Author Topic: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley  (Read 180428 times)

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 87 Part Two
« Reply #285 on: January 27, 2019, 11:23:27 PM »

They played together for a few minutes, and Zelda seemed to like Patrick’s playing, also.  The door opened just as they were finishing, and Pauline joined them.  “Hey!  Sorry I’m late.  Hope I didn’t miss all the fun.”  She extended her hand to Patrick.  “You must be Stiles’ new guy.  Pauline Wan.  Pleased to meet you.”

“Patrick Wainwright.”  He shook her hand back, his heart fluttering with excitement.  The whole band was there now.  “You probably wouldn’t remember, but I met you once before on a school trip.  It was really cool.  You guided my group through the theater.”

“Oh, yeah?  I’ve done a bunch of those tours.  Always fun.  My favorites are the ones where I get some music students to jam with.  Some of those kids turn out to have great talent.  Our operations manager here, Holly, started out that way.  I was probably just a few years older than you at the time.”

Patrick blushed.  “Actually, you did that with my group.  You let me and Jamaal Hart play with you.  I played guitar and he played bass.  We were really psyched about it!”

“Wow, and here you are now!  In that case, it’s good to see you back!”

“Patrick here just graduated from Sims U.”

Pauline nodded to Stiles.  “I read the resume.  Good stuff!  If Stiles was impressed with your playing, and from what I heard when I came in, with good reason, I can imagine you’ve only gotten better since your student tour days.”

She asked him a few more questions.  Some were similar to ones Stiles already asked, and a few weren’t.  Patrick was glad to answer, but he was nervous because he really wanted to impress them.  He felt like things were going well, but it was hard to be sure.  Pauline motioned him to the DJ booth.  “We’ve talked about instruments, but how are you with setup and equipment?  I assume you’ve done enough of that yourself to make sure a show’s set up right, and can pitch in yourself if need be?  Sometimes in this business, our help is not… all it’s cracked up to be.”

“Yeah, I’m comfortable with that.  I did some of that at Sims U.”

“Good.  What about the DJ booth?  You at all familiar with that?  Sometimes we need someone to run that at a show.  Experience with it would be a plus.”

“I played around on the one at the Grotto a few times.  Didn’t get any tomatoes or drinks thrown at me, and I’ve got a basic idea of how they work.”  He looked at theirs.  “Though this is much higher tech than the old school one they had.  It was pretty old and kind of cobbled together, and even had some duct tape on it…”

“Fair enough.  Want to show us what you can do with a little demo here?”

“Sure.”  Patrick got into the booth, and all three of them had him try some basic tasks on it.  He was far from experienced at it, but they didn’t seem put off by his selections or the few questions he had about features not on the Grotto’s old machine.  Zelda even gave him a few pointers on technique.

After they had him demonstrate his familiarity and knowledge some of the other sound equipment, they asked him to jam with all three of them at once so they could further evaluate his playing skill.  The song they picked was one he was reasonably comfortable with.  Despite some initial nervousness, soon Patrick was just as engrossed in the music as they were.

They played two more songs together, ones with varying tempos and beats, and then Stiles suggested a demonstration of Patrick’s singing skills.

For that, they fired up a karaoke machine.  They wanted to focus on his singing without the distraction of playing music themselves.  For the first track, Pauline chose a duet so they could evaluate how well he could sing in harmony with another vocalist.

It was a popular love song, and as Patrick picked up the microphone, he couldn’t help but remember Maria complaining that she didn’t want him singing love songs with other women.  Of course, an audition with a professional was not even remotely the same thing.  He found it amusing in a way that he was bending that promise with the illustrious Pauline Wan, known almost as well for her romantic reputation as her music, but she was also around Blair’s age, if not older.

After the duet, they had Patrick sing two more songs by himself.  It was nerve-wracking singing for such an accomplished audience, but he did his best and didn’t think he messed anything up too badly.  Afterward, they brought him back to the practice stage.

“All right.  I think we’ve got a good feel for your talent and what you can do,” Pauline told him.  “Thanks for coming by.  The three of us will have a chat about what we’ve seen and done here with you today, and we’ll get back in touch soon.”  She shook his hand.

Zelda was next.  “I promise we won’t keep you waiting too long.  We all know all too well how nerve-wracking that can be!”

“Glad you came by, Patrick.”  Stiles shook his hand last.  “Like she said, we won’t keep you hanging long.  Oh, and tell Blair and Cycl0n3 I said hey.  Hope they’re doing well.”

“I will, and thanks.  I appreciate you giving me a shot.”  Patrick felt optimistic.  Even though he didn’t get an immediate offer, it wasn’t a rejection, either, and he believed they were seriously considering him.  Still, he hoped they meant it when they said they wouldn’t make him wait too long to hear back.  If it wasn’t going to happen, he’d rather know sooner than later so he could get the disappointment over with.

Patrick wasn’t the only one putting himself out there.  While Maria’s ultimate career goal was to be a published novelist, she wanted to get her name known.  If she’d learned anything from her ultra-corporate father, it was that connections mattered in every field.  Besides, she wasn’t about to give him room to imply that she was mooching off Patrick’s family’s wealth and not contributing to their household, especially since they weren’t married yet.  So, when she saw an ad for a freelance news blog job in the newsroom at Doo Peas, she applied.  It wasn’t the type of writing she preferred, but it would be good experience, and she was confident she could do well at it.

She got a call for an interview with River McIrish, the head of the newsroom.  “Hello, Ms. Wolff.”  She greeted her cordially and invited her to sit down.  “Thank you for your interest in the position and for coming in today.  It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Thank you.  You too.”

“I’ve had a chance to review your resume.  I see you graduated from Sims University recently with a high GPA.  Congratulations.  I know they have an excellent communications program there.  We’ve got many skilled Sims U alumni in our ranks here.”  She looked at her file.  “I noticed that you majored in creative writing and not journalism.  Did you take many news reporting classes?  I see you’ve got some work-study credits in broadcasting, but were there any others?”

“Yes.  The communications core curriculum required we take a certain number, so I took them.”

“And given your overall high GPA, you must’ve done well in them, so that’s good.”

“Thank you.  I did.  I got A’s in two of them and a B in Intro to Meteorology and Weather Reporting.”

“I see.  So, that all looks good.”  She straightened in her chair.  “I reviewed your submitted writing samples, and you’ve certainly got the skill and quality of writing we’re looking for.  That said, during your time at Sims University, your focus was on creative writing and not reporting.  I’m curious as to why you’re interested in this job.  There won’t be much opportunity for utilizing that particular skill set.  It’s a news and local interest blog.”

“I understand that, but I enjoy keeping up with current events, and I thought it’d be something interesting to expand my skills with.”

“And creative writing tends to only pay the bills in published novels, which can be a long shot or a long wait?” River guessed with a knowing half-smile.

Maria hadn’t wanted to say that, lest she give the wrong impression, but she couldn’t really deny it.  “There are more opportunities in this aspect of the field.”

“There are indeed.  I just wanted to see if we were both on the same page.  So, tell me what you think your unique skills can offer this position.”

“Well, in addition to creative writing, I also enjoy art and theater.  I’d love to cover local art shows and festivals, and promote culture and the arts around here.  I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting as a hobby myself.  Also, I took some elective courses in graphic design.  I’m pretty good with the popular software programs for logo and art design, too.  I think I could really make that blog stand out not just in writing, but overall style.”

“Okay, that all sounds good.  We’re always about getting the attention of our audience.”

River then asked Maria more technical questions about her experience and ideas.  Maria felt like the interview went well, but she couldn’t help worrying that a candidate with an actual journalism major might edge her out.  River gave no indication as to how many other applicants there had been before her or scheduled afterward, but Maria doubted she was the only one that applied.  Even if the job wasn’t something she wanted or even needed long-term, she still didn’t want to get rejected for it.

After the interview, River toured Maria around the building to show her the various parts of the news room and where and who she’d be working with if she got the position.  Her potential co-workers all seemed pleasant enough.  She recognized Sam Sekemoto, who’d been a senior back when she was a freshman in high school.  Even though she never knew him well, seeing someone familiar was nice.  Maria wasn’t terribly impressed with the cubicle she’d be sitting in if she got the job, but she knew that no one started with a nice office like River or her father had.  Not even with a degree.

When River showed her the complex café, they passed Tad in the hallway.  He said hello, but they didn’t chat beyond that since they were both busy.  “Oh, I didn’t know you knew Tad,” River remarked.  Although mail room staff worked for the business division of Doo Peas, they serviced both towers, and Tad was outgoing enough that he was friendly with almost everyone he interacted with regularly.  Given that River was head of the newsroom, she had requests for the mail room quite often.

“He’s my brother.”

“Ah, so you are related to those Wolffs.  I know he’s Thornton Wolff’s son.  Thornton told me over coffee one afternoon when we were discussing an advertising project.  Had him deliver their package to me personally.  Anyway, I’d wondered when I saw your last name and your Summer Hill Court address.  Especially since we don’t get too many entry level, even university educated candidates, from that part of town applying here.”

“Yes, I live up there with my fiancé.  It’s his family’s home, though.  Not mine.”

“Fiancé?  Oh, you’re getting married.  How nice!  Congratulations.”

“Thank you.”  Maria beamed.

“Well, it was a pleasure meeting you.”  River walked Maria to the front desk to sign her out.  “Thank you for coming in, and we’ll be in touch soon.”

“Great!  I look forward to it.”  Maria shook her hand and headed home, hopeful and optimistic.

She was the first to hear back after interviewing.  River called the very next morning to congratulate Maria and tell her she got the position.  She would start first thing on Monday.

As she shared her good news on SimBook, a part of her wondered if being Thornton Wolff’s daughter was what edged her out over the competition.  She dismissed that thought quickly, though.  Tad might’ve needed their father’s help to get a halfway decent job, but he’d always been a slacker in school and never applied himself like she did.  He couldn’t even get into Sims U, after all.  But she didn’t need her father’s name to succeed, for a news blog job or to get published someday.  She was good enough to make a name for herself regardless.  She knew it.

Patrick heard back from Stiles the day after Maria got her good news, but even after the call, he didn’t know for sure if he’d been hired.  All Stiles said was he wanted to sit down and chat with him for a follow-up.  Patrick hoped that was a good sign.  Maybe he wanted to make whatever offer in person, or maybe he just had more questions or wanted him to perform or do something else for further evaluation.  Either way, he probably wouldn’t invite him down to the theater just to reject him, right?

Stiles brought him into his office.  “Good to see you again, Patrick.  Sit on down.  I’m sure you’re eager to hear what I’ve got to say, so I’ll cut to the chase.  We’ve all talked it over, and come to an agreement, but before I say anything else, I want to ask you something.  Fairly personal, as someone who’s been in this business a long time and knows the toll it can take on you.”  He gave him a serious look.  “It always sounds glamorous and exciting, but it’s got its rough side.  Rougher than you might expect sometimes.  I know you can perform, but the hours are long and hard.  You’re young, so I’m sure you can handle that physically, but… you do understand that it can strain your personal life every bit as hard, if not harder?”

“Well, yeah.  I know it’s long hours on nights and weekends.  That’s how show business goes.”

“Long hours, nights, and weekends almost all the time.”

Patrick nodded.  “I understand.  I’m willing to do that.”

“I don’t doubt it.”  He paused.  “Is Maria?  Straight talk, not leaving this room, just between you and me.  You love that girl.  Been with her longer than I’ve been with her mother, and we both know her.  I just want to make sure you understand that it’s not going to be easy.  Half of the issues Morgana and I have come from my obligations and hers not meshing.  And Caleb?  Aw, that poor kid.  I love him to pieces, but I don’t see him half as much as I should and about a quarter as much as I’d like to.  I hate that.  I didn’t even realize myself at the time how much this business would cut in to family life even after our band cut its touring schedule way back.  Zelda and Pauline, they aren’t with their kids near as much as they wish they were, either.  Sommer’s at her dad’s a lot and Zelda leans on family to help her out with Lane just as much.  But we’ve all got to do what we’ve got to do, and it can get hard juggling those obligations.  Especially when those who aren’t in the business don’t truly understand how it is.”

It was the first time Patrick ever heard Stiles’ perspective of his seemingly hands-off parenting of Caleb.  It had long been a complaint of Tad’s, and Maria also commented from time to time that Stiles only seemed to spend a little more time with Caleb than her own father had with her and Tad.  It was good to hear it wasn’t because he didn’t care, but Patrick could also see that Stiles realized how little intentions mattered when in practice, his absence was still felt and resented.

But even so, he wasn’t Stiles or Thornton.  He would be there for Maria, and he’d make sure she understood.  He’d be there for any kids they had, too.  Even if it was through phone calls because he was working or on the road.  They’d never have to wonder if he loved them.  He and Maria wouldn’t end up like Stiles and her mother.  He wouldn’t let that happen.  “I appreciate what you’re saying,” Patrick said after that thoughtful moment.  “But I think Maria will understand.  I’ll make sure she does.  She was with me at university, so she knows—”

“Morgana was sure she understood, too.  Then we had Caleb and reality slapped us both upside the head.  But you know Maria better than me, so I hope you’re right.  I’d just hate to see you bear the brunt of a lot of hurt and misunderstanding and come away from this wishing you’d never done it.  Seen that happen to kids in this business.”

“I get what you’re saying.”

Stiles smiled a bit.  “And you’re still gung-ho to go for it anyway.”

“Yeah,” Patrick admitted.

“Ah, you kids and your optimism.  I envy you.”  Stiles stood and indicated for Patrick to do the same.  “Well, I’m sure you’ve pieced together that I gave you this talk because I want you to know what you’re getting into if you take this offer.  We’ve got a place for you here, if you want it.”

“Really?”  Patrick grinned from ear to ear.  “I mean, wow!  Yes!  Thanks!  Thank you so much!”

“You’re very welcome.  Glad to have you aboard.  We’ve been putting together a new band.  There’s a drummer that I think would sound great with your guitar, so I’d like to hook you two up and get you playing together.  In the meantime, we’ll break you in on some other stuff, and put you to work on some shows in set up and background.”

“Sure!  A drummer, huh?  What’s the band called?”

“We don’t actually have a name yet.  We’d like to see how you two sound together first, and we’re planning an audition for a lead vocalist, too.  Female.  Not that I don’t think you could do some singing yourself, especially if we want the male vocalist sound, but it’s primarily that guitar of yours I want to shine.  I’ll introduce you to our drummer when you start.”  He paused.  “He’s just a bit older than you, another local.  Maybe you two went to school together?  Wilbur Keaton?”

“Oh, yeah.  We did.  We were in music club together for a year.  Plus, my little brother’s dating his little sister, and my friend Penny’s engaged to him.”  Patrick remembered Maria telling him how Penny was frustrated that they still hadn’t gotten married or moved in together even though she’d already had their baby.  But it’s not just because of his job here.  They’ve got a lot of stuff going on.  Besides, I’m not Wilbur and she’s not Penny.

“Great, then you’ve played together before.  I’ll let Holly know that.  She’ll be your supervisor, by the way.  I’d introduce you, but she’s out today.  I’m sure you’ll get along great, though.  Everyone likes her.  She’s one of them types you can’t help but warm up to, and great with a guitar herself.  You’ll be reporting right to her when you start.  You available this weekend?”


“Saturday it is, then.  We’ll see you soon.”  Stiles shook his hand.  “Welcome to the madhouse.”

Later at home, Susan and Boyd relaxed in front of the TV.  They were both happy for Patrick, and Maria too.  He gushed about his new job all through dinner, for which Susan made both of their favorites to celebrate—a spicy batch of chile con carne for him, and pumpkin pie for dessert for her.  It was a past the traditional fall season for pumpkin pie, but nobody minded that.  Autumn favorites still tasted great in the cold of winter.

Boyd relaxed in the rocker and channel surfed while Susan read an e-book on the couch.  He let out a sigh.  “Not much on tonight.”

“You could always go back and check the weather again.”

“Eh, they’re only calling for a few inches, and the kids are all home.  Nothing to worry about.”  He paused.  “Well, unless Blair or Cycl0n3 or the grandkids are out and about.  Hopefully not.”

“Don’t drive yourself up a wall worrying about that, please.  I’m sure they’re fine.”

Boyd changed the channel and leaned back in the chair.  An old image flashed across the digital photo screen on the wall, and it caught his eye.  “Heh.”


“Just that picture.”

Susan glanced up.  “You in the Oasis Landing outfit?”

“It was so long ago now.”

“Yes, it was.  That was back when we lived on Maywood.  Looks like I took it in Patrick’s room.  He was, what?  Two, then?  Working on three?  Chris was just a baby.”

“Look at how young I look.”  Boyd chortled.  “And I felt old then.”

“We were a lot younger then.”

“It’s just hard to believe it’s been that long.  Since we first met Emit and went to Oasis Landing, I mean.”

Susan let out a thoughtful sigh.  “That was the first round.  We’ve only seen Emit twice since then, and only went back once.”

“And we thought that was a long time between visits.  Now, it’s been…”

“Pretty long.”

Boyd stood up.  “He told us he’d get us when the time was right, but the longer it is, the more I wonder when that will be?  We’re getting so much older.  He said Oasis Landing was rougher on us last time because our treatment wasn’t that active anymore.  It’s got to be nonexistent now.  How long do we wait?”

“Until he shows,” Susan sighed with disappointment.  “He doesn’t answer the messages we’ve sent.  The portal’s stayed inactive.  So, I guess the ‘time isn’t right’ yet.”

“He is a time traveler, so even if he forgets about us for a while, it’s not like he can’t just blip back to the right moment, I guess.  It’s not much fun waiting on our end, though.  Waiting and wondering.”  He paced a bit.  “Guess there’s more we have to do, or build, or change.  I just wish we knew what.  I’d get on with it so I could see it again before it’ll hurt too much to get around there.  I’m not even sure I could still ride one of those hoverboards.  Falling off one isn’t anything that’d feel too good at our age, that’s for sure.”

Susan met his eyes.  “We could give ourselves a little shot of our formula.”

“I know, but… going there is a dangerous game.”  It wasn’t the first time they’d discussed that notion.  As much as the idea of being immortal in a sense appealed, there were serious considerations in bending the natural order of things too far.  Neither of them wanted to watch everyone they loved grow old and die, and if they kept themselves alive too far past their natural life span, there was a good chance they’d feel the pain of burying a child when Blair died of old age.  While they could keep her going the same way, who was to say she’d even want that, or the rest of their children, grandchildren, and their families?  Did they even have the right to make that offer, and what would that do to the natural order of things if they did?  How many was too many?  There was a reason long-lived supernaturals like vampires were clannish and kept to themselves.  Immortality was not without consequences.

Susan agreed.  “Then all we can do is wait.  Keep at our projects.  I’d like to believe if we were doing anything wrong, he’d let us know.  Maybe everything’s still on track from when we went there last, and nothing’s changed that he thinks is worth showing us.”

“Maybe.  I hope he comes back soon, at any rate.  It’s just too bad we don’t have a cheat sheet or some way to check other than the almanac.  This side of the time travel waiting game takes a lot more patience than his.  For all we know, on his end, he just saw us yesterday.”

“Hey, I wonder if we do?”  Susan loaded a file on her tablet.

“What do you mean?”

“Maria’s book.  She’s been working on a novel in the here and now.  I wonder if it’s one of the two I got the text of.  If it is, we could see if that’s the same.  Kind of a long, shot but…”  Her voice trailed off.


Susan held up the tablet.  “Right at the beginning.  Look.”

Vice and Voice, by Maria Wainwright.”  Boyd read the screen aloud, and realized what Susan was showing him.  “Her name.  It was Wolff before.”

“The wedding.  Maybe in the past, it didn’t happen, but now it will?  Or at least she’ll be changing her name?”

“Something happened between them that shifted the projection, maybe?” Boyd theorized.  “Good, I hope?  So, maybe, something is different.”

“And maybe,” Susan said with a smile, “that means Emit might come back sooner rather than later?”

“He can’t wait that much longer, unless he wants to visit our graves, or tote us around Oasis Landing as the world’s oldest time traveling relics.”  Boyd picked up their magic 8-ball on the coffee table.  “What do you think?  Should I ask?”

Susan chortled.  “Why not?  It’s probably about as good at predicting Emit as we are.”

He shook it and asked the question aloud.  “Magic 8-ball, will Emit come and take us back to Oasis Landing before we’re too old or dead to make it?”

Boyd watched as the floating die inside it rolled around before settling against the window with his answer.

There is not even a modicum of doubt.”  He read it aloud and did a cheerful victory dance.  “Silly superstitious toy or not, I’ll take that!”

“Me too,” Susan said with a lighthearted laugh as she turned back to her tablet and started to read.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 88 Part One
« Reply #286 on: February 07, 2019, 10:56:12 PM »
Author's Note: This is another long one, so it's split into two posts.

Chapter 88

Despite the magic 8-ball’s assurance that they would see Emit and Oasis Landing again, it never happened in the days that followed.  The Wainwrights went on with their lives, and there was plenty to keep them busy.  Their projects at the lab were all going strong, and Plumboptimus was an ever-evolving one.  Boyd and Susan refined and fine-tuned him frequently, and he was able to do more every day.  He became an invaluable member of the household, friend, and member of the family.

Developing the chip to enable him to learn and play instruments was a work in progress, but his A.I. adapted to appreciate music on its own.  “Check this out.”  Patrick gathered his family into the study to watch while he played his guitar.  Plumboptimus danced along in time with it, much to their merriment.

“Hey, hey!  Shake it!” giggled Iris.

“You’ve got some moves, there, Plum!” Maria encouraged him, while Boyd and Susan looked on both pleased and amused.

“Our bot’s got some rhythm, Boyd.”

“So I see.”  He gave him a thumbs-up, and Buddy sneered from behind Patrick.

“Better than yours, maybe, geezers, but that’s about it.  Second dorkiest dance moves ever.”

Orion overheard and shot a glare in the direction of his voice.  “Don’t be a tool, for once.”

“Oh, stuff it, Alien Boy.  No one asked you.”

As Patrick and Maria’s wedding got closer, that kept them occupied, too.  Maria was very particular about what she wanted, and while only Tad was blunt enough to call her a “Bridezilla,” she was more intense and insistent about wedding details than Boyd and Susan remembered Blair being.  Blair and Iris were both in Maria’s bridal party, along with Esmeralda and Penny, her maid of honor.  Patrick’s best man was Orion, and the rest of the groomsmen were Chris, Tad, and Travis.  For the venue, they chose the tea room up by Stoney Falls.  It was an old mill that had been restored and opened to the public.  It was small, it was also cozy and romantic with a beautiful view of the pond and waterfall.

“I haven’t been up there yet, but I heard it’s nice,” Susan said after Maria told her all about her, Patrick, and Iris’ trip there to book it.  Iris volunteered to drive because she loved the scenery up there, and she wanted more practice driving.  She still only had her permit, but unlike her parents, Patrick and Maria didn’t nit-pick every little thing she did behind the wheel.

“Oh, it’s gorgeous!  So romantic!  You’ll love it!  It’ll be absolutely perfect.  Even if it snows or it’s too cold to check out the view outside for more than a minute or two, the inside is nice.”

Boyd knelt by the fireplace to check it.  “The roads up there can get rough this time of year.  I hope the weather doesn’t try to snow out your big day.”

“Way to jinx the wedding, Dad.”  Iris rolled her eyes.

“Snow won’t cancel it.  Blizzard or not, it’s happening,” Maria said emphatically.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine.  We can handle snow, and we’ll make sure everyone gets there, even if we have to hire all-weather drivers,” said Susan.

“They do all the catering in-house, so we won’t have to worry about that, either,” Maria continued.  “We’ll have gourmet tea and pastry appetizers, three different food selections for the meal, and of course the cake will be gorgeous and delicious.  You’ll love the design we picked!”

“I signed us up for the premium open bar, too,” Patrick added from over at their bar, pouring himself one of his favorite winter blends.

“Color me shocked,” Boyd remarked.  “I’m sure the guests will enjoy that.  It was well-utilized at Blair and Cycl0n3’s wedding, I recall.”

Iris snickered.  “Cycl0n3 drove everyone to drink?  Color me shocked at that.”

Boyd straightened and smiled.  “No.  Well, maybe a little.  Only with the ring-forgetting incident and a couple of standard Cycl0n3-isms during the reception, but nothing all that bad.  Blair was happy, and so was he, so that’s what matters.”

“I’m sure you two will be, too.”  Susan looked over at Boyd.  “Though I hope this time I won’t have to drag you out to the dance floor.”

“Honey, I didn’t mind slow dancing with you.  It was that stupid macarena dance I wanted no part of.”

“It was Blair wanting us to do the chicken dance that I took issue with.”

Maria raised an eyebrow.  “Well, don’t worry.  No one will have to do any chicken dance at our wedding.”

“Make sure Blair knows that,” Iris quipped with a grin.

After the planning was done and the big day came closer, Patrick and Maria enjoyed another wedding tradition—their respective bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Maria made hers an intimate and classy affair.  She invited her bridal party, her mother, and Susan to join her for a night out at the lounge.  They rented out the private VIP area and enjoyed some high-class fun and gourmet food and drink.  Esmeralda was too young to attend, but she went with Caleb to Stiles’ house for the night, since Tad was at Patrick’s party.  Maria promised to send one of the fancy chocolate desserts home for her, though.

One thing Maria didn’t want at her party were strippers or exotic dancers.  Even without her mother and soon to be mother-in-law there, it still wouldn’t have appealed.  Eye candy was nice to look at, she supposed, but she didn’t feel like she was being tied down or having her options limited by marriage.  She loved Patrick and looked forward to spending her life with him, so hanging around ogling hot guys dancing struck her as tacky and pointless.  She was amused, however, at just how disappointed Iris was with the lack of strippers.  Especially since she was the one they could get in trouble accepting any underwear-stuffed simoleons from.

The VIP area had a karaoke machine, and Maria loved to sing, so she got Penny up on stage to join her.  Penny was a little shyer about it.  “Come on, it’ll be fun!” Maria encouraged.

“I can’t sing.”

“It’s just us anyway.  Come on!  I’ll pick one of your favorites.  One you know all the words to.”

Penny couldn’t turn down Maria at her own party, so she caved.  “Oh, all right.”  She finished her drink and set her glass down on the table.  “Hope the three of these I’ve had help me sing better.  Or theirs help them not notice!”

They got up on stage and crooned out a tune.  They didn’t sound terrible, although it was obvious that Penny only ever sang in the shower or car.  Still, they had fun with it, and Iris cheered them on and did a song herself afterward.

Blair and Susan enjoyed some nectar together.  “I like Maria’s taste in parties.  She likes the hoity-toity fancy pants girly stuff.”

“Not disappointed at the stripper ban like your little sister?” Susan asked wryly.

“Nah.  They’re not all they’re cracked up to be.  Are you?”  Blair gave her mother a cheeky look.

“Heh.  Cute.  I suppose yours weren’t anything special, then?  I don’t think you ever told me about your bachelorette party.  You didn’t invite me to yours.”

“Oh, you know that wasn’t personal.”

“I was hardly offended, sweetie.  Just teasing.  I’m a bit surprised Maria wanted me and her mother here, but it was nice of her to include us.”

“It was, and I’m glad you’re here.  Mine wasn’t even really a party, you know.  I didn’t want one.  You know me and crowds, and I told them I wasn’t into that whole thing.  But Tam and Emma surprised me and took me out anyway.  Just the three of us, and yes, they did get a stripper.  Tam’s idea, I’m sure.  He was cute, and a good dancer and, well, he did have a nice tush, I have to say.”  She giggled.  “And it turned out that definitely wasn’t a sock stuffed into his pants, like Emma said when he first started taking it all off!”  She took a drink.  “But other than a lark, there wasn’t anything all that special about it.  He may have had bigger muscles, but he wasn’t Cycl0n3 and never would be, you know?”  She set her glass on the table and gave her mother a curious look.  “What about you?  Did you have a wild bachelorette party before you married Dad?”

Susan chortled.  “I was pregnant with you, so even if I had had a party, I wouldn’t have been drinking.  But I didn’t have one.  It was a pretty rough time in my life.  I’d just lost my brother, just found out I was pregnant, and while I was happy to be with your father and glad he was there for me, neither of us had many friends apart from each other.  My best friend in high school, Ruby, she’s probably the only one who might’ve thrown me one.  But she moved away to Bridgeport halfway through our senior year and was gone by then.”  Susan’s voice took on a wistful note.  “I lost touch with her shortly after all that, with graduating and getting married and having you, and her being across the country.  I don’t even know if she’s still alive or where she might be if she is.  But I don’t feel like I missed anything major not having one of these parties.”  She looked around.  “Speaking of which, being here before another wedding must be bringing back some fond memories for you, hmm?”

“Yup!  Cycl0n3 and I had our first dance as newlyweds right over there.  And the buffet was right there, where we cut the cake and I smooshed it in his face!”

“I remember I expected him to be the one to do that to you, and you surprised us all!  But it was cute, and no one can say he didn’t have some frosting in the face coming.”

“Think Maria will nail the Captain with it on his big day?”

“If either of them do it, I suspect it’ll go better if she does it to him than the other way around.”

Blair looked over at Maria hamming it up on the karaoke stage with Penny, and smirked.  “I suspect you’re right!”

When they were done signing, Maria chatted with her mother by the bar.  “You’re kind of quiet tonight, Mom.  Don’t tell me you’re worrying about work or Caleb?”

“Oh, no.  Just a bit wistful.  I’m thrilled for you, and I know you’re going to be such a happy and beautiful bride, but… it’s just a little rough accepting that you’re all grown up and getting married.”  Morgana smiled.  “I’m sure you and Patrick will be very happy together, it’s just… I wonder where all the time went.  It seems like just yesterday you were a little girl in ballet classes and Tad was Caleb’s age.”

“Aw, even still, I’ll always be your daughter, Mom.”

“I know, and you know you can always come to me if you need me.  I also wish I had better marriage advice to give you than what’s come from my experience.  So, I’ll just say that I’ve learned, the hard way unfortunately, that love and respect are both important, but so is communication and especially honesty.  Don’t ever let that fall apart or by the wayside.  As long as you two really hear each other, and really know each other, you can understand each other.  And you can work out almost anything from there when you love each other and want it to.  It’s when you don’t, or you can’t… that’s where things start to go wrong.  So, stay close with him, always.  Talk to him.  Make sure he hears you, and you hear him.  Even the hard things.  Especially the hard things.”

“Thanks, Mom.  We will.  I love him and I know he loves me.  We can tell each other anything, and we do.”

She hugged her.  “Good.  I’m glad to hear that.”

After the serious talk, Maria chatted with Penny and Blair while Susan and Iris played around on the dart board.  Susan threw a dart but missed her mark by quite a bit.  “Oooh.  This is not my game.  I should stick with chess.”

“Maybe you should imagine you’re throwing it at someone saying something really stupid or rude,” Iris suggested as she took her turn.  “That’s what I do.”

“You mean like any one of Cycl0n3’s typical foot-in-mouth remarks?”  Susan focused and tossed the dart.  That time, it came much closer to the target.  “Heh.”

Iris snickered.  “Do I want to ask which one inspired that good shot?”

“Oh, there are so many, we could be here all night.”

Maria and Penny got another drink and caught up with each other.  “I’m glad you were able to find a babysitter for Rodrigo.  I know it’s been hard for you to get out of the house much lately.”

“Tell me about it!  Between the baby and work, it’s all got me exhausted.  But I love him, so I forgive the cute little scamp for not letting me sleep.  Arlo’s got him over at his and Bella’s tonight, since Wilbur’s working then going to Patrick’s party after.  Angel loves her new baby cousin and calls him ‘Ro-riggy-o.’  It’s so cool Patrick and Wilbur are forming a band together!  I’m glad you’ll at least be able to get married before that crazy musician schedule gets in the way.”

“I know!  I feel so bad for you that you haven’t yet.  Why doesn’t he just take the time off?  Patrick was able to block off the dates for our wedding and honeymoon ahead of time.”

“Well, Patrick has a couple advantages Wilbur doesn’t.  Like not having to pay a mortgage and being able to take an unpaid leave.  Wilbur already took some time off when Rodrigo was born.  We’ll get married eventually, I’m sure.  Things just have to settle down some more first.”

“You already have a huge house, though.  Your parents left it to you.  Why doesn’t he just sell that tiny beach house and move in with you and the baby?”

