Ryman Legacy Chapter 13A

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Ryman Legacy Chapter 13A

  1. 1. The Ryman Legacy<br />Chapter 13A <br />Out of the Night<br />By Mzyra<br />
  2. 2. Jose stared out the window between the kitchen curtains anxiously. The party had already started and he really ought to have been in the lounge socialising with all his extended family, but they were probably fine without him, and there was one person he was waiting to see arrive. He really, really hoped she would show up.<br />
  3. 3. And a few moments later he saw Tina striding pensively along the pavement towards their house.<br />There was nothing that had physically changed about her appearance – which had probably been the same since before Jose had even been born – but somehow she seemed to be even more beautiful every time he saw her.<br />
  4. 4. Jose cringed at his own thoughts – he really was hopeless; she’d never given him any encouragement, but here he was head-over-heels for her. He was going to have to admit his feelings for her, but he had no idea how she’d respond. This could well be the most embarrassing night of his entire life, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. He’d just have to take the plunge.<br />But first he’d have to greet her – in a not-too-obvious way…<br />
  5. 5. He timed his leaving the kitchen for exactly the time she walked in the front door.<br />“Oh hi Jose, happy birthday!” she congratulated him happily.<br />“Thanks,” he said with a nervous smile, “I was just on my way to the lounge for the cake and everything.”<br />“Oh good, I’m just in time then. Are we certain your family isn’t going to attempt to stake me?” she half-teased.<br />“No, they wouldn’t do that – they’re too nice,” he replied. And Liv wouldn’t let anyone get in the way of a potential love story, he mused, the anxiety coming back once again.<br />
  6. 6. There certainly were a lot of relatives crammed into the Ryman house, and there’d been an almost-universal ‘no added guests’ rule.<br />“Maybe you should wish for a bigger house,” one of the cousins suggested to a lot of laughter as Jose pondered over his cake.<br />“That probably would be good,” Jose conceded.<br />
  7. 7. But that’ll have to wait for another birthday – I already know what I’m wishing for this time, Jose thought as he looked up briefly at Tina, who was watching with a smile.<br />I wish that she would feel the same way about me as I do about her. Or, if she doesn’t, that it doesn’t hurt too much…<br />
  8. 8. A moment later he had earnestly blown out the candles and finally become an adult. In a football kit for some reason – he supposed it could have been worse, like what Lyle had grown up into, but he’d leave changing his outfit until later…<br />And he ignored any teasing comments his relatives were making about it all.<br />
  9. 9. “Wow. It’s odd seeing you as tall as I am now Jose,” Tina smiled.<br />“Er, yeah,” Jose said awkwardly, wondering how to phrase everything. “It’s pretty cramped in here though and I don’t have much to say to people… Do you want to go outside?” he asked, feeling his stomach churning.<br />“Yeah, okay,” she agreed.<br />
  10. 10. But Jose couldn’t just start pouring his heart out while looking her in the face – he was worried he’d get too nervous and back out part way through – so he found a distraction.<br />“You really are very interested in the stars and the sky, aren’t you Jose?” Tina asked with amusement as he sat down.<br />“I find them relaxing,” he said defensively. I certainly need relaxing right now, he added internally.<br />
  11. 11. “Relaxation is good,” Tina conceded and joined him as he laid back.<br />“I learnt all the constellations back in school too,” he added.<br />“Glad you managed to get some learning in before you left,” she smirked.<br />“Do you think the stars have changed much since when you first became an adult?” he wondered.<br />“I expect they have a bit,” she mused, “but probably so little and so slowly that nobody would have noticed.”<br />
  12. 12. “It really must be so weird being a vampire,” he posed vaguely.<br />“Are we really back on that subject, Jose?” she asked sceptically. “I can take a hint.”<br />Jose hadn’t even been thinking about that, just trying to de-stress, but since she’d been the one to bring it up… “How far would you say that I am from being sufficiently… mature or whatever, that you would consider turning me into a vampire?”<br />
  13. 13. “Oh Jose,” she sighed as she laid back on the grass, exasperatedly. “I don’t know why you would even want to be a vampire. You have a nice – and big – family and a long time ahead of you even naturally; immortality is over-rated if you don’t have the people to share it with. Not to mention you can only go out at night. You’re an adult and you have your freedom; you don’t want to be a vampire.”<br />Jose swallowed. “Honestly? You’re right, I don’t really. I’m happy as a human. I was just wondering whether you saw me as an adult or anything yet.”<br />Tina frowned, puzzled. “Well, you are an adult, I don’t really get what you mean…”<br />
  14. 14. Jose gave a deep sigh of dread and focused on the stars. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed this Tina, but I’m kind of… massively in love with you.” He considered going on, but knew he’d only end up rambling, so bit his tongue while he waited for her to respond.<br />
  15. 15. Eventually she pushed herself up and stared down at him. “Er, could you repeat that?”<br />He sighed and closed his eyes for a second, “I’m in love with you. I don’t know when it started, but I can’t help it. And I can’t go without saying it anymore.”<br />“That’s what I thought you said,” she murmured in shock.<br />They sat and laid in silence for a few minutes.<br />“Is that all you’re going to say?” Tina asked, shock still evident in her voice.<br />
  16. 16. Jose sat up and turned to face her seriously. “What more do you expect me to say? I’ve told you how I feel. And I… I can understand if you find it weird ‘cause… well, you know, the age gap and you met me as a teenager, but… If it’s too weird or you’re not interested, just tell me and I’ll get it, I promise I will. I won’t like it, but I’ll understand. And I guess people find a way to move on eventually. But… I love you. I’d give anything to make you happy and I pray that what will make you happy is what will make me happy too, but if what will make you happy is never seeing me again, I’d even do that. But I have to know.”<br />
  17. 17. “W-well- It’s just-” Tina stammered, apparently still shocked. “I- You-” She took a deep breath and paused. “Okay, firstly, I don’t want to never see you again, so you can cross that off. Um… I’ve never-” she shook her head. “I’ve been around three hundred years, but this has never happened before.”<br />“You’ve never had a guy fall in love with you?” Jose asked a little sceptically.<br />“I’ve had men claim they were, but I could tell they weren’t really or didn’t mean it… I just- I- Why, Jose?” she asked, clearly baffled. <br />
  18. 18. “Why do I love you?” Jose swallowed – if she went on to say no, this was going to be especially painful. But if she said yes… “You’re beautiful – and I don’t just mean that in terms of appearance, though that’s true too. Look at all the things you’ve done with your life and after-life. And even with me; all you had to do was turn some stupid ungrateful kid human again and your job would have been done. But then you were there so I wouldn’t just do it again. You saved my life even though the last thing I’d told you was to leave me alone. You took me in and tried to put me right when everything else seemed to have gone wrong. God only knows what I’d be doing now if it weren’t for you. You deserve the best and I’d give you everything I ever could. If you want it.”<br />
