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The Bradford Legacy - Chapter 31


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Chapter 31 of the Bradford Legacy

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The Bradford Legacy - Chapter 31

  1. 1. So yeah. It’s been a while. Since December of 2013, to be exact. What happened? I burned myself out on the War Years, and didn’t have enough left in the tank for the stretch run. That, and real life kicked my butt a few times with finishing up an internship, designing, conducting, analyzing and presenting a research study as part of my Capstone project, and then getting a job and working full time for the first time in almost three years. A quick refresher since it’s been so long. The war was over, but everything wasn’t perfect. Everyone was worried about the hunt for Simmunists, what the conflict in SimKorea might mean for former military members, and Steven contemplated the meaning of duty. To wrap it all up, someone we all know was accused of being a Simmunist. There’s more to say, but I think you’ve waited for this chapter long enough. I hope you enjoy Chapter 31 of The Bradford Legacy.
  2. 2. As Alice bustled about the kitchen getting ready for Steven’s birthday, her step didn’t have its usual spring too it. “There is no way I’m old enough to have a child who’s about to become a teenager.”
  3. 3. “Oh, honey, if you feel old imagine how I feel, having a grandson who’s about to become a teenager,” Cindy laughed as she came into the kitchen from the library. “It just seems like it was yesterday when he was born. Now he’s another step closer to being all grown up. My, how the time does fly.” Cindy nodded. “I remember thinking the same thing about Nick. Once second he was toddling around the nursery, all baby fat and wobbly legs and the next he was a grown man, headed off to war.”
  4. 4. “At least Steven doesn’t have to worry about that,” Alice sighed. “Now he’ll going to the high school, and wanting to learn how to drive before much longer. I guess I’m just not quite ready for that yet.” “Them growing up happens whether we’re ready for it or not, sadly. You’ve still got Peggy and Nettie to baby for a little while longer.”
  5. 5. “I suppose. Peggy’s such an old soul that I’m not sure she’s actually a child at all, and Nettie’s got her head in the clouds half the time. They’re getting to the point where they don’t need me as much either.” “Kids always need their moms, Alice. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that. Well, except perhaps for Jefferson, Nick’s late grandfather. His mother…well, from what I hear she was quite a piece of work.”
  6. 6. That caused Alice to crack a small smile. “That was Jan, yes? The one that James refers to as ‘bat-shit crazy?’” It was Cindy’s turn to laugh. “One and the same. I can only imagine what she would have had to say about me.” “Something less than flattering, I’m sure.” Cindy snorted a laugh. “You’re being far too kind, Alice. I’m sure it would have involved the words ‘tart’ and ‘gold-digger,’ to name a few.” “Well, it’s a good thing that she’s not around any longer than, isn’t it?”
  7. 7. “That it is. Now, what do you have planned for tonight?” “Nothing big,” Alice said. “Steven just wants it to be the family. I asked about friends, but he said he didn’t have anyone he wanted to invite.” “Poor boy. There are so few children close to his age.” Alice nodded. “With the war, he’s so much older than most of his peers. I worry about that sometimes.”
  8. 8. Cindy merely shrugged. “He’ll be fine. Besides, I always got the impression that he was more comfortable around adults anyway.” “He is. He’s so much like his father in so many ways. So serious. Too serious for his own good I worry sometimes.” “And that is something you’ll always do too; worry about your kids, no matter how old they are.”
  9. 9. Steven’s birthday came with little fanfare.
  10. 10. Now that he was a teenager, Steven decided that it was important to focus on friendship and learning. The learning part would be easy, as he was due to start high school with its new academic challenges. As far as friendship went, Steven was one of the few teenagers in the neighborhood. He didn’t mind spending time with his younger siblings and cousins, but he still wished that there were more people his own age to talk to. * * * * *
  11. 11. “Hey, cousin,” Shirley called from the sofa in the living room where she and Alice were catching up. “Hi, Shirley,” Nick replied as he leaned in to kiss the top of his wife’s head in greeting. “What are you doing here?” “Walt’s on the overnight shift, and you know how picky an eater Dwight is. So rather than subject him to a night of grilled cheese…” “You’re taking advantage of Alice’s hospitality.” “Bingo. Besides, Dwight and Peggy had some project to work on for school so he was over here anyway.”
  12. 12. “It’s been nice to sit and chat with her,” Alice added. “Yeah, ever since Rosalie and I had our blow out, Alice is the only friend I seem to have.” “You two still haven’t made up yet?” Nick asked. “Nope. And I’m not planning on offering an olive branch any time soon. She was in the wrong, so she can be the first to apologize.”
  13. 13. Nick just shook his head. “I’m not getting into the middle of this. Rosalie is who she is, and she’s not going to change.” “I know that. But she needs to realize that her way isn’t the only way.” Nick snorted. “I think we have a better chance of seeing flying pigs than we do of that happening.” “You’re probably right.”
  14. 14. “How was work today, dear?” Alice asked. “Busy as usual. I had lunch with Dotty, who is busy planning a trip to SimFrance.” “She’s finally going to go to Simmandy?” Nick nodded. “She wants to get there before the hubbub that will come with the tenth anniversary of the invasion. Can’t say I blame her. It’s a private thing she wants to do, and there’s no need for the public to intrude upon that.” Shirley smiled softly. “I keep forgetting that Dotty’s a war widow, not that I’d ever tell her that. Since I never got the chance to meet Edward, it’s too easy to forget that he was ever Dotty’s husband, let alone that she lost him in the war.” “Is she planning on going herself?” Alice asked. “I believe so. She says she needs to do this on her own.” “Of course. As you said, it’s a deeply personal trip, and she probably doesn’t want anyone else tagging along.”
  15. 15. Alice excused herself to check on dinner at that moment, and Nick put his feet up on the couch. “Don’t tell Alice,” he smirked to Shirley. “Wouldn’t dream of it.” “Speaking of siblings, I ran into Howie the other day when I went to a seminar in Portsimouth. There’s no other way to put it, Shirley; he looks like shit.” Shirley rolled her eyes. “I know. Mom was asking me about it the other day. I told her I honestly had no idea what was going on with him.”
  16. 16. Nick looked pensive. “He works for the FBI, doesn’t he?” “Yup. Though I have no idea exactly what he does; he’s still worried about loose lips and sinking ships and all that, I guess. Why do you ask?” “I was just thinking…the FBI’s been heavily involved in trying to root out Simmunists.” “So?” “So, I wonder if that’s wearing on him.”
  17. 17. Shirley shrugged. “It might be. Howie…he’s different. We used to talk all the time and now we just don’t.” “The war changed all of us, Shirley.” “I know that, dummy. This is a more recent development. Like the past few months or so. Of course, I’ve been busy with my own stuff, so it’s not like I’ve been pushing him to spend time with me like I have before.” “Busy with anything interesting?” “You’ll see soon enough.”
