Generation Two Family Overview

And here’s the Generation Two family overview.  I decided to include Tyler in this since, although she isn’t related to Bianca by blood and wasn’t in the family by the end of the generation, she was part of the household for a long time and was a major character in Bianca’s gen.


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Bianca Hunter

Traits:
Angler
Dog Person
Easily Impressed
Hopeless Romantic
Loves the Outdoors

LTW:  Presenting the Perfect Private Aquarium (Have at least 13 different species of perfect fish in fishbowls)

 

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James Hunter (né Vistden)

 

Traits:
Brave
Bookworm
Natural Cook
Cat Person
Charismatic

LTW:  Celebrated Five-Star Chef (Reach level 10 of the Culinary career track)

Screenshot-159Tyler Striker (née Vistden)

Traits:
Cat Person
Family-Oriented
Friendly
Genius
Good Sense of Humour

LTW:  Super Popular (Be Friends with 20 Sims)

 

Screenshot-31_miniDiana Hunter

Traits:
Workaholic
Genius
Loves the Heat

LTW:  ???

 

 

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Traits:
Excitable
Artistic
Evil

LTW:  ???

 

 

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Traits:
Brave
Couch Potato
Good

LTW:  ???

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Generation Two Outtakes

Here we are at the end of another generation, and I’ve decided to continue the tradition I started last time of publishing some of the extra pictures and scenes that didn’t end up in the final chapters.  Enjoy!


The first scene I cut was in Chapter 2.2, where Bianca first meets James and Tyler.  Originally James was a lot friendlier, and looked a lot happier in most of the pictures.  I decided I couldn’t really have that while I was trying to establish his overprotective attitude towards strangers with his sister, so he and Bianca didn’t end up interacting as much as I had initially intended at their first meeting.

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Likewise, the two of them had a lot more fun in the in-game scene at the beginning of Chapter 2.3.  In the chapter, as you might remember, the whole thing was quite awkward and serious.  Here, they had a good giggle together, and end with a water fight in the rain.

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The only problem with having a water fight in the rain is that in the pictures, it looks like Bianca just slapped James really hard across the face.

And here we see Bianca, moments later, emulating Jesus Christ.

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(Chapter 2.4)

For story purposes, James often played with Tyler at the beach while Bianca was fishing.  In-game, he actually spent a good deal of time standing at the bottom of the sand-hill, staring at her feet.

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(Chapter 2.4)

This chapter opened with Bridie growing up and moving out.  This was Bianca’s in-game reaction to the goodbye scene between her mother and sister… lol.  As you can probably guess, I left it out because it was pretty out of character for her.

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One of the things that really bugs me about Late Night is the celebrity system, and how easy it is to become a celebrity even when you didn’t want to be one – to the point where I now use cheats (gasp!) to reset celebrity star levels of most of my sims.  For most of her life, Bianca was followed everywhere by paparazzi, who usually stood around snapping pictures of her while she was fishing.

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To offset that annoyance, here are some cute early pictures of James and Tyler 🙂

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(Chapter 2.5)

When I first tried getting Bianca to rub the genie lamp, she bugged out and wouldn’t ever actually complete the action, no matter how many times I reset her.  In the end, Nicole had to be the one to actually rub the lamp.  After that, Bianca was able to summon the genie just fine.  I did take a picture of it, thinking to maybe include it in the story, but, well… there were particular aspects of the picture which I felt ruined the immersion a bit.  Kudos to whoever can spot the problem (it’s pretty obvious to be honest).

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Another scene I cut from this one involved a MALE GENIE.  The game crashed after the first time I activated the lamp, and came out with a different genie the second time around.  So, naturally, Genie #1 didn’t make it into the story.

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“Well, dang, wouldya look at that. Sparkles. Huh.”

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Also, a side note for EA games, where clearly no one has ever been fishing (or gardening, for that matter) in their lives – I’m pretty sure Star”fish” and Jelly”fish” can’t be caught with a fishing rod just because they have the word “fish” in their names…

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And here’s Ian, having the time of his life jumping in a puddle :3  “Childish” was not one of his traits, by the way – he just really liked puddles.

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(Chapter 2.6)

Since Bianca wasn’t there for Ian’s death, it seemed unrealistic to use all the pictures I took of his death scene.  So here they are in all their glory now.  R.I.P. Ian 😦

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(Chapter 2.7)

In order to get the scene where James and Tyler’s mother gets arrested, I had to call the police to the house.  Several times.  Since there wasn’t actually an in-game emergency, the police had a go at poor Bianca every time.

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Later, in set-up for the beach scene, I got Bianca and James together at the beach, but then she spent several hours fishing, while James just stood there and watched.

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And then THIS CHICK APPEARED.  In the middle of their romantic evening on the beach.  Have I mentioned how much I hate the paparazzi?  Yeah, I really hate the paparazzi.

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“The hell just happened.” “No clue.”

And then, thanks to clipping, I couldn’t use some of the best photos because Bianca’s hands were buried in the sand, and I’m a perfectionist and didn’t want my heroine’s hands chopped off just yet.

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(Chapter 2.8)

When Bianca and James were dancing at the family barbecue, Tyler and Cody came out and started slow dancing next to them.  Too cute :3  Because of that, I toyed with the idea of getting the two of them together of a while, but in the end I decided that having two sets of siblings married to each other was a bit too neat.  Doesn’t often happen like that in real life.

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James ending up freezing after they went swimming, which I tried to rectify by putting him in the hot tub.  No luck – he just kept freezing his ass off in the hot tub.

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These were a few pictures I took of a pillow fight scene that was originally supposed to go between the dancing scene and the sleepover/deep discussion scene.  The story wasn’t flowing right, though, so I took it out.

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(Chapter 2.9)

Did I include this picture in the chapter?  Because if I didn’t, I should have.  This is the cutest damn picture ever of the two of them.

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Oh yeah, and then just after that, Tyler passed out at the subway station.  Good job, Tyler.

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(Chapter 2.11)

DAMMIT, FREAKING PAPARAZZI!  Even in Egypt, where my sims are supposed to be having a ROMANTIC DINNER ALONE, I cannot escape them 😦

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Again with the fishing crap.  I’m pretty confident that frogs and crocodiles are also not the sort of thing you can catch with a fishing rod.  And that crocodile is tiny.  It’s smaller than the FROG, for goodness’ sake.  Unless it’s a newborn baby crocodile or something, in which case… that’s just cruel, Bianca.

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(Chapter 2.12)

Did I mention that Bianca went fishing literally right after James proposed to her?  I realise that it’s your passion and all, and that’s a really good fishing spot too, but… damn girl.  There are more important things happening right now.

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…Like your bachelorette party!  Some of you who have played the bachelorette party in your own games may have realised that I changed Bianca’s look for the party.  By default, the bride gets dressed in a little veil and white cocktail dress, with all her hair mercilessly chopped off for some reason.  This is a distant shot of Bianca pre-makeover.

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Also, the weirdly dressed guy in the black cap is actually James (lol)!  He wasn’t supposed to be at the party, but I decided to just let him be since he looked so different and hope you guys wouldn’t recognise him…

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(Chapter 2.13)

Here, we have a sneak-peek of Tyler and Herb together as teenagers.  He invited her out on a date while she was still with Aron, but he looked pretty cute so I let her go.  That was what first gave me the idea to set the two of them up.  (I did change Herb’s appearance a bit, though – this is unfortunately not what he looked like as a vanilla sim.)

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(Chapter 2.14)

It may or may not interest you to know that I had originally planned for Bianca to announce her second pregnancy to James at a later date, and she ended up telling Tyler first.  However, I eventually realised that a scene like that wouldn’t work with the pictures I had, in which James was standing about two feet away from them the whole time.  Not exactly realistic… so I cut it out.

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I have no idea what she’s eating here, but apparently it’s disgusting.  Which is a bit sad, because it’s probably James’ cooking, and he’s meant to be halfway up the culinary career.

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(Chapter 2.15)

At some point, pregnant Bridie came to watch one of Nicole’s shows.  And got very excited.

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(Chapter 2.16)

And then Diana had her birthday, and for a few precious seconds was by far the sexiest kid I’ve ever had in a sims game.  Ever.

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And by the way, Flynn was conceived in the shower.  Bet you really wanted to know that, huh? 😉

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Di looking beautiful in the bath, because rendering.

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(Chapter 2.17)

As a child, Emily rolled a wish to see a ghost, so I sent her to the family graveyard to see if she could find the ghost of one or both her grandparents.  She didn’t find any ghosts, but she did spend half an hour mourning over Nicole’s grave (R.I.P. 😦 ) and then another half hour concocting some sort of evil plan right next to it.

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(Chapter 2.18)

In the last chapter, the family was out when James’ mum died.  That wasn’t the case in-game.  Diana was actually there for the whole thing, poor child.  This was her reaction:

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And this was Emily’s:

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Sigh.  Typical evil sims.

To finish off on a positive note, here’s a picture of Flynn passed out on the floor and looking very cute… in spite of the fact that this photo is really nothing but evidence of my terrible sim parenting skills.

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So there you go, those were our Generation Two outtakes.  Next up is the Gen 2 family overview, where you can see all the traits and Lifetime Wishes of the different family members, and then I’ll be announcing the results of the heir vote, so stay tuned and see you soon 🙂

Chapter 2.18 – The Wolf in Grandmother’s Clothing

Warning:  Coarse Language


“…Mum?”

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure as hell wasn’t that.  This was James and Tyler’s mother?  I had never seen anything like this woman in my life.  Her eyes were sunken and bloodshot, her hair lank and greasy, and her face so thin it appeared almost skeletal.  The leathery skin stretched over her skull was yellowed and wrinkled with age, and the blood-red colour on her lips did little to hide a mouthful of broken and decayed teeth.  I shuddered to think what could possibly have happened to make her appearance so horrific… and found myself recalling the night, many years ago, when I had visited their house just in time to witness her arrest for illegal drug abuse.  Was it possible that something like that could have caused this?

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To top it all off, she was filthy.  I couldn’t help wrinkling my nose as the ancient woman stepped over the threshold into the house, with arms outstretched towards my husband and a grin that looked more like a leer plastered across her sunken face.

“James…” she croaked, in a voice that was barely more than a whisper, as she closed the door behind her.  “My dear old son.”

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I glanced at James, and saw the scowl on his face as he stepped away from her.

“What the hell do you want?” he growled.  The shock had certainly worn off quickly – James wasn’t messing around here.  The smile slid instantly from her face, to be replaced by a look of fear.

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“Now, now, Jimsie,” she said hastily, “Let’s try to keep things civil-”

“Civil my ass!” I had never heard James talk like that before.  Then again, I couldn’t remember ever seeing him as furious as he was now. “You abandoned us!” he cried. “You had two children who needed you, but you didn’t give two shits about them, did you?  All you cared about was your next damn fix!  You’ve got some nerve, turning up here after all that crap you put us through!”

“Hey, that’s not true,” she protested.  “I swear I never meant to leave you kids,  it wasn’t my fault!  I couldn’t help it if they took me away, now, could I?”

