A Piratical Legacy Chapter 41 - Crescendo

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A Piratical Legacy Chapter 41 - Crescendo

  1. 1. Chapter 41 – CrescendoA Piratical LegacyChapter 41Crescendo
  2. 2. “It was awfully nice seeing you today, Grandpa Chris,” Persephone Biggs said happily, walking out of the restaurant in front of her blue-skinnedantecedent. “Why didnt Grandma Sarah come with you?”“Oh,” Chris stammered slightly. “No reason, really. I mean, she just finished building that house for us on Pirate Island, the one you visited, andshes still fussing about with the knickknacks and bits. And if I stayed at home today she would have made me clean.” He shuddered delicately.“Cleaning is bad for my constitution.”“So what youre really doing is escaping,” Persephone nodded wisely. “I can get behind that.”
  3. 3. “Yeah, Sarah has this thing about wanting to clean house on Saturdays,” Chris nodded. “You know, on our day off? I think thats a waste of aperfectly good Saturday, and so I said to myself, I said, Chris, what you should do instead is go visit your granddaughter. Self, said I, I like theway you think. And so here I am.”“Talking to yourself? Im starting to think youre as nutty as Grandma is,” Persephone smirked.“Yeah, but that can stay our little secret,” Chris nodded conspiratorially. “Im supposed to be the normal one.”“I cant believe how awesome my life is,” Persephone sighed happily. “The only thing that could make it better would be getting a randompresent.”
  4. 4. “A random present, you say?” Chris asked, a devilish gleam in his eye.“Random presents are awesome,” Persephone nodded. “Daddy gets them for Ophelia all the time, but nobody ever gets me any.”“Maybe what you need is a boyfriend to spoil you,” Chris suggested.“Why get a boyfriend when I have a perfectly good Daddy, Grandpa, and brother?” Persephone said. “I mean, boys are fun but theyre so...inconstant. Spoiling is supposed to come from the male relatives who dote on their little girl.”
  5. 5. “Ah,” Chris said. He reached into his inventory. “Well, in that case...”“Ooh! A present!” Persephone squealed. “For me?!?”
  6. 6. “Just for you,” Chris promised. “In fact, it really is the other reason why I decided to come visit today. I realized that of all my granddaughters,youre the one Ive spoiled the least—by virtue of not living on Pirate Island with the rest of them, you see. I felt like I ought to make it up to you.”“As well you should,” Persephone said importantly, taking the package from him. “What is it?”“Why dont you open it and find out?”Persephone ripped at the paper, heedless of the mess she was causing.
  7. 7. “Ooh, a PSP!” she crowed once the gift was revealed. “Ive always wanted one of these!”“Thats not your regular PSP...” her grandfather said with a mischievous wink.*****
  8. 8. “He gave you WHAT?!?” Laertes all but shrieked."Quiet, Lert,” Persephone said commandingly. “I dont want Daddy or Ophelia to find out. You know theyd totally wig.”“I dont blame them! Youre already insane! Now youre insane and omnipotent!”"Do you think so?” Persephone grinned. “Ive always wanted to be omnipotent.”“You dont take issue with the insanity bit.”“No, I already knew that,” Persephone giggled.
  9. 9. “Yeah, I guess that shows youre a more sane variety of insane,” Laertes said. “You know, since you know and all. Most insane people are indenial.”“So do you want to see what I can do?” Persephone asked.“Oh heck yeah! Hey, do you think I could play with it after youre done?”“Lert, nothing about you screams deity at me. Besides, I dont think it works for anyone outside the bloodline.”“Im part Reaper just like you,” Laertest protested. “And dont call me Lert."
  10. 10. “Sure thing, Lert,” Persephone smirked. She pulled the PSP out of her inventory and flicked a few buttons. “Ooh, that file says Laertes... wonderwhat would happen if I clicked on it...”“Uh, careful with that!” Laertes squeaked. “What if you accidentally delete me?”"Good point,” Persephone said. She poked at the controls for a few minutes. “Ooh, I can make a back-up. I better do that first.”She prodded a few more buttons carefully, then smiled in satisfaction. “That should do it. Ready to start experimenting, brother-mine?”