  19. 19. “But- But I’m a three hundred year old vampire! I’m not like all the young girls you get and you haven’t even had the chance to properly look around at the adult women yet-!”<br />“Uh, firstly: not being like the young girls works in your favour, and your age and vampire status doesn’t bother me. And you can come up with every counter-argument you want, none of it’s going to change my feelings about you. The only thing that matters now, and that’d hold me back, is how you feel.” <br />
  20. 20. “Well you say that, but, I mean, if we were together…” she started quickly before she paused and Jose noticed her blush slightly. “I’m confined to the night,” she finally ended.<br />“So you would want to stay a vampire?” he asked.<br />“Would that bother you?”<br />“If it meant that I got to be with you, not at all. And if the differing schedules was a hassle I’d become a vampire too. Once you’ll let me,” he added with a slight smile.<br />
  21. 21. “Well that wouldn’t really matter,” she said thoughtfully, almost to herself, “because if I were going to settle to have a family I’d have to leave the vampire grand council and there’d be little point in remaining a vampire…”<br />“Family?” Jose prodded, trying to keep the hope out of his voice.<br />Tina blushed properly this time and tried to change the subject back. “It’s not easy to leave the Grand Council, you know. They’d have to approve it.”<br />“Do you think they wouldn’t?”<br />“Well Christian didn’t even ask when he did it, so they probably would…”<br />
  22. 22. “Sooo…” Jose said tentatively. “I’m picturing you being human again and then… we could get married… and then we could have children… and then we would get old and have grandchildren too…! What do you see as being wrong with that picture?”<br />
  23. 23. “I- I just- I feel like I’m being selfish somehow.”<br />“Why?!” Jose asked incredulously.<br />“You’re so young and I don’t know whether maybe you could get more and better with somebody else you haven’t met yet. I think I’ve established that this is about as much as I’m going to get on my own.”<br />
  24. 24. Jose leaned forwards. “You’re not being selfish; if anyone is, I am. The big question is: do you want all of that regardless, or do you want all of that with me? I’d rather not just be somebody you’re settling for because you’re being pessimistic. Or that you’re going to find this really weird when it actually gets to it.”<br />Tina sighed. “Okay, I’d just like to make one thing clear: when I started helping you, this was never part of any plan.” Jose gave her a puzzled look. “Sorry, I just think that could look really bad from the outside and needed to clarify for my conscience.”<br />“Okay?”<br />“As for the rest of it…” she started, and took his hand and stood up.<br />
  25. 25. “I guess it’s kind of unfair for me to have demanded an answer for why you feel the way you do and not be able to give one in return, but all I can say is… you’re amazingly endearing, Jose Ryman. And from what I can tell, you’ve grown up so much from when we first met…”<br />“So…?” he said hopefully.<br />
  26. 26. “So,” she said, and pulled him in for a gentle kiss.<br />Her lips were cold but still soft and she even smelt beautiful, Jose’s brain managed to piece together through the amazing haze that was descending over his thought process. But he was still very conscious of her hands under his chin and on his hip, and his own hand on her waist – he’d never felt anything like these feelings before.<br />
  27. 27. But it had to end as Tina went to consult with the other vampires, leaving a longing Jose to try and regain his thoughts and normal breathing alone.<br />Tina finally allowed herself to let her guard down as she walked away and felt the smile spread across her face, further than she thought ought to have been possible. And then there was that feeling in her chest and the butterflies in her stomach… For the sake of her pride, she sternly prevented herself giggling like a schoolgirl, but she couldn’t help but blush at the knowledge that she could have been if she’d let herself.<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  28. 28. As Tina rounded the back of the mansion that served as an effective vampire headquarters, she was reassured to find Chris exactly where she expected her to be. Now she just had to suppress her feelings as best she could.<br />
  29. 29. “It is good to see you again,” the other Contessa said without emotion or actually looking at her.<br />“I know I haven’t been around very much lately,” Tina conceded. “That’s kind of the reason I’m here tonight.”<br />Chris didn’t respond, simply continued to muse on the statue in front of them. “I wonder if she did ever truly die…”<br />Tina resisted the urge to jibe her friend on her semi-obsession with Simfield’s first vampire. Chris didn’t have a sense of humour, and she wasn’t the only vampire to idolise the woman. She settled for “I don’t know. Perhaps she just moved away?”<br />“Hm.”<br />
  30. 30. “So,” Chris continued. “What has brought you here? I do not often get company.”<br />“Nolan spending all of his time out socialising with the humans still?”<br />“I do not see the appeal.”<br />“No,” Tina agreed, you wouldn’t. She loved Chris like a sister, but… she was not good around non-vampires. And that was when she was patient. “Er, I’m here because… I believe the time may have come for me to leave.”<br />“To leave the council?” Chris raised an eyebrow ever so slightly.<br />Tina swallowed a little. “To leave vampirism altogether.”<br />
  31. 31. “I see. What is so good now that you would die for it?” There was never any hint of emotion in anything she said.<br />“I-” Tina started and braced herself. She knew her friend wouldn’t like this. “I have developed feelings for and… a relationship with a human friend.”<br />“Love?”<br />Tina couldn’t hide the smile that came as she checked her feelings. “Yes,” she admitted shakily. “I think so.”<br />“I see.” <br />
  32. 32. They were silent for a few moments before Chris continued. “They say that love is fleeting.”<br />“You’ve said before that human life is fleeting,” Tina pointed out, “so love might last long enough to last a lifetime, even if that is true.”<br />“But to consider it worth more than immortality…”<br />“You know I have always aspired to a family, Chris,” she said gently.<br />There was silence again for a while. “We shall see what Nolan thinks.”<br />
  33. 33. “What I think about what?” Nolan asked casually as he morphed out of his bat form beside the women. “Hello again Tina.”<br />“Nolan,” she smiled back.<br />“Tina wishes to leave. She claims to have fallen in love with a human.” Chris filled him in. Whether she was being deprecating or not was impossible to tell.<br />“I see,” Nolan said with a slight frown.<br />“That’s what she keeps saying,” Tina responded quietly with a wry smile.<br />
  34. 34. “So who is this gentleman that thinks he can steal away one of my beautiful council members?” Nolan asked sternly.<br />But Tina had been friends with Nolan and knew well enough only to feel exasperated by his protective older-brother act, so she just smiled. “Does it matter?”<br />“Of course it does! If he were to mistreat you-”<br />“I am sure I could handle that Nolan. Or, if I really wanted to make someone suffer, I’m afraid I would turn to Chris, not you.”<br />“I probably would too,” Nolan conceded. Chris gave no visible response. “But I don’t know that I can agree to let you go if you’re going to withhold this information…”<br />
