“In conclusion, since the energy output of the so called Aurora Storms is
inconsistent with the expected Clarks-Mulligan ion distribution, and Aurora
Storms are unknown prior to approximately seven years ago, and the data from
the last Aurora Storm matches Spitzger’s Tachon data to a confidence level of
ninety seven percent, it is clear that the Aurora Storms are not a natural
The researcher stopped, drew the deepest breath she’d taken in the last half
hour, and then looked at the panel.
The professors looked at one another.
“Yes,” said the old man in the brown turtleneck, “You insinuated that the
Spitzger Tachon project provided evidence for the existence of other realities,
some would say parallel universes. I would like to know how you came to that
“I didn’t, Kleinberger did in his analysis of the first twenty years of data. I
mentioned it because the Tachon curve no longer matches his projection for a
stable non-interference state.”
The professor gave a very small, very nasty smile. “Oh yes, Kleinberger,”
he said, “could you please name a corroborating source?”
The researcher paused. “Hertz,” she said, “and Weiburg’s paper on the
potential number of identically configured Hubble volumes within and outside
of our cosmic horizon does not preclude the possibility of similar, nonparallel
There was a dignified, academic rustling, almost like the sound of a thesis
advisor facepalming behind their binder.
“I told her not to go into the Weiburg,” she muttered, loud enough to be
heard by the next person down the table… and incidentally, the thesis
“Weiburg also wrote that identically configured volumes which came into
contact would absorb each other, but that due to universal expansion and the
volumes in between them, they would never touch,” said the first professor.
“I believe I’ve already covered that, Professor Heller,” the researcher said.
“I have interviewed a large number of people, some on our own campus, who
attest to having traveled through a gap, or gate, in an intercosmic membrane.”
At the words intercosmic membrane, a few members of the Thesis
committee perked up, but the head of the physics department scoffed.
“Eyewitness testimony is not accepted in the hard sciences, miss…” he
looked at his copy of the impressively sized thesis, where the name of the
researcher, though typed, appeared to be a thick black scribble.
“Yet these persons are legally recognized as immigrants, and have filed for
special heritage considerations at our own college, and been accepted,” the
presenter said. “No records show them traveling here, and there is no mention
of Elves before approximately twenty five years ago.”
“Absence of evidence,” said the head of department, “Is not evidence of
absence. The origins of a small ethnic group is also not pertinent to the defense
of a Meteorology thesis. Neither is multiverse theory.”
Yet you all agreed to be here anyway, the researcher thought, looking at the
assorted professors at the table. Aside from her advisor and the head of the
meteorology department, there was Professor Heller from astrophyiscs, and
one ethnic studies professor, who looked rather like a seal that had just realized
it was swimming with sharks.
“With all due respect, professor, whether or not you personally ascribe to
many world quantum interpretation isn’t relevant to my defense either.”
There was pin-drop silence for a moment, before the head of the
meteorology department spoke up. “As I understand it, some of your
equipment was damaged in the last Aurora Storm,” he said, “Including a
device meant to measure the ionic charge in the sky, which exploded, taking
out a portion of your wall, and another device intended to measure electrical
discharge, which sustained earthquake damage. In your estimation, how
reliable is your data during this event?”
“Maybe… eighty two percent?” the researcher replied hopefully, “The data
is consistent and the recording device was undamaged.”
“But you admit that with a sample size of one, your data is inevitably
skewed?” said the first physics professor, attacking uncertainty like a shark
that smelled blood.
“I’ve also studied many related phenomenons with my equipment,” the
researcher said, “Further studies are necessary, but my stance remains that the
Aurora storm is qualitatively unlike any other meteorological phenomenon that
There was a round of looks shared between the members of the thesis
panel. Several of them actually managed to hide their amusement or skeptical
eyebrows. The rest didn’t bother.
“I believe that is all we need to hear,” said the head of the Meteorology
* * *
“So, first house meeting of the new school year!” Aranel announced to her
very unimpressed housemates. “The good news is: we’re a major campus
presence, considering that there are five of us. The bad news is, half of the
people Rean and I know on campus are going to graduate this year. So that
means you ex-freshmen need to step up in the friend-making and public
Achenar groaned. “Sure, I’ll get right on that as soon as I don’t have seven
thousand physics problem sets and a comp sci assignment.”
“Great! Glad you stepped up,” said Aranel. “Also, since you’re going to be
my successor as House President when I graduate, and therefore need to be on
the House Board sooner rather than later, I nominate you as Public Relations
Elirand spoke up. “Ara, I’m pretty sure that’s nepotism…”
Aranel considered it for a moment. “Nah, he’s my brother, not my nephew,
so I think we’re good.”
“Why did we make her president again?” Elirand asked Rean, who shrugged.
“We didn’t make her president, she declared herself president,” Calla put
in, looking mutinous, “We’ve never had an election at all.”
“Calla, you are welcome to run against me,” Aranel replied sweetly, “But
I’m pretty sure your teaching methods portfolio is going to keep you very busy
this semester. I do pretty much everything involved in running the house and
the heritage association – willingly, I’ll admit – and all I’m asking is that you
guys get out more and schmooze with people from campus. How hard can it
* * *
“This is ridiculous,” Calla said as the three of them made a second lap
around the quad. “I know she’s your sister and all, Achenar, but I am really
sick of her dragging us into all her schemes.”
Achenar shrugged. “I guess it gives me an excuse to do something other
than problem sets.”
“I happen to like the other things I could be doing on a Saturday
afternoon,” Calla continued, “I know she’s not asking us to do anything she
wouldn’t do herself, but some people have majors that are simply more work
than political science is.”
“Hey, if you don’t take time off of studying, you’ll just be miserable
forever, Calla,” Elirand replied. “You used to like meeting people, remember?”
“I still like meeting people,” Calla protested, “I just don’t think the middle
of the quad on a windy afternoon is the best place to do it.”
“Anyplace is a good place,” Elirand pointed out. “And you’ve got to do it
now - if you take everything this seriously while we’re still underclassmen,
you’ll miss out on all the fun of college!”
“It’s a good thing he thinks it’s fun,” Achenar said, sotto voce, to a visibly
irritated Calla, “Because he’s going to be in med school for the next decade.”
Calla laughed. “Well, there is that.”
“Exactly,” said Elirand, who had heard it all, “I’m trying to enjoy myself
now, because as long as my grades are good enough to get into med school,
there’s no point in stressing any more about them.”
“Some of us,” Calla said dryly, “find it a little harder to dismiss our worldly
concerns at the drop of a hat.”
Achenar silently agreed. Still, Elirand had a point: it was only sophomore
year and people were already talking to them about the rigors of Thesis.
“Why don’t we all go do something fun together?” he said to the twins.
“Tonight – we’ve still got Sunday to do all our homework.”
Elirand nodded enthusiastically, but then his face fell. “I can’t,” he said,
“I’ve got a date.”
“No, Blossom Moonbeam,” Elirand said, then caught Calla’s skeptical
eyebrow. “Hey, it’s not like that, I swear. I have never been anything but up
front with anyone I’ve dated – a grand total of four people I’ll have you know
– and Heather and I are more friends with benefits anyway.”
“So I guess that leaves us to go someplace,” Calla said, turning to Achenar
with an expression that said exactly what she thought of Elirand cutting a
romantic swath through campus.
Achenar, who was trying not to have an opinion about it, tried to think of a
suitable destination. “Well, there is a concert tonight…” he said, remembering
that there had been a flyer helpfully stuck on one of the quad bulletins for it.
“All right, we’ll go to that,” Calla replied.
“Not to change the subject,” Elirand said, “But I see one of those Llama
jacket people at ten o’clock, and Aranel specifically told us to figure out what
was up with them…”
* * *
Due to a combination of Algebra two, a stuck locker, and an emergency pit
stop in the girls’ bathroom, Lydia was late for the first Drama Club meeting of
the year, which meant that she walked in on the tail end of gossip about their
“All I know,” Lani was saying to Ana, Daniel and Lizette as Lydia walked
in, “Is that her name is Miss Menke and she’s only a few years out of college.”