“I wish he would!  But he likes having his own space and doesn’t like how my family crashes there when things go haywire in their home lives.  Or how Lisa lets herself in all the time.  Technically, my parents left the house to all of us, but they all said I could just have it as long as I wanted to stay and keep it up, since I was already there and they have their own places.  But I feel like the least I can do is let them have a place to stay if they need it, you know?”  Penny sighed.  “And Lisa can be nosy.  It gets on my nerves sometimes, too.  But she and Kristian are both a huge help babysitting, and sometimes she needs help with Sonia like I do with Rodrigo, so we lean on each other a lot.  She’s right next door, and that’s what sisters are for, right?”  She shrugged.  “And to be fair, Ethan did crash there a lot when he and Kaylynn were having trouble, but that’s over with now.  They’re even having another kid.”

“Yeah, you told me.  That boggles me!  No offense, but I hope it’s his.  I still don’t get why he took her back after she cheated on him with my dad and plum knows who else.  If I was him, I’d have kicked her plumbob right to the curb for that!”  Maria waved her hand in disgust.  “I’ll tell you one thing.  Not that I think he would, but if Patrick ever cheated on me…”

“You won’t have to worry about that.  He’s only ever had eyes for you since he first fell for you in high school.”  Penny leaned in closer.  “And if he did?  Well, Wilbur’s in his band, so if it was the kind of thing that happened on the road, I’d hear about it, I’m sure, and you know I’d tell you.  I’ve got your back.”

“And I’ve got yours.  Not that I think Wilbur would do that to you, either, but if I heard about it from Patrick or something…”

“I know.  That’s why you’re my best friend.”  Penny smiled before growing serious again.  “I’ll be honest, sometimes I think Wilbur’s got some weird space issues, and I wonder why, but for whatever reason, I don’t think it’s cheating.  I wish I knew what exactly it was sometimes, but in my gut, I just don’t think that’s it.”

While Maria and Penny had their serious girl talk, Blair and Iris had a more lighthearted one.  Iris asked Blair about her wedding, and she was happy to share stories from it.  “So, wait.  You’re telling me that Mom—our Mom?—got juiced?  And Dad, too?”

“She was pret-ty tipsy.  Much more than Dad, or at least it hit her harder.”  Blair giggled.   “You should’ve seen her cut loose on the dance floor toward the end!  She likes to say I made her do the chicken dance, but she was flapping away and had fun whether she’ll admit it or not.  Though she blames the nectar if you get her to say so.”

“That’s just so hard to picture.  Mom is so serious.”

“Oh, she’s not that bad.  Especially in her old age.  She’s lightened up a lot.”

“Apparently she never gave you driving lessons, or you wouldn’t say that.”

“She did, and I’ll give you that one, but come on.  Let’s get real here.  I’ve seen what you and Orion and especially Patrick get away with.  Suffice it to say lots of it wouldn’t have flown back when I was your age.”

“Oh, please!  Back when Saint Blair was growing up, she did no wrong and was a shining example to well behaved perfect children everywhere.  It is known, because we’ve all heard it a million times!”

Blair almost spat her drink trying not to laugh.  “Really?  You should introduce me to her, then, because I’d like to meet this paragon who apparently didn’t grow up in the same house with the same parents that I did.  You have no idea how much they’ve relaxed.  Like Orion’s motorcycle!  They’d have utterly combusted if I’d wanted one, not that I did.  I won’t even get into the Galaxa, though mostly I’m just jealous of that.  And the Captain?  Oh, he stomps around all the time dropping plum-bombs and cursing.  Meanwhile, if I even said something minor, Mom would get onto me about my language.  ‘That’s very crude and unladylike.’”

“Mom still hates that.  She’s just given up complaining about it because even if he stops for a little while, he always ends up doing it again anyway.  Especially if he’s mad about something, and he’s too old for her to do more than give him a nasty look for it.”  Iris gave her a curious look.  “So, what do you think I get away with that you didn’t?”

“How late do you get to stay out on date night?”

“Same as Orion and I guess probably Patrick when he was our age.  Around 10, or maybe later if it’s not a school night and I call or message them to ask.”

“Mmm-hmm.  I got a firm 10 because that’s what their curfew was, and they were still young enough then to remember and be bitter.  Though they gave the usual parent reasons I now give my kids like ‘we’ll worry about you out that late’ and ‘it’s a school night.’  What about your door?”

“My door?”

“If you have a boyfriend over, are you allowed to hang out in your room together, and do you have to keep the door open?”

“No, but there wouldn’t really be a point.  They’re usually downstairs.”


“Maybe that was a rule they had to deal with, too, so they put it on you like the curfew.”

“Maybe.  I know they were worried I’d get pregnant, because, well they know how that is, right?  But it was still super annoying feeling like they wouldn’t trust me.”  She patted her on the back.  “But that’s okay.  I’m sure you don’t do anything too naughty anyway, right?”

“Who, me?”  Iris batted her eyelashes innocently, and Blair giggled.

“That’s what I thought!”

“Hard to believe it’s almost time for the wedding already,” Morgana remarked to Susan.  “I imagine you’re as excited as I am.”

“Yes, although I feel like I’ve got it on easy mode this time.  Blair had me much more involved in planning hers than either Patrick or Maria have with theirs.  How are you holding up?”  Susan had offered to help if needed, but as a romantic at heart herself, Morgana had been thrilled to jump in and help arrange a dream wedding for her daughter and her groom.

“It honestly hasn’t been that stressful.  Most of the arrangements fell right into place.  The only trouble so far, knock on wood, was when I had to make a couple of follow up calls to the salon about alterations.”

“Oh, don’t tell me they messed up her dress?”

“No.  Just the time on a fitting appointment.  The dress is lovely, though.”

“She showed me a picture.  I’m sure she’ll look fabulous in it.  I’m still trying to convince Patrick to shave that stubble look he’s so fond of for the big day, but he says he wants to leave it because Maria likes it, and ‘when I shave, I look like I’m barely old enough for juice,’” she finished in an imitation of him.  “I think he’s being silly and one day he’ll regret it, but what do I know?  I’m just old-fashioned Mom.”

“I suspect if Maria did mind, his tune would change quickly.  I’m just glad they seem to be on the same page with so much.  Maria said they’re waiting to have kids, but they both want them.  Which I’m glad about, on both counts.  Thornton and I should’ve had that discussion before we tied the knot, but we didn’t, and hoo boy, what a mistake.  And as much as I’m looking forward to adorable baby grandchildren to spoil, I want them to be ready for them when they have them.”

“It’s hard having children before you’re ready.  That said, it’s also pretty nice being a grandma, so I hope they’re ready before too long.”

“Same here, Susan.  Same here.”

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Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 88 Part Two
« Reply #287 on: February 07, 2019, 10:57:22 PM »

While Maria’s party was high-class and low-key, Patrick’s bachelor party was higher-energy and lower-brow.  His groomsmen and friends went all out to show him a good time.  Dressed to impress, they gathered at a local night club for the festivities.  “Ha!  Nice outfit.”  Patrick grinned as he greeted Jamaal.  “That leopard jacket says class, but aren’t your knees freezing?”

“They won’t be after a few drinks.”

“Fair point, fair point.”

“I like the hat, by the way.”

“Yeah?”  Patrick adjusted it.  “Got to stay classy for this affair.  Maria insisted.”

“I’m afraid it’s going to take more than a snazzy hat for that, Captain.”

“Ah, Cycl0n3.  Glad you made it.  Go and grab yourself a drink.”  He motioned him to the bar.  “Don’t worry.  I won’t even tell Blair if you misbehave tonight.”

“Hopefully no one will have to call her or her pals at the station if you do.  And a free pass?  Mwahaha!  I don’t often get one of those.”

“I’m sure you won’t make me live to regret it, right?  Remember, I’m not the only one here who could tattle.”  Patrick thumbed in the general direction of his father near the bar.

“Aw, he wouldn’t rat me out… probably.  After all, I could turn around and tell your mother on him.”  He snickered.  “For that awful tie alone.  Hey, nice look, Space,” Cycl0n3 shouted over as he joined him.  “Did some old 8-bit game vomit on you in neon?”

Chris and Tad came in right after Cycl0n3.  “I won’t often say this, but I agree with Dad.  Nice outfits on you and Grandpa,” Chris snickered.

“Well, we can’t all be as cool as you two, I suppose.  The leather jackets aren’t bad, but I hoped you at least would come in something memorable,” he said to Chris.  “What happened to that old salon job fashion sense?”

“It was sensible enough to remind us not to embarrass ourselves too badly in all this debauchery right from the start,” Tad quipped.

“True.  I guess someone had enough of that at the toga party.”

“Aw, you guys aren’t ever going to let me forget that, are you?”

“We didn’t plan to, no,” Orion said while Tad headed over to the bar.  Although they hadn’t told anyone who didn’t recognize the picture, Patrick’s guess that Orion had figured it out turned out to be right.  “You get into any more wild stuff this term?”

“You think I’m dumb enough to just hand you guys blackmail material?” Chris had gone back to Sims U for his second term, but he made a weekend trip home for the wedding.

“Well, welcome back to town, anyway,” said Patrick.  “I’m glad you’re here.  It wouldn’t be the same without you.”

“You know I wouldn’t have missed it.  Besides, it’s nice to take a break and see everyone again.”  Things weren’t as strained between Chris and Tad now that they’d already been through their first term apart.  They made up spending time together between terms, and the extra visit home made things even better.

Once all the guests arrived, the party kicked off officially with a toast.  Even though Orion was the best man, he and Chris elected Chris to give it.  “After all, I’m technically underage.”  Orion tapped a fizzy nectar bottle in his hands.

“Funny you didn’t mention that to the bartender with what I saw you drinking earlier.”

“There’s being discreet and being over the top,” Orion replied, while Patrick raised and eyebrow and turned to Chris.

“And this will be over the top?”

Chris grinned.

“Oh, plum.”

“Now, now, dear uncle.  Be a sport.”  Chris put his arm around Patrick’s shoulder.  “Attention, everyone!  I have a few words for our guest of honor.”

“Son, you know you’re not supposed to use that sort of language.”

Chris pointed sternly at his father.  “No heckling out of you!  Come on, now.  It’s Patrick’s last hurrah.”

“Sorry.  I’ll be good.”

“That’ll be the day,” Boyd quipped beside Cycl0n3 while Chris got started.

“As we all know, our dear Patrick here is about to take the plunge into matrimony.  This is his last night of wild bachelor fun before he will spend the rest of his life married to—”

“My sister!  Watcher help him.”

“Hey!”  Chris shot Tad a playfully irate look.  “You settle down, too.”

“It’s all right.  I love his sister.”

“Well, we like you, Patrick, but no one ever said you were a sane man,” Tad joked back.  “But I’m glad you’ve got each other.”

“Exactly,” Chris continued, “their love is a testament that there’s someone for everyone, and when we find that special someone, we want to be with them and only them.  Forever.  Which is what Patrick is going to pledge to his beloved bride on his wedding day.  But until then, until that glorious moment when he chooses to give up, or at least tone down, his wild guitar-playing partying ways to settle into the routine of marriage and family and all that responsible stuff with his true love… our man here needs one last taste of freedom and going wild!  So, in honor of that, let’s hear it for Patrick and show him a good time!”

Patrick was amused, but he didn’t think the toast was that over the top.  At least, not until Orion gave the nectar bottle in his hands a shake and tossed it to Chris, who shook it again with a decidedly mischievous grin on his face.  “Uh, what exactly are you doing there?”

“Giving you a proper start to your bachelor party.”  Chris popped the cork, and before Patrick could even consider protesting, he was covered in a brilliant spray of over-carbonated shaken fizzy nectar.  “To you, dear uncle!”

Laughing, Patrick shook it off, waving his top hat comically to get the excess off.  “You llama!  Now that’s a hell of a drink!”

“I’ll drink to that!”  Chris lifted the nectar bottle, but Patrick snatched it from him.

“Nope.  Mine!”  He held it up and grinned at the crowd.  “Let’s get this party going, huh?”  He took a swig, while the rest of the guests cheered along and did the same as the music came back on loud for them all to enjoy.

Shortly afterward, the next party attraction arrived when two busty blondes in skimpy spandex cop outfits came in.  “We heard there was a noise disturbance here to check out.”

“And someone might’ve been a bad, bad boy,” the other added.

“That would be this guy,” Cycl0n3 said entirely too helpfully as he pointed to Patrick.

“Oh, my watcher.”  Patrick couldn’t help but laugh, while an amused Boyd just watched as the dancers came over and did a sexy dance for him.

“Wow.  Covered in nectar and watching strippers.  I’m not sure who’d be more impressed, Maria or your mother.”

“Not that you ladies aren’t gorgeous, but I am curious which of these guys called you.”

Orion snickered.  “Oh, come on.  You can’t be surprised?”

“That someone called them?  No.”  Patrick turned his head to watch them in a particularly provocative move.  “But that they picked blonde cops?  It’s almost like someone’s taste is a giveaway.”  He glanced over at Cycl0n3.

“What?  You obviously like blondes.  Maria’s a blonde,” Cycl0n3 replied, while Boyd just shook his head.

“It figures.”

“All right.”  Patrick held up his hands.  “We’re going to leave this at that and… let the lovely ladies dance.”

“And they’re good dancers,” Jamaal murmured, more than a bit mesmerized by their moves.

During the festivities, Boyd caught up with Chris and chatted with him.  “Not to bore you talking about school too much at a party, but how are things going at Sims U?”

“Good, and it’s fine.  I don’t mind.  Classes this term are a little more challenging, but nothing I can’t handle.  I really like the anatomy stuff, and I’m good at it.  I’m thinking of going for a surgery specialty.”

“Veterinary surgeon?  That’s great.”

“Well, I realized I don’t like aspects of clinical research, and the only other option would be private practice, and I don’t think I’d like the business management aspect of that.  So, I’ve decided to change to pre-med instead.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my cats still.  Diddy was so happy to see me when I came home.  It was adorable!  But I think I could make a pretty good doctor for humans, too.”

“Oh, absolutely!  I have no doubt whatsoever.  Good luck with it.”

“Thanks, Grandpa.”  He glanced over at Tad, who was dancing wildly and dangerously close to one of the light displays.  “I better go check on him, before he hurts himself and needs my pre-med skills.”  He snickered.  “Think he’s had more than I have, and without my Sims U tolerance.”

“If you’re anything like Patrick, I imagine that’s gotten well-tested, too.”

“Ha!  A little, but I’m not in his league.  I prefer keep my liver mostly un-pickled.”

“I’m glad to hear that.  Festivities like this aside, I worry about how fond he is of it at times.  But he’s young, and I’m an old worrywart anyway, as Susan likes to remind me.  I’m glad things are going well for you, though.  Your grandma and I are both proud of you.  Travis, too, though I’m glad they left him home for this.  Is he hanging out with Esme tonight?”

“Nah.  She’s with Caleb over at Stiles’ place.  Travis is thrilled to be old enough to be allowed to stay home alone with no one but Diddy to bear witness to whatever he gets into.  Which I suspect will be a marathon of monster movies, chips, and ice cream, by the looks of how he was setting up on the couch when I left.”

“There are worse ways to spend an evening.  I’m sure he’ll have fun.”

“As much fun as Dad is having over there with one of Patrick’s dancers?”

Boyd looked over as Cycl0n3 boogied down with her on the dance floor.  “Oh my.”

“So, are you surprised this old man can keep up with your moves?” Cycl0n3 said in mock flirtatiousness.

“You’re not bad for someone your age.  I won’t have to cuff you for any violations,” she teased back with a wave of her fake handcuffs.

Patrick overheard as he walked by.  “Oh, believe me, there’s plenty you could cuff him for, but he’d enjoy it too much.  His wife is a blonde cop.”

“Oh, really? Don’t tell me you only like my moves because I look like your wife.”

“Of course not!”  He leered at her tanned and exposed cleavage.  “Trust me, you don’t look anything like my wife.”

Shaking his head, Patrick decided to just let Cycl0n3 continue embarrassing himself and digging himself into a hole, and moved on.

He caught up with Wilbur, who arrived a bit late since he’d had to help set up a show that night before leaving early.  The two of them now worked together regularly at the theater.  “Hey!  Glad you made it.  Holly let you loose in time after all.”

“She promised she would.  Wish I hadn’t had to go in at all, but you know how it is.”

“Yeah.  Come on.  I’ll get you a drink.”

“Seems like you’ve had more than a few already.”

“I have,” Patrick admitted with a grin.  “They sprayed me good to get it started and it just went from there.”

“Nice!  I’m sure Maria would be proud.”

“Maybe, but I hope you have enough fun tonight to make Penny a little proud yourself.”

“Speak for yourself, man.  I don’t want to face the wrath of Winter Storm Penny tomorrow,” he laughed, and then eyed the dancers.  “Though I could risk a squall or two.”

Patrick fist-bumped him.  “That’s the spirit!”

He continued on in that spirit, and several of the guests got into the fun of spraying fizzy nectar on each other.  Patrick had just given Jamaal such a drink when he spotted his father eyeing up the dancers as their outfits got skimpier.  “Dad!  Really?”  He laughed.

“What?  They’re very… flexible.”

“Uh-huh.  Don’t worry.  I won’t tell Mom, as long as you don’t tell on me.”

“I thought that was the rule with this sort of party.  What happens here, stays here, and all that.”

“Just making sure.”  He patted him on the back and followed his eyes as the dancers contorted in a most pleasing way.  “Enjoy the, uh, view.”

Orion’s eyes were also firmly on the dancers, and Wilbur joined his side.  “I see you eyeing the eye candy.  Just keep it at that.  You’re a little young for them.”  He chuckled.  “And I don’t want to think what my sister would say.”

In all honesty, Orion did not believe Tara would be jealous, at least not in the sense of worrying Orion would seriously want one of them more than her.  He could easily see her feeling insecure or like she didn’t measure up, though.  “I wouldn’t think you’d tell her something that’d just upset her for no reason.”  It came out blunter than he usually was, partly because of the drinks he’d had and partly because he was annoyed at being made to think of Tara being upset.

“I was just joking around.  I’m not going to say anything.”

“Good.  Because if you did, it’d be a real llama thing for you to do.”  He thought about what Tara told him about Wilbur’s secret and added under his breath, “Not that it’d be the first.”

Wilbur gave him an odd look.  “What?”

“Nothing.  Forget it.  Have fun watching the strippers.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell Penny, either.  I’m going to go dance.”

Orion danced to the rest of the song, then got another drink and decided to do his next one on the countertop.  As he climbed up, he noticed Jamaal had somehow lost his outfit, and he was now snacking at the bar in his underwear.  “Do I even want to ask what happened to your clothes?”

“Nectar.  Tad got a bottle and shook it real hard.  Too hard.  And—”

“You were in the blast zone?”

“Nectar, nectar everywhere, and not a drop was drank.  Well, not from that bottle, anyway.”  He set his fork down and rubbed his head.  “Are you sure you should be dancing up there?”

“Why not?  I won’t fall.”  He spun.  “I once won a ballet contest, you know!  I’ve got moves.”

“You’ve also got dance floor grit on my counter,” the bartender groused.  “Keep it to that corner, please.”

“Oh.  Sorry.”  Orion tossed him a $20.  “Will that help?”

He grinned and pocketed it.  “Enjoy your new private dance floor, kid!”

As the party hit its final hour, Jamaal sobered up enough to decide he’d rather wear a sticky wet jacket than traipse around nearly naked.  Patrick, on the other hand, was several drinks past plum-faced and quite giddy.  He enjoyed the dancers’ show of taking it all off, and after they put it back on before heading out, he gave them an encore of applause and generous tips.  “Thank you, thank you ladies, for your amaaaaazing performance!”

“No problem, honey,” one of them replied.  “You just make sure you stay on the right side of the law so we don’t have to come back.”

“I—I think my future wife would be very unhappy with me if that happened.”  He snickered.  “Though it might be worth it.”

The other dancer patted his arm flirtatiously.  “Probably a good idea for you to be on your best behavior, then?  Much as we’d love to book you again, Red.”  She winked.

“Oh, I couldn’t… well, maybe…?  No.”  He cleared his throat.  “I’ll be good.  Mostly.”

Boyd shook his head, but he was glad Patrick was enjoying himself so much.  “He will.  I’ll take over from here.  You ladies have a good evening.  Thanks for coming.”

Patrick started giggling uncontrollably at that, and Boyd ushered him out of the cage.

Boyd passed Patrick off to Chris, and then Mortimer came over with a bottle of nectar in his hand.  “Hey, Boyd.”

“Morty?”  He gave him a surprised look as he began to shake the bottle.  “Oh, hold on.  Whoa!  Wait!  Oh, my Watcher.  You’re not serious, are you?”

“Actually, I am serious.  Too serious, most of the time, I’ve been told,” Mortimer admitted with a smile. 

“That might be true, but you come by it honestly.  Your dad had trouble cutting loose himself sometimes, and your mom was, well, a Crumplebottom.”  Boyd side-eyed the nectar while Mortimer kept holding it.  “Though I imagine he’d roll over in his grave if he saw you contemplating that.  Or laugh.  I’m not really sure which.  With Gunther, it could be hard to tell.”

“That kind of makes me want to do it more,” Mortimer admitted.

“To me?  The oldest old man at the party?” laughed Boyd.  “Why?  You don’t want to give me a heart attack, do you?”

“Nah.  But you and Patrick and Orion are the only ones here I really know that well, and you’re the only one who really remembers Dad and Mom.  It’s just hit me, between Patrick being old enough to get married and my birthday tomorrow…”

“Oh, yeah!  It is, isn’t it?  Happy early birthday!  Where does the time go?”  Boyd’s expression changed from wistful to curious.  “Still doesn’t explain the nectar thing, though.”

“I was thinking, you’re only young once, and my youth is about to run into middle age, so… why not send it off with a bang?  Or a spray, as the case may be?  Besides, you’re one of the few who’s avoided a good spray so far,” he noted with a wry look.

“Dang it, Morty.  You know I’ll have to explain to Susan why I’m coming home smelling like a nectary explosion.”

“I expect you to tell me all about it at the reception,” Mortimer replied, and popped the cork.

“Thanks for an awesome party, everyone!”  Patrick cheered as things wound to a close.  “Now someone get Cycl0n3 off the bar so he can pay this poor lady here and let her go home.”

“It’s fine. We’re on the clock, and you perps are cute.”

“That’s fine by us.  He’s the one paying,” said Chris.

“I like your style,” she replied to him flirtatiously.

“Thanks, but so does my boyfriend, and,” Chris lowered his voice to a goofy fake whisper, “he’s the jealous type.”

“Ah, gotcha.  Well, just for the record, our agency’s got some fine men in uniform, too, if you ever need someone to lay down the law.”

“I’ll keep that in mind for his big night someday,” Patrick said, while Chris looked from him to Boyd.

“Hey, you know, Tad and I can take care of any loose ends here if you want to head out and crash.”

“I already called us a cab, so thanks.  I’ll take you up on that.”  Boyd put his arm around Patrick.  “Come on, Captain.  Shore leave is over.  Let’s get your coat and get in the shuttlecraft and go back to quarters.”

“I’m grown up and getting married now, and you’re still calling me that?” he whined playfully.

“It’s better than what your mother will probably call me for coming home smelling like this.”

“Aw, just blame Cycl0n3.  Everyone’ll believe it.”

“Over it being Mortimer?  I’m sure she would,” Boyd laughed.  “Regardless, I’m glad you had a good time tonight.”

“I think you did, too.”

Boyd smiled at his son and helped him into the cab, thinking how time had flown and how he could remember tucking Patrick into his old baby swing, “the Captain’s chair,” just as easily as he buckled his seat belt in the cab for him now on the night before his wedding.  “I did indeed.”

Offline karlissa

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #288 on: February 08, 2019, 07:30:15 AM »
I admit I laughed seeing that the party dancers were police officers and it was even funnier knowing that it was Cycl0n3 who called them.
I wonder if Boyd and Susan will end up time travelling after one of them has died.
My Stories, currently not updating them.

The Gothic Life
An orphan's life
Miraj's Mission

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 89
« Reply #289 on: February 14, 2019, 12:32:47 AM »
I admit I laughed seeing that the party dancers were police officers and it was even funnier knowing that it was Cycl0n3 who called them.
I wonder if Boyd and Susan will end up time travelling after one of them has died.

I haven't done many bachelor or bachelorette parties in the game, so I don't remember if the cop outfit is the default or just a random outfit. When it happened, I did have the "wow, really? lol" moment, but I rolled with it for the story.

As for the time travel, there will be at least one more trip to Oasis Landing at some point, but I don't want to say more than that.

Chapter 89

The big day finally arrived.  It was Patrick and Maria’s wedding day.  Bright and early, they got up and separated to prepare.  Maria and her bridal party went to the salon to get their hair and makeup done while Patrick showered and got into his tux at home.

Buddy sauntered in while Patrick straightened his bow tie.  “Oooh.  You didn’t shave.”  He wagged his finger sarcastically.  “Your mom will be so disappointed.”

“What Maria finds hot on our wedding night trumps what Mom thinks should be in wedding pictures,” Patrick replied as he dabbed on some cologne.  “Besides, I think I look pretty good.”

“Yeah, you polish up all right.  So, ready for your big day?”

“I am.  It’s a shame you can’t be there with me too, though.”

“Well, you’re the one who had to marry someone who insisted on getting married at a,” he struck a dramatic pose, “bea-u-ti-ful location, instead of here.  But I’m sure Alien Boy will do a halfway decent job as your best man.”

“Your faith in him is overwhelming.”

“Hey, I’m trying to be nice here, it being your wedding day and all.  I’m not even making any ball and chain jokes.”

“Appreciated.  Besides, I think you like Maria, whether you admit it or not.”

“Eh, you could’ve done worse.”  He leered playfully.  “And she does have a nice set of—”

“She does, but let’s not talk about what you’ve looked in on.  Without permission, I might add.”

“Didn’t know I needed permission to look at your masterpiece art project,” he adopted a fake snooty accent, “Maria In Ze Buff on Ze Couch.”

“I’m not talking about my painting.”

“Hey, I’m a doll that only you can see.  I need some excitement in my life.”

“Uh-huh.  Well, I hope you have other plans for tonight, because she and I got a cozy romantic room at a hotel near the airport, since our flight for the honeymoon leaves early tomorrow.”

“I know!  I won’t even get to hear the details until you two lovebirds get back.  At least not the fun ones.  But I’m sure Flower Girl will go on about how romantic and exciting the wedding was.  Ad nauseum probably.”

“You know I’ll fill you in when I come home.”  Patrick straightened.  “This is it.  I’m ready.  Guess it’s time.”

Buddy hugged him.  “Good luck.  I hope marriage works out as well for you as it did for the geezers.  Your geezers, I mean.  Not hers.  I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.  Well, maybe that creepy gnome of Alien Boy’s…”

“Thanks.  I’ll see you when I get back.”

“Anytime.  It’d take more than your crazy marriage to get rid of me.”

The snow picked up, but Maria, her mother, and her bridal party all made it to the venue with no trouble.  It was light and fluffy as opposed to icy, and Sunset Valley took good care of its roads in bad weather.  “Oh, I hope nothing goes wrong today.”  Maria surveyed the wedding area before heading downstairs, where the bridal party would privately prepare before making their entrance up the stairs.  “Everything looks okay up here.”

“Everything’s fine,” Morgana assured her.  “I’ve talked to the staff.  We’re good to go.  You look fabulous, by the way.”

“I’ve still got to finish my final touches, and the photographer’s got to get pictures… you’ll make sure the pre-ceremony pictures of the groomsmen are taken outside with the falls in the background like I said, right?”  She glanced out the window.  “If the snow lets up enough.  I hope it does.  It’ll look so nice with the fresh fallen snow against the falls, and it’s really not that cold.  Especially for them.  They have jackets.  And we can get ours done without them seeing us first, right?”

“Of course!  I’ll stay on top of things.  I promise.  Now go and get ready with your bridesmaids.  They’re waiting on you.”  Morgana smiled at her with pride and warmth.  “My beautiful bride daughter.  I want your grand entrance to be as spectacular as you do.”

“All right.”  She paused.  “Mom, on your wedding day, you never said, and I feel weird asking because…”

“Because things didn’t work out so well?”


“It’s all right.  I made some mistakes, but I’d never say I regret it.  Marrying your father gave me you and Tad, and it taught me some valuable life lessons.  So, ask away.”

“Were you nervous?”

“A little.  But mostly excited.  Are you?”

“About the same.”

“I’d say that’s pretty normal.  Just remember, Patrick loves you, and your bridesmaids and I will do our best to make sure your wedding goes off with only one hitch—yours.”  She hugged her.  “Now, go get ready.  I know you want to take his breath away when he sees you, after all.”

“Okay.  Thanks, Mom.”

Dressed and pressed in their tuxes, the groom and his party arrived shortly after Maria and her bridesmaids settled in downstairs.  The photographer took their outdoor pictures, then some indoor ones, and then all there was left to do was wait for guests to arrive.

Travis made a face and tugged at his tie.  “This suit is so uncomfortable.  Why couldn’t you get married in jeans?”

“Bridezilla would’ve loved that for her dream day,” Tad snickered.

“It’s not that bad,” said Orion.  “Look at it this way.  You might impress a girl wearing something other than a monster t-shirt.”

“Yeah, right.  Besides, I’m related to most of the girls here.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Maybe not technically Esme, ‘cause she’s adopted, but she’s way younger than me, and I have to dance with her anyway.”

“She’s not that much younger than you,” Boyd pointed out.

“You only say that because you’re ancient, Grandpa.  Of course we look the same age from that far away.  But she’s two whole grades younger!”

“Point made.  I guess you’ve got me there.”

“Anyway, the dancing thing, isn’t that in the rules?  Esme was saying we have to dance together like Orion does with Penny, Chris has to with Mom, and Tad has to with Iris.  Matching who we escort or whatever?”

“Yeah, and Mom already told me not to step on her feet.  Thanks for the vote of confidence there.”

“That’s just one traditional dance,” Boyd informed Travis.  “You can dance with anyone you want after that.”

“I think I’d rather just eat my cake.  Or these things.”  He nicked a mini eclair off the appetizer tray.

Orion noticed Patrick’s faraway expression.  He didn’t sense any anxiousness or second thoughts, but he did wonder what was on his mind.  “You’re quiet, Mr. Groom.”

“Yeah, thinking of the magnitude of your upcoming commitment?” Chris teased, while Tad patted Patrick on the back.

“Nah.  For some inexplicable reason, Patrick’s in love with my dear sister, so I don’t think that could be it.  Right?”

“Of course not!  I love her more than anything.  It’s just a little overwhelming to be at the big moment that makes it official.  I’m getting married.  I was just contemplating it all, and what comes next.”

“Well, that’s easy.”  Chris grinned.  “The honeymoon.”

Boyd glanced over as the door opened.  “But first, some guests.  Come on.  Time to do our ushering job.”

The bridal party finished the last tweaks to their appearance, had their pictures taken, and got ready for things to begin.  Maria sat primly while they waited until it was time to make their grand entrance.  “You look great!” Iris told her.  “Patrick’s going to be dazzled speechless.”

“Thanks!  I hope so.  I mean, he better be,” she said, only half joking.  “My makeup is still good, right?  Are my lips glossy enough?”

“Yup!  Until he smooches it off, anyway,” said Esmeralda.

“Well, that I won’t mind at all!  Good.  I just want it all to be perfect.”  She’d planned her entrance down to the smallest detail and wanted to look so incredible that Patrick could never possibly forget the moment when she came to join him under the arch.  It was the reason she opted not to wear a veil.  Although she considered the more traditional look, when she tried on dresses, the salon attendant complimented her features while buttering her up so much that she talked her right out of wearing one at all.  Why cover up her face when she could stun him and everyone else the whole way up the aisle?

The music began to play upstairs.  “Looks like it’s go time,” said Penny.  “Ready?”

Maria rose, beaming with anticipation.  “I’ve never been more ready!”

Thornton met Maria at the bottom of the stairs to escort her.  “Maria, you look beautiful.”

“Thank you, Dad, and thanks for doing this for me.  I know how you feel about weddings.”  After how she reacted when he questioned her decision to get engaged, he had since kept his thoughts about it to himself, at least around her.  Still, she knew how he felt about marriage in general, and that he had doubts about hers.  That bothered her, but she knew she and Patrick would prove him wrong, and she still wanted him to be a part of her big day. 

He took her arm.  “You’re my daughter, Maria.  I love you, and I know what this means to you.  Regardless of what we agree or disagree on, I’ve always wanted you to be happy.”

“Marrying Patrick will make me happier than anything in the world!”

“And I sincerely hope it does.  Now, then.  Let’s walk you down that aisle.”

