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A Specter Legacy Ch 9


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A Specter Legacy Ch 9

  1. 1. Ch 9: Extra Smooth?<br />Ch 9<br />Soundtrack: “Extra Smooth” by Aaliyah; “Headlock” by ImogenHeap; “Secrets” by OneRepublic; “The Knife” by Does it Offend You, Yeah?, And “I Just Wanna Live” by Good Charlotte<br />
  2. 2. Aerith was in a bar. Again. At least it’s not a club, she sighed. The Lucky Shack was more low key. Less ear-shattering, heart-pumping music and more card games. Aerith could live with that. What she couldn’t live with, however, were the random townies trying to chat her up.<br />
  3. 3. Like this one.<br />“I’m sorry were you talking to me?”<br />Aerith looked at the guy next to her. She hadn’t said anything aloud, had she? “Um, no.” She finally replied.<br />“Oh, well then, please start.”<br />
  4. 4. Aerith rolled her eyes. “I really don’t…” She trailed off, suddenly distracted by something out of the corner of her eye.<br />
  5. 5. It’s him. Again. What the hell?!<br />“I mean really, one drink couldn’t hurt, could it?”<br />“Huh?” Aerith tore her gaze away from the guy at the poker table. “What did you say?”<br />
  6. 6. “I wanted to know if you’d let me buy you a drink.”<br />“Oh. Uh, no. I already have one.”<br />“Yes, but –”<br />Aerith tuned out again as her eyes flickered back over to the poker table.<br />
  7. 7. A wave of emotions rose with in her. He’s following me, she started to think. He has to be. Just who the hell is this guy? As she asked herself that question, her blood began to pulse, as if preparing for a fight. Her muscles tensed and she realized that it’d only take another second for her to crack the glass she was holding.<br />
  8. 8. Time to go. Aerith was fuming, though. A part of her felt like she shouldn’t have to leave. A part of her wanted to lash out and hurt something. She clenched and unclenched her fist. She’d never felt this way before, but it felt good. Like she was powerful. Like she could do anything. It must be all my pent up frustration from not being able to find the Contessa, she decided.<br />
  9. 9. She walked out the bar. It was raining. For some reason, this only made her more upset. “What the hell?” She exclaimed. “What do I have to do to catch a break?” she asked the angry sky.<br />
  10. 10. “Hey, wait!” She was only a few steps from the door when she heard another voice. It was the guy from the bar. “Wait!” He said again.<br />
  11. 11. “What do you want?!”Aerith hissed. A part of her was surprised. Her emotions were flying out of control.<br />
  12. 12. “Y-You left so soon. I didn’t even get anything to remember you by. Besides you forgot –”<br />“You want something to remember me by?” Aerith said in a voice she couldn’t quite believe was hers. It was dark and gravelly and threatening. But before she could process this, she found herself reaching out and grabbing the guy’s neck.<br />
  13. 13. And took a bite. And boy, did it feel good. She felt him get weaker and grow limp as she drank his blood, the sweet smell intoxicating her, almost putting her in a trance. After a while she felt a tingling at the back of her neck. Someone was coming. The door behind her was about to open, not to mention that if she didn’t stop right then, she’d kill this man.<br />
  14. 14. A bit reluctantly, Aerith pulled back and the rush of air was like a slap in the face. She couldn’t believe what she’d just done. Recoiling, she abruptly dropped the man, pushing him away from her like he was a disease. Another wave of feelings rolled over her – fear and anger and shame and much more washed over her, but she only had a second to figure out what to do. She knew she couldn’t make sense of anything right then, so she did the only thing she could do.<br />
  15. 15. She ran.<br />*****<br />
  16. 16. “Hello?” Liz called as she walked in the door. “Zeph?” She was a bit annoyed; some dog had dug holes all over the yard. “Zeph?” she called again. He must have been out. Strange, she thought. I thought he’d be off work by now.<br />
  17. 17. She walked over to the phone where the flashing light told her she had a message waiting. She pressed the button and woman’s nasally voice filled the room.<br />“Mr. Specter, this is Eileen Jacobs, from the Crystal Springs Country Club. I’m calling regarding your unexcused absence today. So far my records show that this is your fourth unexcused absence and that you have nine tardies. If this behavior continues, I’m afraid we’re going to have to terminate your employment. If you’d like to speak to me regarding this matter, please call me. My number is –”<br />
  18. 18. Liz cut Eileen off and stood there in shock. Zeph left early and came home late almost everyday. She’d no idea any of this was going on. What’s he doing? She couldn’t help wondering. And why didn’t he tell me any of this? She thought back to the other night. Maybe it’s the nightmares. It was the one thing Zeph didn’t talk about. She sighed and headed to the kitchen, resolving to talk to him as soon as he got home. One way or another, she’d get him to open up.<br />
  19. 19. But the kitchen held more surprises. The counters were all filthy and a half eaten sandwich was left on the table. Zephyr. Liz rubbed her neck. It wasn’t like him to be so untidy. He must have been in a rush, she tried to rationalize, but after hearing the message on the answering machine, she wasn’t buying it. After all, it’s not like he’s rushing off to go to work.<br />
  20. 20. Liz sighed as she took out a trash bag and got to cleaning. Something was definitely going on with Zeph. Things hadn’t changed since she moved in. She’d thought he’d be more open, that they would work on their relationship, that, well, he’d be around. But he wasn’t. She didn’t know who he was anymore and he wasn’t even here to ask.<br />
