A Villainous Apocalypse - Episode 17


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A Villainous Apocalypse - Episode 17

  1. 1. Smoothie Sims, Inc. proudly presents… A Villainous Apocalypse - Episode 17, “The Most Important Person”
  2. 2. “…and I expect you to come to the spa immediately after school gets out.” “I will!” Azula was obviously excited to help out at the new business, which gratified her mother. Mya had worried that Azula would balk when she was asked. “It’s just around the corner, right?” “Right. It’s the first building on Morgan Rd. You can’t miss it, it’s a tall stone building with flower bushes in the front.” Mya smiled. “Thanks for being a good sport about this, princess.” “Oh, it’ll be cool. I’ll get to meet a lot of new people! And get paid to lounge around in a hot tub all day, that rocks.” Mya snorted in amusement. “You do realize that your pay is going toward your college fund, right?” “Awwww, Mooooom…”
  3. 3. “Please can I come? Pleeeeeeease, Daddy?” Harry smiled sadly down at his youngest. “Sorry, Billy, not this time. You and Ellie need to stay home with the nanny. You’ll thank me one day, you know.” “But I wanna go,” Billy pouted. “You’ll be bored stiff, son. At least here you have things to play with, and your sister will be here too to keep you company. I promise you can come help with the businesses when you’re old enough, okay?” “When’s that gonna be?” “Sooner than you think, promise.” A horn sounded outside, and Harry released his son’s hands. “School time for you, kiddo. I love you.”
  4. 4. Once the kids had left the house, the new Servo, Gabriel, approached Mya. “Would you like me to tidy up the house before we go, Mrs. Fitzhugh?” Mya smiled. “That’s what we hire the maid for, Gabriel, don’t worry about it. And you can just call me Mya, okay?” Gabriel frowned as well as a robot can. “That is inappropriate. It is much too informal.” “Okay, we’ll compromise. Does ‘Mrs. Mya’ work?” “That is adequate,” Gabriel nodded. “Works for me, then. Harry and I are just going to change into some lighter clothing and grab our coats, then we can go.”
  5. 5. When they arrived at the new business, Sierra Spa, a light snow was falling, causing Mya to worry. “It’s supposed to be spring. Why is it snowing? I hope it won’t keep the customers away.” “I do not think it will last very long,” Gabriel said, diplomatically. “I sure hope not.”
  6. 6. Sierra Spa was appropriately outfitted for both cold and warm weather. It had four floors, three of which were open to the customers. The first was home to a pool table, a jukebox, and a seating area.
  7. 7. The second floor featured more games, including a Mahjong table, a chess table, and a dartboard. There were also two restrooms, each containing a changing room and a shower stall.
  8. 8. The third floor contained two hot tubs and a sauna, giving legitimacy to the name ‘Sierra Spa.’
  9. 9. When Azula arrived at the spa after school, she was greeted by a pleased-looking Mya. “We’re doing well so far,” she said. “Awesome,” Azula replied. “What do you need me to do?” “Entertain the customers,” she said. “Gabriel and I have ticket sales covered, so you can do whatever you’d like. Just make sure the customers are comfortable and having fun.” Azula grinned. “I think I can handle that.” ***
  10. 10. “You look pleased with yourself,” Michael Holm noted, with amusement, when his cousin bounced out the front door to meet him and posed for effect. “Because I’m having fun,” Azula retorted. “It’s way more fun than I thought it was going to be.” “Good for you. You want to show me around, since I’m a paying customer and all?” G Her eyes went wide. “You’re paying? Why didn’t you come get me, I would’ve let you in free--” “No, it’s cool, it’s cool,” he interrupted, laughing. “My dad’s friends with your mom, remember? He said we should support her and everything to help her get off the ground and all.” “Well, okay. Next time.”
  11. 11. Azula showed Mikey around the business, and after that the two of them decided to play a game of pool. “So it’s been good so far?” he asked.
  12. 12. “Oh yeah,” Azula said, enthusiastically. “We’ve been getting a lot of customers. The Mahjong table is really popular--it’s never empty. Someone’ll get up to leave and a new person will take their place like that.” She snapped her fingers to illustrate her point. “I sit up there when I can find a spot. It’s a great way to meet people.”
  13. 13. “Really? I would’ve thought people would like the hot tubs best,” Mikey observed. “Those are pretty popular too,” Azula agreed. “The sauna, not so much, though.”
  14. 14. “So have you met any interesting people yet?” “A bunch, yeah. Loads of the family members have been coming by. There’s a lot of them I haven’t met yet. Uh, there was something else I wanted to tell you about…oh!” “Yeah?”
  15. 15. “We had some green people come in yesterday! I think they were aliens like Riku but I didn’t get the chance to ask. It was so cool.” “Oh yeah? Maybe one of them was Uncle Spider’s brother.” “Uncle Spider has an alien brother?” “Yeah, you didn’t know?” “No, I didn’t. That’s nifty.” Mikey grinned at her. “If you’re so interested in aliens, you should go over there and ask to meet him sometime.” Azula snorted. “You’re just saying that cause you think I won’t do it.”
  16. 16. “Oh no, I know you will. You have no shame.” At this, Azula made as if to throw her pool stick at him, and he laughed and ducked. “Anything else interesting happen?” “I found out a lot of the townies can’t dance.” “That’s obvious.” “Yeah, but it’s still funny.”