The procession started, and one by one the pairs made their way up to the arch.  When it was Travis and Esmeralda’s turn, they went up the stairs together.  “Just so you know, I’m not very good at dancing,” Travis whispered to her halfway up.

“I don’t know how, either.  We’ll just have to watch them and do what they do.”

“Don’t watch Chris or Tad, then.  I don’t want my feet stomped.”

Esmeralda giggled, but she composed herself as they reached the top of the stairs.  Both were the picture of poise and grace as they made their way down the aisle.

Once the wedding party was assembled, Maria came down the aisle with her father and joined Patrick under the arch.  Just as she hoped, he was dazzled by how beautiful she looked, and he beamed as he took her hands.

Although they were both creative types, Maria wanted to keep their vows traditional, and that was fine with Patrick.  He was better with images or music than words anyway, and classic wording conveyed his feelings well as he placed the ring on her finger.  “Maria, on this day, I commit to you as your husband, and give you this ring as a symbol of my vow.  I promise to always love, honor, and cherish you, in good times and bad, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, and to forsake all others, until death do us part.”  His heart was full of excitement and joy as he spoke the words.  Maria, the love of his life, the girl he’d loved since his first year of high school, would now be his wife.

Maria felt the same as she put on Patrick’s ring and said her vows to him.  “Patrick, on this day, I commit to you as your wife, and give you this ring as a symbol of my vow.  I promise to always love, honor, and cherish you, in good times and bad, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, and to forsake all others, until death do us part.”

With their vows stated and their commitment given, the ceremony was complete.  Now married, Patrick and Maria kissed under the arch for the first time as husband and wife.

“Aw, they look so sweet!” Iris said as the photographer took a picture of the tender moment.

“Very much in love.”  Boyd shared an affectionate smile with Susan, who was doing her best to pretend she wasn’t getting misty-eyed.

“Yes.  It’s hard to believe that’s our baby boy up there, all grown up and married.”

“And to think we felt old when Blair got married.  He was just a baby then.”

“He was a baby, and I was nowhere even around yet!” Iris chimed in.  “And now I’m in high school.”

“Thanks for that reminder, youngster,” remarked Cycl0n3.

“No problem.  I know you forget things in old age!”

“Hey!  I’ll have you know that I’ve been a forgetful llama my whole life, thank you very much.”

“Admit it, Cycl0n3.  It’s not so bad here in the old man club.  It’s got its perks, and I suspect before too long, you could be the father of a groom and a grandparent yourself.  Tad does already have a daughter…”

“Uh-huh, but remember what that’ll make you when my kids have kids.  Great-Grandpa.  A.K.A. older than dirt.”

“Luckily, ‘great’ has multiple meanings,” said Susan.  “We can gracefully embrace the age-related one along with the general, well, greatness of it.”

After the ceremony, they started the reception and cut the cake.  Plumboptimus, shined up with a fresh coat of polish for the occasion, beeped loudly to get everyone’s attention.  “Please gather for the ceremonial division of the matrimonial pastry!”

Maria whispered to Patrick while everyone gathered.  “Not the most romantic way to put it, but he tried.”

“Aw, Plum’s cute in his awkwardness.  He’s learning.”

“I have to say, I never imagined having a robot at my wedding, but I’m glad he’s here.  Even if he is a little weird.”

“Me too, and I’m glad none of my family’s weirdness ever scared you off.”

“Hate to break it to you, baby, but you’ve got a touch of it yourself.  You always have.  But that’s all right.  I like it.”

“Even though now you’re now officially a part of it?”

“Especially now.  Besides, you’re now a full-fledged member of the Wolff pack, so to speak.  I hope you’re ready for that.”

“I think I can handle it.”  He picked up the cake cutter and held it out.  “Ready?”

“Mmm-hmm.”  She placed her hand with his, and they sliced the cake together.  They took their pieces, and each took a forkful to feed to the other.  As he leaned in, Patrick moved it up toward her nose, like he was going to frost it, but he stopped just short of doing so.

“Just kidding.”  He put it in her mouth and added on a flirtatious note, “You’re too beautiful for any artistic alteration.”

She swallowed her bite daintily and dipped his forkful back down onto the plate for a bigger chunk before feeding it to him.  “And that’s why you get extra frosting, and not on the face yourself.”

Patrick and Maria sat down to enjoy their cake while the rest of the guests mingled and had theirs.  Mortimer sat down with Boyd.  “Hey, Morty.  You’re looking a little more distinguished than the last time I saw you.”

“After that last youthful indiscretion, I decided to change my look to match my age.”

“It suits you.  Gunther and Cornelia would be proud.”

“Thanks.”  He didn’t get a chance to say more before Susan came over.

“Hi, Mortimer.  It’s good to see you.  How’ve you been?”

“Doing well.  Congratulations.  You two must be so proud of Patrick.”

“Oh, we are.  Thanks for coming.”  She smirked.  “I won’t have to supervise you two when they get out the nectar to toast, will I?”

Mortimer chortled.  “I was going to ask how that went.  I hope I didn’t get him into too much trouble.”

“Nah.  I’m glad you two had fun.  Besides, I suspect he didn’t need that much help getting into it.”  She sat with them.  “By the way, happy belated birthday.  You look quite dapper.  It’s too bad you didn’t bring an equally lovely plus one with you.”

“Sadly, I haven’t had your and Boyd’s or your kids’ luck with my plus-ones.  My romances seem to be rather ill-fated.”  He gave a sad smile.  “And I imagine I made the right call not bringing Sky as my date, much as she’d enjoy all the gourmet table scraps.  But perhaps one of these days my luck will change.”

“Maybe I should drop a hint to Patrick to toss the garter your way,” Blair said as she came by.  “It’s nice seeing you, Mortimer.  Happy birthday a little late.”

“Thanks.  You, too, a little early.  I can’t believe how big Travis has gotten.  Seems like he was just a baby yesterday.”

“Oh, you’re telling me!  But don’t let him hear that.  He’s very serious about how grown up he is now that he’s a pre-teen.  And Chris is in university.  Oh boy, time flies, huh?”  She glanced at her father, who was rather gracelessly scooping an escaping bit of frosting back onto his fork.  “Dad!  This is a high-class wedding.  Remember your table manners.”

“Hey, who’s the parent here?” Boyd teased back.

Susan raised an eyebrow.  “She’s not wrong, you know.”

“She rarely is,” Cycl0n3 said from the next table.

Blair fluffed Cycl0n3’s hair affectionately and grinned at her parents.  “And you said he couldn’t be taught.”

After cake, it was time for Patrick and Maria’s first dance.  Their song began to play, and they took to the floor while their guests watched.  “I hope today’s been everything you hoped it would be,” he said as he held her close.

“Even better.  It’s been like a dream come true!  I love you so much.  I hope it’s the same for you.”

“Of course!  I just married the woman I love and the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen.  What more could I want?”  He gave her a dramatic twirl.

“Their first dance.  Brings back memories, doesn’t it?”  Susan enjoyed a cup of tea with Boyd while the newlyweds danced.

“Our wedding?  Or are you thinking of Blair’s?”

“Both.  Although they were nice warm weather weddings.”  She took a sip of tea.  “Not that this cozy winter wedding isn’t also nice.  Maria was right that the view here is spectacular.  It’s just a shame it’s too cold to enjoy it outside.”

“We can always come up here for lunch or something come springtime, just the two of us, if you want.  But personally, I’m fine with indoors.  That hot sun in these tuxes at Blair’s wedding was a bit brutal, and the unimpressive locale of City Hall aside, at least our summer wedding was inside in the air conditioning.”  He smiled at her.  “But the bride would’ve made everything else pale by comparison anyway.  There or somewhere like here.”

“Keep up that charming talk, and I’ll expect you to sweep me off my feet in a dance like our son with his bride.”  The song changed, ending Patrick and Maria’s first dance and starting one that everyone could join them out on the floor in if they wished.

“I don’t know how much sweeping I can pull off at my age, but I think I can manage something.”  He stood and took her hand, and the two of them went out to dance.

“I will say you’re a better dancer now than you were then,” Susan remarked.

“I was a nerdy kid who didn’t exactly have a lineup of dance partners before I met you.  You’re lucky I wasn’t as bad a toe-cruncher as our grandson.”

“Poor Chris.  I suspect he’ll never manage not to be a llama in a china shop.  Though if he’s doing well enough with dissections at university that he still wants to become a surgeon, he must have some coordination.”

“He was always good at video games.”

“Can’t imagine where he gets that, between Cycl0n3 and Grandpa Space.”

“And here I was going to suggest some of those gaming skills came from his chess grandmaster grandmother.”

They swayed in tune to the music and passed by Chris and Blair, dancing together as part of the bridal and groomsmen party.  “He’s not doing so badly here tonight.”

“There may be hope for him yet.  Think he’ll be next to get married?”

“Tad does seem like the family man type, so maybe.  If so, Blair will be thrilled!  She loves this wedding stuff.  But you never know.  A career as a doctor is pretty demanding, so he may decide to wait a while before adding marriage and parenthood, step or otherwise, to his plate.”

“Speaking of which, how soon do you think it’ll be before we have the pitter-patter of little grandchild feet around the house?”

“I don’t know.  Morgana said Maria told her they were planning to wait, but didn’t say how long.”

“Well, I think Patrick will do all right as a dad when the time comes.  He always looked out for Orion and took good care of Iris when she was little.”

“Yes.  I hope he learns to watch letting the colorful language slip when he gets upset, though.  I’d hate for my grandchild’s first word to be… well, any of several.”

After the first few dances, Patrick and Maria went outside to have a picture of them taken as a couple with the falls in the background.  When the photographer went back inside, they stayed behind for a few minutes’ breathing room from the guests and reception.  “I’m glad it stopped snowing long enough to get a picture.  Isn’t it gorgeous out here?  Especially with the fresh snow?”

“Breathtaking.”  Patrick stroked her cheek.

“You’re not even looking at the falls,” she teased.  “But thank you.  You look amazingly dashing yourself.”

He put his arm around her and looked over the balcony.  “You’re right, though.  It is gorgeous.  If it wasn’t our wedding day, I’d be tempted to paint it.  Maybe someday I’ll come up here and do that.”

“We could get a picture of the snowy winter landscape before we leave, if you want.  I wouldn’t mind trying to paint it myself.  I miss being able to paint as much as I used to.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry about wedding plans anymore, so that’s a little more time freed up if you want to.  Though I know working on your novel can suck you in for hours.  Some nights I have to pull you off that laptop.”

She nuzzled against him.  “It’s usually only when you get home late.  I need something to pass the time while you’re at the theater on work nights.  At least that keeps me busy.”

“I enjoy reading what you’ve done when you share it with me, though.  But we won’t have any of those distractions on our honeymoon.  No work, no family drama.  Just you and me, together, having fun and doing whatever we want.”

“I can’t wait.  Monte Vista!  It’s going to be so romantic!”  She put her arms around him, and they kissed again.  They lingered out there for another moment, until Maria shivered.  “Pretty as it is out here, we should go back in.  Our guests will start thinking something happened to us, and I’m getting cold.”

“I bet.  You want my jacket?”

“Sweet of you to offer, but no.  It doesn’t do anything for my look.”  She tossed her hair playfully as they headed back in, and he laughed.

“Fair enough.  We’ll get you a hot tea to warm you up.”  He gave her a suggestive look.  “And tonight, I promise I’ll keep you real warm.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” she flirted back.

They went back inside and mingled, danced, and celebrated with their guests.  Soon it was time for another wedding tradition, the bouquet and garter toss.  Iris volunteered to find the two missing groomsmen, one of whom was her brother and the best man, while Penny and Chris gathered everyone up.  “There you are!”  She spotted Orion at the top of the stairs.  “They’re starting the tosses, and we need you on hand for that, best man.  Is Travis down there, or is he in the bathroom or something?”

“Yeah.  He was hiding out downstairs.  You know how he is.”  Much like his mother, Travis hated crowds.  Unlike Blair, however, the romance and fun of a wedding did not override it for him.  After cake, he’d gone down to the quieter room to play games on his tablet.

“Well, he’s part of the wedding party, so he kind of needs to be up here for this.”

“I know.  I told him.  He’s coming.”

“Good.  We don’t want you guys to miss it.”

“I think he’d rather do his best to miss it.  Catching the garter, I mean.”

“Hopefully he does, because if he’s the next one of you men to be married, you’re all screwed,” Iris laughed.  “And I’m not talking about his age, because I totally thought boys were cute when I was in his grade.  I mean his sunny disposition.  It’s not exactly what we girls line up for.”

“Hey, you never know.  Some girls like brooding types.  If they didn’t, vampire romance movies wouldn’t be a thing.”

“With how much he loves monster movies, I think he’d probably romance a vampire himself.  And if he did, he wouldn’t even have to expose himself to sunlight,” she joked.  “Oh, and FYI, if you were thinking about you and Tara when you said that? You should know you’re not the same type of brooding.  You’re more, like, stubborn and determined when you’re down about something.  Travis is cranky and cynical and kind of a downer when he gets on a ‘I hate this, everything’s bad, life sucks’ roll.”

“Wait, why do you think I meant me?  I don’t brood.”

“Ha ha.  Not much, you don’t.  You totally don’t stomp around the house grumbling about how unfair it is that you can’t tell Tara whenever you bring it up with Mom and Dad and they shoot you down.”

“It is unfair, but that still doesn’t mean—”

“Relax.  I was just kidding.  Mostly.  I don’t blame you.  I’d hate it, too, I guess, if I couldn’t just tell people I was a plantsim.”  She gave him a sly look.  “Maybe you should try to catch the garter, so you and Tara can get married next.”

“Very funny.  Even if we weren’t still seniors in high school, I’m sure Penny would love Wilbur’s little sister getting hitched before he gets around to marrying her.  She said something to me along those lines in that joking-but-not-joking kind of way a couple times already.”

“I know!  I heard it, too.  I hope Maria chucks the bouquet right to her.”

“You don’t want it for yourself?  Not imagining a future full of dances with Lane yet?”

“Hey, I just don’t want to ruin what looks like Penny’s best chance at getting to the arch before she’s as old as Blair and Cycl0n3, or worse, Mom and Dad.”

“Oh, good.”  Orion smirked.  “So, it doesn’t have anything to do with Lester, then.”

Iris flushed.  “Orion!  Now you’re going on about that stupid rumor?”

“I don’t care who you date.  Lane, Lester, the freezer bunny.  Whatever.  It was just something I heard in the lunch room at school.”

“Well, some people need to keep their mouths shut.”  She straightened as Travis came up the stairs.  “Oh, good.  He finally emerges from the depths.  Come on, Mr. Social.  We need to do the bouquet and garter toss now.”

Travis made a whoop-de-doo motion with his fingers.  “Yay.”

“All right, everyone!  We’re ready to throw the bouquet!” Maria called out with a big grin, while Blair gave directions.

“Single ladies, over here.  Us married ones and you men, we need to all stay out of the way and not jinx their luck.”

Iris took Penny’s hand.  “Come on, let’s get you in prime position!”

“You could help her chances even more by standing over here with us, you know,” Susan teased.  “You’re a little young to be thinking marriage anyway.”

“Aw, come on Mom.  It’s just fun superstition.  It doesn’t mean anything.  What can really happen from just touching some flowers?”

Boyd chortled to himself and muttered, “Patrick.”  He remembered the day a long time ago when he’d accidentally grabbed a handful of a baby’s breath bush at the arboretum while talking to the basil plant he was getting a sample from beside it.  At the time he brushed it off as a silly sim’s tale, but it hadn’t been long after that he and Susan were surprised with the news that they were expecting Patrick.  Without scientific proof he had to believe it was coincidence, but then again, Jack and Judy Bunch had a huge baby’s breath bush in their yard back in the day, and the most children in the neighborhood.

Susan had a more direct example.  “My dear, you were harvested from a pod right in our greenhouse, so you may want to rephrase that.  That said, join them if you want.  If Esme there is, you might as well.”

Iris did line up with the other single ladies, and Maria turned around and tossed the bouquet over her shoulder with a dramatic flourish.  Penny was the most hopeful for it, but she was the least coordinated.  She reached as it came toward them, but instead of catching it, she tripped over the hem of her dress and stumbled into the others, knocking them off balance as well.  The only one who wasn’t was little Esmeralda, who was an ace at catch.

“I got it!  Woo!  I’m the next to get married!”

“The heck you are!” Tad protested and playfully snatched it from her.  “Give me that!  You’re not getting married anytime soon.  You’re still in grammar school.”

“Hey!  I caught it fair and square.”

“She did,” Penny conceded, and smiled at her.  “You should keep it.  Next to get married or not, it’s still good luck.”

“Thanks.  You’re already engaged anyway, so I’m sure it’ll be you.  You don’t even need the magic flowers!”

“Let’s hope you’re right.”

“I’m sure she is,” Maria said.  “Congratulations, Esme.”

“Even so, I’ll hold onto these for you for now.  You know, just in case,” Tad joked. 

“But we’ll put them in a nice vase for you when we get home,” said Morgana.

“Time for the garter now!”  Patrick pulled over a chair for Maria.  “If you would be so kind, my dear?”

Chris ushered all the single men to the same area.  “Gentlemen, let’s gather over here.  Short stuff, you want to stand front and center?  Your escort caught the bouquet, after all.”

Travis made a face at his older brother.  “Don’t be a llama.”

“That’s all right.  He almost failed gym class.  I’d be surprised if he could catch anything but a cold,” teased Blair.

They cooled the banter as Patrick took the garter off Maria.  He turned around and with a bit of flair, tossed it at the crowd of single men.  All of them but Travis reached for it, but none quite got it.  First it bounced off the side of Chris’ hand, and while both Wilbur and Jamaal made a grab for it, it slipped between their fingers and landed squarely on Orion’s head, looking rather like a lacy halo.

“Really?”  He reached for it, amused, but Mortimer plucked it off and handed it to him.

“Yours, I think.”

“Does it count if you don’t actually catch it?  Technically, you picked it up.  I think that makes it yours.”

Mortimer laughed.  “I’m not sure.  Where’s an expert on these rules?”

“Patrick did the crappy throw,” said Travis.  “Make him decide.”

“Yeah, Captain.  What says the ranking officer?” Cycl0n3 called out.

Patrick turned to Maria and her bridesmaids.  “Uh, bride?  Bridal party?  What takes precedence?  Landing zone or first to pick it up?  Or do you want me to re-throw?”

“Re-throwing would be bad luck, so no, no, no!” Maria declared.  “But as the groom, you should pick the winner.”

“I’d say it should be the first one to touch it upon landing,” said Blair.

“But is that by hand or by hair?”

Boyd exchanged an amused look with Susan.  “Who knew there were so many technicalities for this?”

“Okay, if it’s up to me as the groom….”  Patrick looked from Orion to Mortimer.  “Let’s give it to Morty.  You did pick it up first, which is closer to a catch.  We’ll call it a late birthday present.”

Mortimer smiled and pocketed the garter.  “Thank you, Patrick.  Here’s hoping it brings a much-needed change in my luck.”

With the last of the celebratory traditions complete, they socialized and danced a bit longer, and then the reception was over.  Patrick and Maria stood by the door to say goodbye.  “Thank you all for coming today.  It meant a lot to have you here to share today with us,” Maria said.

“We’re glad all of you could make it.  Thanks for everything.”

“You’re both quite welcome.”  Morgana hugged Maria.  “I think I speak for everyone when I say congratulations, and we were thrilled to be here.”  She then hugged Patrick.  “And welcome to our family, Patrick.”

“And you, welcome to ours,” Patrick replied.  He turned to Thornton and shook his hand.  “You, too.”

“Thank you.  Likewise.”  He hugged Maria.  “Congratulations.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

Susan and Boyd took their turns to congratulate and hug the happy couple next.  “You two have a wonderful time in Monte Vista.  Take plenty of pictures.  I hear it’s beautiful there.”

“Oh, we will!  I promise,” said Maria.

“And if you happen to come across anything cool in your travels…”

“I’ll nab it for you, Dad.  Assuming it’s stuff customs lets me bring back.”

“Why wouldn’t they let you bring souvenirs?” Maria asked, while Susan put a hand on Boyd’s shoulder.

“He means specimens, dear.  Patrick’s always had a knack for finding neat little things on trips.  Rare or unique plants, rocks, bugs, things like that.”

“Bugs?!”  Her eyes went wide.

“Hey, I won’t go picking up any bugs.  I promise!”  He held up his hands.  “Sorry, Dad.”

“No problem,” laughed Boyd.  “Enjoy your honeymoon.”

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 90 Part One
« Reply #290 on: February 24, 2019, 03:03:59 AM »
Author's Note: This is another wordy one, so it's split into two posts.  Also, I'd just like to say that I love the look of Monte Vista, and think it was one of EA's better efforts for store content towns.

Chapter 90

The day after their wedding, Patrick and Maria boarded a plane to Monte Vista for their honeymoon.  The destination was Maria’s choice, although Patrick was just as excited about it.  The old city was reputed to be beautiful and home to several historical sites of interest, a world-renowned art museum, and exquisite local cuisine and shopping.  While Patrick had vacationed in other countries with his family, this was his first international trip as an adult, and it was Maria’s first time outside of Sim Nation at all.

They booked a honeymoon suite in one of the hotels in the heart of the city.  Maria wanted to stay in a unique place with history, and all the buildings inside the city walls were historical structures that had been kept up.  The room they got was in an old mansion that had once been a private residence but was converted to a hotel when it was sold, giving it a cozy and old-world romantic feel.  “Wow, it’s so pretty here.  You can just feel the history.  Imagine all the things that have happened here.”  The walls surrounding the city had stood for hundreds of years, back in the days when monarchies ruled, and such structures were needed for protection in times of war.

“Sounds like you’re already soaking in inspiration for a novel.”

“A bit.  Just think what it must’ve been like living in a place like this back then.  Nobles and knights and ladies and kings and queens.  Messengers riding in on horseback, while you look out from your terrace to see the common folk trading in the marketplace.  Ladies in their fine dresses waiting for wax-sealed love letters from their husbands or betrothed, doing their needlepoint and listening to musicians play for them, with the scent of fresh bread baking in the ovens wafting through the house…”

“Arguably better than what it probably smelled like down here.  The breathtaking aroma of horse poop in the hot Monte Vista sun, baking on the cobblestones like a pizza.”

She swatted his arm playfully.  “How artfully put, dear.  Very romantic.”

“Just saying, that was probably a part of the experience, too,” he teased back.  “Kind of like how those nobles didn’t get much of a choice about who they honeymooned with, for the most part.  Nobility always had arranged marriages back in those days.”

“I know.  Stories about marrying for love were a big deal because it didn’t happen that often, unless you both happened to be in the right families, and they were okay with it.  I’m glad that died out.  No one should have to marry someone they don’t love.”  Maria took Patrick’s hands, and he pulled her close.

“Definitely.  I can’t imagine marrying someone I didn’t love the way I love you.  One of the many reasons I’m glad we live in modern times.”

“That and no horse manure on the streets, right?  Though I could point out that the smell from how they used to just dump chamber pots into the gutters would probably be worse.”

“And you said I wasn’t being romantic.”

She smooched him.  “How about we start being romantic, then, and go check in?”

“Sounds good to me.”

After they got their room key, Patrick unlocked the door and carried a giddy Maria over the threshold.  Technically, he’d also done that the night before in the room they stayed in after the wedding, but she was a sucker for romantic gestures, so he promised to do it again at their honeymoon suite in Monte Vista and one final time when they got home, too.  “Here we are.  Our honeymoon love nest.”

He set her down, and they looked around while a bellhop brought their luggage in.  It was a two-room suite, with a spacious bedroom that had a private balcony, and a bathroom that had not only the usual amenities, but also its own private hot tub.  “Very nice.  Good choice, booking here.”

“Thanks.  I’m glad it’s as nice as the website said.”  Maria was impressed.  She opened the balcony doors to look outside, and then came back in and lit the candles on the dresser.  “Mmm.  Kind of cinnamon.”

“Sweet and spicy.”  Patrick gave her a flirtatious look.  “Setting the mood to seduce me already?  Because I’m pretty sure it’ll work.”

“I bet.  But we just got here.  Surely you want to see some of the sights and not just hole up in here and do… honeymoon things… all day on our first day here?”  She put her arms around his waist.

“Not all day.”  He kissed the side of her neck.  “I’m up for going out later.”

Pressing against him, she giggled suggestively.  “But you’re up for something else right now, hmm?”

His response was to kiss her.

“You know, I could go for a little unwinding after that long flight…”

After some romantic time together in their room, they freshened up and went out for a drive to see the countryside and what was nearby that wasn’t in a brochure or featured on a website.  They rented a high-end sports car, a Montalcino Fandango SE, to use during their stay.  It was cool, and it wasn’t like they couldn’t afford it.  “This is pretty sweet.  Maybe I should get something like this back home sometime.  Nothing against the car my parents gave me, but this would be a nice upgrade, and it is several years old now…”

“And then you’ll make your dad hyper-ventilate about you driving too fast even more.”

“If I pay for it and the insurance, it’s not like they’re on the hook if it gets wrecked.  Besides, I haven’t even had any accidents.  Dad’s just paranoid and Iris is right, Mom is kind of the stereotypical granny driver.  I think her eyesight and reflexes aren’t what they used to be, but she doesn’t want to admit it.  Anyway, they still have Orion and his motorcycle and Iris to nag, and they are paying their insurance.”

“To be fair, Iris does have kind of a lead foot.  Or a wood one, if you’d rather.  Though you’d think they’d be more on Orion’s case for the midnight Galaxa joyrides to who knows where instead of his motorcycle.  He seems to know how to handle that.”

Patrick put his finger to his lips in a joking whisper.  “I’m pretty sure they don’t know about those.”

“Where do you think he goes?  To meet up with Tara?”

“With how nervous she is?  It’s hard to picture her sneaking out without freaking out about it the whole time.”

“Maybe Orion sneaks over to her house and climbs in through the window.”

“Maybe, but I don’t think she’d be calm about that, either.  Their house isn’t big like ours.  If they weren’t super quiet, her parents would probably hear.”  He changed the station to find music they both liked.  “Honestly, I don’t know what he does.  He always has new space rocks, so maybe he goes meteor hunting.  Or maybe he just cruises around in the Galaxa for plum and giggles.  Whatever it is, he hasn’t gotten himself into trouble yet, so I guess it can’t be too bad, right?  Or he just hasn’t gotten caught.”

“Like we did that time the cops showed up at Tad’s party?  Oh, that sucked.”

“Ugh.  Yeah.  That grounding was enough to make us both behave for a while.”  He put his hand on her leg.  “Mostly.  I remember sneaking a make-out session with you behind the school that one day we ducked out of lunch.”

Maria smiled.  “I missed you, and the food was terrible, anyway.”

They drove down the mountainside, enjoying the beautiful vista of the rolling hills and the ocean in the distance.  Maria spotted a sign for a street market.  “Hey, want to check it out?  Sunset Valley doesn’t have anything like that.”

“Sure.  Even if they did, here in Monte Vista they’ll probably have different things than they would back home, anyway.”

Most of the booths at the market sold locally grown produce, although there were a few selling things like homemade jam and honey, and some craft-type vendors.  One sold hand-woven baskets and hand-painted boxes, and another had knitted scarves and similar items.  Patrick and Maria browsed and picked up a couple of things, both for themselves and their family back home.

“I’ve never even seen this kind of garlic.  I didn’t know there were that many types.”

“Oh, yeah.  Mom and Dad have grown a bunch of them.  Some wild local varieties and some rarer ones.  They could tell you which, probably in more detail than you ever wanted.”  He picked up a bulb and examined it.  “Don’t think I ever saw any like this, though.  Or eggplants that look like that.”

“Thinking of bringing some back for them?  Samples like your dad asked for?”

“Better than bugs, right?” he joked.  “I could, but this stuff will definitely need a customs form.  We should probably come back and get it at end of our trip, too.  So it’s nice and fresh.”  He looked over the rest of it.  “Anything you want to get yourself?”

“Nah.  Maybe when we come back, I’ll bring something home if the forms aren’t too annoying.  Mom doesn’t get a whole lot of time to cook, but when she does, she likes to encourage Caleb and Esme and Tad to eat vegetables since if dinner’s up to him, it’s usually take out or something out of a box or a can.  She’d probably like to try something different.  But for us?  No way.  I’m not cooking on our honeymoon.  Vacation mode all the way!”  She picked up a lemon.  “One of these might be nice to have in water in our room, though.”

After they left the market, they drove back into the city to visit the art museum.  Art enthusiasts that they were, Patrick and Maria were both eager to see the world-famous works hosted there.  “Hard to believe we’re looking at the actual, original piece in person, huh?”  They were awed by the famous statue in front of them.

“The pictures just don’t do it justice.  Such skill!  Sunset Valley’s museum has some amazing stuff, but nothing so prestigious.”

“Being here reminds me of going to the Champs Les Sims museum as a kid.  It was cool, but I wasn’t old enough to fully appreciate what a rare opportunity it was to see that stuff in person.”

“I’m so envious.  I’d love to see that.”

“No reason we can’t go someday.  Take our kids, the way my parents took me.”

“Our kids, huh?  I thought you weren’t in any hurry for that,” she teased.

“No, but we’ll have them eventually.  Unless that was a hint you want to go to France sooner rather than later.”  He put his arm around her shoulders and met her eyes.

“No particular rush.  Besides, any trip with you would be fun and romantic.”

Although they could have spent longer in the museum checking out and geeking about the artworks together, eventually it was closing time.  They were both hungry, so they went to a restaurant within walking distance of their hotel.  It was a casual establishment, nothing fancy, but the menu had a nice selection and the aroma of food being cooked in their wood-fired ovens was mouth-watering.

At the waiter’s suggestion, they tried the night’s special, lasagna sopresa, paired with a local nectar blend.  Patrick took a bite.  “What do you think?  I like it.  A little different than some of the recipes I’ve had back home, but one of the better ones for sure.”

“It’s good.  Though it’s a big piece, especially after those garlic breadsticks!  I hope I can finish it.”

“If you can’t, you can probably get the rest boxed to go.”

“No.  Vacation is not for leftovers.  Stuff like this never reheats as good as it is fresh anyway.”  She sighed dramatically.  “Guess I’ll have to just try to eat it all, then!  Glad I wore the stretchy pants today.”

After dinner, and a shared gelato that Maria was able to squeeze in a few bites of even after the lasagna, they went back to the hotel.  It was the perfect time to relax in their hot tub together.  Patrick dimmed the lights and lit the candles while Maria got in and adjusted the jets, and then he joined her.  “Great way to end our first honeymoon day.  Getting in the hot tub with my lovely new wife wearing nothing but bubbles.”

She snuggled up to him.  “You look pretty cute in the bubbles yourself.”

“You know, it occurs to me we’ve never actually gone farther than just fooling around in one of these.”  He slipped his hand between her thighs.

“That’s because at least one of your parents or brother or sister or even Plumboptimus are always home back at the house and they could walk in on us,” Maria reminded him, although she let his hand wander as he pleased.  “We never go in late enough that they’re all asleep or meditating or charging or whatever.  Not to mention lately it’s just been too cold to be out there.”  She closed her eyes with pleasure at his touch and returned the amorous gesture under the bubbles.

“Luckily, there’s nobody here tonight but us.”

“Mmm.  I know,” she sighed happily, and settled into the bubbles with him to do more romantic things than talk.

By the time they got out of the hot tub, it was late, so they got ready for bed.  When Patrick came out of the bathroom after brushing his teeth, Maria was wearing an enticing set of lingerie different than the one she’d worn the night before.  He gave her a flirtatious whistle and grinned.  “I figured you’d have the fancy stuff on our wedding night, but I didn’t know you packed more than one.”

“That was the wedding night lace and satin.  This ensemble is more of a honeymoon special.”

“Whatever it is, you look amazing in it, and can’t wait to get you out if it.”

She got on the bed and lay down in a provocative position.  “Then perhaps you should join me, dear.”  She patted the mattress, and Patrick practically leapt onto the bed with her.

“And here I was wondering if you might be too tired after the hot tub.”

“Not for our first night here.  No way.”

“I’m glad,” he replied as their lips met in a passionate kiss.

After their busy day and late night, Patrick and Maria slept in the following morning.  Luckily, their hotel had a complimentary breakfast available until nearly lunchtime, so they were able to get an espresso and something to eat before going out to see more of Monte Vista.

Patrick grabbed a breakfast calzone while Maria had some fresh baked bread.  “This is so good.”  She finished her piece and considered taking another, since she wasn’t quite full, but hesitated.  “But I almost hate to think how many calories and carbs are in all this great stuff we’ve been eating.”