  21. 21. Liz sighed again. “Where are you, Zeph? And why won’t you let me in?”<br />*****<br />
  22. 22. “You don’t have to do this, you know.” Taz called over his shoulder.<br />“I know,” was the reply. “But I want to.”<br />Taz sighed as he sat down. He didn’t really know how things had got this way, but he had to admit… It was nice. Nice not eating alone every once in a while. Nice having someone to talk to. And Dagmar was so open and friendly and funny – how could he not like her?<br />
  23. 23. “Besides, I know you’re hungry.”<br />“Huh?” Taz snapped back to reality and tried to focus on her words. “What?”<br />“I’ve seen your apartment, remember? So I know you haven’t unpacked one bit. And a guy can only eat so much take out, you know?” She smiled over at him.<br />“R-Right.”<br />
  24. 24. “Huh. My place is a bit of a mess, isn’t it? And that spaghetti does smell amazing.”<br />“Of course it does. I’m a fabulous cook.”<br />“Yeah? How’d you learn?” For a second, Taz thought he saw her face cloud over. But then she gave a sunny smile and he decided he imagined it.<br />“Oh, you know,” she said nonchalantly. “It was just something I picked up out of necessity.” <br />
  25. 25. “Well, thanks,” he told her. “You know, for all this.”<br />“No problem. I love cooking for others.”<br />They ate in silence for a while before Dagmar blurted out, “So what’s your deal?”<br />“Huh?”<br />“Come on, Taz, I’m not stupid.”<br />
  26. 26. “First, there’s that engagement ring on your finger that you never seem to take off and then there’s the fact that you’ve been living here for ages but you haven’t really begun to unpack. There’s obviously a story there.”<br />“R-right. Well… I… Me and my girlfriend… we’re… on a break.”<br />“What does that mean?”<br />“I have no freakin’ clue!” He blurted, a bit more forcefully than he’d intended.<br />
  27. 27. But Dagmar only smiled. Encouraged, Taz went on. “We had plans, after college, you know?” She nodded. “But then some things changed. And then, suddenly – suddenly I wasn’t good enough. She said she had to leave. Go find herself.”<br />“Sounds like you got dumped.”<br />“…Yeah. I guess I did.” He sighed. He’d never admitted that before. “I don’t know. I guess I just thought that if... Well, it’s kinda stupid.”<br />
  28. 28. “You thought that she was coming back. That unpacking would be like… like admitting to yourself that she’s moved on and you’ve moved on and that it’s over.”<br />Taz brightened a bit. “Well. Yeah.”<br />Dagmar gave a tiny smile. “I can understand that. I know what it’s like to be hung up on someone. To spend so much time loving and caring for someone –”<br />“And then they’re just – gone.”<br />
  29. 29. Taz snuck a look at Dagmar out of the corner of his eye. She was so easy to talk to. It was nice.<br />“How long did you go out?”<br />“Hmm?” Taz realized he’d been daydreaming again. “Well, just college, mostly. But we’d known each other our whole lives. She was my best friend.”<br />
  30. 30. “Musta been rough. Losing your girlfriend and your best friend all in one swoop.”<br />“Tell me about it.”<br />Dagmar smiled. “It gets better though. I can tell you that. At first, first it’s just pretending. But then… One day you’ll realize… It’s not. And you’re okay. Not exactly the same as you were before, but… okay.” She shrugged. “And that’s enough.”<br />
  31. 31. “And how long does that take?”<br />“Oh, um, well. Years. Eons. Lifetimes.”<br />Taz laughed. “Seriously?”<br />“Not really,” she admitted. “But it certainly feels that way sometimes. The important thing is to have some good friends. They’re the ones that’ll really help you get through.”<br />
  32. 32. “They’ll drag you all over town, force you to start dating again, throw water on your face when all you want to do is stay home in bed...”<br />“Sounds like torture.”<br />“Oh, it is. But you’ll need it. And you’ll even end up thanking them for every agonizing second. The laughter alone is worth it.”<br />Taz smiled, but it was a sad one. “I don’t really have a lot of friends, though.”<br />
  33. 33. “At least ones not associated with her…” He trailed off. Dagmar was looking at him strangely. “What?”<br />“You doofus. You have me. This here,” she gestured to themselves and their plates. “This is what friends do.”<br />Taz sat back. “Huh. I guess you’re right.”<br />“Of course I’m right.”<br />
  34. 34. “I’m here for you. And I’ll gladly torture you into forgetting your ex-girlfriend.”<br />Taz looked at Dagmar. She seemed to glow in the afternoon light and her smile was positively dazzling. It lit up her whole face and made her eyes sparkle. It was apparently contagious, too, because he soon realized he was grinning like an idiot.<br />“I’d like that,” he finally managed to say. “I’d really… like that.”<br />*****<br />
  35. 35. The legacy house was certainly moving on. Melanie had stepped in the pet room to refill a doggie dish and the next thing she knew, it was time to give birth.<br />“Asher!” She yelled. “Get over here!”<br />
  36. 36. Luckily, he wasn’t too far away.Both he and his father exclaimed in a mixture of shock and wonderment as Melanie gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.<br />
  37. 37. “Oh, she’s blonde, like her mom,” Asher said softly. “With Dad’s grey eyes and – Why are you handing the baby to me?” Asher asked his wife.<br />“Can you hold her for a sec? I think I feel another contraction coming on.”<br />“Another contraction?!”<br />And then Melanie gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, with the same eyes as his twin sister, but his father’s hair.<br />
  38. 38. “Twins again?” Andy couldn’t believe it. He was a grandfather three times over.<br />“I guess it runs in the family,” Asher shrugged. “What are we naming them?”<br />“I think Sydney and Spencer are fine names, don’t you?” Melanie said as she cooed at Spencer.<br />*****<br />