  17. 17. “So I thought bathing suits were the uniform around here,” Mikey observed as Azula lined up her next shot. “How come you’re not wearing yours?” “Because I know it offends your delicate sensibilities, that’s why.” He smirked. “Your mother didn’t have the same consideration. That’s a nice heart bikini she’s got going on.” “Watch it, you little perv.” “What?” he asked, innocently. “You’re related to me. Your mom isn’t.” She glared at him. “That’s still my mom you’re talking about.” “Well, it’s totally possible I’m just trying to throw you off so you miss that shot.”
  18. 18. “I hate you sometimes.” “I know.” She rolled her eyes, and he grinned back at her. “So things are good here, then?” “Yeah, things are good. What about you? I haven’t seen you in a while cause I’ve been here; what have you been up to?”
  19. 19. “Well, my parents took a vacation to Twikkii Island without me.” “Laaaaame.” “Yeah. They said it was a sort-of honeymoon since they never took one when they first got married, but still.” “Did they have fun?” “Oh yeah. Mom got a tan.” Azula laughed. “Your mom’s as pasty as pasty gets. She wouldn’t look right with a tan.” “Yeah, good thing it went away pretty quick.”
  20. 20. “Well, what else?” “Uh…well, Uncle Isaac died a couple days after they got back.” Azula’s amusement quickly transformed to sympathy. “I’m sorry, Mikey.” Mikey shrugged. “It’s okay. I’ll miss him and everything, but Dad said it was his time and that he’d really been missing Ursula.” “Yeah, he told me about that. It’s so sad. I don’t think I could stand it.” “Me either.”
  21. 21. “But,” he continued, “moving on to things that are not sad…I asked Naomi out yesterday.” “The cute papergirl you were telling me about?” “Yeah, same one.” “How’d it go?” “Really well,” he said, grinning a little goofily. Azula rolled her eyes affectionately. “She’s great. I’m going to ask her out again soon.” “Well, good for you.”
  22. 22. “What about you? Any new guys in your life? Tell me you don’t like them more than me.” Azula laughed. “Nope, no one. I’m okay with that for now. I’m too busy here right now to go out and get a date, and I like it like that.” “More power to you then. And now…” He wiggled his hips a little for effect as he lined up a potential winning shot. “Watch and weep as I annihilate you, Zuzu.” “Oh no you don’t! Miss! Miss! Miss!”
  23. 23. “Aw yeah! Who’s the man!” Azula sniffed. “Real winners don’t gloat, Mikey.” He smirked. “That’s just your jealousy talking.” “Hey, you give me a hard time and I am well within my rights to escort you off the premises, you jerk.”
  24. 24. She wasn’t really mad, though, and when it was time for him to head home, she gave him a hug goodbye. “Thanks for coming to visit. Maybe I’ll get some time off soon and we can have a party or something.” “Sounds good to me. See ya, Zuzu.” ***
  25. 25. “Hello, this is Harry…oh hey, baby, how are you? No, I can’t come home right now. Is this an emergency, Ellie? …Well, okay, tell you what. We’ll close up a little early tonight so I can talk to you, okay? All right. We’ll be home soon. I love you.”
  26. 26. When they arrived back, Elle immediately usurped her father’s attention and dragged him upstairs to talk. It was about as private as they could get--Billy was up there, playing a computer game, but at least Azula and Mya wouldn’t overhear. She wanted to tell Harry first. “Okay, little girl, what’s up?” he asked. “My teacher said to tell you I might need glasses,” she muttered. “Really?” She nodded. “My eyes hurt when I read.” Harry frowned. “How long have they been hurting you?”
  27. 27. “A while,” she said, vaguely. “I didn’t wanna say anything, but my teacher caught me squinting and holding my head during math today, and she said to tell you ‘cause I might not be able to read at all someday if I don’t have glasses.” Harry studied her for a moment, nodding slowly. “Okay. I’ll find you a pair. We’ve got tons in a box in the bathroom, and if none of them work I can ask Auntie Bella to take a look at you.” Hearing this somehow made Elle feel a little better, and she almost smiled.
  28. 28. “Four-Eyes, Four-Eyes, Ellie’s gonna be a Four-Eyes,” Billy chanted, from his seat at the computer. At this, the hopeful feeling crumpled inside her, and tears began to well up in her eyes. “Billy Fitzhugh,” Harry said sternly, “we do not call each other names in this house. Apologize to your sister.” “But she is,” Billy protested, without taking his eyes off the game. “Apologize and shut the game down.” “Awww, Daaaaaaaad…”
  29. 29. After Billy’s taunt, Elle became convinced that glasses were a bad thing, and began to think that if they couldn’t find a pair she could use, she wouldn’t need them after all. However, Harry was able to find her a pair of gold frames that fit perfectly and made her head feel so much better. And, well, they did sort of look nice. I guess it won’t be so bad, she thought, now feeling foolish for not saying anything sooner.
  30. 30. The next morning, when the two of them got out of bed, Billy saw that Elle wasn’t wearing her glasses and frowned in confusion. “I thought you had glasses now,” he said. Elle was still in bad humor from the night before, especially because Billy’s apology had been insincere. “I don’t wear ‘em to sleep, dummy.”