  35. 35. Tina sighed, “Fine. His name… His name is Jose Ryman.”<br />“Ryman? That name sounds familiar to me…” he said thoughtfully. “But he loves you? And you him?”<br />Tina couldn’t stem her feelings any longer. “Yeah,” she answered breathlessly, “I’ve never felt this way about anybody else in all the centuries. He’s so sweet and genuine and, well, he’s not necessarily the brightest, but he’s so… I don’t know how to describe it. And he loves me. I know.” She blushed at the way she was gushing. So much for being dignified at three hundred years old.<br />
  36. 36. “Well,” Nolan said, raising an eyebrow, “if all of that is true I don’t see how I could stand in your way,” he smiled. “I suppose you have to leave the council? Is he forcing you to become human?”<br />“Not at all,” she said earnestly, “but I don’t think he should be a vampire and I’m not going to watch my husband age and die while I stay this way. And we aren’t exactly cut out for family life as vampires… And we can’t have humans on the vampire council, can we?”<br />“I suppose not, but it shall be a shame to lose you Tina.”<br />
  37. 37. “If she leaves there are only two of us left,” Chris interjected. “We never replaced Christian either.”<br />“Didn’t Christian marry a Ryman too?” Nolan pondered thoughtfully.<br />“And he wound up dead.”<br />“I can assure you that Jose is not going to kill me,” Tina sighed at her friend. “And why don’t you promote some of the newer vampires if you really need replacements?”<br />“They do not know the old ways. It takes decades of expertise and discipline.”<br />“Maybe we should apprentice one of your children,” Nolan joked. Tina just rolled her eyes and Chris didn’t comment, which could have meant anything.<br />
  38. 38. “Anyway, I give you my blessing to leave and be happy after three hundred years, as if I ever couldn’t have done,” Nolan continued and hugged her.<br />“I probably wouldn’t have taken no for an answer,” Tina acknowledged.<br />“I meant that I wish for you to be happy, but I daresay that is also true.”<br />“Now you’ll have to have all my eternal-youthful fun for me, as if you don’t already.”<br />“What can I say? These ‘nightclubs’ are a surprisingly good invention,” he laughed.<br />“And I’m sure that has nothing to do with the style of clothes that women wear there,” she teased.<br />
  39. 39. And then there was Chris. Tina wasn’t certain what to say – she could usually read her friend quite well, but she was eternally uncertain of whether Chris’s disdain for love was genuine or just secret envy and she couldn’t dare suggest the latter out loud.<br />“I still consider this to be a bad idea,” Chris started for her. “You are a valuable vampire and that should not be thrown away.”<br />“I have to live sooner or later Chris, and… like I say, I’ve never felt like this. I can’t throw that away. And are you suggesting that I couldn’t come back?”<br />“I suppose you could, but you would have to earn your way back to the council,” she warned.<br />
  40. 40. “I fully accept that risk,” she smiled gently.<br />“Then I suppose there is nothing else to say. Goodbye Tina. I hope that this will be as good as you seem to think it will.”<br />Tina didn’t want to argue, so she just settled for “Thank you.”<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  41. 41. Tina laughed to herself as she arrived back. Jose had gone straight back to stargazing. <br />“Am I disturbing anything?”<br />Jose suddenly became alert again, “What did they say?”<br />“It would have been difficult for them to stop me, but it’s fine anyway,” she smiled.<br />“Oh, that’s great,” he said cautiously as he got to his feet. “No change of heart in the meantime?”<br />“Not me…” <br />
  42. 42. “But you better be certain about this Jose Ryman,” she said, looking him straight in the eyes.<br />He slipped his arms around her waist, “I don’t tend to be certain about many things, but I definitely am about this.” She saw him swallow nervously at how close they were together.<br />“So… I’ll become human again then?”<br />“If you’re okay with that,” he whispered back.<br />
  43. 43. “Here goes, then,” she murmured to herself as she pulled out the potion, nervously twisted it open and lifted it towards her mouth.<br />“Is it going to hurt?” Jose asked concernedly.<br />“I’m told it… sizzles,” she said warily. “We’ll see…”<br />It was warm as it ran down her throat and the warmth spread out over her body before, all at once, the ‘sizzling’ began. It didn’t exactly hurt, but it wasn’t entirely pleasant as her skin turned pinker and her eyes temporarily lost all vision as her pupils changed. At least it didn’t take too long.<br />
  44. 44. It was odd for Tina seeing her skin human colour again after well over two centuries. She felt oddly insecure about it.<br />“So. I’m human again,” she said breathlessly. “What do you think?”<br />“Your eyes don’t match your dress anymore,” Jose observed.<br />“Er no, I guess they wouldn’t. Not that I’ll be keeping the dress now I’m not a vampire…”<br />“I do have one question though,” Jose frowned slightly.<br />“What’s that?”<br />
  45. 45. “Marry me?”<br />Tina gaped down at him “When did you have time to get a ring?” <br />“It’s a family ring; I only had to go inside while you were gone. We could get a new ring if you want though.”<br />
  46. 46. “No, it’s fine. It’s beautiful.”<br />“So that would be a…?”<br />“Yes. That would be a yes. If you couldn’t guess from the way I just agreed to grow old and die for you,” she laughed slightly. <br />
  47. 47. He stood up and they embraced happily.<br />“Tell me this isn’t going to turn out to be some wonderful dream that’s going to make me very depressed when I wake up,” he laughed to her.<br />“If it is then that means that I’m the one dreaming. And I’d be more than a little disappointed myself.”<br />
  48. 48. “So, what do we do now?” he wondered.<br />“Um- Oh,” she said with a laugh looking at him and then at herself. “I think we may need new clothes. Unless you want to be a footballer.”<br />“Er no, new clothes it is.”<br />
  49. 49. A little while later they were in Bluewater Village. It didn’t take Jose long to pick something along the lines of what he used to wear, still blue to match his eyes, and he’d even managed to grow some sideburns, which he was secretly rather proud of.<br />Tina was taking a while longer to pick something and be ready, but given how long Liv took to get ready to go anywhere, he wasn’t surprised.<br />
  50. 50. And it all turned out to be worth it in the end.<br />“So how do I look?”<br />“Oh, brunette now?” he asked, surprised.<br />“I told you I was originally. Being a vampire changes so much of the rest of your appearance, I figured I might as well dye my hair back then, but I think I want to go plain and honest now.”<br />“Right.”<br />“So…?”<br />
  51. 51. “You look gorgeous,” he said shakily. “I especially like the bare arms,” he smiled before taking her hand and kissing her all the way along it to prove his point.<br />“You’ve been watching romance programmes, haven’t you?” she laughed.<br />“Just a few,” he admitted shyly. “Can’t say I have much experience in this stuff.”<br />“Yeah, well, that makes two of us,” she smiled shyly back at him. “Now shall we head back?”<br />