  18. 18. Alice came back into the room, and gave Nick a look upon seeing his feet on the couch. “It’s time for dinner. Do you think you can pry your son out of the library long enough to join us?” “I’ll do my best,” Nick replied. He turned to Shirley. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to get him away from a book?” Shirley and Alice looked at each other, and Shirley smirked. “Reminds me of someone else I know.” “Oh, come on!” Nick laughed. “I was never that bad.” Alice stood on her toes to kiss Nick’s cheek. “Keep telling yourself that, dear.” * * * * *
  19. 19. Rosalie hurried towards the knocking on the front door. “Why aren’t they ringing the bell like everyone else does?” she muttered to herself.
  20. 20. She opened the door to find two large men wearing trench coats, hats and sunglasses staring back at her. “Mrs. Thorne?” one of them asked. “Yes?” “You need to come with us, ma’am,” the second one stated. “Is something wrong?” “You need to come with us,” he repeated. Something in the man’s tone of voice and his posture told Rosalie that arguing would not be a good idea. “Of course,” she replied, doing her best not to let her speech stammer. “Just let me get my purse and hat, and ask my mother to mind the children.” “You have two minutes.”
  21. 21. Rosalie ran up the stairs to grab the mentioned items, and then called to Calla. “I need to step out for a bit, Mother. Please keep an eye on Theodore and Jacqueline, please.” “What’s wrong, dear?” Calla called back. “Nothing’s wrong, Mother. I just need to take care of something. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
  22. 22. The two men helped Rosalie into the back of a black sedan before settling themselves in the front and driving off. “Where are we going?” she asked politely as she could. “You’ll see when we get there.”
  23. 23. “Where” turned out to be a non-descript brick building on the periphery of Portsimouth. Rosalie waited until one of the men opened the door for her, and did her best not to frown when he then took her not so gently by the arm and led her inside.
  24. 24. Once inside, she was brought into a room that contained only a table, two chairs, and a single hanging light. One wall contained was appeared to be a mirror, but having a mirror in such a room didn’t make any sense to Rosalie. It must be a window with one-way glass, she thought. Which would make this some sort of interrogation room. “Have a seat, Mrs. Thorne.” “Thank you,” she said, doing as she was told. “Someone will be with you in a moment.”
  25. 25. Rosalie sat with her ankles crossed and her hand folded neatly in front of her. She was certain that behind that “mirror,” and there was no way she was giving any indication that she was nervous or worried about why she’d been dragged out of her home.
  26. 26. “Was this really necessary?” Howie asked, as he stood on the other side of the glass watching Rosalie do her best not to fidget. “We need to know what, if anything, she knows,” Howie’s boss replied. “And that had to happen here?” Howie’s boss shrugged. “You were dragging your feet.”
  27. 27. “Fine,” Howie sighed, headed for the door. “Where do you think you’re going?” “To talk to Rosalie.” “You should make her wait a while. That Little Miss Perfect façade shouldn’t take long to crack.” Howie turned and looked his boss square in the eye. “Be that as it may, she’s a family friend. I’m going to treat her with the respect that she deserves. I have a feeling that will be more successful in getting her to talk than the usual techniques are.”
  28. 28. Rosalie looked up when the door opened. “Oh, Howard, thank goodness. Can you please tell me what this is all about?” Howie ran his hand through his hair as he sat in the chair across from her. “I’m sorry about all this, Rosalie. But there’s something important I have to talk to you about.” “And you couldn’t have done it by coming over to my house and doing it there?” “I’m afraid not. This is pretty serious.”
  29. 29. Howie drummed his fingers on the manila folder that sat on the table in front of him. “Rosalie, I need to know about Bruce.” “What about him?” “Have you noticed anything different about him as of late?” Rosalie shook her head. “No. He’s been working late more recently, but that happens from time to time. Howard, what is this all about? Please? Has something happened with Bruce?”
  30. 30. Howie ran his hand through his hair again, causing it to stick up more than it normally did. He had no idea how to tell Rosalie what he was about to say. “Rosalie, you know I work for the FBI, right?” She nodded. “What does this have to do with that?” Howie repressed the urge to groan. Rosalie was not going to make this easy for him. “Rosalie, I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’m going to do it in the only way I can. For the past few months, my office has been investigating your husband for suspected Simmunist activity.”
  31. 31. Howie heard Rosalie’s sharp intake of breath. “No, that’s not possible.” “I’m afraid it is. Many of the functions he attends after work are hosted by known Simmunits. Nearly everyone he’s acquainted with outside of work, and a few from within it, have been under investigation as well.” “That’s not possible,” she repeated. “Rosalie, I have to tell you, it doesn’t look good, him associating with so many different people with Simmunist ties.” “But he…he fought in the war. I went to one of the functions with him. I met some of them. They were nice! They can’t be Simmunits. They just can’t.” “See for yourself.”
  32. 32. Howie opened the folder and slid it across the table to Rosalie. With shaking hands, she picked it up and began to flip through the papers in the file. She began to shake her head, and the more she read the more frequently her head shook. After several long moments, she finally looked up at Howie. “I swear…I had no idea.” Howie nodded. “Honestly, I thought it was going to be harder to convince you of this.” “There’s so much evidence,” she whispered. “I would have to be an idiot not to believe it. Which apparently, I already am for not seeing it.”
  33. 33. Howie reached over and pulled the folder back. “Don’t feel like that, Rosalie. Many others have been duped too.” Rosalie shook her head. “What do I do now, Howard?” “I can’t answer that for you, Rosalie.” “You probably can’t answer this, but what happened to Bruce now?”
  34. 34. “I can’t, but what I can say is that the investigation isn’t over.” “Simmunists, even those who are just suspected of it, things don’t turn out well for them, do they?” “Not usually.” Howie could tell that Rosalie was blinking back tears. “Do you need anything else from me?” “If any other information comes to your attention, we’d appreciate knowing it.” “Oh, trust me, you shall have my full cooperation in this matter.”
  35. 35. There was a rap on the door, and Howie got up from his chair. “I’m sorry about this, but someone else is going to come in and ask you some more questions about some of the people that we’ve found Bruce to be associating with. I know that you’ll give us any information that you can.” Rosalie nodded. “Once they’re done, they’ll take you home. I’ll try to get them to hurry, as I’m sure you’d like to be home before school lets out.” “Thank you, Howard.” “Don’t mention it, Rosalie.”
  36. 36. Howie left the room and returned to the room on the other side of the one-way glass. “You think I was too gentle with her.” Howie stated to his boss. “Perhaps. But this was different, since you already knew her. Do you believe she didn’t know?” Howie nodded. “Rosalie doesn’t tolerate improper behavior. Never has. If she’d had an inkling of what Bruce was up to, she would have said something, if for no other reason than to have someone talk to Bruce about rethinking his friends.” His boss nodded. “Well, the boys will see if she’s got anything else useful, then take her home.”
  37. 37. “And after that?” The other man shrugged. “That’s not really our concern.” “Sure it’s not,” Howie muttered after his boss had left the room. “We just have to worry about ruining people’s lives, not the fallout from doing so.” * * * * *
  38. 38. Rosalie was returned home about a half hour before the school bus was due to drop the kids off. Taddy, curious as to why his daughter had disappeared so suddenly, was hovering in the front hallway when she came in the door. “Hello, Father,” she said as she removed her hat. “Hi, Rosalie. Where were you?”