  11. 11. “Buk-buk-bukkaw!"“Hmm, maybe I shouldnt click on that button,” Persephone said thoughtfully while her brother hopped and scratched about the room, flappingwildly. “Oh. Maybe I should click on it again to see if that makes you stop. Hey! Monkey button!”
  12. 12. “Ooh ooh ooh!” Laertes chanted, beating his chest wildly before throwing his hands up over his head and dancing around the room. His eyes shotdaggers at his sister whenever he looked in her direction.“This is fun,” Persephone crowed, rubbing her hands together gleefully. “But I dont want you to put your back out or anything.” Regretfully, shetapped another button.
  13. 13. “That really almost kinda sucked!” Laertes complained once he had full control of his faculties once more. “Dont ever do that again, Perse!”“Fine,” she grumbled. “Ooh, one more button though.”“What does it do?” Laertes asked warily. “What does it say?”“Nothing major,” Persephone shrugged. “Just says Family Tree...”*****
  14. 14. “You know, maybe weve been putting off finding dresses for the dance a bit late,” Callie Legacina said thoughtfully as she rifled through racks ofclothing.“Speak for yourselves,” Muffy, her younger sister, declared. “Ive only been a teenager for a couple of days—this is the first chance Ive had!”“Yeah, and its not like theres huge numbers of clothing stores on this island,” Sterling Buccaneer complained. “Auntie Shih never opens thefamily boutique, and this place just opened.”“At least it means nobody else will get the same dresses as us,” Callie said optimistically. “Most of the others ordered their dresses in from that oneshop in Paris.”“At least some of these outfits are Parisian styles, though,” Muffy said worriedly. “What if I do end up with the same dress as someone else?”
  15. 15. “Then you pose together for a really cute photo op,” Sarah Pseudo “The only identical twins Ive ever seen are Monsoon and Coriolisadvised. “Seriously... its just clothes. Sometimes you get duplicates.” Curtin,” Callie said, and then promptly blushed. She was thankful for the fur.“Yeah, but even you and Cate always make sure youre in differentcolours even when you wear the same styles,” Muffy muttered. “And “So how are you sure if its Monsoon youre kissing?”you guys are twins. Twins are supposed to dress alike.” “Muffy!”“We arent identical,” Sarah pointed out. “Similar-looking, yes.Identical, no.” “Well, youve got problems if you cant figure out which one is your boyfriend.”
  16. 16. “Yeah, Ive been wondering about that too,” Cate called from across the shop. “I mean, Monsoon and Coriolis are practically clones. You could bemaking out with one of them, thinking youre just kissing your boyfriend, and then suddenly the real boyfriend runs up and starts slapping you.Yeah, thatd be fun.”“Or maybe you could have both--”“Muffy!” Callie screeched, clapping her hand over her sisters mouth.“I was just saying--”“Well, dont!”“Hey, I think I found something,” Cate said suddenly, cutting off the squabbling kittens. “Sarah, they have it in red too. Come see!”
  17. 17. While Sarah investigated the racks for the red equivalent of the dress her sister had picked out, Cate headed into the changing room to try on theblue version.
  18. 18. She stepped out hesitantly a few minutes later.
  19. 19. “Sarah? What do you think? Does this make my butt look big?”
  20. 20. “I think it looks pretty fabulous on you,” Sarah called, walking over with a heap of crimson fabric in her arms. “Blue makes my butt look big.Hurry up and get changed—I want to try the red one on.”
  21. 21. “Well? What are you doing in there, Cate? Cutting it off? Hurry up!”“I cant reach the zipper,” Cate complained. “Come on in, Sarah—might as well help me and then I can help you.”“Fine,” Sarah grumbled.
