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1 12.ehl 12 sophomoric

  1. 1. The Elven Heritage Legacy 1.12: Sophomoric
  2. 2. “All right, this is it,” Ara said as she and Rean walked into the dorm, which smelled of fresh paint and the unmistakable traces of gym socks. “College at last,” Rean agreed, “Nervous?” “Why in the world would I be nervous?” Ara replied, “I‟m just wondering if it always smells this bad.” “It probably only smells because it‟s hot. I‟m also pretty sure that we didn‟t get the ugliest dorm on campus, or the furthest from the academic buildings, so we probably lucked out, all things considered.”
  3. 3. “If the two of you are quite done chattering, fill in your name and I‟ll give you your room assignments,” the young woman at the desk cut in, “Then you can go off and take the orientation tour like everybody else.” Aranel grinned. “You‟re in charge of registration?” “For now. My name is Amanda and I‟ll be the RA for the co-ed floors until you freshmen drive me insane. Just sign in on the paper and I‟ll bring up your files…”
  4. 4. “…Everyone always asks about Greek life. Here at SSU we have one chartered sorority and one chartered fraternity, The Tri-Var and the UreleOresha-Cham, or as we like to call them, the Chameleons. If you want to join, you‟ve got to rush, just like everybody else, in the spring. After freshman year you can also get an apartment on campus, but unless you‟re part of hereditary or legacy housing, you‟re stuck in the dorms all your first year, no matter how annoying you find the mascot battles or how many times someone sets off the fire alarm making crepes. “In case I haven‟t made myself clear enough, do not try to make crepes.”
  5. 5. “This seems… random,” Jules O‟Mackey whispered to Jacob Martin, who had maintained civility on the dorm couch by the simple expedient of sitting between Jules and Sandra Roth. “Why is she so against crepes?” “… And another piece of advice: if you see a dude wearing a cow suit running around campus with a potato gun, do not engage. Also, you lot aren‟t supposed to drink in the dorms, not on my watch, but I don‟t care what you do on the rest of campus so just make sure that you don‟t come back and puke in the bathrooms, because I will be writing you up if you do. Oh, also, it‟s never a good idea to go skinny-dipping in the quad fountain….”
  6. 6. “… and that‟s why school spirit is the most important part of campus life! It, like, connects everyone spiritually to unify us and means that we can keep defeating the Simmerson College Cows!” Green Ones preserve me from this peppy bimbo, Nymea thought, four years of this is going to drive me completely insane. “This year I am taking my responsibilities as your RA seriously, and planning all sorts of spirit events! Everybody join me for the school song, now: one, two, and three! Oh, Charge, fight-ing llama man…”
  7. 7. “…All right, Dudes, Dudettes, and sims not fitting either description, I‟m gonna try and keep this brief. Welcome to SSU, we do whatever you really want to do here. Yeah, that‟s a lame slogan, blame marketing. I‟m your RA, I‟m here to tell you what the rules are and answer any questions you‟ve got. Rules are in the community handbook; read it when you get a chance. Apply common sense, and try not to give yourself alcohol poisoning in the first semester, which means stop drinking before you start to feel sick. Also, remember that you don‟t have to do what the upperclassmen tell you to, and usually they tell you to do very stupid things.”
  8. 8. “Wow, this place is green,” muttered Bastian Roanoke, staring at the olivecolored walls in fascinated horror. “It wouldn‟t be that bad, but it‟s so…” “Tacky?” Supplied the student who was taking up the middle of the couch. “All this place really needs is a neon flamingo and some animal-print wallpaper.” Bastian turned around with a comical wince. “It‟s taken you less than fifteen minutes to offend my Architecture-student sensibilities,” he said. “I‟m pretty sure those were interior design sensibilities.”
  9. 9. “Yeah, probably,” Bastian replied, “I‟m Bastian Roanoke, by the way. Room twenty four.” The other student smiled. “Room twenty three. Amadeus Sauveri.” “Cool. We both have horribly embarrassing and old-fashioned names. What‟s your major?” “Music.” “Composing?” Bastian thought it was a good guess: music types had long hair and everything. “Only a little bit; mostly, I play the violin.”
  10. 10. “Hey, new BFF‟s in the back,” the RA said with some amusement in his voice, “I‟m going over the fire safety procedure right now, so you might want to actually pay attention. Even if this dorm actually is too ugly to burn.” “Oops,” said Bastian. “We‟ll get to introductions later. Now, the first thing to know when the building is on fire is do not be a hero. The alarms will go off, and everyone will get out, and everybody is happier if nobody goes and does the stupid firedance or tries to attack it with the extinguisher. If it looks like it‟s out of your league, it probably is…” * * *
  11. 11. “Mama, down!” Viridia obediently juggled her bags so that she could lift her daughter off of her shoulders and place her on the floor. She kept only half an eye on Ariadne as she compared the prices of two bags of carrots; even for a not-quite two year old, Fresh Rush Grocery was too small to get lost in. Ariadne had been especially good so far, despite the fact that naptime was approaching: if they finished in the next fifteen minutes, they‟d get home right in time to put her to bed.
  12. 12. “Well, hello, Viridia.” Viridia looked up quickly, only to see Yvette Greenleaf striding down the aisle, with her own youngest daughter trailing after her like an uncomfortable comet‟s tail. “Oh, good afternoon, Yvette,” she said, reaching out with one hand to stop Ariadne from running directly into them. “I didn‟t expect to see you around here.” Though, the Greenleaves did live in Riverblossom Hills now. Still, she‟d never thought she‟d see Yvette doing her own shopping.
  13. 13. “Mmm, yes, well, we found ourselves in need of some fresh food. Nothing but the best for my growing boy.” For a moment, Viridia had the disconcerting thought that Yvette was talking about Rean, despite the fact that she was rubbing her belly ostentatiously. That piece of gossip she‟d heard from Rose Greenman was obviously and quite prominently true. “Oh, yes, congratulations,” Viridia fumbled, “It‟s a bit of a surprise at our age though, isn‟t it?” Green ones, but she could have sworn that Yvette was at least forty.
  14. 14. “It‟s never too late to expand the family,” Yvette declared proudly, looking down at Ariadne, who was hanging off a corner of Viridia‟s plastic bag. “You and Haldir know that, surely?” Viridia fought down the irrational instinct to pick her daughter back up. “Yes,” she replied, hoping to change the subject quickly. “When are you due?” “Three months,” Yvette replied, sounding bored, “I‟ll have to arrange some suitable playmates for my son, though. Maybe your little girl would benefit from an association with my son?”
  15. 15. “Thank you, but that‟s not strictly necessary,” Viridia replied. There was something she didn‟t like in Yvette‟s tone when she talked about Ariadne. “Ariadne is nearly two, I‟m afraid the age gap would just be too big. Besides, she‟s shy.” She was lying through her teeth and she knew it: Ariadne might not talk much in front of strangers yet, but she had no shame about wheedling attention out of the adults and teenagers she did know. “Now, I hate to speak and run, but we‟re overdue for a nap and if we don‟t check out soon the butter will melt. You understand.”