  39. 39. Rosalie leveled a look at Taddy. “I told you when I left that there was something I needed to take care of.” “Is it taken care of?” “I certainly hope so,” she said, trying not to sigh.
  40. 40. Taddy went over and softly placed his hand on her shoulder. “Is there something I can do to help, Princess?” “I wish there was, Daddy. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to freshen up before the children get home.”
  41. 41. Rosalie retreated up the stairs, and Calla poked her head out from the kitchen where she’d been eavesdropping. “What was that all about?” Taddy shook his head. “Not a clue, but I don’t think it was good.” “She sounded fine to me.”
  42. 42. “She called me ‘Daddy,’ Calla. She hasn’t called me that since I told her that we lost Gilbert.” Calla frowned. “What do you think is going on?” “Specifically, I have no clue, but I can tell you one thing. Whatever it is, that louse of a husband of hers is smack-dab in the middle of it.” “Just because you don’t like him…” “This is more than me not liking him. This is my gut telling me that he’s hurt my daughter.”
  43. 43. “What are you planning on doing about it?” “I’m not sure yet. I need to find out exactly what he’s done first.” “And then?” “The punishment will fit the crime.” “Has it ever occurred that Rosalie can handle this on her own?” “Oh, I have no pity for Bruce when it comes to Rosalie. If he’s crossed her somehow, heaven help him. But I’m still her father, and nobody messes with my kids.” * * * * *
  44. 44. Rosalie sat at her dressing table, and stared at her wedding picture. She’d been so very happy on that day. So much had changed since then, though, the least of which was she had learned earlier that day about her husband’s acquaintances. So many times she’d sat at that table, thinking about how the expectations and reality of her life didn’t always add up. Every other time, she’d been able to push such thoughts aside, but not tonight.
  45. 45. The door opened, and Bruce walked in. Rosalie carefully arranged her face before turning to great him. “How was your day, dear?” “Oh, you know,” he said. “Yours?” “I had a very interesting day, actually.” “Oh?” he said, though Rosalie could tell that he wasn’t really interested in her reply. “Yes. This morning, not long after the children had left for school, two men came and basically hauled me off to Portsimouth.”
  46. 46. Rosalie watched as Bruce’s movements froze, and she tried not to look smug as she continued. “It was the funniest thing. I get put into an interrogation room, and in walks Howard Alcott. You know, Shirley’s little brother, who ended up getting a job with the FBI after the war because he did something with intelligence? Imagine my shock and surprise when he told me that my husband was under investigation for being a Simmunist.” “What…what did you say?” Bruce managed to stammer out. “I tried to deny it at first, of course. But then Howard showed me the file they had on you. It’s quite impressive, I must say. I had no idea you were so well connected within that community. Once I realized that Howard was telling me the truth, there wasn’t much I could say. You’ve done quite a good job of keeping me in the dark.”
  47. 47. Bruce took a step towards Rosalie. “Darling, you need to let me explain.” “No.” “Rosalie?” She leveled a look at him. “I am aware that ‘no’ is not something that you’ve heard me say before, but I’m certain you understand the meaning of the word. I do not need to let you explain.” “Rosalie…” “Be quiet! For once in your life, Bruce Thorne, you are going to listen to me.”
  48. 48. Bruce gaped at his wife, and she took that as permission to continue. “Do you have any idea of what this could do to our family if it gets out? Of course you must, otherwise you wouldn’t have been so secretive about it.” “I know,” he said softly. “Then you must realize that what happens next can make or break things. You will stop seeing your little friends. You will keep your head down. You won’t go to any more meetings, functions, or anything that will put you in their company. If the FBI comes knocking again, and I’m fairly certain they will, you will cooperate. Fully.”
  49. 49. “Do you realize what you’re asking me to do? To betray…” “Don’t you talk to me about betrayal! You’ve already betrayed me, your children…everyone you know. If people find out, you’ll lose your job! We’ll be outcasts! Is that the kind of future you want for your children?” Bruce’s shoulders drooped. “No.” “Then from this second forward, you will be a model Simerican citizen. If you so much as set a toe out of line…” “What are you going to do, Rosalie? Divorce me?” “No. I’ll tell my father everything.”
  50. 50. Bruce blanched, causing Rosalie to smirk again. “Good. You remember that my father and his friends were not always the fine, upstanding citizens they are today.” “It’s not like you to threaten people.” “It’s not often I have cause to, as most people know it’s not in their best interests to besmirch my family name.”
  51. 51. Bruce had no choice but to nod. “Is there anything else?” “I hope you realize that you’ll be sleeping on the settee for the foreseeable future.” He nodded again. “I am sorry, Rosalie.” “You’re only sorry that you got caught,” she spat back.
  52. 52. Rosalie made her way towards the bathroom door, but turned before going in. “You know, my father was trying to convince me that you were having an affair, and that was why you always ‘working late.’ I wish he’d been right. Your being unfaithful would be easier to bear than this.” * * * * *
  53. 53. While all the drama was going on with Bruce and Rosalie, Shirley had invited Nick and Alice over, saying she and Walter had a surprise to show them. “What’s so important that you needed to have us over on a Wednesday night?” Alice asked as Shirley practically tugged her down the hallway. “This,” Shirley said as she opened a door.
  54. 54. On the floor of the nursery, Walter sat playing with a small girl. He looked up and smiled. “I got a sister, Auntie Alice and Uncle Nick!”
  55. 55. Nick and Alice both smiled at their friends. “Why didn’t you say anything?” Alice asked as they watched the children play. “Because we didn’t want to deal with the looks of disappointment from everyone if it didn’t pan out,” Shirley replied. “It was quite the process,” Walter added. “There were a few false starts too, if you will. Three times the adoption agency assured us they had a child, only to call the next day and say it wasn’t going to work out.” “Well, I’m glad it did. What her name?” “Judith.”
  56. 56. The adults left the children alone to play and headed back to the living room. “Have we rendered you two speechless?” Shirley asked. “A little,” Nick admitted. “She’s a bit older than I would have expected.” “We did look into babies at first, but, for lack of a better way of putting it, they’re in higher demand. Toddlers too. After the third “sorry” from the agency, we decided that we’d be willing to take a child, and about a week later we go the call,” Walter said. “How’s Dwight taking it?” Alice asked. “Honestly? I think he’s relieved to have a sibling to play with at long last. I just hope the novelty doesn’t wear off too quickly.” Shirley replied.
  57. 57. “You know, other than our parents, you guys are the first to meet her,” Walter stated. “Which only makes sense, since you’re practically family too.” “Oh, Shirley, I’m so happy for you. Walter too, of course,” Alice cooed. “Well, this is all your fault, you know,” Shirley smirked. “You were the one who suggested it to me in the park. It took me a while to think on it, but as soon as I told Walt he was all for it.” “She was worried about what my parents would think,” Walter interjected. “How did they take it?” Nick asked.