  31. 31. “I’m not dumb,” he protested, glaring at her. “Yeah, well, it hurt my feelings when you called me a Four-Eyes, and you didn’t even apologize right.” “I said I was sorry!” “You didn’t mean it!” They fought about it until they got to school, and then had to part ways to go to their individual classes.
  32. 32. By the time they got back to the house after school, each had cooled down significantly. “I’m sorry I called you a dummy,” Elle said. “I’m sorry I called you a Four-Eyes,” Billy replied. “Friends?” “Friends.” ***
  33. 33. For the most part, Mya’s first business went as smoothly as she could have hoped. She had as many customers as she and her helpers could handle…
  34. 34. …and they enjoyed the facilities very much and never complained or caused trouble.
  35. 35. Well, almost never, anyway.
  36. 36. A large part of the success of the first business was due to Azula, who was having the time of her life making new friends and was happy to hang out with the customers and do activities with them. She was particularly fond of Matthew Smith, the elderly head of the Garden Club. “He reminds me of Grampa,” she would say. “I think I’m going to adopt him as my other grampa.”
  37. 37. Of course, she goofed off just as much, and often dragged Gabriel into doing it with her. For now, Mya didn’t mind. The spa was a very casual venue that didn’t require very much maintenance, and she deserved a break now and then.
  38. 38. “I’d like to start a second business soon,” she said to her husband, during a rare quiet time. “Really?” “Yes, I think things are going well here and I’d like to try a wholesale venue. Maybe a flower shop. Gabriel has a gold flower badge now, and Elle will be old enough to give us a hand soon.” Harry considered it. “Well, this is your enterprise. I’d say you can do what you want. If you want to get started on a second business, I’ll help however I can.” She smiled at him. “Thank you, honey. I really appreciate your support, you know.” He shrugged, returning it. “I got what I wanted out of life. It’s only right that you do, too.”
  39. 39. “Still. There are a lot of men out there who wouldn’t like putting everything else aside to help their wives achieve their dreams, and this isn’t a small thing. It’s a full-time job with a lot of hard work and not as many benefits, and it’s only going to get harder from here, Harry. Wholesale businesses require a lot more patience and attentiveness. The customers won’t always be as nice as they are right now.” “I can handle it,” he said. “Honest, I can.” “Okay.” Relieved, she smiled again. “Let’s close up soon. We need to get back in time for Elle’s birthday.” “Right, I’ll go collect Azula and Gabriel.”
  40. 40. “What do you two clowns think you’re doing?” “Miss Azula is teaching me this wonderful dance that resembles the Macarena,” Gabriel said, without breaking step. Harry, amused, reached for the remote. “How do you know the Macarena? I don’t even know what that is.” “Awww, Dad, we just got into our groove,” Azula complained, as he turned the jukebox off. “I’m sorry, princess, but Ellie’s birthday is tonight, remember? We need to get home soon.” She let out a plaintive sigh. “Oh, all right.”
  41. 41. Harry and Mya were unsurprised, but not exactly happy to learn that Elle didn’t care whether she had the cousins over for her birthday or not. “I really just want you all to be there,” she explained softly. “If you’re all there to watch, I’ll be happy. A lot of people would make it too crowded.” So in the end, it was just the immediate family that gathered around to watch her grow up.
  42. 42. She spent a long time in front of the mirror afterward, staring at all the little features of her face, pulling on locks of her hair, and adjusting the glasses that seemed to sit just a little crookedly on her nose. All of her family members, even Billy (though he admitted it grudgingly), had told her that she was pretty, but she couldn’t see it no matter how hard she tried. “Ellie! The rest of us need to use the bathroom too, you know!” Azula’s irritated, high-decibel complaint startled her, and she jumped. “Dear God, you are worse than me!” She smiled faintly. “I’m almost done, Zuzu. I’ll be out in a second.” “You better!” The sound of footsteps signaled Azula’s retreat, leaving Elle with her thoughts once more. ***
  43. 43. “Look, Mommy! I got an A+!” “That’s great, Billy!” Mya took the report card from her son and looked at it, then handed it back. “I’m very proud of you.” Billy puffed up with pride, pleased that his mother was happy with his grades.
  44. 44. He was not happy, however, to learn that he would be left alone with the nanny the following day when everyone else left to open the new business. “Mommy, I don’t want to be here all by myself,” he complained. “Please please please can I go?” “Billy, I thought your father told you we couldn’t take you yet,” Mya said, exasperated by his pestering. “We have to give all our attention to the customers. You would be bored out of your mind. Trust me on this.” “Then can you leave Ellie here?” “I can’t, sweetie, I need her help.” Seeing that her son was about to cry, she sighed heavily. “Look, I got you a present. It’s upstairs next to your bed. It’ll be something new for you to do while we’re gone. Will that help?”
  45. 45. “Ooh, a new toybox! Cool!”
  46. 46. “All hands to starboard! Iceberg off the port bow!”
  47. 47. “Mayday! Maaaaydaaaaaay--CRASH BANG OW”
  48. 48. He sighed. “This sucks. I miss people.” ***
  49. 49. The second business, a flower shop that Mya named Azula’s Azaleas after her eldest daughter, sat comfortably next to the first on Morgan Rd.
  50. 50. While they waited for the girls to arrive from school, Harry, Mya, and Gabriel put the finishing touches on the building. On the bottom floor there was very little; it housed the restrooms and a small sitting area…
  51. 51. …as well as a magazine rack and a small jewelry display.