“You’re not worried about that, are you?  Enjoy it!  It’s our honeymoon.  Besides, you’re not even fat.”  He took a bite of his calzone.

“Tell that to my butt when my pants feel tight.”

“Your butt looks great to me, and I saw it from lots of angles last night.  Just saying.”  He lowered his voice suggestively.  “But if you’re that worried about it, we can do some more adventurous positions tonight to burn it off.”

“Well, in that case, maybe I will have a second piece.”  She put it on her plate.  “I can always sweat or soak out the water bloating when we go to the spa, anyway.”

They drove out of the city to see more local sites, including the Slanciato Spa that Maria wanted to visit.  They had several pampering packages, and Maria couldn’t wait to try one.  When they got there, they were impressed to see it was another old-style historical building that had beautiful stained-glass windows and the ruins of another ancient structure in the plaza out front.  Those had been landscaped around and preserved to an extent, but the spa itself was in excellent shape.

“I wonder if this used to be a church or an abbey or monastery or something.  It has that kind of look to it,” Patrick mused.

“Might be.  A lot of the old buildings were.  So, are you going to splurge on a spa package with me?  I’m going to get the one with a seaweed facial and a volcanic clay bath.  That’s supposed to be amazing for your skin.”

“I don’t know.  I’m not really into the whole sitting in mud with cucumbers on my eyes thing or sweating it out in a sauna.”  He wiggled his fingers.  “And I’m kind of proud of my guitar callouses.”

“Maybe you can get a pedicure and take care of your sore feet from all this walking we’ve been doing.  Or get a nice exfoliating salt scrub.  That’d probably feel good.  Either way, my stuff will take a while, so you’ll probably want to do something in the meantime.”

While Maria got her treatments, Patrick strolled around the plaza and took pictures of the buildings, ruins, and landscape.  Afterward, he went over to the ruins and peeked into the pond inside them.  He recognized some of the fish he saw from his childhood scouting days, he but didn’t try to catch any or get too close.  He doubted the property owners wanted tourists traipsing around in there, and furthermore, Maria wouldn’t appreciate him smelling like mud and fish when she came out of the spa all squeaky clean and pampered.

After that, Patrick went back the spa.  Since Maria was not even halfway done with her treatment yet, he decided what the heck, he’d try the salt scrub she suggested.  It was a unique experience, and it left him feeling rejuvenated.

When she came out, Maria was practically glowing.  “That was fabulous!  I could definitely get used to this kind of treatment.”

“It’s our honeymoon.  You deserve the royal treatment.”  Patrick smooched her, and she gave him a curious look.

“Ooh.  You got one, too.  I can smell the bath salt.  It’s nice.  Feels nice, too.”  She smoothed her hand along his arm.  “Did you like it?”

“It was a little weird, but in a good way.  I’m glad you like what it did to me, though,” he finished on a flirtatious note.

Invigorated from their spa experience, Patrick and Maria visited Etruscan Park next.  It was another attraction both wanted to see, an old ruin that that tourists were allowed to explore and walk through.  The park was a bit of a drive from the city proper, but its hilltop location gave an excellent faraway view of it.

“Check that out.”  Patrick let out an impressed whistle.  “Oh, if I had my easel…”

Maria snapped a picture.  “I know.  These don’t do it justice, and these ruins are so cool!  If it wasn’t our honeymoon, I’d write up a travel piece for my work blog.  This totally inspires me.”

“Hey, if you want to strike while the inspiration iron is hot, I know how that is.  The park’s open until sunset.  Go for it.  I bet it’ll make a great piece.”

“But I don’t want to neglect you on our honeymoon, baby, especially not for work.”

“You’re not neglecting me.  We’re still here together, we’d just be doing our own thing side by side.  Besides, it’s not really work if you’re excited and passionate about it.  If you want to do it, you should.  Don’t worry.  I won’t be bored.”

“You won’t be bored on our honeymoon without me?”  She pouted.

“I didn’t mean it like that.  Besides, I’m not without you.  You’re right here at my side.  I was without you more than that back at the spa.  I just meant my sketchbook will keep me occupied while you’re writing.  Failing that, I can always look for bugs.”  Her eyes narrowed when he said that, and he amended quickly.  “Kidding!  About the bugs, anyway.  I’d actually like to sketch the city from here while you write.”

That mollified her, and she cheered up.  “Okay.  If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.”  He gave her a quick kiss.  “I’ll go get our stuff from the car.”

Patrick retrieved Maria’s laptop and his sketching supplies, and they picked a cozy corner of the ruins to sit down and work in.  Maria took some pictures and transferred them to her laptop, and then she wrote out some notes, including trivia from the plaques in the park, while Patrick sketched.  It wasn’t the same as being able to paint the beautiful scene, but he still enjoyed himself and was proud of how it turned out.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 90 Part Two
« Reply #291 on: February 24, 2019, 03:05:07 AM »

When they finished their impromptu projects, they took a final stroll through the park talking about it and the historical trivia they learned there.  They left at sunset and drove back to the city for the night.  By the time they got there, it was dark, and they debated where to go for dinner.  Neither were dressed up enough for anything fancy, but they didn’t feel like going back to the hotel just to change and go out again.  They were considering whether or not to just order in from their room when Patrick spotted an ice cream truck.

“Hey!  Look.  Just like we have in Sunset Valley.  They’re out late in the hot nights here.”

“I wonder how different Monte Vista’s ice cream is from ours.”

“Want to try it?”

She laughed.  “Wow, what a healthy dinner.”

“That’s okay.  We don’t have any kids yet to model bad behavior for.  We can leave that to Tad.  Come on.”

“All right.  You convinced me.”

They parked the car, and each bought a treat.  The selection was a little different, but there wasn’t anything too exotic.  Patrick got a multi-colored ice pop while Maria bought a cute bunny shaped dessert.  “Mmm.  I like it.  Very strawberries and cream.  How’s tasting the rainbow?”

“Good.  Also, I think it’s dyeing my tongue colors.”  He stuck it out to show her, and she giggled.

“Yup!  Nice art project.”

While they strolled around eating their ice cream, they noticed the castle at the top of the hill lit up against the night sky.  Once upon a time, it had housed royalty, and now it was Monte Vista’s city hall.  “Their city hall castle is so pretty.”  Maria took a picture.

“It’s not that far from here.  Want to walk up there and check it out?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s closed at this hour.”

“I didn’t mean for a tour.  Just to get a better look at it.  I’ve never been to an actual castle before.”

“Really?  Not even when you went to Champs Les Sims as a kid?”

Patrick shook his head.  “Some of the buildings there were historic and from that era, but they weren’t castles like that.  There was one I remember you could see across the river from where we stayed, but when we asked about it, they said it was a private residence.  Shang Simla also had some cool fortress type buildings and one converted palace in the marketplace, but it was a way different style from this.”  He looked up the hill toward the castle.  “What do you say?  Want to go?”

“Sure.  I bet the view of the city from up there is nice, too.”

Despite being closed, the portcullis was up, allowing them to stroll into the courtyard to look around.  “This is so cool,” Patrick enthused.  “I can’t wait to tell everyone we got to go to an actual medieval castle.  Even if we weren’t able to go inside.”

“The sign over here says they do tours.  Looks like some of it is set up like a museum showing how it was back then, while other rooms are the functional city hall and courtrooms.”

“I wonder if they use the old dungeons for holding cells for the people on trial.  Hope they put in plumbing and took out the manacles if they do!”

“Maybe some of those are part of the tour.  It’d be a shame if they weren’t.  We should come back when they’re open and go on one.”

They strolled around the courtyard and then up the hill alongside the castle to see the unobscured view from the top of the mountain.  “The sea and the countryside look gorgeous from here.”

“They do.”  Patrick took Maria’s hand.  “The stars are really clear, too.  I bet you could see a lot with a telescope from up here.”

“I’ve never really done much of that.”

“It was an easy scouting badge to get as a kid since Mom and Dad keep theirs set up.”  He met her eyes.  “Want to sit down and look at the stars?”

“Sure.  Let’s sit over here by the flowers.”  They settled into some soft grass together and studied the sky.  “It’s so quiet and peaceful.  You don’t hear the cars or anything from down there.”

“We’re above a lot of the ambient light from the city, too.  Look how much brighter they are compared to our room’s balcony.”

“I didn’t really notice.  I’ll have to remember to look later.”  She rested her head on his shoulder as they sky-watched and chatted.  “So, which one is Sixam’s star?  Do you know?”

He pointed.  “That one.  The brighter one to the left over there.”

“Neat.  Though I half expected it to be in the Orion constellation.  I’d never even heard of Sixam before…”

“The abduction?”


Patrick gave her hand a sympathetic squeeze.  “You can’t see the planet with a regular telescope.  It’s too far away.  We only know because Mom and Dad figured it out from some top-secret files that were archived at the lab.  Even Eni Jish Xip never told us.”

“It sure will be weird meeting her when she visits.  The one who had me probed as a wedding gift.”  Maria made a face.  “Onto a better subject, I love how the moon is almost full tonight.  The moonlight just makes everything feel more romantic, don’t you think?  And maybe a little bit inspired and energized?”

“It’s pretty.  I don’t know about energizing, but it definitely inspires me to do this.”  He kissed her, and the two of them lay back in the grass together.

They cuddled and kissed like that for a bit longer before Maria spoke up.  “If we’re going to keep at this, we should probably go home.  I don’t want to get any naughtier at city hall.  It’s not the kind of place we want to be caught doing anything risqué, especially as tourists.”

“Nah.  Probably not.  Although I think spelunking the secret basement in Shang Simla was probably riskier than this.”

Maria chuckled and stroked his cheek.  “I still can’t believe you and Orion broke into a catacomb.  You wild sim.”

“More his brilliant idea than mine, I admit, but yeah.  We were so lucky we didn’t get caught and freaking arrested.  It was fun, though.”  He leaned in close.  “Not as much fun as getting lucky with you under the stars would be, but you’re probably right that we should go back.  Are you ready, then?”

“Yes, but promise we’ll continue where we left off when we get there.”  Her eyes practically lit up with desire, and she whispered seductively, “I really want you.”

Excited, Patrick practically leapt to his feet and offered her a hand up.  “Then consider it promised.”

The next day, they were up and out in time to take a morning tour of the city hall castle.  It was worth the return trip to see places like the throne room and great hall.  As it turned out, one of the dungeons was preserved as a historical tour area, so they got to see that, and a “secret” staircase that had been used for subterfuge in medieval times.  “This is perfect inspiration for writing a medieval or renaissance era story!” Maria enthused.

Walking down the hill to where they parked during the heat of the day made them decide to visit one of Monte Vista’s beaches next.  It was perfect weather for it, clear and sunny and hot enough that a dip in the sea was refreshing.  They picked Sunbather’s Retreat, a beach located along the channel leading out to sea.

Patrick splashed some water over himself while they waded.  “Nice change from the freezing winter back home, huh?”

“Yes.  We’ll be the envy of everyone with our tans.  Though now that we’ve got a little color, we should probably put on some sunblock.  It does age the skin we worked so hard to pamper yesterday.”

“That and I’d rather not turn into toast.  I’m lucky I tan before I burn, but the sun is pretty intense here.”

They went back to their towels, put on their sunblock, and relaxed.  Patrick sunbathed and let his mind wander while listening to the waves, and Maria read a book.  When she got to a chapter break, she stretched.  “I wonder if one day, I’ll see someone reading one of my books on a beach like this.  That would be so cool.”

“Yeah!  That’s how I’d feel if I heard someone put on a song by my band.  Especially in another country.”  He put his arms behind his head.  “That’s a long way off, though.  Not even really doing local gigs yet or recording much other than demos.  Hell, they’re still working on the vocalist position.”

Maria perked up at the mention of that.  Patrick had told her how they wanted to add a female vocalist to the new band, and she still had a dream of performing with him someday.  He knew that, but he wondered if she could balance that with pursuing her writing dream at the same time.  As much as he loved the idea of being on stage with her someday, he also knew how passionately she loved writing and the worlds she’d created.  It was probably for the best, then, that Pauline already had a prospect from Bridgeport with impressive qualifications.  Even Maria had to agree that someone who’d taken voice lessons from the late, great Aria Trill and who’d appeared on Sim Nation Idol with good reviews was an ideal choice.  “Are they hiring her?”

“They want to.  Haven’t heard anything definite yet, though.  Pauline’s still talking to her.”

“Oh.”  Maria relaxed and casually turned the page.  “I saw an article about her on SimBook.  Did you know she used to have a much bigger nose?  They had a picture of her from her university days, before she was on Sim Nation Idol.  She looked totally different.”

“Guess having surgery didn’t affect her voice.”

“Guess not.  You’ll have to tell me what she’s like when you meet her.  Hope she’s not one of those that let fame go to her head.  Last thing you and Wilbur need is a total diva in your band, right?”

“Definitely not.”  Patrick rolled over.  “I’d like to think I wouldn’t let fame go to my head.  Well, not too much.  There are a few people I’d love a chance to say, ‘In your face!’ to.  But other than that?  Nah.  I want to stay me.”

Maria looked over at him and smiled.  “You better.  I love you just how you are.  But I do want to be the glamorous hot wife at your side that all your fans are jealous of.”

“You will.  Complete with ridiculously expensive designer dresses and shoes,” he replied with a playful grin.  “Though you should be a world-famous author by then, so they’d know you, anyway.  Married to me as your cool rock star husband.”

“Mmm, yes!  I like that.”

After the beach, they headed to a local pub for a drink and snack.  Patrick tried a local juice special, while Maria had a nectar.  The pub had a hangout atmosphere, so they danced and played a few bar games while they were there.

“We haven’t done much of this since University,” she mused.  “I forgot how much fun it was just going out and cutting loose for a little while.”

“I didn’t, but what can you do when work’s got us so busy?”

“That and all the wedding plans, and other stuff going on.”

“The wedding plans are over, but there’s still all that other responsible adult stuff now.  Think how it’ll be once we have kids on top of that.”

“Busy, but luckily we have grandparents to lean on if we want a night out, or aunts and uncles and maybe even Plumboptimus.  Though if you want to hear a good rant about that, get Tad going sometime.  Just remember if you ever go out with him, you could end up hanging out with Julius.  They’re bar buddies.”  She rolled her eyes.  “He really needs a better class of friends.”

“He told me he works with him.  Better him than me, though I’m probably not going to stay that lucky.  He’s Zelda’s nephew, and she said something about doing the club owner of one of the places he moonlights at a favor and having me and Wilbur DJ some event there.  I just hope he stays out of my way if I do.  I can deal with Julius Lunkhead if I have to, but I’d rather not have to explain a bunch of technical plum in one-syllable words just so he gets it, or put up with him trying to be witty.”

“He’d have to try pretty hard.  He’s not even halfway there.  But who knows?  I haven’t seen him since high school.  Maybe he’s grown out of his llama phase.”

“Maybe.  We’ll see, I guess.”

As afternoon turned to evening, Patrick and Maria caught a matinee at the Teatro Fantastico.  It was a locally produced independent sci-fi film called Starship: Incredulous! that they had mixed reactions to.  Maria enjoyed it and found it a fun watch, but Patrick couldn’t get past some science nit-picks that pulled him out of the story.  “Sorry.  I guess I spent too much time with my parents watching sci-fi.  I could practically hear them in the back of my head ripping on that scene where she blew out the airlock and survived.”

“They did suck her right back in, though.  I mean, yeah, it was still unrealistic, but then again, so was that whole ride through the rainbow meteor vortex.”

“At least they acknowledged the physics laws were borked there, though.  They could’ve just said that for the airlock scene or given a throwaway line, something!  Oh, well.  It was still fun.  Just can’t give it five stars.”

“No, but I think I’d give it one more than you.”  They noticed a guitarist strumming on the sidewalk.  “He’s pretty good.”

“Yeah.  I like his tune.  Kind of whimsical, but with a bit of romance.”

“The kind of song that makes me think of you, baby, and how much I love you.”  Maria kissed Patrick on the cheek, and he in turn dug into his pocket and tossed a tip into the guitarist’s case.  The musician nodded in appreciation, and Patrick gave him a thumbs-up as they left.

That night, they had reservations at the most exclusive restaurant in the city.  Maria had their lobster thermidor while Patrick tried their porcini risotto.  They shared a bottle of vintage nectar and a gourmet dessert afterward, and left both stuffed and impressed.  “Now that place earned its high reviews.”

“Unlike the movie, right?” Maria teased.

“Just had to get that out one more time,” he said with a grin.  They were on their way to the car when Patrick noticed a blooming cosmos flower growing wild along the edge of the cobblestones.  “Wow.  I don’t know how that hasn’t been trampled yet.”  He bent down and took a closer look.

“It’s pretty.  It’d be a shame if it did.  It looks like it should be in a vase or flower bed.”

“Cosmos are pretty hardy.”

“Another thing you learned in scouts?”

“How’d you guess?”  He plucked the flower and handed it to her.  “We’ve got a vase in our room.  It should go with someone as beautiful as it is.  Not wasted out here.”

Maria practically melted at the gesture.  “Aww.  You’re so sweet to me.  Thank you!”  She sniffed the flower and smiled at him.  “Definitely better than finding some bug.”

“You know, it’s kind of funny you say that, because there are some fireflies over there…”  He pointed to the bushes near the restaurant wall.

“Pretty, but I much prefer the flowers.”

“Figured as much.”  Patrick took her hand for the rest of the walk to where they parked.

They spent the next day shopping.  Most of the boutiques appealed to Maria more than Patrick, but they both liked a music shop that had some high-end instruments.  Patrick bought some new sheet music and checked out their guitar selection, but he decided to stick with the one he had and loved.  They browsed some clothing stores, too.  Maria bought several new items, and Patrick got a couple as well.

One glass boutique had an interesting assortment of accessories, ranging from home décor to jewelry and perfume.  The clerk informed them that each item was hand-crafted and unique, made by local artists.  Patrick browsed one of the décor glassware shelves, eyeing pieces he thought might make nice gifts.  He’d gotten souvenirs for some of his family already, but he hadn’t found anything for Blair yet, and he wondered if she might like any of the things catching his eye.

Maria tested a few of the perfumes and found one she liked.  While considering whether to buy it, she looked at the jewelry.  “Oh, this is beautiful.”  She tried a bracelet on.  “I love the delicate design.  What excellent craftsmanship.”

“Indeed,” agreed the clerk.  “We sell many of her pieces.  This one just came in yesterday.  It looks stunning on you.”

She checked the price tag, and her eyes widened.  Although Maria’s family was well off, her father had also always been one to harp on the value of a simoleon and not wasting money, so she was aware of just how extravagant a purchase it would be.  “It is…”

Patrick, on the other hand, was used to just buying something if he wanted it.  He looked over.  “That’s pretty.  Do you want it?”

“Yes,” she admitted.

“Then get it.  The perfume, too, if you want.”

Maria couldn’t help but smile and set the bracelet on the counter.  “Okay.  You twisted my arm.”

“Which that bracelet looked great on,” Patrick said before turning to the clerk.  “Could you package them for her in something that’ll keep them safe for the plane ride home?”

“Certainly, sir.”

“Great.  Thanks!  I think I’ll get this, too.”  He picked up a glass dragon’s egg that sparkled with different subtle shimmering colors when held up to light.  “My sister will love it.”

The next couple of days were overcast and rainy.  Patrick and Maria stayed in for the first one, enjoying premium room service and cozy romantic time and foreign movies together in their room.  On the second, they returned to the art museum and took extra time studying the exhibits.  They enjoyed more meals out at restaurants they hadn’t tried yet, and a delightful play at the theater that night.

On the last full day of their trip, the weather cleared up again, allowing them to see some more sights before leaving.  They held off during the previous days hoping the weather would improve, and they were glad they did.  Touring an ancient historical structure like the coliseum in poor weather would have been quite a disappointment.

“How amazing!  This has been here for centuries.  It makes the castle seem modern.  Ancient gladiators fought on these very grounds,” Maria gushed excitedly as she took a picture.

“It’s pretty humbling,” Patrick agreed.  “Think about how many people have been here over time for almost the same kind of thing.  They still host games and festivals on these grounds.  Think it’ll still be here in another few centuries?”

“They’ve preserved it this long, so hopefully they’re not too dumb to let something so ancient and amazing fall apart.”  She took another picture.  “I wonder if anything back home will last that long, like this?”

“Probably not.  Sunset Valley doesn’t have a coliseum or any cool castles.  The oldest building in town is the Goth estate.  Mortimer’s house.  Far cry from an architectural feat like this, and not made of stone, either.  In a couple hundred years, probably all that’ll be left of the original house is the graves in the yard, and maybe the foundation.”

“Guess we just don’t build things like this anymore.  I’m so glad we got to see it.  I knew I’d be inspired by all the history here in Monte Vista for my novels, but I’ve got so many ideas for my work blog, too.  I could write a whole series just on what we saw in the museum alone, never mind this or the other places we toured.”

After seeing the coliseum, they strolled up the hill to the ruins farther back on the grounds.  They were once part of an ancient temple, but all that was left now were some columns and remnants of walls.  “I wonder what this was like back its day.  It must’ve been amazing.  Probably had mosaics and statues and fountains, and who knows what else that time’s forgotten.”  Patrick glanced at the ground.  “I bet a lot of it’s still buried here, waiting to be discovered someday when it’s excavated.”

“But they don’t do that now, because it would damage what’s left up here,” said Maria.  “So until that’s gone, all there is to do is imagine.”

Patrick took a picture.  “Makes me want to paint what it might’ve been sometime.”

“Me, too.  Or write about it.  Or both.”

“Maybe I could paint it and you write it?  Make it a joint project?”  Patrick plucked one of the wild poppies and handed it to her, and she inhaled its summery scent as she considered.

“Sounds like fun.  Someday when we have time, and want to spend it remembering the last carefree afternoon of our honeymoon.”

Soon the afternoon gave way to evening, and Patrick and Maria had one last place to visit before nightfall.  It had a surprisingly mundane name for such a gorgeous site, the Seafood Hideaway Fishing Park, but it was a hatchery and garden constructed around another of Monte Vista’s ancient ruins.  They got there just in time to make a tour of the grounds before sunset.  It was a beautiful location, and as the sun dipped low behind the mountains and turned a golden pink, it only made it more breathtaking.

Patrick pulled Maria close as they watched the sunset together.  “Hard to believe it’s almost over.  By this time tomorrow, we’ll be driving home from the airport in the cold Sunset Valley winter.”

“It’s been incredible.  A once in a lifetime experience.  I hate to leave, except that we can’t go on with our lives together if we don’t.”

“Yeah.  I hear you.  But we’ve just got to keep in mind, this is ending, but everything else is just beginning.”

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Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 91
« Reply #292 on: March 07, 2019, 10:35:37 PM »
Chapter 91

“We should probably put this in.”  Iris set a book aside and jotted down some notes.  She and Lester were at the library after school working on a history class team project that they’d been assigned to together.

“All right.  The other book had something on that, too.”  He flipped through some pages.  “Yeah, here.”

“Great.  Two sources for that, then.”

“That should make Mr. Hard-Nose happy.”  That was the nickname many students had for their history teacher, who had a reputation for his critical nit-picking and tough grading.

“I’m not worried about it.  He’s not too hard on me.”

“You’re lucky, then.  I’ve got a C and he loves to give me plum.”  Lester adopted an imitation of the teacher’s voice.  “Perhaps if you spent less time doodling in your notebook and more time taking notes in it, Mr. Sekemoto, you might’ve remembered these significant details.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Maybe if he didn’t drone on and on, I wouldn’t have to distract myself trying to stay awake.”

“If it helps, I’ve got an A in class so far.  I’m sure we’ll do fine.”

“Yeah.  I lucked out being paired with you.”  Their eyes met, and he quickly looked down.  “I mean, being one of the smart ones he likes.”

“You’re smart, too,” Iris pointed out, and then did her own imitation of their teacher, complete with tsk-tsk hand gesture.  “You just need to apply yourself.”

“You do that too well.”

“Thanks.”  They snickered together, and Iris couldn’t help but notice the way his lip twitched.  It was cute, but… wait, why was she even looking at that?  Because you wonder if it would be any different than kissing Lane’s?

Lester abruptly picked up the book and looked down again.  “Okay, I think we’ve got enough for this part.  What about that?”  He pointed to another part of their outline.

Iris grabbed one of the books next to her.  “This one had a section on that, so I’ll check it out.  You can take that one.  It’s got the stuff for that part you said you’d do.”

“Okay.”  He opened it and immediately started taking notes.

“No need to apply yourself that hard.  He’s not even here to be impressed,” Iris joked as she opened her book.

“It’s not that.”  Lester sighed.  “Sorry.  I guess I’m just not good company right now.”

“Hey, try not to worry about the grade.  We really will do fine.  As long as we know our stuff well enough to answer the surprise questions you know he’ll throw at us in front of the class, we’ll get a good grade.”

He tapped his pencil.  “It’s not that, either.”

“What is it, then?  Is everything okay?”

Lester hesitated, and then took a deep breath before answering.  “It’s… aw, plum.  Can I ask you something?”

Iris’ heart thudded a little as Lester looked at her, and she wondered if it was about what she thought, or even a small part hoped.  “Sure.”

It was.  “There’s this rumor…”

“Yeah.”  She kept her voice low and private.  “I’ve heard it, too.”

“They think we’re… you know.  Even though Lane and—”

“And Kristal!  I know.”

“Yeah.”  Lester bit his lip.  “It really bothers her.”

“I cringe every time it even kind of comes up when she’s around.”

“I feel bad for her.”

“Me, too.”

“But, Iris.”  He put his pencil down, his gaze intent upon her.  “What do you think?”

“About the rumor?  I don’t know who started it.  Probably the same llama who started saying Lane and Rashida—”

“Not who started it.”  He stood and motioned her close, so they could continue their conversation more privately.  “You know what I’m asking.  Don’t play dumb.  You’re too smart for that.”


“You do feel it, right?  It’s not just…”

“Not just you?  No.”

Despite the awkwardness, the admission came as a welcome relief to them both.  “I really do like you.  I have for a while.  I know I should probably keep my mouth shut, but… it’s the truth.”

“Me, too.”

His eyes lit up.  “Really?  Even though, you know, Lane?”

“Even though Kristal?”

“Yeah.  Even though.”  He paused.  “Don’t get me wrong.  Kristal’s great.  She’s sweet, she’s smart, she’s fun, and we have a lot in common.  I know how she feels and sometimes I feel like yeah, we could really be good together.  And I care about her and don’t want to hurt her.  I don’t.  I’m going with her to the dance because I thought why not see what happens.  You were already going with Lane anyway.”  He lowered his voice more before continuing.  “But then, whenever I see you or hang out with you, it’s just…”

“Kind of intense,” Iris finished for him.  “Yeah.  I know.  But I don’t want to hurt anyone, either.”  She glanced at the table.  “Maybe we shouldn’t talk about this here or now.”

“Do you mean not here or now as not in the library now, or not here or now ever?”

Even though she knew she was asking for trouble, she answered, “Option A.”

“Then maybe we should go somewhere else and finish talking about it.”

“Okay.”  Iris picked up her coat and scoffed.  “Glad no one from school was here to see this.”

“Yeah.  Especially Kristal or Lane,” he replied as he put his coat on.  “Where do you want to talk?”

“If we go to the coffee shop or diner or something, with our luck, someone will see us and spread it around with the worst possible take on it.  So, one of our houses, I guess.”

“There’s no one home at mine.  Tom’s at the firehouse and Mom and Dad are both working.”

“We’ll go there, then.  There’s always someone home at mine.”  And as much as she liked Patches, she didn’t want to have to worry about shooing her away from that private conversation.

They checked out the books for their project, went to their cars, and headed to Lester’s house.  When they got there, they went to his room to talk.  Lester set his books down.  “Okay.  Here we are.  Just us, and this… this thing.  What now?”

“Why are you asking me?” Iris asked with a sincere, if not a bit coy, smile that he mirrored.

“Because you’re the smart one.”

“Oh, stop.  I might be smart, but it’s not like you’re stupid.”

“Heh.  I don’t know.  I feel like asking Kristal to the dance wasn’t too bright.  Not if I didn’t want to lead her on.”

“But you do like her, don’t you?  You said you did.”

“I do.  Definitely as a friend.  And maybe I could more if… if I wasn’t more into someone else.”  He looked at Iris in a way that made her leaves flutter.  “Believe me, I wish I could just ignore it and forget about it.  I’ve tried.”

“So have I.  For her sake and Lane’s.”

“Yeah.  What about him?  We’ve talked about Kristal, but you haven’t said what the deal is with him.”

“What’s the deal with him?  Honestly?  I like him, too.  If we’re putting it all out there, that’s the truth.  I like both of you that way.”

“But you picked him over me.”

“Kristal likes you, and she’s my friend.”

“So, Lane was easy.”

Iris chortled.  “I wouldn’t put it that way.”

“You know what I meant.  You picked him because he was easier.  You like him, and you like me, but you knew Kristal liked me, so you—”

“Encouraged her to give you a shot and went for a guy that wasn’t the same one my best friend likes.  Yes.  It’s not like I was pining for you.”  She frowned.  “Plant pun not intentional.”

“But cute.”  Lester met her eyes.  “So, if Kristal wasn’t involved…”

“But she is.”

“But if she wasn’t,” he reiterated, “would you have gone out with me, or Lane?  You know my answer.  Fair’s fair.”

Iris found it hard to answer with Lester looking at her like that, especially because if it had been Lane instead, she knew she’d feel just as attracted to him as she did to Lester right then.  Why did it have to be so confusing?  “Whichever of you asked first,” she replied, frustrated.

“That’s your answer?”

“It’s the truth!  I said I like you both.  Sorry if that makes me a terrible person,” she snapped on an emotional note, while Lester sighed.

“You’re not terrible.  No more than I am, anyway.”

“Look, I don’t know for sure because it didn’t happen that way, but… I do know if you’d asked me out before Lane, I would’ve gone out with you.”

“Even if you knew Lane might also like you?”


“Even though Kristal liked me?”

“Yes,” Iris admitted.  “I—I’d have felt a little guilty and hoped she wouldn’t get mad at me, but yes, I would’ve.  Because then it wouldn’t be like I was the one going after you, on purpose, when there was a chance you might choose her if I didn’t push it.”

“Then I wish I’d done this in the first place.”  His eyes locked with hers.

“You mean talk to me alone like this?”

“Yeah.”  Lester took her hands, and all Iris could think was how strong and warm they were as she squeezed them back and leaned closer.  “I know it’s wrong, but, plum, I want to kiss you right now.”

“Do it anyway.”  Iris felt guilty about that as she blurted it out, but not enough to stop when he obliged.

That first kiss was brief, but warm and soft and perfect as he pulled her close and held her.  They broke apart only long enough to take a breath before indulging in another.  That was one more intense and passionate, and followed by one last little smooch savoring the moment as they separated.

“Wow.”  Iris didn’t know what else to say.

“Yeah.”  Lester smiled, although it soured with guilt.  “But now what?  Much as I’m glad we did… maybe we shouldn’t have.  We’re both seeing other people.”  He paused.  “Kristal would be so hurt.  And the dance, I mean, it’s tomorrow.”

“Right.  It’d be pretty awful of us to just drop something like this on them right before it,” Iris agreed.

“So, do we go on like nothing happened, then?”  The way he looked at her mirrored how she felt—confused, disappointed, resigned, and relieved all at once, with a dose of frustrating I still want to kiss him again on top.

“We probably should for now.  Until we figure things out.”

“Like whether you want to just stay in the ‘safe Lane’ or dump him and be with me and help break poor Kristal’s heart?”  He let out a bitter chuckle.  “I’d feel like the world’s biggest llama, and I wouldn’t blame her if she hated me.  Not to mention helping nuke your friendship with her.  Lane, at least, whatever.  I don’t have anything against him, but we’re not friends like you and Kristal.”  He lowered his head.  “I’m sorry.  This really screwed things up.  I should’ve just kept my mouth shut.”

“Maybe, but I’m just as bad because I’m glad you didn’t.  Despite everything.  At least now I know it’s not just me.  Maybe it was inevitable anyway.  It’s not like we were able to stop the stupid rumor when we were pretending this whatever didn’t exist, right?”

“Yeah.  Now at least they won’t be full of it when they talk.”

They fell silent and considered the situation.  “For now, though, let’s just go to the dance with Lane and Kristal like we planned,” Iris decided.  “Whatever happens after, the winter prom’s a big deal and it’s definitely not worth ruining everyone’s time right before it.  We can just stay friends like we’ve been until after, and then maybe see how we feel.  And if we still want to be more, then we find a good—well, I guess there’s no good, but a better—time to break it to them.”