  58. 58. “Better than I expected,” admitted Walter. “At first, I was worried they’d be upset. You know what my mom’s opinion of Shirley is.” “She hates me.” “She doesn’t hate you,” Walter retorted. “She just…well, you’re not the girl she would have picked out for me. But that’s beside the point. She was a little chilly about it at first, but when she met Judith, it all changed. She fell in love instantly, just like we did.” “I’m glad that it all worked out for you. I’m sure that Judith will be a great addition to your family,” Nick smiled. “We certainly hope so,” Shirley said. “She starts school tomorrow, so we’ll see how the rest of the neighborhood reacts.”
  59. 59. The next day, the small town of Simsfield was abuzz with the news of the latest edition to the Gavigan family. When she walked into her classroom, Nettie immediately asked her to come sit at the empty desk by hers. Judith had smiled, and an instant friendship was born.
  60. 60. Shortly after Judith’s arrival, Shirley discovered that she was pregnant. She’d not thought it would be possible, with how long it had been since she’d gotten pregnant. The entire family was delighted, and couldn’t wait until it was time for the newest member of the Gavigan clan to make his or her appearance. * * * * *
  61. 61. “Did you see the latest on our friend McSimthy?” Sterling asked as he slid into the booth where James and Taddy were already sitting. “I’m assuming you’re referring to his sudden drop in popularity after the combination of his behavior during the hearings about Simmunists in the Army and the pieces that have been running on See It Now nearly every Sunday night.” “That’s a part of it. Apparently, one of the good Senators from our neighbor to the north and west has decided that enough is enough with it comes to his shenanigans.”
  62. 62. “So what’s he doing it about it?” Taddy asked. “He’s introducing a resolution to have McSimthy removed as chair of the committees that he’s chairing,” Sterling answered. “It’s just a token gesture, of course, but it shows that his colleagues are starting to turn on him.” “How is that just a token gesture?” James asked. “It sounds like having his chairmanships revoked would be a pretty big deal.”
  63. 63. “It is, but there’s unspoken rules about seniority and chairmanships. They’d be better off trying to censure him.” James looked at his friend with a confused face. “How the hell do you know so much about the finer workings of politics?” Sterling shrugged. “Would it shock you to hear that I contemplated running for office at one point?” “Not really,” both James and Taddy said at almost the same time. “What stopped you?” James asked.
  64. 64. Sterling made the same face that Shirley did when she wasn’t quite sure of what to say. “A lot of things. Money. Time and the amount of commitment it would take. Having my life put under public scrutiny. Mostly, the timing never worked out. When an office I was interested in opened up, there was always something else going on and a reason not to. Plus, I doubt that Viola would have been thrilled about needing to do all the things that a politician’s wife does.” James snorted. “Vi, a prim and proper, tea-hosting political wife? Not very likely.” “No kidding,” Taddy added.
  65. 65. James then shifted the conversation back to the original topic. “So is this the beginning of the end for ol’ McSimthy?” “I think so. People are finally starting to realize that his means aren’t justifying the ends. Someone compared him to Hitler, and no one wants to rally behind a figure like that.” “Who would?”
  66. 66. Sterling looked pensive for a moment. “I wonder, though, how much damage has already been done. A lot of people have already been accused of being Simmunists, and those accusations can’t just be taken back.” “Yeah, and it doesn’t matter if those accusations were true or not either,” James added. “A lot of people will have had their lives ruined.” Taddy nodded. “I just hope that it isn’t anyone that we know.”
  67. 67. In the months that followed, the Senate did end up passing a censure of McSimthy, and his power waned. He continued to rail against Simmunism, but no one really listened any more. There were whispers about how much he was drinking, and some even believed he showed up drunk to the Senate one day. Still, the damage had already been done. Everyone was paranoid about the influence of Simmunism in Simerica. Those who were believed to be Simmunists or Simmunist sympathizers were ostracized. In one household in Simsfield, a silent sight of relief was breathed when McSimthy’s reign of terror ended. For Rosalie, it meant that the family’s deep and dark secret might stay hidden. Bruce hoped that it might mean a thaw in the relationship with his wife. She had been decidedly chilly since finding out about his extracurricular activities. Still, if giving him the cold shoulder was all she was doing, he could live with that. He was worried about what might happen if she told her father what was really going on. Taddy had a way of looking at Bruce that made the younger man feel as though he were smaller than insignificant, and as if it would be a pleasure for him to make Bruce disappear. * * * * *
  68. 68. Shirley hurried towards the front door of the Bradford house as fast as her feet and her expanding middle would carry her. She had just seen the most interesting sight, and she needed to share it with someone.
  69. 69. She was so excited, that she didn’t even bother to knock on the front door; she just opened it up and called for Alice as she made her way across the foyer. “She’s in the kitchen, honey,” Cindy called from the living room. “Got the mixer going so she probably can’t hear you.” “Thanks,” Shirley answered as she cut through the dining room to the aforementioned kitchen. “And sit down when you get in there!” Cindy ordered. “It’s not good to be on your feet too much in your condition!”
  70. 70. Alice had just turned the mixer off, and smiled when she saw her friend coming into the room. “Shirley! I didn’t even hear the bell.” “That’s ‘cause I didn’t ring it,” she admitted sheepishly. “But I just saw something outrageous, and I had to share it with someone.” “Give me a second to put this in the oven, and we’ll gab. While you’re waiting, sit down! You know better than to be on your feet too much right now, missy.”
  71. 71. Shirley sat down at the table and tapped her foot impatiently as Alice finished putting the casserole in the oven. She then fixed two cups of coffee, and then joined her friend. “Now, what is so exciting that you had to barge into my house to tell me?” Shirley took a sip of her coffee to allow for a dramatic pause. “There was a furniture delivery truck at Rosalie’s earlier. It was delivering a set of twin beds.” “That’s what you ran over here to tell me?”
  72. 72. Shirley smirked. “It was also taking away that hideous, expensive double bed that Rosalie picked out after she and Bruce decided to stay with her parents.” Alice gasped. “You mean…” Shirley nodded, and then in a sing-song voice said, “Somebody’s in trouble.”
  73. 73. “Really, Shirley? You’re delighting in the fact that Bruce and Rosalie are that much on the outs?” “Not exactly. I’ll admit that a part of me is glad that Rosalie’s perfect little world has been turned upside down, and that something has made her see that Bruce isn’t the perfect man that she’s made him out to be.”
  74. 74. Alice took a sip of her coffee and looked thoughtful for a moment. “I wonder what happened. It must be pretty bad, for Rosalie to decide that she doesn’t want to share a bed with him any longer.” “You don’t think it’s just that she finally realized that eight kids is about double what is normal and she wants to make sure there are no more?” The redhead raised her eyebrow at her brunette friends. “You know as well as I do that a double bed is not a prerequisite for making a baby.”
  75. 75. “I suppose not,” Shirley reluctantly admitted. “No, you’re right. Something else happened. I wonder what that was.” “I doubt we’ll ever know, Shirley. Rosalie’s not one to open up about her failures.” “No, she’s not. She’d rather let the world fall apart around her than admit that she needs help.”
  76. 76. Alice frowned. “That’s so sad. Doesn’t she realize that we’d help her?” “Rosalie doesn’t need help, remember?” “Everyone needs help every now and then, Shirley. It’s just a matter of whether or not that person is too proud to ask for it.” “I think we know where Rosalie falls on that.”