  39. 39. Asher relaxed in bed in a rare moment of quiet. Well, the quiet wasn’t all that rare – his dad’s snapdragons kept the twins pretty content most of the day. But he didn’t usually take the time to stop and reflect, mostly because he know he’d start thinking about the legacy and what was to come. What used to be a distant future now loomed closer and closer. His family was growing, fast.<br />
  40. 40. He thought of Melanie. She and Andy were getting kind of close, skilling together for their lifetime wants. And since Andy had finally maxed all his skills a little while ago, he had no qualms about tutoring Melanie in the finer points of skilling, when he wasn’t playing with the kids.<br />
  41. 41. And someone was always in the nursery, looking over Syd and Spence and playing with Rose. Rose baring got any alone time with her teddy – she was very spoiled and always in demand. Someone was always fussing over her.<br />
  42. 42. But still, he’d managed to get to the top his career, fulfilling his dream of becoming an education minister. Melanie got a job as a gamer, not that she needed one, what with the family business still going strong, but she said it was nice to get out of the house every now and then.<br />
  43. 43. Before he knew it, Sydney and Spencer were growing up he was hosting another birthday party.<br />
  44. 44. They reminded him so much of Melanie. He really did get lucky. He had the best wife and the best kids – the best family, really.<br />
  45. 45. Which he had a feeling was about to get a bit bigger. Asher didn’t know what the future would bring, but the more he thought about the legacy, the more uneasy he became. He wanted his family to be safe and happy. He didn’t want them to struggle like he had, like his siblings were still doing.<br />*****<br />
  46. 46. Another late night and no Zephyr. Well, this time, Liz decided to do something about that. She made her way back to the Académie, guessing that Zeph was busy hanging out with Roxie and Blossom and lost track of time. Again. She wasn’t exactly keen on Zeph hanging out with those two – not only did she disprove of their less than savory activities, but they always seemed to possess a distinct lack of clothing whenever she was around. Liz didn’t like to think of herself as the jealous type, but, well, the girls – Roxie especially – always seemed to be flaunting… Well, their bodies. At Zephyr.<br />
  47. 47. So she wasn’t a happy camper when she was greeted by Roxie in her undies. Liz knew that she lived here and that it was late, but still.<br />“What brings you here?” Was Roxie’s snarky greeting.<br />“I’m looking for Zeph.” To this there was no response. “…Is he here?” Liz finally asked after a beat.<br />
  48. 48. Roxie gave a long beleaguered sigh. “Yeah.” She finally replied, tilting her head a bit. “He passed out a little while ago.”<br />Liz really didn’t have any response for that, so she kept silent as Roxie let her inside.<br />
  49. 49. “He’s in there.” Roxie pointed to the first door and headed for the back, seemingly done with any and all conversation.<br />Liz stared after her for a moment, almost afraid of what she’d find. After all, if she was in her undies, then…<br />
  50. 50. Liz sighed as she walked into the bedroom.<br />
  51. 51. At least he was clothed. Mostly.<br />“Zeph,” she said. Not a stir. “ZEPH!” she tried again.<br />
  52. 52. This time there was movement as he jolted awake. A tiny part of her felt bad for waking him. She knew he didn’t sleep well. Even so, a bigger part of her was annoyed – if he let someone in every once in a while, maybe he’d manage to fall asleep at home. You know, where he lived.<br />“L-Liz?” he yawned and looked at her with a sleepy half smile. Liz caught herself before she smiled back, though, and maintained her concerned demeanor.<br />
  53. 53. Sliding off the bed, he asked, “What’re doing here?”<br />“I could ask you the same question.” But Zeph just looked confused. She sighed. Where to begin? “Where’s your shirt?” Liz frowned a bit. She hadn’t meant to blurt that out; she was pretty sure she’d meant to ask him if he knew what time it was. But she supposed it was as good a question as any. And she did want to know. So she raised her brows and looked at him expectantly.<br />
  54. 54. “…What?” was the oh-so-elegant reply.<br />“Where is your shirt?” she asked again. “Or do you have a habit of taking your clothes off everywhere you go?”<br />“…Um…” Zeph twisted around and glanced around the room before he remembered. “Uh, yeah. I… didn’t bring one.”<br />Liz sighed again.<br />
  55. 55. “Zeph, we need to talk.”<br />“About me not wearing a shirt?”<br />“No. Well, yes, at least a little bit. I mean, I can’t say I’m thrilled to discover that you come over here half dressed. But that’s not the point.”<br />“It’s not?”<br />
  56. 56. “No! Zeph, why do you come over here at all?”<br />“Roxie and Blossom are my friends.”<br />Liz waited for him to say more, but apparently, that was all he was going to say. So she said something. “I know they’re your friends, but come on, Zeph. You’re over here all the time and frankly, they’re a bad influence on you.”<br />At this Zeph rolled his eyes.<br />
  57. 57. “I’m not kidding, Zeph.”<br />“I know you’re not. Look, I’m perfectly capable of making my own choices –”<br />“Really? Are you sure about that? You’re obsessed, Zeph. I’m starting to think that you have a –”<br />“Look, it’s just – The bubbles help, okay?”<br />
  58. 58. “Sometimes… Sometimes I just can’t sleep and they help, alright? They help me forget.”<br />“Maybe you shouldn’t be forgetting.”<br />“What?”<br />“Zeph, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. You got to talk ab-”<br />