  52. 52. But when they arrived back, they decided to stay out a while longer, cuddled up together, looking up at the stars and Jose pointing out all the constellations.<br />“I think this is part of what I wanted all along,” he admitted. “Stargazing next to each other isn’t quite as good as doing it together.”<br />“Well you’ve gotten what you wanted now, haven’t you?” she laughed.<br />“Almost. I think we’ve still got a few more things to do first,” he smiled at her.<br />“I daresay you’ll get all of those things now too,” she sighed.<br />“I certainly hope so.”<br />
  53. 53. They stayed out until sunrise.<br />“Wow, I forgot what it was like to be out in daylight without suffering third degree burns,” Tina mused, watching the light shine on her arm and hand. “It’s beautiful.”<br />“Give it a few months of seeing it every day and you’ll be bored of it again,” Jose smiled.<br />“People take it for granted until they can’t see it anymore.”<br />“Well maybe we’ve seen it enough for today – I don’t know about you, but I’m more than a little cold: we should go inside. And it’s about time you met my family.”<br />“Yay,” she responded nervously.<br />
  54. 54. “Everyone,” Jose said as he found all his family in the living room, “there’s somebody you have to meet. And liking her is kind of mandatory, you don’t get a choice,” he smiled.<br />Liv gasped, “Hang on, is this…?”<br />“This is Tina – Contessa Tina – Smith. She’s my fiancée.”<br />Liv’s squeal was ear-splitting.<br />
  55. 55. “Oh my god, I’ve heard so much about you, I can’t believe Jose’s left it so long before introducing us to you, we have so much to talk about and I can’t believe you’re engaged already, can I see the ring and I am totally up for bridesmaid duties if you want me to, it’s so exciting-”<br />“Liv?” Jose interrupted from the sidelines. “You may want to breathe before you pass out. And let Tina get a word in edgeways.”<br />Liv stuck her tongue out at him, but smiled back at Tina.<br />“It’s nice to meet you Liv. I see what your brother’s been telling me about now,” Tina grinned.<br />“That better not be anything bad!” Liv said loudly towards Jose.<br />
  56. 56. Jose rolled his eyes and turned back to Mia, “So that’s her,” he said happily with a little apprehension.<br />“So she’s given up vampirism just like that?” Juan asked.<br />“Well she never really decided to become one in the first place,” Jose pointed out. “Wouldn’t you choose not to be a zombie if you could?”<br />“She seems lovely dear,” Mia smiled. <br />“So… You’re not going to get all cross or suspicious about when I… left temporarily?” Jose asked hesitantly.<br />“Well…” Mia started with a raised eyebrow and a smile. <br />
  57. 57. “So are you guys gonna have lots of kids?” Liv asked brightly.<br />“Er,” Tina laughed, “well I definitely do want some at least, not sure about an exact number…”<br />“I’ve always been the youngest you know, but I’ve always wanted to help look after kids so…”<br />“Don’t worry, you’ll be the first person we call in a babysitting emergency,” Tina reassured her.<br />
  58. 58. “Eeeeeeee, you’re like the best sister-in-law ever!” Liv said, pulling Tina into a hug. “We totally have to go shopping some time. Girls’ night out!”<br />“Er, yeah okay, whenever you want,” Tina laughed nervously.<br />“Yay!”<br />
  59. 59. Then Tina moved on to Mia and Juan with far more nerves. “Er, hello.”<br />“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Mia replied pleasantly.<br />“I- I have to say- I’m really sorry about back when Jose ran away. I tried to tell him to go back home or at least to call, but… I probably really didn’t help. I guess it was very stressful for you, but I just didn’t feel I could force him…”<br />“The most important thing to me is that you kept him safe. It was the worse scenarios that were causing me stress and at least none of them came true. Thanks to you.”<br />“So no hard feelings?” she asked hopefully.<br />“Absolutely none,” Mia smiled.<br />
  60. 60. “Oh my god Jos, you have like the best taste in girlfriends ever!”<br />“You know she’s marrying me, not you,” Jose laughed.<br />“She marrying the family, including me,” Liv persisted. “And she’s awesome.”<br />“I’m glad you agree, as if you hadn’t made your mind up before you’d even met her,” he smirked.<br />“What can I say? She stopped you being such an idiot all the time – what’s not to like?”<br />“Thanks,” Jose rolled his eyes again.<br />
  61. 61. “Anyway, seriously: congratulations Jos, she’s really nice and I’m sure you’ll be happy.”<br />“Thanks Liv.”<br />A little way away Mia smiled, “Welcome to the family Tina.”<br />“Thank you.”<br />Juan just sat and smiled that everyone was happy and nothing was being terribly dramatic for once.<br />
  62. 62. And all there was to do then was for Mia to call to invite everyone to the wedding. The Ryman family had never really been one for giving much advance warning for things, but they nearly always got everyone they asked anyway. They were lucky like that.<br />
  63. 63. And Jose and Tina were lucky to get a very clear, quite warm day for their wedding out in the garden that afternoon, after they’d briefly gone downtown to find good wedding outfits. Not that they were focusing on that very much by the time the ceremony got underway.<br />
  64. 64. It was a relatively small, quiet wedding (for the size of their family, at least), but everyone agreed that that merely made it all the more beautiful. And it was all well colour co-ordinated thanks to Mia and Liv especially.<br />
  65. 65. “Is this everything you hoped it would be?” Jose asked as everyone applauded.<br />“More,” she smiled back. “I thought I’d be lucky enough to just get a nice man, never mind a whole family to go with him.”<br />“Then I hope they live up to your perceptions too; we aren’t always the most normal.”<br />“I’m a three hundred year old ex-vampire Jose, if you were too normal I’d never fit in.”<br />“Good point,” he acknowledged.<br />
  66. 66. After their first married kiss there was the customary cutting of the cake as usual – with absolutely no spilling of cake or icing on his suit, to Jose’s extremely neat delight – before the bride and groom were forced to separate temporarily to meet and catch up with people respectively.<br />
  67. 67. “So now you’ve married your vampire lady, huh?”<br />“Yeah. Tina’s wonderful,” Jose smiled at his brother.<br />“Then I wish you all the happiness me and Roxy have. I’d wish you more, but I’m not convinced that’s possible.”<br />“That sounds good to me then.”<br />“I tell you what I do wish you, though: I wish you more sleep than we’re getting. Seriously, wait until you have kids – it took me half an hour to get all the sauce out of my eye when I feel asleep into my spaghetti the other day.”<br />
  68. 68. After Lyle, Jose made a beeline for his father.<br />“Congratulations Jose, you seem really happy. You’ve clearly had very good luck.”<br />“Yeah,” he agreed. “How are things for you? It’s been a while.”<br />“Oh don’t worry about me, it’s your wedding day!” Zack half-laughed, but it was forced.<br />“Dad?” Jose persisted.<br />“Sara died,” he finally admitted.<br />“Oh, I’m so sorry. You should have called or something…” he said sympathetically.<br />
  69. 69. “No, no, I’m okay,” Zack insisted. “I’m still living with some of Sara’s relatives, helping to look after her great-nephew – he’s an alien! I’m fine. Enjoy your wedding.”<br />“Well, okay Dad, but we have to have a proper catch-up another time,” Jose said sternly.<br />“We will,” Zack agreed. “Now go back to your amazing new wife and give me some grandchildren to make up for it,” he laughed.<br />
