Chapter 4.2 – Rising Tides

You’re probably all tired of hearing my apologies. So all I’m going to say here is, given that it’s been such a long time, it would not surprise me if most of you have kind of forgotten what’s going on with Gabriel. If that’s you, I would recommend rereading his first chapter, The Artistbefore reading this one, as this chapter picks up right where the previous one left off.


“Hugo? Open up. I need to talk to you.”

No answer.

I knocked again. “Come on, Hugo. I know you’re in there.”

“He’s downstairs.”

I turned at the sound of Hope’s voice. “What’s he doing down there?” I asked, surprised.

She sighed. “Exercising, what else? What happened between you two?”

“I… don’t really know,” I admitted. “It’s kind of a long story. I think he’s angry with me over a girl?”

Hope groaned. “What else is new?” she muttered. As she turned to enter her own room, she added, “You’d better go talk to him. I’m not sure it’ll help the situation, but he might end up killing himself from overexertion if you don’t.”

I grimaced, and nodded, knowing that she was only half joking. I made my way downstairs to the rec room, where the communal exercise equipment was located, and found Hugo pumping out pull-ups like his life depended on it.

“Uh… hey,” I said uncertainly. “Can we talk?”

Hugo ignored me. I couldn’t blame him. In the back of my mind, I had begun to form an inkling of what might have happened in the lead-up to tonight, and I honestly expected him to storm out of the room again, or punch me, but he did neither. He just pushed on with his workout as though I wasn’t there, a tightening of his muscles and a deepening scowl on his face the only indications that he was even aware of my presence.

Several minutes passed, the tension between us becoming thicker by the second. More than once, I considered just giving up and going back to my room. It would be much easier to simply ignore whatever problem Hugo had with me and lose myself in my art, but I knew that if I didn’t address this now, things would only get worse. So I waited. After about ten minutes, my brother lowered himself down to the floor with a grunt of exertion, dusted off his hands, wiped the sweat off his face with a towel and gulped down several mouthfuls of water from the bottle at his feet. Only then did he deign to acknowledge my presence, turning and meeting my hopeful gaze with an angry glare. It was clear that I would have to be the one to extend the olive branch in this case.

“Can I talk to you?” I asked again. “Please?”

“What about?” he snarled. “Come to gloat?”

“What? No, of course not. Look, what you saw up there… it wasn’t what it looked like.”

“Oh?” his face hardened, disbelief etched in every line. “So you weren’t kissing Adelaide in your bedroom, then?”

“No! I mean, yes, technically… but it wasn’t like that-”

Hugo cut me off with a growl. “I suggest you get your story straight next time you come here trying to act like you didn’t just screw me over. Again. I don’t care how you’re trying to justify it, I know what I saw. Now get out of my way, I’m going to bed.”

He turned to leave, but I grabbed his arm to stop him. “What do you mean, ‘again’? When has this ever happened before?”

“When has it not?” he retorted. He slapped my hand away and rounded on me instead. “I always come second place to you, and you know it.”

Second place? What are you even talking about?”

‘Gabriel’s so smart! Gabriel’s so talented! Gabriel’s so hot and brooding and mysterious! Are you Gabriel’s brother? Oh, wow, can you introduce me to him?'” He dropped the high-pitched voice and glared at me. “I hear that shit every class I go to. So don’t you dare try to tell me it’s all in my head!”

I stared him, stunned. “Is that what this is about?” I spluttered in disbelief. “You’re mad at me because you’re… jealous, or something?”

Hugo’s scowl deepened, and his hands curled into fists at his side. “I’m mad at you because I’m sick of living in your shadow, Gabriel. I’m sick of always being second-best to you. I’m mad because it’s not enough for you to go about kissing a girl you know I had feelings for, you had to shove it in my face like she was some trophy you won!”

I gaped at him, speechless. Was that really what he thought had happened? There had to be something I could say to defend myself, but  no words came to mind.

“Nothing to say, huh?” he snarled. “I figured as much.”

I swallowed, knowing if I didn’t say something soon, he would give up and I’d lose any chance I had at redemption. “Hugo… please,” I managed. “Let me explain.”

“Explain what, exactly? What is there to explain?”

“First of all, I don’t have any feelings for Adelaide. She kissed me. I didn’t even know she liked me that way!”

“Right, she came on to you,” Hugo repeated, his tone dripping with sarcasm. “And she invited herself over as well, did she?”

“Well… no, but-”

“Seriously, Gabriel? How do you expect me to believe that? You invited her over to your house, took her to your room, with purely platonic intentions in mind, is that it?”

“Yes! I didn’t realise what it would look like. I didn’t know she liked me, and I didn’t know that you had feelings for her. I wouldn’t have brought her here if I’d known.”

“That’s the biggest pile of bullshit I’ve ever heard. No one is that thick, especially not ‘Mr. Genius’ himself. Just because I can’t do equations in my head or whatever doesn’t mean I’m an idiot, Gabriel. And only an idiot would believe that story. So save it for someone who cares.”

And with that, he turned and left the room. Moments later, the slam of an upstairs door echoed through the house. I sighed. I wasn’t the most intuitive person on Earth, but I was beginning to understand that whatever this was between Hugo and me ran a lot deeper than I had realised.

* * *

The following Saturday, the entire family was seated at the breakfast table (a rarity in itself) eating pancakes Mum had prepared for us. Mum was usually far too busy with work to have time for the domestic side of things, but today was one of her rare days off from her job as city mayor that Dad was occasionally able to convince her to take, and all of us were reaping the rewards.

Partway through the meal, Mum put down her fork and announced to the table at large, “I’ve decided that we should all go out and do something today. As a family.”

Surprised, I glanced up at my siblings to see how they were taking this unexpected development, but Hugo was stubbornly avoiding my gaze and Hope was too busy looking excited to spare me a glance. “Can we go to the beach?” she asked Mum eagerly. I hadn’t thought that Hope was really much of a beachgoer, but lately I had been learning that there was a lot I didn’t know about my younger siblings.

Mum hesitated, but then said, “I don’t see why not. It might be a bit busy, but it’s a beautiful day, and it would be a nice change in routine.”

I snorted. Mum, enjoying a change in routine? She must have been more tired than I thought. The sound drew her attention, and she frowned at me. She probably knew exactly what I was thinking, knowing her. “Is something wrong, Gabriel?”

I shook my head, trying to suppress a smile. “Beach sounds good.”

When we arrived at the beach, Hugo immediately announced that he was going for a run and took off down the shoreline. Dad took Mum’s hand and dragged her down to the water, where they proceded to splash around in the shallows together, laughing like children. Hope scanned the area eagerly, but apparently who- or whatever she was looking for was nowhere to be seen, for she gave up after a few moments, looking disappointed,  and left to join Mum and Dad.

I, meanwhile, had brought along a backpack with my portable easel, a small canvas and some painting supplies, and so headed down near the shore to set everything up. I didn’t often find the chance to paint from life like this, so I was hoping to seize the opportunity while it offered itself.

The beach was fairly crowded that day. As I painted, I enjoyed listening to the sounds of shouting and laughter around me, watching toddlers paddling in the shallows or building sandcastles with their parents, while their older siblings splashed around in the surf. At one point, I spotted a child standing alone up the far end of the beach near the cliffs, with no parents or siblings in sight.

It struck me as somewhat strange that he would be so far down the beach on his own, but I gathered from his street clothes that he wasn’t planning on doing anything dangerous like going in the water. I might have spared him more than a moment’s concern, but at that very moment I was distracted by the sound of someone shouting my name.

“Gabriel!”

I turned my head at the sound, to find none other than the catalyst of relational rifts herself strolling down the beach towards me.

I glanced around furtively, hoping that Hugo wasn’t around to witness the interaction. The last thing I needed right now was to give him more reason to think the worst of me. Luckily, it seemed that he had made good on his workout plans and was currently doing sprints along the stretch of beach where I had seen the young boy a moment earlier – too far away to notice anything. Relieved, I put down my brush and pallet and turned to politely greet Adelaide.

“Hi,” she said, somewhat shyly, when she reached me.

“Hey,” I returned. “What are you doing here?”

“Same as you – enjoying an unusually warm Saturday at the beach.”

I nodded and shuffled my feet awkwardly, unsure what to say next. Deciding I should probably make some attempt to clear the air after the other night, I began what I hoped was an apology at the same time Adelaide started to speak as well.

“About the oth-”

“I wanted t-”

We both paused with a halfhearted chuckle. “You first,” she said.

“Er… right,” I stuttered. “Well, what I was going to say was I’m sorry for throwing you out like that the other night. Things have just been… rough, lately, between Hugo and me, and I kind of panicked. And… I’m sorry if I lead you on in any way. That wasn’t my intention.”

“Oh, no, that was my fault!” she exclaimed. “Um, with Hugo, I mean. I didn’t know he was going to ask me out, and I didn’t know – I mean, I knew you were brothers, but I guess I didn’t think things through very well. Um… I never meant to make things difficult between the two of you. And as for the other thing – well, it’s okay. It was a misunderstanding.”

“So… you’re not upset?”

“Upset?” she repeated, somewhat incredulously. “I mean… I sort of am. I don’t blame you, exactly, but it’s hard to get over someone that quickly, you know?”

I didn’t know. I’d never had to get over romantic feelings for someone else, but I tried to look as sympathetic as possible as she continued.

“I really liked you, Gabriel. I mean… I like you. Still. I’d… really like it if we could still be friends, at least? Platonically bond over art, or something?” she added with a small laugh.

Relief flooded over me. I did like Adelaide, as a friend, and I had been worried that this would make things awkward between us, especially at Art Club. I was grateful for how well she seemed to be taking this. I would have had no clue how to handle it otherwise.

“Sure. I’d like that.”

She smiled, but her smile quickly vanished as she glanced over my shoulder, peering closely at something in the distance. “Oh my… is that Hugo?” she cried, and without waiting for an answer, took off running down the beach.

I followed her without thinking, and together we raced across the sand towards what did indeed appear to be my brother, now emerging from the water with a limp, dripping bundle in his arms.

“What happened?” Adelaide exclaimed when she reached him, a few paces ahead of me.

Hugo didn’t respond immediately as he lowered the boy in his arms gently to the ground and checked his pulse and breathing. I looked wildly around for a lifeguard, but the patrolled area was a few hundred metres back the way we had come, and almost out of sight where the beach curved around the cliffs. There was no way any of the lifeguards would have been able to see a boy in the water from that far away, especially not with their attention on the crowds populating the main beach. It was lucky, really, that Hugo had been around when he had.

Adelaide and I both jumped as the child suddenly started to cough violently, spewing seawater onto the sand in front of him. Hugo gently helped him to sit up, and sat rubbing his back soothingly as he heaved and spluttered. None of us spoke until the boy had recovered sufficiently and sat sprawled in the sand in front of Hugo, shaking from with appeared to be a combination of shock and cold, but otherwise unharmed.

“What happened?” Adelaide repeated. Hugo looked up, and scowled as his gaze landed first on Adelaide, then on me. I could feel the accusation burning in his glare.

“He was drowning in the water,” Hugo explained stiffly to Adelaide’s feet. “I don’t think he can swim. What’s your name?” he added, turning his attention back to the boy.

“S-S-Samuel,” the child spluttered.

“Alright, Samuel,” Hugo said, his tone softening. “Where are your parents? Are they here?”

Slowly, Samuel shook his head.

“Where are they?”

“They’re… they’re at home.”

“Do they know you’re here?”