  22. 22. After a few minutes and much bickering, Sarah finally stepped out of the change room.“Yeah, this definitely works for me,” she said, checking herself out in the mirror. “Arjuna isnt going to know what hit him!”“Hell be bedazzled by your stunning hotness,” Sterling agreed, walking up behind her. “Now can you and your sister hurry up? I want to try on mydress.”
  23. 23. Thus began a veritable parade of girls in finery. While Cate and Sarah had settled on their purchases, it took Sterling a little longer and the girlswere kept hopping to grab new colours and styles and sizes for her.“I think we have a winner,” Sterling said, coming out in a particularly fetching Japanese-inspired number.“Thatll have Nigella drooling, no doubt,” Cate agreed.“Good,” Muffy said, pushing past Sterling towards the booth. “That means its my turn.”
  24. 24. “Uh-oh, cat fight,” Cate chuckled as the two tiger-skinned sisters began a heated argument over who would get to model fashions first.Sterling took the opportunity to slip out of the booth. “So what do you think?” she asked hesitantly. “Is this dress the one?”“Its brilliant,” Sarah said reassuringly. “Youll be the belle of the ball. Well, after me.”“And me,” Cate chimed in. “But youll be third hottest.”“Worth getting yelled at by my dad for spending all his hard-earned money?”“Definitely!”
  25. 25. Callie and Muffy finally finished arguing long enough to try on their respective dresses and they were declared suitable by the other girls.“Cmon,” Sterling said, shoving Muffy in the direction of one changing room and pointing Callie at the other, “lets go get lattés. I could use somecaffeinated goodness right about now.”“But everyone else got to model their outfits longer,” Muffy pouted.“Yeah, and because of that the coffee shop is closing in fifteen minutes,” Sterling argued. “Whip out your daddys charge card and pay for yourdresses—good thing theres no line, cause times a-wasting!”*****
  26. 26. “How come we have to get fancy suits for this dance thing again?” Orlando Pseudo said. “Ive got lots of nice clothes I could wear.”“Well, you like things to be neat and tidy, right?” Balthier Buccaneer asked.“Yeah, but what does that have to do with the dance?”“Its like... youre going with a girl you really, really like. So you want to be all neat and tidy for her. Not like the ordinary kind of clean and tidy,but the super duper ultra clean your mom does when your grandparents come over. Because you want to impress.”
  27. 27. “I dunno,” Orlando shrugged. “I think your analogies kinda suck, Balthier.”“Analogies and me are like jumbled-up wordy things that compare things to other things. And stuff. But you get what Im saying, right?”“Sort of,” Orlando said. “I know Arta likes me already, though. Even if she hasnt let me kiss her yet.”“Well, maybe seeing you all gussied up just for her will inspire her to let you kiss her,” Balthier said encouragingly. “Maybe she just wants tomake sure you like her enough not to break her heart or something like that. You do have a bit of a reputation, Lando.”
  28. 28. “An entirely undeserved reputation, let me assure you,” Orlando said. “Yeah, Ive dated a lot. But I havent broken any hearts or anything. Itsalways the girls who dump me once they realize the chemistry isnt there. Or rather, they suggest we dont date seriously in the first place, and Idont really dig casual dating.”“Just casual kissing.”“Thats entirely different,” Orlando insisted. “Kissing is how you find out if you want to date someone. Theres gotta be some like there in the firstplace, but if you dont kiss the girl, how do you know youre compatible in the non-talky ways?”
  29. 29. “Im not super experienced, only having dated the one girl and all,” Balthier said, “but what Ive found is if the other stuff is there, the kissingsbound to be amazing. Even if the person sucks at kissing, they get better really quickly. Anyway, theres only so much kissing at a time a personcan do.”“Brittanys bad at kissing?”“Not her,” Balthier said, blushing. “Me. I was kinda slobbery the first time. But Ive been told Ive gotten much better.”
  30. 30. “You sure shes not just saying that to make you feel better about yourself?” Orlando asked, jabbing his friend playfully in the arm.“Uh, yeah,” Balthier said. He blushed again, but this time he was grinning. “Im pretty confident Im pretty good at what I do.”“Well, it looks like our kissing philosophies will have to be satisfied at disagreeing,” Orlando said. “Weve been standing in front of the store forten minutes and people are starting to look at us funny. We should probably go pick out our tuxes before they ask us to leave.”