  52. 52. The second floor was where the main merchandise was displayed. In deciding their selection of flowers, Mya and Harry assumed it would be best to have a healthy balance of things they could make on hand, and things they bought for the store from dealers outside of the region. Because they were the first in the area to import flowers on a large scale, they were able to get good deals on the arrangements they ordered from companies who hoped to find a new market for them.
  53. 53. Azula and Elle arrived at the shop about 1:30 in the afternoon and looked around, slightly awed. “It’s very…pink,” Elle noted. “Yeah, cause it’s named after me,” Azula replied. “And I like pink. When you get a shop named after you, you can have it decorated however you want.”
  54. 54. Harry and Mya, who had been waiting for them on the couch, laughed at this. “I’m glad you like it, princess,” Mya said. “Girls, there are some uniforms and aprons for you in the staff room on the top floor,” Harry explained. “We’d like to open soon, so if you could get changed fast, that would be great.”
  55. 55. Azula finished first and promptly headed down to the second floor for her instructions. “Where’s Gabriel at?” she asked. “He’s making up some tulip and rose bouquets so we’ll have plenty to restock with when they run out,” Mya explained. “He’ll come down when he’s done.” “Okay. What do you want me to do?” “There are a lot of different things that need to be done, so we’re all going to switch off doing them. Harry and Elle will start on the cash register, and you and I are going to be on the floor doing sales.” Mya grinned. “I’m counting on you to make the customers want to buy us out, princess. Think you can do it?” “Oh yeah, not a big deal,” Azula said, waving a hand in dismissal.
  56. 56. It turned out that Azula was a natural at sales. She was good at relating to people, and she loved talking to them. When a customer wasn’t sure what he or she wanted, Azula showed them various items, asking what the purchase was for and suggesting things she thought might be good for that purpose. Many of them stopped to tell Mya how nice and helpful they thought her daughter was before they left.
  57. 57. Of course, it probably helped that some of them were her friends. “The rabbit pot is a great all-purpose gift, Matthew. Kids like it because of the shape, and it’s a nice decoration for the porch or windowsill.” “Oh, well, that’s a good point, Azula. I’ll take two.” “Yay!”
  58. 58. Mya was beginning to regret letting her have so much free rein at the spa, however, because whenever business started to get slow, Azula whipped out her handheld. “Azula Fitzhugh, what have I told you about playing video games when you’re not on break?” “Uh, whoops?”
  59. 59. Elle, meanwhile, was nor doing very well behind the cash register. She knew very well how it worked, and had done just fine when her father taught her how to use it, but people--especially people she didn’t know and who could potentially get very angry at her if she messed up-- stressed her out so much that she forgot and made several mistakes.
  60. 60. The register did not take very kindly to this. “OW!” “Are you okay?” Azula asked as she passed, wincing in sympathy. “It kicked me!” Elle exclaimed, clutching her stomach. “Yes, I can see that. Do you need help?” “No, no…I can do this…”
  61. 61. The more she messed up, the more flustered she became, which caused her to mess up even more. “Dad! It did it again!” “Calm down, Ellie, you can do this.”
  62. 62. Hard as she tried, Elle continued to let her frustration get the better of her, and she was an utter mess inside of two hours. “Mooooooom! Help!” Mya sighed. “Okay, let me finish ringing up this guy and we’ll find you something else to do.”
  63. 63. Mya switched Elle to full-time restocking, which suited her much better. Elle was good with numbers, and she liked taking stock. Best yet, she didn’t have to talk to anyone if she didn’t want to, so she happily putted about behind the scenes.
  64. 64. Having someone constantly restocking proved to be useful because it allowed whoever was on the floor to give their full attention to sales, and the flowers went as fast as they were placed on the shelves. Mya quickly decided not to ask Elle to go back to the register again, telling her she could keep on restocking as long as she wanted if she was comfortable there.
  65. 65. Azula was the only one not pleased with this decision, because it meant she had to take a turn at the register. “Mom, this is boring.” “I’m sorry, princess. I told you it would be boring sometimes. You’ll have to live with it.”
  66. 66. “But Gabriel gets to go on the floor. Why can’t I?” “Because we need two people on the cash register, and for now we can spare one from the floor.” “Gabriel can do it just as well as I can.” “He’s Popularity too, dear, and he likes to talk to people just as much as you do.” “But--”
  67. 67. “Azula, for the last time. You can go back on the floor when your father comes back from his break, but for now I need you to help me with the register without complaining. I don’t want to hear another word.” “Fine.”
  68. 68. When they finally closed down the shop and headed home, the two girls were exhausted. “You said it would be fun,” Elle grumbled. “The first one was,” Azula muttered, collapsing against the bed post. “Ugh, that was a whole pile of fermented suck.” “I don’t think I’m going to be reproducing. Ever.” The younger girl rubbed her diaphragm unhappily, trying to concentrate on her book, but unable to. “And we have to go back tomorrow.” “Don’t remind me.” ***
  69. 69. Billy wasn’t any happier than his sisters, but for a completely different reason. “Mommy, it’s really boring around here,” he muttered, halfway through his homework, as he saw her pass by. “I’m sorry, kiddo, I really am. I can’t take you to the business. You’d hate it.” “Then can I go somewhere else?” He looked up, eyes pleading. “Anywhere else. I don’t want to stay home alone. I hate being alone.” Mya frowned in surprise, but her gaze quickly went thoughtful. “Why didn’t I think of that? I’m sure you could. I bet Uncle Jon would love to have you come over and play with the cousins.” “Really?” “Really. I’ll call him right now.”