He shook his head again.

“Alright, well we need to get you back to your parents. Can you tell me where you live?”

Samuel looked terrified, but he nodded. He took Hugo’s offered hand and got shakily to his feet, staring wide-eyed at his saviour with a mix of admiration and trepidation.

“I’m going to take Samuel home,” Hugo informed us. “Let mum and dad know I’ll be home late,” he added, without looking at me.

I nodded, then realising he hadn’t seen it, said, “yeah.”

“I’ll see you later.” And with that, he took Samuel’s small hand and strode off up the beach, with the boy following somewhat reluctantly behind him. I watched them out of sight, before it occurred to me that I had left my art supplies and half-finished painting abandoned on the shore.

As I turned to go, a gentle hand on my wrist stopped me.

“I saw the way Hugo looked at you,” Adelaide said. “I’m sorry… I feel like that’s my fault.”

I paused. I didn’t want her to feel bad, but I couldn’t deny it either. “I think there’s more to it than just you,” I said at last. “Don’t worry, he’ll get over it.”

She bit her lip, looking worried. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” I lied.

 

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Genderbend Challenge

The final interim challenge I’ll be doing is the genderbend challenge. No one actually nominated me for this, but I did it anyway. Very presumptuous of me, I know. But I know I loved seeing it on other people’s blogs, so I guess my hope is that some of you will be interested in seeing what my characters look like as the opposite sex, too.

I didn’t do a pretty photoshoot like a lot of people I’ve seen, because I absolutely loathe posing sims and find it really tedious, lol. So here is the Gen 3 family, in all their unedited glory!


First up, we have Dion. 

He looks… pretty much as I would have expected, really. Sims 3 is really terrible at a lot of genetics-related things, one of which is how proportions are converted when switching from male to female, or when the sim ages. Ever had a child sim that was super cute, then when they aged up they looked like a duck? Yeah. (Cody from Gen 1 is my worst example of this – comparison here and here so you can see what I’m talking about.) As a rule I don’t like to edit sims who are born ingame, but the way my female sims look does not tend to translate well to the male face. So lately I’ve taken to editing my sims a bit to make up for it, which to me feels like cheating and I feel really guilty about it. But my poor male sims deserve a fair shot. Otherwise they just end up looking like that. ^


Next is Dion’s wife, Lucy. 

This is basically what my female sims look like if I try to edit them so that their male children won’t be ugly. Objectively, she looks okay, but I’m personally not a huge fan. Side note – that’s another thing I’m trying to work on, introducing more genetic diversity to my sims, mainly through the looks of the spouse-to-be. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, as they say, and there’s also more than one way to make a sim look pretty. We’ll see how it goes.


This is their eldest daughter, Gabrielle.

She’s kind of a weird mix of her parents, but mostly she looks like Lucy. Except somehow… worse. To be fair to poor Gabrielle, if this was someone else’s sim, I’d think she looked fine. But I’ve always known that Gabriel wasn’t as good looking as Hugo. I guess I thought he’d look better as a girl?


Next up is the middle child and eldest twin, Hopper.

Damn, what a cutie! The suit jacket doesn’t hurt either. Makes sense though, because Hope is basically the girl version of Luc. Personally, I don’t think she’s as pretty as most of the other girls I’ve had in my game, but I guess she can take comfort in the fact that her alternate-universe self is fine af.


And finally, we have the youngest, Helga.

She’s actually pretty cute, but not at all what I was expecting. I thought Hugo looked so much like Diana that Helga would basically just be a clone of Di. I guess Helga’s genetics are more mixed than I gave her credit for. I honestly wouldn’t mind having an actual sim that looked like this. I took these screenshots before I decided on the heir, and honestly Helga’s looks as opposed to Gabrielle’s was a strong element in Hugo’s favour.


So there we have it! I’m all caught up now. Stay tuned for chapter 4.2, and the continuation of Gabrielle-but-not’s story 🙂

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Another day, another tag. This time, it’s the Memory Lane Challenge, for which I was nominated by Kate of The Loewe Legacy. Thank you, Kate ❤

Rules

Congratulations! You’ve been nominated for a totally legit award.

1. Get a gold star and stick it on your forehead like a boss.
I don’t have any gold stars handy, but I will be sure to do so the next time the opportunity presents itself.
2. Share FIVE of your favourite moments from your legacy/challenge/story so far.
See below.
3. Nominate 3-5 blogs to do the same.
Again, I won’t be nominating because I’m doing this… 3 months late, in this particular case.

I’ve listed my five moments below, in order from least to most favourite. For the record, it was super hard to narrow it down to just five. All of the top five are from Gen 3, because it has the best writing overall and took the longest so its characters are the ones I’m most attached to. However, I have included an honourable mention from each of the three generations, so I’m not ignoring the first two completely.


Honourable Mention: Gen 1

Ian and Nicole’s first kiss

“There’s… something else I need to tell you,” he said.  “Believe me, this move is hard for me too.  I’m really going to miss Aidan… and you.  Nicole, I don’t know how to tell you how much… knowing you, these past few years, I… you mean a lot to me.”  He was stumbling over his words, clearly very nervous about something.  I smiled encouragingly, hoping to put him at ease.

After a few deep breaths, he continued.  “I wanted to tell you this before I go, because I don’t know if I’ll ever get another chance.  I love you, Nicole.  I… just wanted you to know that.”  He paused, looking anywhere but at me.  Even in the darkness, I could see that his face was burning red.  “I’ll… I’ll see you around,” he said confusedly, and turned to hurry away, while I stood paralysed, still trying to wrap my head around what he had just said.

He loved me.  Ian said he loved me.  I could feel happiness bubbling up inside me, so quickly that it scared me.  I couldn’t stop repeating his words in my head.  He loved me, he loved me, he loved me.  And if he loved me, that meant-

“Wait!”  I called after him.  I couldn’t let him leave, not now.  “Ian, wait!  Please!” I stumbled through the snow after him, while he kept walking as though he hadn’t heard.  When I reached him, I grabbed his hand to stop him from moving further away.  “Ian… stop…” I panted.  He looked back at me, his expression unreadable.

“What is it?” he asked, sounding resigned.

I hesitated for a fraction of a second before pulled on the hand I was holding to bring his face down to mine, barely noticing the surprise mapped across it as I gently pressed my lips to his.


Honourable Mention: Gen 2

The beach scene from chapter 2.4
(or Pretty much any time bianca and james were goofy together)

The sea was blissfully cool.  I felt more relaxed the moment the water hit my toes, and I was more than glad that I hadn’t decided to go home earlier.  I didn’t check what the others were doing, but I guessed that they were enjoying the sensation like I was.  That is, until a wave of salty water hit me square in the face and my eyes shot open.  I gasped and spluttered furiously, looking around for the culprit.  My eyes landed on James, who was treading water a few feet away and grinning.

“James Vistden!” I yelled his name accusingly.   He just laughed, so I drew my hand back and sent a retaliatory splash of water in his direction.

An all-out splash war soon escalated between the two of us.  Eventually, Tyler got fed up with us both and swam away, announcing that she was going down the other end of the beach to look for turtles. By that point both James and I were breathless and worn out, so we stopped splashing and just trod water while we talked.

“Do you know what you want to do, now that we’re out of school?” James asked me.

“Yeah, I already registered at City Hall the other day.  I’m going to be a professional angler, and sell my fish for a living,” I told him happily.

“That’s awesome, Bee!”  ‘Bee’ was my new nickname, courtesy of James and Tyler.  I’d never had a nickname from anyone before, but I have to admit I kind of liked it – it was cute.

“What about you?” I asked him.

“Well, I got a part-time job as an assistant chef at the bistro a few months back, trying to earn some extra money as a student, you know.”  I nodded, and he went on, “I actually really enjoyed it, and I’m hoping they’ll keep me on so I can maybe make a career out of it.”

So James wanted to be a chef!  “I didn’t even know you could cook,” I said in surprise.

“Oh yeah, I’m pretty excellent,” he said with a playful grin.

“And modest, too,” I added, and we both laughed.


Honourable Mention Gen 3

emily’s return

“What are you doing here?” I asked her, trying to keep the accusatory tone out of my voice. “I thought you were supposed to be on trial.”

“I haven’t been convincted of anything yet,” she grinned. “For now, I’m still on bail. And the trial is over for today. I was actually going to come visit you at home, but then I noticed you here.”

I suppressed a shudder, thinking of the dramatic mess that would have ensued if she’d carried out her original plan. “So, what do you want from me?”

“Do I have to want something? What if I just wanted to see my sister?”

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t play innocent, Emily. You always have an ulterior motive. Cut to the chase already, I’m getting cold.”

“Fine, fine,” she said, holding her arms up defensively. “I’ll cut to the chase. Rumour has it you’re about to become pretty influencial in this town, sis.”

“No,” I said immediately. I could already see where she was going with this.

She grinned. “No need to be mod-”

“I meant, no Emily, I won’t use my political connections to bail you out of trouble.”

She scowled. “Why the hell not? I’m your sister, aren’t I?”

“So you say. But that doesn’t mean you get to walk all over me. I covered for you when we were kids, but I won’t have any part of your criminal activities. You should know that. I wouldn’t do it then, and I won’t now.”

“Don’t act like you’re better than me, Diana. Don’t you dare. You always got off on being Little Miss Perfect, but I know the truth about you. We both know you’re not who you pretend to be.”


Favourite Moment #5

Luc and Di’s wedding

When I turned to look forward again, I found my whole world right there before my eyes, looking more wonderful than ever.  He smiled – were those tears in his eyes? – and took my hand in his.

There was no third party present to conduct the legal part of the ceremony.  I didn’t want to be married by a stranger and we didn’t know anyone personally who was authorised to perform a wedding, so we had taken care of that part of it the day before at the courthouse in town.  Today’s ceremony was all about celebrating with our family and friends, and (most importantly) with each other.  Vows, therefore, were to take place today.

“Luc…” I took a deep breath, and clutched the ring more firmly in my trembling fingers.  Oh God, please don’t let me forget my own vows.  “I… I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that, from the first time we danced together, you changed my life… for the better.”  I tried to look him in the eyes as I spoke, but found it almost impossible to do so without crying.  “There has never been, and never will be, anyone for me but you.  My heart, my body and my mind are yours forever.”  Drawing a ragged breath, I slipped the ring onto his third finger with shaking hands.  ” ‘I give this ring, in pledge of my love and devotion.  With this ring I thee wed.’ ”

As I finished speaking, I looked up into his beautiful green eyes, shining with unshed tears.  He smiled at me, and my heart melted.

“Diana,” he began, almost in a whisper.  His voice was quite steady, but the hand that gripped mine was shaking slightly.  “The first time I saw you was the first time I really fell head-over-heels for anyone.”  He paused and chuckled.  “I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s the truth.  For as long as I’ve known you, you have been the most important person in my life.  I’m so grateful that I’m the person you chose to spend the rest of yours with.  I promise to love and treasure you forever, no matter what we come up against, and the harder it gets, the tighter I’ll hold on.  I give this ring in pledge of my love and devotion to you, my beautiful genius.  With this ring I thee wed.”  The cold metal felt foreign on my finger, but at the same time, it felt right.  “I now declare us husband and wife,” he announced.  Everyone laughed.  “May I kiss the bride?”

Laughing, I nodded.  The last rays of the setting sun danced off the water behind us as Luc threw his arms around me and pressed his lips hungrily against mine.