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“Oh yeah, just like you couldn’t help getting addicted to fucking heroin, right?”  he spat.  “Or like you couldn’t help neglecting your daughter for years?  What are you even doing here now?  Huh?  Want to make up for your mistakes or some bullshit?  Well, it’s too fucking late!  Get out!”

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“My sentence is up,” she interrupted him – I don’t think she dared say anything but the plain truth, with the state James was in – “but I need a place to stay.  Not for too long, just-”

“No.  No way.  No fucking way.

 

“Please, James, hear me out-”

“No!  There is nothing you could say that would convince me to take you in after everything you’ve done!”

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“You’re not my only option,” she interjected.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

A malicious grin spread across her face as she watched the realisation dawn on his… soon to be replaced with anger.

“No.”  His voice was quiet, but if I thought James was furious before, now he was positively livid.  “Don’t you dare touch her.  She’s had enough of your poison already to last a lifetime.”

“Well, you see…” the woman was smiling now… “That’s why I came to you first, because I knew you would prefer it that way.  But if you won’t take in your own dear elderly mother, I’m sure I have someone else that will.  Little Tyler’s all grown up now, isn’t she?  I hear she even has a family of her own!  I would certainly love to meet my grandchildren.  And Tyler always was a soft-hearted child…”

James was fighting for control now; I could see his shaking hands, balled into fists.  Finally, he spoke, and it was as though every word cost him a painful effort.  But if it was for Tyler…

“One week.  Okay?  One week and then you’re gone!”

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“But Jimsie-”

He interrupted her.  “I don’t care.  One week, that’s it.  And it’s only on one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“Stay the hell away from my sister.”

She shrugged.  “Fine by me.  I’d rather not see the little brat anyway.”  James growled angrily, but apparently decided that the last comment was best left alone.

Thus the pact with the devil was made, and the only thing left to worry about was how the kids would take it.  Knowing what she had done, I was no fonder of the woman than James was, but I knew she had given him no choice, and I wasn’t going to add to his problems by complaining.  I was more worried about the impact her visit would have on Flynn in particular, who was still only a toddler.  Given her dislike for children, not to mention her past misdeeds, I firmly intended to make sure that contact between my own children and their grandmother would be minimal.

Unfortunately, though, I couldn’t be there all the time.  The morning after that woman’s arrival, I stumbled upon her and Diana talking together in the living room.

“Who are you?”  Di was asking.  I had intended to explain the situation to her and Emily together, but apparently she had beaten me to it.

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“I’m your Daddy’s mother,” was the reply.

“So you’re… my grandmother?”

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“That’s right.”

“I didn’t know I had another grandma!” Di cried excitedly.  Then she hesitated.  “Can I call you ‘grandma’?”

‘Grandma’ grimaced, and looked away in distaste.  “I would rather you didn’t.”

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“Oh, okay,” Di said politely.  “So does this mean I have a second grandpa as well?”

“Theoretically.”  She looked uncomfortable.

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“Where is he?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why?  Is he dead?  Does he live somewhere else?”

She didn’t answer – her eyes were darting from door to door, probably searching for an escape route.  Much as I enjoyed watching the woman who had made the childhoods of my husband and my best friend hell, squirming under interrogation from my daughter, I had to remind myself of my resolution to limit contact between them.  So I intervened.

“Di, why don’t you leave your grandmother alone for a while?  There’s something I need you to do for me.”

“Did you know gran- my grandmother was here, Mummy?” Di asked me as I led her out of the room.

I hesitated.  “… Yes, I did.  She arrived last night.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I was going to, sweetheart.  Actually, I was going to talk to you and your sister about it this morning.  Why don’t you go and find her, and then I’ll explain everything?”

In the end, Diana and Emily were pretty okay with the idea of having their grandmother living with us, once I had explained everything to them (leaving out the parts which involved swearing or blackmail).  As it turned out, their coping with the situation wasn’t a problem at all.  The worst part of the visit actually happened one morning several days later, when I opened the door to an unexpected guest – possibly the worst guest to have under the circumstances, although ordinarily I would have been delighted by her presence.

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For the first thirty seconds after I opened the door, everything was fine.  Tyler chatted happily to me as she walked into the room, barely even paying attention to her surroundings.  “I’m sorry to turn up out of the blue like this, Bee.  I was just driving by your house and I thought, hey, I haven’t seen James and Bianca in forever!  So I decided to just drop in.  Man, is that Flynn?  He’s grown so much since I last saw him!”

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Smiling, she looked up at me, but the smile fell from her face when she saw mine.  Misinterpreting my worried expression, she added, “I can always leave, you know, if you were busy.  I shouldn’t have just come without calling first, you’re probably about to go out or something, aren’t you?”

“What?” I said.  “Oh, no, we’re not busy.  It’s just that…”  I trailed off as Tyler stared around the room, and watched the flash of recognition appear in her eyes as her gaze stopped dead on her mother, who was relaxing in one of the armchairs near the fire.

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“Hello, Tyler.”

Ty stood, rooted to the spot as her mother, smiling, rose from her chair and walked forward to greet her.  “What a surprise to see you here!  I’ll bet you didn’t expect to see me, did you?”

Tyler, apparently struck dumb with shock, didn’t respond, except to shake her head ever so slightly.  Her eyes remained wide and staring, fixed on her mother’s face as if she were unable to tear them away.

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After a few moments of tense silence, she spoke.

“Mother…”

“That’s me!” The false cheeriness in her tone made me feel sick to my stomach.  “You sure have grown since the last time I saw you, Tyler.  How many years has it been?  Ten?  Fifteen?”

Tyler ignored the question.  Knowing her as I did, I could sense the false bravado in her posture, trying to hide her fear and confusion.  “Does James know you’re here?” she asked.

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“James?” a wide grin spread across the woman’s face.  “Why, of course!  James was the one who invited me to stay!”

Tyler averted her eyes, looking hurt and confused, but was saved the necessity of responding by her brother, who entered the room at that moment.

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“Tyler!” he gasped when his eyes landed on her… then narrowed as he took in who she was with.  He crossed the room in three strides, caught his mother by the shoulder and turned her roughly to face him.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he growled at her through clenched teeth.

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“What?  I’ve done nothing wrong?”

“Nothing wrong?  Let me refresh your, clearly heavily damaged, memory.  There was a condition to you staying here.”

“So what?  I have stayed away from her.  I can’t help it if she comes running in here unannounced, can I?”

James looked disgusted.  “Everything’s always someone else’s fault with you, isn’t it?  I’ll bet she forced you to talk to her as well, did she?  I’ve got to say, I’m getting really tired of your bullshit!”

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I suddenly came to my senses, and remembered that Flynn was still sitting in my arms.  Deciding that he didn’t need to hear this, I left the room and went upstairs.  At the same time, I felt like this was something that needed to be sorted out between the three of them.  I felt I had no business even being in the room.

When I came back downstairs, Tyler was gone, and I could see James’ mother watching television in the next room.  James was sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace.  I went over to him and sat down.

“So?”

He sighed.  “She’s leaving tomorrow.  I can’t let her get near Tyler.  This time, I’m going to make sure she stays out of our lives for good.”

The following morning was the last time we saw that woman.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t call a death a good thing, but under the circumstances… well, it certainly made everything a lot less complicated.

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“So… she’s really dead?”

“She is, ma’am.  Cardiac arrest, by the looks of things.  A body like that, it’s a wonder she didn’t die in a cell years ago.”

 

I was shocked.  Cardiac arrest… otherwise known as a heart attack.  I knew it was common in the elderly, and even more so for those whose internal organs had been damaged by harmful drugs as much as hers had.  But somehow… I would never have expected it in this case.

After we had arrived home and called the police, the body was taken to a hospital for autopsy.  The death had occurred that very morning; It had been quick, and virtually painless.  A comforting fact… though to be honest, terrible as it sounds, comfort was scarcely needed.  Both James and Tyler seemed more relieved than anything else that she was gone, and the kids had barely even met her.  After they got over the initial shock of the situation, it was only a matter of weeks before life pretty much returned to normal, and all evidence to the contrary was practically forgotten.

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“What did you get for question three, Di?”

I smiled as I watched my two daughters sitting together at the dining table, both working hard on their homework for school the next day.  Or rather, Emily was working hard – Di had already finished her own work, and was now helping her sister with hers.

Di had always been a bright child, and though she had been terribly excited for school when she had first started, I hadn’t expected it to last – but it had.  If anything, she was loving her work more with every passing day.  Even when she had finished her homework and triple-checked every line, she could reliably be found upstairs in one of the bedrooms, studying as if the elementary school was setting exams every other day.

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With Di and Emily so fixated on school and each other, James and I had more time than ever to spend with our son.  Though not as smart as his eldest sister had been, Flynn was an obedient child, and learned new things with every passing day.  I treasured every moment I got to spend with him, knowing that very soon they would be gone, and my youngest baby would be joining his sisters in ‘big school’.  I sighed… the time had gone so quickly.

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After that incident, the months fairly flew by, and before I knew it, it was time for Flynn’s birthday.  I held my son for the last time as he blew out the candles on his home-made cake, then stood back to watch him grow from a toddler into a little boy.

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My little boy.

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He looked more like his grandfather than ever.  Filled with emotion, and in spite of his protests, I leaned down and kissed him gently on the forehead…

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… then wrapped my arms around him and pulled him close, hoping he hadn’t seen the tears that had sprung into my eyes without warning when I looked at him.

He was so handsome… and in spite of everything that had happened, he had grown up so well.  I hugged him to me tightly, hoping in the act of physical reassurance to convey some small portion of the overwhelming and unconditional love I felt for my son.  My only son.  If there was one thing I was certain of, it was that the beautiful boy in my arms, and his sisters also, deserved nothing but happiness.

And I would do anything in my power to give it to them.

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And that’s it for Generation Two!  I hope you enjoyed Bianca’s story as much as I did.  After this, there will be a couple of Gen 2 extras before we pick up the story again with Generation Three.  

There’s still a week left on the heir vote, so don’t forget to head over and cast your vote on which of Bianca’s children you think would make the best legacy heir!  After the poll closes, I’ll be announcing the winner and letting you know when to expect the next chapter, so stay tuned for that as well 🙂

 

Chapter 2.17 – Turbulence

Even with Diana in school, and no plans for any more pregnancies, having two babies in the house was a challenge.  Flynn, although practically a dream child, was still as helpless as any other newborn, and needed constant changing, feeding and nursing.

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Any attention that wasn’t devoted to Flynn was snatched up by Emily, who continued to be as much of a troublemaker as ever.

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Now that James was back at work, I was taking on the bulk of the childcare, which meant not only feeding and changing both children while trying to keep the other occupied, but also trying to find time to sit down together with Emily.  She was much slower than Diana had been in learning to talk, so helping her to develop well was a more difficult task, especially with a newborn in tow.

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All in all, I was pretty relieved by the time Flynn’s birthday rolled around.  I hoped that as a toddler, he would continue to be as well-behaved, with the added benefit that he would now be a little more independent so that I had the energy to give him and his sisters the attention they deserved.