  70. 70. Jon was more than happy to let Billy come to his house, so the next day, he went home with the Fox kids after school. He was already friends with Cid, who was more than happy to have a new playmate. “Kirby’s my twin and everything, but all she wants to play are girly games, like dolls,” he explained, wrinkling his nose. “And Riku scares me.” “Okay, what do you want to play?” “We could play Cops and Robbers. Or maybe since you’re here, Dad will let us play water balloons.” Billy had been feeling a little despondent, but he perked up at this. “I love water balloons.”
  71. 71. “I heard someone say water balloons!” Riku, Cid’s alien half-brother, bounced over to participate in the discussion, but stopped and frowned when he saw the newcomer. “Who’re you?” “Uh, I’m Billy? Your cousin?” “Riku, leave him alone,” Cid said sternly, receiving an evil smirk in reply. “Okay, I’ma go ask Dad if he’ll make the balloons for us. We can play something else if he won’t, I guess.” “Okay,” Billy said, and Cid ran off toward the house, leaving him to Riku’s tender mercies.
  72. 72. As soon as he was gone, Riku got right back at it. “No, seriously, who are you. You say you’re my cousin? Which one?” “Billy, I told you.” “S’at mean you’re Azula’s brother?” Billy nodded, and Riku’s expression relaxed into a grin. “Azula’s cool. I like her. You can stay, I guess.” Billy stared at him. “I was gonna stay anyway. I have to til my parents get home.” “Yeah, whatever,” Riku snorted, waving a hand in dismissal. “Riku, be nice to your cousin or you can’t play with the water balloons I just made,” Jon called from the stairs, where he was lugging down a tub full of them. The two boys instantly forgot about any altercation that might have arisen and ran to grab a balloon.
  73. 73. “Do you always play water balloons in your pajamas, Uncle Jon?” “Of course, Billy! It’s much more fun that way. Bring yours with you next time.”
  74. 74. When they got too cold, they hurried back inside to dry off, and Jon turned on the radio so the kids could Smustle together.
  75. 75. Just before it got dark, Billy’s parents called to let him know he could come home, and the twins walked him out. “Will you come over again, Billy?” Kirby asked him. “I guess I’m gonna,” he said. “My parents go to the business every day now.” She grinned. “Good, that means you can come play lots.” He couldn’t help smiling back. “Yeah. I like it here.”
  76. 76. He was hesitant to hug Kirby goodbye, but he gave Cid one in thanks as he was leaving. “The water balloons were fun,” he said. “They always are when Dad plays,” Cid said, assertively. “See you tomorrow.” “Yeah, see ya.” ***
  77. 77. “So Mom.” “Yes, Azula?” Azula put on her most winning grin as she began her request. “I’m your wonderful daughter who’s been doing very well helping with sales at the shop, and you love me, right?” Mya raised an eyebrow. “Of course.” “So can I have the night off to go Downtown with the gang?” The older woman bit her lip, and Azula knew right away the answer would be no. “You know you can’t, princess. I really need your help at the shop--”
  78. 78. “Mom, I know that,” Azula said, impatiently. “I’m not even asking for the whole day, just tonight. I haven’t seen my friends in forever because I’m working at the shop all the time.” “I need two people on sales all the time, Azula. It’s a lot busier now than when we first opened.” “Then make Elle do it! She can sell some things to people in between restocking them--” “No, I can’t. Your sister is uncomfortable with strangers and it affects her productivity.” “Oh sure, you’ll accommodate her, but when I ask you for a night off you shut me down without even thinking about it!” “I would tell Elle the same thing.” “That is so not fair!”
  79. 79. “What is wrong with you?” Azula cringed; she had no problems raising her voice, but Mya rarely spoke in anything remotely close to yelling, and when she did, it usually meant something unpleasant. “Azula Fitzhugh, I am your mother, and when I say no, I expect you to take it graciously. Stop arguing with me.” “It’s not fair,” Azula repeated in a smaller voice, feeling about to cry.
  80. 80. “Look, princess,” Mya said, in the ‘be reasonable about this’ tone of voice that was even more rare than yelling and so, so much worse, “I need you to help me today. I’m sorry. I will plan a day off soon so you can go have fun with your friends, all right?” “Whatever,” Azula muttered, turning away and running up the stairs.
  81. 81. At the shop, she went the passive-aggressive route, forgetting any semblance of politeness around everyone but the customers, and taking longer on her breaks than she was allotted. After her turn at the Energizer, she would sneak downstairs and play her handheld until someone noticed. “Azula! Where are you, young lady? I need you at the register!” “Coming!” she called back, after a deliberate pause.
  82. 82. When they got home, it was 10pm, and because she was expected to go straight to bed so they could leave early for the shop the next morning, Azula changed into her pajamas. Then she snuck off by herself and called Saffron. “Saffy? Hey, it’s me. I just now got away. Is it too late? …oh my God, thank you so much. You’re a lifesaver. I’ll see you in an hour.”