  77. 77. Alice nodded. “Still, I hope that she reaches out if she needs it, and before it’s too late for anyone to do anything. I know you two have your differences, but she is still my friend. If she needs me, I’ll be there for her.” Shirley made a face, but then slowly nodded. “She may be a snooty witch at times, but she is still family. And that means if she needs me I’ll help. Begrudgingly.” “I knew you would. Of course, we can’t help if we don’t know what’s wrong. I wonder what it is.” * * * * *
  78. 78. “My cousin has lost his mind,” Sterling announced to his friends who were gathered for an afternoon family outing at the Bradfords. “Why’s that, Uncle Sterling?” Nick asked at the same time as Steven asked, “Which cousin?” “Silas,” Sterling answered, causing Shirley to make a face. “You’re just now figuring out he’s crazy?” she asked. “His scheme to hire and then fire all the women of the area to build the ships that padded his fortune didn’t tip you off?” “Oh, I’ve always known it, but his latest scheme has solidified the fact in my mind.”
  79. 79. “What’s he up to now?” James demanded. “He went before the town council last night to get permits to build a bomb shelter in his back yard.” The small crowd assembled made various noises of shock, disbelief, and confusion.
  80. 80. “What in the world does he need a bomb shelter for? I didn’t realize Simsfield was at the center of a Simmunist bull’s-eye.” James asked. “Could you keep your voices down a little?” Alice asked, her eyes scanning the swing hanging from a tree a few feet away where the younger children were playing. “They don’t need to hear such things and then have nightmares about them.” James grumbled, but Sterling nodded before replying in a quieter tone, “I don’t think it is, but we’re close enough to major metropolitan areas like New Sim City and Portsimouth that might be targets. I don’t think it’s necessary, but I can’t argue with being prepared for something bad to happen.”
  81. 81. Alice and Shirley frowned. “You don’t really think the Simmies would do anything, do you?” Sterling shrugged. “They have the capability, and they’re unpredictable. My gut tells me no, but…” “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Alice finished. “I remember when I lived out in Simsas. We had a storm cellar that we kept stocked, just in case a tornado hit. I don’t remember us ever having to use it, but it was there if we needed it.”
  82. 82. Sterling nodded. “I think that’s the idea. They’re building fallout shelters in the cities, but I don’t think that we’re to the point where we all need to have one in our back yards.” “Well, that’s good, because if we tried to dig up ours it would probably only be good for a swimming pool, with how close the river runs to us,” Cindy said with a laugh, trying to lighten the mood. It worked. Everyone chuckled, and the topic of conversations switched to lighter subjects.
  83. 83. As the afternoon wore on, more people joined the Bradfords, Alcotts, and Gavigans that were already assembled on the back lawn of the Bradford farmhouse. Dotty, fresh back from her latest adventure, came bearing photographs to share and presents to dole out. Danny and Sakura brought their brood over, and they were soon joined by Howie, Jessica, and their two children. Just as Nick and James were getting the barbeque grill fired up, Taddy and Calla arrived.
  84. 84. Calla went to join the other women who were busy setting up side dishes for the picnic while Taddy joined the men who were supervising the grilling of hamburgers and hot dogs. Howie watched the latest additions to the gathering, wondering where the rest of the Seiff-Thorne clan was at. “Rosalie, Bruce, and the children aren’t coming,” Alice sighed as if she could read his thoughts. Howie jumped; he hadn’t realized that Alice was approaching him.
  85. 85. He quickly collected himself. “Do you know why?” Alice shook her head sadly. “She never goes anywhere anymore, and even when she does go to the grocery store or something, she never talks to anyone. She just keeps her head down and goes about her business as if she’s the only one there. It’s sad. We used to be close. Well, as close as anyone can be to someone like Rosalie. But now, it’s as if we’re even worse than strangers.” Howie swallowed. With McSimthy’s loss of power, the hunt for Simmunists had lost some of its fervency. Bruce hadn’t popped up on his radar again since the initial interview with Rosalie. She must have done a number on him, he thought.
  86. 86. His thoughts were broken when he realized Alice was staring at him as if she were trying to put together a very difficult puzzle. “Howie, do you know something about why Rosalie’s been acting this way?” He blanched. “Alice, you know I can’t talk about my job.”
  87. 87. She smirked. “I never asked if it had something to do with your job. But since you said that, what would Rosalie have to do with you rooting out Simmunists? She would never…maybe someone close to her?” Howie did his best to keep his face neutral as the wheels in Alice’s head turned. Suddenly, her eyes went wide. “Bruce?” she said so softly that Howie wasn’t even sure that she’d spoken.
  88. 88. “Alice, I could get in a lot of trouble for even standing here listening to you come up with theories,” he said. “Howie, I’m not about to run off and tell anyone. It’s just…when I first came here, not a lot of people were nice to me. They looked down on me because of where I came from and who my family were, and it got worse when I started spending time with Nick because he was a Bradford. Still, there were a few people who accepted me, and Rosalie was one of them. If she’s in some kind of trouble and I can help, I want to.”
  89. 89. Howie hesitated then nodded. “You were right,” he said just as softly as she’d spoken Bruce’s name. “It’s been proven then?” “No, but you know Rosalie and how she’d react to anyone around her not living up to her expectations of perfection.” Both of them thought of Gilbert, grim smiles crossing their faces. “I can only imagine.”
  90. 90. The moment was broken when Nick called out that the food was almost ready. Alice smiled at Howie. “Thank you for telling me. I know that I can’t breathe a word to anyone else, not even Nick.” “Thank you for understanding that.” Howie’s son Allen ran up at that moment. “Dad! Can I have a hot dog and a hamburger?” Howie laughed and ruffled his son’s hair. “How about we start out with just one, and when you’ve finished that you can go back for more?” “Fine,” the boy huffed as he ran off to the line forming at the grill.
  91. 91. Alice watched as Howie followed his son. She then let her gaze drift upward in the direction of Rosalie’s house. So Bruce is a Simmunist, and Rosalie found out. No wonder she’s been keeping everyone at arm’s length. “Poor Rosalie,” she sighed, trying to put a happier expression onto her face as she headed to join the rest of the party. As she picked up a plate and went towards the grill, she had one last thought about her friend. No wonder she didn’t want to share a bed with him any longer.
  92. 92. The Bradfords’ cookout was a success. Everyone had eaten their fill and then some, and now the adults were lazing about in the back yard, watching the children as they ran around playing tag and other games of their own inventions.
  93. 93. After a while, a few of the children came over to where the grownups were sitting on an old blanket that Alice had spread out on the grass. “Had enough?” Danny asked as he took a sip from his drink. “Yeah,” Nettie said. “Besides, I never win anyway.” “Poor kid,” he teased as he ruffled her hair. “Uncle Danny,” she whined. “Stop it!”