Daniel groaned, and Lydia sympathized. Brand new teachers could go one
of two ways: either they turned out to be actually pretty cool and treated their
students like competent human beings, or they wanted to be the “cool teacher”
and ended up just being terrible.
“I hear she hasn’t even picked the list of plays for the year yet,” said Lee,
passing by. From the expressions on everyone’s faces, nobody was encouraged
by that news.
“It can’t be that hard,” Lydia said to the group, “I mean, we’re looking at
free plays here, all she has to do is decide which Shakespeare we’re doing and
select one other play written before nineteen hundred…”
Lizzette snorted. “Yeah, what do you want to bet she makes us do
something ridiculous and the same ten people are the only ones who ever get a
At that moment, the doors to the auditorium opened, and in walked a
woman who could only be Miss Menke. The first thing that Lydia noticed was
her hair, a few shades lighter than Ana’s ‘tomato soup’ color, but probably not
natural like Ana’s.
Miss Menke stood up on stage and introduced herself.
“All right, folks,” she said, and Lydia cringed a bit where she stood, which
made Daniel laugh and Ana shoot her a look of sympathy, “I’m sure you’re all
anxious to find out what we’re going to be doing this year.”
Well, you got that right, Lydia thought.
“I know my way of doing things is going to be different from your last
director,” said Miss Menke, “It might take some getting used to, but I think
we’ll all learn something from it. I know that theater is, at it’s heart, a place of
odd traditions and strong opinions, and I intend to embrace that. At the same
time, I urge you not to become complacent: I pick my casting on skill alone,
and I’m not content to simply tell you what to do and hope that it teaches you
how to act – with me as your director, you will have to think about your roles,
and understand the people that you are portraying.”
Lydia could feel her left eyebrow doing it’s best Vulcan impression.
“The fact that we haven’t had tryouts yet is probably worrying to some of
you,” Miss Menke went on, “This will mean that we need to work faster and
harder on our first play of the year than if I’d already chosen parts and handed
out the script. At the same time, it would not be fair of me to chose a play
before I knew more about the people who want to be in it – if we only had ten
actors in the club, it would be fair to have a five person play for our winter
performance, but at thirty, that’s a little restrictive when we only have two
plays a year. So, raise your hands if you prefer to be on a stage.”
Lydia raised her hand, along with a little under half the club.
“Who here likes both acting and behind the scenes roles?”
Twelve people, including a few who had previously raised their hands, put
their hands up and were counted.
“Who here thinks the crew rocks?”
More people than were technically on the crew at any given point raised
their hands. It did not do to tick off the people who were in charge of your
costume, props, or sound, after all.
“All right, thank you,” said Miss Menke, “based on how many actors and
actresses we have, I can now start to make decisions about the plays that we’ll
be able to preform this year. If they go well, we might be able to squeeze three
plays into next year, but I’m afraid that we aren’t prepared for that just yet. In
the meantime, I want you to pick monologues – any work you’re familiar with
will do – for tryouts next week, which will consist of your prepared
monologue, and a couple of monologues that I will give you to read on the
“What the actual fuck,” Lydia said in an undertone to Ana and Lani as the
club officers for the year went up onstage to introduce themselves and talk
about Homecoming, “Cold reads?”
Lani nodded, “I just hope that she’s true to her word and picks plays with
enough roles,” she said, “I’m sick of being the fifth girl cast in a Shakespeare
play and ending up one of the servants at best. Remember how Ellen was the
only girl cast in The Tempest, and how Mr. Hallow said ‘I’m sorry, but The
Tempest only has one female role’?”
Lydia rolled her eyes in sympathetic memory, though The Tempest had
been a year before she’d joined the club. Still, she’d been told more than once
by Mr. Hallow that to “remain true” to the spirit of the characters, she needed
to make her Portia more ladylike. And everyone always complained about the
plays Mr. Hallow picked, but even pointing out to him that it had once been
traditional for women to dress as boys and play characters like Peter Pan had
never improved matters.
He’d always replied that in Shakespeare’s day, women weren’t even
allowed on stage and that the fact that young boys had to dress in women’s
clothing to play them was the reason there were so few women’s roles in
Shakespeare, as if the historical context were more important than the fact that
the club was nearly two thirds female and competition for any “female role”
Lydia just hoped that Miss Menke was less obnoxiously traditionalist.
* * *
“… So of course she called me at six o’clock in the morning and had me
walk a pair of sunglasses across campus so she could drag her hung-over self
back to the dorm,” Rean finished. “So yeah, I have to say that Aranel still owes
me a couple of favors from freshman year.”
Amadeus just smiled at him over the breadsticks. “It must be nice to have
had a best friend for so long,” he said, “Like having a sister, almost.”
Rean’s smile vanished from his face. “I hadn’t thought of it like that,” he
said, “but really, Aranel is more my sister than either of my sisters ever were.
And her parents practically adopted me…”
“You never told me you had sisters,” Amadeus said.
“Well, I don’t – not according to them anyway,” Rean said bitterly. “Nymea
and I have never gotten along, and after my parents threw me out at the end of
senior year I’ve never heard from Idalese again.”
Amadeus was silent.
“I know that she probably couldn’t do anything the year after I left – she
was still living in my parents’ house – but she never showed up at college last
year, never wrote…”
Rean sighed. “I have a baby brother too – my parents probably didn’t even
know my mom was pregnant when they threw me out – and I’m never going to
meet him. I’m never going to get the chance to be the brother I should have
been, to him or to Idalese. So really, I’ve been a terrible brother to everyone
There was more science on the other side of the table.
“Wow, that was gloomy,” Rean said, “sorry, this was supposed to be a fun
Amadeus just shrugged.
“I don’t have much of a family either,” he admitted, “my grandparents
raised me, but my granddad died when I was twelve. So for the last eight
years, it was just me, Gran, and my violin. When I was a kid I would have
given anything to have a brother or a sister, to not be alone all the time.” He
smiled for a moment. “But I’ve never doubted that my Gran loves me, you
“Even though you like guys?” Rean asked.
“She’s known that since I was fourteen,” Amadeus said with a small laugh.
“She ditched a bunch of pamphlets about safe sex on my bed and mortified me
half to death. So when I tried to tell her that I didn’t really think of girls that way
– she went out found some pamphlets specifically for gay couples.”
“Looking back, she probably knew before then,” Amadeus said thoughtfully,
“I had this massive poster of Freddie Mercury…”
“Your grandma sounds pretty awesome,” Rean said.
“She’s the one who got me and Grandpa through the Elipsis,” Amadeus
“Obviously, I don’t remember it, because I was like fifteen months old, but
there was a war going on at the time - on the other side, you know – and Gran
just packed up one day and told my Grandfather that she wasn’t going to raise
her only grandchild in the middle of the war that had taken her daughter from
her. So Grandpa sold the inn and they stepped through that gate… and here I
am now.” Amadeus shrugged.
“I was born over there too,” said Rean, “I don’t know much about it though
– my parents only ever talked about our ‘noble lineage’ or the ‘family honor.’ I
have no idea why they came here in the first place: they hate it.”
There were a few moments of silence. “How did we end up talking about
“I think the question was ‘what’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done for
a friend?’” Amadeus said. “Which makes it your turn, actually.”
Rean thought for a moment. “Okay, what’s the most trouble you’ve ever
been in in your whole life?”
“Well, there was the time that I made a bet – this was middle school – that I
could chug an entire pitcher of Kool-aid…
* * *
At exactly four years old, one of the most fascinating things in Ariadne’s
world was fireflies. They should be hot, like birthday candles or lightbulbs, or
all the other things which made light but were too dangerous for little girls to
touch. But they weren’t – they were cool, crawly things that squished if you
held on too hard. They lived in the grass and flew in the air, and sometimes her
daddy forgot and called them candlebugs.