Lester nodded.  “All right.  That’s what we’ll do, then.  It’s probably best for everyone that way.”

“Yeah.”  Iris picked up her coat.  “I should go before things get mucked up even more.”  Because I can’t stop thinking about how awesome kissing you was and how much I’d like to stay and do more of it.

“Okay.  Good night, Iris.  And I’m sorry.”

“Me, too.”  She paused, and added even though she knew she shouldn’t, “For the drama.  Not for the kiss.”

“Same,” Lester replied as he walked her to the door.

The winter prom held no such conflict for the other Wainwright attending.  Unlike his first one, this time Orion not only had someone to go with, but he was head over heels in love with her.  When he picked up Tara that evening, he presented her with a bouquet of purple roses, “perfect purple.”  He felt it was better than “romantic red” or “precious pink,” since Tara had such shaky confidence.  To him, she was perfect just the way she was, quirks and all, and that was what he wanted to say with it.  He hoped maybe one day she’d believe it a little herself.

“They’re beautiful!”  She inhaled their fragrance and smiled.  “I thought you were just supposed to get a little corsage.  Not a whole bouquet.”

“What fun is it if you don’t break the rules sometimes?  You like them, right?”

“Oh!  Yes!  Sorry if I made you think I didn’t.  I didn’t mean—”

“You didn’t,” Orion replied just as Tara’s parents came over.

“Hello, Orion,” Marty greeted him.

“Hi.”  Orion smiled politely while Justine beamed at the pair.

“Don’t you two look sharp?  Are you ready to dazzle everyone on the dance floor?”

“I don’t know about dazzling anyone, Mom.  I’m not exactly the dazzler type.”  Tara held out the bouquet.  “Orion brought me pretty flowers, though.”

“Oh, they are!  Do you want to take them with you, or would you rather I put them in water here?”

“I, um… well, I guess it’ll be hard to hold onto them while dancing, huh?”  She gave Orion an anxious look.  “But I don’t want you to think I don’t like them or don’t want to show them off…”

“Whatever you want is fine.”

“Okay.”  She reluctantly handed them to her mother while Marty smiled at them.

“And what do you mean you won’t be dazzling?  I remember when you two were ballet stars.  You’ve probably got the best moves there.”

“Oh, my Watcher, Dad!  That was ages ago and this is nothing like ballet.”

Orion could tell the small talk with her parents and him there was putting her on edge.  “We definitely won’t have to worry about stepping on each other’s toes.”  He took her hand.  “You about ready?”


“You kids have fun,” Justine told them.

“And call if you think you’re going to be at all late.  It’s snowy out, and the roads won’t be great.  Hope the limo driver’s experienced enough to handle it…”

Justine nudged Marty.  “Don’t go into worrywart mode.  I’m sure the driver’s fine.  We’ll see you after the dance.”

Unlike previous dances, this one was held at an outside venue instead of the gymnasium.  Sunset Valley’s educational board got an unexpected budget boost when Holly Alvi gave them a generous donation.  After her mother’s passing, she was the sole heir to the Alto fortune and estate.  She and her family moved into the posh Alto mansion, but she still disapproved of her late parents’ criminal activities and donated large sums of their questionably obtained money to charities and good causes.  The school board used it to grant bonuses to the teachers, improve the school library and computers, and put some toward extracurricular activities for students like school trips and dances. They rented out Mick’s Master Karaoke for the winter prom and the students were excited.

A romantic ballad played for the opening dance.  “This is definitely an upgrade from the gym, huh?”

“This time is better all around than last time.”

“You’re telling me.  I didn’t even have a date.  I spent most of it griping with Guillermo, Sommer, and Penny about how it sucked to not have one.  Penny danced with me complaining about how Wilbur had to work and couldn’t go with her.”  He chuckled.  “Kind of like at Patrick’s wedding, except that time it was about her lack of wedding.”

“Yeah, well, I went with Tom the llama who ended up cheating on me with Bianca,” Tara said bitterly.  “So even though I had fun at the time, the memory is forever tainted by him turning out to be a lying jerk.  I heard he’s actually engaged to her now.”  She looked at Orion.  “But this time, I’m with you so it’s a million percent better.  I love you and know I can trust you.  I hadn’t been with Tom that long then.  But I know you’d never let me down like that.”

Orion tried not to feel guilty about the whole alien secret situation, and he pulled Tara close.  “I’d never betray you or cheat on you.  I promise.”

“I know.  One of the many reasons I love you so much.”  She rested her head on his shoulder as they danced.

After a night to mull things over, and a long discussion with Patches, Iris felt reasonably resolved with the non-resolution to her feelings for Lester.  Getting ready for the dance and knowing they were both going with other people they cared about made it easier to stick with what they decided after their kiss.  That tantalizing, mesmerizing, forbidden kiss that totally should never have happened, but did, as Iris put it to Patches.

Besides, Iris couldn’t deny that she was really into Lane, too.  He was cute and charming, and every bit as good a kisser as Lester.  They had fun when they were together, whether it was her telling him all the gossip from his mom’s house plants, going out on a date to the movies, or listening to one of his trademark critiques he always gave after a show or meal.  She was attracted to him and had feelings for him.  So what if he was the ‘safe Lane’ as Lester called it?  Sticking with Lane would hardly be a hardship, and it wouldn’t hurt Kristal.  Lester said himself he didn’t want to do that, and he even admitted he could fall in love with Kristal if he got over his feelings for her.  All it would take was some time.

So we’ll just keep doing like we have, and have a great time with our dates at the dance tonight.  It was the right thing to do, and no one would get hurt.  Except maybe me and Lester, just a little.  But as long as no one ever found out about them kissing at his house, it would just be a little secret slip, one moment of weakness.  No harm, no foul.  As long as it doesn’t happen again.

A stolen glance over at Lester and Kristal stirred a whispering question asking if she could do it again in secret, would she?  She refused to indulge that line of thinking, though.  Not at the prom with Lane.  Especially not when he looked at her in that heart-melting way with his gorgeous icy-blue eyes, and not after the way he’d kissed her in the limo on the way over.

He twirled her around.  “You’re so light on your feet.  I like how your dress kind of floats with you.  Makes you look even more stunning.”

“Aren’t you the sweet talker tonight?” Iris replied flirtatiously.  She thought Lane looked adorable in his tuxedo, and they’d had fun so far.  Dancing together, talking about school and life, and even feeding each other chocolate dipped fruit from the fountain and giggling when he narrowly missed getting a drop on himself.

“Only fitting considering I’ve got the most gorgeous date here.”

“Now I suspect you’re just buttering me up.”

“A little.  Wouldn’t want you to have a bad time, especially if it meant I didn’t get to kiss you good night.”

She leaned in close, enjoying the scent of his cologne.  “Planning to wear off my lipstick again?  I already had to touch it up when I first got here.”

“Then I won’t tell you it’s worn off a bit from our stop at the chocolate fountain,” he said playfully.

“Is it?  I swear, you’re the only guy I know who notices stuff like that.”

“It’s my perfectionistic streak.  I can’t help it.  But I wasn’t complaining.  You look great with or without it.”  He dipped her low and smiled amorously.  “And for the record, you kiss just fine, too.”

“Good to know,” she flirted back.

Much like Iris, Lester also spent the previous night thinking about their situation.  He cared about Kristal.  While originally his feelings for her were just friendly, dating her so far had been nice, and now he felt a little more than that.  He meant the things he told Iris about her.  She was sweet, smart, and fun.  He even had more in common with Kristal than he did with Iris, and it wasn’t like he didn’t find her attractive.  He genuinely meant it when he told her how great she looked when he picked her up for the dance.  Unfortunately, none of that was enough to override how attracted he was to Iris Wainwright, or get his mind off her and their kiss the night before.

“Hey.  Earth to Lester.  They started a new song.  Want to dance?  Or don’t tell me you want another chocolate fix already?”  She noticed he was staring off in the direction of the chocolate fountain, which happened to be in the same line of sight as Iris and Lane.

“Nah.  Just looking around at who came with who.”  He returned his attention to Kristal, determined to keep it there for the rest of the night.

“Right, you don’t keep up with that girly gossip,” she joked as they headed out to the dance floor.  “I already pretty much knew it all.  I think the only surprise here is Mrs. Frio dancing with Guillermo’s dad instead of her husband.”  Both Jamie and Connor Frio were chaperones at the dance, as was Xander Clavell.

“He doesn’t seem too worried about it.  He’s over at the bar.  Maybe he’s just not much of a dancer.”

“Either that or he’s standing guard to make sure no one spikes anything.”  Although everyone who’d been at the prom when Gretchen spiked the punch bowl had long since graduated, the school doubled down on chaperone supervision at dances ever since.  “Which is fine by me.  One juice and I’m… whooo!”

Lester raised an eyebrow.  “Since when do you drink juice?  You’re probably the most well-behaved girl in school, except for maybe your sister.”

“Most of the time, yeah.  But one day when our parents weren’t home, Rachelle had Corina over, and she snuck it with her.  I don’t know what we were thinking, honestly.  I mixed it into some glunka cola and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Fun at first, but I felt so goofy and weird.  It’s not even the kind of thing I’d normally do, but I just, I don’t know.  I wanted to try it, something a little wild, that you know you’re not supposed to but wonder what it’d be like if you did.  The whole forbidden fruit thing, I guess.  You know what I mean?”

All too well, Lester thought, immediately reminded of Iris.  “Yeah.  Sure do.”

A little while later, Iris and Lane took a break from dancing.  He excused himself to use the bathroom, and Iris decided to go touch up her makeup.  Lane might like her natural lip color, but she’d picked out her colors carefully and she wanted to look picture perfect all night.

When she walked in, she overheard Sommer and Corina having a hushed conversation by the sinks.  “…heard she went over to his house after school yesterday.”

Iris froze in her tracks.   No.  That was impossible.  Nobody from school saw her leave the library with Lester, and even if they did, they went in separate cars.  Maybe they saw your car in his driveway?

“And slept with him!  Can you believe it?” Corina exclaimed, not noticing Iris had come in.

WHAT?!  Iris almost choked, but she stayed as still as a leaf to hear the rest.

“I know!”  Sommer seemed equally scandalized, and she didn’t realize Iris was there yet, either.  “Sneaking around like that.  So trashy, right?”

“Worst of all is she’s her friend, too!  And it’s obvious she doesn’t know yet, poor thing.  They’re all out there dancing like nothing happened.”  When Corina dried her hands, she spotted Iris by the door.  “Oh… hi, Iris.”  She and Sommer both looked over and straightened awkwardly.

“Hi.  How’s it going?”

“Fine.”  It was near impossible to pretend she hadn’t overheard what she did, but it wasn’t like she could ask about it without admitting she’d been eavesdropping.  She fixed her lipstick in record time, then excused herself to do some hurried damage control.  If that was going around now, she needed to talk to Lester fast.  They had to figure out what to tell Kristal and Lane before they heard it from someone else.  She just hoped she could get a minute alone with him in time.  That, and she wished she had Orion’s ability to summon meteors.  She sure wanted to drop one on whoever started spreading that dirt around!

Luckily, Lester was on his way out of the bathroom himself, and Iris was able to corner him away from the crowd.  “Lester!  I’m so glad I caught you.  I’ve got to talk to you.  Alone.”

“Okay.  What’s going on?”

“They know, Lester.  I don’t know how or why, but they know!  About us.  About yesterday.”

He glanced out at the crowd to make sure no one could overhear.  “What?  No way.  How?  I didn’t tell anyone.”

“Neither did I!” Iris replied in an agitated whisper.  “I don’t know how they could’ve found out!  Someone must’ve seen us.”

“At my house?  What, do I have a stalker peeping in my windows or something?”

“I don’t know, but I just heard Sommer and Corina talking in the bathroom about how they heard I went over to your house after school yesterday and slept with you.”

Lester was dumbfounded.  “What the—Oh, who the hell comes up with this plum?!  I mean, even if someone saw you at my house, we didn’t…”

“I know!”

“Did they somehow see us kissing and just assume…?  But still, that’s all it was!”

“But that’s not what they’re saying, and the way they were saying it, it’s not just those two.  They obviously heard it from someone else, and that means Lane and Kristal are going to hear it, too.  We’ve got to do something before that.”

“Tell them it’s bull?  Because it is!  The sleeping together part, anyway.”  He paced anxiously.  “We’ll just have to set them straight.  Tell them the truth.”

“That we kissed?”

“Uh, maybe not that much truth.  Not yet, unless we have to.  But we can tell them you were at my house.”

“Working on the history project?”  That wasn’t exactly the truth, but it wasn’t far off from it.  That was what they’d been doing at the library before…

Lester sighed.  “What a mess.  I—I just wanted at least this to work out.  Tonight, I mean.  I really don’t want to hurt her.  Especially not here, in front of everyone.”

“I know.  Or Lane.”  Iris spotted him chatting with Kristal and Rashida.  “Come on.  Let’s go talk to them.”

“I take it you guys know?”  Alfonso approached with an utterly disgusted look on his face.  Apparently, he’d heard, too, and unlike Corina and Sommer, he was part of their immediate circle of friends.

“Yeah.”  Iris looked down, while Lester nodded and avoided his gaze, looking over at their dates instead.

“I was coming to give you a heads up.  Everyone’s talking about it.”  His frown deepened.  “Guess we know what everyone will remember from this prom.”

Lester cursed under his breath, while Iris took a deep breath to steady the growing dread inside her.  So much for a romantic winter wonder-prom.  “Come on.  Let’s get this over with.”

Offline mpart

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #293 on: March 08, 2019, 09:42:12 PM »
Poor Iris! I can't believe her and Lester were stalked like that. It's got me wondering, who saw it?
At least Orion and Tara are having a good prom.  ;D

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 92
« Reply #294 on: March 18, 2019, 10:49:49 PM »
Poor Iris! I can't believe her and Lester were stalked like that. It's got me wondering, who saw it?
At least Orion and Tara are having a good prom.  ;D

That will be explained in this chapter! :D

Chapter 92

Hoping for the best, Iris and Lester hurried over to their respective dates with Alfonso behind them.  Lane and Kristal were talking with Rashida, Alfonso’s girlfriend, and all of them looked unhappy and awkward.  It only got worse when Iris and Lester joined them.

“Lane.  I need to talk to you,” she said, while Lester quietly spoke to Kristal.

“I know.  You… you heard what people are saying.”  He covered his face, clearly upset.  “This is a freaking disaster.  I don’t believe this.”

“Yeah, I did, but listen.  It’s not what you think!”

“Not what I think?  What do you mean by that?”

“Nothing happened, okay?”  Her voice rose, even though she meant to keep it down, and Rashida, Kristal, Lester, and Alfonso all looked over, while Lane scoffed.

“You believe that?”

“Of course!  It was just one of those things, you know!  Spur of the moment.  We went over to his house working on the history project and—”

The conversation around them ground to a halt, and Lane dropped his hands, gaping back at her.  “What are you talking about?”

Surprised, Iris stared back at him.  “I… aren’t you talking about what people are saying happened when I went to Lester’s house yesterday?”

“No!  This is about, wait, what are you talking about?”  He looked over at Lester, who looked away from all of them.

It was only then that Iris realized she never actually heard Corina or Sommer mention any names.  Oh, plum!  What did I just do?

The words died in her throat, but Kristal filled the silence as she looked from her to Lester.  “I’d like to know that, too.  What are people saying happened?  I didn’t know she went to your house yesterday.”

“Like she said.  You know how we were assigned together on that history project?  We met at the library, and—”

“And what are they saying you studied?” Lane cut in, glowering at Lester.  “The same thing everyone else says about you two?”

At that, Alfonso let out a bitter laugh.  “Oh, that’s real rich coming from you, when you’re the one who banged my girlfriend yesterday!”

Rashida looked down at the floor, and Iris felt like she’d been struck.  That was why Sommer and Corina hushed up when they saw her.  Kristal wasn’t the “poor thing” who didn’t know her date slept with her friend.  She was.  “What?”  Iris had heard the rumor about Lane and Rashida, but she never actually believed it.  Because Lane was always so sweet and attentive, and Rashida was her friend and dating Alfonso.  Kind of like Kristal thought about you, a harsh voice of conscience pointed out.

“Yeah,” Alfonso continued.  “Rashida stopped by Lane’s house yesterday.  Kristian told me.  He was going to work and saw Lane letting her in when he passed.  He was surprised because he thought she and I were together and so were Lane and Iris, but they were ‘all over each other’ from what he said.  So when I asked her why she was there, she said she was giving him back a game she borrowed, and hugged him because he was upset from a fight with his mom.  Like a llama, I believed her.  Until I saw her phone tonight.  She showed me a picture and I bumped the wrong button and messenger opened.  To a chat with Lane full of sexts talking about yesterday,” he finished angrily.

Iris stared at them in shock, and her jaw quivered.  “Lane?  Is it true?”

“Yeah,” he admitted miserably.  “We hooked up.”  It was all Iris could do to not burst into humiliated tears, but Lane kept talking.  “But we weren’t serious!  It—it was just kind of a side thing that happened.”

“You slept with her and it was just kind of a side thing that happened?!”

“Oh, don’t get so high and mighty!  It’s not like everyone doesn’t know about you and Lester!  Since we’re sharing our personal lives to the whole prom, why don’t you tell the class what you were about to say wasn’t what it looked like when you went to his house, huh?  A biology lesson on top of a history one, maybe?”

“That’s not what happened!  We’ve never slept together!”

“No?  What did you do, then?  Just ‘friendly’ studying he didn’t tell Kristal about any more than you told me?”

You’re the one who got it on with Rashida behind my back, so lay off!”  She shot a glare at Rashida, who was doing her best to silently disappear as they drew more and more attention.

“All right.  Fine.  Whatever!  But I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed you didn’t answer the question.”

“Which I’d like to know myself.”  Kristal looked from Iris to Lester.  “What exactly did happen yesterday?”

Iris tried to think of what to say, but Lester’s guilty expression said enough for them both.

“I guess it wasn’t ‘nothing’ then, was it?”  She held her head up and tried not to cry in front of everyone.

“Kristal—” Lester reached for her, but she wrenched away.


“Guess a whole lot of nothing turned out to be something after all,” Alfonso muttered, while Rashida hesitantly approached him and Lane faced Iris.

“You know, I tried to overlook those rumors.  People saying you and Lester were hot for each other and were going to ditch me and Kristal.  That you were hooking up on the sly and making fools of us.  I didn’t like it, but I see how you look at him sometimes, and how he looks at you.  I’m not an idiot.  And now, what do you know?  Turns out it wasn’t just talk!”

“You make it out like some sleazy affair!  You want to know what happened?  Okay, here it is!  We kissed.  Once.”  Technically, it was three times, but it was all in the same smooching session, and there was no need to confuse the point with that much detail.  “We didn’t plan to, and we sure didn’t sneak around and jump in the sack together like you and her!  If you didn’t want to be with me anymore, why did you—?”

“Why did you?” he retorted, upset, while an equally distraught Kristal listened.  “I did want to be with you!  Me and Rashida was just a side thing!  She doesn’t want to break up with Alfonso and you’re still the one I want, even if you were fooling around with Lester behind my back!  Because I thought you liked me more, that it was me you were serious about.  That I won.”

“Won?  What am I, some trophy or prize?  Some status notch on your belt?”

“No!  I wanted you to be my girlfriend!”

“So you slept with one of my friends?  That makes a lot of sense!”

“If you can screw around with Kristal’s boyfriend behind our backs, why can’t I have some fun with Rashida when she wanted to?  Why should you and Lester be the only ones who get the fun of a side fling that everyone knows about anyway?”

Lester glared at Lane.  “Shut the plum up!  It’s not like that!  Iris isn’t my ‘side girl’ and never has been!”

“So, you lock lips with all your friends, then?” Lane sneered.  “Does Kristal know?  Because it sure doesn’t look like it to me.”

“Just shut your mouth!  You weren’t there!  You don’t know what happened!”

“I’ve heard enough about what happened!”  Kristal’s eyes welled with tears despite trying to keep her composure.  “Between you and my supposed best friend!”  She walked away.

“I’m sorry,” Iris said, ashamed, while Lester went after her.

“Kristal, listen!”

“I’m done listening!  To both of you!”

“Please!  It’s not… I mean, it’s bad, I know, but we didn’t mean—”

“I said I’m done!”

“Can we just talk?”

Kristal’s older sister Rachelle, who overheard the drama like the rest of the dance by that point, put her arm around Kristal as she broke down sobbing.  “You’ve said enough, Lester.  Leave her alone.”  She ushered her upstairs to the quieter second floor of Mick’s while Rachelle’s boyfriend, Mario Kayes, blocked Lester from following.

“Just let her go.”

Orion and Tara also witnessed the loud ending of the blow-up.  “So, Tom’s little brother is a cheating llama, too.  Maybe dating a Sekemoto should come with a warning label,” Tara remarked, unimpressed, while Orion shook his head.

“Ugh.  I don’t envy Iris being mixed up in that.”

“Did you know about any of it?”

“I knew she had a thing for Lester.  She never said it, but it was kind of obvious with how defensive she got.  She ranted about the rumor more than once in that ‘doth-protest-too-much’ kind of way.  But the twist about Lane sleeping with Rashida was news to me.”

“I heard something about them flirting, but not the secret after-school shack-up.”  She turned to Orion.  “Do you want to go talk to her?  She might need big brother’s shoulder to cry on.  Pretty sure she’s out of sympathetic friends over there.”

“Yeah.  I was thinking the same thing.”

Orion was on his way over when Iris turned from Lane to Rashida.  “You haven’t said a word about any of this.”

“What’s there to say?  You guys already did a great job broadcasting it all to the entire prom.”

“Speaking of broadcasting, here’s some advice.  Don’t keep sexts with your friends’ boyfriends on your phone if you’re too stupid to delete them before letting your boyfriend use it.”

“Oh, well, thank you for that pro tip!  You do seem to be an expert at skanking around and hiding it.  If you hadn’t opened your big mouth, no one would’ve ever known it was all over Lester last night.”

“At least it was just my mouth on Lester and not everything else!  And on the first date, too.  Classy.”

“Please.  Considering how honest you’ve been so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if your mouth wasn’t only on his lips.”

“Well, we can all guess where yours was on Lane, so you’ve got no room to talk!  About that or honesty!”

Rashida sighed.  “Look, I know you’re mad, okay?  For what it’s worth, I’m sorry!  Me and Lane, it really had nothing to do with you.  Not on my end.  I never wanted you to get hurt, probably like you didn’t with Kristal.  It just sort of happened, and we hoped you and Alfonso would never find out.  But you did, so… what’s done is done, I guess.  I’m sorry.  But get off your high horse!  You did the same thing to Kristal.”  She looked away for a second.  “You know what’s funny, in a sad way?  She got on to me about what a crap friend I was to do that to you.  And she was right.  I was.  But if only she’d known the whole story, huh?”

“After this, I’m pretty sure none of us have to worry about how good of friends we are anymore, anyway.  I’m going to get some air.”  Miserable, she headed out the back door.

Orion followed her out.  “Are you all right?”

“Am I all right?  Sure!  I’m great!  I was only just humiliated in front of the entire prom and lost a bunch of friends, and my boyfriend, too!  And probably the other guy, the one practically everyone, including my boyfriend, assumed I was getting it on with even when I wasn’t!”  She sniffled.  “Maybe after we kissed I should’ve stayed for some more action.  If I’m going to be branded the wanton passion flower shamelessly sowing her wild oats, I might as well get the fun of earning it, right?  Especially since Lane already thought I was and used it to justify hitting the sheets with Rashida!”

“Look, I don’t know what happened, but—”

“But what?  I know you’re trying to help, and I appreciate it.  I really do.”  Her voice grew shaky as her emotion bubbled out and she started crying.  “But this isn’t something you can help with or even relate to.  You’ve never had anything like this happen to you.  You only ever dated Tara, right?  And you and her have this perfect happy thing together where you never look at anyone else, and you totally love each other and aren’t even tempted by someone else.  You’ll probably be together forever, just like everyone else in our family!  Patrick and Maria, Chris and Tad, Blair and Cycl0n3, and Mom and Dad!”

“Uh, since when is our family an example of normal anything?  Maybe some of us just lucked out finding the right person early on.  But even if you don’t, it just means those guys aren’t right for you anyway.”  He paused, and added, “And for the record, Tara wasn’t the only girl I ever had a thing for.  I liked someone else before we got together.”

“Really?  Who?”

“It doesn’t matter.  It wasn’t meant to be.”

“What happened?”

“She had a boyfriend and it was obvious she loved him.  So I wrote it off and moved on.”

Iris let out a bitter laugh.  “See, you’re nicer than me.  That didn’t stop me.”  She sniffled, emotional again.  “I feel like fertilizer for doing that that to Kristal.  And hypocritical fertilizer because I’m mad at Lane and Rashida for doing it to me, despite the thing with Lester and Kristal!”  She glanced through the window, shivering now in the wintry cold.  “I—I think I love them both.  And it sucks!  It really sucks, Orion.  It sucks that I hurt Lane and Kristal, and it sucks that Lane and Rashida hurt me.  It sucks that I don’t even know who’s still my friend or not because of it, and it immensely sucks that it all came out here, like this, and the whole freaking school will be gossiping about it!”  She broke down crying, and Orion pulled her into a hug.

“Hey.  You’re not fertilizer.”  He patted her on the back while she cried.  “Things you did might’ve been, but you’re not.  Otherwise it wouldn’t bother you that you hurt them.  And since it obviously does, all you can do is figure out where to go from here.  You can’t stop people from plum talking, but you might be able to work things out with the people that matter.  Whether that’s apologizing or forgiving, or not, and for the boyfriends, whether you still want to be with either of them, or not.”

“I don’t know.  I don’t know what to do about any of it.”  She wiped some tears aside.

“I can imagine.”  Given the intensity of emotion pouring out of her, it wasn’t hard, especially with his alien telepathy.

“How can I go back in and face everyone?  They’ll all be staring.”

“Not just at you.  I’m sure Lane, Rashida, Lester, and even Kristal and Alfonso will get their fair share of stares, too.”

“Very encouraging, big brother.  Besides, I’m not good at being a shrinking violet or wallflower.”

“No.  You’ve always been more like a forget-me-not.”

She smiled despite her mood.  “Hey.  Only I’m allowed to make plant jokes.”

“You’ve made alien jokes at me a time or two, but okay.”  It occurred to him there was a way he could help her, at least physically.  “Tell you what.  I know you said there wasn’t anything I could do, but I think there is.  Stand there a second.”


He stepped back and put his fingers to his forehead.  “A bio-boost won’t fix your problems, but maybe you’ll feel a little better anyway.”

“Thanks.”  Iris relaxed as the warm beam of energy soaked into her.  It boosted her energy and with it, her spirits enough that she felt like maybe she could go back in after all.

It was then that Tara came out to check on them.  She didn’t know what to make of what she saw, Orion projecting a weird beam of light from his forehead right into his plantsim sister.  She gasped in shock.  “Orion?  What’s going on?”

The bio boost was about done anyway, but that would have ended it regardless.  “Tara!”

“Uh, hi, Tara.  Orion was just helping me.  Cheering me up.”  Iris looked over at her brother.  “I’m doing better now.  Thanks.  I think I’ll go back inside.”  I hope that didn’t mess up anything for him, too.

Orion heard her thought, and he hoped the same.  “Okay.  Glad you’re feeling better.”

“Cheering her up?  What was that?  What’s going on?”  Tara was obviously weirded out, and Orion could feel it intensely.

“It’s all right.  That must’ve looked pretty odd, huh?”

“Yeah.  Was that some weird plantsim thing?”

“No.”  He didn’t want to lie to Tara any more than he had to, and besides, it was easy enough to look up what plantsims could and couldn’t do.  There was nothing that even remotely looked like a bio-boost.  “That was, uh, something I can do.”

“Something you can do?  What do you mean?”

Orion tried to think of how to tell her about his alien powers without telling her he was an alien hybrid.  Plum, this was frustrating!  One of these days he’d have to tell her!  But enough bombshells had been dropped tonight already, and he still didn’t want to break his promise, as much as he hated having to keep it.  “It’s, well, it’s part of my condition.”  That was true, given his condition was being half alien.  “One of the reasons my parents have me, that I came to them, was so they could study me.”  Sure, it was more because his alien brethren wanted to experiment with humans, but technically, they chose his father as an implantation subject knowing full well he’d study the result.  “It’s not just the weird looks.  I also have some abilities.”

Tara blinked in shock.  “You mean like powers?”

“Kind of like that, yeah.”

“Wait.  Are you telling me you’re some kind of mutant with super-powers?”  She eyed him even more dubiously.  Is this some weird twisted joke, or is he serious?

Orion heard her thought and felt the fear accompanying both possibilities.  “Sort of.  But please, don’t worry or be upset!”


“No, please.  Just listen.  Let me explain.”


“You know how you said one of the things you like about me is how I don’t misunderstand you like other people do?  How I seem to get what you mean even if however you say it comes out wrong?”


“That’s part of it.  I’ve got some psychic ability.  That’s why I can do that.  I can sort of sense what you really mean.”  He left it vague knowing she’d freak out if she knew how clearly he could sometimes hear her thoughts.

“You mean like an empath, or something?”

“Kind of like that, yeah.  It’s one of the upsides of being, well, like this.  And what you just saw with Iris was part of it.  As I’ve gotten older, these abilities got stronger.  If I have enough energy and I focus or meditate, like the martial arts helps me with, sometimes I can channel it.  I can project something more positive to someone, like… like a mental hug.  It helps the other person feel better.”  He paused.  “And Iris needed one tonight.  But I don’t do it a lot.  It’s a little draining.”

Tara didn’t know what to make of the explanation, but she didn’t react badly, much to Orion’s relief.  “That’s… that’s wild.  You can really do that?”

“I can.”

“Wow.”  Has he done that to me?

“I have,” he answered aloud to gauge her reaction.

Tara’s eyes widened in panic, and Orion was overwhelmed by how fast her paranoia ramped up.  “You heard that?”

Yup.  Just like he thought.  “You were wondering if I did it to you, right?  I… kind of picked up on that sense.”  He hoped saying it that way would reassure her.  “The stronger a feeling is, and the better I know the person, the longer I’ve been around them, the easier it is to sense.  And we’re pretty close.”  He put his hand on her arm.  “I hope you’re not too weirded out.”

“I—I guess not.  Not really.  Though the thought of anyone being in my head is…”  She cringed.  “But you said you’ve been doing this all along and haven’t run for the hills yet, so I guess you never sensed anything too weird from me, right?”  She looked at him.  “How often do you do that?”

“Sense how you feel?  A lot.  I can’t help it.  It just happens, and because we’re so close, it’s almost like second nature.  But no, nothing ever made me want to run for the hills.”

“Then you must be braver than I thought, or as wacky as I am deep down in that green head of yours.”  She tapped it playfully.  “What about the mental hug thing?  Did you ever do that to me?  I never saw a beam, but…”

“A couple times when you were really upset.  I did it while I was holding you, so you wouldn’t see it.  I should’ve told you, but I was afraid it’d freak you out.  I don’t tell anyone about the stuff I can do, Tara.  This or how I can move things with my mind.”  He figured since he told her that much, he might as well include that.  If nothing else, now he could do a telekinetic lock pick if they got locked out of something while together.

“You can move things with your mind?”

“If I focus hard enough.  It takes a lot of mental energy, though.”

“I guess that’s one of the reasons you got so into martial arts, huh?  Training that Zen-like focus.”  She met his eyes, serious.  “But you could’ve told me.  You should’ve.”

“You’ve got to understand, I don’t tell anyone.  Only my family knows, and they don’t want me to talk about it.  I’m not supposed to tell people.”  That was true, although not everything he wished he could tell her.

“But you should’ve known I wouldn’t judge you.  It’s weird, yeah, but I’m the last person who’d throw stones at someone for being a weirdo.  It’s cool, really.  I wish I could know what other people were thinking.  Maybe then I wouldn’t put my foot in my mouth so much.”  She frowned, anxious again.  “You didn’t… it wasn’t because you thought you couldn’t trust me, right?  Even after I told you about Wilbur?”

The vulnerable look in her eyes made him feel like a huge llama for not telling her everything then.  “Of course not!  I trust you.  But my parents are really strict about me not telling anyone.  Even my girlfriend.”

“They don’t trust me, then.”