  94. 94. “Daniel,” Sakura reproached softly, and Danny looked sheepish as he smoothed his niece’s hair back in to place. “Sorry, kiddo. But what are uncles for if not for causing you grief?” “Uncle Walt never causes me grief,” she pouted. Danny shook his head. “Did you hear that? My own flesh and blood.” Everyone who was listening had a good laugh at Danny’s expense, including his wife. As the ladies began to pick up from the festivities, Danny sat with Nettie. “You looking forward to school being over for the summer, kiddo?” “Yes,” she said emphatically. “School’s boring. We don’t learn much there anyway.” “Wait until you get to high school. Then you’ll have me for a teacher and you’ll learn a ton.” Nettie rolled her eyes. “Sure, Uncle Danny.”
  95. 95. “What about school makes it so boring?” Danny asked as his two boys came over and plopped down on the blanket with the two redheads. “What are you talking about?” Jonathan asked. “Nettie was saying that school was boring, and I wanted to know why she thought that.” Michael rolled his eyes. “School is not boring. We do cool stuff all the time.” “Yeah! Like when we watched that film and we learned how to hide under our desks,” Jonathan chimed in.
  96. 96. Danny looked at his sons with a perplexed expression. “What are you guys talking about?” “They’re talking about the ‘duck and cover’ drills we have to do now,” Nettie replied. “In case the Simviets drop a nuclear bomb on us.” “What?!?” Danny exclaimed. “Yup. It’s supposed to protect us in case of an attack,” Michael said. “Dad, why are you laughing so hard?”
  97. 97. When Danny heard that the kids believed that hiding under their desks would protect them from an atomic bomb, he had fallen back on the blanket and roared with laughter. “I’m sorry. It’s not funny but it is.” “Mom!” Jonathan called. “Dad’s acting weird!”
  98. 98. Sakura came over, Nick and Alice close behind. “What is going on?” Sakura asked. “Uncle Danny started laughing when we explained ‘duck and cover’ drills to him,” Nettie answered. “’Duck and cover’ drills?” Sakura repeated. “I do not understand.” “It’s what they teach us at school to do if there’s a nuclear attack,” Michael added.
  99. 99. Sakura’s already fair skin grew even paler. “They think such a thing will happen?” she whispered. “It’s very, very unlikely,” Nick said, gently taking Sakura’s elbow. “But they have been teaching it in school, and we had to sit through a film at the hospital too.”
  100. 100. “Mom? Why do you look like you’ve seen a ghost?” Jonathan asked. Sakura couldn’t speak, and that brought an abrupt end to Danny’s laughing fit. He jumped up and pulled her tightly into his arms. Over her shoulder, he looked pleadingly at his brother and sister-in-law. “Come on, kids,” Alice said. “It’s getting dark enough to catch fireflies.” “Oh, that’s so much fun!” Nettie exclaimed. “Come on, guys. I know where there are some jars we can use.”
  101. 101. Nettie ran towards the back door, Michael and Jonathan fast on her heals. Nick put his arm around Alice as they watched Danny comfort his wife. “They teach them that a desk will protect them from one of those bombs?” Sakura asked quietly. “I guess they do,” Danny replied. “A desk will not protect them. Nothing can protect them from something like that.” “No, I suppose not. But do you want them to teach the kids that?” “No. Still, to give false hope like that is wrong.”
  102. 102. Alice shook her head. “Why don’t you come with me, Sakura? I have some of that tea you brought over. You can remind me how to brew it just right.” Sakura smiled weakly. “The key is how long to steep it in the water.” “I know. I’ll have to write down the instructions down this time so I don’t forget.”
  103. 103. As the women followed the same path the children did, Nick turned to his brother. “The prospect of nuclear attack is funny to you?” “You know it’s not. I, unlike you, have seen firsthand what one of those bombs is capable of,” Danny retorted, remembering the photos he’d seen of the city of Simiroshima not long after he’d been stationed in Simpan. “Then why the laughing fit?” “Well, it doesn’t seem funny now, seeing how upset it made Sakura, but the idea that a school desk could protect someone from something like that…”
  104. 104. Nick smirked. “Yeah, it does seem kind of silly when you think about it.” “It’s ludicrous. They might as well just say, ‘bend over and kiss your ass goodbye’ if the Simviets do send a nuke in our direction.” Nick nodded. “I’m getting sent to a seminar on radiation poisoning when I go to that convention down in Washsimton. Everyone seems to think that it’s a real possibility.”
  105. 105. Danny shook his head. “It’s stupid. If they nuke us, we nuke them, and then what’s left? We know the immediate effects, but what about longer term ones? People are still getting sick from the bombs we dropped in Simpan, and it’s been years.” “It’s very scary,” Nick agreed. “I thought we fought a war so that our kids wouldn’t have to grow up with these kinds of worries. Now I realize that we just exchanged one set of worries for another.” “Indeed, big brother, indeed. So what do we do now? Nick shrugged. “Elect people to worry about it so we don’t have to?” “I guess that’s all we can do,” Danny admitted.
  106. 106. Sakura and Alice returned, and Danny put his arm around his wife. “Better?” “Much,” she replied. “I’m sorry I laughed. It’s not really funny.” “But it is. It is silly to teach something will keep you safe when it will not.” “It is, but what else can we do?” “We can make a world where children do not need to worry about hiding from bombs under their desks.” “Amen,” Alice agreed, and Danny and Nick nodded their heads in agreement. * * * * *
  107. 107. Normally, Steven spent his afternoons in the library at the school, deeply absorbed in his studies. That day turned out to be particularly warm, and the library was unusually stuffy. Instead, he took his books and made his way out towards the athletic fields. He found a shady spot far enough away from where the teams were actually practicing that the noise wouldn’t bother him too much. He leaned against the smooth bark of a birch tree, and began to read.
  108. 108. He wasn’t the only student who thought the confines of the school were too unbearable on such a beautiful day. There were other students sprawled out on the green grass, most of them more interested in socializing that studying. Steven did his best to tune them out, and for the most part he succeeded. That was, until two girls at down under a nearby tree. One of them pulled a transistor radio out of her bag, and turned it on. Steven tried not to listen as they giggled about various inane things while one fiddled with the radio to find a station to their liking. Eventually, they settled on a station playing the kind of music that his father would call “noise.” He was just managing to tune them out when a new song started playing, causing one of the girls to let out a high-pitched squeal.
  109. 109. “This is my favorite song!” she exclaimed. “Mine too!” the other one replied, and then the two of them proceeded to sing along with the radio. Steven kept his eyes focused on his book, though anyone who was paying close attention would have noticed that he never turned a page. He was too engrossed by the actions of the two girls, and the catchiness of the music playing on the radio. He envied them, in some ways, having the freedom to enjoy such a beautiful day. Instead, he needed to try to slog through several chapters in Simerican history if he had any hopes of acing the test he had on Friday. He refocused his attention on the textbook, trying to make the dates and locations of various Civil War battles stick in his mind.
  110. 110. It wasn’t fair, he thought sometimes. It wasn’t that he was a bad student; Steven consistently was in the top ten of his class. But the amount of work and preparation that he had to do to maintain that status was exhausting. Somewhere, deep inside, he knew that his parents would be proud of him no matter what grades he brought home as long as he had done his best, but the look of pride on his mother’s face and the tone of his father’s voice when he said, “That’s my boy!” when he brought home another A meant so much to him. After all, he was the Bradford heir, and much was expected of him. He needed to do his best to hold up the family name.