Favourite Moment #4

the big fight

“Luc, please, say something!”  I begged, tears welling up in my eyes.

“I can’t… believe it.”  His voice was less than a whisper.

I raised my eyes to his.  “What?”

“I can’t believe it,” he repeated, more firmly, and I winced at the pain in his voice.

I grimaced, still trying to keep the tears at bay.  “Well, that’s what I’ve been thinking for the past ten minutes.”

He scowled at me.  “This is totally different.”

“Oh?”  I challenged him.  I was still feeling miserably guilty, but I wasn’t going to let him think that everything he had just told me about his past wasn’t going to affect me because of that.  “How so?”

He gritted his teeth in frustration and shut his eyes, refusing to look at me.  “That was years ago-”

“-That doesn’t make a difference!”  I interrupted.  The tears were flowing in earnest now.

“Look, I was young-”

“-I was drunk!-”

“-You still cheated on me–”

“-You still vandalised a school–”

“-You kissed another guy-”

“-YOU BROKE THE LAW-”

“YOU BROKE MY-” he stopped himself abruptly and just glared at me, red-faced and breathing deeply, as though he had suddenly realised what he was about to confess.

We both knew what he meant.  The unsaid word hung in the air between us, an impenetrable barrier where seconds earlier there had been nothing but hot air.  I stood, frozen, staring at his face, tears streaming down my cheeks while he still refused to look me in the eye.  And I, terrified of what I might see there, didn’t want him to.


Favourite Moment #3

Pat comforts Di after her fight with Luc

Pat reached out to comfort me, but instinctively I cowered away from him, afraid to let him touch me.  “No…” was all I could whisper.  “Please…”

“Di, please.  Tell me what’s wrong.”  He looked as though he was about to cry himself, but made no move to touch me again.  I buried my face in my hands and shook my head.  I couldn’t speak – it felt as though I was being crushed by the pain.

“Is this about Luc?” he asked, gently.  Surprised, I lifted my head to look at him, and nodded.  I bit my lip to stop it trembling, still struggling to form a coherent sentence.

Pat scowled at my admission and started to stand.  “That’s it,” he said furiously.  “I’m going to kill him for this.  I told him… I wouldn’t… but if he’s hurt you-”

I grabbed his arm to stop him, frantically shaking my head.  “No,” I croaked.  “Please, Pat… it wasn’t his fault.”

Clearly fighting to stay calm, he sank to his knees again.  “Then what is it?  What’s happened, Di?  Tell me.  You know I’m here for you.”

Choking back my tears, I explained to him, as best I could, what I had done.  With Jake, and with Luc, and all about our argument that night.  I tried to leave out as much as possible of what Luc had told me of his past – that wasn’t mine to share.  When I got to the part about walking out the door, my voice hitched, and another sob caught in my throat.  What had I done?

Pat, who had listened calmly throughout, stretched out a hesitant hand to gently brush against the side of my face.

“It’s going to be okay,” he told me, wiping the stream of tears from my cheek with his thumb.  “Okay?  I promise.  I don’t know Luc all that well, but I know you, and if- if you love him…” his voice faltered and a new sorrow filled his eyes, but he pressed on bravely, “… if you love him, he’s got to be a pretty great guy.  There’s no way he’s going to abandon you just like that.  Not after all that’s happened.”

“But…” I wasn’t convinced.  “Pat, everyone has their limits.  I cheated on him.  I kissed another guy.”

“You were drunk.”

I shook my head.  “That doesn’t change what I did.  Why would… why would he want me after… after that?”  I barely finished the question as the pain of what I had done rose up again inside me.  I threw my arms around Pat’s neck and pressed my face into his shoulder, drenching his shirt with my tears as I cried.  I felt his muscles stiffen under my fingers, but refused to let go.  This was all I had.  Without him here, I wouldn’t be able to bear it, I knew it.  He was all I had to cling to as my world fell to pieces around me.


Favourite Moment #2

Luc defends Di against Oliver danes

“Do you think you’re irresistible or something?” I hissed, turning my head to the side so that his presumptuous lips landed on my neck instead.  “Get the hell off me, asshole!”  With a yell, I launched forward off the lockers and brought my knee up as hard as I could into his stomach.

He let go immediately, staggering backwards with a surprised “Ooft!”  I advanced, ready to take full advantage of his weakened position to land a few well-deserved punches.  As I raised my fist, however, I felt a gentle but strong grip close around it.  Whoever it was pulled me backwards, catching me against his own body, one hand wrapped securely around my waist while the other released my wrist to rest soothingly on my right shoulder. For the second time in a span of several minutes, I found myself trapped in someone else’s arms against my will.

I struggled, still seeing red, fighting with all my strength to get back to Oliver Danes and give him a long overdue beating up.  “Let… me… go!” I panted furiously.  He’s getting away!  I scratched at his arms and stamped as hard as I could on the toes of my assailant, but though he grunted in pain, his grip held firm.

“Di!  Calm the hell down, it’s me!”  a pained voice said in my ear.

“… Luc?”  What was he doing here?  He never came to school.

“Yeah, so stop trying to beat me up, okay?”

I let myself relax, watching in defeat as Oliver Danes got to his feet and brushed the dust off his jeans.  There goes my chance of a lifetime, I thought glumly.

Oliver Danes stood up, glancing between me and Luc with a scowl on his face.  “Who the fuck are you?” he addressed Luc.  I felt his body briefly tense up behind me, but when he spoke, his tone was quite calm.

“You should be thanking me,” Luc said.  Even though I couldn’t see his face, I could hear the amusement in his voice.  “I just saved you from the retribution you undeniably deserve, at the hands of someone perfectly equipped to deliver it.”

I glanced up at him in surprise.  If he thought it was so well-deserved, why did he stop me?

Oliver’s eyes wandered over Luc’s hands, still spread protectively over my shoulders and abdomen.  “Is she your girlfriend or something?”

I half expected Luc to lie and say yes, but he didn’t.  Neither did he deny it.  “That’s none of your business,” he replied coolly.  “But you had better leave her the fuck alone… or you’ll regret it.  A lot.”

His green eyes bore threateningly into Oliver’s light blue ones, and for a moment the other boy looked ready to punch him.  Several tense seconds passed before Oliver spoke again.

“Whatever,” he spat.  “She’s not even worth it.”

With that, he pushed past us, turned the corner and disappeared.


Favourite Moment #1

Luc and Di’s first kiss

The sun had just begun to set when he took my hand in his.  The warmth in the gesture calmed me, even as I struggled to contain my own feelings of loneliness which threatened to spill over and overwhelm all the good that had come with being accepted into the course of my dreams.  I had been trying not to think about it too much, but I was going to miss him too… how much, I don’t think I had quite realised until that moment.

“It’s not that I’m not happy for you,” he went on hurriedly.  “I’m so happy for you!  I just…” He took a deep breath.  “There’s something I have to tell you before you go.  I wasn’t going to say anything, but I can’t let you go without telling you, and then not see you for months and months and…”

I had never seen him look so uneasy.  He groaned in frustration, turned away, ran his fingers through his hair the way he always did when he was stressed or confused.  Then he turned to face me, and something in his eyes made my heart stand still.  Without another word, he stepped forward…

Cupped my face in his strong hands…

And kissed me.

Luc.

Kissed.

Me.

Luc kissed me.

For what felt like forever I just stood there, trying to make sense of things as a thousand feelings and thoughts and sensations bombarded my mind.  I had to stop this… had to tell him that we were just friends, that we couldn’t be anything more.  I had decided, I had promised myself.  Regardless of how I felt, or he felt, or… just friends.  I was too terrified of losing him for anything else.  But even knowing that, I…

… I…

… never wanted this to end.


So there you have it! My favourite moments from the story so far. I tried to vary them a little, so that they weren’t all romantic, even though I’m a sucker for romance and so those tend to be my favourite scenes. I hope you enjoyed reliving these as much as I did 🙂

Generation Three: Outtakes

At the end of every generation, I publish pictures and scenes that didn’t make it into the final chapters. While compiling the images for this post, I found that as time went on I was taking my pictures increasingly with particular story scenes in mind, meaning that I was getting less and less outtakes by the end. Which is good, because it means a tighter plot and better story if I have all that in my head while I’m doing screenshots, but it also means less ingame fun is captured for later enjoyment. In future, I’ll try to remember to take more pictures of my sims just going about their lives, but for now please enjoy the outtakes for Generation 3, such as they are.

(Chapter numbers are included as a guide to indicate approximately where in the story timeline these events took place.)


Chapter 3.1

At the start, I used to get James to make fancy meals for the family every night, and they’d all sit down and eat dinner together 🙂 That practice dwindled somewhat since his death, since no one in this gen was especially gifted in the kitchen. But it was nice while it lasted.

Diana had an… interesting sense of style when she first aged up, complete with those infamous pigtails that every single sim seems to have when they age up. This was before Pat turned human, but he was there in doll form cheering her on.

This photo of Bianca kissing Flynn goodnight is just :3 adorable. I can’t believe I didn’t find a way to work it into the actual chapter.

As a child, Emily enjoyed stomping around the house and making faces at everything. Because, you know, she’s evil I guess. And that’s what evil people do.

I don’t know if this is Di or Emily, they look so darn similar. I hope it’s Di. It would seem to indicate that, at some point, she was just a happy-go-lucky kid playing make-believe.

Di actually spent a lot of time at the Best’s house as a teen, hanging out with Mandy. I’m not sure why I didn’t include it in the story, cause it’s actually a really nice house.

Diana and Pat dancing together ❤ I apparently did a disservice to Pat by making it look like the first time she let loose in her life was with Luc.

Flynn, the dramatic thing, telling *scary* stories.

Family breakfast of French toast in the winter, made by James. (Note to self – include more cute family bonding moments like this in the next generation.)

Di was often late to meals. Perhaps she stayed up too late studying? Wouldn’t be the first time.

Di being a good big sister :3 In a… riding outfit? For some inexplicable reason.

James cooking dim sims… in the… oven. As you do.

(Sims are weird. Potato vines, anyone?)

“Mum, I think I’m having a growth spurt” – Emily, probably.

I have no recollection of what happened here. James probably electrocuted himself fixing a dishwasher or something.

I included Emily’s shower prank in the story, but not its outcome.

This was its outcome.


Chapter 3.2

Emily’s party in Chapter 3.2 was attended by every teenager in town, including Mandy, and Di’s cousin Ethan (Cody’s son), who you may remember dated in high school and later got married. The party was where they met. While all the dancing was going on downstairs, they were upstairs (autonomously) making out.

I originally had Luc and Di’s coversation at the party take place in a different spot in the room. Di was sitting at the bar reading, and Luc came and sat beside her. I honestly don’t remember why I changed this – my best guess is that I felt it was unrealistic, most likely because the orientation of the bar was such that they wouldn’t be able to sit there and watch the dancers at the same time. It might also have been simply that I had more and better pictures of them talking on the couch.


Chapter 3.3

The pool scene at Diana’s house originally took place at Mandy Best’s house, and included a salad dinner with Mandy’s family.

I believe the main reason I cut it out and reshot the scene was so that it would make sense for Mandy to leave towards the end of the evening, leaving Di and Luc alone in the hot tub. If it were her house that they were at, leaving them to their own devices would have just made her a bad host.

Diana, ever the dutiful daughter, doing laundry for her family.


Chapter 3.4

I think there was a photo booth at Emily’s party? Anyway, here are some adorable photos that Di and Luc took in a photo booth somewhere.