  16. 16. It was the wrong thing to say, apparently. Yvette tutted – actually tutted, something Viridia had never heard anyone else do – and raised a finger imperiously to stop her. “Now, don‟t be hasty, Viridia,” she began, “I realize that we are no longer exactly close neighbors, but you must think before you throw away any opportunities for your lovely daughter. It is your duty to stand by other elven families, and surely you don‟t want your youngest to associate only with human children? With a little planning for the future, you could ally our families by associating your daughter with my only son…”
  17. 17. Viridia wasn‟t sure which was more surreal: the fact that Yvette Greenleaf was proposing a betrothal between Ariadne and her unborn son to her in a grocery store, or that she was desperate enough to try and arrange a marriage with a family as common as the Elvensongs. Then again, where was good, old fashioned Elven nobility when you needed some? She was almost surprised that Yvette hadn‟t yet tried to propose a marriage between Idalese and Achenar. It wasn‟t as if there were any other Elves in the area for her to marry her daughters off to. Then Yvette‟s actual words sank in.
  18. 18. “Excuse me, did you just say your „only son?‟” “Of course I did, do try to keep up, Viridia. It is a unique opportunity, in other circumstances your children could never hope to marry so high, but as it is there is a shortage of more suitable brides for the heir to the Barony of Nelassia -” “What about Rean?” Viridia blurted out before she could stop herself. “He‟s your oldest son, shouldn‟t he be the heir?”
  19. 19. “Do not speak to me of that ungrateful, treacherous little piece of scum!” Yvette screeched, causing Viridia to flinch back and step in front of Ariadne and Idalese to cringe and turn away. “He is no son of mine!” “Is that why you drove your own child out of your home without a thought as to what would happen to him?” Viridia snapped back before she could stop herself. “He is unfit! His behavior is a disgrace to our family and to elvenkind! That you should harbor him verges on the inexcusable, but for your sake and your childrens‟ I am willing -”
  20. 20. “You aren’t in Nelassia any more, Yvette!” Viridia all but shouted, before attempting to continue in a more reasonable tone, “You clearly haven‟t noticed, but this world doesn‟t run by your rules, and if you don‟t wake up and realize that, you‟re going to lose your own son! Is your disapproval going to matter in ten years when you haven‟t seen him? Think about what you‟re doing to him, and to your daughters!” Yvette sniffed once and her voice dropped back to a normal volume. “He is dead to me,” she said. “My true son will inherit, and he will stay far away from the corrupting influence of your daughters.”
  21. 21. Viridia gaped like a fish for a moment, and Yvette turned on her heel. “Come, Idalese,” she barked, before swaggering towards the check-out line. “… And you can shove your „favors.‟” She grumbled as they disappeared out of sight, “As if I want any daughter of mine near your family.” Then she looked down to where Ariadne was clinging, wide-eyed, to her pant leg. “It‟s all right, sweetpea,” she said, “No more angry ladies, they‟re gone now.” Ariadne didn‟t seem to believe her. “Mrs. Elvensong, I am so sorry.” Viridia turned around.
  22. 22. “I am so very embarrassed that this should happen in my store,” Priya Ramaswami continued, hiding her face. “Don‟t be, it wasn‟t your fault,” Viridia replied, turning red around the ears, “I shouldn‟t have lost my temper at her either, I don‟t know why I stopped to talk to her at all.” Or why she‟d made a scene in the Ramaswamis‟ Grocery store to begin with. Her toddler was behaving better than she was today. “That woman, she comes and she makes angry the people wherever she goes,” Priya continued. “She behaves in this way to my valued customers, but I do not tell her to leave.”
  23. 23. “Well, how could you?” Viridia replied kindly. “Don‟t worry about it, really. She‟s not exactly pleased with me right now…” That was something of an understatement, but as far as Viridia was concerned, the less she had to do with Yvette Greenleaf the better. “It‟s fine, really it is.” Priya‟s daughter stepped around the counter and came over to them. “Yeah, mom, you can stop apologizing now, I don‟t think Mrs. Elvensong‟s going to hold anyone else‟s behavior against us.” The teenager shrugged a bit. Priya went for the introduction. “This is my daughter Sati, who helps me in the store.”
  24. 24. Viridia awkwardly introduced herself. “Hi. Viridia Elvensong, and my daughter Ariadne.” She reached down and grabbed Ariadne‟s hand, since the toddler was industriously trying to climb into a bin of bananas. “Pleased to meet you,” Sati said. “If you‟re ready, I can ring you up now.” Viridia nodded, followed Sati to the counter, and beat as hasty of a retreat as she possibly could from the grocery store. * * *
  25. 25. “And then she said that Rean was dead to her,” Viridia said, spreading her hands in frustration, “I don‟t think I‟ve ever been so angry at another person since I was a teenager.” Haldir frowned. “I still can‟t believe that they didn‟t try to reconcile with him before he left for college,” he admitted, “I know Antoin can be horribly stubborn, but even he should be able to see that he‟s only making things worse for himself and their entire family.” “I‟m pretty certain that they‟re going to disown him permanently,” Eluisa added with a grimace.
  26. 26. “They can do that?” Haldir asked. “Legally? I don‟t know. He‟ll be turning eighteen in a few weeks, we can ask Chali when she comes back from Simmerfeild, but I suspect that they don‟t have any legal obligations to him after that,” Eluisa replied, “Kicking him out like that before he turned eighteen is probably some form of abandonment, though.” Viridia just sighed and shook her head. “For years I‟ve tried very hard not to hate Yvette because her children were such good friends with Aranel…”
  27. 27. “You mean, until Nymea started bullying freshmen and Aranel told her not to let the door hit her on her way out,” Eluisa added dryly. “We heard that one a little differently from Ara,” Haldir said. “That‟s the difference between being a kid‟s parent and being their friend,” Eluisa said. “I still can‟t believe that the kids haven‟t figured out that I keep all of you in the loop.” “You have years of that left, Ariadne‟s not even two yet,” Haldir reminded her, “you‟d better hope they don‟t catch on.”
  28. 28. “You know, I used to feel sorry for Yvette,” Viridia said, “There were always the six of us, and we never did manage to become friends with her… and it‟s obvious that she and Antoin had a hard time adjusting to modern life.” “I seem to remember not making friends with her because she was a snob,” Eluisa said. “Still, I always thought – it has to hurt, to lose so much. At least we all chose to come here. After this, though… I guess she doesn‟t know how to appreciate what she has.” * * *
  29. 29. “Okay, okay, I get it,” Lydia said, pulling her chair back, “You‟re bored. We‟ve been at the library almost two hours and found exactly nothing.” Ana stared up at the ceiling of the Public Library a little guiltily. “I‟m not bored… much,” she said. “I just don‟t know what I should be doing to help, really, given that they don‟t exactly have copies of the birth-certificates from fifteen years ago sitting in a filing cabinet next to the old newspapers.” “I‟m pretty sure checking out people‟s butts is not conducive to research,” Lydia muttered.