You had to let them go when you caught them, though, her mommy said –
they were candlebearers for the souls of the dead, and if you caught to many,
the ghosts would have no light and loose their way.
The daycare lady had told Ariadne that it wasn’t true when she asked, and
that her mommy was just superstitious. The daycare lady also said that fireflies
didn’t come out or light up in the daytime and didn’t swarm around people,
though, so she probably didn’t know what she was talking about. Ariadne
knew that fireflies did that, because she’d seen it herself.
Fireflies were also much harder to catch during the day, and no one seemed
to know why. Ariadne had been getting better at catching night time fireflies
all summer so that she could catch one of the daytime ones and figure out why
it was acting so differently.
Ariadne grabbed for a firefly just out of reach, and then she looked up and
saw the wolf.
She knew it was a wolf it looked just like the wolf in the big animal
alphabet book: W was for wolf, walrus, wombat and wallaby. The wolf in the
book was dark grey and this one was white, but other than that they looked the
For a long moment, Ariadne didn’t do anything, not wanting to scare it
away. Then, it turned and headed behind one of the trees, and she went tearing
back over the bridge to tell her mother.
“Mommy! Mommy! There was a wolf in the woods!”
Viridia looked up when Ariadne came stumbling to a halt. “A wolf?”
she asked, sharing a smile with Haldir, “there aren’t any wolves around
here, sweetie. Are you sure it wasn’t just a very big dog?”
Ariadne didn’t understand why her mother didn’t believe her. She
“Nuh-uh! It was a wolf,” she said stubbornly, “It was big an’ it
didn’t have a collar an’ it was white, and I saw it-”
“Where did you see it?” Haldir asked, and Ariadne turned and pointed
directly at the edge of the woods where the wolf had been.
Haldir stared out into the gathering dark for a long minute. “I don’t see it,
Ariadne,” he said.
“But it was there!” Ariadne said, getting a little desperate. Her daddy
always believed her.
“Tell you what, we’ll go have a look,” he said, picking her up.
“Haldir -” said Viridia warningly.
“We’ll be perfectly safe,” Haldir told her before heading across the bridge.
At the edge of the woods, however, there was nothing, not even the
“Maybe it ran away,” Haldir said after a few moments of looking and
seeing nothing but the dark and hearing the splash of fish in the stream.
Disappointed, Ariadne nodded, then saw a gleam of white fur at the
edge of her vision. “Daddy! Daddy, look,” she whispered excitedly,
pointing towards the wolf slinking away through the trees. She was
right, it was a wolf, and it was headed deep into the woods again.
Haldir turned to look where Ariadne was pointing.
“Look at what, Ari?” he asked. “I don’t see anything.”
“The wolf,” Ariadne said insistently, “Look! It’s right there!”
Haldir sighed. “Ariadne, honey, are you sure you saw a wolf? I don’t see
“It’s right there, under the trees!” Ariadne was no longer using what her
mommy called her ‘indoor voice.’
“Oh, is it a pretend wolf?” Haldir said, smiling at her as he carried her back
to the bridge. “Tell me more about the pretend wolf, then. Remember, my eyes
are getting old.”
“No!” Ariadne shouted, “It’s not pretend!”
“That’s the past-bedtime wail,” Viridia said as they crossed the bridge.
“Time to go in and get into our pajamas, Ariadne.”
“No! I don’t want to!” Ariadne yelled, “I want to see the wolf!” Why didn’t
they believe her? Why couldn’t they see the wolf too?
Viridia’s voice became stern. “I’m not giving you a choice, missy. Don’t
you remember that big girls don’t throw fits about going to bed on time?”
Ariadne didn’t feel like being a big girl at the moment, but remembering
her manners usually worked on her mommy.
“Pleeeeeease?” she said, “I’m not tired yet.”
“Well, I am,” Haldir said, “It’s almost nine! And you don’t want me falling
asleep in the middle of your bedtime story, do you?”
Ariadne shook her head. Her daddy was already carrying her inside.
“Then you’d better put on your pajamas quick, and let your mommy brush
your teeth,” Haldir said, “Or I’ll fall right asleep and you won’t get a story.”
“I want a story!” Ariadne reminded him loudly.
“Haldir, don’t get her worked up,” Viridia chided him.
Ariadne glanced over her shoulder just before the door closed, and she
couldn’t see the wolf anywhere.
* * *
Cast of Hamlet
• Hamlet - Lydia Fairmaiden
• Claudius – Simon Baarle
• Gertrude – Naomi Laker
• Polonius – Tyler Rushie
• Horatio – Lani Kapur
• Laertes - Amanda Kenning
• Ophelia – Lee Sorenson
• Fortinbras - Daniel Coombe
• The Ghost - Chris Boone
• Rosencrantz – Daneila Fitz
• Guildenstern - Hannah Clarke
• Marcellus (Guard) - Jonas Simms
• Bernardo (Guard) - Brigit Roven
• Francisco (Guard) - Adam Close
You suck, Chris.
“And then, if you’ll believe it, Professor Hertz started humming the Star
Trek theme song…”
Calla giggled. “Makes sense, star trek has been around forever and so has
Professor Hertz,” she said. “The fact that she gave you an entire problem set
based on calculating the color shift of stars as the Enterprise warps towards or
away from them is probably the best physics story you’ve had this quarter.”
“Physics does seem to bring out the interesting professors…”
“Unlike Education, which seems to bring out the paperwork,” Calla
finished for him, shaking her head in aggravation.
“It’s not too late to switch into Bio, though,” Achenar reminded her,
“You’ve already done enough of the intro classes during your required lab
science credits, and you did chem one to get your certification as a science
teacher. You really don’t have to stick with Education if you don’t want to.”
Calla just shook her head. “Look, I know I decided to go into Education
during our last two years of high school – I haven’t known what I wanted to do
forever like you – but I really do think that this is what I’m supposed to be
doing, you know? I want to make a difference, I want to give kids the sort of
education they deserve, inspire them to do something great with their lives…”
Achenar nodded. “But that’s not what the classes you’re taking this
semester are about.”
“Yeah, exactly,” Calla said, “I mean, I know that teachers do a lot of very
different things, but somehow I’m not certain that learning how to create
meeting agendas is going to help me teach kids to read, or do math, or make
Achenar shrugged. “Do you really need a lot of help to learn how to teach
kids to make a potato clock, though? When we were kids we figured it out on
our own with a library book.”
“We? You mean I figured it out, you wanted to make a potato rocket and
convinced Elirand that we could shoot it to the moon.” Calla tried to sound
stern, but failed, due to the twitching of her lip.
“Guilty as charged,” Achenar said easily. “See, you already know how to
Calla rolled her eyes. “Yeah, but you’re a physicist and Elirand, much as
he’s an idiot, is also pretty smart. I just had to boss the two of you around to
get you going, it’s not like you didn’t understand the concept.”
“Well, potato clocks aren’t exactly rocket science…”
Calla gave Achenar a look.
“I cannot believe I have put up with your puns for the past fourteen years,”
“Nineteeen,” Achenar corrected. Calla frowned. “No, I distinctly remember
being introduced to you when we were five and ready for elementary school,”
“But our parents had known each other for ages, we only lived a few blocks
away…” Achenar said with a frown.
“No, I think early on we lived… somewhere else,” Calla said. “Not so
“No, I remember you moving into your new house when we were like
“We weren’t seven, Aranel was a teenager and she’s only like eighteen
months older than you –”
“But we had to be, Ana was really little -”
Calla shook her head at Achenar. “I’m telling you, we were older. Like
middle school age. But that’s besides the point, there was a house before the
old house, and that is the one that was farther away.”
Achenar thought about it for a moment. “Okay, that makes sense,” he said.
“Crazy how much our memories change as we get older, though.”
Calla snorted. “Maybe your memories.”
“Yes, because clearly physics is just rotting my brain,” Achenar replied
sarcastically, and she laughed.