This time, it was James that held our son as they blew out the candles on his first birthday cake together.

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As I leaned down to give my baby his birthday bottle (since he was still too young for cake), I couldn’t help the tears that sprang to my eyes.  Flynn was the spitting image of my own father – not only had he inherited my father’s dark hair, but the blue eyes he had passed down to me now gazed curiously at me from the face of my own little son.

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I smiled tenderly as Flynn’s chubby hands caught the bottle I held out to him.  He was just perfect… my little man.  At that moment, I promised myself that no matter what happened, I would make sure that he never had any reason to feel lonely or neglected, simply by reason of being an only son.

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Although he didn’t have the same sentimental family attachments, James was just as much in love with our little son as I was.

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Every day when he came home from work, he gave me a quick kiss hello and then went straight for the nursery to spend time with the kids.  Emily was an independent little thing, but James and Flynn could spend hours playing together, and neither of them would ever get tired.  The girls were gorgeous and he loved them dearly; but the way I understand it, nothing is quite the same, for a man, as having his own son.

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I had to admit, I was feeling a little nervous about how Emily especially would respond to her brother now that they were both toddlers.  Flynn was as good a child as he had been a baby, and whether by his own virtue or simply because he was submitting to her natural authority, the two of them seemed to get along much better than I had expected.

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Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the two girls.

 

Since she had become a child, Diana had always left her old favourite toy, Patterns, beside her bed while she slept.  Lately, Emily had taken a special liking to the doll, and often snuck into her sister’s room in the early hours of the morning to play with it.  Obviously, she knew that there was no way Diana would let her near the room if she was awake.

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All usually went well, until Emily started to get uncomfortable or hungry.  Of all the babies I had ever heard, Emily took the prize for most loud and obnoxious cry.

“Emily, shhhh, don’t cry… Mummy’s here…”

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Emily, as usual, paid no attention, and continued to wail even louder in my arms.  I looked worriedly over at the bed, where Diana was stirring.  I was really not in a mood to deal with two angry daughters.

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I approached the bed as Diana got up, and tried to soothe her.

“It’s okay, Di.  Go back to sleep, I’ll take care of Emily.  I’m sorry she woke you.”

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Di just glared at her little sister, before turning to me.

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“Really, Mum?  Again?!” she cried.  “This is the third time this week!  How am I supposed to keep up my grades in school if I’m too tired to think?!”

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“Di, honey…” I was shocked.  Di had rarely spoken to me like this before.  “I know it’s hard on you, sweetheart.  You could try locking your door at night, that way Em can’t get inside in the morning.”

“I can’t lock my door,” she reminded me.  “Dad won’t let me, in case something happens and you guys need to come in, remember?”

She was right – I had forgotten that.  “Well, I’m sorry.  I’ll try to keep an extra eye on your sister.  This won’t happen for much longer, sweetie, I promise.”

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Diana stomped her foot in annoyance.  “It wasn’t supposed to happen at all!  This is why I got my own room in the first place!”

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I sighed, too tired to continue arguing.  “Go back to sleep, Diana,” was all I said as I scooped Emily up into my arms and left the room.

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I was still angry at the way Di had handled the situation by the time I sat down to breakfast, but at the same time I had to admit that she had a valid point.  I knew how serious she was about her schoolwork, and it was fair enough for her to expect to get a good night’s sleep in her own bedroom.  I decided I would talk to James about the possibility of installing a baby-proof gate at the bottom of the stairs the next time I saw him.

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It was therefore a relief, both for myself and Diana, when Emily’s birthday finally rolled around.  I held my youngest daughter as she blew out the candles on her home-made cake, then set her down on the floor so she could grow up on her own for the first time.

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Diana, on the other side of the counter, was celebrating with unusual enthusiasm – no doubt looking forward to having her room to herself again.

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As Emily grew up, she looked even more like her sister – so much so that they could easily have been mistaken for twins by someone who didn’t know them well.

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Flynn now had the nursery all to himself, and we renovated one of the upstairs bedrooms for Emily just like we had done for Diana, allowing her input on colour schemes and decorations.  I was hoping that the girls would have less conflict now that they each had their own space.

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Unfortunately, my hopes were unfounded.  Only a few months after Emily had moved into her new room, I was in the process of checking my face for spots in the bathroom mirror when I was startled by a shrill scream coming from down the hallway.

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I could hear the girls arguing as I approached the door.

“Come on, sis!  Just this once!  How else am I supposed to get ahead in school?”

“I’m not doing your work for you, Emily!  How about you actually do your own stuff for once?”

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“God, Diana, it’s not a big deal!  You are such a goody two-shoes!”

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“And you’re a lazy bitch!”

Whoa!  Time to step in.  “What’s going on here?” I demanded sharply, stepping into the room.  Neither child spoke.  I turned to Diana.  “Diana, you’re supposed to be the mature one here.  I don’t know where you learned a word like that, but don’t you ever let me hear you using it again, do you hear me?  Especially not with your sister!”

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“But, Mum-”

“I don’t care what she did, Di.  You should know better than to behave like that.  I’m very disappointed in you.”

Di’s shoulders drooped, and she stared down at her feet, looking ashamed.

 

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I turned to Emily, who had been standing in the corner of the room, grinning gleefully.  “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you,” I told her sternly.  “We’ve discussed this before, Emily, you are not to provoke your sister.  I don’t know what all this was about, and I honestly don’t care, but you know perfectly well that you shouldn’t be in Di’s room without permission.  Now go back to your own room, please, and don’t let me catch you making trouble in here again.”  Emily went, but not before she threw a satisfied smirk over her shoulder at her sister, which told me that she was glad that Di had gotten in trouble, and had no intention of obeying my command to stay away.

But aside from the frequent spats between siblings, life for the household as a whole went on as usual.  When she wasn’t terrorising her sister, Emily put her overactive imagination to good use, making up and performing countless games of make-believe alone in her room.  Her mischievous tendencies hadn’t improved as she had gotten older, so it was a relief for all concerned when she played dress-up for hours instead of performing her usual pranks that the rest of the family usually fell victim to.

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Meanwhile, Flynn seemed to be following in his sister’s footsteps.

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The girls, when running up and down the stairs, often forgot to close the baby gate, and by this stage Flynn was perfectly able to climb stairs on his own.  So it was that he, like Emily before him, found and fell in love with the stuffed doll in Diana’s bedroom.

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Luckily, Di didn’t seem to mind as much with Flynn.  Possibly, it was because he was a much quieter and more well-behaved baby than Emily had been, so he wasn’t much of a disturbance to her sleep or study patterns.

Since he was very well established in his crawling routine by now, James and I had started teaching Flynn to walk.  James would usually spend time with him in the afternoons when he came home from work, and I would take care of him during the day, when it was just the two of us in the house.

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He was a bit wobbly at first, but he was slowly starting to get the hang of it.  On the day when he finally managed to stumble his own way across the room and into my arms, I was so proud of my baby that, after I had picked him up and covered his face with kisses, I gave him a lollipop I had bought at the supermarket the day before as a reward.

Flynn was sitting on the floor, happily gnawing on his lollipop, when Emily came down the hallway.

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I knew there was trouble brewing as soon as I saw the scowl on her face when she looked at the lollipop – but I would never have expected her to do what she did.  Before I could move to stop her, Emily had reached out with a malicious grin on her face and snatched the candy right out of Flynn’s little hands.

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I was shocked.  How could she do something like that?  Flynn started to cry, and I felt anger boiling up inside me at the injustice I had just witnessed.  I rounded on Emily.

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“Emily Hunter!”  I cried angrily.  “You give that back right now, young lady!”

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Emily was shocked, but stood her ground.  “No,” she said insolently.  “It’s mine now.  He’s too small to eat it properly anyway.”

I looked at Flynn, who was still sitting on the floor and sobbing loudly.  Listening to him just broke my heart.  “How could you do this?” I yelled.  “You’re his older sister, you’re supposed to take care of him!  Stealing from someone helpless like that, that’s just bullying, Emily!  You give that candy back right now, and go to your room.  Go!  I’m so disgusted by your behaviour, I can’t even look at you right now.”

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Scowling, Emily dropped the lollipop at Flynn’s feet, and returned to her room with a slam of the door.

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I picked Flynn up, gave back the lollipop, and tried to comfort him.  I couldn’t believe that Emily would do something like this.  Yes, I knew that she was mischievous and difficult, but I never thought she would take it out on Flynn.  I frowned.  Clearly, something had to be done about her behaviour to make her understand that it was not okay.

In the end, Emily was grounded for a week after that incident.  James and I had considered making her stay in her room over Christmas, while the rest of the family came over to celebrate the holiday, but decided to let her join the party on promise of good behaviour.

Christmas day soon arrived, and with it the rest of the extended family, who had come over to enjoy a holiday meal and exchange Christmas presents together.  Cody and Vivien had been happily married for ten years now, with a son around Emily’s age named Ethan.  Ethan was a sweet-looking child, and reminded me a lot of Cody as a young boy.

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Aidan and Violet also arrived with their three children Iris, Terrance and Jamie, all of whom were now in high school.  Violet and Jamie arrived separately to the rest of their family, as they had come straight from Christmas lunch at Violet’s parents’ place.

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Tyler was also there, with her husband Herb.  Their daughter, Carolina, was still a toddler, and had been left at home with a babysitter to look after her.  James had told me that Tyler was already pregnant again, but it was still early so she wasn’t showing yet.

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Bridie arrived alone.  Her son, Alfonso, was only a bit older than Carolina, so he was also staying at home with his babysitter this year.  I  had been surprised to learn that my sister was now a mother – she had never really seemed like the maternal type – but I guess that sort of thing was bound to happen sooner or later when you went through as many boyfriends as Bridie had done.

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It was cold outside, and everyone had come dressed up for the occasion, so I quickly ushered everyone into the warm house before they froze to death.  James had helped me put up the Christmas tree and decorations earlier that day, so everything was ready when the guests arrived.  Chattering happily, everyone gathered around the tree and added their presents to the huge pile that had accumulated in the centre.

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When everyone was ready, the present-opening commenced.  Iris’ present was at the very top of the pile, so she went first.  One by one, the rest of the family followed until everyone had received a gift.

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After presents, the dinner was served, and everyone gathered around the table to enjoy the meal together.  Then Diana turned on the living room speakers, and the entire family either joined her on the dance floor or stood around talking and laughing with each other.

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By the time everyone was feeling partied out and more than one child had fallen asleep in their seat, it was well past midnight.  Bit by bit, the guests trickled out, with many hugs and kisses and promises to keep in touch, until it was just James, myself and the kids left.  We put all three children to bed, then returned downstairs to do a bit of cleaning up before going to bed ourselves.

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Both of us were exhausted by the time we were changed and in bed, and looking forward to a good night’s rest.  Unfortunately, the peace didn’t last too long.

After what felt like only a few minutes, we were dragged back from sleep by the doorbell ringing downstairs.  James rolled over, checked his watch, and groaned.