  30. 30. “Look, I did some research,” Ana replied, blushing, “I read like three books by Agatha Christie, and that one Sherlock Holmes story with the horse before we started being weekend detectives. And I watched the TV show. It just didn‟t help much with figuring out how to find clues: Sherlock or that French guy just sort of show up and bam! There‟s clues everywhere.” “Belgian, actually,” Lydia corrected her. “See, that‟s the problem! You‟re a mystery-solving logic sim, I‟m just a romance sim easily distracted by a nice ass. I‟m pretty much useless until you find your birth certificate and I can sit here saying things like „Brilliant!‟ and „Well done old chap!‟”
  31. 31. “I‟m having a very hard time imagining you in a moustache and top hat,” Lydia replied. “Also, I‟m pretty sure Watson never said „Well done old chap,‟ just like Holmes never said “Elementary, my dear Watson.‟ At least, not in the books.” Ana sighed. “The worst part of it is, I think I‟ve picked up a crush on him. Is it even possible to have a crush on a fictional character?” “Ask the millions of female Lord of the Rings fans. Or the Whovians. Or the Hornblowerettes. Or even those girls who are really into Hyperspace Adventures – yeah, I think it‟s possible, all things considered.”
  32. 32. “Sherlock could probably tell you who your dad was by looking at your toenail or something,” Ana said. “Yeah,” Lydia replied glumly, looking at the loading screen for the online county records database, still spinning away on the library computer. “Unfortunately, all I can deduce from my toenails is that I‟m in need of a nail trimmers.” Ana giggled. “Okay, so I‟m your sounding board, and I‟ll be impersonating Watson. What do you have so far?”
  33. 33. “Scans of the county records, eighteen-something to…” Lydia glanced at the screen, which obligingly loaded for her, “fifty years ago. Not helpful.” “Brilliant! However did you find that?” Lydia gave Ana a dry glance. “The Internet.” “Okay, that was very Sherlock,” Ana admitted. “Next time, be more British gentleman, though.” “I‟m not certain it‟s helping, Ana.” “No, but it‟s more fun than sitting here while you grumble at the computer.”
  34. 34. Lydia pushed up her glasses. “Okay, what else do you want explained?” “Not British at all. Tell me how you connected your birth certificate to The Adventure of the Disappearing Dad.” “You just made that one up ten seconds ago, didn‟t you?” “Yup,” Ana said, “how could you tell?” “Honestly? It‟s kind of horrible. And you made air quotes around it.” Ana beamed. “Mock me until your natural brilliance kicks in,” she said. “Okay, now I can‟t tell if you‟re mocking me or just being sarcastic.”
  35. 35. “Take a wild guess.” “No thanks. I‟m more concerned with where we‟re going to get access to the recent birth certificates if they don‟t have them in the database here. We could ask the librarian, but I‟m not certain we could get access to them.” “Why?” Lydia pointed at the screen, and Ana moved to lean over her shoulder. “It says that these are the records old enough to be released to the public, and they’re only free because the library is subscribed to this archive. I can‟t find a site that allows you to view recent birth certificates without paying for them.”
  36. 36. “Okay, that is rough,” Ana agreed, “short of borrowing a credit card off your mom or Makir – which is about as likely as getting your mom to let you see your own birth certificate, or her just telling you – there‟s no way for you to get it online. You could still ask the librarian, though: you could tell her it‟s for a history project or something. Maybe she knows how to get it for free.” Lydia blinked just once. “That actually seems plausible.” “I bet they have people coming in to detect their ancestors sometimes,” Ana continued, “just go up there and ask.” “Okay, headed up there.” They both rose from their chairs.
  37. 37. “Hi,” Lydia said to the librarian, “We‟re doing a family heritage project for school, and we‟d like to know if you can help us find a birth certificate.” She could feel Ana hovering by her elbow. The librarian smiled. “Of course. Have you tried our database?” “Yes, actually,” Lydia replied, “It doesn‟t hold any records from less than fifty years ago, and we needed something a bit more recent.” “All right, just follow me around the desk and I‟ll see what I can do.” The two of them walked around the back of the circulation desk and watched the librarian boot the internet, at a considerably faster speed than the public use computer.
  38. 38. “I‟m going to use the same institutional-access county records database that your school or college can subscribe to,” she explained as her fingers flew over the keys, “It holds birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates, as well as county deeds, released court proceedings, and released zoning, building, and digging permits.” “Just what a detective needs,” Ana said. “Sensitive information is not released on this database,” the librarian replied, half turning around, “In fact, nothing which could compromise a resident‟s reasonable expectation of privacy is here. This is all public record. Now, can I have the name and date of the birth certificate that you‟re looking for?”
  39. 39. “Lydia Elaine Fairmaiden,” Lydia said. “With a „y‟ or two „i‟s?” “A „y.‟ Elaine is spelled –” “Just like in Mallory?” “Yes. Fairmaiden is all one word.” “Date of birth.” “January twelfth.” “Year?”
  40. 40. Lydia told her, and together they watched the whirling circle spin as the records were searched. “Is this the one?” asked the librarian, mousing over the first link. “Yes,” Lydia said, in a slightly strangled voice. Ana patted her elbow, and the librarian clicked the link. They all stared at the screen.
  41. 41. “This record is sealed? What does that mean?” Lydia asked. “That birth certificate belongs to a minor,” the librarian replied, scrolling through the finer print, “county records generally don‟t allow access to records involving current minors without the consent of a parent or guardian, in order to protect their identities. If this is a member of your family, you can ask your parents to give their consent for you to use it, though some information will remain confidential except when a new birth certificate is ordered from the county by the certificate‟s owner or their guardian.” Lydia opened and closed her mouth a couple of times. “Thanks, that was… helpful,” she said.
  42. 42. “Just let me know if you have any other research questions,” the librarian said, “If the rest of your class has trouble looking up their assignments, you can show your teacher this website and they can go about obtaining permission from parents to use birth certificate data from the class. What class is this for, anyway?” “History,” said Ana, at the same time as Lydia blurted, “Genetics.” “The, uh, the teachers like to work together,” she amended, as the librarian frowned, “They‟re… married.” “All right,” the librarian said, before turning to the front desk again. “I can help who‟s next.”
  43. 43. * * *
  44. 44. “And so then my grandmother – you remember, she went to Academe Le Tour too – called the director of the biology research facility, and if I get good grades on my introduction classes freshman year, I can apply to work in the sea lab over the summer!” Achenar listened to his girlfriend with a very slightly patient smile. “Don‟t you think you should wait until you actually get accepted, Arcadia?” he asked. “Well, yeah, of course, but you‟ve always got to have a plan,” she said.
  45. 45. “Anyway, I‟m just done with high school, you know?” Arcadia said. “All the drama, and the gossip, and the busy work – it‟s hard sitting through calculus when all I really want to do is go to college and learn marine biology. I don‟t know what I‟m going to do if I don‟t get in.” “I‟m sure you will,” Achenar said, “You wrote your essay on dolphin communication, right? They can‟t possibly ignore how much you already know about that.”
  46. 46. “Yeah, but there‟s also the quotas,” Arcadia said, “They always want to fill their class with say, a specific number of half-aliens, so many people from Twikki or Taikemizu, athletes, people with high cooking skill, musicians, alien abductees, mechanics, philosophy majors, dancers, young entrepreneurs, pool experts…” Arcadia took a nervous swallow of her water. “What if, after all that diversity, there‟s no room for me?” There was a moment of silence, but Arcadia continued before Achenar could open his mouth. “You‟re lucky; you‟re an elf. There‟s got to be a quota or a scholarship for that.”
  47. 47. “Hey, I thought we came here to stop worrying about college admissions for a few hours,” Achenar said. “We‟ve sent in all the forms, there‟s absolutely nothing else we can do about it.” “Sorry. My mom keeps telling me that I worry too much, but I just can‟t seem to stop,” Arcadia said. “If you want to change the subject, did I already tell you about Melanie‟s new car?” “… Yeah.”