  83. 83. Saffron showed up with another of Mikey’s ‘borrowed’ limousines a little after 11pm, luckily after the rest of the household was in bed. She rolled down the window to grin at Azula as she approached, and Azula couldn’t help a small grin back. “He let you drive it?”
  84. 84. “Yeah, he let me drive it on the way, too. He said I’m a natural,” Saffron said proudly, before she noticed the look on Azula’s face. “What’s up? You okay?”
  85. 85. “Nothing, just drive,” Azula muttered as she got in.
  86. 86. The satisfaction of pulling a fast one on her parents didn’t last long. Because of the late night, she was exhausted at work the next day, and reprimanded sharply every time she complained of it. I just can’t win, can I? she thought bitterly. ***
  87. 87. Soon enough, a day came that all of the Fitzhughs knew in the back of their minds was inevitable, and that all of them had dreaded. General Raikov strolled into the flower shop one afternoon close to closing and began to browse the shelves with a thoughtful gleam in his eye. Mya glanced at Harry, who was watching from behind the register and who nodded to indicate he would keep an eye on them, before approaching him. “Hello, General,” she said politely. “Mrs. Fitzhugh,” he said, with a smile. “This is a lovely place you have here.” “Thank you. Can I help you find anything?” “Not just yet, thanks. I’m just checking to see that everything is on the up and up.” He indicated the shop with a sweep of his hand. “I think you’re doing great things for our economy, really. I just need to make sure there aren’t any illegal activities going on, you understand.”
  88. 88. “I can assure you everything is perfectly above the table,” Mya said calmly. “While you’re here, though, I should mention that I’m going to be opening a salon soon as well.” “Really? When?” “I’m not sure. Azula’s going to be going to college soon. Probably after that.” He nodded. “That sounds all right to me. I’ll just…browse a little while longer, if that’s all right with you.” Mya’s smile was so forced, it hurt. “Of course. Let me know if you need help with anything.” As she left him to his own devices, she caught Harry’s eye. He nodded again in silent agreement and slipped out from behind the counter.
  89. 89. “What do you think?” she asked him. “It’s like you said,” he said slowly, “everything in the shop should conform to current regulations.” He glanced at Raikov to see if the man was listening. “But I don’t trust him.” “You think he could find something to pick on anyway?” “He ignored the fact that my sister was assaulted and arrested her husband on a petty charge. I think he’s capable of anything.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s almost closing time anyway. Play it cool, go through standard closing procedure, and if he’s still here when we’re ready to shut down, kindly point out the time and invite him back at his earliest convenience if he claims he’s not done.” “Okay. Put Elle on the register for a minute and help me. Azula can handle the floor on her own for a little while.”
  90. 90. “Ellie, I need you to take the register for a few minutes while I help your mother close. I know you hate it but it’s only for a little while, I promise.” Elle was about to protest, but she took in the look on her father’s face and nodded. “Okay.”
  91. 91. “What is upsetting Mr. Harry?” Gabriel asked, watching his maker as he hurried away. “The General’s here,” Elle said quietly. “They’re terrified of him.” She bit her lip. “Gabriel, I’m no good at this.” “Do not fret, Miss Ellie. I will help you.” ***
  92. 92. The next day, Mya gave Azula the promised day off, and she called her friends to make plans only to find that it was a bad day for most of them due to college preparation. Sighing in frustration, she looked down to see that Billy had been hovering close by, waiting to get her attention. “What is it, squirt?” she asked him. “If you’re not going out, can we go to the park?” he asked, with a hopeful smile. “Well…” “Please? Pretty please with cherries on top?” Azula sighed and nodded. “Yeah, okay. Go ask Ellie if she wants to come too.” “Yay!”
  93. 93. It turned out that Elle did want to go, so the three of them trooped off to the playground without further delay. Secretly, all three would have gone anywhere if it meant they didn’t have to stay at home, but none of them voiced the thought to the others.
  94. 94. Once they arrived, Billy ran off to play on the swings, and Azula took a seat on the park bench, mind lost in thought. After a minute of wondering what to do, Elle sat down next to her sister. “This is a nice place,” she said, for lack of anything else to say. Azula nodded. “Grampa took me here when I was little,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite memories. He pushed me while I played on the swings and talked to me like I was a grown-up. I really miss him.” “I don’t remember him much,” Elle said thoughtfully. “Him or Gramma.” “Yeah, you were just a baby when they died.” “What were they like?” “They were great,” she said, eyes distant. “Both of them. I felt like the most important person in the world when they were around.”
  95. 95. Both girls were silent for a moment after she said that. Elle didn’t really know what to say in response. Anything she might have said about the grandparents felt redundant, and more than that, she knew that Azula hadn’t been feeling very important lately and couldn’t think of anything to say to make her feel better. Being the comforter was Azula’s job, not hers. Finally, Azula broke the silence. “I’m going to college tomorrow, by the way.”
  96. 96. “Already?” Elle asked in surprise. “Yeah. I’d completely forgotten about it, but I talked to the others today and they’re all going tomorrow too. That’s why they can’t hang out. Last-minute scholarship prep.” She lifted a shoulder. “I already have all of mine because Grampa made me get them early.”
  97. 97. “Oh.” Elle wasn’t sure what to say to that either, other than You can’t leave me here by myself, which she knew Azula would not take well. Azula seemed to understand, though. “I have to go, Ellie. Not just cause it’s time but because I can’t stand it anymore. I’m tired of the businesses, I’m tired of Mom’s wants making mine completely unimportant. I need to have my own life.” “Mom had to wait a long time to get what she wanted too, you know,” Elle said. “I’m not going to wait that long.”