“It’s not you.  It’s nothing against you or anything personal.  They don’t trust anyone.  Maria didn’t know until after she and Patrick were engaged, and she was moving in.  So, keep what I told you between us.”

“Okay, but doesn’t Iris know that I know now?”

“She won’t say anything.”

“All right.”  Tara relaxed as Orion pulled her close.  He was glad she understood, but he picked up on a thought that made him wary.  If he didn’t tell you about that until you saw it, what else haven’t you seen that he hasn’t told you about?  What kind of condition does he really have?

He stroked her cheek and hoped keeping his promise wasn’t a mistake.  “Thanks for understanding.  I love you.”

“I love you, too.”  They kissed.  “So, did you psychically realize I was getting cold and do that to warm me up?”

“Nah.  All that would take is a feel of your shoulders.”  He squeezed them.  “The kiss was just because.”

“That beam thing, you said you did it to me a couple times?”


“Did you ever do it when we were, you know…?  Because I thought about it while we were kissing, and there were a couple times when things felt a little warm or electric, and I thought it was just love and excitement, but now I wonder…”

“It’s amazing what you can apply that martial arts discipline to,” he replied with a smirk, and she giggled.

“Wow, how naughty!”

“My powers tell me that’s not a complaint.”

“You didn’t need psychic powers for that.”

Although things were fine for Orion and Tara, the rest of the dance was painfully awkward for Iris and everyone involved in the love hexagon.  Kristal refused to speak to either her or Lester for the rest of the night.  Iris commiserated with Lester briefly, and she was glad he was okay with her, but with the looks they got whenever anyone saw them talking, they kept their distance from each other, too.  Iris avoided Lane because she didn’t know what to say, and it seemed to be the same for him.  They only spoke superficially when the dance ended.  They were supposed to ride home together in the same limo with Orion and Tara, and Iris wasn’t petty enough to kick him out and stick him with a cab.  Upset as she was about his betrayal, she wasn’t innocent herself, and they’d all been humiliated enough for one night.

The ride home passed in uncomfortable silence, and Iris didn’t feel any better after Lane was dropped off.  She kept to herself while Orion walked Tara into her house and kissed her good night, and she was relieved when they got home.  Unfortunately, their parents were right at the door, waiting with smiles on their faces.  With Plumboptimus, too, and Patches behind them, strolling in to see how things went.

“Welcome home,” Susan greeted them.

“How was the dance?” asked Boyd.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Iris said bluntly.  “I’m getting some water and going to bed.”

“Oh, no!” Patches exclaimed, while Plumboptimus beeped sympathetically.

“Your romantic dancing excursion did not go well?”

Iris was about to fire off a snarky reply to poor Plumboptimus, but Susan interrupted before she could.  “Sweetie, are you all right?”

“I’m fine, but I don’t want to talk about it!”  She pushed past them and left.

They watched her leave, then turned to Orion.  “Did you and Tara have fun at least, I hope?” Boyd asked hesitantly.

“Yeah.  We had a good time.  A lot better than hers.”

“What happened?” asked Susan.

“A big dramatic fight the whole prom saw.  Short version is, Lane went behind her back with one of her friends, and she had a couple secrets of her own come out that he wasn’t happy about, and neither was Kristal.  She’s not talking to her.  That’s why she’s upset, but I don’t want to say more than that.  It’s her business.  I’d give her space.  She needs it.”

“Aw, poor Iris,” Boyd said, while Susan nodded with him.

“Yeah.  Kind of highlights why it’s bad to keep secrets from people you love, though.”

They both knew where that was going.  “Orion…”

“I know, I know.  But I’m going to have to tell her soon, regardless.  She knows about my powers now.”

They exchanged a look, and Boyd stared down at Orion over his glasses.  “Oh?  And how exactly did she find out about them?”

“I told her.  I had to.  She walked in on me bio-boosting Iris.”

“You bio-boosted her at the prom?” Susan asked incredulously.

“In private, but yeah.  I had to explain it somehow.  So I told her about the telekinesis and how I can sense emotions, and said it was part of my condition.”

Boyd was not happy.  “That was reckless!  What the hell were you thinking, using your abilities in public like that?”

“Like I said, it was in private and we were alone out in back of Mick’s!  Tara just happened to come out at the wrong time!”

“That doesn’t explain why you did it in the first place!” Susan argued.  “You’re not stupid!  Why would you take such a foolish risk?”

“Because I wanted to help!  You didn’t see how upset she was, and you sure as hell didn’t feel it like I could!  So, sue me for not just standing by!  Would you really rather I just let her be miserable?”

“Of course not!  What we’d rather is you be more cautious!”

An agitated Boyd continued where Susan left off.  “Orion, you know those things called windows?  There’s a three-building loft complex right across the street from Mick’s full of them!  Not to mention a 24-hour café, a hospital, and a police station with cameras all within a block of the place!”

Orion rolled his eyes.  “We were out in the back corner of the building.  No one saw us!  I checked!”

“Except Tara, and you’re lucky it was only her!  But, hey, you took some precaution and were only eighty percent reckless instead of a hundred!”

“What exactly did you tell her?  What does she know?” asked Susan.

“Just what I said.  That I can move things with my mind, sense feelings, and, obviously, bio-boost.  She doesn’t know about the bio-draining, and I said it was all part of my condition and that’s why I came to you as a baby.  So you could study that stuff.  She doesn’t know anything about Sixam or me being half alien, so don’t worry.”  He frowned.  “Though she won’t be happy I left that out when I do tell her.”

Susan and Boyd exchanged another look.  “All right,” she said.  “What’s done is done.  I suppose there’s no real harm in her knowing that much, as long as you make sure she doesn’t tell anyone.”

“I told her not to.  She won’t.”

“But you still should’ve been more careful.”

He rolled his eyes again.  “Noted.  I’m going to go change, or do I need permission to do that now, too?”

Boyd frowned.  “Relax with the attitude.  We don’t want to argue with you.  Just please be more cautious in the future, and don’t tell her any more.  I know you want to, but don’t.  Not yet.  It’s just not a good idea.”

“I know,” Orion grumbled as he headed down the hall.  “I know.”

Upstairs, Iris changed out of her dress and vented the whole ordeal to Patches.  “So, not only did I lose Lane, but Kristal and Rashida, too.  And the way everyone was staring at me, they all think I’m stinkweed.  I don’t know who I can even talk to at school anymore!  Jeanine is friends with all of us, so yeah, she might sit with me at lunch, as long as Kristal or Rashida aren’t there.  I saw them talking before I left.  Guess they’re still okay with each other, even if Kristal is one of the only people still talking to Rashida.  Maybe because she didn’t go for her man, Kristal’s not that mad at her, like me.”  She sniffled.  “I’m still good with Lester, except the whole school will look at us both like we’re pond scum whenever we talk, if how they were at the prom is any indication.  My only consolation is Lane and Rashida are getting it, too.”

“You’ve still got me!  If I could, I’d go with you.”

“I know.  Thanks.  I don’t know what I’d have done without you here tonight.”  She hugged her, then sighed when she spotted the picture of her and Lane together on the wall.  “The worst part is, I still love him.  Even though I also love Lester, and… oh, what am I going to do?”

“Maybe go for Lester?  You said he was good with you.”

“I don’t know if he’d want… I mean, yeah, things are probably over with him and Kristal now, but it kind of feels like if we did go out, there’s like zero chance Kristal would ever forgive either of us.  And I want to be friends with her again!  I hate that she hates me!  But I don’t think ‘sorry’ will be enough to fix it.  I don’t even know what would be.”

“Hmm.  Could you forgive Rashida if she apologized and wanted to be friends again?  Kristal might be the same with you.”

“I don’t know.  Maybe.  But Rashida and I sort of did the same thing, just with me it wasn’t to her.  So I know how she probably feels.”  She frowned.  “But I don’t like thinking about her and Lane, and even I did forgive her and we were friends again, I sure as plum wouldn’t trust her alone around any of my boyfriends again, ever!”  Iris supposed that was the best-case scenario for how Kristal might feel about her, and sighed.  “Guess I’ll have to sleep on it.  I’m calling it a night.  Thanks for listening.”

“Anytime!  Good night!”  Patches transformed back into doll form while Iris got into bed for a night of fitful heartbroken slumber.

Alone downstairs, Boyd took Susan’s hands.  “Tell me I’m worrying over nothing and Orion telling Tara about his powers won’t end up being a catastrophe.”

“I think it was foolish, but I don’t think it’ll unravel to catastrophic levels.  He’s headstrong, but his heart’s in the right place.  I don’t think he’d have done the bio-boost unless he was really concerned, and he trusts Tara.  I still don’t think she should know everything at this point, but that much should be all right.  For all the off the wall things she’s blurted out, I’ve never heard it be a betrayal of anyone’s confidence.”

“You’re probably right.  Here’s hoping.”

“I’m always right.  You should know that,” Susan replied with a smile that brought one out on him.

“Why do you think I asked?”  He squeezed her hands.  “So, what about poor Iris’ teenage nightmare, huh?  Cheated on by her boyfriend and finding out at prom?  I’m glad the scariest part of any high school dance I went to was asking you and praying I wouldn’t get rejected.”

“We were dating already when you asked me to our first prom.  What were you worried about?”

“We’d only been on two dates, and nothing that serious or formal yet.  Pizza and the movies are a lot lower key than prom.”

“I wanted you to ask me.  You were cute and we had fun together.  Besides, it’s not like I was one of the popular girls swimming in invitations.  As Iris so nicely put it, ‘I’ve seen your yearbook picture,’” she echoed in an imitation of her.

“What?  You were gorgeous!”

“Not by our fashionista daughter’s standards.  She had quite the critique of my clothes and hair, and your glasses, too, by the way.”

“Hah.  She ought to be glad we weren’t immortalized in mullets like some of our classmates.”

“Forget her, I’m glad about that!”

They started to go upstairs, but Boyd stopped to check a noisy filter on the fish tank.  Susan waited while he adjusted it, and he rejoined her.  “Just got jostled, I think.  Probably when Plumboptimus was cleaning.  I’ll tell him to be more careful.”

“Okay.  Oh, and by the way…”  Susan pointed upward at the mistletoe they stopped under, and smooched him on the cheek.

“I see Iris isn’t the only one around here that uses the power of plants to her advantage,” he replied flirtatiously as they headed upstairs.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 93
« Reply #295 on: March 29, 2019, 11:32:45 PM »
Chapter 93

It was cold, snowy, and dark out when Chris got home for another weekend visit away from Sims U.  He was still in his second term, working hard, but the long drive gave him a chance to clear his mind and sometimes a break was nice.  Besides, it gave him a chance to see Tad and his family, and there was a special occasion he didn’t want to miss—the dual birthday celebration for his mother and Travis.

“Hey, short stuff!” Chris called out cheerfully as he came in.

“Hi.”  Travis looked over, but he didn’t get up.

“Wow.  Don’t overwhelm me with emotion or anything, even though you haven’t seen your favorite big brother since Patrick’s wedding.”

“You’re my only big brother, and you talk to me all the time in messages anyway.  Wouldn’t even notice you’re gone except I have to feed Diddy and he tries to stay in my room instead of yours.  And Mom and Dad make me do the dishes more.”

“That’s because dishes suck, and I can pawn them off on you because I’m Dad,” Cycl0n3 informed Travis from over at the computer.  He turned around to greet Chris, although he didn’t get up, either.  “Welcome home.  It’s good to see you, and I’m glad you made it safe.  Now I can text your grandpa so he’ll stop lighting up our phones asking if you made it here okay because it’s snowing and the roads must be horrible.”

Blair came out of the bathroom, which she’d been cleaning.  “I thought I heard you!  Welcome home!”  She gave Chris a big hug.  “How’s my big soon to be doctor boy?”

“Fine, soon to be a little older mom.  At least someone thought I was worth getting off their duff for.”  He took off his coat as a happy Diddy rushed over.  “Two someones!  Hi, Diddy!”  He scooped him into his arms, and Diddy nuzzled against him, purring.

“Sad when the old arthritic cat is one of the less lazy ones around here, huh?”  Blair noticed Cycl0n3 turning back to the computer and Travis resuming his movie.  “What are you watching, anyway?”

“Haunted Hellhole Part IV.  It’s a lot better than III.  This time I’m not rooting for the monsters to kill everyone because they’re idiots.  Just two of them.”

“Such cheery birthday fun!  On that note, I better go finish cleaning Yucky Poopbin Part 2, the Nasty Toilet Chronicles, before everyone gets here.”  She paused.  “Oh, Chris, are Tad and Esme coming tonight?”

“Nope.  He’s getting over a stomach bug Esme gave everyone in the house after she came home from school with it.  But if he’s still up after the party, I’ll probably go over and see how he’s doing.”

Cycl0n3 grimaced.  “Stomach flu, the gift that keeps on giving.  Boy, am I glad Travis didn’t bring that one home.”

“Yeah, one way his anti-social nature pays off.”  Chris sat on the couch beside his little brother, still holding Diddy.

“Hardy har har.”

“I see you’ve got the surly sarcasm of an emo teenager down in time for your birthday.”

“He’s had plenty of practice,” quipped Cycl0n3.

“You give me a lot of material to work with.”

Cycl0n3 made a sarcastic grumble back at him, while Chris turned to Travis.  “So, what plans do you have for high school?  Looking forward to it?”

“Like a root canal.  Seriously, just because you’re at university and sort of an adult, you don’t need to try so hard to sound like one.  School sucks no matter what grade you’re in.”

Chris made a face of mock offense.  “Oooh.  Simmer down there, edge lord.  Some of us actually didn’t hate everything about school and life.”

Travis shrugged.  “Yeah, well, you’ve always been a dork.”

“Ha.  This from Codzilla’s #1 Fanboy.”

“He’s bitter because he placed into the gifted program, and it means he’ll get more challenging work,” Cycl0n3 informed Chris.  “Not that we didn’t know he was smart, but apparently even though he got good grades, his teachers weren’t recommending him for advanced placement because he doesn’t participate or ‘go the extra mile’ in class.  They were stunned when they saw his test scores on the pre-high school standardized testing.  ‘We had no idea your son was a genius,’” he parroted in a mockery of them.  “I was like, ‘Freaking duh?  His mom and I could’ve told you he was smart.  Smart enough not to give himself extra homework.’  Then your mom got mad at me for getting sarcastic with his teacher.  Especially after she glared at me and said, ‘I see where he gets his disposition, Mr. Sw0rd.’”

“Ah.  Well, it sucks about the extra homework, but it’ll look good on university applications or resumes.”

“I’ll warm my cold, bored soul with that thought when I’m stuck doing stupid essays and junk when I could be doing something fun instead.”  They heard Cycl0n3 chuckle to himself as he typed, and both Travis and Chris looked over.  “Like whatever Dad’s doing over there.”

Chris got up to investigate.  “Yeah, what are you doing?  Do I need to get Mom to rein you in?”  It was a family joke that if Cycl0n3 was on the computer and laughing about something, someone should probably stop him from whatever he was up to.

“No need to bother her on her birthday.”

“She’s cleaning a toilet.  How much worse could it be?”

“Dad’s probably giving whoever it is on there even more sh—”

“It’s not that bad,” Cycl0n3 cut him off with a mild warning tone.

Chris glanced at the screen, where it looked like he was reading or participating in an online poll.  “Wilsonoff Community Theater—Band Name Contest?” he read aloud, puzzled.

“Yeah.  Their new band is doing a promotion where they’re letting the online community pick the name.  All of us on the mailing list for Stiles’ band got it, since they’re affiliated.”

“Wait a minute.  Isn’t that Patrick’s band?”

Cycl0n3 remained uncharacteristically silent, but Chris caught the smirk and gleam in his eyes.  “You’re trolling the poll.”

“How bad is the name he put in?” Travis asked, while Chris looked over at screen.

“Okay, ‘fess up.  Which one is yours?”

Cycl0n3 grinned.  “Read the entries and guess.”

He scanned the poll results.  “Let’s see… there are a few doozies on here.  The Wind Socks, Red Rooster Crisis, Grilled Cheese on Fire?  Hmm maybe…” He read a few more, then groaned and gave his father a pointed look.  “Bandy McBandface and the Sing-Alongs?”

Both Cycl0n3 and Travis started laughing, and Chris laughed with them.  “If that wins, he’s going to kill you.  Tell me you’re at least not doing any computer nerd deck stacking to help it win.”

“Do you think I’d do that?”

He gave him a look that reminded him entirely too much of his mother.  “Seriously?”

“Come on.  A chance to get one over on the Captain and Stiles in one shot?  How could I not?”

Chris shook his head, amused.  “Well, you have fun with that.  I disavow all knowledge.”

“Great!  That means you won’t tell him or your mother, then.”

“I’ll be happy to let you take all the credit, and the damage.”  He patted him on the shoulder.

Shortly after, the rest of the family arrived.  “Happy birthday, to our oldest daughter and youngest grandchild!  I can’t believe you’re retirement age already,” Boyd told Blair as he hugged her.  “How old does that make me?”  He glanced over at Cycl0n3.  “Don’t answer.  We already know.  It was rhetorical.”

“And this is for you, sweetie.”  Susan handed Travis his gift.

“Thanks, Grandma!  Mom said we had to wait until after cake to do presents, but I’m curious what it is.”  He gave it a shake.

“We hope you like it,” Boyd said, before turning back to Blair.  “Sorry we weren’t able to bring yours, but it’s a… special project we’re working on.  We ran into a couple of delays.  We’ll get it to you as soon as we can.”

“A project?  Oh, my Watcher.  Don’t tell me you’re making me something at the lab?”

Travis’ eyes lit up.  “Is it a death ray?  Please be a death ray!”

“As if your kind-hearted mother would ever use a death ray on someone, and we’d actually let your father anywhere near something that destructive,” Susan replied wryly.  “It’s not a death ray.  Sorry to disappoint.”

“Oh, well.  I’m sure it’ll still be cool, whatever it is.”

“I’m just wondering what it is!” giggled Blair.

“So, how are you taking hitting this birthday milestone?” asked Susan.  “I remember feeling mixed about it myself.  Happy with my life and how it turned out, but wistful that youth was long gone and the sands in the proverbial hourglass were running low.”

“Aw, don’t talk like that, Mom!  I’m not ready to go anywhere yet, and you and Dad better keep kicking around, too.”

“Yeah, you two keep us feeling younger as long as you’re still alive and kicking,” Cycl0n3 joked.

“Besides, you’re only as old as you feel, and I still feel like a kid sometimes!”  Blair made a goofy face and stuck out her tongue.  “We may be old, and our hair may be gray, but we can be young at heart forever!”

Susan couldn’t help but smile.  “I think you’ve got that nailed better than any of us, sweetie.”

“Though Cycl0n3 will always edge you out on immaturity,” Boyd pointed out with a smirk.

“What can I say?  When you’re good at something, you roll with it!”

Travis shook his head.  “Only you would brag about that, Dad.”

Plumboptimus was confused.  “I thought it was good to take pride in one’s achievements?”

“Plumboptimus!  Hi!  I didn’t know they were bringing you.  Welcome to our humble abode.”  Cycl0n3 patted the plumbot on the shoulder.  “Does he have a party bot chip yet?”

“No, but he can dance.”

“I know!  I saw him shaking his robotic money maker at the wedding.  He was more graceful than Chris or Tad.”

“Ha ha ha, Dad,” Chris remarked from where he chatted with Maria nearby.

“Anyway, we’re putting him in more social situations to give him a better feel for them,” Boyd explained.  “He did well at the wedding, but it’s his first time as a guest in someone else’s house.  Since he knows everyone here, we didn’t think you’d mind, and figured you’d get a kick out of having him over.  Besides, he’s got a cleaning chip.  He’ll do the dishes for you.”

“Won’t complain about that!  He’s welcome here anytime.  Enjoy the festivities, Plum!”

Patrick caught up with Chris after wishing Travis a happy birthday.  “Hey, glad you made it home to visit!  How are things at Sims U?”

“Good, but busy.  Lots of credits, lots of studying, but I’ll be done soon, so I’m pushing through it.  If my grades stay up, I’ll have a position as a medical intern at Sacred Spleen when I graduate.  Found out this week.  I knew I qualified, but I think Tad’s mom put in a good word for me to make sure I got the open spot.  Not that I’m complaining.”

“Morgana’s cool.  She’s a nice mother-in-law, as I now know firsthand.”

“As if all of Mom’s hints along with her turning official grandma age wasn’t enough, now you’re dropping them, too.  Must be an old or married person thing.  How’s that holy state of matrimony going for you, anyway?”

“Great.  Not all that different, really.  Living with Maria after the wedding is a lot like living with Maria before the wedding.”

“So, peachy as long as you do whatever she says?” Chris replied cheekily.

“Funny.  But seriously, it’s good.  Some minor plum every now and then, but nothing major.”  He lowered his voice.  “Though just between us, she’s been talking about having kids more.  I think she wants to bump it up to sooner rather than later, and I’m okay with that, I guess.  I don’t want to be as old as my parents were when they had me, that’s for sure.”  He glanced over at them.  “I’d like them to still be around when my kids will be old enough to remember them after they’re gone.  I never got to meet any of my grandparents.”

Chris’ expression changed to concern.  “Grandma and Grandpa are okay, aren’t they?  Not sick or anything?”

“No, just… old.  They’re healthy as far as I know, but I see little things every day that remind me they won’t be around forever.  Moving slower, complaining this hurts or that, Mom struggling to open jars or Dad sitting in the rocker because his back aches.  Stuff like that.”

“I get what you mean.  As much as they can get on my nerves sometimes, I’d miss my parents, too.”

“Well, Blair’s probably in better shape than most of us, and Cycl0n3’s a stubborn old llama, so he’ll probably hang around as long as possible just to troll us all.”

“It is his favorite hobby.”  Chris smirked to himself as he imagined Patrick’s reaction to the band poll.

Eager to start the fun, Blair called everyone over for cake time.  Travis went first.  He blew out his candles with the same serious expression he always wore, and silently made his wish.  No one knew what it was, and he wasn’t the type to share.  Still, he was happy, and everyone was proud of him.

Though he griped about the extra school work, Travis was a bright kid, and his family knew he could succeed at anything he developed a passion for.  Those that took the time to get to know him despite his introverted, low-energy, and pessimistic nature knew that when he opened up, he was enthusiastic and devoted to the things that mattered to him.  All one had to do was get him going about his monster movies, collections, or a game or series he followed, and his sarcastic wit would drop to a minimum and his face would light up in a way that made him resemble his mother even more than he already did.

After blowing the candles out, Travis cut his slice while Blair stepped up to hers.  “Don’t worry, Mom.  I won’t eat any until you celebrate being ancient first.”

“That’s very gracious of you.”  She stuck out her tongue playfully while Cycl0n3 lit her candles.

“Oooh!  They’re going to be calling the fire department on me!”

“You can handle it.  You’ve got great lung capacity from all that horrible exercise you subject yourself to,” Cycl0n3 joked.

“Yes, but you’re the one with all the hot air, honey!  Not me!”  She giggled.  “Oh, well, here goes.  Make a wish…”  She closed her eyes and visualized it.  Her wish was that despite the age she was celebrating, she would still be around for a long time to enjoy the company of her family and friends.  She wished that she’d live the rest of her days as happy as she was then, surrounded by those she loved, with them all happy and in good health, and with her still spry and able to do what she loved right up until the day Grim came to get her.  She blew out her candles with gusto, and her family cheered, even grumpy Travis as he snuck a bit of frosting off his cake slice while he waited.

“Wheee!  It’s official!  I’m an old cane-shaking granny now!  Well, sort-of granny.  I don’t have any grandkids yet.”  She gave Chris a playful look before turning to Cycl0n3.  “Hey, where’s that llama cane Dad gave you?  I might need to go out front and shoo kids off our snowy lawn!”

“Cane?  Bah.  You don’t need a cane,” Susan assured her.

“That’s right,” Boyd added.  “Even I don’t need one… yet.”

“Aw, okay.  You know I’d never shoo any kids away, anyway.  I’d rather build a snowman with them than send them packing.”

“That’s because you are a big kid, babe.”  Cycl0n3 handed her the cake cutter.  “Now go take that piece with the giant pink frosting flower because I know that’s what you’ve got your eye on.”

“Oh, boy!  You bet!”

After she had her cake, Blair sat next to Cycl0n3 while he enjoyed a second piece.  “Had to have one from each, huh?”

“At our age, we don’t have that much time left.  Got to have our cake and eat it while we’re still kicking.”

“Oh, we’ve still got some good years in us.”  She gave him a flirty look.  “And I certainly hope you’re not too old to give me some birthday love later, cutie.”

Cycl0n3 grinned.  “You’ve been with me too long.  I used a mutation of that line on you on my birthday.”

“Well, you ought to know by now I find your quirks endearing.”

“I’m a lucky man.  And that’s all the more reason to get that sugar rush to fuel me for later, huh?”  He waggled his eyebrows at her suggestively, and she giggled.

“Okay, but before you get too excited, the answer is still no to birthday spanking.  That’s too many whacks at our age.”

“Even if I’m gentle?”

Blair gave him a look, and swatted his arm playfully.

“You’re off target, and you forgot whose birthday it is.  Maybe you’re getting a touch of senility after all…”

“Oh, you.”  She picked up an empty plate and took it to the sink, amused.

After Blair and Travis opened their presents, the family stuck around to socialize for the rest of the evening.  Orion and Travis treated themselves to a slice of the cake they hadn’t had earlier, and chatted at the table.  “Kind of a shame I’ll be graduating not long after you get into high school.  Reminds me of how I just started right around the time Patrick was a senior.”

“While you’re still there, I’ll give you the names of some llamas I want you to stealth telekinetic wedgie in the hall.”

Orion chuckled.  “I’m pretty sure that falls under the ‘inappropriate use of my powers’ rule.  Mom and Dad already had a conniption that I bio-boosted Iris at prom and Tara walked in.”

“Yeah, I heard about that.  Mom was on the phone with Grandma and had it on speaker, so I heard the whole deal.  Bet you’re looking forward to going to university so you don’t have to deal with those rules anymore.”

“Actually, I’m not going to Sims U or any other school I can’t commute to from here.”

Travis was surprised.  “You’re not?  Why?  Do you have bad grades or something?”

“No.  It’s not that I can’t get in.  It’s the paranoia pair over there.”  He gestured to Boyd and Susan and did an imitation of his father’s voice.  “‘It’s not that we don’t want you to go.  We know you’d excel at any university!  But you’ve never been away from home that long.  What if something happens and we can’t get to you?  We can’t let you take the Galaxa.  What if someone finds out?  What if, what if, what if!  But if you really want to go, I guess we can figure something out.  But, oh, we’ll worry about you so much…’”

“Ah.  Guilt trip, first class, huh?”

“Don’t get me wrong.  I get what they’re saying.  Probably better than they think because I can feel it sometimes, which sucks when I don’t agree with them and I’m stuck feeling it anyway.  But their overprotectiveness is getting really old, especially about Tara.”  He paused.  “That’s the main reason I’m not going.  She’s not.  She’s doing community school, and I don’t want to be away from her.”

I wouldn’t want to be without the Galaxa.”

“I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss that, too.”

Boyd walked by and overheard.  “Won’t miss what?”

“The Galaxa, and Tara.  I was just telling Travis how I’m not going away to university when I graduate.”

“You really wouldn’t let him take the Galaxa to school, Grandpa?”

“That’s all we’d need.  Juiced up partying college kids getting their hands on that.  No.  That stays in a secure location when not in use.  Namely, our house, or wherever Orion decides to move someday.”

“That nebulous far off future someday when I can tell anyone I want, including Tara, the truth, you mean?  Maybe I should move out after I graduate.  Then I can live by my own rules.”

Maybe if it seemed like you really understood how dangerous it could be if it goes wrong, I’d reconsider.  It made Boyd anxious and agitated thinking of Orion moving out as soon as he became of age just to assert his independence, without considering the consequences.  He didn’t want to get into it at the party, though, so he just said, “Well, when you’re an adult, that’s your choice.”

Orion sensed that and found it both annoying and encouraging.  Maybe his parents were finally realizing they couldn’t over-protect him forever.  “Yeah, I know.  But until then, don’t worry.  I’ll stay a good little secret alien.”

Patrick chatted with Blair after cake and presents.  “So, I hope you’re having a good birthday, older sister!”

“You just had to say ‘older’ and not ‘big’ sister, didn’t you?”

“I know better than to say anything about a lady’s size that could be taken wrong, even to a fitness queen like you.”

“Ha!  Nice save.  Now I know how you keep out of trouble with Maria,” she teased.  “So, I hear you and your band might be performing soon.  Stiles emailed out a poll to pick your band name.”

“Yup.  Holly set that up as a PR thing to build some buzz while they audition vocalists.  Unfortunately, our deal with miss Sim Nation Idol fell through.  She went with an agency offering a solo contract, so Holly spun our needing to find someone else as ‘seeking aspiring local talent.’  Maria’s thinking of giving it a shot.  We’ve always wanted to perform together someday, and it’s cool to imagine her in the band with me.”

“Really?  I thought she wanted to be an author.”

“She does, but you can have more than one dream, right?”

“You can.  Just keep in mind that working with your special someone can be… challenging.”

Patrick smirked.  “Didn’t know you ever worked with Cycl0n3 on the job, but isn’t he always challenging, in that Cycl0n3 way?”

“Yes, but that’s not what I mean.  He and I never did more than occasionally doing each other favors when our work overlapped.  Not to be a downer, but it can strain a couple to work together as well as live together.”

“Not every couple, though.  Look at Mom and Dad.”

“Mom and Dad aren’t exactly typical.  I’m not saying it can’t work, just that it might be hard.  For every Mom and Dad out there, there’s also an Emma and Jared.”  She thought about the numerous times they broke up and reconciled, almost making it to the altar twice, then not, despite having two children and owning a bakery together.  “Good luck, though.  I hope it works out for you guys.”

“Thanks.  I hope you enjoy retirement.  You’ve earned it!”

“Retirement?  Moi?  Oh, no!  I may be old, but Agent Sw0rd is still on the job!  I can’t tell you the details, but I’m on a pretty hot case now.  High profile, and even some overseas involvement.  I’m not even thinking of retiring until that’s cracked and we get the llamas we’re after.”  She flexed and made a tough-girl face.

“In that case, good luck to you, too, then!”  He gave her a thumbs-up.

After they finished talking, Plumboptimus came over.  “Hi, Blair!  Since today is your birthday, I have a birthday song for you.”

“You do?  Awesome!  Let’s hear it.”

He played some cheery music from his speakers, then sang.  “Birthday happiness to you!  Birthday happiness to you!  Birthday happiness dear Blair, birthday happiness to you!”

She couldn’t help but smile at his cute electronic singing.  “Thank you, Plumboptimus!  I liked it a lot.  Although usually they sing it as ‘happy birthday’ and not ‘birthday happiness.’”

“They do?  Thank you for the feedback!  I will update that.”

“Glad to help.  Thank you again for the nice song.”

“You’re welcome!”

“Anytime!”  She exchanged a high-five with him.

After singing to Blair, Plumboptimus sang to Travis with the updated lyrics, which he also got a kick out of.  He decided to clean up after that.  First, he loaded some empty plates and glasses into the dishwasher, and then went to put the cake away.  When he picked up the first one, he noticed what looked like a swipe where someone nicked some frosting off the side.  Since he had no idea who did it, and deemed it unsanitary, he decided to discard it.

Cycl0n3 hollered at him just before he put in the garbage.  “Whoa!  What’s with trying to trash our cake?”

“I was attempting to clean up.”

“You don’t toss perfectly good cake.”  He grabbed it out of his hands and set it on the counter.  “Bad plumbot!”  He wagged his finger at him.

He mistook the joking scold as an actual one and beeped irritably.  “It has been contaminated by an organic touch.  The carbohydrates in the cake are a rich breeding ground for bacteria.  I recommend disposal.”

“You’ll dispose of the delicious leftovers of one of Emma’s bakery specials over my cold, dead hands!  That doesn’t go anywhere but the fridge, you got me?”

“If you insist on salvaging it, I recommend severing the contaminated portion first.”

“Fine!”  Cycl0n3 cut it off, and noticed Diddy hovering suspiciously on the neighboring countertop.  “It was you, you piggy little furball, wasn’t it?  I should’ve known!”

Diddy meowed back what Cycl0n3 was pretty sure was cat-speak for, “Prove it,” while Plumboptimus put the now-safe cake into the fridge.

Iris and Travis chatted in the kitchen.  “So, welcome to the joy of high school!  I overheard you telling Orion you took study club.  How come?  Isn’t it just pretty much all the boring nerds hanging out after school doing their homework together?  That’s why I took debate instead.”