  48. 48. There was a long and awkward pause, where Arcadia ran her fingers over the tiles of the table and Achenar flipped over the menu he‟d already ordered from. “Well, I guess nothing happened this week, really,” Arcadia said to the candle on the table. “Except that Mr. Curious burnt his eyebrow off in chemistry, but you were there, so…” “The eyebrow was definitely gone,” Achenar agreed. Arcadia thought a minute, then perked up. “So, have you heard from your sister?”
  49. 49. “Well, she called mom and said she writes a lot of essays for her history and political science classes, and that the required subjects at SSU are actually pretty easy if you know how to BS your way through the literature and philosophy common core papers…”
  50. 50. “And she claims that she studies a lot with Rean and her dorm mates.” “That sounds kind of boring. And completely unlike your sister when she was at high school,” Arcadia cut in. Achenar shrugged. “People change. She‟s really serious about going into politics, so she probably works harder on that than she did on physics.”
  51. 51. “Nice try,” Arcadia said, “Like the rest of our high school, I‟ve actually met your sister, as well as just hearing about her. You‟re going to have a hard time getting me to believe that she‟s not the life of the party.” “Well, she was talking to mom, so… that probably biased the report a bit,” Achenar said. “Though, I have to say that from the little I‟ve heard from her after semester started up, SSU does not sound like a boring place.
  52. 52. “Yeah, from the advertizing, it doesn‟t seem like it would be that bad,” Arcadia admitted. “If I don‟t get in at Academe Le Tour, I‟ll be disappointed, sure, but it won‟t be the absolute end of the world, or of my career. They have a pretty good biology program, after all.” “And everything is a step up from La Fiesta Tech,” Achenar replied, before digging into his food. “You do realize that if you go to SSU, that will be the second school where you‟re only known as Ara‟s little brother, right?” * * *
  53. 53. Text
  54. 54. Text
  55. 55. “Hey Castor, bet you twenty simoleons you can‟t beat me at pool.” “I‟m pretty sure that hustling pool is something that works better when the other person hasn‟t actually seen you play,” Castor responded. “Can‟t blame me for trying to get a twenty,” Aranel said with a shrug. “Can too blame you for trying the same trick twice. You sticking around for the party tonight?” “Hell yes. I deserve it – I kicked the midterm‟s ass! Plus, you have beer – after that last history paper, I need beer.”
  56. 56. “With an attitude like that, I‟m surprised you‟re not rushing spring semester.” “Yeah, well, I like you chameleons way better than the trivials, and you‟re a fraternity, so…” “Come on, the Tri-Vars aren‟t that bad. Though, if you were a guy, we‟d totally ask you to pledge. Well, I would, the Pittsmeister would like you a lot less if you didn‟t have boobs. And Josh is probably mad that you keep hustling him out of all his money.” “It‟s not my fault Josh is a sucker. Just pledge Rean, I‟ll share his room or something, unofficial-like.”
  57. 57. “Speaking of Rean, where is he? I thought for sure the lure of free beer and pizza would bring him out of the woodwork. And he won‟t even have to deal with Beare, once Beare‟s started in on the keg he‟s just going to spam the karaoke machine all night.” Aranel made a face. “Rean‟s on a date.” “What, another one?” “Yeah, another stupid, pointless date with a looser who is just going to break his heart or tell him that they were just experimenting,” Aranel said harshly. “Make your shot or admit defeat, Castor-oil.” * * *
  58. 58. Nymea smoothed down the skirt of her borrowed dress and checked her makeup in the mirror again. It‟s was just a sorority party. She knew that. But at the same time, everything hinged on meeting people. People who didn‟t know about the letter lying on her desk. Vapid sorority girls who wouldn‟t make fun of her shoes in secret, lie about her and betray her. People who weren‟t going to judge her because her family was poor and her parents were stuck in the wrong century, because they were never going to know. Rich frat boys who could be the kind of boyfriend she deserved. People that she was going to impress.
  59. 59. Dearest Daughter, Your father and I are anxiously awaiting news of your success at college. While I have no doubt that you outshine all the other girls (you are, after all, my daughter,) I do wish that you would hurry up and find a fiancée. One year certainly must be sufficient for you to locate a suitable young man of sufficient fortune. If you do not hurry, you will soon be in your twenties and start to slip from eligibility! Remember that your father and I are counting on our beautiful daughters to restore the family name and fortune. Do not let me down. If not for my sake and your fathers, think of your own interests and quickly find a suitable match, as we must obtain the best in order to properly raise your long-awaited brother, our heir, who is due
  60. 60. At home there is very little news – that awful solicitor came again today and I ordered Idalese to pretend that we were not at home. Your father has hatched a scheme to buy a much more suitable property, outside of the village, in the lake neighborhood, but the bank is against us and will not give him credit. It is just as well, because I do not believe that I have it in me to be neighbors once more with that abominable Elvensong woman, or that uncouth foreigner and the ill-bred peasant she associates with. You did perfectly right to dissolve your acquaintance with Viridia elvensong’s daughter: her behavior can only be as deplorable as her mother’s, and her mother is perhaps the most ill-bred of people I have ever had the misfortune to meet. This, of course, is what comes to our family, forced to associate with those so far below our station. My only comfort is that my daughters will make far
  61. 61. threw a tomato at our window, and four other children besides: a young girl, an infant and a toddler boy, and a son of your sister’s age. the mother and daughter are both complete hussies, but the young man has the manners the rest of his family lacks. Your sister informed me that he intends to join the army upon graduation. Sensibly, your father has forbidden her from seeing him, as Idalese is at such an impressionable age, and it is always wise to avoid any possibility of her making a romantic connection so far below her station. My confinement continues well, and I have no doubt but that your brother will be the strong, healthy boy that your father and I have always longed for. I know that you must be excited to finally have a brother to carry on the family name, though you did not reply to my last letter. I can only hope that it is securing
  62. 62. “… and then the professor said, „why didn‟t you draw this in one tenths scale instead of one sixteenths?‟ Then, if you‟ll believe it, Peter said „because I‟m English.‟” Bastian finished “Well, that‟s definitely something.” “Yeah, just wait until I tell you what else Peter did in blueprint workshop – this was the first day, mind you, but still. He made meticulous measurements of all the walls of the maze we were supposed to construct, and drew it out on his blueprint, but didn‟t factor in the fact that the walls actually had width, and well, you can only imagine how that went.”
  63. 63. “I can only imagine.” Bastian smiled a bit nervously. “So, hey, this has been lots of fun, do you want to hang out later or something?” Kate barely smiled. “Oh, I‟d love to, but I couldn‟t possibly. I have to wash my gerbil. You know how gerbils get if they aren‟t washed.” “Okay, maybe this weekend?” “Portfolio of… seaweed to catalogue, I‟m afraid.” “Right, I‟ll just give you my number and we can…” Bastian trailed off as Kate sailed out the door with a little wave. “Arrange something,” he sighed.