“It’s three in the damn morning.  Who on earth would be coming to the door at this hour?”

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“I don’t know…” I responded sleepily.  “You go back to sleep, I’ll go check.”  I sat up on the edge of the bed, yawning.  Behind me, James protested.

“No, I’m coming too.  It must be something important for whoever it is to be ringing our doorbell in the middle of the night.”

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I nodded sleepily, too tired to argue, and clumsily made my way out of the room and downstairs.  I opened the door, still half asleep, and found a woman standing there.  Her dress was filthy and shapeless, and she wasn’t wearing shoes.  I guessed that she must be homeless and coming to our door begging for food or money.

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“Um… can I help you?”  I tried to be polite, but honestly she was scaring me a bit.  She shook her head, craning her neck to see over my shoulder into the house behind me.  I moved to block the door, and checked over my shoulder to see where she was looking.

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I saw James coming down the stairs behind me, and approaching the door to see who was behind it.  As he came into her view, the woman smiled at him, as though in recognition.  James, meanwhile, seemed rooted to the spot as he stared at her.  For once, I had no idea what he was thinking as I watched various emotions flit across his face, none of which I could easily identify.  Instead, I looked between him and the strange woman, hoping for some sort of explanation.  James, however, seemed incapable of speech.  After a few moments of tense silence, a single word managed to escape his shaking lips.

“…Mum?”

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure as hell wasn’t that.

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Chapter 2.16 – Death and Life

“James, honey, can I talk to you for a minute?”

He closed his book and stood up from the stool at the breakfast bar where he had been reading.

“Sure, what’s up?”

“Well…” I stopped, and started again.  “I’ve been thinking lately, and I…” Taking a deep breath, I decided to just say it straight out.  “I want another baby.”

I waited for his reaction, but he was silent, so I continued.

“I know you love our girls, but I know we’d both like a little brother for them, and they’re growing up so fast.  Di will be going to school soon.  I just feel like it’s the right time for one more baby.  What do you think?”

As I watched, a smile slowly spread across his face, and he reached out and pulled me into his arms.

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“I think one more would be perfect.”

I smiled, and kissed him.

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It was almost a full year before I finally fell pregnant for the third time.  This pregnancy was harder on me than the first two had been.  Throughout the first few months, I was constantly throwing up, to the point where I had to go to the doctor to get an injection a couple of times to make it stop.

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Besides caring for me, James had his hands full looking after the girls, since most of the time I was too sick to even stand.

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On the rare occasions when I did feel well enough to get up, I tried to take some of the weight off James’ shoulders by playing with the girls for a few hours.  I was especially conscious about spending time with Diana, since she was only a few months away from starting school, and I knew I wouldn’t be able see her so much any more when that happened.

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While I spent time with my daughters, James put his love of reading to good use, poring over pregnancy and parenting books for hours at a time.  Although we had done this before, as I continued to remind him, he still wanted to be the best dad possible to his third (and hopefully last) child.  For that, I could only admire him.

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As the months went by, my morning sickness passed, and I was able to eat and move around relatively normally again.  My body substituted for this by hitting me with intense and bizarre cravings at least three times a day, and James was worn out trying to keep up with my demands.  I did feel bad for him, but Key Lime Pie had always been my favourite dish and now that I was pregnant I just couldn’t seem to get enough!

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After the cravings came the cramps.  The further along my pregnancy progressed, the worse it strained my back, to the point where the pain was sometimes too much for my body to handle and I would collapse, exhausted.  Sometimes I wondered if I could be having twins, and the ultrasounds had just somehow managed to miss the second baby.  I certainly felt big enough for it to be a possibility.

James did his best by offering me back massages to ease the pain whenever they were needed, which I gratefully accepted.  I knew I couldn’t have asked for a better, more patient husband.

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When I was only a few months away from my due date, Diana’s birthday rolled around.  In spite of my own struggles with the pregnancy, we tried to celebrate her birthday the best way we could manage.  James baked the cake, as usual, and the whole family gathered around to watch as I helped Di blow out her candles.

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Diana grew into a very pretty child, whose features were a true mix of both her parents’.  James and I had bought her a new outfit to mark the occasion, although we had not really known how her tastes would change as she grew.  Luckily for us, she loved it – so much so that she refused to take it off from the moment it went on.

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We had also refurbished one of the upstairs bedrooms for her, knowing that she would almost certainly be wanting her own space away from her baby sister now that she was a child.  The finished result was a small but cosy child’s bedroom, decorated with Di’s choice of wallpaper, paintings and carpet.  Being the workaholic she was, and crazily excited to start school in a few months, she also insisted on having her own desk to do her homework at, although James maintained that the kitchen table would have been more than up to the task.

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Meanwhile, Mum’s singing career was at an all-time high, and had been for quite some time.  She was regularly selling out the big concert halls in town, and would occasionally leave for days or weeks at a time to go on tour in another city.

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As thrilled as I was for her, at the same time I couldn’t help worrying that she was pushing herself too far in the name of achieving her dreams.  She was, after all, getting very old, and wouldn’t have been expected to live much longer under the best of circumstances.

The day she got the call from her manager was the day it happened.  It was like she was waiting to become the Vocal Legend she had always dreamed of before finally letting go.  The doctors said that the cardiac arrest was quick and painless, and she was surely happy, because she was surrounded by adoring fans at the time, just after a performance in the park where her career had first started.  Predictably, her death made news headlines everywhere.  My only regret was that we weren’t able to be with her when it happened.

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That, and the fact that she never got to meet her youngest grandchild.  Flynn Hunter came into the world just a few short weeks after Mum had gone.  In the midst of all the post-birth joy and celebration, it pained me to think that my son would never have the chance to know his grandmother.

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We held Mum’s funeral at our house on the Friday following her death.  Her gravestone was set up in the garden for symbolic purposes, but she wasn’t buried there – we were going to take her body to the family cemetery after the funeral, and lay her to rest beside her husband.

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The whole family came to the funeral, to say goodbye to Mum.  Aidan, now officially ‘middle-aged’, was there with his wife Violet, and their two youngest children Terrance and Jamie, who were both already in their teens.  Their eldest daughter, Iris, was apparently unable to make it.

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[Terrance]

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[Jamie]

Bridie was also there, and Cody, along with his wife Vivien.  Vivien had never had the chance to get to know Mum very well; I could only guess that she was here for Cody’s sake.

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The service was short, and I was thankful when our guests started to leave after only a few hours.  I needed the time alone.

After the funeral, we took Mum to the cemetery and buried her next to Dad, under the same tree.  I had never really been one for spirituality, but in this case I allowed myself the secret hope that wherever she was now, they were together, and they were happy.

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After all the excitement of funerals and new babies had died down, life in the family pretty much went back to normal.  Since ageing up, Di had gotten herself an imaginary friend, who she called Pat, and who appeared to be with her just about all of the time when she was at home.

Screenshot-292_miniIt became no longer safe to sit down in a chair without first making sure that Pat was not already sitting in it.  Of course, to us, it just looked like she was talking to thin air whenever she claimed to be talking to her imaginary friend.  But as long as she was still making ‘real’ friends at school, James and I didn’t have a problem with it.  It was likely that she would grow out of it eventually, anyway.

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And she had managed to make some ‘real’ friends already.  After only one week at school, Diana had become best friends with a girl in her class.  Her name was Denise Wells, and she was a vampire.  Although a phrase like that might inspire ridicule or alarm in most parents, vampires were a pretty common fixture in Bridgeport.  When you had lived your whole life in the same city, you learned not to think very much of things like that.  Ultimately, I was just happy that Di was happy.

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While her sister was busy building a social life at school, Emily was sleeping, eating, playing, and generally doing the sorts of things that toddlers normally get up to.

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Now that she was walking, and able to get around faster, she had really become quite mischievous.  It was as if she were trying to test how far she could push the boundaries by quite deliberately doing things we had told her a thousand times not to do.  Like playing in the toy box, for example.  Both James and I agreed that a fairly airtight wooden box with a heavy lid was not a safe place for an unsupervised toddler to be.  Emily, apparently, disagreed.

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She was also much harder to teach than her sister had been.  We knew that Di was a genius, but not only that, Emily’s attention span was frustratingly short.  It was difficult to get her to concentrate on learning to talk or use the potty long enough to get anything productive out of the experience.

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Of course, none of that meant that we loved her any less.  Emily had her faults, but she also had her charms.  She was our beautiful, special baby, just like her siblings, and we loved all three of them to bits.

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On the other hand, it certainly helped that Flynn, especially when compared to his sister, was a very quiet, well-behaved baby.  He rarely cried, slept easily, and was, generally speaking, a dream child.  Although I loved all my children dearly, the fact that Flynn was such an unusually well-behaved newborn undoubtedly helped me reserve the energy to keep up with the rumble-tumble ball of mischief that Emily had lately become.

Screenshot-20_miniOne evening, when James was at work and the girls were asleep, I took the opportunity to spend some quiet time bonding with my son.  It was several months since Flynn had been born, and already I could see the faint wisps of black on his tiny head.

I smiled, remembering my father, his kindness, and the wonderful way he had stood by Mum, my siblings and me no matter what happened.  Now, it was like a part of his was right here with me.  A tear dripped onto my baby’s face as I held him, and I wiped it away with a tender finger.

Screenshot-45_miniEven now, with both of my parents gone, maybe everything would be all right after all.

I certainly hoped so.


In case you’re wondering, the timing of Nicole’s death was not just for story purposes.  She actually did die in the game literally five seconds after she fulfilled her lifetime wish.  At the time, I really did wonder if the game was waiting until she had made it before letting her die.  She was 150 days old at the time (which is really old by the way, even though the lifespans in my game are well above average).

Chapter 2.15 – Motherhood

A “Deathfish”.

That’s what the book called it.

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I had read about this mysterious fish a long time ago, in one of the fishing books I bought entitled, “Fishing for the Dead”.  The title had immediately intrigued me, and I spent hours reading it thoroughly to find out all I could about the species.  According to the book, the Deathfish could only be found at night in a graveyard, and many a night after that was spent fishing unsuccessfully in the pond at the cemetery.  Eventually I just gave up, and moved on to pursuing other less elusive species of fish.  Until tonight, that is.

I had read all of my fishing books cover-to-cover.  I had caught samples of what I believed to be practically every fish species alive in Bridgeport, and I had gathered a hefty supply of Anglefish, which I had discovered were supposed to be the best bait for catching Deathfish.  If I was ever going to catch one, it had to have been tonight.  And, as you see, luck seemed to favour me.  I caught not one, not three, but five quality Deathfish.

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Despite the substantial amount of money each fish was worth, there was no way I was going to sell any of these after the effort it took to catch them.  Instead, I kept them safely in a tank at home until I could decide what I actually did want to do with them.

According to James, there were rumours that Deathfish was one of the key ingredients in a very rare dish that was said to have the power to reverse ageing and resurrect the dead.  I wasn’t sure I believed it myself, but I thought it would be pretty cool to keep them around anyway.