  111. 111. With a barely audible reluctant sigh, Steven got up and gathered his things. He would never get his studying done outside, and the library would be no less stuffy than it had been an hour ago. Steven decided to head home. At least there always managed to be a cool breeze in the old tree, and Peggy and Nettie would leave him to his reading there. With one last wistful glance at the girls enjoying their music, Steven began the long walk home. * * * * *
  112. 112. Rosalie frowned as she surveyed the living room. Once again, despite her reminders, the children had left their school things and toys strewn across every surface of the room. It was pointless to call them and have them do it themselves; they’d just start playing with them again and forget about the picking them up part. She glanced at the clock and decided that she’d put dinner in the oven before coming back out to tidy things up before her husband arrived home.
  113. 113. Back in the kitchen, she pulled the pork chops she’d planned for supper out of the refrigerator. She seasoned them on both sides, and then put them in the skillet on the stove with some bacon fat to brown them before adding a can of cream of mushroom soup, and then put the whole skillet in the oven to bake. She then quickly peeled potatoes; they would go nicely with the gravy made from the pork chops, and put them on the stove to boil.
  114. 114. Dinner going to her satisfaction, Rosalie went back to the living room and began picking up the plethora of toys. Once that was done, she noticed all the fingerprints on the tables, and got out the furniture polish to erase them. After that, she thought she’d pass the vacuum quickly, and before she knew it, it was five thirty and time for her to tidy herself up before her husband came home.
  115. 115. She heard the car pulling into the driveway as she came back downstairs. Bruce came in the door, and she greeted him as she took his coat and hat. “Is something burning?” he asked. “I thought I smelled smoke coming in.” “Oh, dear!” she exclaimed as she hurried past him towards the kitchen.
  116. 116. The potatoes she’d put on to boil had done just that all over the stove, and with the water all gone the pan was scorched and smoking. There was more smoke pouring from the oven, which only got worse as she opened the door and yanked out the ruined pork chops. “What happened?” he asked as she fretted over the mess that was once dinner.
  117. 117. “What happened?” Rosalie retorted as she whirled around to glare at him. “What happened is I was trying to be a good wife. What happened was me trying to have a clean house and dinner ready for you when you came home. Honestly I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. Between cooking for and cleaning up after eight children, it’s a wonder that anything else gets done around here.” “Rosalie darling, it can’t be that much work, with them in school all day.” Her voice rose to a shriek. “How would you know?! You’re never home, always working, always buying more things for them to clutter the house up with that I end up picking up! Yes they’re in school, but that’s the only time I can go grocery shopping. Do you have any idea how often I have to do that to feed eight growing mouths, not to mention my parents, you and myself? And never once have you offered to help with anything, save for the production of yet another child.”
  118. 118. “I thought you wanted a big family.” “I thought a lot of things when I was young that I’ve come to find out were completely wrong,” she whispered. Bruce shook his head. “You’re being over dramatic. How about you clean up this mess and see what’s in the freezer for dinner? It’s been a long day and I’m hungry.”
  119. 119. He never knew how lucky he was that evening; had the pans on the stove been cool enough to touch, she would have hurled all of them at his head. “I’ve had a long day and I’m hungry too, but I guess that doesn’t matter, does it? No, you know what? I’m not going to make something else for dinner. You can figure it out for once.” With that, Rosalie slammed out of the kitchen, oblivious to the audience of her children and parents that had gathered in the hallway to eavesdrop on the fight. She stormed up to her room and locked the door behind her.
  120. 120. For the first time in a long time, Rosalie allowed herself the indulgence of tears. As she lay on her bed, sobbing, she let all the fears and worries and doubts she’d had for the past few years wash over her. So many times in the past she’d pushed those thoughts away, but not today. Today, she wallowed in them. She wasn’t quite sure how long she lay there, but when she came out of her trance-like state, it was dark outside and the house was quiet. She shifted enough to bring the alarm clock on her nightstand into view; it was well past midnight. Rosalie supposed she should be hungry, but she wasn’t. In fact, she really didn’t feel anything at all.
  121. 121. There was a soft knock on her door. “Rosie?” It had to be her father, as Bruce never used nicknames. Either way, Rosalie had no intention of responding. She heard was sounded like a sigh, the voices of her mother and father talking quietly, and then the sliver of light coming from beneath the door went out. Rosalie shifted so she was curled up in a ball, and she stayed in that position until the sun came up.
  122. 122. Hours passed, or it might have been days. Rosalie had no sense of time. At various intervals, the soft knock on the door would come again, and she continued to ignore them. She remained curled up on her small bed, oblivious to what was going on around her and the thoughts in her head.
  123. 123. There was another knock on her door, but this knock was different, firmer, more resolute. “Rosalie, open this door now.” “Go away, Alice.” Rosalie’s voice was hoarse from disuse. “That’s not an option, Rosalie. You can either open this door, or I can open it for you. Your choice.” Rosalie snorted. Alice, break down her door? Not very likely. “I don’t want to talk to anyone right now.” “That’s too bad. I’m giving you one more minute, and then I’m coming in whether you like it or not.”
  124. 124. Rosalie waited, and after a minute passed she braced herself for what she assumed would be banging as petite Alice tried to force her way into the room. Instead, she heard soft metallic scraping noises, a distinct click, and the creek of the door hinges. “At least have the graciousness to look impressed, Rosalie. I imagine lock picking isn’t something that you see every day.” “Where on earth did you learn to do that?” “James decided to teach me as a way of distracting me during a particularly long stint between Nick’s letters. I believe he picked the skill up from your father.”
  125. 125. Rosalie attempted to smile, but her face felt stiff and foreign. Alice frowned, and locked the door behind her. “What happened?” Rosalie shrugged, but Alice shook her head. “I’m not leaving until you talk.” “You might as well get comfortable then, as I don’t feel like talking.”
  126. 126. Alice moved towards Rosalie, and sat down on the unoccupied twin bed. “Taddy called me this afternoon because he was worried about you. He said that you and Bruce had an awful row, and that you’d been locked up in here ever since.” Rosalie moved her head in the slightest nod. “I lost my temper at him.” Alice said nothing, even though she was dying to know more about what had transpired. She knew Rosalie well enough to know that she would talk, eventually. Alice just needed to be patient.
  127. 127. After what seemed like a very long time, Rosalie began to talk quietly. “He just doesn’t understand. He’s never home, and he expects the house to run with Army precision. Children just can’t run with Army precision, not without someone there to constantly harp on them. There’s only one of me, and eight of them. It’s an impossible thing to ask.” “It is.” “I have to cook, clean, take care of everyone else’s needs except my own.” “It’s very hard.” “It is very hard! And does he ever say ‘thank you?’” “No.” “Darn right ‘no.’ Like he’s one to judge other people. If people knew what I know about Bruce…” Alice immediately recognized the illusion to Bruce’s Simmunist activities, but since she wasn’t supposed to know anything she said nothing.