  70. 70. “I see what Lyle was talking about after he got married now – I’ve just been ordered to give my Dad grandchildren,” Jose laughed.<br />“Hm, well that sounds like a good idea to me,” Tina smiled.<br />“You know, it does to me too. I wonder how soon we can end this party…?”<br />
  71. 71. “So. Children,” Tina said nervously.<br />“Scary, huh?”<br />“Yeah.”<br />“How many do you think we should have?” Jose pondered.<br />“Well I think we’ll have to see just how painful I find labour first,” Tina half-laughed. <br />“Oh yeah,” Jose acknowledged. “But… I don’t know, given how lonely I used to feel as a kid, I kind of wonder if more is better and then they can all be friends.”<br />
  72. 72. “I like that idea,” Tina smiled, “and you are still adorable; I’m pretty sure kids generally don’t turn out the way you plan them to.”<br />“We can try,” Jose reasoned. “And with parents like us and relatives like mine, how can they not?”<br />“Er, do we want them to be normal? Because in that case I’d bring up the whole ‘300 year old vampire’ thing again and add in two zombie grandfathers…”<br />“I was thinking more ‘happy’,” he laughed.<br />“Well, I can’t argue with that…” <br />“I’m glad we agree then. Now shall we get started?”<br />
  73. 73. It became a very productive night that saw the very beginning of generation 4 proper.<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  74. 74. “Hello?” Tommy picked up his phone, puzzled – he rarely enough heard from his own parents, never mind the Ryman household.<br />“Hey Tommy, it’s Liv.”<br />“Oh, hey Liv. I just got back from a lecture. What’s going on?”<br />“Oh you know, not much, just wondering what uni’s like. Better than school I guess?”<br />“Er, that depends whether you care how well you do. Theoretically you’re meant to work a lot harder, but…”<br />“Yeah, I get that,” she laughed.<br />
  75. 75. “How’s Simfield without us?” he asked.<br />“Ugh, massively boring now. If it weren’t for all the family stuff going on I’d probably have stowed away with you guys instead.”<br />“You’ll be an adult soon though, won’t you?”<br />“Yeah, pretty soon… So,” she said, clearing her throat a little anxiously, “how is everyone?”<br />“Um, okay mostly I think. We think Josh might get engaged to his boyfriend soon and we’re all passing our courses, so…”<br />
  76. 76. “What about Briney?” she tried to ask casually.<br />“Ah. Um, he has been acting pretty down lately. Ever since we left actually. I figure he might be homesick or something, but he doesn’t seem to want to actually go home, he just spends loads of time messing around with his genetics and stuff in the science labs instead.”<br />
  77. 77. “Oh. That doesn’t sound good.”<br />“No. I’ve tried talking to him a bit about it, but he won’t. Maybe you’d have more luck?”<br />“Ah, I- I wouldn’t really know where to start,” she stammered a little. <br />“Then I guess we just hope he cheers up and gets over it, huh?” Tommy replied. “Oh, I’ve got another call coming Liv, I better go.”<br />“Yeah, sure, thanks Tommy,” she said as she hung up. Poor Briney, she thought, but she couldn’t change her mind. She was sure she was right, she just hoped he would stop suffering so much soon.<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  78. 78. The next evening, the next generation’s approach couldn’t be ignored.<br />“Oh my god, we’ve actually created – are creating – life,” Jose felt Tina’s expanded stomach in shock. <br />“Yeah.”<br />“Are we certain that I can do this?” he said with a hint of panic in his voice.<br />“Firstly: yes, we are. Secondly: you’re not getting a choice,” Tina replied with amusement.<br />
  79. 79. Jose suddenly had a thought. “I should give you a backrub! Pregnancy’s really bad on women’s backs, isn’t it? I think I read that…”<br />Tina laughed, “Yes, it is, though I’m not that far along so it’s not that bad just yet, but it’d still be welcome.”<br />“Does this help?” he asked massaging her shoulders.<br />“Yeah. Oh, and Jose? I don’t think you’re ever going to stop being completely adorable, even if you lived to be three hundred too.”<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  80. 80. Seth strolled into the break room at the political office with Winston in tow after lunch, to find Rodney in the midst of conversation with a happy Liv. Something about family stuff, from the sounds of it. <br />“Ah, Seth- and Winston,” Rodney’s eyes lit up slightly as they entered. “Back from lunch?”<br />“Yup. Saw Jesspret while we were out – seems you haven’t called her lately,” Rodney shot him a look, but he just considered that encouragement; “It’s not polite to keep a girl waiting, you know.”<br />
  81. 81. Liv looked at them both blankly, “Who’s that?”<br />“Business contact,” Rodney said through a very forced smile. “But that’s a good point – I’d better go call her now. I’m sure you’ve got things to do too, Seth?” he added, giving a significant look between Winston and Liv that was about as subtle as a punch to the face.<br />“Not really,” Seth shrugged just to see the look on his face.<br />With just the slightest set of his jaw and eye twitch, “Oh well, I’m sure something will come up,” and then he left, leaving Liv looking rather disappointed.<br />
  82. 82. Seth quickly switched off his phone once he was gone to make sure Rodney couldn’t call him out of there. <br />“Actually I have to go too,” Winston added. “We’re tracking a school of beluga whales travelling increasingly close to a known whaling area and so we’re all having to spend more time at the research office to establish-”<br />“That’s fascinating,” Seth interrupted flatly. <br />Winston opened his mouth to say something in return, but seemed to think better of it and went to leave. “Bye Dad,” he said with a hint of sarcasm. Seth just rolled his eyes.<br />
  83. 83. So then it was just Seth and Liv. But Seth didn’t think she was aware she wasn’t alone as she despondently made a cup of coffee and sighed quietly. He could just leave, but… he was curious and he’d never been much good at ignoring curiosity.<br />“You ’kay?”<br />
  84. 84. Liv did jump a little at his question before answering “Oh, yeah, I’m fine.” She was blatantly lying.<br />“Really?”<br />She wavered a little before sighing and giving in. “You and my Dad are trying to set me up with Winston, aren’t you?”<br />
  85. 85. Well, if she already knew… “Erm, yeah, pretty much. Why, do you wish we’d stop?”<br />“It’s not that, it’s just… If my Dad wants to set me up with someone, why couldn’t he just come up to me and say ‘Hey Liv, I think you’d get on well with this guy’? Like he thinks I wouldn’t listen to him, or that I can’t tell what he’s trying to do!”<br />“Ah, well… Your Dad tends to assume people are less intelligent than they are; believe me, I get it all the time.” Liv smiled a little at that. <br />
  86. 86. “As for being honest…” he continued, he hasn’t told you because it’s not you he’s thinking about. “Oh, you know, some teenagers deliberately don’t listen to their parents, so it could be better not to suggest what you want them to do.”<br />“But…” she sighed again, “He should know me well enough to know that I’m not like that. And it’s not like it isn’t obvious.”<br />“Rodney’s not exactly subtle, no,” he smirked. “But I’d just do what I do if I were you: humour him; it makes him happy.” She smiled again at that.<br />