Besides catching Deathfish, my career as an angler was going pretty well on the whole.  One of the perks of pregnancy, for someone like me, was all the free time I had to go fishing due to the amount of ordinary activities I was restricted from doing.  In spite of James’ protests, I happily made my way to the shore most days with my fishing gear in tow, and walked home on my own as well.

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Now that I was seven months along, however, I was beginning to feel the pressure a bit.  I found walking long distances increasingly difficult, and the strain on my back was becoming harder to ignore.  Eventually, I conceded that, for the baby’s sake as well as my own, I wouldn’t be able to go on any more fishing trips until after I had given birth.

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The last morning that I went fishing was the morning I caught my first perfect piranha in the harbour on the other side of the city.  That brought my aquarium to full capacity at 13 fish, a task I had been aiming to fulfil since the building of the new house.  The sense of accomplishment that came with it meant that I would probably be much better equipped to last through several more months without so much as picking up a fishing rod.

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In the meantime, I had a child to care for.

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James, though not exactly family-oriented by nature, was the best father to our children I could ever have hoped for.  With the strain the pregnancy was putting on my back, I couldn’t bend over very easily or very often, so James took over the physically more demanding aspects of childcare like teaching Diana to stand and walk.

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But despite the fact that I was already pregnant with her younger brother or sister, I wanted to be sure to spend as much time as possible with Diana in those last few months.  I didn’t want my daughter to grow up with a mother who wasn’t there half the time, like I had done.  I wanted her to feel all the love and care I could give her, both before and after the new baby was born.

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But pregnancy combined with the energy I put into raising a toddler was starting to take its toll on my body.  I was practically dead on my feet, I was so tired, but I tried not to show it.

I should have known that James would know me better than that.  “You look exhausted, Bee,” he commented one afternoon.  He had just walked out of the nursery after putting Di down for her nap, and caught me in the middle of an impressively long yawn.

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I sighed.  “I am,” I admitted.  “This pregnancy is really wearing me out.  I can’t wait for this baby to be out already.”

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“Me neither,” he said, with a grin that dropped from his face the moment he looked back at me.  He reached out and touched his hand tenderly to my cheek.  “You’re pale,” he said, looking worried.  “You need to rest more.  Let me look after Di for today.”

I nodded.  Much as I wanted to spend time with my daughter, I knew he was right.  I needed to rest.  “Promise you’ll wake me up if anything happens?”

“Promise.”

That afternoon did me more good than I would have believed possible from a single nap.  In the end, James convinced me to sleep more at night and take naps whenever I needed it, with the result that the final few months of my pregnancy were a lot easier to bear than I had expected them to be.  In fact, Mum and James looked after Diana so well that, had I wanted to, I could have slept 24 hours a day.

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Now that I was a little less tired, I was able to start to enjoy being pregnant, as well as spending more time together with my Diana.  Though James and Mum were still taking care of the majority of childcare duties, I was still able to spend time playing with my daughter that I simply didn’t have the energy for two months ago.

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James fussed over me constantly, taking every opportunity to touch my tummy or talk to the baby, which was supposedly good for its development.

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“Hello, little one!  I’m your Daddy.  Your Mummy and I are so excited for you to come out, we love you so much already!”  I laughed – this was certainly a side of James I had never seen before, not even when I was pregnant with Diana.  I could only guess that having Di had shown him what he was missing, and that was why he was so excited for the new arrival.

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It was mere days before my due date when my water broke.  I was in the bathroom at the time, but my shout of surprise brought the other members of the household running.

“Is it time?” James asked anxiously as he dashed through the door.

I nodded, and gritted my teeth as the first contraction shot through my body, immobilising me completely.

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“Okay, Bee.  Let’s get you to the hospital.”

With James’ encouragement, I managed to slowly make my way to the car waiting outside, and from there James drove me to the hospital in town.  He was by my side throughout the whole thing, with an endless stream of encouragement and support.  I can’t honestly say that he made it less painful, but he certainly made the pain slightly easier to bear.

A gruelling twelve hours later, Emily Hunter made her way into the world.

A couple of weeks passed before the hospital cleared me for release, during which all of my friends and family came to visit multiple times, and James barely left my side.  In spite of all the love and gifts that were being showered on us, I couldn’t help feeling largely relieved when we were finally able to return home.

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Emily was beloved of all the family from the first moment they saw her.  Whenever James wasn’t in the kitchen or at work, he could consistently be found in the nursery, playing with his two daughters.

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His biggest competition for time with the girls was Mum, who seemed to have become double the doting grandparent she had been now that she had two granddaughters to spoil.

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Before Emily was born, we had been a little worried about how Diana would cope with no longer being the centre of attention.  As it turned out, she adjusted fairly well – tantrums were few and far between, and she was able to amuse herself for hours on end, making up games on her own or playing with the plethora of toys she had collected over the years.

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This was a relief for both James and myself, since it made the exhausting work that came with having a newborn in the house just that much easier.

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Time passed more quickly than I expected, and before I knew it Emily’s birthday was right around the corner.  James had made her a special cake, though she was still too young to enjoy it, and the whole family gathered round to watch as he helped her to blow out the candles.

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Emily grew into a practical clone of her older sister.  Like Diana, she had inherited her father’s blonde hair, and my own father’s sea-blue eyes.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way – she was a perfect angel.

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Neither James nor I had really had a chance to see Tyler since she had moved out, so one afternoon a few weeks after Emily’s birthday I called her and arranged a meet up.  Since we now had two toddlers to look after, Ty offered to come over to our place and hang out.

As soon as she stepped through the door, I noticed that something was different.  Tyler had always naturally had a very thin figure, but now there was a definite round bump over her abdomen.  A baby bump.

Noticing my eyes fixed on her belly, she laughed.  “You’re pregnant!” I gasped.

She giggled, and nodded in confirmation.  “Yep.”

“Oh, Ty, I’m so happy for you!”  I reached out and pulled her into a hug, for the first time in years.

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“Thanks, Bee.  I missed you,” she added as we drew apart.

“I missed you too,” I replied.  Then, remembering her condition, I added, “Do you want to go sit down?”

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Tyler giggled.  “Sure.”  We went and sat down on the nearest couch.  I made sure she was comfortable before I spoke again.

“So, I guess I can safely say that things are pretty good with Herb?”

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She grinned.  “Things are great.  I can’t believe I’m going to be a Mum.”  She sighed happily.  “I’m really looking forward to this baby, Bianca.”

“I can tell,” I smiled.

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“But…” she hesitated, looking worried.  I gave her an encouraging smile, and she continued.  “I don’t know that I’m ready,” she admitted.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Herb and I are both really young.  I’m only twenty-one.  What if I can’t handle having a baby?  What if I’m a bad mother?”

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She looked so stricken that my heart immediately went out to her.  Clearly, this was something that had been on her mind for a while.

“You won’t be a bad mother,” I told her firmly.  “You’re kind, and sweet, and you’re a wonderful aunt.  Diana already adores you.  I promise you’ll be just as great as a mum.”

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“You really think so?” she said doubtfully.

I smiled.  “I know so.”

Tyler smiled back, looking hopeful.  “Well, thanks.  I’ll take your word for it.  How are things on your end?” she added, clearly in an effort to change the subject.

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For the next half hour, we chatted on about various things, and I filled her in on everything that had gone on since she moved out.  Before she left, I took Tyler in to see Emily in the nursery.  They took to each other immediately.

“Hey, gorgeous girl!  I’m your Auntie Tyler.  It’s lovely to meet you!”

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It was well into the late afternoon by the time Tyler bid us and the girls goodbye.  I stood on the porch with Emily and waved to her until her car disappeared down the street.

“Bye-bye, auntie!” Emily called.

I smiled at my youngest daughter, but then immediately sighed.  Both of my girls were growing up so fast.  Diana would be starting school in a couple of years, and Emily was close behind.  Soon, my babies would be all grown up.

I had often wished for a bigger family, and now that the girls were getting older… I knew that James had always wanted a little boy.  Much as we loved our girls, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something missing… and the more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it.

I decided I would talk to James in the morning.

Chapter 2.14 – Bye-Bye Baby

“Hello, gorgeous.  Who’s my beautiful baby girl?”

I reached into her crib and scooped Diana into my arms, who gave a happy gurgle in response.

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“That’s right!” I cooed.  “You’re my beautiful girl, my special baby.  I love you so much.”

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Ever since Diana was born, our lives had changed dramatically.  I was no longer free to do whatever I wanted – my existence had suddenly become a cycle of crying, diapers, messes, gurgles, cuddles…

All of which was totally worth it.

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“How’s our girl?” asked James, stepping into the room behind me.  “Still wonderful?”  I turned to smile at him, and he winked back.

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James and I adored our Diana.  Difficult as it was, it never even occurred to me to regret having given birth to her.  She was the light in our lives we never knew we were missing.

James spent all his free time with Diana between when he got home from work and when she went to bed, and set aside the evenings for just the two of us.  He loved her more than anything else in the world, and showered her with kisses and cuddles.  On the flipside, he was always ready to help with childcare duties like feeding and changing, and even seemed to enjoy it, as an extra opportunity to spend time bonding with his baby daughter.

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Mum was just as much in love with Diana as we were, if not more so.  She doted on her and properly spoiled her like any good grandmother should, and happily babysat when James and I couldn’t be around or just needed a break.

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The last to fall under our baby’s spell was her Auntie Tyler, who had missed the birth but quickly caught up on affection after the first moment Diana was laid in her arms.  Tyler was our go-to babysitter, since Mum, much as she adored her granddaughter, tended to get tired out very easily in her old age.  Tyler was always happy to step in, unless she was busy or making plans to go out with friends.  I had my suspicions about the “friends” she was going out with, but after all, as I myself was constantly reminding James, she definitely wasn’t a child anymore.

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One evening, two years after Diana was born, Mum approached me where I was watching television in the living room.

“Bianca, honey,” she began cautiously.

I sighed, and stood up.  “What is it, Mum?”

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“I was just wondering if you were doing alright,” she said.  “With Diana, I mean.”

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I was silent as she continued.  “You just seem pretty worn out lately, and, well… I feel like you could use a little extra help.  I don’t want to upset you, but I’d be happy to-”

“No.”

She looked shocked.  “But, Bianca-”

“What are you saying, Mum?”  I cried.  “That I’m a bad mother?  I don’t need you or anyone else to try to help.  I’m fine, Diana’s fine, we don’t need you!”

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The shocked look on her face gave way to hurt.  “Bianca, honey, I didn’t mean-”

“I know what you meant, Mum.  Thanks, but no thanks.  I don’t need your help.  Please leave me alone.”

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Mum left the room, looking hurt, and I sat back down grumpily.  What had gotten into me?  How could I have talked to my Mum like that, when she was just trying to help?  I called Tyler to tell her I was going out, and to keep an eye on Diana, and then I left the house, collecting my fishing rod and tackle box on the way.

I drove all the way over the bridge and down to the shore on the other side of town.  Right now, I just wanted to get as far away as possible from everything.