  98. 98. Elle had always understood that being in her family meant that everyone else’s needs came first. The relief work was most important. After that was done, they could pursue their own goals, but they were still expected to help each other whenever they could and be supportive with whatever the others needed to do. Mya had waited a very long time to pursue her dream, and although Elle didn’t always like helping, she understood her mother’s situation and did it anyway. Now Azula needed to get out before it drove her crazy, and she needed Elle to understand that, too. “I’ll miss you,” she said. “I’ll miss you too. It’ll be lonely without you.” Azula glanced her way and managed a crooked half- smile. “Ever think about applying for early admission?” Before Elle could answer, they heard a rumble overhead, and fat water droplets fell onto their faces.
  99. 99. “There’s probably going to be a storm,” Elle sighed, getting up from the bench. “I’ll go get Billy.” “Okay,” Azula replied absently.
  100. 100. “Awww, I don’t wanna go home yet,” Billy protested. “Can we stay a little longer, Ellie? Please?” Elle glanced over at Azula, who hadn’t moved from the bench and seemed in no hurry. Smiling faintly, she sat down in the other swing. “Okay. Five more minutes.” ***
  101. 101. Azula’s first semester at Sierra Plains University seemed to go by quickly. She had quite a bit to occupy her time--so much that she barely saw her crowd of friends more than she had as a teen--but she was enjoying her newfound freedom and complete control over what she did with herself. When her cousin called one morning before class, she was somewhat surprised, as they hadn’t talked in a while. “Hey, Mikey!” “Zuzu, finally.” She could hear the smile in his voice, and it made her smile, too. Mikey’s good humor was infectious even at the worst times. “You are freaking near impossible to get ahold of, you know that? And it’s ‘Mike’ now, by the way.” “Sorry, not happening. I’ve been calling you ‘Mikey’ since I was in the cradle. It’s habit now. What’s up?”
  102. 102. “Not much. You?” “Well, I finally got enough in my bank account to spring for wallpaper and electric lighting.” “Yeah, I’m still working on the wallpaper.” They laughed. “Hey, so. Party at Callie and Laney’s tonight. You will be there or I will come over to your house and drag you there.” “Gee, violent much?” she quipped, amused. “Only when it’s necessary.” She snorted. “Right. Yeah, I’ll come. I feel like I haven’t seen you guys in ages.” “Yeah, what’s up with that, anyway?” “Eh, tell you later. I’ve got to get to class. Talk to you tonight!”
  103. 103. She was a little nervous about going to the party, but some of that faded when Mikey greeted her with a warm hug. “I’m glad you made it,” he said. “Yeah, me too.”
  104. 104. “Azula!” Calandra Pitts hurried over to meet her as soon as she got in the door. “I’m so glad you came!” “Yeah, it’s great to see you,” Azula said, with a smile. “How are things?” “Oh, they’re great. We’ve been working on the house and organizing the party, mostly. You?” “Working on my house, too. Hopefully it’ll be done by the time Ellie gets here. Where’s Laney?” “At class. It ran late tonight. She’ll be here in a bit, though. Hey! You need to meet our roommate, she’s so cool.” “Sure, I’d love to. What’s her name?”
  105. 105. The roommate turned out to be Robin Vetinari, a more distantly related cousin whom Azula had heard of and seen in passing, but never actually met. “Nice to meet you for real,” she said, shaking the other girl’s hand. “You too,” Robin said. “I can’t believe we’ve never actually talked before. We were in school together for years.” “You transferred to private school when we got to high school though, right? With Cal and Laney.” “Yeah, we all went.” “How was that?” Robin lifted a shoulder, smiling. “Not as organized as it could’ve been, but a good experience.”
  106. 106. “So how is it living with the twins?” “Oh, they’re really cool. We’ve been getting along great. Though, between you and me, I’m not big on how they decorate. It’s all sugar and fluff.” Azula laughed. “You should be glad you’re not rooming with me, then. I’m the same way.” “That’s right, why aren’t you living with us?” “My sister and I agreed we’d get a place together and she’s coming at the end of the year.” “Oh, okay, makes sense.” Robin nodded sagely and Azula smiled her agreement, thankful she hadn’t questioned the reason.
  107. 107. “We should get together sometime,” Robin continued, not noticing Azula’s discomfort. “I’d like that,” she agreed. They talked for a little while longer, before Azula caught sight of someone else she hadn’t seen in a while and excused herself.
  108. 108. “How’re the chips?” she asked casually, sitting down on the couch next to her friend. “Chip-like,” Saffron replied, around a mouthful. Swallowing, she eyed Azula. “Where the hell have you been, anyway? First you complain that you’re not getting enough time to hang out with us, and then we get to college and never see you again.”
  109. 109. “Oh, around,” Azula said vaguely. “I’ve been busy.” “Busy doing what?”
  110. 110. “Doing…things. Working on my house.” “So are the others, and I’ve seen a lot more of them.”
  111. 111. “Well, there are more of them than there are of me. Plus, I’ve been studying a lot.” “Okay, who are you and what have you done with Azula? You hate studying.”
  112. 112. She shrugged. “Yeah, which is why I have to get back in the habit. I want a 4.0.”