  87. 87. “But you’re okay with being set up with Winston?” he asked sceptically. He guessed he probably shouldn’t be pressing that since he ought to be on Winston’s side, but Liv seemed nice and, well, Winston was an idiot with practically no charisma or particular social ability. Liv really could do better, but Rodney sure as hell wasn’t thinking about her, so somebody had to.<br />Liv gave a small shrug, “Yeah.” Wow, I can feel the love there then, he thought sarcastically.<br />“It’s just… you’re almost an adult and so - if you don’t stop it now - your father’s probably going to expect you to marry him pretty soon.” Have fun with that.<br />
  88. 88. “Why not?” she shrugged again. “It’ll make my Dad happy, and there’s no-one else…”<br />Ah, Seth was not cut out for this; he barely knew the girl, even if it was only thanks to him that she existed in the first place. Rodney wasn’t thinking about her, Winston wouldn’t do so and apparently she was too pre-occupied with her father to think about herself. It was her choice really, but man did it feel wrong. But maybe… “Well if you’re okay with it, you might as well tell your family, huh?”<br />“Are you certain that Winston’s okay with all this?” <br />
  89. 89. Sweetheart, you’re well out of his league and he’s too apathetic to say no anyway. “Yeah, he’ll go with it too.”<br />“I guess I really could then,” she said with a small laugh.<br />“Cool,” he said thoughtfully. “Your father will be pleased. Anyway, I’d better go…”<br />“Sure,” she smiled. “Thanks.”<br />
  90. 90. Seth gave a small sigh and rolled his eyes as he left. She’s your step-daughter Harris, you sort her out.<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  91. 91. “Hey Daisy!”<br />“Liv? This is a surprise – we haven’t spoken in ages.”<br />“I know! We definitely need to keep in touch more, but my family keeps having weddings and babies and it all gets a bit hectic… So how are you?”<br />“Er, pretty good; I love my maths course – although if you speak to my Mum, she believes I’m taking biology and I’d like it to stay that way.”<br />“She still thinks you should be a doctor, huh?”<br />“Yeah, that’s parents for you. Dad knows what I’m doing though, he’s great. How are you?”<br />
  92. 92. “Oh, you know, I’m fine, looking forward to graduation; school’s been boring since you guys left. And both my sisters-in-law are pregnant, so that’s exciting. How’s everyone else over there?”<br />“Josh got engaged to his boyfriend the other day, so they’re going around being extremely cute, to the rest of the guys’ annoyance.”<br />“Yeah, I spoke to Tommy recently and he said he thought that might happen. He also said something about Briney seeming kinda depressed…?”<br />“Oh yeah, he was for a while.”<br />
  93. 93. “Was?”<br />“Yeah, but I think I helped cheer him up quite a bit the other day. He definitely seemed happier.”<br />“You think that’ll last then?”<br />“Er, oh I don’t know about that exactly. It might do, I don’t know. We’ll see how he feels later. It’s not like I have time to constantly cheer him up, but maybe he only needed to be cheered up once.”<br />
  94. 94. “Well that’s great if he’s feeling happier! I don’t know how you managed that, but I’m just glad to hear he’s feeling better.”<br />“I could probably find him if you want to talk to him.”<br />“Oh, um, no that’s okay. I have a bunch of homework to do, you know how it is. I’ll talk to him another time.”<br />“If you’re sure…”<br />“Yeah, I’d better get going.”<br />
  95. 95. “Okay, bye Liv. Talk again soon,” Daisy hung up, a little off-put for a reason she couldn’t quite put her finger on.<br />“Who was that?” Briney asked as he came in.<br />“Liv.”<br />“Oh. What was she ringing for?” he continued casually.<br />“Just seeing how everyone is I think. She said she might call to talk to you another day.”<br />“Oh, right. Cool.”<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  96. 96. “So you’re certain she’ll say yes?” Rodney checked after Seth relayed some of his conversation with Liv the previous day; he was so happy he wasn’t even bothered by the fact that Seth had his shoes on one of the chairs. Well, not massively bothered, anyway.<br />“She seems to think so,” Seth replied unenthusiastically.<br />“Then all we have to do is get Winston to ask… Do you think he’d do that of his own volition?”<br />“Probably not; he won’t be bothered much either way and she seems too nice to force the idea.”<br />
  97. 97. “Then we’ll have to talk him into it,” Rodney mused. “Are you going to see him today?”<br />“Yeah, he’s coming by in a bit,” Seth sighed.<br />“Good. We should be able to sort that out today then, and then he can propose straight after her birthday,” he said happily.<br />“Yeah.”<br />
  98. 98. Rodney frowned at Seth as he found his exhilaration being disturbed. “Not to complain about the fact that you’re not nearly as annoying and hyperactive as usual, but what’s wrong with you?”<br />Seth looked up at him blankly. “Nothing.”<br />Rodney wasn’t buying that for a second. “Is it this? I thought you wanted to set Winston up.”<br />“Mmm,” Seth said distractedly before giving Rodney a curious look.<br />
  99. 99. “What?” he said suspiciously.<br />“Nothing,” Seth said with a laugh and shaking his head. “I’m just still a bit hung-over from last night.”<br />Obviously, Rodney thought. The idea of Seth ever showing any depth or thought was laughable. <br />
  100. 100. There was a knock on the door and then Winston entered, “Receptionist said you’d be in here,” then he seemed to notice the way Rodney was looking at him and hesitated. <br />“Ah Winston, I was hoping you’d drop by.” Rodney said, putting on a bright smile.<br />“You were?” he asked cautiously, glancing at Seth.<br />
  101. 101. “You’ve spent quite a bit of time with Liv now,” Rodney said carefully.<br />“Yes…?”<br />“We were just wondering how you might consider thinking about-“<br />“He wants you to marry her,” Seth interjected flatly.<br />
  102. 102. Rodney turned to glare at him. “Have you ever heard of subtlety?”<br />“Do you know how to use it?” Seth returned. “There’s being subtle and there’s being inefficient. Have you ever heard of cutting the crap?”<br />Rodney opened his mouth to vent the pure anger and frustration, but just shook his head with an irritated sigh.<br />
  103. 103. Winston saw his opportunity to actually rejoin the conversation. “Isn’t she a teenager?”<br />“It’s her birthday tomorrow,” Rodney explained.<br />“Oh. I still don’t really know her all that well.”<br />“What’s to know? She’s an open book – she’s nice, she’s outgoing, she’s innocent, she’s pretty and she does what she’s told. What’s not to like?” Rodney reasoned.<br />
  104. 104. Winston still seemed a little hesitant and turned to his father; “You said he wants me to marry her – what do you think?” <br />Seth hesitated briefly, “Do you have a better alternative?”<br />“…Not really.”<br />“Well then."<br />
  105. 105. “I guess it makes sense,” Winston half-shrugged. “Might as well.” He looked between the two other men with a suspicious look: “I don’t suppose this just happens to be the only reason I’m here, is it?”<br />“Pretty much,” Seth confirmed.<br />Winston left with an aggravated sigh.<br />
  106. 106. “Excellent,” Rodney smiled happily once Winston was gone.<br />“What a wonderful couple they will make,” Seth said sarcastically.<br />“Don’t tell me you’re a romantic; love always dies sooner or later – if you didn’t start with it, at least not being in love won’t cause you to break up. And that’s not even the important thing.”<br />“Let me guess: screwing over Juan Harris?” Seth stated deadpan.<br />