  64. 64. Bastian made a face as he headed out onto the patio. Amadeus saw it. “No luck?” “What do you think?” Bastian replied, “she said she had to wash her gerbil. And catalogue seaweed.” Amadeus shrugged. “Maybe she‟s just not into you.” “Somehow, I gathered that.” “I bet it was the bad architecture puns,” Amadeus said knowingly, and Bastian shot him a little glare. “What? Speaking as a friend, the puns suck.” “It‟s not even fair: girls love talking to you,” he grumbled as they sat down.
  65. 65. “That,” said Amadeus, “Is because I‟m not going to pull out the dictionary of dorky pick-up lines on them.” It’s also because you’re a music major and I’m an Architecture and math double major, Bastian thought. “Cheer up,” Amadeus advised him, “given the relative percentage of straight girls on this campus compared to gay men, you‟ll probably still get a date before me even if you do go on being a complete dork about it.” Before Bastian could say anything, Andrea stepped in. “All right, if you‟re all done gossiping, it‟s time to start the literature one study group.” * * *
  66. 66. “I know, we could hire a ninja safecracker to open your mom‟s safe and get your birth certificate,” Anariel said. “Then later he could turn out to be this hot, badass guy who would sweep me off my feet and you‟d have to gear up and search for us through all of Takemizu.” Lydia looked at her with some amusement. “Ninjas aren‟t real.” “Around here they‟re not, but in Takemizu? Who knows?” Ana waved her arms around for emphasis. “It‟s better than going to the gypsy matchmaker and having her try to determine who your dad is by reading your fingernails or something.”
  67. 67. “Because that totally works. Just like when we stayed up all night because you were convinced that there had to be a ghost in your attic, despite the fact that your parents had just built your house.” “Hey, at least I‟m still trying to come up with ideas,” Ana replied, “You did ask for my help with this, after all. And there could totally have been a ghost, there‟s that freaky shrine down past the river, so who knows what‟s been going on in my parents‟ land?” Lydia was unmoved.
  68. 68. “I‟m just being realistic,” she said, “ghosts and ninjas don‟t exist – despite the hundreds of anonymous sightings you‟re going to bring up, they‟ve never been observed by an accredited scientist or even recorded – and coming up with ways of getting, oh, I don‟t know, bigfoot to come and convince my mom that I‟m old enough to know who my own dad is doesn‟t actually help.” “All right, then what do you want to do, just give up?” Ana asked. “And of course you can’t record a ninja, they’re invisible,” she muttered under her breath.
  69. 69. “I don‟t know what I want to do,” Lydia replied, “but ninjas won‟t be involved.” “There are so many more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than fit into your logical philosophy.” Lydia sighed. “Ana, if you want to wave your arms around and misquote the bard, join drama club.” “Maybe I will, since you‟re being a sad sack. You‟re almost gloomy enough to try out for Hamlet. You should join too – you‟re way more likely to get a part than me.”
  70. 70. “Well, when you can‟t make up your mind whether you‟re making fun of me or begging me to join a club with you -” “I am trying to lighten the mood, Lydia. You‟ve been down in the dumps ever since you tried once to get your birth certificate and failed. It‟s not even that big of a deal – you can order your own copy when you hit eighteen, and screw whatever your mom says, you have a right to know. But right now, when you‟re sixteen, does it really matter? Will knowing who your father is change your life?”
  71. 71. “That‟s easy for you to say,” Lydia replied angrily, “since you already know your dad -” “You‟ve got Makir -” “And you didn‟t just find out one day out of the blue that oh, there‟s no way you can be the actual daughter of the man who you‟ve assumed was your dad your entire life. So sure, it doesn‟t look that important to you.” “I never said it wasn‟t important, Lydia, I just said it wasn‟t that urgent.” “What about the fact that the sooner I find my real dad, the more years I‟ll have to get to know him?”
  72. 72. “I know this is important to you, Lydia,” Anariel replied, “it just shouldn‟t be the only thing you care about, and lately it‟s starting to feel like it is.” “It is not the only thing I care about,” Lydia replied, “I care about plenty of things!” “Oh yeah? How much attention have you been paying this semester, Lydia? Who‟s my boyfriend, huh?” “You have a boyfriend? When did that happen?” Lydia practically squeaked.
  73. 73. “Okay, so I don‟t actually have an official boyfriend,” Ana replied, “but if you‟d been paying attention at all you‟d realize that I‟ve been waiting for Anthony Simms to nut up and ask me out for almost a month now.” “Anthony Simms likes you?” “According to Christy, yeah.” “But… isn‟t Peter always the one that‟s trying to talk to you? I thought maybe he…” “Lyds, he‟s gay.”
  74. 74. “Okay, I object to the idea that not having gaydar means I haven‟t been paying attention to you. I just haven‟t been paying any attention to the guys we know.” “Just tell me, Lydia, when was the last time we hung out together that this didn’t come up? And when was the last time you hung out with somebody we know that didn‟t involve me?” Lydia did a quick calculation and was stunned to discover that nothing came to mind. “I suppose maybe I have been a bit obsessed.”
  75. 75. Ariadne followed the fireflies. She didn‟t pay any attention to the bigger kids running and shouting around her, or to the sounds of her sissy talking to her friend, because she was too engrossed in the fireflies that came out during the daytime. They escaped from her grasp as if they had never been there.
  76. 76. If only she could follow them to where they came from, maybe she could catch one. Maybe they would know that she only wanted to see why they were cold if they were made of fire. Lightning bugs – maybe lightning was cold? She wandered onward, grabbing at them just in case.
  77. 77. She was getting closer, the fireflies were forming shapes in the air. Not letters, not triangles – long wavy lines, like the ocean or the wind. Maybe the fireflies were dancing: her mama had told her that‟s what they did at night, all lit up from the inside flying around like dancers at Cinderella‟s ball.
  78. 78. And then the pattern was gone. The fireflies were fading away. Ariadne hardly even noticed when the lady with no shoes waved her hands in front of her face, because she was watching for the fireflies to come back. They‟d come back again. Probably at night.
  79. 79. In the meantime, the lady with no shoes was fun to look at too. She had pretty ears like Ariadne‟s family, and green stuff on her face. She also had a nice voice, not like most adults, who shouted or talked on and on without a lot of excitement: more like a kid.
  80. 80. It was okay that she hadn‟t caught any fireflies. “No, Lydia, you should totally try out!” Anariel was saying, “Sure, there‟s a lot of girls in drama club and about three spots every time they do Shakespeare, but you‟re a lot better at acting than them.” “When have I ever acted?” Lydia wanted to know. “How about English class? They made you be Juliette four times, and Mercutio twice. Just try out for the plays for next year, Lydia.” “All right, I guess it can‟t hurt.” * * *
  81. 81. Aranel looked up from her homework, briefly surprised to see Rean dressed up. Then she gave a mental sigh and turned back to her essay on foreign policy. It was going really well too, she‟d managed to get three pages on veiled insinuations that the SCIA had to have been on bubbles when they decided that setting up dictators who ended up oppressing their people and starting civil wars was a better policy decision than letting other countries elect communist or socialist leaders. “Not speed dating again,” she said to her blue book.
  82. 82. “Yep, speed dating again,” Rean replied. “I came in to ask you if my hair looks stupid.” “Only as stupid as your face,” Aranel replied without looking. “Oh, I see, you‟re twelve tonight.” “Your comeback was worse than mine.” Aranel replied, putting down her pencil. “Any particular reason for all the speed dating?” She asked, “Between blind dates, speed dates, and that idiot philosophy major you had coffee with, you must have seen every gay or bi guy on campus by now.”