  59. 59. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, okay?” Zeph snapped.<br />Liz was silent for a moment. “Maybe I don’t,” she acknowledged. “Maybe you should talk to someone who does.”<br />Zeph snorted. “Who? Ash or –”<br />“I mean a psychologist.”<br />
  60. 60. Zeph looked taken aback. “Are you crazy?” He practically shouted. “I’m not seeing a shrink.”<br />“Well, you need to talk to someone. You can’t go on like this.”<br />“I’m fine. I’m dealing with it.”<br />“You are not.”<br />
  61. 61. “Liz, I know you care but –”<br />“Look, Zeph, I don’t know what you went through, but I do know that what you’re doing is not helping. It’s not making anything better. You’re out of it all the time – drunk or high or something and you can barely function. And I never see you,” she said softly. “I’m worried about you, Zeph. I’m worried that you’re gonna self destruct.”<br />
  62. 62. “I’m dealing with this the only way I know how.”<br />“Well, you’re way isn’t working.” Liz paused and crossed her arms. “Look, why don’t you talk to Ash at least? I mean he just might –”<br />“Asher doesn’t know a thing about what I’m going through.” Liz raised a brow. “It’s… Yeah, okay, he went through the challenge, too. But he doesn’t have what I have. He doesn’t – He’s not affecting by things like I am.”<br />
  63. 63. “Look, Liz, let’s not fight, okay? Let’s just –”<br />“I’m not letting this go, Zeph.” She sighed again. “I can’t keep living like this.”<br />“What does that mean?”<br />“It means that I want you to get some help. I want you to talk about this. If not to me, then to someone else. You have to let go, Zeph. Can’t you at least try?”<br />
  64. 64. Zeph sighed. “Liz-”<br />“Promise me. Promise you’ll get help, Zeph.”<br />Zeph rubbed his shoulder, unable to say anything. Finally he nodded.<br />
  65. 65. It was enough for Liz. She smiled and pulled him into a hug.<br />“I just… I love you so much,” she whispered into his ear. “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”<br />“I know, Liz. I know.”<br />*****<br />
  66. 66. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”<br />Rose beamed as birthday party goers wished her well. She was kid now, and that meant doing awesome stuff like serenading guests after a quick change of clothes.<br />
  67. 67. It also meant being a good older sister. So even though she had her own room now, she still spent lots of time in the nursery playing with her sister and brother.<br />“Okay, Sydney, here’s your doll. And in this story my doll Amy –”<br />“Mine!” Sydney said suddenly, reaching out to grab Rose’s doll and put it in her mouth.<br />“Aw, ew… Baby germs… Okay, fine you can keep her.”<br />
  68. 68. She even taught her siblings some nursery rhymes, though Rose had to admit that teaching Spencer was way easier than teaching Sydney because he never interrupted. But most of all, being a kid meant cake. Birthday cake to be exact, and, since her aunt and uncle weren’t able to make it to her party, it meant extra birthday cake when they came over that night.<br />
  69. 69. “Daaaaddd. Do we really have to do this now? Can’t I go help make the cake instead?”<br />Asher smiled. “I don’t think so. If you don’t do it now, you’ll be too tired later. It’s not that hard; come on, I’ll help.”<br />Rose heaved a big sigh. “Well, okay.”<br />But her father was right. Soon it was done and her aunt and uncle had arrived.<br />
  70. 70. “Cake! Cake! Cake!” Rose practically screamed at the dinner table that evening.<br />“Alright, alright,” Andy responded, unfazed. “It’s coming. Don’t worry birthday girl.”<br />Melanie was a bit more chastising. “Rose! Is that how you talk to your grandfather, after he baked you a second birthday cake? And what about your aunt and uncle? They came all this way to see you and you’re just ignoring them.”<br />“Well, they should know not to get between a girl and her cake.” Even Melanie couldn’t hold back a laugh at that one.<br />
  71. 71. “Duly noted,” Zeph grinned. “Geez, I can’t believe how big you’ve gotten. I’m starting to feel old.”<br />“Aren’t you old?” Rose had to ask. Everyone laughed again. “What?”<br />“I’m not that old. That’s only your parents.”<br />“Hey!” Asher protested. “So how’ve you two been anyway, I haven’t seen either of you in a while.”<br />
  72. 72. “I’ve been busy,” Zeph replied.<br />“Same here,” replied Aerith. “I still haven’t found anything. It’s beyond frustrating. Not to mention the whole burning in daylight thing.”<br />“Actually, I’d love to pick your brain, Aerith,” Melanie said. “You know some scientists still devoutly deny the existence of the supernatural and I’d love to write a paper on-”<br />
  73. 73. “Hello! Enough boring stuff! We’re supposed to be celebrating my birthday.”<br />“Okay, Miss Birthday Girl,” Asher leaned in. “Why don’t you tell us which topics are acceptable?”<br />Rose thought for a moment. “Cake,” she decided. “And me. We can talk about me.” Everyone laughed again. “I’m not kidding!” she insisted, but of course no one listened.<br />
  74. 74. “Boy, time does fly,” Andy said after a moment. He gazed Rose. “Pretty soon you and your siblings will be all grown up and it’ll be time to pick an heir.”<br />“Pick a hair?”<br />“No, sweetie, pick an heir. As in who will carry on the family name like your dad did.” He paused. “Hmm, I suppose it’s almost time to talk about moving.”<br />
  75. 75. “Moving?” Melanie asked, surprised. “We’re moving?”<br />“Well, according to the legacy rules –”<br />“Dad, let’s maybe not get into all that tonight.” Asher shared a nervous glance with Zephyr.<br />“No wait,” Melanie asked. “Why do we have to move?”<br />
  76. 76. “Well, we don’t have to move. Technically, we’d only need a new house, but this lot is glitched. Why just the other day Gilbert and Gretchen were visiting, giving each other hugs and they barely even know each other.”<br />Melanie nodded. “That’s true. And I guess the house is kind of huge and drafty. It’d be nice to have something smaller. More cozy.”<br />“Exactly,” Andy agreed. “So I figured with Bonfire Night around the corner –”<br />