  31. 31. Once inside, it didnt take the two boys very long to find what they were looking for. There isnt a lot of variation in mens tuxes, at least not onPirate Island.
  32. 32. “So what do you think?” Balthier asked Orlando as he stepped out of one of the changing booths.“I think we both look kind of like penguins.”“Yeah, but do you think Brittany and Arta will dig us in all our befeathered glory?”“Theyre chicks. Of course theyll dig the penguin suits.”“So, paying and then leaving?”“Roger on that, dude.”*****
  33. 33. “Look, weve been standing here for twenty minutes already and the paper boy is giving us looks like he ought to be calling the police,” Laertessaid in exasperation. “Are you going to ring the doorbell or what?”“Um, I vote for what,” Persephone said, bouncing from one foot to the other.“Look, we came all the way across town already. Were here now and the next bus doesnt come for half an hour. You might as well just do it.”
  34. 34. “Fine,” Persephone said petulantly. She walked up to the front door as slowly as humanly possible, all the while shooting looks of trepidation overher shoulder at her half-brother. Then she reached forward and pushed the doorbell.“There, was that so hard?”Persephone waited all of about two seconds before turning around. “Nobodys home. Lets go.”“Not so fast,” Laertes said, gesturing back at the door. “Someones coming.”
  35. 35. “Hey, are you selling something?” the little boy whod answered the door asked. “Cause my mom said to say shes not interested.”“Your ... mom,” Persephone said, stuttering a little.“Yeah,” the boy said, giving her a look as though shed grown an extra head. “You know, the lady who gave birth to me and makes me breakfast?”“Is... is her name Athena?” Persephone asked.“Howd you know that?” the boy demanded.“Can I speak to her?”*****
  36. 36. “I guess you probably werent expecting to see me today, huh?” Persephone managed a short time later.“I wasnt really expecting to see you ever,” the pale-skinned woman sitting across from her said, lacing her hands together on her lap nervously.“From all the stuff your father and I said to each other back... then... I didnt think hed ever tell you about me.”“He didnt,” Persephone shrugged. “I came into my deific powers and kind of found out on my own.”
  37. 37. “Came into my deific powers, you mean,” Athena said, but her tone was even. “Normally mothers grandchildren are fully mortal, blue or not. Evenone mortal parent means the child is mortal. Mother must have decided you were deserving of them after she... well, she stripped them from me.”“Why would she do that? Other than the fact that shes evil, I mean.”“Oh, mother isnt evil,” Athena said quickly. “No, she is many things but evil isnt one of them. She does think shes the only one who couldpossibly be right in a given situation, though. And given the situation surrounding your conception and birth, she felt Id dishonoured my powersand didnt deserve them. She stripped me of them, and with them, my mortality.”
  38. 38. “What was the situation? If youre comfortable telling me, I mean.”“I suppose you should hear it from me,” Athena said. “Who knows what your father would tell you about me, and at least if you get the story fromboth sides you can figure out the truth for yourself. Its probably somewhere in the middle.”“Usually works that way,” Persephone agreed. “Daddy and Ophelia can usually figure out what really happened if they ask both Lert and me.”“Exactly,” Athena said with a smile, though she winced slightly at mention of Persephones stepmother.
  39. 39. Taking a deep breath, she continued.“I was young and stupid when I got pregnant with you. Very stupid, actually, since I let your dad talk me into... well, you know. I was alreadyengaged to Mitch and living with his parents, waiting for him to graduate. But I dallied with Toby and you happened.“I was pretty upset, but not for the reasons you might imagine. I was more worried about Mitch finding out and breaking up with me than I wasabout having an actual kid. I kept my pregnancy as much of a secret as possible and then, when you were born, I told Toby to take you away if hewanted you. Otherwise, Id planned to give you up for adoption.“Anyway, he elected to take you and I got married to Mitch. I was pretty happy with how things had turned out for a while, though Id decided Iwas never having another kid. Giving birth kind of hurts! But then... then I thought maybe it wouldnt be so bad, and thats when I had Loki.”