LOL and here’s Emily and Luc having a catfight. I think they’re both rebellious, and Luc is hot-headed and Emily is evil so… makes sense, I guess?

Di is sick of their crap.

I hosted a big Thanksgiving party for the extended family at one point. Literally everyone brought pie. I guess it wasn’t in the story because I didn’t think it was that relevant to anything else that was going on.

For the scene with Oliver Danes, I added him to the household so I could control him better. Which meant he was staying with the family for a day or two, and in that time he found time to befriend and have a water balloon fight with a naked gentleman on the street. As you do.


Chapter 3.5

The prom limo was held up for a while due to heavy traffic on the roads.

Behind-the-scenes with the extras for the prom chapter:

Sim Diana was less than impressed with… I’m not sure what. Mandy? Her outfit? Probably Mandy’s suggestive comments about her and Luc.

But who turned out to be right, huh Di?

Luc brought Di flowers when he came to pick her up for prom :3

Di was very excited.

Pat rocked the karaoke machine at prom, and Ethan arrived… naked. Poor Mandy.

This was a random sim I found wandering around town, I think. I took him into CAS to check if it was a bug, but no, somehow that’s just his face. Poor guy :/

Sim Diana was so not here for Mandy’s interrogation during the study session. I really should have included some of this gold in the chapters.


Chapter 3.6

When Diana aged up to a young adult, I put her in CAS and gave her Bianca’s young adult hairstyle to see how much she looked like her mother. And boy, does she look like her mother.

Hahahahaha… So this was what it looked like in-game when Di was sharing the exciting news of her departure to university with Luc.

They were both pretty psyched.

Beautiful, Di. You’re lucky he’s already in love with you.

A few outtakes from the kiss scene, because I took a lot of pictures and most didn’t make it into the chapter.

Di and Luc’s high school graduation, which didn’t make it into the story at all.


Chapter 3.7

Diana brought the photo booth picture of Luc and her to uni. It still makes me sad to think of all the personal things like this that I’ve lost with all the new games and moving houses.

She also received a surprise visitor in the night. No abduction, thankfully, just an alien that wandered around the front porch for a few hours before leaving.

Di actually went to a couple of parties while at uni, usually in her swimwear. And lit bonfires. In her swimwear. In the rain.


Chapter 3.8

Sim Di in general was wilder than character Di. During the party, Jake actually helped her do a kegstand, which didn’t make it into the story because I decided it was too out of character for her.


Chapter 3.9

I experimented with a few “fight” poses for this chapter, but didn’t use them in the chapter because they looked kinda… abusive? I don’t think Luc would ever grab Di like that, even if he was angry with her.


Chapter 3.10

The date was so much fun to play and pose. Luc kissed Di on the bridge and they went ice skating together, but neither of those things were in the story, unfortunately. Once again, I don’t know why I keep cutting out great stuff like this.

The lovemaking scene was another for which I took a lot of pictures, most of which didn’t make it into the chapter. So, forgive me for wanting to share them now.


Chapter 3.11

Another one I can’t believe I didn’t include in the chapter. She misses him! So meaningful. So sad. 😦


Chapter 3.12

The maid, overstepping his bounds somewhat. (This actually happened to me one time, except instead of making the bed I was in, he didn’t even realise I was there and chucked everything that was on the floor on top of me so he could vacuum.)


Chapter 3.13

James finally reached the top of his career and retired! Diana wasn’t around, but Bianca and Luc were there to celebrate with him.

The twins and Gabriel all had their birthdays on the same day.

We didn’t get to see a lot of the twins as toddlers, so here they are just after they aged up. You may notice that I dyed Hope’s hair a more natural colour, instead of the weird grey highlights she has here.


3.15

A few highlights from Diana’s second semester at university.

Both Hugo and Hope had imaginary friend dolls, but I didn’t want another Patterns storyline, so I didn’t let them build their relationships high enough to age up together.

Poor Gabriel passed out a lot as a kid. I’m a horrible parent, really.

Luc raked a huge pile of leaves in the Autumn, and Di had a good play with it before he burned it. Again, I wish I’d included more of these family bonding moments in Diana’s generation.

It’s the claaaaaawww!


Chapter 3.16

Hugo and Hope grew up very attractive, and clearly twins. The resemblance is striking.

I don’t know how Diana found the time to ride a mechanical bull, but somehow she did.

It did not go very well.


Chapter 3.17

Fun fact: Celia’s house was actually a house I built for the family just before I stopped playing. When I got back after switching computers, half my CC had disappeared, so I decided to just start building all over again. I included it in the story as Celia’s house because I already had too many story-relevant images set there, but they weren’t there long enough to realistically pass it off as their own house.

Diana and Luc had a hot tub in their bathroom, which hasn’t been a thing in any house before or since.

I had originally intended for a lot more of Diana and Celia’s conversations to happen in the office, but after Diana stopped working for Amelia it didn’t really make sense for them to keep hanging out there.

Hope was not impressed by her mother’s campaign party guests.

Another couple of great features of “Celia’s” house: a drafting table in Gabriel’s room, and a basketball court in the backyard for Hugo.

As an elder, Bianca enjoyed going to the park to fish in peace. She even ran into a deer once or twice.

James’ death wasn’t an event in the chapter for two reasons: one, I’m trying to steer the story into more realistic waters, and sim deaths are far from; and two, it happened during the full moon so the lighting was all weird (stupid Supernatural – I have since disabled this feature).


Post- Chapter 3.20

(Chapters 3.18-3.20 were so heavily scripted that there were no outtakes to be had. Sorry 😦 )

Bianca died right after returning home from the inauguration. At least she lived to see her daughter become mayor?

The gravestone spawned on one side of the hedge, and the Grim Reaper spawned on the other, so we all had to wait while he walked around the hedge so that he could do his thing and summon Bianca to the underworld.

Hope was abducted by aliens while I was shooting the heirs’ introductory chapters. I missed the abduction, unfortunately, but I did manage to get a picture of the culprit!


And that’s the end of the outtakes for Generation 3! There were more than I was expecting, but I forgot so much of what happened in my game early on. The start of this generation was over two years ago. Anyway, hope you all enjoyed. Stay tuned for the results of the heir vote, which should be up in a couple of days!

Chapter 4.1C – The Artist (Gabriel Hunter)

“The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting.”

That was a quote by Vincent Van Gogh. A little cliche, maybe, but in my case nothing came closer to the truth. The feelings that I experienced while I painted were second to none, except perhaps for those I experienced immediately after I finished. I couldn’t imagine any feeling in the world more amazing than that of seeing something beautiful, and knowing that I had created it.

Mum often said that I was born with a paintbrush in my hand. Dad often quipped in return that he was there, and I definitely hadn’t been, but it would have been much more uncomfortable for Mum if I had.

I had, however, been painting since I was a small child, ever since I could hold a brush, and I honestly didn’t remember a time even before then when I didn’t love to look at beautiful artworks and dream of creating something like that myself someday. I used to paint in my bedroom at our old house, but when that got too messy my parents made me move my easel down to the basement. When the house was rebuilt into the one we live in now, they allowed me to paint in my room again, but insisted on installing a waterproof curtain between my easel and my bed to limit collateral damage, so that my room was divided into a sleeping area and a makeshift art studio.

The other side of the room was clean enough, since I hardly ever used it except to sleep, but the area around my easel was littered with papers, canvases, brushes, paints and art materials. I knew that it drove my neat-freak of a brother crazy, but I was only a perfectionist when it came to my work. I didn’t have time to keep things tidy when the muse was calling, and she called often enough to keep the room in a state of constant disarray.

This mythical muse of mine was the only woman who had ever held a place in my heart. I had little interest in girls, the way my brother did, but they seemed determined to follow me wherever I went regardless. It was annoying, frankly, though I knew Hugo resented me for it, and probably thought that I should be more grateful for the attention.

But I simply didn’t really feel any kind of need or desire for a girlfriend at that point in time. And I know how that sounds, but I wasn’t asexual. Girls could still make me… feel things. Emotionally, and, uh, physically. Romance and sex just weren’t priorities. And the whole flirting thing had never made much sense to me, anyway, so I wouldn’t have known where to start even if I’d wanted to.

School was the only place I really had much human interaction, and was therefore the source of the majority of the female attention I received. At this point I had spent a good three years taking classes with the same people, during which time I had systematically rejected every girl in my own grade who showed interest in me. The after-school Art Club, however, which was open to everyone in the school, was another matter entirely.

I had been a part of the club since I was a freshman, and in the intervening years had built up good relationships with the teacher and some of the older members. This year, we had welcomed four new members, three girls and one guy. One of the girls had already asked me out and been politely turned down, but the second had never spoken a word to me of her own volition – apparently, she was either painfully shy or totally uninterested in me, which did happen sometimes and was rather a relief when it did.

The third was friendly towards me, but had shown no romantic interest thus far, which I was grateful for because I wasn’t romantically interested in her either. Her name was Adelaide, and by objective standards she was pretty gorgeous. I didn’t doubt that she received a ton of attention from other guys on a regular basis. Perhaps she got a little sick of it as well. The thought that we might have something in common – or two things, if you counted her apparent interest in art – was enough for me to feel comfortable being friendly with her in return.

Today, Adelaide had set up her easel next to mine, and was painting what appeared to be a house, though it was difficult to tell. She glanced over at my work, and sighed.

“I’ll never be as good as you,” she moaned, dropping her paintbrush into the tray underneath her canvas with a loud clatter and scowling at her half-finished painting.

“Don’t say that,” I said, trying to sound reassuring as I lowered my own brush and palette to speak to her. “Things like this just take practice. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get there. Maybe you just need a few pointers in the right direction.”

She brightened at my suggestion. “Do you think you could give them to me?”

“Oh, um, sure, I guess,” I faltered. I was flattered that she considered me up to the task of instructing her, but wasn’t quite sure where to start in this case. I checked my watch, and realised it was almost time for the class to end. I didn’t want to disappoint her, but we didn’t have time for a private lesson right now, and she seemed like she really needed my help. Hoping I wouldn’t regret it later, I made a quick decision. “Do you want to come over to my place after this? I could show you some of my other work, maybe give you some ideas. You need to develop your style on your own, but maybe observing someone else’s practice could help inspire you.”

She was practically glowing as I made the offer. “That sounds like a great idea.”

When we arrived at my house later that evening, I led her upstairs to my room where all my painting materials were located. I could hear one of my siblings in the shower, but otherwise the house was fairly quiet. When we entered my room, I showed her to the easel, where my latest work in progress was sitting.

“This is something I’ve been working on,” I explained. As I stared at the barely-begun painting, I could feel the muse that had inspired it calling out to me again. I picked up my discarded brush and palette, deciding a demonstration wouldn’t be a bad idea, and continued to paint while I talked. “It’s supposed to be a mountain scene, but it might not turn out in the end exactly how I’m imagining it now. Sometimes, when you paint, you have to let it come to you one bit at a time. And if you screw something up, that’s okay too. You can always paint over it, or you can let it become part of the painting.”

Last I checked, Adelaide had been standing several feet behind me and watching with interest. I stumbled and almost dropped my brush when I felt her pressing up against my back from behind. As I grabbed at it to stop its fall, the head of the brush streaked over the canvas, leaving a long, yellow stripe in its wake.

“Uh… like that,” I muttered, doing my best to ignore her too-close proximity and continue with what I was saying. “So, um, you see… now I have a choice as to what I want to do with that mistake. I could make it look like it was there all along, or I could cover it up.”