“Okay, point taken. But we were talking about future plans before I started
whining about the boringness that is Teaching Communication.”
“We were?” Achenar asked innocently, before breaking into a shit-eating
grin. Calla groaned.
“Okay, okay, I apologize for insulting your memory and therefore your
great big juicy brain, can we get back to the regular conversation now?”
“Fine, fine,” Achenar said, grinning, “I just don’t know what more to say,
other than that I’m going to finish Physics and hopefully work SNASA.”
“Right, but what about everything else? You can’t just work.”
“You know I’d be interested in moving back home to do the legacy thing,
except I’m pretty sure Aranel has that covered. She’d be better at it anyway.”
“And I keep telling you that if you really want it, go for it,” Calla replied,
“make Aranel fight for something for once. You don’t even know if she wants
to do it, you’re just assuming that she does.”
“Calla, we’re talking about the girl who has been talking about becoming
Mayor since she was nine. Why wouldn’t she want to be the legacy heir?”
Calla shrugged. “Just talk to her about it before you count yourself out, is
“Fine. There’s a slim possibility that I’ll be the legacy heir.”
“And?” Calla prompted. “Come on, there’s got to be more.”
Achenar shrugged. “Well, just standard kinds of things,” he said. “I always
figured I’d get married eventually –”
Calla nodded, “Same.”
“I mean, someday I’d like kids.” Achenar shrugged.
“Yeah, three of them,” Calla replied.
Achenar frowned. “Okay, how did you guess that?”
“Guess?” Calla replied, “Three’s how many I want.”
“That’s weird,” Achenar said, “because that’s the number I keep imagining
when I think about the kind of family I might have someday.”
There was a moment of silence while both of them pondered it. Calla
looked away from Achenar first.
“It’s not that weird,” she said, “lots of people have three kids.”
* * *
“Hello, Fairmaiden household,” Eluisa said into the telephone.
“Is this Miss Eluisa Fairmaiden speaking?” a voice she didn’t recognize
“This is she.”
“Miss Fairmaiden, this is the county records office,” the voice continued.
“Are you aware that you do not have a birth certificate or other proof of
citizenship on file with the county?”
Eluisa frowned. As far as she had known, she and the other Elven
immigrants had been granted papers of citizenship over twenty years ago.
There was, after all, nowhere to deport them to.
“No, I was not aware,” she said, “I am a registered resident of
Riverblossom Hills under the Naturalization due to Unexplainable Phenomena
clause of the citizens’ charter.”
“Hmmm…” said the voice on the phone. “Well, we don’t have your
paperwork on file, even though we have you listed as the owner of a property,
number twelve lakeshore drive-”
“All right, if you’ll just make an appointment at the county courthouse, I’m
sure it’s all a simple mistake. You wouldn’t believe how much paperwork went
missing during that little aurora storm last year – we had a fire in one of the
older records rooms.”
“Okay, I’ll make the appointment,” Eluisa said, wondering where her fire
safe had gotten to. She should still have her naturalization certificate.
“Just make sure to bring confirmation of address and a valid form of
identification,” said the person on the other end. “Have a nice day.”
As she hung up the phone, the strangest sense of foreboding swept through
Eluisa, leaving her knees weak. She remembered having applied for
naturalization more than twenty years ago when she and the others had first
come to Riverblossom Hills, but she remembered it the way you remember a
movie – there were details there, but it felt hollow, as if some part of her were
missing. She could almost remember having worn a long blue dress…
Feeling suddenly quite heavy, she got up and walked to her bedroom,
where she opened her dresser and began, one by one, to pull out every item of
clothing that she owned.
She never found that blue dress.
* * *
“I just had to get out of the house,” Calla confessed to Meadow, “Aranel is
going to drive me nuts!”
Meadow made a sympathetic murmur. “I’m sure she’s just being
enthusiastic about the heritage house…”
“Enthusiastic? It’s a campaign,” Calla declared, “I don’t think she sleeps, I
think she’s like some sort of weird vampire who feeds off party fumes and
obsessively sorts phonebooks at night.”
Despite herself, Meadow laughed. “She does seem to know the entire
“Yeah, and this past week she invited a bunch of people wearing llama
jackets to the house at like, three in the morning,” Calla complained.
“Yeah, you’ve seen them around,” Calla said, “the ones that do that weird
secret handshake thing when they see each other and sneak furtively around
campus at night? They were seriously weird, but thankfully, they didn’t stay
“There was probably some event,” Meadow reasoned.
“Yeah, probably. Anyhow, my point is, it sucks.”
“It will calm down soon, I’m sure.”
“If it’s not Aranel’s crazy campaign trail, it’s the Chamelions or the Trivials
over, or that Bastian guy. And if Aranel’s out, Rean’s got his boyfriend over, or
Elirand is bringing some girl home… the only person in that house who
doesn’t have any annoying habits is Achenar, and that’s because he’s up to his
neck in homework.”
Meadow smiled and shook her head. “I’m sure Achenar has at least one bad
habit,” she said knowingly, “you just don’t notice as much, because you’re in
love with him.”
Calla blushed – not very noticeably, but it was still there. “Meadow,” she
complained, “I am not ‘in love’ with Achenar. He’s my best friend – it’s
perfectly natural for me to have had a crush on him – which I am over, by the
way – in high school.”
“Not from where I’m standing,” Meadow replied, “You look at him more
than anyone else, you talk about him more than anyone else…”
“Again, best friends.”
“You get kind of defensive when I bring up how much you like him…”
“Meadoooow. Stop it!”
“Calla, I’m not trying to embarrass you, but I’m going to tell you the same
thing I told you two years ago; boys are a little dumb when it comes to love. If
you don’t go after him, someone else will.”
“Yeah, you told me that and I found out not three days later that he liked
Arcadia… I may not be over that extremely small crush I had on him, but that
doesn’t mean that he likes me.”
Meadow just shook her head. “Denial is so much more than just a river in
“Right,” Calla scoffed, “and what, exactly, do you see happening through
those rose-tinted goggles you have welded to your face?”
“I just think that you’re good for each other,” Meadow said, “he encourages
you. He listens to your ideas, and you know he clearly likes to spend time with
“Still describing friendship, Meadow.”
Meadow rolled her eyes at Calla. “Sure, he might be friends with you, but
if you fall in love with someone and can’t stay friends, it isn’t going to last.”
“Says the girl who is engaged and already planning the flowers for her
wedding. By the way, how’s Eric’s, uh… Business degree?”
“Eric is doing fine,” Meadow replied, “and stop trying to change the
“Do or do not, there is no try,” Calla muttered. “I am not trying to change
the subject, I am changing the subject. How’s Econ?”
Meadow rolled her eyes. “Econ is terrible, as you know very well. If I
never see another graph about oil prices I will die happy.”
* * *
“No, Elu, I haven’t had any problems with my proof of citizenship… well,
I’d heard of a few people having issues… I can’t give you specifics, but it
seems fairly random. Elves, humans… I think mostly recent residents? A
computer program is what I heard. Some sort of corrupted data from the last
Talon, who had been sneakily arranging candles on the dining room table,
looked up, but didn’t interrupt.
“New research? All right… Well, you’ve had a lot of different jobs, Talon
and I show up on far too many documents for a single random deletion to
cause too many problems. You made sure that your ownership of the cottage
was uncontested…? Good.”
There was a long moment of silence. “Clothing? Why? I think I gave most
of it to charity… oh, at least ten years ago… Well, maybe a little bit less: yes, I
remember Calla and Elirand stopped wearing anything traditional around the
house in something like the eighth grade.”
There was a long moment, while Chali listened. “Okay, but remember the
last Aurora storm we all donated a lot to the relief effort. That’s probably what
happened to it. It’s not like we carried much with us through the Elipsis... Uh
Talon was now setting out salmon for two.
“Look, Elu, I’m glad I could help, but I’ve really got to go right now… yes,
of course. See you next week, like always.”