  40. 40. “My brother,” Persephone said. you than Id have been capable of when you were first born. But I wish Id been in your life when you were small.”“Yes,” Athena confirmed. “And as I cared for him and watched himgrow from tiny baby to the child he is now... I started to realize just “Uh-huh,” Persephone said. “So how come Grandma Sarah tookhow much Id missed out on having a relationship with you. Ive away your powers?”wished for a long time now that I could turn back the clock and dothings over properly.” “She doesnt hold with lying, and I lied to both Mitch and my parents about your existence. She demanded her own peculiar form of justice“You wish youd raised me?” Persephone raised an eyebrow, not and... well...”quite hiding her skepticism. “No blue for you.”“Oh, I dont know about that. Your father is a much better parent to
  41. 41. “Exactly. But Ive come to terms with that now,” Athena said, and there was only a trace of bitterness in her tone. “Ill grow old with my husbandand well both die... but we wont have to watch our children die.”“Some upside,” Persephone said. “I could make it so that you and your husband—Mitch?--and Loki all live forever, if you want. I have cheatcodes.”Athena stared at her for a long moment, then sighed. “No. Im human now and, while it may not have been my first choice, Im used to it. And Icouldnt just unilaterally make that kind of decision for Mitch and Loki.”“I think youve grown up a lot from when you had me,” Persephone said soberly.“I hope so.”
  42. 42. “So let me get this straight,” the brown-haired urchin at the table said to Laertes. “The blue girl over there talking to my mom is my sister? Andyoure her brother? Does that mean youre my brother too?”Laertes shot Mitch a look that clearly said, “HELP!”
  43. 43. “Nope, not your brother,” Mitch said easily, deciding to take pity on his stepdaughters brother. “You and Persephone have the same mom, andthats why shes your sister. But Persephone and Laertes have the same dad, not the same mom.”“And youre my dad, not their dad,” Loki filled in. He paused for a moment, took another bite of his brunch. “Why did Mommy have a baby withsomeone who wasnt you?”Mitch choked on his omelette.
  44. 44. “What? Im ten years old! Thats big enough to know about these things!” Loki insisted.“Persephone, are you just about ready to leave?” Laertes called over his shoulder.“Um, yeah,” Persephone called back.“I think you get to have a nice fun talk with your parents now,” Laertes said hastily. He turned to Mitch. “It was nice meeting you, Mr. Thayer,Loki. Im sure well be seeing more of each other in the future.”“Likewise,” Mitch nodded. “Cmon, Loki... lets go outside and play catch and your mom and I can tell you all about it...”*****
  45. 45. Pirate Island Composite High SchoolIt was seven oclock in the evening and a crowd of students was milling about outside the high school. The much-awaited Sadie Hawkins Dancewas due to open its doors any moment.People chatted, dates met up, and general merriment was already in full swing.
  46. 46. “You two look great!” Chandler Platz said enthusiastically to Balthier and Brittany, catching up to them in front of the doors. “With the suit... and anew hair colour, Britt?”“Thanks,” Balthier grinned. He nodded at his best friends outfit. “Nice threads.”“I thought a special occasion like this deserved a new do,” Brittany Parker said. “Something... I dunno. Daring.”“Its gorgeous... just like you,” Balthier said, running one hand through his own hair and making it stand up even more on end than usual. He knewBrittany liked his hair on the messy side.“Ugh, all this mushy stuff is gonna make me puke!” Chandler smirked. “Cmon, lets head inside. Doors are open!”
