” “Mm-hm,” she said, almost resentfully.
  110. 110. “Are you sure, Rachel?” No, I’m not sure. I’m not sure at all. He pulled back. “Rachel.” Was that a warning in his voice? She wasn’t sure. She was only sure of one thing... she couldn’t bear for him to walk out on her now. She squeezed her eyes shut to keep the tears from spilling and said, “I’m sure.” “You’re ready.” “... Yes.” “Show me...”
  111. 111. Did it always have to be so easy? He knew her better than her sister would ever believe, better than she herself would ever believe. A young, beautiful puppet on a string. They never lasted very long, but then, longevity was never the goal...
  112. 112. Rachel tried to remember what she had envisioned her first time with Ratna to be. She had expected experience, and for that experience to make him know how to give, make her feel passion, make her feel special. Instead, he had directed her as if from a script, making her feel like one in a long line of many, not special at all... She gave and he took and she had felt like it was never enough, exactly like Robbi had said. Exactly like The Outing...
  113. 113. She had gone out to check the mail and found a love letter from... who was it again?
  114. 114. It could have been Guy or Mehrissa or Joseph
  115. 115. or Martin or Shaun or Sunny
  116. 116. or Jasmine or Zoe or Gunnar
  117. 117. or Jerry or Venkat or Kennedy
  118. 118. or the lovely Professors Toyonaga and Trottier
  119. 119. or that bad penny from Three Lakes himself, Juan Harris
  120. 120. or perhaps “They Call Me Mister Hugs” Jeff Yang, or Keith Ryan, who had the honor of being Number Twenty
  121. 121. or, last but certainly not least, classic beauty Brenda Lum, or Craig Larrea, with whom she did find comfort...
  122. 122. She couldn’t remember now, because Ratna Miguel had accepted her invitation. They became friends, and he agreed to go on an outing. And then, somehow...
  123. 123. she wasn’t nice enough,
  124. 124. or funny enough,
  125. 125. or attractive enough...
  126. 126. Was that Robin’s outing or her own? Wait, Robin said she couldn’t get as far as an outing, and Robin most definitely wasn’t his friend. Rachel was his friend and had gotten the outing... She had given and given and he had thrown it back in her face. Her determination to win him over got the better of her, and she refused to end the outing before it plummeted to Disaster. She had never been so desperately hungry before, and when midnight struck, she staggered to the fridge, grabbing the first thing she could find, setting it on the counter before the world went black...
  127. 127. That was why she had wanted to go home. That was why she had begged Rose for the snapdragon.
  128. 128. And that was why she was considering moving Ratna Miguel in. That, and loving him, making him love her, was her biggest challenge of all. She couldn’t let that, couldn’t let him go. The hot water mingled with fresh tears, because, God help her, she was already starting to miss him...

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