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I stayed at the shore well into the afternoon, concentrating on staying in the moment to calm myself down.  I was getting close to my goal of having the perfect private aquarium back home… I was just hoping to catch a few more quality fish to complete my collection.  It was lucky really, that I had fought with Mum, because it gave me the opportunity to come out here and have some time to myself.  Even so, my more rational side countered, that still doesn’t explain the terrible way I acted towards her.  Normally, I would never-

Then it hit me.  And suddenly my mood was a hundred times better.

There was nothing wrong with me.  In fact, it was quite the opposite – there was something very right with me… something so right I felt as if I were practically glowing with happiness.

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“Bianca, you’re back!” Tyler cried as I walked in the door.  “You left your phone here, I was just about to come out to find you!  Did you forget it’s Diana’s birthday?”

Oh.  Whoops.  “Of course not,” I said with a smile, trying to sound convincing.  “I just needed a little time to myself, is all.  Where is the birthday girl?”

Smiling, Tyler handed my daughter to me and led us both to the cake sitting on the kitchen bench, which James had made earlier in the day before he left for work.

“Happy birthday, Di,” I murmured as I held my baby in my arms so she could see her cake.  “Make a wish!”

I leaned over and blew out the single candle, then placed Diana gently down on the floor to give her space to experience her first transition into toddlerhood.

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Now that she was older, it became clear that Di was a true mix of both her parents, having inherited James’ white-blond hair and my Dad’s blue eyes, which he had passed on to me and now to his granddaughter.

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She had taken a particular liking to a patchwork doll that Uncle Aidan and Auntie Violet had sent her when she was born, but she had never really been old enough to get much enjoyment from playing with it until now.  She named it Patches, and would spend hours on end sitting on her bedroom floor with the doll, playing imaginary games or singing made up songs.

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Di had grown even closer to Auntie Tyler after ageing up, since Tyler took over a lot of the childcare duties when James and I weren’t available.  On the evenings when it was just Tyler, Mum and Diana in the house, Ty was the only one who could get Diana to eat when she was in a bad mood, or to calm down enough to go to sleep.

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I think Mum was a bit jealous, to be honest, since she seemed to be making an extra effort to spend as much time as she could with her granddaughter.  Perhaps she was still feeling a bit lonely as well, though it had already been six years since Dad had died.  For whatever reason, I never grudged her the time she spent with Di.  I realised that it was possibly all she had left.

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Between Diana and her “friends”, Tyler was having a pretty busy post-high school life, even though she hadn’t yet managed to land a solid job.  One afternoon, she arrived home with a young man in tow.  James and I had been relaxing in the sitting room when they arrived, but rose to greet them as soon as we saw that she wasn’t alone.

Tyler exchanged a nervous glance with the boy before turning to us.  “James, Bianca,” she said hesitantly.  “I’d like you to meet my boyfriend, Herbert Striker.  Herb, this is my brother, James, and my sister-in-law, Bianca.”

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“Pleased to meet you,” said Herb pleasantly, reaching out to shake each of our hands in turn.  “Tyler’s told me a lot about you.”

I looked at James, and noticed the hard, intimidating stare he was directing at poor Herb, who was starting to sweat nervously.  I was about to intervene, but Tyler got there first.

“James, I know what you’re thinking,” she said quickly, stepping between her brother and boyfriend.  “But Herb is different.  He’s kind, and good, and he treats me properly, like a real gentleman.  I promise it’s not the same as last time.”

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James remained unmoving, and Tyler hung her head in disappointment.  “I just want you to be happy for me,” she whispered.

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His expression softened, and I stepped forward.  “Tyler, can I talk to you for a moment?” I asked.

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She nodded, and I turned to Herb.  “Could you leave us alone for a minute, Herb?  I need to talk to Tyler.”

“Sure, Bianca,” he said with a smile, and went to sit down a short distance away to give us privacy.  When he had gone, I turned back to Tyler.

“What’s going on?  I thought you were still with Aron.”

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I was surprised when she laughed.  “I dumped him a while ago,” she said, “after I found out he was dating at least three other girls at the same time as me.”

“Oh Ty…” I began sympathetically, but she cut me off.

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“It’s fine, I’m over it.  I’m with Herb now, and he’s really great.”  Seeing the way her whole face lit up every time she said his name, I believed her.

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“So, why didn’t you tell us?” I asked.  I had to admit I was a little hurt that she hadn’t wanted to share with us something that was as important to her as this clearly was.

She sighed.  “I was worried that you’d react like last time.  Especially James.  He’s too protective, I didn’t want him to go for Herb the way he did with Aron.”

“Oh Ty, you know James just-”

“Doesn’t want me to get hurt, wants me to be happy, etcetera.  I know,” she finished my sentence with a grin.  “It’s just… I didn’t want to risk it.  I’m sorry I lied to you.”

“Oh, honey, I’m just happy that you’re happy.”  I reached out, and pulled her into a tight hug.

“I really am, Bee.”  She smiled.

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“That reminds me,” I added as I pulled away, “I have some exciting news as well.”

She gasped, and her eyes grew wide.  “What is it?”

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I glanced at James, and grinned.  “You’re going to be an auntie again.”

Tyler let out a little squeal of excitement, and started bouncing up and down on the spot.  “Oh my- seriously?  You’re pregnant?”

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“Shh!” I hushed her quickly.  In a whisper, I added, “I haven’t told Mum yet.”

“Oh.”  She stopped bouncing, but after making sure Mum was still in the next room with her back to us, she winked and gave me a silent thumbs up.

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“That’s amazing, Bee,” she whispered.  “Congratulations.  Hey,” she added excitedly.  “Can I feel it?”

I laughed.  “There’s not much there yet, but sure, if you want.”

Gingerly, she stretched out her hands and placed them on my belly.  “This is amazing,” she whispered.

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I giggled.  “You can’t feel anything!”  She laughed as well.

“No, but I know it’s there.  That’s why it’s so cool.”

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She stood back up, and said soberly, “I’m sorry I won’t be here to see it.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, alarmed.

“I want to move out.  Herb and I have been together for a couple of years now, and we want to start living together for a while before we get married.”

I sighed.  “I understand,” I told her.  “I’ll miss you, Ty.”

“I’ll miss you too,” she said sadly, pulling me into a second hug.  Over her shoulder, I could see James approaching us from the other side of the room, where he seemed to have been having a conversation with Herb.

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“When do you think I should tell James?”  Tyler said in my ear.

“Tell me what?” His voice startled Tyler, and she jumped away from me as though we had been caught in wrongdoing.

I grimaced at her.  “No time like the present.”

After a moment’s hesitation, she nodded resolutely, and turned to her brother.

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“James…” she took a deep breath, closing her eyes as though she was afraid of seeing his reaction.  “James, I want to move out and live with Herb.”

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“Okay,” he said.

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Tyler opened her eyes, looking shocked.  “’Okay’?” she repeated incredulously.  “Did you hear what I said?”

James chuckled.  “Of course I did, Ty.  You want to move out and live with Herb.  That’s fine by me.  What?” he laughed, glancing at her shocked expression.  “Did you think I was going to forbid you from leaving the house?  I’m not that bad!  I knew you were going to want to move out someday, it’s only natural.  I would have been more worried if you’d wanted to stay here your whole life.”

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Tyler still looked dubious, as though she thought James was playing a joke on her.  “And… what about Herb?”

James sighed.  “He’s a good guy, Ty.  I was talking to him just now.  Of course, no one’s good enough for my baby sister, but this one’s pretty close.” He grinned.

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Tyler smiled, then sighed, and threw herself into his arms.  “I’m going to miss you, big brother.”

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His arms went around her and he hugged her back tightly.  “Me too, sis.  But it’s time, yeah?”

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She nodded.  “It’s time.”

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Herb came downstairs at that moment, carrying Tyler’s suitcase full of her things.  “You ready to go, Ty?”

“Yeah.”  She turned back to James and me.  “Thanks for everything, both of you.”

“Promise you’ll visit?” I said desperately.

Tyler grinned.  “Of course.  I couldn’t stay away.  Don’t worry, you’ll still be seeing me around.”

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I nodded.  My hand found its way into James’ as we stood in the hall, watching Tyler walk out the front door.  A turn on the threshold – a final wave – a kiss thrown carelessly over her shoulder… and she was gone.

Chapter 2.13 – Hook, Line and Sinker

Warning:  This chapter contains sim nudity and adult situations.


This was it.  The big day.  Theoretically, the biggest day of my life.

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My sister had been there in the morning to help me get ready, and then to drive me to the park where we were holding the wedding.  The location was my choice – I had always wanted to be married outdoors, and James assured me that he was happy as long as I was.

We had allowed Tyler to invite Aron to the wedding as her date.  They seemed to be getting pretty serious, and James and I were trying our best to get to know him as a permanent part of Tyler’s life, whether we agreed with it or not.  Tyler had assured us that he wouldn’t disrupt anything, but he didn’t seem very pleased to be there all the same.

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My siblings were all invited, of course.  Aidan and Violet arrived first, with their two eldest children, Iris and Terrance.  Baby Jamie, being rather too young to come to a wedding, was at home with her babysitter.  Bridie was single for the moment, but Cody, to our surprise, was already engaged to a girl he had supposedly met in high school, who had come with him as his date.  I had never seen my little brother so happy.

When Bridie and I arrived at the venue, everyone was already gathered around the wedding arch, waiting for the ceremony to start.  Waiting for me.  I took a deep breath before stepping out of the car.  Since Dad was already gone, I walked down the aisle alone, trying my best to suppress my tears as I thought of how he would have loved to be here today.  I felt certain that, wherever he was, he would surely be watching anyway.

My breath caught in my throat and thoughts of all else were swept from my mind as I looked up, and my eyes met James’.  I held his gaze, smiling, as I made my way up the aisle and took my place at his side.  I had never loved him more than I did at that moment – I belonged to him, and him to me.

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We recited our vows in the sunshine, surrounded by the loving faces of family and friends.  Afterwards, it was time for the exchange of rings.  My hands shook as he slid the gold band onto my finger… not from fear or nervousness, but from the combination of wonderful emotions that was swirling inside me, the enormity of which I could never have expressed in words.

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Our family and friends cried and cheered as we shared our first kiss as husband and wife.  Safe in his arms, the reality of the situation finally hit me.  I was married.  To James.  Without a doubt, this was the happiest day of my life.

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After the ceremony was over, it was time to celebrate with the wedding feast.  James took my hand and led me to a table on the other side of the fountain where the wedding cake stood in all its glory, with a knife laid on a plate beside it.  The assembled guests cheered as I cut the first slice, then allowed Bridie to take over serving of food while James and I took our places at the nearest table.

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My sister had done a wonderful job – everything was perfect, from the venue, to the food, to the music.  When we had finished eating, James stood up from his seat, and held his hand out to me.

“May I have this dance?”

I nodded and smiled, too choked up to speak at the memory his words had recalled.  A family barbecue a few years back… the music, the feeling of his arms around me… the first hint of realisation of my feelings for him.  Who would have thought that would lead to a day like this?