  47. 47. “Hey there gals and pals and welcome to Pirate Island Composites First Annual Sadie Hawkins Dance! Im your rockin sockin, DJ, Mary Kincaid,and yall are gonna have a ball tonight! Any requests hiding in those vests, just sidle on up and bend my ear and Ill play your tune real soon. Nowbefore we start theres a part I gotta say: first, no sneakin away for a private sashay cause weve got chaperones here and they will catch you. Itsjust not worth it, kids. Trust me on this. Second, if we heat up the house too much fire exits are here, here, and here,” the DJ gestured appropriately.“Now I bet you want to get going at last so lets get things started nice and fast!”
  48. 48. Music started blaring and students poured onto the dance floor to shimmy their hearts out. Even some of the teachers got in on the fun, for all theywere supposed to be chaperoning.
  49. 49. “Ooh, you look really nice tonight, Monsoon,” Callie said. “Muffy! Hes just appreciating that hes dating one of the two hottest sisters at the school, thats all.”“Smokin hot,” her younger sister added, approaching the couple.“Your twin around anywhere?” “Ohh...” Muffy drawled. “Well, in that case...” She pirouetted. “Like what you see?”“Yeah, Coriolis went to get a root beer from the vending machine,”Monsoon said, eyeing the younger Legacina sister appreciatively. “My brothers a lucky guy if youre looking for him,” Monsoon grinned. He turned back to face his date. “Then again, I am too...“Eyes on my sister,” Muffy said, scolding him. “Shes the one youre Callie, youre smokin tonight.”with tonight.” “Then what do you say we start dancing?”
  50. 50. “Mmm, I think I like that idea a lot,” Monsoon said, pulling Callie into his arms and holding her close.“Monsoon, this isnt even a slow song,” Callie protested, but she snuggled closer all the same.“And? This is... nice.”
  51. 51. The music continued to play and soon even more teens poured out onto the dance floor. Some paired off, some danced in groups, and some werecontent dancing with themselves.
  52. 52. “Having fun?” Orlando shouted at his date, Arta Ephemeral.“This is a blast,” the petite redhead grinned happily. “And you dont even suck as a date!”“Way to go with the left-handed compliment,” Orlando grumbled, but the smile stayed on his face.“Better than the compliments youve given me tonight,” Arta retorted. “Which number exactly zero.”
  53. 53. “Arta, you are the belle of the ball,” Orlando said earnestly, boogying down to the funky beat. “All the other guys here are jealous of me for beingasked by you. None of the other girls come close to looking as beautiful as you do tonight.”“Hmm, you can keep the compliments coming,” Arta grinned. “You know how to talk to a girl, Lando. Then again... youve had plenty ofpractice.”“Yeah, I try out all my lines on the mirror at home while my sisters make fun of me,” Orlando said. “If they think a line is particularly bad, theythrow pillows at me.”
  54. 54. “Every guy I date should have sisters,” Arta said. “That way theres no training required. Theyve already done it for me.”“I resemble that remark. But you know my brothers and I outnumber them.”“Yeah, but the three of you are still whipped.”“Well, yeah.”
  55. 55. “I really like your hair long like that,” Nigella Traveller said in as sexy a voice as was possible when one is shouting to be heard over reverberatingbass.“Yeah?” Sterling giggled, reaching one hand back to pat the locks in question. “Its mostly extensions and theyre coming out again tomorrow.”“You should grow your hair long,” Nigella said, reaching forward to caress a stray lock. “I like playing with hair... now theres just more to playwith.”
  56. 56. “Yeah, but you have to leave for college soon,” Sterling pouted. “Tonights the only chance you get to play with it.”“So? Youll be along to university yourself in another season, wont you?”“What if youve met someone?”“What if you meet someone? I really like you, Sterling, but Ive got no illusions—most high school couples dont stay together forever. But thatdoesnt mean we cant enjoy each other now... and let the future bring what it may.”
  57. 57. “Save tonight, and all that?”“Exactly... cause come tomorrow Ill be gone. But not forever.”“Im really glad you asked me to go with you, Nigella.”“Me too.”