  113. 113. Saffron got up to throw away the chip bag. “Whatever. At least invite me over next time you’re feeling studious. I want to see your place.” “You got it,” Azula said, the smile plastered on her face.
  114. 114. Fortunately, Delaney arrived back from class about then and organized a group hula, saving Azula from further awkward small talk. She liked the dance a lot, and she liked the good-looking redhead in front of her even more, contemplating asking for his number while she excused herself to use the restroom.
  115. 115. She came back to find that everyone had paired off in her absence. Even Laney and Saffron, who didn’t have boyfriends as far as she knew, were deep in conversation with each other. Everyone else was either snuggling or slow dancing. The option of getting the cute redhead’s number was right out--it turned out he was Robin’s boyfriend.
  116. 116. Suddenly dejected, she trooped upstairs to the chess table and plunked down in the chair so hard she almost broke it.
  117. 117. “They beg me to come, tell me they want to spend more time with me, and then they go and pair off and leave me with no one to talk to if I turn my back for five seconds,” she muttered, blinking fast to keep the tears out of her eyes. “And what do I end up doing? Playing chess, by myself. As if I didn’t play enough freaking chess when I was a kid. I’m so sick of this game I could puke.”
  118. 118. “But what the hell else is there to do around here except get smashed?” she continued, not noticing the footsteps behind her. “Not that I have anything against that, but it’s no fun to do that if there’s no one else to do it with, so chess it is, I guess. Whatever.” “Mind if I join you?” a deep, masculine voice sounded behind her, making her jump.
  119. 119. “Sorry if I startled you,” he said, pulling out the other chair. “I didn’t mean to.” She went red and lowered her eyes to the chess table. “No, you’re good,” she mumbled. He laughed. “I think we’re in the same predicament. Mike invited me, but he’s a little too absorbed in his girlfriend and I don’t know any of the others. Not that that would stop me, normally, but…” “They’ve all got someone else, too,” Azula agreed, looking up. Damn, but he was cute, and he had a nice smile to go with his good looks. “So I hope you don’t mind me bothering you. Maybe I can give you a good game, at least.”
  120. 120. She smirked. “You can try, at least. I’ve been playing this game since I was in diapers.” Regarding him, she added, “I’m Azula Fitzhugh, by the way.”
  121. 121. “Dominic Doran,” he replied, giving her a playful smirk in return. “Nice to meet you.” ***
  122. 122. Author’s Note: I’m baaaaaaaack! *pose* Man, it feels good to be writing for the Fitzhughs again. I’ve been sitting on this update about three weeks longer than I planned to, and finally getting to set Azula’s and Elle’s plotlines in motion is so, so nice. The reason it took me this long to get this episode out was that I had the Genetics class from hell during June, but now it is done and I never have to take it again, mwahahaha. So! Things!
  123. 123. No new restrictions lifted this time, but I have gotten two of Mya’s five businesses out of the way! Yes, they are both at level 10 (here’s the proof, for the flower shop) and I did both businesses inside a single play session each. I actually like it quite a bit. I would like it more if I didn’t have to do five. Doing this want has gotten me more interested in the OFB features I hardly used before, though, so I think I’ll be incorporating them more from now on. Y’know, after I detox.
  124. 124. Speaking of LTWs, Azula’s is going just fine, too. I never did mention what it was last update, did I? She wants 20 Simultaneous Lovers. And yes, she IS a Popularity Sim. I have ltwvariety in to make my life more interesting, and this has DEFINITELY done that. I was considering Orb-ing her (now that I can) and getting her a new one, but it actually works really well with her plotline, and thanks to the businesses she has a lot of adult male friends she can use as aspiration fodder. She’s been at college all of two days, and she already has six red hearts in her panel and a seventh in progress. I think I can get the want mostly done before Elle comes to join her.
  125. 125. As for Elle, since I didn’t get a clear spot this update to tell you her Aspiration or LTW, either, here’s a picture that almost made it into the update and got cut because I didn’t have a clear spot for it. She’s Knowledge and wants to max out her skills, which is easily done. Oh, Rhys, never change. <3
  126. 126. See, she liked it. Ellie, I think you and I are going to have a lot of fun together. I have chosen Elle as this generation’s heiress for a number of reasons. All of them are plotty, so I can’t tell you what they are yet, but I think you will like where I’m taking her. Well, you may find yourselves wanting to break out the pitchforks by the time her plot is done, but I hope it’ll be good, at least? *grins* Also, while we’re talking about Elle, I wanted to tell you guys that I’m taking a break from the businesses to do a Bachelorette Challenge for her. (This is all ladylarkrune’s fault, by the way.) The BC’s outcome is Relevant To Your Interests, which means I can’t continue the story until you know who the winner is. I may be kicking myself in the face for that later, but, meh. Anyway, that’ll be up within the next couple of days (since I’ve already played it and know the outcome, mwahahaha).
  127. 127. And I will leave you with a shot of Billy being cute. He’ll get more face time when we get back to the main house, promise. Until next time, Happy Simming! Guest Sims: Isaac Nebula - A Planetary Apocalypse Archimedes and Cassidy Vetinari - The Vetinari Dualegacy Derrial Whedonberry - Whedonberry Saffron Bohemian - The Bohemian Legacy Dominic Doran - The Boolpropian Round-Robin Legacy