“I definitely don’t think you need to cover up,” she murmured in my ear.

I could feel my face start to burn, so I dropped my palette and turned to face her, determined to say something before she got the wrong idea. Adelaide gazed steadily into my eyes, smiling coyly. She was very beautiful. But I wasn’t interested.

But before I could say anything, she had pressed forward, her arms went around me, and her lips were against mine. I was too shocked to do anything at first, but I caught a flash of movement over her shoulder. I glanced over to see my brother standing in the doorway, glaring at me as though his best friend had stabbed him, and I had supplied the knife. Shit.

I angrily pushed Adelaide away from me, but Hugo had already left, slamming the door behind him. As much as I wanted to go after him and explain, I could talk to Hugo later. I had to deal with Adelaide first.

I turned towards her, fuming. She blanched when she saw my expression, and tears sprang to her eyes. She quickly dropped her gaze to hide them. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

“You think?” I snapped. “Did you know that my brother was there?”

“Your brother?”

“Hugo. I think he’s in your grade.”

Her eyes widened. “Hugo? Oh, shit.”

I glared at her. “My sentiments exactly.”

The tears started to drip down her cheeks. “I’m sorry, Gabriel. I didn’t mean to cause problems. I just really like you, and when you invited me back here I thought… I thought that…” she trailed off, gazing at me imploringly. “Please don’t hate me,” she whispered.

Damn it. If I had one weakness when it came to women, it was tears. There was no way I could bring myself to be angry when she was crying like that. I sighed, and scratched the back of my neck awkwardly. “I don’t hate you, Adelaide. But I need to talk with my brother. I think you should leave.”

She nodded, still teary-eyed, and turned to go. I saw her out of the house before returning upstairs to search for Hugo. His bedroom door was closed. I knocked loudly. “Hugo?” I called. “Open up. I need to talk to you.”

There was no answer.

I sighed. What a mess.


This chapter is the third in a series of three opening chapters for Generation 4, told from the perspectives of each of the three heirs. If you somehow missed the first two, you can find Hope’s chapter here and Hugo’s here. Now that all three have been released, the heir vote will be up tomorrow! Look forward to more information about the voting process then, as well as heatshots of all three heirs as young adults, biographies, traits and Lifetime Wishes.

Chapter 4.1B – The Athlete (Hugo Hunter)

For as long as I could remember, I’d had the same dream.

Other kids went through phases – one day they wanted to be a policeman, the next a fireman, then a surgeon, or a vet, or a rock star. I’d only ever wanted one thing: someday, I was going to play football for the Starlight Gnomes, the best football team of all time.

I’d been obsessed with the Gnomes since the first time my dad took me to one of their games. I was four years old at the time. When I was a kid, my favourite book was Rise of the Gnomes: The Incredible Story of the Starlight Gnomes’ Journey to Victory. Mum had a pretty hectic work life even then, so my Granddad used to read it to me every single night until the day he died.

Becoming a football star doesn’t just happen overnight; it takes hard work and dedication. Over the years, I had saved up enough allowance money to buy a treadmill and a pull-up bar for my room, and now I worked out whenever I had the chance. The previous year, when I’d started high school, I’d made it onto the football team on my first try. It was the first step in my ten-year plan for achieving my dream.

You would think that being a jock in peak physical condition would have attracted more female attention in high school. Not that it was my ultimate goal or anything (which couldn’t be said for some of my teammates) but honestly, it felt really good when girls noticed me.

So, I’m a straight, teenage guy. Sue me.

Unfortunately, being on the football team wasn’t as much of a babe magnet as the movies would have you believe. Turns out most girls were more interested in brooding artists who hadn’t the slightest interest in dating them. Enter Gabe, my very own big brother.

Every girl I’d ever had a crush on wanted him instead, and he didn’t even have to try. All he had to do was flip his hair and look mysterious, and they fell all over him. Every damn time. I was hoping today would be different, not that I had any real indication that it would be, because today was the day that I had resolved to ask out the girl of my dreams.

Her name was Adelaide, and she was beautiful.

Her seat was across the aisle and two rows ahead of mine in my afternoon Ancient History class, and I’d had a hard time concentrating on anything else all lesson. Ordinarily, my grades weren’t bad, but all I could think about when she was around was her. The way she looked, the way she smelled, the way she sounded when she laughed. Man, she was gorgeous. Like anyone could think about how beautiful Cleopatra supposedly was when her twenty-first century counterpart was sitting right before their eyes. I would start a war for you, Adelaide. Just give me the chance to prove it.

I was jolted out of my daydreaming by the piercing sound of the lunch bell, and I quickly glanced around to see if anyone had noticed the sappy look on my face. Luckily, nobody was looking at me – my classmates were all too busy packing away their things and heading out to lunch. I turned to check on Adelaide, but she had already left the room. Heart pounding, I stuffed my books into my bag and followed her.

I found her in the hallway just outside the classroom, chatting with her best friend, Stephanie. Great – another roadblock to contend with. I didn’t much mind Stephanie as a person, but right now her presence was the last thing I needed. Not only had I had to work up the courage to ask Adelaide out, but now I had to politely ask her friend to clear off while I did it.

I took a couple of deep breaths and cracked my knuckles to psych myself up, the way I usually did before a big football match. You’ve got this, Hugo. Just go right in and sweep her off her feet. Remember, confidence is sexy. Maybe, but I sure wasn’t feeling very confident at the moment.

I ran a hand nervously through my already-messy hair and forced my legs to carry me in her direction. Adelaide greeted me with a radiant smile as I approached, and I felt my legs turn to jelly. I focused my attention on Stephanie instead, hoping neither of them could see how badly my knees were shaking.

“Hey, Stephanie. Um… I’d like to talk to Adelaide alone for a minute, if that’s okay?”

Stephanie turned to me. “Sure thing… Hugo, right?” I nodded, and she grinned. “I’ll see you later, then, Addie.” She turned and walked away, throwing a wink and a knowing glance at her friend as she left. I could feel myself starting to blush, thinking that Stephanie could probably tell exactly what was going on. Could this situation get any more nerve-wracking?

“Hi, Hugo,” Adelaide said shyly, playing with her hair as she gazed up at me. My heart rate kicked up another notch. Yep, apparently it could.

“Hey,” I said breathlessly. The longer I waited to ask her, the more nervous I got. I decided to cut to the chase before I chickened out completely. “So, um, here’s the thing. I’ve really… I’ve liked you for a while now, and I- I think you’re really beautiful, and I was wondering if you’d like to go out sometime? Maybe? With me?” I mentally slapped myself. For God’s sake, pull yourself together, Hugo! Was I asking her out or wasn’t I? I took a deep breath. “I mean, I’d really like to take you out to dinner next Saturday, if you’re up for it,” I amended, trying and failing to look her in the eye as I said it.

Adelaide was silent for several seconds, and my heart sank. Her gaze was downcast, as though she was afraid to look me in the eye. “I’m really sorry, Hugo,” she said at last.

Shit.

Why? I wanted to ask. Why am I not good enough? But that would have made me sound like an entitled douche, not to mention desperate, so I said nothing.

As though she had read my mind, however, she added, “It’s not you. It… I kind of already like someone else.”

Double shit. That meant I had no chance. I wanted to ask who it was, so I knew who to direct my jealousy and resentment towards, but I knew that was none of my business. Instead, I shrugged and forced a grin. “Lucky guy,” I said, and she smiled.

“Thanks, Hugo. And again, I really am sorry. I want you to know I think you’re a great guy, and I’m really flattered.”

Ordinarily I might have been elated by such a compliment coming from Adelaide, but under the circumstances I could only nod mutely, before turning and walking stiffly away, suddenly eager to put as much distance between us as possible.

The rest of the day seemed to last an eternity. When the last class finally ended, I packed up my things and went straight home. I didn’t think I’d be able to make it through football practice today, not with all my teammates there. I knew I’d be torturing myself the whole time wondering if the lucky bastard who Adelaide was hung up on was among them.

Still, I would have welcomed the diversion. The burn of a good, solid workout always helped to distract me from whatever was going on inside my head. And I always pushed myself hardest on days like today, when my thoughts were so loud and painful that I felt like they were going to suffocate me.

I ran for a good hour on the treadmill in my room, then switched to the wall bar and did six consecutive sets of pull-ups. By the time I had finished, it was dark outside. My arms were aching from overexertion and my heart was thudding in my chest, but I was feeling a lot better nonetheless.

I grabbed some clean shorts and headed to the bathroom for a much-needed shower. The hot water, while not as effective as the workout had been at alleviating my emotional turmoil, still felt soothing on my sore muscles. I decided I would just finish my shower, do some homework, and turn in early for the night. Some sleep would probably do me good.

I was heading back to my room when I noticed Gabe’s door was ajar. I figured I could stop by for a cursory “hey” before I went to bed. I pushed open the door-

-and stopped in my tracks.

He was not alone, as I had expected – instead I found my older brother tightly wrapped in the arms of a girl, their bodies and mouths pressed firmly against one another. Ordinarily, I would have been surprised and maybe a little embarrassed, but this wasn’t just any girl. This was…

… Adelaide.

My heart constricted painfully when I recognised her, and I momentarily forgot how to breathe. But they didn’t even notice me. I slammed the door and, with the sting of anger and betrayal coursing through my veins, made a beeline for the rec room downstairs, where Dad’s athletic equipment was set up. I couldn’t go back to my room now. And I was going to have to work out all damn night to get this one out of my system.


This chapter is the second in a series of three opening chapters for Generation 4, told from the perspectives of each of the three heirs. Gabriel’s chapter will be released tomorrow. If you somehow missed Hope’s chapter, which came out yesterday, you can read it here.

By the way, you may have noticed that I changed the theme of the blog and parts of the layout. The main reason for this was readability: the new font, smaller text and longer lines should make chapters easier to read, and also, thanks to the new theme, images now appear about twice as big as they used to!

Additionally, the Chapters Index has been given a makeover recently. If you’re interested, go check it out!

Chapter 4.1A – The Dreamer (Hope Hunter)

When I was a child, my mum used to tell me that I could do anything I put my mind to.

She’s the youngest mayor Starlight Shores has ever had. Easy for her to say, right? If I had been ambitious like her, I might have doubted it more. That is, if I hadn’t been the sort of person who never doubted anyone.

My ideals were firmly planted in the innocent-until-proven-guilty, glass-is-half-full camp. Some would have called me naive, which I supposed was not far from the truth, but in the end I’d rather have been naive than a cynic, even if it meant knowingly opening myself to the possibility of hurt and betrayal. Some people would take advantage of that, and some wouldn’t, but I liked to give them the benefit of the doubt as a general rule. If they then turned out to be jerks, well, at least my consequential anger was justified.

Whenever I formed attachments to other people, I ran the risk of heartbreak. In other words, it was a necessary and unavoidable part of a life lived in the company of others. But sometimes, I just needed a space where being hurt wasn’t a possibility. Which was why, sad as it may sound, my best friend wasn’t another person, but a cat.

Ash had been around as long as I could remember, and most of the family never paid her much attention anymore, but I loved her. Sometimes, I wondered if it was right to love an animal as much as I did that cat, but I felt safe allowing myself to care for her, knowing she wasn’t capable of taking advantage of me. All humans had that capability, even if they never acted on it, but animals were different. I could trust them with my heart.

 

I had always dreamed of owning more animals than just the one, and had begged my parents for it countless times as a child, but Dad was the only other member of the family with any interest in pets. So I contented myself with other people’s pets and the occasional stray, and showered Ash with as much love as I had to give. After all, she was all I had, and the last of her nine lives would soon be coming to a close.