  58. 58. Muffy was dancing alone in the middle of the dance floor, but her lack of partner wasnt bothering her one iota. She knew half of the unattachedguys in the auditorium had their eyes on her, and a good chunk of the attached ones too. For all that shed had fun chatting up Monsoons twin,Coriolis, shed decided to take some advice her sister had once imparted instead. Stop chasing the boys... let them come to her. Muffy was prettysure shed have half a dozen of them mobbing her before the night was over.
  59. 59. The song ended and another fast-tempoed lyric began. Some of the teenagers started showing off more and more adventurous moves, almost as ifthey were in a teen movie or something similar.The party was really rockin now.
  60. 60. “Youre a fantastic dancer, Sarah,” Arjuna Ramaswami said earnestly as he and his date boogied on the dance floor.“Coming from the son and grandson of professional dancers... thats pretty nice of you to say,” Sarah said.“Hey, after this song you feel like sneaking off and trying to avoid the chaperones?” Arjuna said with an easy grin.“That depends on what, exactly, you have in mind,” Sarah said demurely.
  61. 61. “Having fun tonight?” Casper Kat asked Sarahs twin sister, Cate.“Yeah, this dance is pretty awesome so far,” Cate said, swaying lighty in time to the music.“So how come someone as beautiful as you doesnt have a date tonight?”“Just lucky, I guess,” Cate winked at the guileless Romancer and whirled away to dance with someone else.
  62. 62. “Have I said yet tonight just how lucky I am to have you for my girl?” Balthier flashed a winning grin at Brittany.“It bears repeating,” she said softly.“Hope the DJ slows things down soon,” Balthier added. “I cant wait to have you in my arms.”“Whats stopping you?”The music died down and Balthier couldnt help but pout.
  63. 63. “Hey now, pals and gals, nows the time to bust out some slower rhymes. So hold on tight cause its that time of night for you to grab the one youlike best and screw the rest!”
  64. 64. “Ive been looking forward to this since you asked me out,” Orlando said happily, pulling Arta close to him.“You certainly havent made any attempt to hide it. But ... it does nice things for a girls ego, I must admit.”“I havent even looked at another girl since we got assigned as partners on that project, you know.”“I know.”“So does this mean youre finally giving me a chance? I really do like you. I kinda... think I might be falling for you.”Arta didnt respond to Orlandos heartfelt declaration, but she did lean forward and kiss him gently, then laid her head on his shoulder. That wasdefinitely answer enough for him.
  65. 65. “What do you say, Cate? You, me, a movie next Friday?” Pepper Cooke said in his most charming voice.“I might be amenable to that,” Cate giggled coyly. “Youre going to have to convince me, though.”“Oh? And how should I go about doing that?” Pepper purred.“Im sure you can think of a few things,” Cate said as Peppers face dipped down towards her own.
  66. 66. With couples starting to pair off on the dance floor and get a little on the closer side, the chaperones realized theyd better start doing their jobs.“Paprika, Khamsin, Id like to see another three inches between you, please,” Bart Buccaneer, high school principal, said sternly.“But we were just--”“Do I have to pull out my measuring tape?”“*sigh* Nossir.”
  67. 67. “No date to the dance tonight, Devi?” Chandler wasnt acting all that upset that his two best friends had paired off for the dance, but he appearedhopeful that he could spend a little quality time with one of the other unattached.“You offering, Chandler?” Devi Zomg asked.“Well, Im here... youre here... neither of us have dates. We could have some fun, like cheese on toast.”
  68. 68. “Cheese on toast? Thats got to be the lamest pickup line Ive ever heard. I think Im going to have to pass.”“Suit yourself,” Chandler shrugged. “Still plenty of fish in the sea.”And with a shrug, he headed off to talk to Devis twin sister Anne next.
  69. 69. “Having fun, cous?” Balthier called over his shoulder as he relaxed in Brittanys warm embrace.“Mmhmm,” Sterling murmured, shooting him a grin as she slid her hand a little lower down Nigellas waist.