  77. 77. “Dad!” Asher, Zephyr, and Aerith all exclaimed.<br />“Is he seriously talking about this?” Zeph muttered.<br />“What? Well, I suppose the littlest one isn’t born yet, but it’s really not that long before Sydney and Spencer grow up, is it?”<br />“That’s not the point, Dad,” Aerith tried to put it gently.<br />
  78. 78. “Let’s just not discuss it,” Asher added.<br />“What happens when the kids grow up?” Melanie asked, confused. “And what’s bonfire night?”<br />“We’re not talking about it right now,” Asher said before his father could explain. “Or any other legacy stuff.”<br />“Why not?”<br />
  79. 79. “What’s a Bonfire Night?” Rose looked up from her intense cake-eating session.<br />“A very special night after your siblings become children –”<br />“I’ll be a teenager by then, right?”<br />“Yes, you will. That night, we’ll all gather together to camp out around a bonfire.”<br />
  80. 80. “Is he serious?” Zeph asked again, louder. “I mean, I’m not dreaming this or anything?”<br />“What are you talk-”<br />“We don’t want to talk about this, dad,” Zeph interrupted his father.<br />“I can’t say I’m too keen on discussing it either,” Aerith admitted.<br />“Are there marshmallows?” Rose suddenly piped up.<br />
  81. 81. “And cake? Will there be cake?” She continued.<br />“Rose…” Asher began.<br />“What, I wanna know. Everyone else knows, why can’t I? Mommy wants to know, too, don’t you, Mommy?”<br />“Well –”<br />
  82. 82. “So is there?” Rose turned to her grandfather.<br />“You bet,” Andy told her. “There’s marshmallows and cookies, though I suppose if you want we can have cake instead. Then we all sit around telling ghost stories and explain why the family name is Specter –”<br />“Dad!” Asher exclaimed, banging his fist on the table. Everyone looked at him.<br />
  83. 83. “We are not talking about this right now.”<br />“Wh-”<br />“I don’t want you telling Rose about the legacy.” Asher finally blurted out.<br />Andy recoiled. “I don’t understand. Why not? It’s her leg –”<br />
  84. 84. “It’s not!” Three voices exclaimed.<br />The dining room rang with the echo of their voices for a minute before Melanie spoke. “Why don’t we all just calm down? We can –”<br />
  85. 85. “Wait, wait, wait. Just explain this to me. I mean, of course it’s her legacy, she’s a Specter and –”<br />
  86. 86. “And we’re not continuing the legacy.” Asher said firmly. Silence met his statement.<br />
  87. 87. “E-Excuse me?”<br />
  88. 88. “Did you really think we would? After everything that’s happened?”<br />“What Zephyr is trying to say,” Aerith fumbled for words. “Is that… We… don’t want to continue some of the … family traditions.”<br />“There’s no reason for Rose to know about them,” Asher added, “Because she’s not going to do them. Especially not the challenge.”<br />
  89. 89. “What challenge?” Melanie asked but she was immediately drowned out by Andy.<br />“When did you decide all this?”<br />“It doesn’t matter,” Asher told his father. “And we’re not talking about it now.”<br />“Well, of course it matters! You can’t just – just turn your backs on the legacy –”<br />
  90. 90. “Dad!” Asher practically shouted. Slumping, he rubbed his temples. “I guess we have to talk about this now,” he muttered. “Rose, why don’t you go to your room?”<br />
  91. 91. “But I’m not done with my cake,” Rose protested. Or at least that’s what everyone thought she said. She did have a mouth full of cake.<br />“Rose…”<br />She swallowed and tried again. “But I wanna see the fight! Besides it’s –”<br />“Not your concern,” Asher snapped and Rose’s eyes got huge. She’d never really heard her dad get angry before that evening.<br />
  92. 92. “Melanie,” Asher turned to his wife. “Would you mind?”<br />Melanie was silent for a beat, then sighed. “We’ll talk later?”<br />Asher nodded.<br />“Okay, then. I trust you. Come on, Rose, time for bed.” Rose tried to protest, but her exit was inevitable.<br />
  93. 93. “So someone explain this to me,” Andy began as soon as he thought Melanie and Rose were out of earshot. “Why are you all trying to do away with the legacy?”<br />“Why?!” Zeph exploded. “Are you freakin’ kidding me? Because we almost died! Because Mom and Skye did die!”<br />Aerith looked at her skin. “Because horrible things keep happening to us and we’re no longer the same. We’re changing and not always for the better.”<br />“Because I don’t want my kids to suffer and hurt like we have.”<br />
  94. 94. “But this legacy is the reason you all are alive!” Andy insisted. “You know about the curse. None of you would have survived if not –”<br />“Yes, we know about the curse,” Aerith interrupted. “We know about it very well. I mean, hello –” she gestured to herself. “We know the price that has to be paid if we follow your rules.”<br />“And I can’t let my kids pay that price. It’s too high.”<br />
  95. 95. “I don’t think you understand –”<br />“Oh, we understand alright,” Zephyr interrupted. “We understand a great deal better than you.”<br />“…We’ve each lost something, Zephyr. We’ve all paid.”<br />“Are you sure about that, Dad?” Aerith asked him quietly.<br />But Andy only shook his head. “You’re not the only ones affected by this. And if –”<br />
  96. 96. “Dad,” Asher interrupted. “Try to understand where we are coming from. We’ve experienced horrors that no normal sim would ever have to face. I don’t want my kids to go through that.”<br />“You don’t have a choice,” Andy tried again. But he was stopped.<br />“Don’t I?” Asher countered. “What was it that you told me before I came home? That I had control over how I met life’s challenges? That I have to decide how to make the best of things.”<br />