Chalimyra hung up, and shook her head at her husband. “Elu’s at it again.”
* * *
“… Well I don’t really… Same reason as you, there’s simply no point in
having clothes for work and clothes for home… Well, I still have my wedding
dress, it’s just in one of those boxes from when we had to move out during the
aurora storm… Yes, everything else went to the relief… What color was it?
Well, blue, of course.”
Ariadne looked up from where she was happily playing blocks on the floor,
and then went on ignoring her mother’s conversation with Auntie Elu.
“No, I don’t remember where we were buying it. I think they went out of
business… okay, glad I could help…”
“Yes, as far as I’m aware there have always been the same number of
people in Riverblossom Hills Proper… all right, aside from that lovely girl
who married poor Gabe O’Mackey, she moved in what, five, six years ago…?
No, I can’t say I knew his ex-wife very well. She was always away in the city
while Gabe was here teaching. I knew him much better then, though I only
taught at the local high school what, two years…? Oh no, this was before
Aranel or his daughter were old enough to go.”
Another long-ish pause. “Eluisa, are you sure you’re all right? Of course
you have to remember what I taught. I had a split between Home Economics
and General Literature the first year, and then I did some time in special
education and literacy.”
“… Right… Yes, I was aware that Ana and Lydia planned to have dinner
with you on Friday... Okay. Bye.”
She put the phone down and headed out into the living room. “Anairel!
Have you finished that essay yet?”
* * *
“Well, no, I haven’t kept in contact with a lot of people from Riverblossom Hills,
Elu, you know that… Oh, that does sound like a hassle. Thank you for thinking of
Lydia, who had been studying in the living room, froze. Had Elu told her mom
about their agreement? No, she couldn’t imagine that her mother would have taken that
this calmly. It was something else then. Something interesting… and if it was about
Riverblossom Hills, then there was a chance she could get some information, maybe
something that Eluisa wouldn’t have told her.
She snuck closer.
“Well, no, I don’t think there was much damage from the last Aurora storm
out here in the city… Now that you mention it, I guess it is a little odd that the
earthquakes were all in such a small area… I’m not a geologist, Elu, but the
news was calling it a microtech-something… Yes, microtectonic event, that’s it.”
Her mom listened for a few more seconds. “Well, that does seem a little
strange, but you have to admit we didn’t exactly come here with passports…
I’m glad you got that sorted out. Okay, I understand. No, it’s no trouble at all –
I’ll let you know if I turn anything up. Goodbye.”
Lydia ducked into the corner of the room before her mom could turn
around, her mind reeling.
What was Eluisa researching? Did it have something to do with Lydia’s
* * *
“No, wait, I swear this was working last night,” said Achenar. Calla sighed
and leaned back on the beat-up couch, trying not to think about where Rean
and Elirand had gotten it from. “Just a minute, maybe someone’s played with
“Achenar, it’s okay if we miss the meteor,” Calla said.
“I can fix this,” Achenar protested, “In the next fifteen minutes,
Calla stared up at the sky, where wispy clouds were threatening to make
stargazing an exercise in futility, then got up.
“Let me have a look,” she said, fiddling with one of the focus knobs.
“Yeah, there – no, go back a bit – okay, perfect.” Both of them straightened
up, and Calla realized just how close together they were standing. She could
feel how much warmer Achenar was than the chilly night air. Crush? What
“So,” said Achenar, after a moment of awkwardly staring, in which neither
of them moved. “I… well, I actually asked you out here for something else
other than seeing that meteor.”
Calla frowned. “Then what did we need the telescope for?”
Achenar smiled awkwardly. “I’ve actually discovered a new star – well, I
think it’s a new star – and before I submit it to the Astronomical society, I was
thinking, maybe you could help me name it?”
Yeah, the strange warm thing behind Calla’s ribs was definitely not a crush.
Nope, just a natural reaction to Achenar being a nerd. An adorable nerd…
“Also, I… and please don’t let this make things awkward, I don’t want this
to ruin everything… would you go on a date with me?”
At first, Calla didn’t think she’d heard him right. “Sorry, what?”
Achenar wilted a little. “Oh, never mind then.”
“No, I could have sworn I heard you ask me on a date.”
“It was more of a pre-ask… I mean, I understand if you don’t want to, I’m
fine with that. I was just hoping.” Achenar bit his lip. “I was just wondering
why ever since we’ve been to college I’ve been looking for a girl to spend the
rest of my life with, and every girl I meet just doesn’t seem to be the right one,
and… I think I could be happy spending my life with you.”
Accelerated heartbeat? Check. Definite swooping feeling in the stomach?
Check. Maybe it was a little more than the crush she’d been denying she had.
Calla reached out and put a hand on Achenar’s shoulder.
“That would be nice,” she said, a little breathlessly. “I’ve been thinking
about that too.”
They stood like that for a long moment.
“Um, that date,” Achenar said after a long stretch of silence, “Maybe we
could start it now?”
They didn’t even miss the meteor shower.
* * *
“… It’s still a building.”
Bastian sighed. “Aranel, everything I draw is going to be a building. I’m an
“It’s got little doors and windows too.”
“I can see that peer review was a bad idea.”
“No, it’s fine!” Aranel said. “I’m sure if I squint at it hard enough, I’ll see
which is the better drawing…”
“The drawing doesn’t matter, it’s the design… oh, nevermind.” Bastian
sighed. “Why are we doing this again?”
“Because you need someone to help you with your portfolio? Also, because
it’s Wednesday night and everyone else we know is on a date?”
“Except for those girls in the west wing of my dorm, they’re having some
sort of prolonged argument about superheroes, or something. Anyway they
were yelling about healing factors and mind reading, so…”
“Yeah, so they’re clearly busy,” Aranel replied. “Wait, are you telling me I
wasn’t your first choice for peer review?”
Bastian rolled his eyes at the mock-offense in her tone. “Just because I
know that all buildings look alike to poli-sci majors…”
“Pfft, yeah. I can’t believe how many of my idiot classmates have been
trying to attend lectures for economic theory in Old Hall North instead of Old
“It’s a month into the semester, they’re probably still hung over from Mardi
Aranel snickered. “Okay, I know what happens when you get a poly sci
major drunk,” she said, lifting a slice of pizza out of the box, “so what happens
when you get an architecture major drunk?”
“Either they start talking to you about the leaning tower of Pisa, they start
babbling about kerning, or they start trying to build a bridge out of
“You’re a bridge guy?”
“What the fuck even is Kerning?”
Bastian looked mortified. “The process of adjusting the spaces between
letters so that it looks right.”
Aranel burst out laughing.
Bastian smiled awkwardly. “I know, pathetic, right?”
“… Someone actually does that?” Aranel was still laughing. It was starting
to be more than a little embarassing.
“Yeah. Look, thanks for trying to help, but I think I’ll just wait for a formal
Aranel stopped laughing. “No, stay! We can do something else if I really
Bastian, who had been starting to pack up, stopped. “Like what?”
Aranel shrugged. “Theres SX3. Or we could hang out.”
“You seriously want to hang out with me?” asked Bastian, a little skeptical.
“Sure. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t just hang out with drunken frat
boys.” Aranel couldn’t help the smile that crossed her face. “You could teach
me about Kerning – we’ve even got beer.”
“Well, thanks for the offer,” said Bastian, picking up his sketchbook, “but
I’ve got work to do and somehow I doubt your intentions are completely
Aranel snorted. “Don’t worry, I have no designs on your nerdly virtue,” she
began, then took a good look at his expression, and changed tactics.
“I just thought, well, Rean’s pretty serious about Amadeus, which is
freakish to see after all his previous dates – who didn’t deserve him, by the
way – and, well, I figured we should get to know each other. We’ll be seeing
each other more often now, I think… you know, as the awkward best friend
third wheels of the happy couple.”
Bastian snorted. “Third and fourth wheel, you mean.”