  70. 70. “They sure are cute together, arent they,” Balthier said to his date, “What?”nodding at the other couple. “Its just that Nigellas a Romance sim is all,” Brittany shrugged.“Yeah,” Brittany said. “Everyones been talking about how weird it is “They say Romancers never commit.”they got together.” “They say the same thing about Pleasure sims, but look at us,”“Weird?” Balthier said. He smiled. “Were notoriously fickle. Prone to... dating other people. Kissing and telling.”“Well, you know... theyre...” “Tell me more about the kissing.”
  71. 71. The music drew to a close and the many couples drifted reluctantly apart. As a faster-paced tune started up, many of the teenagers began filing outof the gym in search of snacks and something to drink.
  72. 72. “This has been amazing so far,” Balthier said dreamily as he plunked himself down in a chair.iBrittany smiled widely and looked deeply in her boyfriends eyes.“Earth to lovebirds!” Chandler chuckled. “Helloooo!”“What? Oh, hi Chandler,” Balthier said. “Hows your night going?”“The ladies are as elusive as the mystical unicorn, but I have not given up hope.”
  73. 73. “I think youre going about things all wrong,” Brittany said.“What?” Chandler blinked.“I saw you out there,” the violently scarlet-tressed girl shrugged. “You were going up to girls you hardly know. Youve gotta make the moves onthe girls who already know youre a nice guy and not some skeevy creep.”
  74. 74. “My girlfriend has wisdom,” Balthier said happily. “Dont see tonight as your chance to score a kiss, Chandler. This is when you want to bemeeting the girls.”
  75. 75. “Yeah, just look at all the eligible ladies,” Britt nodded, gesturing to the line-up in front of the buffet tables.“The redheads cute,” Chandler said with a nod.“And entirely taken,” Balthier said, turning around to wave at Arta. “Thats Orlandos girl.”
  76. 76. “Speaking of food,” Balthier said, getting up and walking towards the table. “You guys with me?”“Fetch me a soda?” Brittany asked with a bright smile. “Ill grab you some food.”“Sure,” Balthier said. “Chandler? You thirsty?”“Nah, Im good.”“Theyve got your favourite cookies,” Brittany said, winking at Balthier. She grabbed three and put them on her plate.
  77. 77. Balthier was whistling jauntily as he strode down the hall and around the corner to the vending machines.Then, for some reason he couldnt quite remember, he turned around again.Oh crap...
  78. 78. “Of all the times for freaking...” I complained, ramming buttons frantically on my controller.
  79. 79. “Okay, Balthier, youre going to walk the long way back to the cafeteria...”
  80. 80. “No, dont turn around! Why are you turning around? I told you to go the other way!”I frantically xd out his action and sent him back in the other direction.
  81. 81. ”Phbbbbbbbbt! Free will is overrated, Ive always said. Oh, give it a rest, Grandma...”
  82. 82. “I TOLD YOU TO GO THE OTHER WAY!”
  83. 83. “Thats better.”The sims chatting in the corridor were starting to give Balthier funny looks.
  84. 84. He reversed direction again and I quickly checked the other side of the lockers. Still not safe.“Balthier! Go the other way!”But the controller refused to respond.
  85. 85. “Balthier... are you okay?” Sterling asked with concern.“Fine,” Balthier shrugged. “Just getting my girl a drink. Why do you ask?”“Because youve been pacing back and forth on the same stretch of hallway for three minutes now.”“I have? Weird.” Balthier shrugged and, with a wave at his cousin, rounded the corner of the lockers.
  86. 86. Whistling an airy tune, he strode back into the cafeteria, root beer in hand.
  87. 87. To be continued...
  88. 88. “I dont understand! After that the controller started working perfectly again!”“Thats very strange, honey. Does this mean problems for your story?”“It does throw a wrench in the works,” I grumbled. “If only I knew what had gone wrong... it was almost like somebody else had taken control ofthe game.”
  89. 89. “You dont say? You sure the controller wasnt just sticking? They do that, you know.”“Better not be! You know how much new ones cost?!”“Well, Im sure it was just a gremlin. Or a fiendish pixie. *snicker*”“Whats so funny, dearest?”“Nothing! *nonchalant whistle*

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