There came an evening, however, when Ash was no longer the only animal who could claim my undivided time and attention.

I was strolling along the beach on my way home from school, the way I did almost every day. Today, though, I had finished several hours later than usual, owing to the fact that I had just attended my first after-school music class. I had little interest in extracurricular activities, but Mum, who was a passionate advocate for the value of a good education, had insisted that I and my brothers each choose one activity to sign up for, or she would choose for us.

I had been resentful about it all week, but my resentment melted away the moment I laid eyes on the dreamlike scene before me. Four large horses, unbridled and unsaddled, their glossy coats shining in the setting sun, were ambling peacefully about the shore right in front of me. The breeze caught and tangled their long manes and tails, twisting the strands around lean, powerful bodies, and their stamping hooves created unmistakeable prints in the sand where they walked.

I could do little more than stand there with my mouth hanging open as I stared. I would have suffered through a hundred- no, a thousand music classes if I’d known that this would be my reward.

The horses didn’t seem to notice me at first. I had never been to the beach so close to dark, and with the late Autumn weather as chilly as it was, I was the only person in sight. Perhaps that was why they felt comfortable being so out in the open. It had never occurred to me that there might be wild horses in Starlight Shores, and I briefly wondered if they had escaped from somewhere nearby. Somehow, I couldn’t reconcile the noisy, bustling urban environment of my hometown with the tranquil beauty of the creatures in front of me.

The first evening, I just stood at a distance and watched them. Once they spotted me, it became clear that my presence made them uneasy, and I didn’t want to scare them away. I knew that it could take a long time to gain an animal’s trust, so I was patient and waited, hoping that my caution would eventually pay off.

In the days and weeks that followed, the horses gradually became accustomed to me, and allowed me to close the distance just a little with each visit. Music class had suddenly become a blessing, a convenient excuse which allowed me to pursue the things I truly loved.

Within a month or two, some of the bolder animals had allowed me close enough to pat them gently or feed them treats. I had never ridden a horse, and I didn’t dare test the limits of the tentative bond that had grown between us. Perhaps someday I could learn, but not with a wild animal like this. That took care and experience that I knew I didn’t posess – at least not yet – but I made a mental note to look up riding lessons when I got home.

When the sun had dropped below the horizon and I felt myself starting to shiver in the cold sea breeze, I knew it was time to leave. But there was one more stop I needed to make before heading home.

Up the hill from the beach was a high-class bistro which sold appalingly expensive food. Behind the bistro was a narrow alley where they kept the dumpsters and any junk they didn’t want cluttering up the fancy interior of the place. None of the staff went back there if they could help it, and most people didn’t even know it existed, but I visited that alley every day. Because underneath the dumpster lived a family of stray cats, fleabitten and half-starved, who would have been dead long ago had I not stumbled across them by sheer luck when I was twelve years old. Every evening since, I had come back here after school to feed them with what scraps I could save from the previous night’s dinner.

“Did you miss me?” I asked the large calico as I bent down to scratch her behind the ears. “I know I’m later than usual. Were you worried I wouldn’t come back?”

She meowed impatiently and nudged my hand aside with her nose, sniffing hopefully at my schoolbag. I laughed, taking the hint, and extracted the carefully wrapped plate of food I had been carrying with me all day.

“Autumn salad on the menu tonight, folks,” I announced as I unwrapped the plate of vegetables and placed it on the ground by the dumpster. The four cats scrambled to get their meal. Most felines would have turned up their noses at raw vegetables, but I supposed these ones were in no position to be picky. Compared to the literal garbage they ate the rest of the time, this was practically gourmet.

I waited until the plate was clean, which didn’t take long at all, before retrieving it from the ground and stowing it back inside my bag. Mum would not be happy if one of her dinner plates went missing… especially since this wasn’t the first time I’d accidentally left a piece of crockery under the dumpster. I never told her where they went, but I’m sure she guessed it was my fault. If my twin Hugo was the athletic sibling, and our brother Gabriel was the smart one, then I was the resident scatterbrain.

I gave each of the cats an affectionate pat before bidding them goodbye for the evening and promising to return the following day. It was midwinter by now, and I worried about them being warm enough where they slept underneath the dumpster. At least the alley, flanked by tall buildings, was mostly sheltered from the heavy snow that surrounded our house up in the hills.

My parents and Gabriel were nowhere to be seen when I arrived home half an hour later. I walked into the rec room in search of Ash, but found Hugo instead, pumping his way through a set of chin-ups with such intensity that his arms were shaking from the effort. I sighed, wondering how long he’d been at it. He only ever pushed himself this hard when he was upset and looking for a distraction.

“Are you okay?” I asked, concerned.

Hugo finished his set and let go of the bar, breathing heavily and trembling from overexertion. “When did you get home?” he asked, ignoring my question. Or perhaps he hadn’t noticed me until now. He did get pretty focused when he worked out.

“Just now. Are you okay?” I repeated.

He hesitated for a fraction of a second too long. “Yeah. Fine.” He didn’t meet my gaze as he brushed past me and left the room. I heard his footsteps on the stairs, and a few moments later, a door slammed. I sighed.

People were complicated.


As you may have noticed, Hope’s story is going to be heavy on the pets. I’ve never really made good use of my Pets expansion, especially the horses, so I’m interested to see what it’s like from a gameplay perspective. Whoever becomes the heir, I’ve decided I’m going to try something I’ve never tried before ingame for a career/life path, so I’m pretty excited for that!

This chapter is the first  in a series of three opening chapters for Generation 4, told from the perspectives of each of the three heirs. Hugo’s chapter will be posted tomorrow, and then Gabriel’s the day after. I wanted to have them all finished before I posted any, which is why this one wasn’t up days ago. The main reason for this is that they all take place over the same day, so while I wrote each chapter I wanted to be able to edit the others to prevent continuity errors and such. The heir vote will go up the day after Gabriel’s chapter is released, to give you a chance to read all three.

Chapter 3.20 – The Beginning

Last chapter! I can’t believe we’re about to finish Diana’s story, it’s been so long in the making. After this I’ll start working on the three POV chapters for each of the kids, and I’ll release them over the course of the week, so hopefully the heir vote will be ready by next Saturday. Let me know if you think that’s a bit overkill to release them all within a week, because honestly I’m not sure and I’m worried about it being a bit overwhelming, although the plan is they’ll be shorter than regular chapters. But for now, enjoy!


– FIVE YEARS LATER –

“Pancakes for you, Madam Mayor.”

I rolled my eyes at my husband as he slid a plate of freshly-made pancakes onto the counter in front of me, torn between disapproval and amusement at his antics. “I’m not the mayor yet,” I reminded him.

“But you will be in three hours,” Luc countered, grinning as he slid into a seat at the breakfast bar beside me.

“Yeah…” I swallowed the lump in my throat and picked at my pancakes, hoping to replace the butterflies in my stomach with something more solid.

Noticing my unease, his smile faded. “You okay?”

I nodded. “I think so. I’m just a little nervous. I feel like this has been building for so long, and I really don’t want to mess it up.” I bit my lip, memories of my previous political blunders drifting to the forefront of my mind. I knew firsthand how vicious the press could be, and how easily they could turn public opinion and destroy my career and credibility. The higher I climbed, the farther I had to fall.

But there had been a time when I had thought I would never even make it onto local council, and yet here I was. I couldn’t let the what ifs get to me. If there was one thing being with Luc had taught me, it was that I couldn’t control everything that went on around me, no matter how much I wanted to. I could only do my best, and if the world decided to implode tomorrow, well, that was the world’s decision.

“I’m okay,” I said confidently, managing a smile. “I’ve worked hard. I deserve this, and I plan to prove it to them.”

Luc nodded. “That’s my girl.” He watched me with a mixture of love, admiration, and pride, and I felt my heart swell under his gaze. Luc always made me feel strong, like I could do anything. Unbreakable. Unstoppable.

The tender moment dissolved when two teenagers entered the room. My eyes widened when I noticed Gabriel, who had apparently ignored the buttoned shirt and dress pants I had left on his bed. He wasn’t planning on wearing a singlet and jeans to the ceremony, was he?

I started to get up, hoping to convince him to change, but Luc put a hand on my thigh to stop me. “You eat,” I said. “I’ll talk to Gabe.” I smiled gratefully and went back to my pancakes, while Luc got up to talk some sense into our eldest.

Hope had entered the room behind her brother, and was now at the stove helping herself to leftover pancakes. Her outfit, while not as bad as Gabriel’s, was not quite what I’d envisioned either. “Is that what you’re wearing to the ceremony?” I asked her, in what I hoped was a friendly, casual tone.

She turned, caught my eye and giggled. I must have looked as worried as I felt. “Don’t worry, mum,” she said. “I’m going to change in a minute. I just put this on to give Ash a bath before we leave.”

The cat in question meowed loudly at the mention of her name. She walked over to Hope and rubbed up against her outstretched hand, purring contentedly. Ash was getting on in years, and while she had grown up under Luc’s care, she had since formed a very close bond with his daughter.

Even so, I wasn’t too sure that now was the best time to be bathing pets when we needed to be at City Hall in just over an hour. But Hope was fiercly passionate about caring for the animal and would have considered it a personal affront if I had suggested she postpone it for even a few hours. Still, my worries were not baseless. My daughter was never very punctual at the best of times. “Try to be quick,” I advised her, nodding at the clock on the wall. “We don’t have much time.”

Hope frowned, but didn’t reply. She scooped Ash into her arms and gently stroked the cat’s ears. “We’re going to get you nice and clean, okay?” she murmured. “Don’t worry, we’ll be done before you know it.”

As she brushed past my on her way to the bathroom, I couldn’t tell whether her final remark was directed at me or the hydrophobic cat.

Twenty minutes later, she still hadn’t emerged. I was trying to be understanding, but I was getting more anxious the closer we got to the ceremony. Besides, knowing Hope, it was likely she had lost track of the time. I knocked loudly on the bathroom door. When there was no reply, I opened it and found Hope, with her long hair clipped on top of her head to keep it dry, still bathing the cat.

“We have to leave in ten minutes,” I told her – somewhat testily, I’ll admit. I was anxious and impatient and she should have been ready to leave by now. She hadn’t even gotten changed as she’d promised.

“I’m almost done,” she snapped. Her quick temper was always at its quickest when it came to the animals she loved. “It takes time to do it properly.”

“We don’t have time, Hope!” I cried in exasperation. “You need to be out the door in ten minutes. Hurry up!” I tapped my foot until Hope, huffing angrily, pulled the plug out to drain the bath, then I left to check the progress of her brothers. One would think that a seventeen-year-old and two fifteen-year-olds should be able to get ready for an important event on time without me having to be on their backs constantly.

When we all finally – finally! – made it to the Town Hall half an hour later, the rest of the family left to sit in the audience while I took a different door which led to the stage. I was to be seated there until the point in the procedings when the current mayor would officially pass his title on to me.

As Mayor Mills gave his final address, I sat as straight and as still as I could in my chair, with an expression of polite interest affixed to my face. I was acutely aware of all the camera lenses pointed at me from the back of the room where the reporters and journalists were gathered – so much so that I was barely listening to a single word being spoken.

“… your newly elected mayor, Diana Hunter!”