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I was so absorbed in him as he twirled me around in time with the music that I never noticed the rest of the guests join us on the dance floor, or even how dark the evening sky was becoming.

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As much fun as I was having, I was relieved when a slow song came on, and I came to rest in his arms as we swayed gently on the spot.

“Man, I really lucked out,” he murmured with a grin, looking into my eyes as we danced.  “You look beautiful, Bee.”

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I giggled, and sighed happily.  “That’s my line,” I told him, planting a tender kiss on his lips.

His hand gently stroked my cheek as he pulled away.  “I love you,” he whispered.

“I love you more.”

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I smiled, and kissed him again.  Words could not express how dizzyingly happy I felt in that moment.  And it could only get better from there.

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Two hours after the end of the wedding, I was back at home and in bed.  Happy as I was, the ceremony had been completely exhausting, and I was ready for a good night’s sleep.  In spite of my exhaustion, however, my wedding night was one thing I wasn’t planning on missing.

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“Are you sure you want to do this?” James asked me, concerned.  “If you want to, we can wait…”

“Why?” I asked teasingly.  “Don’t you want to?”

He sucked in a pained breath through his teeth, though his eyes never left mine.  “You know I do.”

“Okay,” I whispered.  I tightened my grip on the back of his neck and pulled his head down to mine.  He hesitated for only a second, giving me time to change my mind, before his lips parted and he returned my kiss with a passion that took my breath away.

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We stayed in bed together for hours, enjoying our first night as husband and wife.

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And by the time the first light of dawn crept over the horizon, I was asleep in James’ arms, exhausted from what I could safely call the best twenty four hours of my life.

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We had decided to spend our honeymoon at home, just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.  James took time off work at the restaurant, and I put my angling on hold for a few weeks.  The fish would still be there when I got back.

It was a few months after our honeymoon that I first started to feel sick in the mornings.

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At the start, I just assumed that it was some sort of violent bug, but by the end of two weeks I knew that something was either seriously wrong… or seriously right.

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A visit to the doctor’s office the following week confirmed my suspicions… it looked like concentrating on my career might have to wait a little bit longer.

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My pregnancy was hard on everyone in the household, myself obviously included.  From dealing with my mood swings to trying to satisfy my wild cravings, James especially had a hard nine months of it.  He was wonderful, though, and always made sure to get me whatever I needed at the time.  Usually, he would cook for me and leave meals in the fridge, since my appetite was suddenly far beyond that of anyone else’s, and I would begin to crave various dishes at any given hour of the day or night.

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My main solace was found in fishing, which was one thing that (thankfully) my doctor had still allowed me to do now that I was pregnant.  I had always been my calmest self what I was alone by the water, and it provided what I’m sure was a welcome break for James from meeting my demands.

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When she was home, Tyler tried to do her part by helping James with the cooking. She had recently gone on a health kick which she was trying to encourage me to join, so spent a lot of time making me smoothies and various other concoctions that were supposed to help curb my symptoms.  I drank them to spare her feelings, although privately I had my reservations about their effectiveness.

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Mum was understandably thrilled by the impending arrival of her third grandchild, taking every opportunity to feel my tummy, talk to it, sing to it… anything she insisted would help the baby’s growth.  Knowing how lonely she had been, I knew how much this must mean to her, so I humoured her as best I could.

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As my pregnancy progressed, so did my appetite.  I stuffed myself with all the breakfast foods I could get my hands on.  At this point, James stopped making me my own meals out of concern for my health, thinking I was eating too much.  Perhaps, in retrospect, four plates of waffles in one hour was a bit excessive, but at the time I just couldn’t get enough.

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On the whole, everyone except me was pretty relieved the day I went into labour.  I wasn’t too stuck on it, frankly.  I had never felt so much pain in my life.

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James was luckily home at the time, and as soon as he heard my scream he rushed to comfort me, and then went to fetch the car so he could drive me to the hospital.  He stayed with me throughout the whole ordeal, doing anything he could to help soothe the pain.  I honestly don’t know what I would have done without him.

But after fourteen hours of excruciating torture, just as the first rays of morning sunlight were spreading over the harbour, everything suddenly became worth it.

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We both stayed in the hospital for several weeks after the birth to recover, until finally I was allowed to bring my daughter home.

Welcome to the world, baby Diana.

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Chapter 2.12 – Party Girl

WARNING:  This chapter contains sim nudity.


I spent the entirety of our second day in Egypt fishing in the pond, and ended up catching more frogs, crocodiles and Alley Catfish than I could possibly take home with me.

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In the evening, I had arranged to meet James at the restaurant in the marketplace for our second and final dinner for the trip.  He insisted on ordering the most expensive dish on their menu, which meant my favourite dish, grilled salmon, for both of us.

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In spite of the gorgeous dinner, I couldn’t help feeling like something was off between us tonight.  James seemed quieter than usual, and seemed to be finding it difficult to look me in the eye.

“Is everything all right?” I asked him, concerned.

“What?” he dropped his fork, and sat up straighter.  “Yes, everything’s fine.  How’s your salmon?”

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“Really good,” I smiled.  “Thank you.”  He was definitely behaving strangely.  “Are you sure you’re okay?”

James made a visible effort to relax.  “I’m sure,” he said, with a smile that seemed a little forced.

I nodded, popping a last forkful of fish into my mouth.

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When I was finished, I stood up.  “Shall we go back to camp, then?” I suggested.

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“Actually…” James looked away, scratching the back of his head nervously.  “There’s this place I wanted to show you.  Could we go there instead?”  Yep, definitely something going on.

I shrugged.  “Sure, why not?  Lead the way.”

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The place James brought me to turned out to be a small lake, similar to the one I had been fishing at, but surrounded with lush grass and palm trees.  I stared at it for a few moments, speechless.

“Do you like it?”  James asked hesitantly from behind me.

I turned around, and took both his hands in mine.  “It’s beautiful,” I told him earnestly.  “How did you find this place?”

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“I just stumbled across it when I was exploring today,” he explained offhandedly.  He let go of my hands, walked a few feet away and sat down on the grass in the middle of a patch of lilac flowers.  He seemed much more relaxed now that we were here.  Smiling, I went over and sat down beside him.

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I felt his hand brush against mine as he passed an arm around me and we both leaned back, gazing up at the Egyptian night sky.  Here, away from the city lights back home, the stars seemed brighter, closer, more dazzling.

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After a few minutes of comfortable silence, James spoke.

“Do you remember the first time we looked at the stars together like this?”

I smiled at the recollection.  “Yeah.  I like to think of it as the day you let me in.  You told me what was really going on with you and Tyler, you let me help you for once.”

He sighed.  “I remember… you told me you loved me.  I still can’t describe the way that made me feel.  I knew you didn’t mean it like that… but I was crazy about you, even then.”

“Even when I yelled at you?”

He chuckled, and kissed my cheek.  “Especially when you yelled at me.”

Smiling, we both fell silent again.

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A few moments later, James withdrew his arm and stood up.  Confused, I stumbled to my feet as well.

“Is there something wrong?”

“No,” he assured me, reaching out to stroke my cheek.  “There’s just something I wanted to ask you.”

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I waited curiously while he reached down, fumbling with something in his pocket.  Then he dropped down on one knee and opened the tiny box, and I felt my eyes start to well up with tears of joy.

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James took a deep breath before he spoke.  “Bianca Hunter,” he began, while I fought to stop the sob threatening to escape me.  “The first time we met on the beach, you won my heart with your kindness, quick mind and generosity of spirit.  You were my first and best friend since arriving in Bridgeport, and as I grew to know you better, I realised just how lucky I am to have you in my life.  I have loved you since the moment I met you, and more every day since.  I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you by my side.  Will you marry me?”

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I nodded, finding myself momentarily speechless.  “Yes!” I managed to gasp.  “Yes, of course I’ll marry you.”  I had never been surer of anything in my life.

With the biggest smile I had ever seen, he carefully lifted the ring out of the box and threaded it onto my finger.

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The moment he stood up, I threw myself into his arms.  Everything was perfect… I couldn’t have imagined anything better.

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As soon as we got home, the best frog and the best Alley Catfish I caught in Egypt went into bowls in my ‘fish room’.  The rest I kept to stock the garden pond, so I would be able to catch the same fish again without travelling to Egypt.

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Winter had well and truly set in back home while we had been away.  The pond was frozen over, so for the first time ever I could go ice skating in my own yard.

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The ocean, in fact, was the only water in town that wasn’t frozen solid.  In my determination to learn more about the winter marine life of Bridgeport, I was down at the beach most afternoons with my rod and tackle.

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Ordinarily under such circumstances, Mum would have called me crazy, but as it happens she was even more fixated on her career than I was.  She was still striving to reach the top as a singer, and was performing gigs year-round at various locations around the town.

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Tyler, meanwhile, was steaming ahead in her relationship with Aron, despite James’ and my obvious disapproval.

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He had been her date to the Junior Prom a few days ago, which of course we never heard about until James caught the two of them sneaking out together.  Tyler had looked very pretty in her dress, I just wished she had someone more worthwhile to share a special night like that with – especially since I had my suspicions about just how special that night was for her.

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Ever since our return from Egypt, both James and I spent a lot of time reading up on our respective hobbies.  While I poured over fishing manuals, James, beside me, studied recipes like his life depended on it.

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One morning a week after we had returned home from Egypt, I was feeding my fish when my cellphone rang.  The name on the caller ID was my sister’s.

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“Hey Bridie, what’s up?”

“Bianca!  Not much, I was just calling to check up on you.  How was Egypt?  Tell me all about it!”

I couldn’t help but laugh a little.  My sister had always been a bit excitable.

“Egypt was great.  I got engaged,” I added with a grin.

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“Engaged!  That’s amazing, Bianca!  It’s to James, I hope.”

I giggled.  “Of course it is, silly.”

“Wow, Bianca… we need to organise your bachelorette party.”

Oh, no.  “Um, Bridie, I wasn’t planning on having a bachelorette party…”

“What?!” she gasped.  “You have to!  Come on, Bianca, it’s traditional, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event!  Well… hopefully.”

“I don’t know, Bridie… it’s not really my thing.”

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It took several minutes for her to convince me, but eventually I gave in and even agreed to host.

“As long as you’ll be there,” I reminded her.

Bridie scoffed.  “Of course I’ll be there, I wouldn’t miss it!  Don’t worry, I’ll take care of the guest list and everything, you just have to be there and look good!  Oh, and we’ll have to have it at your place, mine’s nowhere near big enough.”

I sighed.  “Okay, Bridie.  I’ll see you later.”

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from a bachelorette party, but I trusted my sister even if she was way out of my comfort zone sometimes.  James and Mum preferred to stay out of the way, but I allowed Tyler to come to the party on the condition that she stayed away from the alcohol.

The big day arrived, and according to Bridie’s instructions I let my hair down, put on showy make-up and slipped into a minidress for the first time in years.  Looking in the mirror, I almost didn’t recognise myself.

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As I came downstairs, I was shocked to find my house suddenly full of scantily dressed women – and in the middle of Winter.  I recognised most of the girls from high school, but there were also a few men there that I guessed Bridie had taken the liberty of inviting herself.