“Hey, I’m poli-sci. We’re very against math, because when you work with
numbers too many inconvenient facts get in the way.”
“I have no idea whether or not you’re serious, and I think I don’t want to
“That’s all part of my indescribable charm.” Aranel was grinning, and
Bastian took a chance on it being friendly. Or at least sort of teasingly friendly.
“Oh, it’s indescribable all right…”
Aranel grinned and gave him a shove in the shoulder. “So, wanna play
When Achenar and Calla came home, the first thing they heard was a howl
“Hah! I totally owned that match!” Aranel said from the living room. “In
your face, Arche-geek!”
“It’s about time you won that run,” Bastian retorted, “You’ve finally
learned how to steer. After twenty games.”
“You say that after you wipe out in the first slope -”
Calla turned to Achenar with an amused smile. “Looks like your sister’s
claimed another video game victim.”
“Oh Green Ones,” Achenar said, over the swiftly escalating trash talk in the
living room, “we’re never going to get the television back…”
* * *
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“These are very good, Anariel,” said Mr. Cooke, as he paged through the
prints. “Are they all of members of drama club?”
Ana rubbed the back of her neck. “Yeah. Miss Menke wanted some
promotional stuff, and I volunteered to take a couple pictures of practice and
set building. I thought yearbook could use some acknowledgement that the
people backstage do a lot of work too.”
“Well, you’ve certainly captured the dynamism of the club. Would you like
to work on other events?”
Anariel’s eyes widened. “Really?”
“I think you’ve proven yourself capable of taking quality photos for the
yearbook. Your posed photos could use some work, especially in composition,
if you want to go into photography as an art form, but for yearbook, these are
perfectly serviceable. Your candid shots are much better, however…”
He paused, looking down at the photo in his hands. “Especially this one.
When did you take this one?”
Ana looked down at the photo, nervous once again. “Just, you know, during
practice. I, uh, I took it from the side of the stage.”
“Well, the composition on this is excellent. Nice use of chiaroscuro, an
emphasis on movement, a certain simplicity of the background that creates an
intimacy with the subject… this is really artistic, Anariel.”
“I… thank you,” said Ana, still a little overwhelmed. “I was just messing
“Sometimes, messing around is an important part of the artistic process,”
said Mr. Cooke, with a smile. “I’ll be honest, now that photography’s gone
digital, anyone can click a button, throw a few filters on in photoshop, and
create an effect that it would have taken weeks to craft on traditionally
“I encourage all my students to pursue art if they enjoy it, even if they don’t
think they’re very good – anyone who thinks they’ve stopped improving by
eighteen can never truly grow as an artist – but if you want to become an artist,
find out what motivated you to take this picture. Most of your others don’t give
me a sense of the relationship between the photographer and the subject, but
this… this one is special.”
Ana blushed heavily. She’d always liked Mr. Cooke’s classes, but she
hadn’t thought she’d done especially well in any of them.
“I thought she looked like an angel,” Ana muttered quietly. “That’s what
motivated me to take the picture.”
He smiled. “Well, as far as I’m concerned, you managed to convey
something. The transformational qualities of art, if nothing else. Maybe you
could work with your friend and take some more pictures for practice, work on
conveying who she is?”
Ana looked down at the silhouette of Lydia, script in hand, haloed in light.
“Yeah, I think she’d help me with that,” she said.
* * *
“What, do they need a bouncer or something?” Aranel said in Bastian’s ear.
“It should not take this long to get inside the Chameleons’ house.” It promised
to be an odd party all around, with the grass scoured free of snow and the
temperature edging up above freezing for the first time since November.
Aranel turned, spotted Ashley Pitts, and shouted “What exactly is the hold-
“Hang onto your ears, Elvensong,” he replied, “we had a little trouble with
the keg, but all is well now.”
The party was exactly as advertised: the biggest bash on campus. It was
certainly the place to go if you liked loud music, cold free pizza, or lukewarm
dollar beer. Or if you just wanted to suck face with your date in a crowd of
other hormonal collegiates.
It was a very good thing that the party was confined to the Tri-Var and
Urele-Oresha-Cham houses, conveniently located across the street from one
another, because this many people couldn’t have fit into a smaller campus
house, like the Elven Heritage Association’s.
Rean stopped abruptly, unable at first to recognize his sister under the
blonde hair. The tone of voice was, however, unmistakable, and with a sinking
feeling in his gut he knew that there was about to be a scene. The very same
scene that he’d managed to avoid for two and a half years now… Nymea
always had taken after their mother in terms of volume.
“Don’t you ‘Hi Nymea’ me! Get out of here! Before you ruin my reputation
“Nymea, it’s not –”
“I don’t care about your excuses!” Nymea hissed back, “I worked hard to
be accepted into this sorority, I worked hard on this party, and I am not going
to let you ruin it like you ruin everything else! Get out!”
“Look, I’m leaving, all right?”
“Good! You owe me after you ruined my life. You shouldn’t even be here at
all, you don’t deserve it! I could have had another year of tuition if our parents
didn’t waste all that money on you –”
“Wait, now you’re blaming me for our parents!? You’re the one who -”
“Yes, I am!” Nymea shrieked. “It was you, you, always YOU! Their
precious son and heir! Every fucking thing they ever did was for you,
and they never cared about me at all! They had a son, so I was
worthless! And you just lapped it up, right up until the point that they
found out what you really are!”
People were staring at her from the safe distance of behind the pool
table or just inside the hallway, which seemed to suit her just fine.
“What, you think you can stop me from telling them, you sick, twisted little
“Gay! Faggot! Look, he’s a cock-sucking Homo! Green Ones, Rean, you
think you can still hide it? Do you even know what sort of crap I went through
because you had to go dancing with some dirty rent boy? You destroyed our
family – you shouldn’t ever have been born! I was humiliated.”
Rean, stunned into silence, said nothing, while most of the people in the
doorways, including Amadeus, had turned away out of embarassed horror.
Aranel, however, had marched right up behind him and plastered a very
unconvincing smile on her face.
“Nymea, how good to see you,” she said.
“Now go straight back to hell, you bitter, self-absorbed bitch.”
Most of campus was still standing on the edges of the room, staring at
them, as Nymea wiped soda off her face, temporarily too enraged to speak.
“I’ve wanted to do that for the last six years,” Aranel said, in a rather smug
voice. Then, she grew serious again. “If your whole family is too fucking
stupid to appreciate Rean, then by the Green Ones, stay the hell away from
She turned around and saw that everyone was staring at them, except for
Amadeus, who was trying to make Rean sit down.
“Aranel, if you ever throw punch in this house again, I’m sending you the
cleaning bill,” said Brittany Upsnott, breaking the silence.
“Did you see what she just did!?” Nymea shrieked, getting her steam back.
“Yes, and I also heard what you said,” Brittany replied, stony faced. “That’s
one hell of a way to treat your own family.”
“He’s no brother of mine!”
Brittany’s mouth twisted in distatste. “Go upstairs, and get cleaned up, and
the rest of us will deal with it.”
“Call Campus Security,” Nymea insisted, “have them both arrested!”
“You started it,” said Amadeus, loudly and unexpectedly.
“And what makes it your business?” Nymea replied nastily.
“That’s my boyfriend you just attacked, you harpy.”
“Amadeus, don’t –” said Rean, too late.
“Well then,” said Nymea, “you’re both just a couple of-”
“Nymea Greenleaf!” Heather Huffington shouted.
The whole room turned to look at her instead.
“One more word, Nymea,” said Heather, “and I’ll slap you myself. How
dare you. Your behavior is a disgrace to generations of Tri-Var sisters, my aunt
and her partner included.”
Nymea opened her mouth again – did she have any idea when to shut up? –
but Brittany Upsnott spoke over her.
“This party is over,” she said, “Go to the Chameleons’ or go home, but
nobody’s staying here.”