  83. 83. Rean started to protest. “Hey, Jonas wasn‟t -” “Capable of connecting cause and effect? More interesting than a pet rock? Completely honest about the fact that he was already seeing someone else?” Aranel asked pointedly. “Which is why that never made it any farther,” Rean replied. “I know how to take care of myself, Ara.” “Oh, so you remembered condoms?” she asked, and got smacked in the back of the head for her trouble.
  84. 84. “Don‟t call me easy, Ara.” “I didn‟t call you easy, I told you to be safe,” Aranel grumbled. “Anyway, you never answered my question: what‟s with all the dating? It‟s not like you haven‟t already met everyone on campus.” Rean shrugged. “I don‟t know,” he said, sitting down on Aranel‟s bed after chucking a book off it, “Mad with freedom, I guess?” Aranel snorted and picked up the book. “Mad with freedom is getting plastered out of a pineapple keg and waking up under the Chameleons‟ sofa in a pile of monopoly money wearing a cape made of curtains.”
  85. 85. “That‟s your version of mad with freedom,” Rean replied, smirking at her. Ara tried very hard to keep the tips of her pointed ears from going red. “That happened once, you know,” she muttered, “It‟s a lot harder to judge when it doesn‟t taste like alcohol.” “You go out and drink with fraternity boys because you know your mother would have a heart attack,” Rean reasoned, “Maybe I go out and date as many guys as I like because I don‟t have to hide it any more, from my parents or from anyone.”
  86. 86. “And you keep finding duds,” Aranel concluded, “Or losers, or complete morons. Or Jonas. It‟s clearly not working.” Rean rolled his eyes. “That‟s not exactly the point,” he replied, “Sure, maybe at some point I‟ll find someone who is amazing and who I can be as committed to as you are to politics, but that‟s not why I do it. You don‟t drink so that you can wake up under couches with the world‟s worst hangover and call me to bring you sunglasses before you can even walk out the door.” Aranel rolled her eyes right back.
  87. 87. “Your analogy is faulty, and we aren‟t talking about that incident any more,” she said. “And stop implying that I‟m married to politics.” “You‟re at least engaged to it,” Rean pointed out. “But the point is, I go out on blind and speed dates because dating is fun. Unlike foreign policy.” “That‟s what you think,” Aranel replied, “as soon as you leave, my essays and I go dancing and skydiving and eat bonbons, every night.” “I‟ll leave you and your textbook to your romantic candlelight dinner, then,” Rean said, getting up.
  88. 88. Aranel threw a pillow at him as he left. It hit the doorframe. * * *
  89. 89. “Calla, remind me again why we agreed to do the senior scrapbook?” Meadow asked, poking at a stamp. Calla had just been wondering that herself. “Because student council asked nicely?” she suggested with a shrug. “Maybe because we‟re gluttons for punishment.” “More like because I haven‟t learned to say no to student council or the yearbook,” Meadow replied. “Oh well, at least it‟s good practice for a career in magazine design. I‟m sorry you‟re stuck with me, though: we really could use some more people on this.”
  90. 90. “Hey, it‟s good practice for me too,” Calla replied. “You can‟t be a good primary school teacher if you don‟t know your way around some construction paper. You can still blame everyone else for being slackers, though.” “Well, to be fair, Eric‟s at a soccer match out of town, Jess and Clay are working the bake sale, and your brother‟s doing inventory with your dad, so they at least have legitimate excuses.” “You mean, except Arcadia and Achenar,” Calla said with a snort. It came out a little more derisive than she‟d expected.
  91. 91. “Try to be a little more bitter about that, Calla, I don‟t think you‟ve quite gotten that down.” Calla rolled her eyes at Meadow. “Hey, I‟ve known Achenar since we were six, excuse me if I think that helping his best friend deal with the scrapbooks from hell trumps taking his girlfriend to go see some pirate movie. It‟s not like he doesn‟t blow me off every other weekend, and Arcadia‟s already seen the stupid film.” “Be fair, he doesn‟t blow you off every weekend,” Meadow corrected her.
  92. 92. “Meadow, has anyone told you lately how absolutely sickening it is that you‟re such a paragon of niceness?” “You do it often enough, Calla. Now admit it – we all had a great time at the roller rink last weekend, and I know for a fact that Achenar hung out with you and Elirand after the English AP test.” “Yes, and like twenty other people,” Calla replied. “I thought it would get better during the school year, but the closer we get to graduation, the less time Achenar spends with just me an Elirand. I swear I haven‟t seen him without Arcadia since last summer.
  93. 93. “Hey, she is his girlfriend,” Meadow pointed out, “And if she gets into Academe Le Tour, how often do you think they‟re going to get to see each other after graduation? They have the right to spend time together now while they still can.” “Yeah, but they‟re being ridiculous about it,” Calla said, “Do you know, I swear I haven‟t spoken to Arcadia for more than five minutes about anything but Achenar since this time last year? At this point, I‟ll willingly learn about dolphins if it gets her to shut up about their dates.”
  94. 94. Meadow considered it. “Well, come to think of it, I haven‟t talked to her about anything except school, our double dates, or college admissions in a few months…” “Well, if the ludicrously nice Meadow Thayer thinks I have a point about the ridiculousness of our friends‟ behavior, then I have a point. Just once, I‟d like to have a proper conversation with either of them that didn‟t involve homework, school events, or their dating lives.” Calla sighed. “Honestly, if Achenar didn‟t have a job at my dad‟s business, I swear I‟d only see him at school.”
  95. 95. “You‟re going to see him plenty next year,” Meadow pointed out, “Aren‟t the three of you getting a house together at SSU?” Calla waved a hand. “Apparently we have to be in the dorms first year because we don‟t qualify for heritage housing,” she said. “We‟re all going to apply for the same dorm, across the way from Achenar‟s older sister, but that doesn‟t mean we‟ll all be placed there. Doesn‟t mean I‟m going to get to spend much time with him either.” Meadow made a sympathetic face.
  96. 96. “Much as I hate to tell you, Calla, friends sometimes just drift apart,” she said. “Remember how I was such good friends with Idalese Greenleaf in middle school, and then she just sort of dropped off the face of the planet?” “Ida? Yeah, I went to a couple of her birthday parties,” Calla replied, “Her parents are weird.” “They‟re a little old fashioned, I grant you, but…” “Old fashioned? Meadow, they told my dad that he should betrothe Elirand to Nymea!‟
  97. 97. “I‟m sure they meant it in the nicest possible way…” “We were nine, Meadow. Idalese‟s parents aren‟t old-fashioned, they‟re obsessive! They‟re not just in the wrong century, they‟re in the wrong millennium.” Calla waved her arms around for emphasis. “Then there‟s Nymea, and you can‟t ignore the fact that she and those snobs at her table picked on pretty much our whole class.” Meadow looked a bit embarrassed, but Calla plowed on. “Imagine having Nymea Greenleaf as a sister-in-law. Can you think of anything worse?”