  97. 97. “Well, I’ve thought about it. And I’ve tried to learn from everyone – you, Aerith, and Zeph, and even Mom and Skye. Your way causes pain, Dad. And I’m not so sure if I want the kids to have that to look forward to. And then I look at Zeph and Aer, and sure they’re alive, but… Well, they’re…”<br />“Haunted?” Zeph quipped. “Scarred?”<br />Asher gulped and nodded. “Yes. I just… Don’t know if I can believe that this is the only way. I mean, we don’t know what will happen if we don’t do things your way.”<br />
  98. 98. “Who’s to say things won’t be better? I mean, you yourself admitted that things were pretty rushed. Who knows if you’re – we’re – even really cursed.”<br />“W-What?” Andy was frozen with disbelief. “How can you –”<br />“Well,” Aerith spoke up, “Didn’t you say that the witch that cursed you was a novice? How do you know what she really did? If what she said would have come true?”<br />
  99. 99. “How do you know that you didn’t overreact?” Zeph continued. “Make a hasty decision. Or,” he paused a beat. “How do you know you weren’t conned into this legacy? Maybe this whole thing was a set up. Maybe there never really was a curse but just this sicko witch trying to get you to –”<br />“Enough.” Andy finally managed to get out. He stared at the faces of his children. Every word, each new speculation was like a knife slicing into his heart. He knew that he was the reason behind his kids’ pain, but what they suggested cut him deeply, creating a whole new layer of guilt and regret. “Enough,” He said again. He didn’t know what else to say. He was speechless.<br />
  100. 100. But Asher had to keep going. “Dad… Look… We’re not – We’re just trying to find our way. We do have a choice about what to believe, dad. And, well… We choose not to believe in this legacy. Or it’s rules. This curse is – well, if there is a curse, there has to be another way. There has to be. Either way, this legacy ends with me. I can’t in good consciousness continue on like this. None of us can.”<br />Andy regarded his son quietly, then glanced at his other two children. Just like that, he realized that he had lost this battle a long time ago.<br />
  101. 101. Andy started to rise.<br />“Dad –” Asher started to say, but Andy held up a hand.<br />“I… I see.” He nodded slowly as if assuring himself. “I see now. We’ll never be able to agree, to move past the challenge…. I love you all and wish to protect you as much as I can, but… I see.” Andy sighed. “I won’t change your minds and it doesn’t do any good to try. I just… Want you to know that… You’re wrong.” He held up a hand again to curb the protests. He was silent for a minute before he spoke again.<br />
  102. 102. “I… There’s a lot you all don’t understand…” He trailed off and smiled a bit. “Though I’ve tried to tell you, show you. I watched your mother… She believed everything you’re telling me now and it tore us apart... I let it tear us apart.” He rubbed his eyes. “Maybe you’re right – maybe she was right. …But I’ll never know if I was too hasty, if I was wrong. All I know is that maybes are meaningless now.” He paused. “If there’s one thing that you all remember, just know this. This legacy will happen. That above all was made clear to me. There’s no stopping it now. That being said, I won’t stand in your way. Because if it’s there’s one thing that will get you through, it’s family. It’s your love and care for each other. You say I didn’t pay, that I didn’t lose anything. But I did. I lost your mother and Skye and all of you. The challenge tore all of you apart, split us all up. I know the pain that comes from that. From losing your family and watching everyone you love turn against you. Which is why I won’t let that happen to you. I’ll get out of your way. Because, you’re right, Asher. It’s your legacy now. It’s not up to me anymore. You have to decide what to do with it. How to move on. And though I strongly disagree, though I wish you’d reconsider, I won’t try to convince you otherwise. Because I think it’s important you stand together. Even if it is against me. I’d rather you all stay together than drift apart again. So if this is what you want… Then okay. I understand. If… I wouldn’t want this either.” He gave a tiny smile. “Perhaps moving really is for the best. A new home for a new life, eh?” Andy looked down then, slowly easing his grip up off the chair. “Just remember to look out for each other,” He said softly before walking away.<br />
  103. 103. *****<br />Asher sat back, stunned. A part of him felt terrible, but he knew that this was only the beginning.<br />“So… What does that mean?” Aerith asked. “Is he really going to –”<br />“Yes.” Asher answered her. “I think he’s really going to move. And so am I. I can’t stay here. There’s just… too much here. Too much that I don’t want for my family. For us,” He said, looking up.<br />
  104. 104. “Guys…” Aerith began, “We can’t really let him live by himself –”<br />“Why not?” Zeph asked bitterly.<br />“He’s an old man –”<br />“He made his choice. If he’s not going to stand behind us and give up this stupid legacy bullshit, than who cares if he’s all alone? He made things that way.”<br />
  105. 105. “Asher?”Her eldest brother shrugged. “…So what do we do now?”<br />“Nothing,” Zeph was quick to answer again. “This stupid curse is fake. This legacy and it’s rules are crap – just like mom said. We’ll just ignore it and try to pretend that stupid, pointless challenge never happened.”<br />“I don’t really think that’s possible,” Aerith said, looking at her hands. “I mean –”<br />
  106. 106. “Yeah, okay, maybe we can’t. But the next generation? Definitely. They don’t have to know what we faced and they don’t have to deal with any of our shit. Let’s bury the past.”<br />Aerith just looked at her brother. Even Asher raised a brow before saying, “Easier said than done.”<br />“But we can try,” Zeph insisted. “We can try to be normal and forget and live – well I don’t know how, just live.”<br />