I jumped a little – hopefully imperceptibly – at the sound of my own name. Knowing that I was expected to speak, I rose from my chair as gracefully as I could manage and walked calmly towards the lectern. Mayor Mills stopped me with a hand on my arm before I stepped onto the platform, but still within microphone range so the audience would hear what he was saying. “Congratulations, Ms. Hunter,” he said, and his genuineness showed in the warm smile he offered me. “I wish you the best of luck in office.”

“Thank you, Your Honour.”

As my predecessor, Mayor Mills was the one to swear me in as the new mayor of Starlight Shores. As I repeated the oath, I took a moment to reflect on the enormous responsibilty that was being placed on my shoulders. My career would never be only about me. I was now a servant to the people, and I did not intend to disappoint them.

When I had completed the oath, Mayor Mills congratulated me for the second time and then returned to his seat, while I stepped up to the podium to speak.

As I delivered my prepared inauguration speech, I scanned the audience I was addressing, most of whom seemed friendly and interested in what I was saying. My gaze was drawn in particular to the front two rows, where all my friends and family were seated. My heart warmed at the sight of so many beloved familiar faces – Mandy, Pat, Celia, my mother, my children, and finally my husband, who gave me a small smile and a wink when I caught his eye. They were the reason I had the strength to get to where I was, and I made sure everyone in the room knew it. Although I now had a sacred duty to the people of Starlight Shores – a duty I took very seriously, and intended to fulfil to the best of my considerable ability – I never wanted to forget the people who had always had my back and without whom I would never have come anywhere near as far as I had.

After the ceremony was over, I found a crowd of familiar faces waiting outside to greet me on the front steps of the Town Hall. Patterns was the first to approach me with an enthusiastic hug of congratulations.

“I’m so proud of you, Diana,” he said, in a voice thick with emotion. “I always knew you were destined for great things.”

I squeezed my old friend tightly. “Thanks for being here, Pat,” I said in his ear. “It means a lot to me.”

Next to greet me was a very pregnant Mandy. I gaped when I saw her belly.

“Again? How many is that now?” I teased.

She giggled. “Only number four!”

“I’m joking. Congratulations.” I smiled as I patted her stomach. Given how I had neglected our friendship somewhat in favour of my career, I was glad to see that my old best friend was still happy. That, and that she cared enough about me still to come support me on such an important day.

“Thanks, and same to you. I’m really happy for you, Di. I know this is what you always wanted.”

As I turned away from Mandy, I noticed Celia standing beside her. She beamed at me. “You did it!”

I shook my head. “We did it,” I corrected her. “Thanks for always having my back.” I hugged her tightly, hoping to convey some small portion of my gratitude in the gesture. Even after I had lost the first election, Celia had refused to give up on me, and had coached me tirelessly through my second council campaign and the first half of my mayoral campaign. She, too, had recently been elected to local council, along with our former boss. Amelia had held onto her council seat with an iron grip for many years now, but somehow had never managed to climb any higher.

Speak of the devil. As I released Celia, I heard a familar cough behind her and, sure enough, there stood Amelia Jefferson, virtually unchanged from the last time I had seen her. Her youth, like her seat on council, was something she had managed to retain a firm grip on.

“Congratulations, Diana,” she said. Her mouth wished me luck, but her eyes wished me a painful death. Amelia had always been spiteful and petty, but it seemed she had not yet gotten over the fact that her once-subordinate had thoroughly surpassed her. But now was not the time for a confrontation, not with so many cameras and curious eyes still watching.

“Thank you, Amelia.” I said simply, hoping my smile at least appeared genuine.

She wasn’t finished. “I do hope it lasts. It wouldn’t be the first time a Mayor is deemed unfit for office and ends their term prematurely. You’re still very young, Diana. And inexperienced. Being Mayor isn’t as easy as it seems, you know. There are so many terrible mistakes you could make… Just a friendly word of warning.”

She certainly looked concerned, but I strongly suspected her words were anything but friendly. “Thanks for the advice,” I said with a small smile. I had long ago become immune to Amelia’s barbs. Nothing she said could phase me anymore.

The same could not be said for my hothead of a husband, who apparently had overheard our conversation. He was glaring daggers at Amelia from a few feet away, and for a moment I thought he was going to yell at her when he approached us. But Luc, while as easily angered as ever, was much better at controlling it than he used to be.

Grinning easily, he put a protective arm around my waist and drew me close. “I’m terribly sorry,” he said to Amelia, “but I just couldn’t wait any longer. I desperately require some time with my incredibly successful and very intimidating wife. Please excuse us.” He turned his back on her and tugged on my waist, so that I lost my balance and stumbled into his arms. He caught me easily and spun me around to face him. Before I could protest, he had pulled my mouth to his and kissed me fiercely.

I caught the shocked expression on Amelia’s face out of the corner of my eye, and smiled against his lips. Camera flashes went off around us, but I didn’t care. What was the worst they could do? I’d just become mayor, emotions were running high, my loved ones were all expressing their pride and wishing me luck. I was about to devote the next four years of my life to serving the people of this town. I could kiss my husband if I damn well pleased.

I had never felt so fulfilled in my life, and the best part was, this was only the beginning. The mayorship had me over the moon, but I wanted the stars, and I wouldn’t stop climbing until I had reached them.

Today, Starlight Shores was enough. But tomorrow… the entire Free World awaited.


Aaaaand that’s a wrap! I hope you all enjoyed reading Diana’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Stay tuned for the introductions to Gen 4, as well as the heir vote which should be ready this time next week.

Chapter 3.19 – Public Eye

Please excuse the unexplained outfit change at the start. The earliest pictures were taken before the move between computers, and I lost some CC clothing in the process, so continuity in this case was impossible.


Before long, I was back on my usual busy schedule. The final few weeks leading up to the election were a whirlwind of speeches, flyers, interviews and public appearances, such that I almost forgot about my unexpected run-in with my sister entirely. The weekend before polling day, the Autumn festival was in town. I was at the festival grounds all morning, striking up friendly conversations with those who came to vote and handing out flyers to anyone who would take them.

Celia had gone to the trouble of having a temporary lectern set up with a microphone, complete with signs and banners advertising my campaign. Although it made me feel a little self-conscious, I felt obliged to use it to my best advantage, considering all the effort – not to mention funds – it must have cost her. Surprisingly, there were very few hecklers, and some people even seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.

Until they weren’t.

“Hey!” someone called suddenly. “Is it true that your sister is on trial right now for grand larceny?”

If I hadn’t been so shocked by the question, I might have taken a moment to shake my head over the serious criminal charges Emily had apparently landed herself with. As it was, all I could manage was to gasp, “W-What?”

“I read it in the paper this morning.” The man who had spoken was looking at me expectantly, grimacing as if to say let’s see you talk your way out of this curveball. “Is it true?” he demanded.

“I… don’t know,” was all I could say.

The man raised his eyebrows. “You don’t know?”

I turned to face him and faked a reassuring smile. “I have no contact with my sister. We haven’t spoken in years.”

“That’s not what it said in the paper. Apparently, you were dismissed from the jury for the case, and then you were spotted later that night chatting with the defendant in a public park.”

“We weren’t… how did you…” For the first time in my career, I found myself lost for words. I needed to get out of here. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. Maybe Emily was right. Maybe I had made the wrong decision. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Politicians didn’t do ‘maybes’. They were confident in everything they said and did, so that everyone else would feel confident in them.

“Excuse me,” I mumbled, not-so-confidently. I stumbled off the stand, catching a brief glimpse of the concerned look on Celia’s face as I rushed past her on my way to the car. I had to get home. Had to find out if what the man had said was true. And I had to talk to Luc.

Luc would understand. Luc always understood.

I paused momentarily on my way inside to collect the local paper from where it was lying innocently next to the front gate.

Once I was inside and safely seated at the dining table, I unfolded it to read the front page. My heart sank into my stomach as I read the headline.

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY: LOCAL CANDIDATE SHARES SISTERLY BOND WITH CONVICTED CRIMINAL

I scanned the paragraph underneath, feeling sicker with every word.

Diana Hunter, a previously forerunning candidate in the upcoming local elections, took time this week out of her busy campaigning schedule to serve as a juror in the trial of none other than her own sister. The defendant was on trial accused of grand larceny. She has previously served time in county jail on convictions of fraud and burglary. (Story continues on page 3.)

‘Previously forerunning’, huh? That sounded promising. Against my better judgement, I flipped open the paper to page 3 and read what was printed there.

Fellow jurer, Jeremy Bathorn, was witness to the brief but tense interaction between the siblings and Ms. Hunter’s subsequent dismissal from the trial. “[Hunter] told the judge that the defendant was her sister,” he said. “What a crazy coincidence! They seemed very distant for sisters. I doubt they had much of a relationship. I didn’t think it was fair to dismiss her from the jury, and I think she agreed with me.”

A crazy coincidence, indeed. Could Ms. Hunter have wished to remain on the jury in order to manipulate the outcome of the trial? Is it possible that she gained her place there, not through random selection, but through her network of contacts? While Bathorn may have held the view that the sisters were not close, the evidence tells a different story.

Photographs taken mere hours after the trial show the two sisters engaged in a heated discussion in a nearby public park. Was her sister upset over Ms. Hunter’s immediate dismissal from the trial? Perhaps they had planned to use her influence to secure a favourable verdict? Whatever the case, it is clear that there is more to this encounter than meets the eye.

I reached the end of the story, but continued to read over it again and again, picking it apart obsessively, fixating on every false claim and unflattering implication. The page blurred suddenly as angry tears welled up in my eyes. I blinked, and they streamed down my face, dripping from my chin into my lap. My hands were clenched and shaking so badly I was in danger of ripping the paper in half.

“You’re home early.”

Luc’s voice beside me made me jump. I nodded, and continued to stare determinedly at the paper, not wanting him to see that I was crying. As always, however, nothing got past him. He gently pried the paper from my hands, and guided me to my feet with one hand around my waist. I was glad when he didn’t force me to turn around. I wasn’t ready to face him just yet.

“What’s wrong?” he murmured in my ear.

I shook my head, unable to speak. Instead, Luc picked up the discarded paper and held it up in front of him. I could hear his angry growls and huffs of breath every few seconds as he read the article. When he was finished, he threw the paper aside and pulled me into his arms. There was nothing in that article that he didn’t already know – I had, as promised, filled him in the following morning on everything that went down on the day in question – but I still felt inexplicably ashamed as I sobbed into his shoulder and he rubbed my back in soothing circles.

When my sobs had quietened, though the tears continued to fall, he pulled back to look at me with a small, reassuring smile. “You don’t really care what that idiot of a reporter says about you, do you?” he asked. I nodded, still sniffling. “You do? Why?”

I shrugged. “It hurts to read things like that… and know that they’re lies… but also that no one else is going to know that. Everyone who reads that story is going to think that I have no sense of justice or integrity. It’s going to ruin everything I’ve worked for these last two years.” I couldn’t look him in the eye. I felt stupid for being this upset over a newspaper article, and disappointed in myself for not knowing how to handle it better. Maybe if I hadn’t totally lost my head at the festival today, I could have limited the damage somewhat. It was too late now. At that realisation, a fresh wave of tears began to fall.

“Di,” Luc said quietly, “look at me.” I turned my head a little towards him, and he reached up to gently wipe the tears from my cheek with his thumb. I managed a small smile in return, which seemed to encourage him.