  98. 98. “Well, I‟m sure that she‟s kinder to her friends and family than she sometimes is to strangers…” “Eaugh, Meadow!” Calla collapsed dramatically backwards, “Not everyone has a silver lining, you know. I‟ve met her mother, you know, and the mom is just as much of a bitch as the daughter. It must run in the family.” “Calla!” Meadow was, predictably, scandalized. “Well, sorry, but it‟s true,” Calla said. “My mother can‟t stand the woman, and neither can Achenar‟s mom, and she‟s almost as disgustingly nice as you.”
  99. 99. “True or not, how does calling them names behind their backs make us any better than them?” Meadow asked in a voice that passed for scolding. “Because we‟re not spreading lies about freshmen or taunting them until they cry?” Meadow shook her head. “Gossiping about people still isn‟t nice,” she said, “I‟m sure there‟s plenty of good things about everyone in the family, and just because we don‟t see them, we can‟t really have an informed opinion. We shouldn‟t judge them without knowing all of the facts.”
  100. 100. Calla rolled her eyes behind Meadow‟s back. “I saw that, Calla.” “No you didn‟t.” “I knew you did it, anyways.” With a shrug, Calla levered herself off the floor. “Whatever. I believe we have a scrapbook to fill…” * * *
  101. 101. “All right prospies,” said their assigned upperlcasswoman with a wicked smile, “We‟ve narrowed you down to three, and it‟s time to recite the chicken pledge of the Tri-Vars, so repeat after me: This is my chicken.” “This is my chicken,” chorused Nymea and the two Katelyns. “There are many like it, but this one is mine. I will take care of my chicken.” “There are many like it, but this one is mine,” Nymea repeated, thinking this is stupid. “I will take care of my chicken.” More like fry it up and serve it home-style.
  102. 102. “I will eat, sleep, and bathe with my chicken.” You have got to be kidding me. “… I will eat, sleep, and bathe with my chicken,” Nymea repeated, half a beat behind the Katelyns. She was going to get into this sorority, chickens or not. “I will not be parted from my chicken, until such time as my Tri-Var sisters release me from this pledge. I will defend my chicken or answer to them. Upon failure to defend or properly care for my chicken, I will submit myself for such punishment as they deem appropriate. This I swear, so help me God.”
  103. 103. “I will not be parted from my chicken until such time-” the three pledges began, before a discreet cough from one of the witnessing sophomores in the room cut them off. “Wait, sorry guys, stop! We just added a Buddhist last year,” the mistress of ceremonies explained, with an eye roll at her witness “so we have to be politically correct now. That last line should be „so help me insert deity or equivalent religious or secular figure of choice.‟ Before you get smart, that‟s not meant to be repeated directly, actually pick something t swear by.”
  104. 104. “Start from the top of that last sentence,” the witness added. “I will not be parted from my chicken, until such time as my Tri-Var sisters release me from this pledge. I will defend my chicken or answer to them. Upon failure to defend or properly care for my chicken, I will submit myself for such punishment as they deem appropriate.” The three pledges recited together. “This I swear, so help me God,” both of the Katelyns finished in tandem. “This I swear, so help me God,” Nymea repeated like an echo. She wondered if a pledge was binding when you swore by someone else‟s god.
  105. 105. It didn‟t matter, Nymea knew as she watched the Katelyns step up and get ritual cups of water dumped on them, because she needed to join this sorority, and there was no way she was going to stick out by swearing by the Green Ones. Not after all the work she‟d done this year to get away from such stupid Elven superstitions and pass as just another human girl. There was absolutely no way to win friends and influence people if they thought you were different from them. * * *
  106. 106. Idalese could always hear the crying. It wasn‟t a drawn-out wail that woke her, but the grisling, snotty, fussy beginnings of one, which she knew would accelerate into a full blown screech and the banging of doors upstairs. Don’t you know your mother’s sleeping? Why can’t you keep that baby quiet? Idalese often wondered if they‟d handed her off to Nymea when she was a fussy infant. They probably would have, if Nymea hadn‟t been a toddler herself. It didn‟t matter: she wanted to get at least some sleep tonight.
  107. 107. The house around her always seemed empty, haunted in a worn-out way that matched her heart, in the dark hours of the night when it only belonged to her and a fretful baby. By day, the house belonged to her father and her mother enforced it‟s laws, ignoring the steady drip from the kitchen sink. Maybe her mother saw finery and glamour instead of faded wallpaper and a beat up floral couch. Maybe Ida really was her lovely young princess in her heart, but she sometimes forgot that there was no one but the two of them to cook and clean, and that‟s why she seemed to think that Idalese was her maid.
  108. 108. Maybe Idalese had a penchant for wild conjectures flavored with fairy tales and medieval splendor that had long since been lost to the creaking beams of this dilapidated house.
  109. 109. “Hi, Ronan,” she said in the darkness, and the baby turned towards the sound of her voice. “How‟s my baby brother?” He grizzled and squirmed and Idalese caught a whiff of something that smelled entirely too much like, well, shit. It was time to change the midnight diaper. “Time for you to get a new one of those,” Idalese said as she reached into the crib for the pale and squirming son and heir of her parents‟ delusions of grandeur.
  110. 110. It wasn‟t fair, of course – but where was it written, outside of fairy tales, that life was fair? At least she had a legitimate excuse for staying out of her mother‟s hair now, when “take care of Ronan,” seemed to be the only thing she would ever be allowed to do with her life. She really didn‟t blame him for it, though. He was only four months old, and he hadn‟t been around long enough to shoulder the blame for their parents. Idalese changed him and rocked him and sang, though she barely remembered the words. “Hush little baby don‟t you cry…” * * *
  111. 111. If there was one word to describe the living room of her house, Calla thought, it was crowded. Not that she particularly minded. Calla was realistic enough to realize that she would see very few of her high school friends regularly once she went to college. In fact, aside from herself, Elirand, and Achenar, she didn‟t even know who else was going to SSU and who was studying further from home. There were just so many schools and too many people… With a mental shake, she crossed the room with the chips.
  112. 112. Much to Calla‟s surprise, Meadow Thayer approached her the moment her hands were no longer full, leaving the knot of talking classmates behind. “Calla! I have to tell you something right now!” She gasped, giggling a little, and glancing furtively over her shoulder at the rest of their classmates. Behind her, her boyfriend Eric Harrod was sporting a very dopey grin. “All right, shoot,” Calla told her friend, a little bemused.
  113. 113. “Actually, it‟s something I have to show you,” Meadow said, with a smile that threatened to jump off her face, holding out her hand. When Calla saw the delicate ring on Meadow‟s finger, her mouth dropped open. “It‟s a promise ring,” Meadow explained unnecessarily. “You and Eric… I… wow,” Calla said, once she regained the power of speech. “Congratulations!” “I know! He gave it to me on our way here! We‟re going to wait until we‟ve finished a few years at SSU before actually getting engaged, though. Excuse me, I‟ve got to tell Jessica!”
  114. 114. Calla glanced across the room to where Jessica was still listening to Elirand, and decided that Jess would be more than happy to hear Meadow‟s announcement. Elirand‟s record for dating their friends was ridiculously bad by this point… but still, at least he‟d gotten over Meadow and been able to remain friends with Elizabeth after she‟d decided that there was no point in a relationship senior year. Now that she thought of it, it was probably for the best that Elizabeth and Jess were going to Simmerson instead of Sim State.