  128. 128. “And then he comes home after I’ve been cooking and cleaning for hours, and I’ve burned dinner, and he has the nerve to tell me to get over it and make him something else because he’s hungry. Alice, I could have strangled him in that moment. I very nearly threw everything that was on the stove at his head.” “It sounds like you had plenty of reasons to be angry.” “But it doesn’t make any sense, Alice.” “What doesn’t make sense, Rosalie?” “Any of this!” Rosalie shouted. “This…my life…my children…my husband,” Rosalie practically spat out that word, “it’s, it’s…” “What is it, Rosalie?” Alice asked very softly.
  129. 129. Rosalie picked her head up enough to look Alice straight in the eye, and Alice could see the tears in her friend’s blue eyes. “This isn’t what I thought my life was going to be,” Rosalie cried before dissolving into tears. “I thought this was what I wanted, being a model wife and mother. But I never imagined that it would be anything like this. Most days I dread getting out of bed. That’s not now this is supposed to be! I was supposed to be happy! What went wrong, Alice? What went wrong?” “Oh, Rosalie,” Alice sighed as she got up and sat down next to her friend. She smoothed Rosalie’s hair as the brunette sobbed herself out.
  130. 130. When Rosalie’s cries subsided, Alice gently helped her up. “Rosalie, I’m going to draw you a bath, and then go downstairs and warm up some soup for you while you get yourself cleaned up.” Rosalie nodded, comforted by being told exactly what to do. “I’ll lock the door behind me, but I’d prefer not to have to pick my way in again. Where is the key?”
  131. 131. After retrieving the key from the top drawer of Rosalie’s dressing table, Alice shut the door softly behind her, and went to Calla and Taddy’s room before heading downstairs. “How is she?” Taddy asked. “Devastated. It’s her story to tell, so I’m not going to say much, but she’s had a few disappointments that she’s having trouble coping with.” Taddy growled. “That husband of hers?” Alice said nothing, but the hardening of her features told Taddy all he needed to know. “I’m going to make some soup for her; she needs to try to eat something.” “Be careful,” Taddy warned. “He’s skulking around downstairs, trying to weasel his way into finding out what’s going on.” “Don’t worry about him; I can more than handle that.” Taddy chuckled. “Leave some for the rest of us.”
  132. 132. Down in the kitchen, Alice was rummaging for a ladle when she heard the door close. She looked up to see Bruce. Her eyes narrowed. “What do you want?” “You’re taking her side?” “Of course I’m taking her side. Rosalie is my friend, and I care about her feelings. Which is more than I can say for you, mister.” “Alice…” “Don’t talk to me, Bruce. You…you…you did this! Rosalie is broken, and it’s your fault. All she ever wanted was to be recognized for all her hard word, and you’ve made her feel like she’s nothing!” “Every knows how much I appreciate all that Rosalie does…” “Everyone but Rosalie! Have you ever said that to her, or said thank you? No, because you’re selfish and you take her for granted. I wish she’d thrown one of those pots at you; maybe it would have knocked some sense into you.” “I want to talk to her.” “Well, I don’t think she wants to talk to you.”
  133. 133. “She is my wife and I have the right…” Alice marched up to Bruce and slapped him. “If you really cared about Rosalie, you would know that the best thing for her right now is to not have to deal with you. Now unless you want to wear this soup, I suggest you get out of my way.”
  134. 134. Back upstairs, Rosalie was sitting on the bed again, dressed in the robe Alice had laid out for her. She felt slightly better after her bath. The door unlocked, and Alice came in with the soup. Her stomach growled, making Alice smile. “I knew you’d be a little hungry. Here you go.”
  135. 135. Alice sat on the bed as Rosalie ate her soup. When she had finished, Alice moved the bowl away and took her friend’s hands in hers. “What are you going to do, Rosalie?” Rosalie sighed. “I don’t know.” “Well, whatever you decide, know that Nick and I will support you.” “Thank you.” Alice got up. “I’m going to head home now, but if you need anything, I’m just a phone call away.”
  136. 136. Alice returned home to a commotion. Normally, she wouldn’t have minded a houseful of her children, nieces, nephews, and other various friends but today, after watching the constant Rosalie break down, it was more than she could bear.
  137. 137. Ignoring the shouts of the many people in the television room, she went upstairs to her room and shut the door. Sitting down on the edge of her bed, she mulled over all that she’d heard earlier. Everyone except for Rosalie had seemed able to notice Bruce’s many shortcomings, and now that too had changed. Alice couldn’t imagine what it was like to have your worldview shattered. She felt horrible for her friend, but had no idea of how to help her.
  138. 138. The door opened, and Nick popped his head in. “Everything okay?” “No,” she replied with a sigh. “Rosalie has finally seen that Bruce is not Mr. Perfect, and she’s having a hard time coping.”
  139. 139. Nick frowned as he joined Alice on the bed. “What’s she going to do?” Alice shrugged. “Knowing Rosalie, she’ll pick herself up and pretend none of this ever happened. She would never leave him, even if he’s given her more than enough cause.” “Poor Rosalie. I’m surprised Uncle Taddy’s let him live.” “I’m sure he’s taken care of Bruce ten times over in his mind,” Alice replied. “Why is everyone over? Is there a birthday or something that I’ve missed?” “No, everyone came over to watch television, because the Simmunists put a man into space today.” Alice gasped. “I was certain that we would be the first to do that. Isn’t the launch for the astronauts scheduled?” “Yes, but they beat us.” “No wonder the children are all fired up.” “Do you want me to shoo them out? You don’t look like you’re up for company.”
  140. 140. Alice shook her head. “No, they can stay. I’ll be down in a few minutes once I’ve had a chance to collect myself.” Nick kissed his wife on the forehead. “Of course. And just so you know it, I appreciate all you do, for me, our kids, our family, and all our friends.” Alice smiled. “Thank you, darling.”
  141. 141. Nick left and rejoined the group watching television, leaving Alice alone with her thoughts. Again, she wondered what she could do to help her friend. Rosalie was going to need lots of support, and she wasn’t the type to ask for it. Somehow, Alice was going to make sure that Rosalie got through this mess; she just wished she had a better idea of how she was going to do that. * * * * *
  142. 142. * * * * * So I hope this was worth the wait. Steven is now a teenager and rolled Popularity/Knowledge, with the LTW to have 20 best friends. I’ve not done that LTW before so I think I’m going to go for it with him. I don’t see him as a Popularity Sim at all, but that’s what the dice gave me.
  143. 143. I do intend on finishing this legacy, but this is more than likely going to be the last really plotty chapter. I’m going to go back to playing and using mostly game play pictures to go the last 2 generations. I want to finish, but I don’t want it to feel like it’s a chore. And frankly, heavy staging is really starting to feel like it’s a chore. Some of the plot ideas I’ve had will come into play, as I’ve already put pieces into motion and it seems wrong to leave them hanging. But this is supposed to be fun, and I want to play more than I worry about plot. So expect minimal plot, some minor staging, and a lot more Sims antics as I get Steven off to college, married, and generation 9 on the way.
  144. 144. You can leave comments on the Bradford Legacy thread at Boolprop, on my Live Journal, or on my Dreamwidth, whichever you prefer. Thank you for reading!