  107. 107. “Nobody else will have to know our pain.”<br />“I can live with that,” Asher said quietly, thinking of his kids. He thought about Rose and for a second experienced a moment of panic. She was growing so fast. She would soon be a teenager - the age he was when he went through the challenge. So when he told his brother he agreed, he wasn’t thinking about himself, about whether his siblings would ever be okay. He was thinking about his kids. And he vowed that none of them would ever know about the challenge he faced, even if that meant they’d never see their grandfather.<br />*****<br />
  108. 108. Asher entered his bedroom and the first thing he did was rub his wife’s pregnant belly and talk to the baby – it was what he always did whenever he saw her.<br />“Um, Asher?” Melanie asked. “You are going to talk to me, aren’t you?”<br />Asher sighed and kissed Melanie’s belly. “Yes. Yes I am. I…” He sighed again. “I’m not really sure where to begin, but… Here it goes. As you probably know, Dad and I fought. Over the legacy. And basically… We’re moving out.”<br />
  109. 109. “What?”<br />“I’m not crazy, I swear. Everything I’m doing, I’m doing for you and the kids. Like this little guy right here,” He patted her tummy again. “Or girl,” he added after a pause. Finally, he looked up at Melanie. “My dad wants me to continue the legacy he started, uphold the traditions.”<br />“And… that’s not a good thing?” Melanie guessed.<br />
  110. 110. “No. No, it’s not. You see… One of my dad’s… traditions, for lack of a better word is the heir challenge-”<br />“You all had to compete to see who would be heir? I don’t see what’s so wrong with that, it’s actually quite –”<br />“It’s deadly,” Asher blurted. “The challenge is quite deadly.”<br />“Oh.”<br />
  111. 111. “It’s how my youngest brother died. He… Well, uh, he lost…”<br />“Oh.” Her brows furrowed. “But Aerith and Zephyr –”<br />“Skye came in last. Dead last.” Asher winced after he realized what he’d said. “One of us had to die. Only three of us could have been resurrected.”<br />“Resurrected? But – Does that mean –”<br />
  112. 112. “Yes. I – I died. And was resurrected. It’s why I had trouble sleeping when we first met. Still do, sometimes.”<br />“Oh, Ash…”<br />“It’s not very often, nowadays I-”<br />“You should have told me! I should have known! You should have known. You can tell me anything, Ash.”<br />
  113. 113. “Melanie –”<br />“I mean, I’m here for you. Just the thought of you alone and in pain and –”<br />Asher nodded. “I know. I just… It’s just hard for me to talk about. Mostly, I just wanted to forget.”<br />“And now?”<br />
  114. 114. “Now my father’s bringing everything back up again,” Asher muttered, throwing up his hands. “I guess this was unavoidable, though. I should have brought it up sooner, told you about the legacy sooner. The thing is… I was kinda scared. I… I thought if I told you… I don’t know – that maybe you’d take Rose and run off. That you’d think I’m crazy.”<br />“Ash!”<br />“Well, can you blame me? I mean, this legacy is crazy.”<br />
  115. 115. “My mom didn’t believe in any of it. She and my dad fought over the legacy right up until her death. It’s why she died. She was trying to save us – Skye and Aerith and Zeph and me. She died trying to stop the challenge.”<br />“Oh.”<br />“And I guess… I didn’t want any of that to happen to you. To us. It’s why I didn’t want to get married.”<br />
  116. 116. “But then I got pregnant.”<br />“Right. Well, no. I mean, I love you. I wanted to marry you. But like I said, I was just… scared. I… didn’t want my dad’s legacy to be mine.”<br />“So what’s different now?”<br />“Well,” Asher gave a tiny smile. “Zeph and Aer for one. I know I’m not in this alone. So, you, too, I suppose. I have you.”<br />
  117. 117. Melanie smiled. “You’ll always have me. …But I don’t think I understand… why. Why would your dad –”<br />Asher sighed. “My dad is – well, he thinks he is – cursed.”<br />“Cursed?”<br />“Yes. The legacy was his… payment for getting the cursed removed.”<br />
  118. 118. “Seriously?”<br />“So he says.” Asher sighed again. “I just… I can’t go through all that again. Especially knowing what I know now. I can’t see this legacy through, I just can’t. That’s why I want to move. I… My dad and I are at an impasse. He still believes in this thing, but I don’t want the kids to have anything to do with it. I don’t want them to worry about that stuff. I don’t want them… I just don’t want them to know.”<br />
  119. 119. Melanie was quiet for a moment before she said, “I can understand that. I don’t want them to worry either. …But what about this… curse?”<br />“Do you believe in curses?” Asher challenged.<br />Melanie smiled. “I can’t say that I do,” she admitted.<br />“Exactly. I mean… Maybe it’s a risk, but… Everything’s fine. Everything has always been fine.”<br />
  120. 120. “Even when I was little,” Asher continued. “I mean, yeah, money was a little tight at first for my parents, but nothing major happened. No accidents, no floating lamps or mean ghosts… Not even a creepy attic. Everything was always fine and perfectly normal – until the challenge that is. So a part of me just can’t help but feel like… like maybe it was all a little bogus. Or maybe that, you know, because of Skye, things will be okay. Or that maybe my dad’s way isn’t the only way to do things. And if it’s not… Well, don’t I owe it to the kids to find out? To at least try?”<br />
  121. 121. Asher looked up suddenly. “I know this is a lot to throw at you and I know I’m probably not making much sense right now, but I just need you to trust me. To know that I –”<br />“Asher, stop.”<br />“But, wait, Melanie, you don’t –”<br />