“I get into enough arguments without signing up to do it in front of an audience, especially with the llamas at school.  If it was up to me, I’d have signed up for the ‘hang out at home and do something more fun than hang out at school’ club.”

“Still, study club is like dork central.  I’d rather just do my homework at home and get it over with there.”

“Well, I guess we can’t all be as cool as you, Iris.  In case you didn’t notice, I am one of the boring nerds.  Just ask any of the oh-so-cool popular kids.”  He scoffed.  “Like your boyfriend Lester.”

Iris frowned.  “Lester’s not my boyfriend.”

“Not Kristal’s anymore, either, after your little make-out with him, but whatever.  Not my circus, not my monkeys, not that it matters to Lester.  He gave me a bunch of plum at the festival yesterday for what I said to Alfonso when I tagged along with Mom visiting her mom and talked to him.”

“Wait.  What’d you say?”

“After he called me a wuss for being grossed out at one of his stupid stunts—seriously, eating dirt isn’t extreme, it’s moronic—I said well he can’t be that much of a big man himself if his girlfriend wants to get it on with Lane behind his back.  He got mad and said Lane must not be that good since Rashida wanted him back, and you were sneaking around with Lester behind Lane’s.  So I was like, well, Iris is my aunt but I never said she had good taste.  Guess he told Lester, and he was so offended he had to ‘set me straight’ complete with a snowball to the back of the head when I told him what he could do to himself and leave me alone.”

Iris wasn’t impressed.  “Gee, thanks for your support.  Enough people are talking plum about me without you adding to it.”

“I wasn’t plum-talking you.  Just your taste.  Take it as a compliment.  You can do a lot better than Lester the hipster.  Lane you can at least have an intelligent conversation with, and it’s not like you both didn’t screw around on each other, which makes you kind of even in a messed-up way.”

“This conversation is over.”  Iris held up her hand.  “Just please do me a favor and not put in your two cents about my love life to other people anymore, okay?”

“They started it, but fine.  Sorry.  I didn’t mean to make you mad.”

“All right.  Happy birthday, anyway.  Maybe when you start high school, you’ll meet some cute homework-loving nerd in study club and that’ll be what you talk about.”

“Yeah, right.  I’ll consider myself lucky if I can just finish my homework in peace, get my credit, and get out without dealing with anyone annoying.”

As the birthday party wrapped up, Susan chatted with Blair.  “I hope you had a nice birthday.  I’m surprised you didn’t have any of your friends here, but I guess you still don’t like showing off like I do.”

Blair hugged her.  “My birthday was great with just you guys here.  You know I hate crowds.  Besides, Parker took me out to dinner, and invited Hank and Justine.  It was ages since I saw them.  They retired a while ago.  I also saw Emma today when I picked up the cakes and had a long talk with her at the bakery, and I had a nice visit with Tam, too.”

“I’m glad.  Speaking of retirement, I guess you’ll be doing that soon?”

“Nope!  Like I told Patrick, I’m still on a high-profile case that I’ve got to see through.  Besides, I love my job!  I don’t want to retire.  I’m finally doing my dream work.”

Susan was concerned.  “I understand, sweetie, but it’s dangerous.  I know you take care of yourself and you’re in better shape than most people your age, and you promised to be careful, but—”

Boyd overheard and joined the conversation.  “Did I hear that right?  You’re not retiring?  Even now, when you qualify for the full pension and benefits?”

“Yes, Dad.  Like I was telling Mom, I love my job.  I don’t want to give it up.”

“Aw, Blair.”

“Listen to me.”  She looked at them both.  “I’m fine.  I can do it.  Besides, I’m working on a major ongoing case that’s really important.  Even if I wanted to retire, it wouldn’t be until it was done.  You should know how that is.  You’re not retired, either.”

“We own the lab and do managerial stuff and pet projects.  We don’t work ourselves that hard.”

Blair raised an eyebrow.  “Mom doesn’t work herself hard and takes it easy?  Call me dubious.”

“I’m diligent, not overworked.”

“She paces herself, even if it’s a pace I worry about sometimes.”

“Boyd, you worry about everything, all the time.”

“Yeah, seriously, Dad.”

“Be that as it may, your mom’s fine.  She does take it easy when she needs to.  You should do the same.”

“I do!  You don’t need to worry about me, honest!  I’m tougher than you think.”

“We just don’t want you to find out the hard way you’re not as tough as you think,” Susan said.

“I’ll be fine.  Besides, if I retired now, not only would I have to be replaced on this case, but I’d miss my chance to do my first international investigation.  None of what I’m about to say leaves this house, but I’ll be going to Egypt to do some undercover work.”

“Undercover work?”

“Shady business stuff that goes pretty high.  I can’t say much more, but basically, there’s payoffs, smuggling, and big names including some government officials involved.  Some of the archaeological operations in Al Simhara have been affected by it, and it ended up coming to us because, well… we’ll just say a local operation has a hand in the smuggling part of it.”

“Wow,” said Boyd.

“It’ll be a shining achievement for my career when this case is cracked.  Which brings me to why I’m disclosing even this much to you.  I think you can help me with my cover.”

Boyd and Susan exchanged a surprised look.  “We can?”


“Wainwright Industries gets exotic specimens from all over the world, right?  I wonder if there’s anything in maybe, oh, say, Al Simhara you might be interested in acquiring?  It’s not like you haven’t gone on trips like that before.  You could do it like a vacation.  It wouldn’t be suspicious at all if some family members tagged along, like, you know, your oldest daughter.  My superiors would make all the necessary arrangements and cover stories, if you want to help, and you could actually get some samples.  They’d even streamline the red tape for customs on bringing stuff back.  You and whoever else comes just has to agree to stay out of the investigation and pretend like nothing’s going on.”

They were intrigued.  While they didn’t like the idea of Blair staying in her dangerous job at her age, she made it this far safely, despite a scare or two.  Besides, going to Egypt with her meant they wouldn’t be halfway around the world if something did happen.  “We could probably work something like that out,” Susan said.

“Yeah.  I wouldn’t mind getting some samples unique to that area.  I’ve always wanted to see a mummy fish or a cleopatra butterfly up close.  Maybe we could even research the mummy curse.  We had some samples from a guy who died from that sent to our lab, but they degraded too much to get anything conclusive from them.”

“Well, I can’t promise you’ll see any mummies and I hope nobody gets cursed—that sounds awful!—but I’m super excited you’re willing to help!  Thank you!”  She hugged her father, then her mother.  “I knew I could count on you.”

“You can always count on us,” Boyd replied.  “We’d love finally having you along on a trip.  It’ll be a good experience for Iris and Orion, too.  Maybe Patrick and Maria can get even time off and come.”

“Chris probably can’t because of school, but Cycl0n3 and Travis should be able to go, too.  But leave Plumboptimus at home.  He’ll draw too much attention, and some of the creeps we’re investigating might get it into their mind to steal him.  This has to look like a low-key family thing.  Just a trip where you’re getting some samples and playing it like a semi-vacation.”

Susan nodded.  “We can handle that.  I wouldn’t want to deal with the customs issues and passport for Plumboptimus anyway.”

“He can keep an eye on the house while we’re away.”

“Thanks again.  It really means a lot.”

“Anytime, sweetie,” said Susan.  “Happy birthday.”

“We love you,” added Boyd.

“I love you, too.”

Author’s Notes: With this chapter dawns a new era in this story, now that Blair has joined Cycl0n3 and her parents in the elder stage, and the youngest of the family’s children of generation 2 is a teen. Although Blair is Boyd and Susan’s daughter, age-wise I still consider her first-generation since she’s already a young adult at the start of the game and story, and her kids are closer in age to her siblings than she is.

You might’ve noticed that the aging mod didn’t kick in right away, so Blair’s hair looks grayer right after cake than it did later. Trying to pause and force it to update immediately didn’t work, so, sorry for the inconsistency in those screenshots!

Also, I wrote up Plumboptimus arguing with Cycl0n3 about the cake because in the game, when he tried to put it away, Cycl0n3 considered that “misbehaving” and lectured him for it. So much for being nice and trying to help clean up!  :P

Lastly, I checked with master controller to see how Travis got along with the teenagers near his age, and discovered that he’s got red relationships with most of Iris’ friends, except Lane and Rashida, who he likes. Figures!

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 94
« Reply #296 on: April 19, 2019, 11:30:39 PM »
Chapter 94

Shortly after Patrick got to work, Stiles had him and Wilbur join him and Holly in his office to check on their band name poll.  “I don’t know about some of these names,” Wilbur remarked dubiously.  “Do we seriously have to go with whatever wins, no matter what?”

Patrick looked over.  “Afraid we’ll get stuck with the Wind Socks?  It was down to fourth last I checked, so I think we’re safe on that one.  Crazed Aftershock was in the lead.”

“Not anymore.”  Stiles grumbled and looked over at Holly.  “This stupid one’s back on top again.”

She frowned.  “The IT guys were supposed to take care of that.”

“Of what?” asked Patrick.

“One of the sillier entries—Bandy McBandface and the Sing-Alongs—obviously a prank, got a ridiculous spike to first yesterday.  I thought it was suspicious, since it had over a thousand more votes than any others in just a couple hours.  Our poll didn’t go viral anywhere that I saw, so I called our computer guys.  They said it was a, oh, I don’t remember exactly, but some kind of hack or attack where there’s a bot spam-voting from fake addresses.”  Holly fished her phone out of her pocket and sighed.  “Looks like whoever it is got around our ban.  Time to call IT again.”

Wilbur shook his head.  “Who’d even do that?  It’s not like we’ve got any local rival bands that hate us or anyone who’d want to screw with us that I can think of.  Is it just some bored llama of a computer nerd with a warped sense of humor and way too much time on their hands?”

Both Patrick and Stiles had the exact same thought.

“Dang it, Cycl0n3,” Stiles muttered in disgust while Patrick let out an aggravated breath.

“I’m going to kick his plumbob into next week!”

Luckily, the evidence of deliberate hacking not only disqualified the joke band name, but also got it eliminated from the poll.  Their IT staff kept a close watch on the poll after that, and their mysterious troll found his subsequent attempts to mess with it thwarted.  Although he could have gotten around their safeguards if he really wanted, Cycl0n3 already had his laugh, so he let it go.  He didn’t really want to sabotage Patrick’s career, just tweak him and Stiles a bit.

They held the vocalist audition the day before the poll ended.  Maria waited with Patrick in his dressing room, anxious and excited.  “It’d be so amazing if I got this!  We could perform together like we dreamed back in high school.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful?”

“It would.”

“I’m so nervous, though!  I’m competing against people who’ve trained a lot more than me just singing in some high school plays and karaoke.”

“But you’ve got a beautiful voice.  I think you’ve got a shot.  I’m sure not everyone out there is a pro.”

“I hope you’re right.”  She squeezed his hands.  “Imagine, being music stars together.  Oh, I should write something like this up in Sofia’s story when I get back to it.  Well, a version of it.  She does want to be a Broadway actress rather than a singer, but you know what I mean.  And I’d make it more dramatic than just an audition and waiting and, bam, leading vocalist role, of course!”

“Just remember to pencil in time to sleep.  I feel like I’ve barely got time to do that, let alone paint or sculpt that often anymore.”

“Well, if I get this, of course I’ll have to quit the blog position.  I just won’t have the time.  But writing, I’ll make time for that, even if it does slow me down a little keeping up with everything.”  She snuggled against him.  “Besides, we’ll be together more, and we’re always more inspired when we’re together.”

“Yeah.  We are.”  He noticed the time.  “We should probably head over to the practice stage now.”

“Okay.”  Maria gave herself a critical once-over in the mirror.  She dabbed on some more lipstick and primped her hair, then took a deep breath.  “I’m ready.  Let’s go!”

Among the others waiting to audition, a familiar face greeted them when they went in.  “Hey!  How’s it going?”  Gretchen Ursine gave Patrick an appreciative once-over.  “Look at you, Patrick Wainwright!  University was great for you, I see.  Big change from the old high school band geek days, huh?  Now you’re a guitarist for a band managed by this outfit.  Sweet!”

Patrick was flattered despite Gretchen’s questionable delivery of the compliment.  She’d always been a bit over the top anyway.  “Thanks.”

Maria wasn’t as impressed, at the way Gretchen ignored her or with her flirtatious approach to her husband.  “Yes.  Sims U was great for us,” she said in an edgy tone.  “You look great, too.  No one would ever guess you’re a single mom.”

“Thanks!  I say just because I’ve got a toddler doesn’t mean I’ve got to look like some frumpy dumpy mom!  And it’s nice to see you, too, Maria.  You still look absolutely darling, and it’s so sweet that you and Patrick are not only still together, but married now, I hear.  High school sweethearts, proving that a few of us do get lucky and pick ‘em right early on.”

“Thank you.  I am very lucky.  It’s too bad you’ve had to spin that roulette wheel so many times, huh?”

Patrick raised an eyebrow, but Gretchen took it in stride.

“Eh, you win some, you lose some.”  A sly smirk tugged at her lips.  “Though, if I remember right, didn’t you have to spin past a bad Julius Langerak roll, too?”

That little reminder irked both her and Patrick.  “Oh, that.  That was way back in my first year of high school and we dated for like two weeks.  It was nothing.”

“Only two weeks?  Oh.  Surprising, considering he told me you two—oh, well, that’s Julius for you.  He always did like to brag.”  Gretchen rolled her eyes.  “Anyway, everything obviously worked out, so that’s great!  So, are you here just for moral support, or are you covering the audition on your blog?  Nice stuff, by the way.  I read it all the time.  Loved your write-up on Monte Vista.  You two must’ve had a blast there.”

“We did!  Thanks.  But actually, I’m here to audition myself.”

Gretchen seemed genuinely surprised.  “Really?  I wouldn’t have thought an arts blogger had a secret dream of being a rock star.”  She eyed Patrick.  “Now Patrick here, that doesn’t surprise me.  He always liked to jam on that guitar.”

“It shouldn’t surprise you that much.  Patrick and I were both in musical plays back in high school, if you remember.  We like singing together.”

“Oh.  Right.  You were in drama club, weren’t you?  I remember now, my senior year, when I got the lead role, you were at that audition, too.  What did you end up getting?  I forget.”

Even though it was years later, Maria didn’t like being reminded that she didn’t get the part that year, nor in the year after Gretchen graduated, when it went to someone else.  “It was one of the supporting roles.  But I loved singing on stage.”

“Oh, I hear you!  It’s one of my biggest passions.  That’s why I took voice lessons and I’ve been moonlighting as a sing-a-gram girl after my shifts at the grocery store.  Practice, practice, practice!  Anyway, good luck, Maria.”  Gretchen flashed her a competitive smile.  “May the best woman win.”

“I’m sure she will,” Maria replied in kind, meeting her showy smile with one of her own, while Patrick looked on with a sudden feeling of dread.

The auditions started.  Several candidates went up that ranged from terrible to decent, but there was nobody that really stood out.  When Maria’s name was called, Patrick believed she still had a shot.  He could tell she was nervous, but once the music started, that disappeared, and she gave it her all.  She did well, despite her lack of professional training, and Patrick noticed that his co-workers seemed to enjoy her performance, too.  If nothing else, he was certain she’d make it to the next round.

A couple more hopefuls went up, and then it was Gretchen’s turn.  She gave a great performance, and Patrick couldn’t help but enjoy hers, too.  Whatever else could be said about her, Gretchen Ursine had an amazing voice and a natural flair for music.  She hit every note perfectly and carried herself on stage like she’d been born there.  Even Maria had to admit she was good, even if she didn’t like it.

Between rounds, while the other hopefuls hung around the practice stage or went out for a break, Maria waited in Patrick’s dressing room to hear who made it to the second round while he and his co-workers deliberated.

After what felt like an eternity, he came in.  “Hey, baby.  Good news.  You’re in the second round.”

Beaming, she hugged him.  “I am?  Yes!  What about Gretchen?”

“Yeah.  Her too.”

Her enthusiasm fizzled.  “I knew they liked her.”

“Her and a few others, yeah.  But still, they liked you more than the two thirds of the candidates going home.  I told you you’d have a shot.”

“And you don’t think it’s just because you’re my husband and Stiles is my sort-of stepfather, do you?”  Although she didn’t really think that, even if she wasn’t above using it to her advantage, she didn’t want it to be the only reason she won.

“We’re only two votes, so if it was just us that wanted you in, you wouldn’t have made it regardless of what we said.  Besides, the seasoned pros get more weight than me and Wilbur anyway, and Stiles is only one of them.  You’ll just have to accept that you dazzled them at least a little.”

“Don’t make fun.  I’m really nervous.  Gretchen’s full of herself, but she is good.  As she had to remind me, I lost to her in an audition before, and she sure has a knack for hamming it up and getting attention.  All those little twirls and dances and flourishes.  I didn’t really do that.”

“You have a more… subdued kind of stage presence, but that’s not a bad thing.  Just a difference in style.  You put emotion into it, and it shows.”

“I hope you’re right.”  She leaned on him, and he gave her a reassuring squeeze.

“Come on.  They’re about to start the second round where they see how the contestants sound with me.  You definitely have the edge there.”

Maria smiled confidently.  “True.”

It wasn’t Maria that was called to perform with Patrick first, though.  It was Gretchen, and that rubbed Maria the wrong way.  She tried not to take it personally, since it was Holly managing the audition, but she still didn’t like it.  Especially since she couldn’t help but notice that Patrick put the same energy into Gretchen’s audition that he did with every performance.  It was his job, of course, and it wasn’t fair to be upset that he was being professional, but why did it have to seem like he and Gretchen had such good stage chemistry?

I’ll just have to prove we’re even better, Maria thought sourly, as he and Gretchen hit a perfect note in harmony together.

When they were done, Gretchen grinned at Patrick.  “That was fun.  Like the good old days in music club, huh?”

“Oh, you played together in high school, too?  Like you did with Wilbur?”  Holly glanced over at Wilbur, and he nodded.

“Yeah.  All you’d need is Jamaal Hart and we’d be halfway to a reunion.”

“You can keep him,” scoffed Gretchen.  “Darren’s daddy and I don’t play so well together anymore.”

Zelda whispered something to Pauline that sounded to Maria like, “That’s okay, I’m happy to play with him,” that she wondered if it meant what she thought it meant, while Holly gave Gretchen an interested look.

“That sort of playing aside, what instruments can you play?”

“Piano and keyboard mostly, but it’s been a while since I did more than casual key plunking for fun.”

“Still, good to know.  The more musical experience a candidate has, the better, I say.”  Holly made a note, and Maria’s heart sank.  She’d been hoping her own novice piano skills would be another mark in her favor, but if Gretchen had that, too…

A couple more of the finalist candidates went up, and then it was Maria’s turn.  Although she was anxious, she was also more determined than ever to show up Gretchen.  She and Patrick might’ve clicked as performers, but he was still her husband, and nobody was going to have more chemistry with him on stage than her.

The song they picked was one Maria knew well.  It was a cover of one of Stiles’ band’s bigger hits, and she was confident as they belted it out together.  While performing, both felt like they were right in sync with each other, and they gave it their all.  As they finished, Maria felt proud, especially since even Gretchen looked a little impressed.  Good, she thought smugly.  Let her eat crow.  She should take her seriously as competition!

After the audition was over, Holly gathered the handful of finalists together.  “Thank you all for coming.  We enjoyed your performances and we’ll be giving each of you serious consideration.  Now we’re going to put our heads together and decide which of you will be our new vocalist.  You can all go on home, and we’ll be in touch with each of you personally with an answer tomorrow.”

“Thanks.  Can’t wait!”  Gretchen flashed a brilliant smile at Holly, and couldn’t resist turning to Maria, standing with Patrick.  “Nice seeing you two again.  Toodles!”

“Bye,” Maria said through a plastered on fake smile of her own.

“See you later,” Patrick said, and then after Gretchen left, he turned to Maria.  “You might as well head home.  I’ll probably be here a while going over this with them.”

“Okay.  I guess you can call when you want me to pick you up?”

“Nah.  Don’t worry about it.  Chill at home and do something relaxing.  I’ll catch a ride with Holly.  One upside to having your boss as your neighbor.”  Holly and her family had moved into the Alto mansion after inheriting it, and she and Patrick had a friendly enough rapport that he knew it would be no trouble.

“All right.”  Maria smooched him.  “See you at home.  Hopefully with good news.”

“You’ll be the first to know what I know,” he promised.

Once all the contestants left, it was down to decision time, and Patrick hoped the best for Maria.  Before they got started, though, Stiles approached him.  “Before we get this underway, I need to talk to you.”


“Zelda and Pauline and I discussed this, and we decided that if Maria made it to the finals, you and I are sidelined out of voting.  Conflict of interest.  Keeps it fair.”

“Sidelined?  Completely?”  Patrick looked from him to the others.  “I get what you’re saying, but I’m in the band.  Don’t I get any say at all in who I could be performing with for years?”

“That’s not what we’re doing, honey,” Zelda reassured him.  “We just know how hard it is to be objective when family or that special someone’s involved.  Believe me, if it was someone any of us were involved with, it’d be the same deal.”

“Yeah, if Penny or Tara had tried out, I wouldn’t be able to vote on either of them,” Wilbur pointed out.

“But we do want your input,” added Pauline.  “So, feel free to speak your mind.  We’ll take anything you have to say into consideration.”

Holly nodded with her.  “And I promise we’ll listen.”

“Just no actual voting, then.  All right.  Fair enough.”

“Look at it this way.  It keeps us out of hot water,” said Stiles.  “She wins, nobody can say we fixed it for her, or she got it because we’re in the band.  She loses, she can’t blame us, because we didn’t have a vote.”

“Oh, come on.  You’ve known Maria long enough to know that’s a pretty, uh, optimistic view on how that’d go.”

“Be that as it may, it’s the best I can do.  Now, let’s get down to business.”

While Patrick hoped for a lucky break for Maria, her brother got one of his own.  Tad called Chris at Sims U as soon as he got home from work.

“Hey,” Chris greeted him on the other end.  Although they talked most nights, it was earlier than he usually called.  “What’s up?”

“You have a light schedule on Fridays, right?”

“Yeah.  One morning lecture.  Why?”

“Good.  You’re skipping that tomorrow and meeting me at the airport tonight for a flight out to Lucky Palms.  We’re going on a free vacation!”

Chris blinked in surprise.  “Wait.  What?”

“Dad managed to double-book himself into closing deals in two different cities at the same time, so he delegated the lesser account to me to take care of for him.  I get to represent him and Doo Peas in Lucky Palms for this advertising thing, while he goes and schmoozes in Bridgeport.  ‘A chance to prove yourself,’ he put it.  Company’s paying for the flight and hotel, and one of the perks is you can bring your partner or kid if you want.  But Mom’s happy to watch Esme and it’s not like I can leave her alone at a hotel casino unsupervised in a strange city anyway, so…”

“So you want me to ditch my Friday class to fly out there with you.”

“I’m sure you won’t miss one little class that much.”

“Probably not.”

“And it’s not like you won’t be able to entertain yourself for a couple of hours at the swanky hotel while I’m doing the business thing.  Then, when I’m done, we get to stay through Saturday and fly back Sunday.  You only miss one day of class.  What do you say?”

“I say I think I’m feeling lucky,” Chris replied with a grin.  “I’ll get packing.”

“Great!  I’ll see you at the airport, then.”

“Sure.  Better make sure I bring my… hmm, come to think of it, I don’t really have any good luck charms.  Oh, well.  We probably won’t need it.  With a free vacation, you’re getting lucky enough for the both of us.  Especially if you’re inviting me,” he added on a suggestive note.

“I don’t hear you complaining,” Tad replied wryly.  “See you tonight.”

After a red-eye flight, Chris and Tad arrived in Lucky Palms and checked into their hotel.  “Wow!  Cushy, but I think they took tacky to the next level and then some,” Chris mused as they looked around their suite.

“You can’t say they don’t embrace their theme.”  Tad opened his suitcase.  “Guess I’ll shower and get respectable for my meeting.  Then when I get back, we can cut loose and enjoy these wonderful amenities, courtesy of my Doo Peas corporate card!”

Chris peeked into the bathroom and picked a towel off the rack as Tad changed.  “Sure.  But first, tell me,” he smirked as he held it out, a large white fluffy bath towel with a giant Ace of Spades design in the middle, “is that a spade, or are you just happy to see me?”

Tad grabbed the towel and swatted Chris with it playfully.  “Maybe you’ll find out after work.”

While Tad was at his meeting, Chris decided to nap until he got back.  Tad had snoozed on the plane, but Chris hadn’t managed to, so it was a chance to catch up on sleep.  Once Tad returned, he changed and the two of them ventured into the casino to try some gambling.  “The meeting went great, so let’s see if my lucky streak holds!”

As it turned out, it did—for Tad.  He made a tidy little sum at blackjack, but Chris’ luck ran the opposite.  He only won one hand, but lost every other, and the fun money he brought for the trip disappeared quickly.  “It’s like I’m being punished for skipping class.”

“Better a bad hand than a bad grade, and you know you won’t get that.  So, don’t worry about it!  Besides, it’s not like you gambled away your whole trust fund or anything.”

“Easy for you to say.  You’re winning,” Chris groused.  “And I don’t think Grandma and Grandpa would appreciate me losing the trust fund they gave me in Lucky Palms, which at this rate is probably how it’d go if I dipped into it.”

Tad scooped up his pile of chips.  “Tell you what.  I’ll cash out and we can switch to slots for a while.  Maybe you’ll have better luck there.”

Much to Chris’ dismay, things at the slots went about the same as they did at the blackjack table.  Win a couple, lose a lot more, and after he found himself down to his last twenty simoleons of vacation cash, he kicked the coin-eating machine in disgust.  “I’m done.  At least when arcade machines get my money, it’s cheaper and I at least get the pride of winning a stupid game.”

Tad’s luck was better than ever, though.  Just when Chris gave up, it was like the universe decided to balance the scales.  He pulled the lever, and to both their astonishment, he hit the jackpot.  “Holy flippin’ plumbob!”  Tad yelped in joy as coins rained out, showering him in winnings.

“You lucky llama,” Chris said as he helped him gather the silvery windfall.  “You are so buying dinner tonight.”

“Actually, dinner’s on Dad.  Corporate card allows for that expense.”  He tossed a handful of coins joyfully.  “Drinks and whatever else, though?  Sure thing!”

After Tad’s big win, they decided not to press his good luck any farther and ended the gambling on a high note.  They were hungry anyway, and it was dinnertime.  The hotel’s fancy dinner buffet required them to dress up, though, so they changed before going in.  “So, I’d like to know what evil deal you made to get that kind of luck,” Chris joked.  “You didn’t meet up with some shady character on a crossroads and sell your soul or anything, did you?”

“Not unless you count signing the expense account agreement in Dad’s office,” Tad replied as they enjoyed their first plate of gourmet fare.  “Though some of the people he’s taken on hard deals might think he belongs down here with the soul-sucking types.”

“You don’t agree?”

“Eh, Dad’s, well, Dad, but lately, he’s kind of mellowed.  Gotten a little better.  Almost okay in his old age?”  He pushed his now empty plate aside.  “He hasn’t given me any plum in a while and he complimented me, kind of, when he sent me on this trip.  Even asked how Esme was doing, without using it as a chance to point out how I’m screwing something up, and that hardly ever happens.”


“I know, right?  Makes me wonder if he’s okay, or if he’s worried about squaring up with Grim or something before his time.  Not that he’d tell me, but… as much of a pain as he can be, I’ll still miss the old llama when he’s gone.”

After dinner, Chris and Tad checked out other parts of the hotel and casino.  They ended up in one of its swanky bars.  Chris ordered the drinks, and, as promised, Tad picked up the tab with his winnings.  The two of them spent some time unwinding, talking, and enjoying being together.

“This sure beats the crap they serve at the frat parties.”  Chris swirled the expensive juice in his glass.

“Things gone downhill without Patrick’s wallet there keeping them in good stock?”

“Please, like Patrick is that discriminating.  He might’ve splurged sometimes, and he had good stuff in his bar at his place, but he’s never been all that picky when he’s just looking for a good time.”

“For your sake, I won’t tell Maria you said that,” Tad said with a snicker, while Chris almost snorted his drink through his nose.

“Hey, she’s your sister.  She’s just my aunt by marriage.”

“For now.  What if I dragged you into that chapel over there?”  Tad gestured to a tacky casino wedding room across the hall.  “Instant upgrade to sister-in-law.”

“Wow.  What a romantic proposal,” Chris teased.  Although he and Tad were serious about one another and had discussed marriage in the terms of “someday,” they were not formally engaged.

Tad met Chris’ eyes.  “Was that a hint?”

“You’re the one talking wedding chapels.”

“Well… yeah.  I mean, it’s right there.  Only natural that it might fall into the conversation.”

Chris raised an eyebrow.  “Now it sounds like you’re dropping hints.”

“Who, me?  Nah.  Sure, I love you and I’d marry you in a heartbeat, but you probably want better than a cheesy casino wedding funded by gambling winnings and Dad’s corporate card.”  He chortled.  “I’m not sure who would be more bent out of shape about that, me getting married on a business trip.  Dad for inadvertently funding the honeymoon suite on the company, or our Moms and Esme for not being invited.”

“To be fair, I think Dad and my grandparents would be disappointed, too. But not as much as Mom.  She loves that romantic wedding plum.  She went bananas during Patrick and Maria’s.  Travis is probably the only one who’d be like,” he made a face and imitated his little brother’s voice, “Whatever.  Don’t care.”

“I’m not sure how Maria would take it.  On one hand, there’d be no chance of her pouting that my wedding was bigger or grander than hers in some way that only she would care about, but on the other, she might be upset or insulted about not being told or invited.”

“You know, it’s kind of sad how much with weddings you have to worry about the people who aren’t even the ones getting married.  Almost makes you want to elope to avoid all the hassle.”

“Seriously.”  Tad paused.  “I would, you know.  If you wanted.”

“Get married?  Here?  Now?”  Chris set his now empty glass down and took Tad’s hands.  “Are you serious, or is that the lucky winning funded juice talking?”

“Oh, please.  It wasn’t that strong, or that many.”

“So, you did mean it.”

“I did.  But I know you want to finish Sims U before anything like that, so it’s not like I really think you’d—”

“I don’t have to.”

“Wait.  Are you saying…?”

“Why not?  It’s not like a marriage certificate will magically keep me from going back to classes and finishing school.  We were planning on moving in together when I got back anyway.  What’s to stop us from making it official now, if we want?”  He leaned in close, excited.  “Let’s do it.  I mean… if you want to get married, of course.”  He paused.  “That was kind of a crappy proposal, wasn’t it?  Would you rather I get on my knee or something and ask you properly?  I don’t have a ring, but we can get those somewhere here, right?  I could get one and then do the knee thing if you want.”

“Gee, maybe I wanted to do the knee thing for you,” Tad teased back.  “But knowing us, we’d probably trip over our own feet.  Maybe we should just pretend we did that part, say we both said yes, and just get the rings and license or whatever and go from there.”

“I’m cool with that.”

“So am I. Let’s do this!”

Chris took Tad’s arm and playfully hummed the wedding march as they made their way to the chapel.

Half an hour later, the appropriate papers were signed, the fees were paid, and the rings were purchased.  Chris and Tad stood under the flashing casino arch and happily exchanged their vows.  A local gambler bore witness as the officiant made it all official, and Chris and Tad became the latest lucky couple to get married in Lucky Palms.

Author's Note: The casino in the Lucky Palms shots is a wonderful build I found over on Mod the Sims. Originally I had planned to try to use the casino venue that I got with Lucky Palms from the EA store, but I have so much store content that my game is being quirky about having them all show up in game. I like the user-created lot better, though, so it all worked out! My thanks to its creator, as it was perfect for my needs!

Offline mpart

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #297 on: April 29, 2019, 10:22:30 PM »
Is it bad I'm rooting from Gretchen to win? I like Maria but when she gets in her moods...poor Patrick.

Awwww! Tad and Chris are so adorable! I'm so happy they tied the knot!

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 95
« Reply #298 on: May 03, 2019, 11:42:54 PM »
Is it bad I'm rooting from Gretchen to win? I like Maria but when she gets in her moods...poor Patrick.

The answer to that will be in the chapter after this one, I'm afraid, but you'll find out the audition results then!  This one covered several characters and got to over 5k words and 24 pictures before I got to them, so they had to wait for the next installment.

Awwww! Tad and Chris are so adorable! I'm so happy they tied the knot!