With a last glare at them all, Nymea turned and stalked up the stairs. Slowly,
the crowd started to disperse, leaving Aranel, Rean, and Amadeus standing in the
“Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit,” said Rean in a very small voice, trying not to
“It’s okay,” said Amadeus, wrapping his arms around him.
“No it’s not. My whole family is crazy,” said Rean.
Aranel stood there awkwardly for a long moment: she’d never seen Rean cry
before. “Um,” she said, “I’ll just get our coats.”
* * *
Lydia ran straight to the mailbox after she got off the bus, like a desperate
bat shooting out of hell. Just like she had for the past two weeks, ever since
she’d ordered a copy of her birth certificate. It was absolutely essential that her
mother never had the chance to see that envelope before Lydia could get to it.
Because, despite Lydia’s deal with Eluisa, she needed proof. It wasn’t that she
necessarily thought Eluisa would lie to her, just that if it came down to
choosing sides… her mother had been Eluisa’s friend far longer.
Plus, discussing it with her mother had not gone well. Just like the other
twenty thousand times she’d tried…
She was in luck: A small, green envelope, addressed from the county
records office was sitting in the mailbox.
Not caring that Orion was staring at her like she’d grown another head, she
tore inside, ran up the stairs to her room (and wasn’t it fun that she’d gotten her
own room just in time for her to go away to college?) and sat down on her bed.
She cut the top of the envelope with her house key and drew the copy of
her birth certificate out of it’s paper prison. She’d been waiting for this since
the day she turned eighteen.
Idalese jumped as her mother came slamming through the screen of the
front door. She was home far too early, and making far too much noise, for this
to be good news.
As it turned out, Yvette couldn’t have been paying less attention to her.
“Oh, that wicked, wicked girl!” she said to Idalese as she came in and put
down the groceries, “This is exactly why I didn’t want you going off to college
and being exposed to such atrocious standards of behavior. But of course your
father couldn’t be bothered to arrange suitable matches for the two of you, and
now your sister has become some painted Jezebel!”
This is why impressionable girls like you need to be married off to an
upstanding elven man, Idalese thought, having plenty of experience predicting
the direction of her mother’s rants.
“This is exactly why your sister should have been married off as soon as
possible to a nice, upstanding elven man,” Yvette continued, “though the
Green Ones know I tried, despite the low quality of the elven families I had to
choose from. Nymea’s too headstrong and impressionable: she needs a
husband to keep her in line, or see what she does!”
This was the point where Idalese was required to say something.
“You haven’t told me why you’re upset, mother,” she said quietly.
“Upset? I am mortified,” Yvette continued, “your sister has brought shame
on the family, parading her body around in such an undignified fashion!”
For a moment, Idalese thought that Nymea had stripped down and gone
streaking through the middle of town.
“And the photographs!” Yvette said, “Why, your poor father would die of a
heart attack if he saw! His own daughter! On the cover of a magazine! In the
She threw down a magazine on the table.
Idalese gingerly leaned over to look, out of morbid curiosity. Surely,
She nearly laughed when she realized that all the fuss was about. Nymea
was modeling a bikkini. But what was perfectly acceptable in every other
house in the entire world was not good enough for her mother and father.
“She’s… a model?” Idalese asked.
“That’s why that wicked, deceitful girl wouldn’t come home!” Yvette
exclaimed, “she would rather sell her virtue than live respectably and support
her poor, aging mother in her isolation.”
Idalese didn’t quite think that Nymea had ventured into prostitution. For
one thing, it would require her to be pleasant to people. Then again, in her
mother’s eyes, Nymea’s little blue bikini on the cover was as good as
becoming a hooker.
“She told me that she was seeing a nice young man!” Yvette exclaimed
loudly, “She said that she needed another year’s tuition to wait until he
graduated! I told her to come home and wait, and your father scrimped and
saved to let her stay another year! Yet see what she has done with your father’s
Idalese didn’t say the first thing that she thought – that Nymea probably
hadn’t been able to pay for the full year off what their parents had sent – or the
second thing, which was that anyone would have told Yvette they were seeing
a young man, if only to get her off their back. If Nymea didn’t want to find a
man and get married, she thought bitterly, she should have stayed at home and
let Idalese get out of the house. Idalese, after all, was expected to stay home
and take care of Ronan, because Nymea was the oldest and beautiful and
would marry well and lift them from their poverty.
Idalese’s efforts at lifting them from their poverty weren’t required.
“… no respect for our family name!” Yvette finally finished, out of breath.
“Your honored ancestors are rolling in their graves, mark my words.”
“I’m sure they are,” Idalese replied, torn between jealousy that Nymea –
who had clearly died her hair – had been able to escape this house and
essentially got paid to play dress up, when Idalese couldn’t think of anyone off
the top of her head that deserved a cushy job less, and grudging admiration of
her sister’s brazenness. If it had been her, she’d have heard her mother’s
scandalized scolding from the moment she put the bikkini on.
“Oh Ida,” Yvette said, “You’re my only good, truthful, modest girl. Promise
me you won’t go astray like your sister has.”
Idalese experienced a bizarre rush of guilt, which was funny, since she
hadn’t even been thinking of doing anything that her mother wouldn’t have
“I won’t,” she said, getting up “In fact, I should start the soup so it will be
ready when father gets home.”
“Where’s Ronan?” Yvette asked suddenly, “I want to see my only son. He
and you are the only credits to our honor that the family has left.”
Idalese froze. Has she heard something about Rean? She couldn’t ask – her
father had yelled at her the last time she mentioned his name, and her mother
insisted that she had never before given birth to a boy so completely that
Idalese thought she’d managed to delude herself into believing it – but she
continued to hope that she’d hear something. She didn’t even have an address
to send letters to, not that her father hadn’t figured out what she was up to after
she wrote a letter to David Ottomas, and locked all the stamps in his desk. She
didn’t know if Rean had even been able to continue college after the first year,
or if the sudden lack of money had forced him to drop out.
“Ronan’s upstairs,” Idalese finally said, “I put him down for his nap in you
and Father’s room, so it would be quiet.”
“Of course you did,” Yvette said, smiling, “Because you’re my good girl
who takes only the best care of her only brother.”
Idalese’s heart sank. There was no news, or if there was, she’d never know
about it. She understood why Rean had never written to her, she really did,
but… everyone else got to leave, and she was still trapped here, doing no good
She still had to ask for permission to leave the house, like a teenager, she
wasn’t allowed to have any friends, like the Ottomases, who her parents
thought were too common. It was actually worse than when she’d been in high
school, because then she’d still been expected to find a boy to marry and now
her mother had unilaterally decided that she was too old to keep the house and
care for the family heir without help.
“Yes,” she whispered as her mother climbed the stairs, “I’m only your good
girl when I look after my brother.”
* * *
“Wow, I’m starving,” Ana said, after Lydia finally emerged from the
“You weren’t even on stage,” Lydia replied. “I feel like I’ve got a massive
pit in my stomach, and I don’t think it’s all dress-rehearsal nerves.”
“What nerves, you were great,” said Ana, “Let’s go get burgers at
Rodney’s, they’ve got to still be open…”
“Hey, Lydia, Ana, wait up!” said a voice from behind them. They both
turned, and saw Steve from crew rushing down the stage.
“Hey Steve,” said Lydia, wondering what the rush was.
“Hi. Um, Ana, can we talk?” Steve’s eyes flicked nervously at Lydia, which
was odd. “Like, in private?”
“Er… sure, but why?” asked Ana, looking a bit nonplussed.
“Uh…” said Steve, staring at Lydia, who still hadn’t moved.
“Sure, whatever, I’ll go wait,” Lydia waved her hand vaguely, “over there.”
It wasn’t like she and Ana were actually attached at the hip or anything, but
she thought Steve was being sort of rude.
What could he possibly want to talk to Ana about that no one else could
hear? For that matter, why was he so worked up about it?
She stood there and scrupulously tried not to watch as Steve shifted back
and forth and Ana’s nodded along, seemingly okay with whatever they were
discussing. After a minute or two, Steve had a huge grin on his face, so Lydia
guessed that whatever it was, it was resolved now.