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“Male strippers?!” I yelled over the deafening music.  “Bridie, really?”

“She’s here!” my sister squealed, ignoring my comment.  Giggling, she grabbed my hand and dragged me into the middle of the room.  “Break open the booze!  Let’s get this party started!”

Someone passed Bridie a bottle of champagne, and she popped the cork with practised ease.  Holding her thumb over the opening, she began to shake the bottle vigorously with a wicked grin on her face.

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“Bridie…!”  I realised a second too late what she was doing, and the next thing I knew, I was dripping in champagne.

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“Bridie!  Oh my god!”  I couldn’t help but giggle.  The wild atmosphere was starting to get to me.

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In spite of my best intentions, I ended up enjoying the evening immensely – which may have been helped by the fact that my sister managed to get me completely drunk within the first hour.

I stumbled upstairs to the bedroom well after midnight, drunk and exhausted.  Thank god for my sister, who helped me remove my make-up and get changed before she left.  “Never wear that stuff to bed, unless it’s to bed with a cute guy,” she told me with a wink.  I had giggled uncontrollably at the time.

Exhausted, I fell onto the bed, not even noticing that it was already occupied.

“Hey,” James said with a grin as I fell into his arms.  “Fun night?”

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I giggled and nodded.  “Better than expected.”  At least that’s what I think I said, but judging by the bemused look on his face, it probably wasn’t quite what came out.

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James shook his head.  “Damn, Bridie really got you into the alcohol, huh?”

I giggled again.  “Uh-huh.”  Linking my hands in his, I slid forwards and pulled him towards me for a kiss.

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James grinned as he pushed me away.  “Come on, Bee, you need to rest.  Just sleep tonight, okay?”

I nodded without really knowing what I was agreeing to, and rolled over onto his offered arm.  The last thing I remembered was the weight of James’ arm resting protectively on top of me, as I drifted into unconsciousness.

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Some Bonus Pictures from Bianca’s bachelorette party:

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(Isn’t she beautiful? :3)

Chapter 2.11 – Land of the Pharaohs

Cody moved out the next morning, after enduring several of Mum’s “goodbye” hugs and promising her that he would call home every day. (Privately, I thought that promise was a bit too much to keep.)

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We were impressed to learn that he had already gotten a job and rented himself an apartment in the city.  Of course, I told him that we would always be happy to help him financially whenever he needed it.  In the meantime, I was proud of my little brother for being so independent.

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I had not expected Mum to recover from Cody’s departure as quickly as she did, but was pleasantly surprised to find her back to normal within a few days.  Being the gifted musician that she was, she had lately taken an interest in the piano, which none of us had touched since we bought it with the new house.  Quite apart from the fact that it was finally being used, I was happy for Mum that she had found a new hobby to distract her from the loneliness she was suffering ever since Dad had died.

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“I am exhausted,”  James announced, as he threw himself onto the couch beside me.  It was evening, several days after Cody had moved out, and he had just returned from work.

“Hard day?” I asked sympathetically.

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“Brutal,” he replied.  “I swear, I’ve never seen the place so busy.  The wait for a table was thirty minutes, I didn’t get a break all day.”

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“That sucks,” I agreed sympathetically.

He sighed, and gave me a tired smile.  “At least I had seeing you to look forward to.”  He leaned over and kissed me tenderly.  Smiling, I kissed him back.

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“You know,” I said as we pulled away, “I think you need a holiday.”

“Nah, I’m alright,” James replied.  He looked at my disappointed expression, and chuckled.  “Oh, you mean you want a holiday.”

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I laughed – he’d got me there.  “I do,” I admitted.  “I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt.  I think it would do us both good.”

James was quiet for a moment, obviously thinking.  “Okay,” he agreed at last.

I gasped.  “Are you serious?  We can go to Egypt?”  I hadn’t expected him to agree so easily.

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“Sure, why not?” he smiled.  “Just you and me?”

“Sounds perfect,” I was beaming from ear to ear as I threw my arms around his neck and pressed my lips against his.  “I love you, James.”

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He smiled against my lips.  “I love you, too.”

James insisted on making all the preparations for our trip, in spite of my protests that he should let someone else do the work for once.  The trip was booked and paid for by the next day, and it was finally a reality – we were going to Egypt!

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Two weeks later, our plane touched down at the airport in Al Simhara.  We were transported to our campsite in an airport shuttle bus, where we hired a two-man tent and a pair of motor scooters to get around town.

After we had finished pitching our tent together, I took the opportunity to stand up and look around for the first time since we had arrived.  The sparkling sand, stretching into the distance as far as I could see, was liberally dotted with exotic plants and trees.  Preserved obelisks and other ancient statues decorated the campsite, and I could even see the giant pyramids looming on the horizon.  It really was a beautiful area.

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“Excited?” James asked as he emerged from the open tent.

I grinned at him.  “Very.  I can’t wait to start exploring.  I wonder if they have any good fishing spots here?”

James laughed.  “Trust you to bring your fishing gear to a desert.  I’m sure there are some ponds around the place.”

“I hope so.”

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“In the meantime, though,” he continued, “I think we should explore the main town a bit.  I hear the markets are pretty good.”

I nodded in agreement.  “Right behind you.”

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To say that the market was ‘pretty good’ turned out to be a drastic understatement.  I spent the morning wandering around the stalls, completely absorbed in examining the artefacts on display.

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They sold everything, from partially destroyed sculptures to canopic jars recovered from burial tombs and replicas of ancient fans.

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Although communication was difficult, given my lack of skill in foreign languages, the shop owners were very friendly and happy to show me all of their saleable items.  Of course, the most valuable artefacts were kept for museums or preserved in the original tombs, so those sold in the market were fairly common, though still undeniably beautiful.

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My favourite stall was in a small garden around the back of the main marketplace, where an old woman sold various necessary items for adventurers and tomb explorers.  I didn’t plan on exploring any tombs on this particular trip, so I had little interest in the merchandise itself, but the garden was definitely the loveliest place I had encountered so far.

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Around midday, when the sun was at its highest, I heard James call me over from the other side of the marketplace.

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“What’s up?” I asked when I reached him.

“I’m hungry,” he replied.  “Want to get some lunch?  There’s a food stall just over there.”

“Sure,” I grinned.  Now that he mentioned it, I was feeling pretty hungry myself.

We walked together to the restaurant in the corner of the market and were seated at an outside table.  James was especially excited to sample the culinary side of Egyptian culture, so we both ordered what the menu described as a traditional egg dish for lunch.

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“What do you think?” I asked him, after we had taken our first few mouthfuls of the food.

“It’s good!” he announced enthusiastically.  “I’ll need to get a recipe for this while we’re here.”

I nodded as I swallowed my own mouthful.  Then I put my fork down.

“So, what’s on the agenda for this afternoon?” I asked.

“Well, I know how much you’re dying to do some fishing here, and I’d like to find a bookshop, so I was thinking we could split up and explore a bit.”

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“Are you sure?”  While I was definitely looking forward to hunting out some good fishing spots, I also wanted to spend some time with my boyfriend.

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“Yeah,” he smiled.  I finished my meal, and we both stood up.  Noticing my concern, he reached out and took my hands in his.  “It’ll be fine,” he told me.  “We’ll meet back at the camp tonight, okay?”

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“Okay.”  I returned his smile, and squeezed his hands tighter.  “Have I mentioned that I love you?”

A mischievous grin lit up his face.  “Only once or twice… I’ve almost forgotten…”

I laughed, and pulled him towards me for a kiss.  “I love you,” I whispered.  “I’ll see you tonight, okay?”

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He nodded, and I walked away.

The first place I went to explore was the Great Pyramid.  I wasn’t planning on actually going inside, just on being there so I could say I’d seen it with my own eyes.  It was much bigger than I had expected, even having seen it in the distance when we’d arrived that morning.  Standing at the foot of the massive structure, I could barely even glimpse the top.  Even the entrance was enormous.

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From the pyramids, I was on my way to the Sphinx, when something else caught my eye.  a few hundred metres away across the sand was a small group of trees, their feet littered with rocks and bushes – and in the centre, the tell-tale glitter of still water.

I hoisted my rod and fishing box into my arms, and made a beeline for the water instead.  Perhaps I would find some unique species of fish here for my collection.

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The secluded pond turned out to be a perfect spot for fishing – I could see at a glance that it was teeming with life.  The moment the rod was in my hands again, I felt perfectly at ease.  I was in my element.

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As luck would have it, I did catch several new animals, including frogs and even a few small crocodiles, that I hadn’t even known could be caught would a simple fishing line.  I would have to go back to my fishing books when I got home.

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I was enjoying myself so much that I completely lost track of the time.  It was well after sunset by the time I remembered that I had promised to meet James back at the camp soon.  Panicked, I packed away my fishing equipment, loaded everything into the back of my scooter and sped off down the hill to the main road.

By the time I reached the camp, James was already waiting for me by the fire pit.  I walked over and sank down into the chair opposite him.

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He smiled when he saw me.  “Hey.”

“Hey.”

“How was your afternoon?”

“Great, actually.”  I told him about the fishing spot I had found, and the new animals I had caught there.  “I want to catch enough here to take home and stock the pond in the garden.”

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“Sounds good, Bee,” he smiled.

“How was yours?  Did you get the recipes you wanted?”

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“Sure did,” he confirmed with a grin.  “Those and more.  Their English book range was a bit limited, but I managed to get a few books of Egyptian recipes that I can read.”

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“Have you eaten yet?” I asked.

“Nope, I was waiting for you.”  He pulled a couple of fire pokers out from under the pit and indicated a crate on the ground at his feet.  “I brought food, so we can cook it over the fire.”

“Sounds good,” I grinned.  I pulled a sausage out of its packet in the crate and skewered it on the end of my poker.  “I’ll start with this one.”  I looked up at him after a moment, and couldn’t help but burst out laughing when I saw the amount of food he had loaded onto his own poker.  “You got enough there?” I asked.

He grinned at me.  “What?  I can cook it all at once this way.”

I giggled.  “Whatever you say, ‘Monsieur Chef.'”  I reached into the crate and pulled out a handful of sausages and some extra pieces of fruit and vegetables, securing the whole lot on the end of my poker and pointing it towards the fire.

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“See?” he said, holding his poker up after a few moments.  “Perfect.”  The sausages on the outside were certainly a good deal browner, but I wasn’t too sure how evenly they could be cooked.

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I laughed.  “If you say so.”

We ate as much food as we could, until we were too full to take another bite.  Then we leaned back in our chairs and just relaxed by the fire.

“Are you having fun?” James said after a few moments.

I smiled at him.  “Definitely.  I’m so glad we decided to come here.”

“Me too.”

I picked up my empty poker and began to idly prod the coals in the bottom of the firepit.

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“Bianca?”

I looked up at him.  “Yeah?”  He was staring at me with an unusually soft expression and a small smile gracing his lips, as though I was the most wonderful thing he had ever seen.

“I love you.”

I smiled.  “What a coincidence.”