  122. 122. “Asher. I trust you. …I mean, yes, things sound a little crazy and far-fetched. But I don’t know anything about the legacy, what it was like for you growing up, or this challenge you faced, though to be honest, from what I’m hearing and from what I see of Zephyr, I can’t say I’m too keen on our kids going through that. I – well, what did you have to do any way?”<br />“I – We had to… Um, well… play… with fire…”<br />Melanie closed her eyes and took a breath. “No, I definitely don’t think I want our kids to be doing that.”<br />
  123. 123. “So when you tell me we have to move, when you tell me that this is the best thing for us, well… I believe you. I trust that you’re telling me the truth and that in this one instance I need to defer to you because you know what you’re talking about and I don’t. You know this legacy, Ash, so if you tell me you don’t want to be a part of it, that you don’t want our kids to be a part of it… Then I trust you. I’m on your side.”<br />“You don’t know how much that means to me…”<br />
  124. 124. “So show me.”<br />Asher just smiled before he wrapped his wife in his arms and kissed her.<br />*****<br />
  125. 125. Two nights later, Aerith walked into another club. She wasn’t really paying attention, nor did she expect to find anything or anyone. More than anything, habit made her leave her apartment. That and the fact that she didn’t want to be alone. Asher had told her about his talk with Melanie and she couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous. Why hadn’t things with her parents worked out that simply? And what about her and Taz? Should she try to explain? Would telling him more about the legacy –<br />Aerith suddenly stopped in her tracks, all her thoughts flying out her head. She couldn’t believe who she saw.<br />
  126. 126. There, at the bar. It was the Contessa. After what felt like years of searching.<br />Slowly, Aerith put one foot in front of the other and made her way to the bar. Her heartbeat was racing but she did her best to keep her emotions under control – which wasn’t exactly an easy feat lately, she thought wryly.<br />
  127. 127. She took a seat next to her. “Well, you’re –” She wasn’t able to say much more before the Contessa groaned.“…Um…”<br />“Look kid, I am so, so, not in the mood.”<br />Aerith’s jaw dropped a little.<br />“I mean do you have any idea how hard it is avoiding you? I haven’t had a decent night out on the town in ages.”<br />
  128. 128. “…I’m sorry I’ve inconvenienced you.”<br />“You should be!”<br />“That was sarcasm. What I’m really sorry about is being a vampire! Because, in case you forgot, you bit me! And let me tell you, that is really inconvenient!”<br />The Contessa sighed and rolled her eyes. “Excuse me if I disregard the complaints of the newbie. Trying living centuries as a vampire, kid. Then tell me how –”<br />
  129. 129. “I don’t want to live for centuries! I don’t want this,” Aerith gestured to herself.<br />“Yeah, well, someone else did.”<br />“Excuse me? What – no, who are you talking –”<br />“Ugh, enough with the questions already –”<br />“I haven’t even asked you one yet! You bite me out of the blue and you just expect me to not ask questions?”<br />
  130. 130. “Too much to ask for?”<br />“Yes,” Aerith ground out. “Look… Just tell me what’s happening to me. Better yet – tell me how to stop it. I don’t want –”<br />The Contessa sighed. “No.”<br />“To be a –” Aerith trailed off. “What?”<br />
  131. 131. But she was already getting up. “Hey! Where are you going? Why won’t you answer me?”<br />
  132. 132. “I’ve looked everywhere for you, you know. Tell me what’s going on. I need –”<br />“Look, honey, get this through your head: I don’t care. I don’t care what you want and I don’t care what you need. It is not my job to answer your questions.”<br />“How else am I supposed to find out about being a vampire? Who else am I supposed to ask?”<br />The Contessa shrugged. “Not my problem.”<br />
  133. 133. Aerith recoiled, anger surging through her veins. “It is now,” she ground out. “You’re going to answer me or –”<br />“Or what?” the Contessa laughed. “I hate to break it to you, chicka, but seniority rules. You don’t nearly have enough years to challenge me.”<br />“But –”<br />
  134. 134. “But nothing. Now I will say this once and only once. Stop bothering me. Stop looking for me. I will not answer your questions. You are not worth my time. I don’t care about your precious little life and your plans. I don’t care how hard it is for you adjusting to the dark, discovering your powers. I. Just. Don’t. Care.”<br />“But-”<br />“Do you know what being the Contessa means? It means I don’t have to waste my time schooling the new kid. Goodbye. Don’t contact me again.”<br />
  135. 135. Aerith stared in shock as the Contessa stalked off. Well, just what was she supposed to do now? How was she supposed to figure out what was happening to her? And just want did the Contessa mean when she said someone else wanted her bitten? A million and one thoughts raced through her head.<br />
  136. 136. She stood there dazed for quite some time before some townie bumped into her and reminded her that she was in front of the bar. Slowly she made her way over to the lounge and threw herself onto a couch. She couldn’t believe the Contessa had been so unreasonable. So – So –<br />“Well, that was rude.”<br />
  137. 137. “Huh?” She said absently as she glanced beside her. She knew those shoes. Didn’t she?<br />“Leave it to Lauren to behave like a complete jerk and refuse to initiate the newbie.” The voice said again. It was smooth and confident and –<br />“What?” Aerith said, losing her train of thought. “Who?”<br />
  138. 138. “Lauren. The Contessa,” He said with a wave of his hand. “Ah, well, forget it. Allow me to officially introduce myself. I’m Wes.”<br />*****<br />The End. Later simmers, and happy reading.<br />