  107. 107. “It’s a little bit more than that,” Rodney said reproachfully.<br />“Mmhmm,” Seth sounded far from convinced. “Still, she hasn’t said yes yet and Harris may try to intervene…” <br />Rodney crossed his arms as his mind drifted, “We’ll just have to see what happens.” And if she goes with Harris over me…<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  108. 108. “Hey everyone! There’s somebody here to meet you…!”<br />
  109. 109. “Oh my god, he is sooo adorable Lyle!” Liv cooed over her little nephew.<br />“Has he started talking yet?” Mia asked.<br />“Just a couple of words. He’s taken a lot faster to walking, running all over the place,” Lyle explained with a fond smile. “And now Roxy’s going to be going into labour any time again… Our hands are going to be quite full. Luckily her mums help out a lot or we’d get no sleep.”<br />
  110. 110. “You know we’d babysit any time, dear.”<br />“Yes,” Liv added eagerly, “definitely that!”<br />“I can’t believe I’m going to have one of these soon,” Jose said with an odd mixture of fascination and apprehension.<br />“There’s nothing like it Jos, nothing like it,” Lyle smiled proudly.<br />
  111. 111. “Hi everyone, what’s going on?” Juan asked tiredly as he came in from work.<br />“You have an extremely, extremely adorable grandson,” Liv beamed.<br />“Hey Elliot, look! Grandad’s home!” Lyle said with a hint of amusement.<br />“Thanks Lyle, I do now realise how old I am,” Juan replied wryly.<br />
  112. 112. But Lyle had managed to get Elliot’s attention as he shakily stood up and toddled over to Juan. “Uh! Uh!”<br />“Not so much on the talking yet, huh?” Juan smiled as he rustled the toddler’s hair. “But he looks just like you Lyle.”<br />“I think he wants you to pick him up,” Liv pointed out with a hint of jealousy.<br />
  113. 113. “Hi there Elliot. How are you?” he asked, picking him up.<br />But Elliot was already distracted by the new revelation that was Juan’s dreadlocks and started trying to grab them. “Ah!”<br />“He’ll be trying to eat them next,” Lyle laughed. “Anyway, we’d better get back before we miss him getting a little sibling… Wish us luck!” <br />
  114. 114. Once Lyle and Elliot were on their way, Liv took the chance to talk to her Mum and struggled to contain her excitement at the news.<br />“So Mum, I- I kind of have a boyfriend now,” she smiled brightly.<br />“Oh my gosh, that’s great Liv! And sudden,” Mia added, “I don’t remember hearing anything about this before. Did he only just ask you out?” <br />“Er, well, you know – I was kind of being cautious before, but now…” she giggled a little.<br />
  115. 115. “Well that’s great! Who is he, do I know him?”<br />“Probably not,” Liv pondered, “but his name’s Winston, he’s already an adult and he’s got a job in Oceanography.”<br />Mia frowned a little at ‘already an adult’, but supposed Liv wasn’t far off really. “Do I know his family?”<br />“Um, I don’t know: his full name’s Winston Jayapalan-”<br />
  116. 116. Juan had only been half-listening, but he was up and across the room like a shot. “Any relation of Seth Jayapalan?”<br />“Yeah!” Liv said happily, “That’s his dad.”<br />Mia’s mouth fell open and she and Juan shared a look.<br />“I was talking to him just the other day,” Liv continued obliviously, “he’s really nice. I guess you’ve met him through working with my Dad, huh?”<br />
  117. 117. “Yeah,” Juan agreed less than happily. “So, Winston?”<br />“Oh you’d like him, I’m sure; he’s clever and hard working and very sensible and everything. And he has red hair too,” Liv smiled.<br />“How exactly did you meet him?”<br />“At Dad’s work. Our dads introduced us.”<br />“Right,” Juan sighed.<br />“I’m going to go tell Jose,” she beamed before skipping off upstairs, not off-put by their lack of enthusiasm.<br />
  118. 118. “I’m not the only one with a terrible, terrible feeling about this, am I?” Mia asked.<br />“No, I think there could be something very wrong with that whole situation.”<br />“And did my daughter just describe Seth Jayapalan as ‘really nice’?!”<br />“She did indeed,” Juan frowned. “I suppose you’ve never told her about what he did?”<br />“He was meant to be in jail forever, it wasn’t supposed to matter!” Mia exclaimed.<br />
  119. 119. “Well whatever might be going on there, he’ll almost certainly be in on it.”<br />“What are we going to do?” she asked, looking worriedly in the direction Liv had left.<br />“I’ll go find and talk to him, see what he’s up to and stop it if it’s bad,” Juan mused.<br />“Are you sure he’s not dangerous?”<br />“Generally? No, not sure, but I don’t expect him to do anything just because I’m calling him out.” <br />
  120. 120. “Be careful,” she said unhappily.<br />“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. And I’ll sort everything out.” I always do.<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  121. 121. It wasn’t exactly difficult to find Seth when he wasn’t around Rodney the next day. His reputation for drinking, gambling and showing off lead Juan to a theoretically closed Lucky Card Shack. And then there was the singing…<br />“I walk these streets, a loaded six-string on my back, I play for keeps, ‘cause I might not make it baaack-!”<br />“Jayapalan,” Juan tried to interrupt angrily.<br />“I’ve been everywhere, and I’m standing taaall, I’ve seen a million faces and I’ve rocked them all-!”<br />
  122. 122. “Seth. Shut up, I need to talk to you,” he tried again, anger growing.<br />“Ah, hang on, there’s just one more chorus and I’m done; I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride, I’m wanted dead or alive-!”<br />“Now.”<br />“Just a second-”<br />Juan pulled one of the wires out of the machine, turning it off. “Now.”<br />“Ahh, you’re no fun,” Seth sighed. “Fine, what do you want?”<br />
  123. 123. “What are you up to?” he demanded angrily.<br />Seth looked at him blankly. “Singing karaoke? Making Simfield a brighter place through entertainment? Conquering the world one woman at a time?” he suggested with a growing smile.<br />“Liv and your son,” Juan growled slightly.<br />
  124. 124. “Oh. Did you talk her out of it?” <br />The confusion at the way Seth said that deflated Juan’s anger. “You mean you don’t want them together?”<br />Seth hesitated with a slightly pained look. “…I don’t know. I don’t care! But… Liv seems like a nice girl and they seem all wrong together and so… I’m happy for them not to be together.”<br />Juan was slightly dumbstruck by the apparent situation in which Seth seemed to be being considerate without any benefit to himself. It was very strange. And suspicious.<br />
  125. 125. “But if you’re not behind it,” Juan managed to continue, “are you telling me that this is actually what she wants?”<br />Seth gave a hollow laugh. “Guess again.”<br />“Jalowitz,” he sighed with frustration. Obviously. “But why is he so bothered?”<br />“Control. He’s setting her up to maintain his hold on her. And undermine you, naturally. And she’s going with it because apparently all she wants to do is make him happy. Nice people are weird,” he observed thoughtfully.<br />
  126. 126. “Manipulative bastard,” Juan muttered angrily.<br />“Mmm. You know,” Seth said with a devious smile, “my offer to kill him still stands.”<br />“And you already know my answer to that,” he replied with an unimpressed look.<br />Seth rolled his eyes and muttered something else about ‘nice people’.<br />“I’ll just have to find a way to talk her ‘round,” he mused.<br />