Ana was even walking towards her now, still smiling.
“Steve and I are going on a date!” Ana said. Steve was hanging back.
“Congratulations.” Well, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time Ana had
been asked on a date, and she seemed happy about it. That explained all the
blushing and embarassment.
“To Burritopia, actually,” said Ana after a moment, “It’s open late.”
It took Lydia a moment. “What, now?” she asked.
“Yes,” said Ana, “Raincheck on the burgers?”
“… Sure,” said Lydia, and wondered why she didn’t feel hungry any more
as the two of them walked off together.
* * *
“It’s not that I don’t want to go to the Chameleons’ graduation party,” said
Rean as he walked across the lawn, arguing with Ara, “I just think we should
have warned Bastian and Amadeus about -”
“Aaaw, afraid that Kevin’s going to make fun of your boyfriend?” Ara said.
Rean shot her a level look. “Yes,” he said baldly.
“Come on, Beare’s not that bad…”
“Hey, guys! It’s the Rivendell gang!” Kevin Beare yelled from the front
porch, where he was sitting with a beer in one hand and someone else’s
graduation cap in the other, “You guys have to sail a sea to get here or what?”
“… but yeah, he is obnoxious when drunk,” Ara conceded lamely. Calla
“Elirand!” Heather called out from inside the house, “Glad you could make
With no further prompting, Elirand disappeared into the crowd.
“Wow, this place is packed,” Achenar said as they pushed their way up the
steps and slipped into the foyer. “How many people are even here?”
“Oh, just all the Chameleons, almost all the Tri-Vars, the entire womens’
volleyball team – you know, just half of campus,” said Tiffany, coming down
Aranel grinned at her. “See, this is why you can’t leave,” she said,
“Where’s the Smooth Criminal going to be without you editing?”
“Gone to a better place, I hope,” Tiffany replied dryly, “On the bright side,
I will never ever have to hear or see one of your political rants again, much
less edit them, so I think I’ll survive.”
“Come on, let’s get out of here,” said Achenar to Calla in an undertone,
while Aranel pretended to be offended by the comment, “I’m sure they’ve got
“You only think you’re through with my political opinions,” Aranel replied.
“Hey, at least we don’t have to listen to them until you start campaigning,”
Castor pointed out, from near the pinball machines.
“You never had to listen to any of them,” Tiffany objected, “All you had to
do was run the web page!”
“Which included posting Aranel’s articles,” Castor pointed out, and then
kissed her. Aranel rolled her eyes.
“They can’t have been that bad if you think they’re an excuse to get all
sappy and crap,” she grumbled.
“Feel free to leave us to it,” Tiffany said, then turned to include Rean, “by
the way, your boyfriends are both out back playing darts, or were the last time
I saw them.”
Rean grinned and headed out through the living room. Aranel just scowled.
“For the millionth time, Bastian is not my boyfriend.”
Castor snickered. “He willingly puts up with your politics,” he pointed out,
“I’d say that’s a sign of love if there ever was one.”
Aranel flipped him off and headed into the party proper.
Rean had already interrupted the darts game, Aranel saw, and she waved at
Bastian, who was busy trying to unclog the Myshuno game.
“Elvensong!” called Ashley Pitts from near the bar, “What took you so
“Some of us actually shower before going out in public, Pitts,” said Aranel.
Then “mix me something, I don’t care what as long as it’s got tequila.”
“You know you’ll miss me,” said Ashley, with a shit eating grin, “what are
you going to do when I’m graduated and you’re all alone?”
“That’s actually phase one,” Aranel replied easily, “of my ten step plan for
campus domination. Get rid of Pitts, beat up the Simmerson mascot, making
me more popular than any of the Chameleons could ever hope to be, join the
Illuminati, become big sim on campus…”
Ashley was laughing. “All right, just go easy on Beare and Ruben when
I’m gone. They’ve got to pick up some new freshmen to fill the house with.”
“Of course. When have I not gone easy on them?”
“Every time we’ve played beer pong. Or poker.”
Aranel rolled her eyes at him and received her drink.
“Whatever. They shouldn’t play if they can’t strategize.”
“I’m not going to miss your card sharking,” said Ashley. “I am going to
miss beer pong though. Kind of wish it wasn’t all over so fast… I have a
feeling that I’d be having a lot more fun at this party if I wasn’t the one
“If you weren’t graduating, Pitts, I wouldn’t be letting my little sister enroll
in the fall,” said Aranel. “You’d just hit on her.”
“Hey baby, does that mean she’s hotter than you?”
“She’s barely eighteen, you cretin,” said Aranel, shoving him.
“And she’s got you watching out for her, so I really don’t think that’s going
to be a problem,” said Ashley, rubbing his arm. “As well as, oh, your entire
house. It’ll be fine.”
Aranel grimaced. “You only say that because you don’t have younger
siblings,” she said.
“Any siblings at all, actually.”
She gave Ashley a look and gestured towards where Calla and Achenar
were busy making out by the back steps. “See what you don’t have to deal
with: a whole ‘nother year of this.”
Ashley smirked. “Aww, you’re jealous. Don’t worry: I’ll still kiss you.”
“I don’t date alumni.”
“Oh, so that’s your style – ow!” Aranel smacked him in the arm again.
“Jeez, I was kidding!”
“Shut up and make me another drink.”
“Yes ma’am.” There was a moment of silence while Ashley poured a pair
“To graduation,” said Aranel, as he grabbed one for himself.
“To those left behind,” Ashley replied, “Out with the old, in with the new.”
They threw their shots back one after the other.
* * *
Lydia’s heart was only thundering in her chest because she’d run all the
way from the bus station. Probably. She reached Eluisa’s cottage several
minutes early, and looked around at the garden, which was more or less
exactly the way it always was, before proceeding to unlatch the gate and head
down towards the beach. Half her life ago, she’d been building sandcastles
here and met Anariel, three years ago she’d learned to snorkel in the lake…
and now she was going to learn the answer to what was probably the biggest
question of her entire life.
Really, there was no reason to be nervous.
“Lydia!” said Eluisa, rounding the corner of the house, “you’re early.” For
once, she didn’t sound terribly happy about it.
“Sit down, I’m just going to go wash my hands…” Lydia didn’t sit at the
table on the beach immediately, instead choosing to wait until Eluisa had gone
in, deposited her gardening supplies, and washed up. She was too excited to sit
quietly and watch the waves, or do anything else ‘calming.’ She wanted to
Eluisa, however, seemed distracted. She kept fiddling with a piece of her
wicker chair, or looking at the lake, until Lydia just could not take it any more.
Lydia took a deep, almost trembling breath, preparing herself for what she
was going to say, what she might hear.
“Tell me about my father,” she said.
* * *
Still here? Wow. Hi people – it’s been what, a year since my last update?
I’m still alive. Uh, and I have a simblr now, which updates about as frequently
as I play… from which you can extrapolate the amount of time I’ve been able
to spend on Sims lately.
This was a massive chapter. I know, they’re all huge, but this one was
nearly 200 slides before I cut about 5 scenes. That’s as many as 20 tens, and
that’s terrible! I’m starting to think that I should start breaking them into
smaller chunks, which would improve my update schedule, but also be kind of
painful because then I’d have to film things in something resembling order.
And order is my enemy.
During play for this chapter, Achenar and Calla were actually making out
everywhere. (When I first recreated the hood back before all that prom stuff in
Graduand, they actually had their first kiss while I was busy filming someone
else and have been pretty much inseperable ever since. They also have three
bolts.) You have no idea how long they’ve both had “get engaged” want locked.
Aranel did become big sim on campus this round (I know, shocker, right?)
and the secret society abduction has crashed my game like five times already.
Enough with that mess. I’m not going to make her fight the cow unless she
really wants to, though. (Not that it will take too long… he’s unanimously
hated by now.)