  115. 115. She‟d miss Elizabeth, though. Calla smiled as she saw the redhead talking to Achenar and Arcadia, probably explaining the latest plot twist in Hyperspace Adventures for the twenty-somethingth time. Calla shook all thoughts of college out of her head and decided to just mingle.
  116. 116. “Hey, Achenar. I‟ve been trying to catch you alone for a minute.” “Hey, Arcadia,” Achenar replied as Eric rolled his eyes at them and booked it back downstairs. “What for?” Arcadia took a deep breath. “So, you know that I got accepted to Academe Le Tour next fall,” she began, “and it‟s really far away from home and all. Only makes sense, right? If you‟re going to study Marine Biology, you‟ve got to be right by an ocean, after all.” She laughed a little and then fidgeted with her braid.
  117. 117. “Well, in case I didn‟t say it often enough when you got the letter, I‟m proud of you,” Achenar said. “You know you can come see me pretty much whenever you get back home, and I‟ll make sure to come out there and see you later.” “Actually, I‟ve been thinking,” Arcadia said. “And the whole long-distance thing, the research that I want to do over the summers, the fact that if I become a proper researcher I‟ll end up living out on the East coast… I don‟t actually think this is going to work.” Achenar blinked at her.
  118. 118. There was a moment of extremely uncomfortable silence. “So… what?” Achenar finally asked. “So we have to break up,” Arcadia said in a rush. “I can‟t expect you to wait four years for me, and we‟ve got completely different lives. I mean, you‟re going to stick around here and be the legacy heir, and I‟m going to be out there, so…” All that Achenar could think to mumble was “Ara‟s probably going to be heir.”
  119. 119. Arcadia rolled her eyes at Achenar. “And that doesn‟t matter, because none of the physics jobs are out east, and I wouldn‟t ask you to leave your family anyway. Besides, we‟re eighteen – that‟s way too young for promises. We don‟t even know who we‟re going to be, yet.” With a sinking feeling that had more to do with his stomach than his heart, Achenar realized that she was right. And even if she wasn‟t… If one person didn‟t want to be in it anymore, it hardly qualified as a relationship. “Okay,” he said quietly, still feeling more than a little shocked. “I… whatever you want.”
  120. 120. “Okay, then,” Arcadia said, giving him a weak smile. “Thanks for understanding. I mean, I knew you‟d get it, but…” “Yeah,” Achenar replied, and hated himself for it. He cast around for something better to say, and ended up blurting out, “You and your dolphins have a good time.” As soon as he‟d said it, he felt like a complete jackass. “I mean, seriously, best of luck -” Arcadia shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah, thanks. You too. I guess I‟ll see you around if I‟m ever back in town…” She gave a little wave and headed back down the stairs, leaving him alone. * * *
  121. 121. “Aw man, not again!” Aranel woke up on a Saturday morning to find that the dorm‟s kitchen was, once again, in flames. Some idiot had probably tried to fry an egg in lard again and put water on the grease fire. Sadly, this was the fourth time in the last month; whenever the cafeteria on the first floor was off hours, some idiot inevitably tried to cook something that caused smoke, fire, and a flooded kitchen. What I wouldn’t do, Aranel thought gloomily, to not have to live with these morons anymore…
  122. 122. She had just finished breakfast and sat down to take a good crack at studying for her history of foreign policy exam when a commotion in the hallway caused her to poke her head back out the door. “Come back here, you bovine thief! Give us back Grumpy the gnome, or we‟ll make you pay!” Even the antics of the kleptomaniac Simmerson College mascot had gotten a bit stale, Aranel reflected as the bovine fled the building. Normally, she was all for chasing the stupid mascot across campus, but she really needed to ace this final, and she intended not to spend her whole reading period on it.
  123. 123. Next, Aranel tried the lounge. After one look, she turned right back around and decided to study in her room, despite the sounds of stampeding mascots and shrieking cheerleaders. She could just turn her music up and ignore them for the next hour or so: some things weren‟t worth it, and the lounge was one of them. There had to be some part of this dormitory that offered some peace and quiet and wasn‟t a complete dump…
  124. 124. She wasn‟t going to get any peace in the courtyard, even after she finished reviewing and the Simmerson Cow had been chased off, it seemed. She was halfway through a yoga stretch when that one guy with the lips from the second floor walked up to her. She never could remember his name. “So hey, the washing machine is making a noise like ET, and I‟ve asked around and Sinjin says Jihoon said that you‟re the only one he knows who can make it stop…” “Really, dude?” Aranel asked, risking spinal misalignment by rolling her eyes at him. “It‟s not that hard. Kick it about three inches above the floor.”
  125. 125. Since no place within the dorm was safe from her classmates‟ idiocy, Aranel escaped up to the roof for some sunbathing. “You‟re gonna fry like bacon,” Rean informed her sleepily from where his face was smashed against his own towel. “Am not.” “Are too. You‟re a redhead, it‟s pretty much guaranteed.” Ara finished putting on her suntan lotion, flipped him off, and lay down on her own beach towel, which made the concrete roof just within the parameters of somewhat comfortable. Finally, some peace and quiet.
  126. 126. Aranel sat up and glared at the hissing sprinkler system, which should not be spraying backwards onto the roof. “All right, that‟s it,” she said to Rean, “As soon as finals are over, pack up. Next year, we‟re renting.” * * *
  127. 127. Author’s Note * Not actually Rhys Fitzhugh About 90% of the search procedure for Lydia‟s birth certificate was researched by me and is true of my own county. Records aren‟t free. The other 10% was extrapolation, because this is the sims, not sparta. The laws are whatever seems reasonable. I‟ve also decided that this time, I will keep my promise to never tell you ahead of time when the next chapter will be coming out. It will be coming out… eventually. Why? Well, there‟s the usual host of excuses… and then there‟s Thesis, which eats all your excuses for breakfast and spits out their bones. But I do have less excuses spring semester, and we‟re one out of three(ish?) college chapters down. The tentative goal is two chapters out this year. It‟s in my new years resolutions and everything. Not that I in any way cheated by writing the majority of this chapter last year…
  128. 128. And for a very grumpy Aranel, just add water! (Seriously, I love the slides where I get to draw things in now… I‟d better, I keep making them happen.) And who puts a sprinkler on the roof anyway?
  129. 129. Author’s note unreasonably continued Not pictured in this chapter: the umpteen million parties that Aranel has been to while I try to actually play the college kids in something resembling a rotation. (Seriously, I hate taking pictures of parties while I actually play them. It‟s awful, and I‟m still mourning my last mouse while I try to achieve a working relationship with this one.) I have six separate houses now: Ara and Rean are one, Nymea is a second, Amadeus and Bastian are the third, I‟ve got a fourth with the Riverblossom teens (Jacob, Sandra, and Jules,) and then I‟ve got the tri-vars and the UOC. I‟m consolidating to five houses now for the next chapter. That should help. Last order of business before I close this out: I know a lot of people have left legacies lately – the old guard seems to be having a surprising number of infants, and it seems like a lot of commentary-legacies have moved to Tumblr or Wordpress or the like – so I‟m here to reassure you that I a) would never quit without warning you guys, b) have no plans at this time to quit and intend to make my quota of two chapters this year, c) really appreciate the handful of you that still reliably show up. And if you‟re still reading this, give me a poke in the comments section. I know I didn‟t make any CC this year, for Christmas, but I‟d like to see who‟s still around. :D