  127. 127. “Yeah, good luck with that. Otherwise, I’ll see you across the aisle at the wedding. And at the grandkids’ birthday parties,” Seth said brightly.<br />“Ugh, as if I didn’t have incentive enough…”<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  128. 128. Fairly oblivious to everything else going on, Tina had been very exhausted by the pregnancy and could often be found napping on the sofa if she wasn’t in bed, while Jose kept a close and careful eye on her as much as he could. And Mia and Liv could often be found nearby ‘awww’ing over the both of them.<br />
  129. 129. But it couldn’t last forever and finally Tina went into labour that evening. Mia took the most charge as the only one with prior experience, but there was only so much any of them knew or could do as Tina struggled through it.<br />
  130. 130. And then eventually she was holding a little boy with Jose’s dark blue eyes and Jose’s dad Zack’s black hair.<br />They hadn’t really discussed names, but they settled on Huey Ryman.<br />
  131. 131. And Huey got to meet the rest of the family while Tina grabbed something to eat. <br />“Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww – he’s so adorable!”<br />“You say that about every baby, Liv,” Jose pointed out.<br />“But he is!” she insisted. “Hi Huey, I’m your awesome Aunty Liv! And that’s Grandma!”<br />Huey stared out at them blankly.<br />“I think I’m with him on this one Liv,” Jose laughed.<br />
  132. 132. And then his Mum got to put him to bed in Jose’s old room for the minute.<br />“I hope you like blue, Huey. We’re going to need a bigger house, aren’t we? Yes we are! Hopefully I can talk your Daddy and grandparents into it too…!”<br />
  133. 133. With the birth done, it was finally okay for Liv to have her birthday party. Rodney had naturally been invited and Juan had vowed to himself that he would not get into a fight on Liv’s birthday, no matter how much he may have wanted to. Rodney never chose to get into a physical fight anyway.<br />And Liv was still blind to the tension, just happy and excited for her birthday.<br />
  134. 134. What do I wish for? she wondered. But then she glanced up from her cake and saw her father looking down at her with a slightly inscrutable smile. Make him happy. Make him proud, she thought with a smile of her own. And then she blew out the candles.<br />
  135. 135. And then she was a rather pretty woman, in clothes that weren’t all that bad. But they weren’t a dress and the red and white needed to be more combined.<br />
  136. 136. A little while later, dressed more appropriately, Liv was back in the living room when Winston approached her. <br />“So. Happy birthday.”<br />“Thank you,” she smiled. <br />“Er, I was wondering if you wanted to, you know, go downtown. Get something more official to eat.”<br />Her smile grew because she knew exactly where this was going, “Sure.”<br />
  137. 137. “This is a really nice restaurant,” Liv commented. “Dad brought me here for lunch once.”<br />“It’s the best Simfield has,” Winston agreed.<br />“I expect they don’t get asked for macaroni and cheese much,” she pointed out with a little amusement.<br />“Given how much they charge even for that, I can’t imagine they’d complain.”<br />They were silent for a little while.<br />“So, adulthood, huh?” she asked a little breathlessly.<br />
  138. 138. “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” Winston observed. <br />“Yeah, but there’s lots of new things you get to do.”<br />“Pay bills? Understand your parents better?” he suggested wryly.<br />“More like… get married, have children…” she said as subtly as she could.<br />“You know why we’re here, don’t you?” he asked.<br />“Pretty certain, yeah. I had a conversation with your dad,” she said slightly apologetically.<br />
  139. 139. “Let’s drop the pretence then,” he said and pulled out the box.<br />Liv gasped “Ah, a velvet box! You can’t engaged without one, I swear.”<br />“They are useful,” he agreed.<br />“I assume it has a ring inside?” she smiled.<br />“Platinum with colour grade F, VS1 clarity, 1.5 carat diamond,” he recited from memory.<br />
  140. 140. “I’ll admit that doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, but it sure is shiny,” she laughed as she put it on her finger.<br />“Basically it cost a lot,” Winston summed up.<br />“Not too much?” she checked.<br />“I think your father would have paid for it if it had, but no.”<br />“Good. So, yes! I can’t believe I’m getting married!”<br />
  141. 141. They got some expensive champagne to celebrate too.<br />“To marriage and life,” Winston dedicated. “Because… ‘why not?’”<br /> Liv gave a wry laugh and they both drained their glasses before heading back to the Ryman house.<br />
  142. 142. The party had already broken up when they got back and they said goodbye. They were both uncertain of exactly what they should or could do in the circumstances and it was rather awkward before eventually Winston just lightly pulled her towards him and kissed her slightly.<br />“Goodnight Liv.”<br />“Goodnight,” she replied as he walked away. It was an odd feeling she had then, but then she remembered that she was actually getting married and it was gone in an instant.<br />
  143. 143. “Mum! Winston proposed! I’m engaged! Isn’t it exciting?!” Liv exclaimed as she bounded into the kitchen.<br />“Yeah,” Mia said shakily with a glance at Juan, “if you’re happy we’re happy.”<br />“I’m going to get maaarrrriiieeed,” she half-sung. “Oh! I have to go call Dad!” and she skipped away again.<br />Juan and Mia just stared at each other apprehensively.<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  144. 144. “Oh, he proposed? What a surprise!”<br />Rodney Jalowitz could never be an actor, Seth mused. Unless it’s for one of those really terrible adverts you get in the middle of the day.<br />“Yeah, he must clearly like you a lot.”<br />Give the girl some credit Jalowitz, even she doesn’t believe that.<br />“Oh, don’t worry about that, I’ll sort everything out. It’ll be no trouble… Okay Liv, I’ll see you soon. Bye.”<br />
  145. 145. “Everything gone to plan then?” Seth asked as Rodney hung up. <br />“Absolutely. He proposed, she said yes and she’s massively excited about it.”<br />“Just have to keep her feeling that way through the wedding then, huh?”<br />“Yes. Shouldn’t be too hard,” Rodney mused.<br />“You know Harris will have to be there, right? You can’t not invite her step-father without admitting your whole history and you can’t be certain she’ll side with you.”<br />“We can control Harris,” he stated confidently.<br />
  146. 146. “So what do we have to do now?”<br />“Planning and organising.”<br />“Planning and organising?” Seth asked sceptically.<br />Rodney had an excited glint in his eye as he enunciated every word as though they were sacred: “We’re going to have, by far, the biggest, most luxurious and expensive wedding Simfield has ever seen. And it’s going to make every single wedding that ever came before it look like total crap.”<br />
  147. 147. Seth just gave a hollow laugh, “How romantic.”<br />~~~~~~~~~~<br />
  148. 148. Tommy picked up his mobile as it started to ring in the middle of their study group. “Hello…? Oh, hi Aunt Mia…. Yeah, we’re all good, not far until graduation now… Invited to Liv’s wedding?! I didn’t realise she was engaged already!”<br />Briney stared at his best friend in shock and increasing horror as he suddenly felt like he’d been stabbed in the chest. What?!<br />~~~~~End of Chapter 13A~~~~~<br />
  149. 149. As mentioned, Lyle and Roxanne now have another cousin for Huey and his future siblings – a little girl called Vivian Harris, also with Juan’s red hair <br />Feel the adorability! (And apparently that is actually a word!)<br />

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