“I want you to realise,” he said slowly, “that you can’t change what that reporter wrote. And you can’t change how people react to it.” I scowled. Did he think I didn’t know that? Why did he think I was crying right now? Undeterred by my change in demeanor, he pressed on. “What you can change, my darling, is how you respond. This campaign has been rough on you, and I know how much all this means to you, but I need you to know that your career is not everything. You need to know that you are worth more than your polling numbers.”

“But I-”

Luc pressed his hand against my mouth. “Not finished.” I glared at him. The moment he removed his hand, I opened my mouth to tell him off, but he grabbed me unexpectedly and swung me around, catching me in his arms as he kissed me deeply. I was so surprised, I was rendered speechless for a good minute.

“You are beautiful,” he murmured against my lips, then pulled away to add, “and incredibly intelligent”. He kissed me again. “And fierce.” And again. “And ambitious.” And again.  “And everyone is going to forget about this in a couple of weeks.”

I avoided his seeking lips and protested, “But the election-”

“… Is not the centre of the universe,” he interrupted. “You are stronger than a single obstacle.” He kissed me again. “And you.” Kiss. “Will.” Kiss. “Get.” Kiss. “There.” He covered my face in a flurry of little kisses until I couldn’t help but laugh. He grinned, looking entirely too pleased with himself. “There she is. Feeling better?”

“For now,” I responded hesitantly. “You can put me down.”

“Never.”

I rolled my eyes, but I did feel better. Luc always made me feel strong. Like nothing could ever hurt me as long as I was with him.

Which is why I wasn’t too perturbed when I received a call from my old employer two weeks later, just before the election results were due to be announced. I hesitated to pick up the phone, but eventually reasoned that it might be something important.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Diana. It’s Amelia Jefferson.”

I adopted my most professional tone. “What can I do for you, Amelia? I hope there are no hard feelings about the election race.”

“Oh, none at all! In fact, I was just calling to share some happy news.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I won, again.” My stomach dropped. I’d lost? Amelia prattled on in my ear, but I barely heard her. What was she going on about now? “I’m sure you’d agree that the voters made the right choice, choosing the more experienced candidate. Forgive me for saying so, but you were a bit of a wildcard. And after that public fiasco a couple of weeks ago, well…” she paused, allowing her words to sink in as a fresh wave of embarrassment washed over me. Just when I had begun to hope that the whole thing was fading out of sight. I should have known that someone like Amelia wouldn’t let such potent ammunition slip past uncollected.

“Anyway,” she went on, “I actually wanted to thank you for all that. If you hadn’t made such a mess of things, I really think you might have beaten me. Better luck next time!” She hung up without waiting for a response. Apparently she had dropped all the bombs she intended to.

Although I allowed myself the small hope that she had simply been trying to mess with my head and was not actually privvy to the results of elections before they were announced, the news the following day confirmed her story. I wish I could say that I was able to let go of failure as easily as I latched on to success, and the news of my loss, while obviously saddening, did nothing to quench my ambition.

But the truth was, I was crushed.

I couldn’t help but feel like all my hard work had been for nothing. For weeks, I was inconsolable. It was a long time before I was able to pull myself together, pick myself up, and try again. If nothing else, I reminded myself, I had gained some valuable experience.

This time, maybe, things would be different.

Chapter 3.18 – Curveball

This chapter was originally very long, almost twice my usual chapter length, so I split it in half. The second half will be published on Saturday, so I can get back to my preferred release day!


We moved back into our newly built-and-decorated home a few months before the election was set to take place. All our mail had been redirected to Celia’s house while we had been living there, but that arrangement had been reversed about a week before moving back home. So when we first arrived, there was a huge stack of mail waiting on the table in the entryway.

The letter on top of the stack was addressed to me, and stamped with the symbol of the local council. Opening it, I found nothing election-related, as I had anticipated, but a summons for jury duty at the local courthouse in a few weeks’ time. Being passionately interested in local affairs, I had never dreaded jury duty like many of my peers but rather looked forward to it each time, especially knowing that I would likely be barred from serving on a jury once I was an official member of council. So, I cheerfully mailed my response and looked forward to doing my civic duty.

When I arrived at the courthouse on the day, I was shuffled into a waiting room with several dozen other prospective jurors and asked to wait until I was called to a courtroom. The summons came sooner than I expected, and I soon found myself seated on a panel with five others, facing the six remaining jurors on the other side of the courtroom, none of whom looked the least bit excited to be there.

A few minutes later, the door to my left opened and a professional-looking woman entered the room, who I assumed was the Defense Attorney. She was followed by another woman, around my own age or perhaps a few years younger. Dressed in red leather pants and a matching corset, with tattoos decorating both arms and her exposed back, she hardly looked the part of a lawyer. I mentally concluded that she was most likely the defendant. She was almost frighteningly thin, but clearly not from wasting away in a cell, as she was neither handcuffed nor wearing anything that resembled the garb of a prison inmate. I couldn’t get a good look at her face as she strolled past with her head held high, but there was something painfully familiar about her that I couldn’t quite place.

As she passed, the woman turned her head towards the jury and caught my eye. I stared back, my mouth hanging open as I finally realised why she looked so familar.

Her skin was paler than it had once been, and had a sickly, waxen quality to it. Her blonde hair was tangled and streaked with grime, and brown at the tips as though it had been dyed completely and allowed to grow back. Her face was sunken and without its usual layer of heavy makeup, but her eyes remained the same. Clear, sky blue – eyes inherited, like mine, from our mother.

Once Emily had taken her seat, she turned towards me and offered a subtle wink. I folded my arms and scowled back. It was bad enough that she had gotten herself in trouble – again – and was now on trial for God-knew-what, but that I should be selected of thousands of candidates to serve on this trial on this day? The odds of that happening were so miniscule that I was convinced it must have been orchestrated by the universe itself as some kind of practical joke, at a time when I was more in the public eye than I had ever been and had the most to lose as a result.

The judge, whose job it was to notice these things, did not overlook our little exchange. Addressing me, he asked, “Juror Six, is there any conflict of interest present which would prevent you from making an objective judgement in this trial?” He glanced at Emily, still watching me with a small grin on her lips. “A personal relationship with the defendant, perhaps?”

There was no sense in lying. I sat up straighter and looked at the judge as I nodded. “The defendant is my sister, Your Honour.” The woman next to me gasped quietly, but I ignored her.

A man seated on the opposite side of the room cleared his throat. “Your Honour, in light of this information, the Prosecution would like to request that Juror Six be dismissed from this case.”

The judge nodded. “Juror Six, thank you for coming. You are dismissed from duty for today.”

As disappointed as I would ordinarily have been to miss what may have been my last chance at serving on a jury, I felt nothing but relief as I stood up and exited the courthouse without a backwards glance, my heart still hammering in my chest. Walking to my car, I forgot to look where I was going and walked headlong into a young man coming from the opposite direction. “I’m so sorry!” I gasped. “I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

He looked at me with wide eyes and beamed. The next thing I knew, he was shaking my hand enthusiastically. “Not at all, it was totally my fault,” he said. “Diana Hunter, right? I’m Jeremy Bathorn. I’m a huge supporter of yours.”

“Supporter?” I echoed in surprise. He nodded eagerly.

“Absolutely! I love your campaign. I’m so glad you’re running for town council. We need someone we can trust to represent us ordinary folk.”

I wasn’t sure if he was making fun of me or not, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. “Well, I’m very pleased to meet you,” I said with a smile.

 

“Was that really your sister in there?” he asked curiously. “I was on the other side of the room so I couldn’t see her very well. They dismissed me right after you because I said I was sure that you could be trusted to be impartial. You seem like a trustworthy person to me. I’m sure you’re not someone who would willingly associate yourself with criminals.”

I was a little shaken, but tried not to show it. “Thank you for your confidence,” I smiled. “Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

I conducted myself as professionally as I could manage to my car and pulled out of the parking lot, Jeremy waving excitedly in my rearview mirror. I had freed up the entire day in my schedule, so I didn’t want to go home just yet, but neither did I want to hang around the courthouse any longer. I settled for lunch at a cafe in the city and an afternoon of casual window shopping. I rarely took time for myself nowadays, and it felt good to unwind a little.

It was after dark when I passed by the big park on my way home. Not quite ready for my day of relaxation to end, I decided to stop and take a short stroll to get my chaotic thoughts in order.

The park was practically deserted at this time. I caught sight of another nighttime stroller every so often, but for the most part my walk was quiet and uninterrupted, at least at first. Then it began to rain. I started quickly for the car, but came to a sudden stop when I heard running footsteps approaching behind me and my heart started to pound. I turned to see a horribly familiar figure sprinting towards me.

And I thought I had seen the last of my sister this morning. No such luck.

“What are you doing here?” I asked her, trying to keep the accusatory tone out of my voice. “I thought you were supposed to be on trial.”

 

“I haven’t been convincted of anything yet,” she grinned. “For now, I’m still on bail. And the trial is over for today. I was actually going to come visit you at home, but then I noticed you here.”

I suppressed a shudder, thinking of the dramatic mess that would have ensued if she’d carried out her original plan. “So, what do you want from me?”

“Do I have to want something? What if I just wanted to see my sister?”

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t play innocent, Emily. You always have an ulterior motive. Cut to the chase already, I’m getting cold.”

“Fine, fine,” she said, holding her arms up defensively. “I’ll cut to the chase. Rumour has it you’re about to become pretty influencial in this town, sis.”

“No,” I said immediately. I could already see where she was going with this.

She grinned. “No need to be mod-”

“I meant, no Emily, I won’t use my political connections to bail you out of trouble.”

She scowled. “Why the hell not? I’m your sister, aren’t I?”

 

“So you say. But that doesn’t mean you get to walk all over me. I covered for you when we were kids, but I won’t have any part of your criminal activities. You should know that. I wouldn’t do it then, and I won’t now.”

“Don’t act like you’re better than me, Diana. Don’t you dare. You always got off on being Little Miss Perfect, but I know the truth about you. We both know you’re not who you pretend to be.”

Genuinely bemused, I simply stared at her. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She was smiling now. Not a kind or loving smile, but a cold one. Cruel and calculating. “Oh yeah? How do you think the fine citizens of Starlight Shores would like to know that you got knocked up at eighteen by your delinquent boyfriend? Or that you went crazy at college and cheated on him with some guy you met at a party?”

I gasped. “How did you…?”

Her grin widened. “You have your connections, I have mine. There’s photographic evidence as well, in case you were wondering.”

My shock dissolved quickly into outrage. “Are you trying to blackmail me?”

“That depends. Do I need to? You’re forcing my hand here, Diana.” Her expression softened a little. She looked almost desperate. “I have people I need to protect, people I’ll do anything for. Surely you can understand that.”

“I can understand wanting to protect people you care about,” I conceded. Then my anger flared up again. “What I can’t understand is destroying someone else’s life, manipulating people to breaking point, just to get what you want! If I did what you’re doing, I couldn’t live with myself.” I squared my shoulders and glared at her. “Do your worst, Emily. I don’t care what you think you have on me, I won’t stoop to your level.”

“Fine.” Furious, Emily turned on her spiked heel and stalked off. “You’re making a mistake, Diana,” she called over her shoulder as she left. “You’re going to regret turning me down.”

“I doubt it,” I yelled after her. “And next time you think about playing the ‘sister card’, you know where to stick it!”

Still seething, I watched her retreating back until she was out of sight, then returned to my car and sped home. I firmly told Luc, who greeted me at the door, that I would fill him in tomorrow, and no amount of cajoling or pleading would change my mind. Eventually, defeated, he bade me goodnight with a sigh and a kiss before falling asleep with his back to me.