Story progression had Tad propose to Chris and got them engaged lightning-fast after they aged up to YA.  SP loves that family oriented trait of his!  They got married pretty much as soon as the cooldown period for the engagement ended. 

Chapter 95

Although neither Chris nor Tad imagined they’d end up getting married on the business trip turned mini-vacation to Lucky Palms, they couldn’t have been happier about it.  They sealed their union with a kiss under the tacky flashing casino arch and headed off to their Doo Peas funded room to enjoy the rest of the trip as their honeymoon.

When it was time to leave the next morning, they lingered in their room before check-out.  “It’s going to be kind of weird going back to school.  ‘Hey, what’d you do over the weekend?’ ‘Oh, just a little trip.  Gambled.  Got married.’”

“I can already hear Mom and Esme getting onto me for not telling them or calling.  Not that I blame them.  Guess I’d be kind of shocked if Mom ran off and eloped with Stiles without telling us,” Tad admitted sheepishly.  “But I think they’ll still be happy for us.  Dad?  Who the hell knows?  Maybe he’ll be proud of me saving on a low budget wedding ‘if I have to have one’ or maybe he’ll call me stupid for getting married impulsively.  Or both.”

“I’m not even calling home until I’m back at Sims U.  Then I can use the flight back to figure out how to break it to Mom so she doesn’t get upset about missing the wedding.  She’s been hinting about how nice she thinks our wedding should be for ages.”

“You’ve got a little brother.  It’s not like she’s out of chances.”

“Assuming Travis ever finds someone that’ll put up with his grumpy butt and monster fetish long term, sure.”

“Hey, you put up with my grumpy butt.  There’s someone for everyone.”

“You’re not… well, okay, maybe you are, but at least yours isn’t glued to the couch all the time watching movies or playing video games like him.”  He laughed.  “But yeah.  Guess we all have our quirks.”

“Speaking of which, I know you’re bringing Diddy when you move in, but let’s not invite every stray in Sunset Valley to dine on my deck, okay?  Esme will want all the cute kitties, and you won’t say no.”

“I can feed them in the side yard and keep the dishes near the bushes.”

Tad groaned playfully.  “Really?  Ugh!  What have I gotten myself into?”

“Come on!  They’re cute!  And they get hungry.  I can’t stand seeing them starve, their poor cute little faces…”

“Uh-huh.  Just remember, all they poop, you get to scoop.”

Once he was back at Sims U, Chris called his mom.  He told himself he waited until late in the evening because he wanted to be sure everyone was home, but it was at least in part procrastination.  Although he had no regrets about eloping, he felt bad knowing how she’d feel about missing his wedding.

Blair answered cheerfully.  “Hi!  I’m so glad you called!  How are you?”

“I’m fine, Mom.  Great, actually!  I, uh, have some news.”


He decided to just blurt it out and get it over with.  “I, well… Tad got sent on a business trip to Lucky Palms this weekend, and I had a light schedule so I went with him.  It was fun, and while we were there, we, um, hit the hotel chapel and got married.”

She was stunned.  “You went to Lucky Palms and what?”

Chris winced guiltily on the other end of the call.  “Got married.”

“You and Tad eloped in Lucky Palms this weekend?!”

Over on the couch, Cycl0n3 paused his video game.  He hadn’t really been listening, but that got his attention.  “Is my hearing going in my old age, or did she just say what I thought she said?”

Travis confirmed.  “Yup.”

“Your brother just ran off and got hitched in Lucky Palms, and you don’t even look up from Kaiju Battle?”

“What?  If he wants to get married, go him.  Tad’s cool.  Besides, this time I didn’t have to wear a hot suit and do stupid ceremonial dances like at Patrick’s.”

Cycl0n3 couldn’t really argue with that, but he was still shocked that Chris had just up and eloped without a word.

Agitated, Blair started pacing.  “Don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy for you, but isn’t this kind of sudden?  I know you love each other and I’m glad you’re happy, it’s just… I can’t believe you ran off and got married and didn’t even call to tell us first!  We love you!  We’d have liked to be there for you, and help make it all nice and special…”

“Mom, it was nice and special.  We didn’t mean to upset anyone.  We just wanted to do it.  You know we didn’t want to hurt you, right?”

“I do.”  Blair tried not to let her feelings overwhelm her, not when Chris was happy and had every right to make his own choices.  “I just always imagined seeing my little boy marry that special someone on his big day and being there for him, that’s all.  I’m sorry.  I know I’m being silly and sentimental.”  She sniffled.  “I am happy for you.  I’m just sad I missed out on being there.”

“I’m sorry.  Like I said, it’s not because—”

“No, it’s okay.  I’m just kind of shocked still, that’s all.”  She paused.  “Can we have a reception cake or party or something next time you’re home?  Maybe celebrate with his family, too, now that we’re all in-laws, or, well, more in-law-y, anyway?”

“Not sure that’s something I’d have pointed out,” Cycl0n3 muttered, to Travis’ amusement.

“Come on.  The family tree’s not that ingrown.  It’s not any weirder than Starla’s aunt Bella being with her uncle Arlo on the other side.  Nobody together is actually related.”

“Yeah, but she’s a Bunch.  There’s so many of them, they’ve got a family forest.  They’d practically have to leave town to find someone not connected to someone else in their family.”  He eyed Travis curiously.  “And that’s the third time you mentioned Starla tonight.  Anything you want to share?”

Travis stared down at his tablet.  “No.”

After chatting some more, Blair passed the phone to Cycl0n3 and then to Travis.  Since Blair covered most of what Cycl0n3 would’ve asked, he just congratulated Chris, ribbed him for being cliché, and asked if he and Tad were married by a fat Elvis impersonator in a sequin suit.  Travis gave Chris the obligatory congratulations as well, with surprisingly little snark, then gave the phone back to his mother so he could watch TV.  Blair told Chris again that she loved and missed him and hoped they could celebrate soon, then she reminded him to not get too distracted at school.  Before saying goodbye, she suggested he call his grandparents next, and when she got off the phone, she hugged Cycl0n3.  “I can’t believe our little boy got married without telling us!”

“Yeah.  It’s almost like some romantic sap raised him to follow his heart or something.”

“Oh, don’t blame that on me!  I just thought it’d be nice for our son to have an amazing dream wedding!  Something nice like ours or Patrick’s or—”

“Or maybe he just did it the way he wanted.  Simple, no fuss, with flashing neon instead of flowers.”

She sighed.  “I know.  I’m glad he’s happy and that’s what really matters, but I just wish we’d been there, you know?”

“Yeah.  But we can find some other way to spoil him.  Or get even.  We can start nagging him about grandchildren that aren’t furry little bums like Diddy Double-Wide over there.”  He gestured to the cat, snoozing in his favorite chair, and remembered something he meant to ask but forgot while Chris was on the phone.  “Hey, did he say if they’re changing their names?  Are they staying the same, or will they be Sw0rds or Wolffs or Wolff-Swords or Sword-Wolffs?”  He paused.  “Sw0rd-Wolff sounds kind of bad-llama.  Like some crazy stat RPG character.”

“He’s changing his name to Wolff.  He said Tad wants to keep his family name since Esme is also a Wolff and he’s the only one who still has it from their branch, since Maria changed hers to Wainwright and Caleb’s a McGraw.  Chris said it meant a lot to Tad, and it’s not like he’s the only Sw0rd anyway.”

“Fair enough.  But that leaves you to carry on the illustrious Sw0rd name and legacy, young man,” Cycl0n3 informed Travis with mock authority.  “And I’d recommend not with Esme Wolff someday, or people in this town will start talking about our family tree being an ingrown bramble pile.”

Travis rolled his eyes.  “Don’t be weird.  Esme’s way younger than me, and she’s technically my step-niece now or some plum.”

“Watch your language, even if your father is being silly,” Blair admonished with a head-shake at Cycl0n3.

Travis grumbled an agreement and ducked out of the conversation.  He supposed the dumb joke about Esmeralda was better than another quip about Starla Bunch—especially since Cycl0n3’s instincts had been right.  Travis was interested in Starla, and it was mutual.

Although they’d known each other since grade school, they’d never interacted much until they ended up in study club together.  That was another thing Travis kept to himself, after Iris’ remark about him maybe meeting some nerdy girl there.  Not that he thought of Starla as a nerd in any kind of bad way.  Sure, she was a good student, and worked hard to get good grades, but that just meant she was smart and responsible.  They got along well and had some things in common.  She wasn’t a monster trivia buff like him, but she loved scary movies and thrillers.  She also shared his cynical outlook on things, and she was easy to relate to.  They worked on study club projects together and became friends.  Then more.

The day before, Travis casually asked Starla if she’d like to get a hot chocolate at the festival after study club let out.  She did, and they hung around talking, mostly about a new horror movie coming out that weekend that they both had high hopes wouldn’t suck.  Travis then asked her if she’d like to see it with him.

She said yes.

Not wanting to get his hopes up only to have them dashed, he asked her if she realized he was asking as a date.

She said yes again.

“So, you want to go out with me?”  Travis felt about as smooth as sandpaper asking for final clarification, but he really wanted to be sure, despite bemoaning inwardly that he’d inherited his father’s level of suaveness.

Starla didn’t seem to mind, though.  “Sure.  I like you.  You’re the only guy I’ve hung around who doesn’t whine about me being a downer for just being real.”

“Are you kidding?  That’s what I like about you.  Well, not the only thing.”  He stopped himself before putting his foot any farther in his mouth.  “I like a lot of things about you.”  When he said that, she smiled in a way that made him feel significantly less grouchy, almost light and goofy, inside, but he tried to play it cool.  “Then we’re… going out?”

“Yeah.  We’re going out, genius,” she teased with fond sarcasm, and took his hands.

He leaned in close, noticing how pretty she looked with her cheeks flushed from the cold, and the snowflakes gathering in her hair.  “Cool.”  Though Travis felt anything but since he couldn’t think of anything else to say that seemed even remotely charming enough.  “I’m glad.”

“Me too.  But I should get home.  I told Mom I’d help her make dinner after study club.  I don’t want the third degree on what took me so long.”

“I understand.  Guess I’ll see you at school, then?”

“Yup.”  She gave him an encouraging smile and leaned a little closer.  “Good night.”

“Good night,” Travis said, and closed that last little bit of distance with their first kiss.

It kept them both warm the whole way home.

Boyd and Susan were working on their belated birthday present for Blair—a plumbot of her own—when she sent them a text saying that Chris had something important to tell them and would call soon.  Shortly after, he did, and Susan was as shocked as her daughter had been when he told her.

“Married?  You and Tad eloped in Lucky Palms?”  Susan switched it to speaker.

“Wow,” Boyd said from over at the bot builder.  “Blair wasn’t kidding about you having big news.  Congratulations!”

“Did you hear your grandpa?  Wow!  I admit I wondered if it’d be an engagement announcement, but that was a surprise!  Congratulations!  I guess this means Tad’s officially our grandson-in-law.”

“Which makes Maria both your aunt and your sister-in-law.  That’ll be a fun one to explain to the kids.”

“Weirder than Uncle Orion the alien or Aunt Iris the plantsim, Grandpa?  I don’t think so.”

“Okay, maybe not.”

“Well, sweetie, as long as you’re happy, that’s what matters.  We’re happy for you.  Just don’t let the excitement of getting married distract you too much from school.  You’re almost done, and you’ve been doing so well, I’d hate to see you get off track now.”

“I won’t, Grandma.  I promise.  I’ll be graduated and officially a doctor before you know it.”

“Our grandson, Dr. Sw0rd!  Or will it now be Dr. Wolff, joining the ranks of Morgana, and I think Tad and Maria’s grandfather, if I remember right?”

“That’s what Thornton told me once,” said Boyd.

“He was.  And yes, I’ll be Dr. Wolff.  Tad and Esme already have the same last name, so I figured I’d just match up.  Hope that doesn’t bother you or anything.”

“Of course not,” Susan assured him.  “We love you whatever your name is.”

“You’re our grandson and we’re proud of you.  Good luck.”

“You take care and keep in touch,” Susan finished.

“I will,” said Chris.  “Love you both, too.”

When they got off the phone, Susan turned to Boyd.  “Wow.  Chris is his mother’s son, isn’t he?  Running off to elope on a romantic whim?  I remember back when we wondered if she might get the notion to do that with Cycl0n3.”

“Yeah.  Back in the old TarzWar days when I figured out he was my guildmate.  That he was that Cycl0n3, the one dating Blair.  But she turned out to be more of a traditionalist.”

“Oh, I think she might’ve if he’d suggested it.  She’s a sucker for those Greeting Card Channel movie gestures.  But I’m sure she’s bummed to miss out on Chris’ wedding.  I know I am, a bit.  It would’ve been nice to see our grandson get married.  At our age, we might not get another chance to see a grandchild under the arch.  Travis is a lot younger than he is.”

“Then we’ll have to just look forward to the other milestones with our kids and grandkids.  Orion and Iris graduating.  Maybe a grandchild or two from Patrick and Maria…”

“That’d be nice.  Do you think Chris might adopt Esme, too, now that he and Tad are married?  Or that they might adopt another child someday?”  Susan paused thoughtfully.  “It’s a shame we don’t have Oasis Landing’s baby engineering technology here in the present.  There, they could have their own biological child with the help of science.”

“When we see Emit again, we could ask him about the process and find out what it involves.  In the meantime, maybe we can build them a plumbot, assuming our trial run with Blair’s here works out as well as Plumboptimus did.”

Susan smiled as they resumed working on their project.  “We should make sure it, and Plum, can do diapers, then.  For when those grandkids and great-grandkids do come.”


While Boyd and Susan had the future, their legacy, and future lives of their children and grandchildren on the brain, their youngest child would’ve been happy to just have her romantic and social life sorted out.

After the prom disaster, Iris was down a boyfriend and two close friends.  Mutual friends were okay with her, but things at school were awkward and the gossip was terrible.  Surprisingly, she mended fences with Rashida first.  Rashida didn’t like having bad blood with anyone, and she apologized repeatedly and sincerely for what she did.  Iris was still hurt, but she felt hypocritical holding a grudge, especially since she wanted the same forgiveness from Kristal.  Iris agreed to let bygones be bygones, as long as Rashida promised to never get involved with a love interest of hers again, which she did.  Rashida was trying to repair her relationship with Alfonso, anyway.

Kristal was less forgiving.  She’d come around as far as being willing to talk to Iris if they were with mutual friends, but she was distant and cold and made it clear she was done with her, at least for now.  She was also through with Lester and said she didn’t care if Iris and Lester dated.  “You might as well.  You obviously can’t stay away from each other,” Kristal said in a clipped tone.  “It’s not like I want him anymore.”

Iris wondered if that was really true, but she took her at her word, especially since Kristal didn’t seem interested in mending their friendship anyway.  Iris and Lester were attracted to each other, and now both unattached.  The chemistry between them was still there whenever they talked, and by the end of the week, they decided they might as well see where it might go.

It wasn’t like she imagined, though.  As much as she liked Lester, they didn’t have as much in common as her and Lane.  Lester was an art snob, and into offbeat creative projects like murals and glassblowing.  It was interesting to watch him work sometimes, and nice when he made pretty trinkets for her, but when he got into the technical details, her eyes glazed over.  Lester liked to practice glassblowing at the Prism Art Studio, and sometimes she kept him company.  However, it was usually in companionable silence because he was concentrating, the ovens were loud, and the heat was too intense on her plantsim skin to be near them more than briefly.

When it came to her interests, like gardening and plants, it was the reverse.  Sometimes Lester accompanied her to the arboretum or greenhouse gardens, but unless it was mood-affecting herbs, he wasn’t interested in the details or the science.  He wasn’t rude or dismissive, any more than she was with his artsy stuff, but sometimes she missed how enthusiastically Lane used to talk about plants with her.  Lane’s mother kept a ton of houseplants and a garden in warm weather, so he knew a lot about them.  Because of that, Lane had also been curious about her parents’ greenhouse when he visited, and they’d spent a lot of time out there.

When she gave Lester a tour, though, he just noticed the wonderpetal, sweetgrass, and cinnamon, and sweet-talked her into sharing samples.  Not that she minded.  His cinnamon kisses were worth it.

That wasn’t to say there weren’t things they both enjoyed.  Some of their best dates were sitting at the coffee shop chatting over dessert, while she sipped at warm citrus water and he had a soy latte froth whatever.  Iris couldn’t drink that stuff.  Coffees and strong teas were like juice in how they didn’t agree with her physiology, but pie was always tasty, as long as she didn’t eat enough to make her ill.

“I had fun tonight,” Lester told her after they kissed at the end of their date.

“Me too.  Thanks again for that glass pendant you made.  It’s so pretty!”

“Anytime!  Thank you for the sweetgrass.  Your parents grow some great stuff.  And I don’t mean just the herbs.”

Iris flashed him a flirtatious smile.  “Cute.  That’s one of the better plantsim themed lines I’ve heard.”

“Thanks.  I try to be creative.”  He took her hand.  “I’m glad you parked close.  It’s freezing out here.”

“And I was going to ask if you wanted to walk across the street and check out the park for a few minutes.  It’s so clear and bright tonight.”

He looked back at her, surprised.  “And like a billion below zero.  How are you not shivering your leaves off?  I thought cold was even worse for you.”

“I’m bundled up pretty well, and I like the fresh air.  But we don’t have to go if you don’t want.”

“Sorry.  It’s really cold!  Guess I need a better jacket,” Lester admitted sheepishly.

He glanced across the road to the park, and Iris suspected he was also feeling lazy, but she was used to that.  Lane had been a couch potato, too.  Though he’d have known how much I like those the apple trees by the pond and probably gone anyway. It wasn’t fair to hold that against Lester, though.  They hadn’t gone on any dates to the park yet.  “It’s all right.  Just give me another hot goodnight kiss to make it up to me.”

“No problem.”

While Iris moved on from her prom drama, Tara still struggled with what she found out at hers.  Although she loved Orion and understood why he didn’t tell her about his abilities before, it still bothered her that he kept something so major from her for so long.  He had to know how that would make her feel.  How could he not, knowing her like he did, and being able to sense her feelings on top of it?  Even worse, she couldn’t shake a hunch that there was still more to it.  Something she didn’t know, and that nagging thought wouldn’t let go.

Her doubts surfaced again while she was alone in his room, waiting for him to get out of the shower after a martial arts practice session.  One of his meteorites caught her eye.  Orion said he collected them and used them as meditation aids—which she thought was a little odd, but if it worked for him, whatever—but he only ever seemed to have one or two on display.  She wondered where the rest were, especially since this one looked different than the one he had out the last time she was over.

Orion returned.  “All done.”

“Hey.”  She gave him a curious look.  “New rock?”

“Yeah.  I found it a few days ago.”

“Out in the snow?”

“I saw it fall while I was stargazing on the telescope, so I went to find it.  It was down on the beach, so it wasn’t hard.  It was so hot it melted the snow around it.”

Tara raised an eyebrow.  “Your parents just let you go out on your motorcycle at night to pick up rocks on the beach?”

The truth was that he did it while they were asleep, and he used the Galaxa, but he couldn’t say that.  “It’s a big house and they’re sound sleepers.”

She noticed the hesitation in his roundabout admission to sneaking out.  Is there something he’s not telling you, either?  “So, you sneak out.”

Although he didn’t pick up on her thought clearly, he felt her suspicion.  “Yes.  To collect rocks.  I’m a wild sim, I know.”  He smiled, hoping that would put her at ease, but it didn’t work.

“What else do you do when you sneak out?  You’ve never come to see me.”

He didn’t like the way the conversation was going.  Tara was not only suspicious, but suspicious of him.  She knows.  She knows there’s stuff I’m not telling her. Orion felt sick inside.  He hated this!  It was bad enough he had to tell her vague mostly-truths, but the more direct her questions got, the more he’d have to flat out lie to her.  But what could he do?  He couldn’t break his promise to his parents, either.  Plum, having integrity sucks, he thought bitterly.

“Orion?”  Tara’s mood only magnified with his silence.

“I just go out.  Nowhere special or specific.  You know I don’t sleep a lot.”  Or at all. “I don’t go see you because I don’t want to get you in trouble or ruin it if you’re actually getting a good night’s sleep.”  That was all true.  Tara often had nightmares and anxiety dreams that disturbed her sleep, and her mother was a retired cop and her father could be as paranoid as his own.  The Keatons had a highly sensitive security alarm, so anyone lurking around their property would be noticed.

“But where is there even to go late at night?  You’re not sneaking out to clubs, or…?”

“No!  Of course not.  And I’m not doing what Wilbur does, either, if that’s what you’re worried about.  I’m not breaking any laws.  I’m just looking for space rocks or exploring or just clearing my head.”

“But why do you need to clear your head?  Orion, please tell me what’s going on!  Are you okay?  Is it something to do with your abilities or your condition?”

“Uh, kind of, I guess.  Without sleeping, I get bored and restless sometimes.  A change of scenery helps.”

Tara frowned as that brought up another thing she wondered about.  She knew Orion didn’t sleep sometimes, but until now she never realized it was barely at all.  “Why don’t you sleep, anyway?  Isn’t that really bad for you?  I’m wiped out with just a bad night, but I hardly ever just don’t!  People can go insane from not sleeping!  They have hallucinations and delusions and stuff!  Does that… does that happen to you?”

“No!  No, I’m fine!  Really!  It’s normal for me.”

Tara blinked in surprise.  “How can that be normal?  Is it part of your condition or something?  What exactly is it, anyway?  You know, you’ve never told me what it’s called.  Does it have a name?”

Orion felt a cold stab of dread.  How the hell was he supposed to answer that without lying?  But he tried anyway.  “Technically, no.  That’s why my parents are studying it.”  He hoped that would suffice, but he doubted it, and even if “alien hybrid” wasn’t in any medical journals, it was barely the truth, and he knew it.

He was right, and his evasiveness only upset her more.  Tara practically radiated suspicion and doubt, and Orion felt it all.  Worse, she knew he did, and he was acutely aware of that, too.

“Then what kind of condition is it?  What exactly do they know about it?  Because in all the time I’ve known you, you’ve never said, and I’m seriously starting to wonder!”

“It doesn’t really have a classification, other than something I was born with.  It’s not something you can just look up.”

“Yeah, I know!” Tara retorted, frustrated.  “After you told me that stuff at prom, I tried googling green skin and unusual voice and psychic powers, and all I got was a bunch of weird plum about aliens and people talking about UFOs and crackpot stuff like abductions!  But I shouldn’t have had to look online in the first place!  You’re my boyfriend!  You’re supposed to trust me enough to tell me that stuff, if you’re sick or have some kind of rare genetic disorder or whatever!”  Her voice quivered.  “I’ve always wondered, you know.  For a long time I thought maybe you were just sensitive or embarrassed and that was why you didn’t talk about it.  I didn’t want to pry, and since you seemed okay and not sick or in pain, I tried not to worry.  I figured you’d tell me when you were ready.  But even after you told me the stuff at prom, I realized I still don’t know, after all this time together.  And now tonight you tell me you sneak out because you don’t sleep, and I never knew that, either!  What else don’t I know, Orion?  What aren’t you telling me?  Because I’m sure there’s more, and I don’t know what the hell to think anymore!  Especially since you won’t even give me a real answer when I ask!”

“I don’t talk about it because I can’t!”  It weirded him out how close she came to the truth in her internet search.  He was both relieved and disappointed it hadn’t solved his problem for him.

“Why not?”

“Because I—I can’t.”

“Can’t, or won’t?”  She looked him hard in the eye.  “Do you really not know, or do you know, and you just won’t tell me?  Tell me the truth!”

Orion couldn’t bear to lie to her any more than he already had.  “The truth is, I know, but I won’t.  But only because I can’t.  Because I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone.  Not even you.”

Tara got even more upset.  “Promised who?  Your parents?”


“Oh, my Watcher!  Why is whatever’s wrong with you such a big secret?  Are you dangerous or something?”  She became borderline hysterical.  “Is it also mental, the part of it with your powers?  Is something wrong in your brain?  Is there a chance the not sleeping thing or the powers might make you go psycho and kill someone someday or something like that?”

“No!  Of course not!  It’s nothing like that, I swear!”

“Then why can’t you tell me?  Why aren’t you allowed to talk about it?  You know, you have to know, especially if you can read my freaking mind, what not knowing is doing to me!”  She choked back a sob while tears filled her eyes.

He did know, and he hated it with every fiber of his being.  “I do, and I’m sorry!  I’m so sorry, Tara.  I hate this, and I never wanted to hurt you!  Never!”

“But you still won’t tell me.”

“I can’t.”

“No, Orion,” she corrected him, wiping her tears aside.  “You won’t.”

“That’s not fair!  I promised them.  Long before I fell in love with you.  Don’t you see?  I can’t go back on my word to my family, any more than I’d ever want to do it to you.”

“But you did!  You said you wouldn’t lie to me or keep things from me, back when I told you about Wilbur being a Golden Llama!  Don’t you remember?”

“And I never have, except for this, which I already promised before that.  I’m sorry!  I really am.  I wish I could tell you.  I would if I could, I swear!  But I don’t want to be someone who can’t be trusted to keep his promises.”  That was the kicker.  As much as he loved Tara, if he broke his word to his parents and told her, she would always know deep down that his promises could be broken and have reason to doubt him.

“Did you even ask them if—”

“A thousand times,” he cut her off.  “They said no.  Don’t do it.  It’s too…”  He realized too late he said too much.

“Too what?”

“Too dangerous.”

“Too dangerous?!”

“It’s not, though.  I’m not dangerous!  I swear, I’m not!”

That was too much for Tara.  “You know what?  I’m done!  You don’t want to tell me anything about your condition or your ‘dangerous’ secrets?  Fine!  Maybe they’re right.  Maybe I can’t handle it.  Maybe I can’t handle any of this anymore!”

“No!  Don’t say that!”  He reached for her, but she wrenched away.

“I’m not playing guessing games or letting you mess with my head anymore!  You’re the one that can read minds.  Not me.  I can’t do this.”  She turned to leave.

“Tara, please!  Don’t go.”

“I trusted you!  It scared the hell out of me when I found out you could read my mind or whatever, but the only thing that didn’t make me run for the hills then was that I knew I could trust you.  That you loved me no matter what and wouldn’t ever hurt me or lie to me.”

“I do love you!  More than anything.  I never wanted to hurt you.  I hate this!  It kills me!”

“But you still won’t tell me whatever it is that’s so terrible you have to practically swear in blood to keep it a secret!  I love you, but I can’t be with someone I can’t trust.  So, if you want me to stay, tell me whatever this deep dark secret is right now.  Tell me so I stop wondering what could possibly be so bad that you can’t tell anyone, even me.  So I don’t wonder what else you haven’t told me, what else is true, or what else has been a lie!”

Orion felt desperate, hopeless, and impossibly trapped.  “Tara…”

Her eyes darkened with hurt and disappointment, and she stiffened.  “Yeah.  That’s what I thought.”

“No, wait!”  Orion took a deep breath.  “Listen.  Let me talk to them tonight.  I’ll tell them I’m telling you, no matter what.  I swear I will.  I’ll tell you everything!  Just don’t break up with me, please!  I love you so much!  I don’t want to lose you!”

She swallowed back tears.  “I don’t want to lose you, either.  So, okay.”  Her voice was thick with emotion.  “You’ve got one night.  But if you don’t tell me tomorrow…”

“I will,” he promised.  “Come home with me after school and I’ll tell you everything.”

“All right.”  Tara picked up her things and looked at Orion, her expression a mixture of exasperated distress and desperate hope.  “Don’t let me down.”

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 96
« Reply #299 on: May 19, 2019, 03:26:15 AM »
Chapter 96

Orion wasn’t the only Wainwright whose night took a sharp turn for the worse.  Patrick returned from the theater with a feeling of dread colder than the icy Sunset Valley winter.  After much deliberation, the band made their decision on who would be their new vocalist.  Despite doing his best to convince them to pick Maria, it wasn’t her.  They chose Gretchen Ursine.

Patrick found Maria in the study working on her novel.  “Hey, baby.”

She closed her laptop and stood up, eager and excited.  “Welcome home!  So…?”

“I’m sorry.  It was close, and I pushed for you as hard as I could, but they picked someone else.”

Her face fell.  “Oh.”

“It’s not that you weren’t good!  You were great!  They just—”

“It’s okay.”  Her voice quivered, and her disappointment was palpable.  “I get it.  Some of them were professionals with more qualifications.”  She tried to maintain her composure.  “So, who got it, then?”

Patrick knew that would be a second blow, and he braced himself as he told her.  “Gretchen.”

It went over about as well as he expected, that being not well at all.

“Gretchen?  You picked Gretchen for your band?”  Maria’s voice took on a sharp edge and an almost vicious accusatory tone.

“I pushed for you.  But the others—”

She didn’t want to hear it.  “So, it wasn’t the lady who fronted the small-time band that broke up, or the one who went to music school in Starlight Shores?  It was Gretchen?  What the plum?!”  She stomped her foot.  “That’s a llama load!  I can sing just as well as her!”

“I agree, but they thought—”

“Thought what?  What does that arrogant tart have that I don’t?  The only experience she’s got on me is one lead in a stupid high school play, a few voice lessons, and some dumb sing-a-gram job.  And not all of them can even sing!  Have you heard some of them?”

Patrick tried not to take her reaction personally.  He knew Maria would be upset, but it didn’t make it any more fun to deal with.  “It wasn’t that they didn’t like you.  Like I said, it was close.  You were a serious consideration.”

“Not serious enough to get picked, apparently!”

“It came down to a stylistic choice.  They thought she fit better for the sound they want us to have.”

“A better fit for the sound?  How does anyone fit with you better than me?”

“It wasn’t just that.  It had more to do with her overall style.  They thought she suited the band best, that’s all.”

“Style, huh?  And what style is that?  Trashy party girl?  Hmph!  Well, knowing Pauline Wan’s reputation back in the day, maybe she did see a kindred spirit in her.  Gretchen’s been around the block and back a billion times, too!”  She folded her arms in disgust.  “I wouldn’t be surprised if she slept with someone before the audition to get a favor.”

“Like who?  Stiles?  Come on.  You know that’s not how it went.  You know us.  Me, Stiles, and Wilbur, anyway.  We’re all professional.”

“Well, pardon me, but your professional choice sucks!  You and Stiles were supposed to be in my corner, and Wilbur!  I thought he was my friend, with me being his fiancée’s best friend and all!”

That he did take personally, and he snapped back, hurt and insulted.  “Not in your corner?  Really?  Because the band picked someone else when they freaking barred me and Stiles from voting because we were too close to you?  For your information, I did everything I could!  It’s not my fault they wanted Gretchen, and I don’t appreciate you making it out like it is!  Or that it was some rigged choice because they think she’s hot and want to bang her or whatever.  Believe it or not, it’s actually about talent!”

“Oh, well, I’m glad Gretchen is sooooo talented, then!  More than me, I guess, huh?”

“I didn’t say that!”

“You didn’t have to!  You guys picking her said it all!”

“Come on, Maria!  For the last time, I wasn’t even allowed to vote!  Just give my input!”

“Then you should’ve put in a little more!  I’m every bit as good as Gretchen, if not better!  I can’t believe you and Stiles would do this to me!  You said—”

“I said you had a shot, and you did!  I never promised you’d get it, and neither did Stiles.  That’s why we had an audition in the first place.  You didn’t seriously think it was just some formality, did you?”  The look on Maria’s face made it clear she did, and Patrick realized she truly had expected to win.

“I thought you wouldn’t tell me to go for it if I wouldn’t get it!  That you wouldn’t set me up to believe our dream of performing together might come true only to crush it!”

Patrick lost it.  “I didn’t crush plum, and you’re being totally unfair!  Do you honestly think I’d tell you to audition if I didn’t think you had a chance?  What the hell?  You think I’m that kind of llama?”  He scowled.  “I’ll tell you what, though!  I sure as plum regret doing it now.  If I’d have known you’d act like such a freaking baby, I never would’ve mentioned it!”

“A baby?  So I’m a baby because I’m hurt you and your band buddies picked Gretchen Ursine to sing for you instead of me?”  She was so upset that her eyes seemed to glow with rage, but Patrick was too angry to notice.

“No!  You’re a baby because you’re taking losing out on me, yelling at me, insulting me, and even accusing me of sabotaging you, when I did all I could to try and get you the stupid position!  How could you say that?  How could you think that?”

“Oh, please!  I don’t think that!  Stop being melodramatic!”

I’m being melodramatic?  You freaking said it!  You want to talk melodramatic?  Look in a mirror!”

“Well!  If you think I’m melodramatic, have fun with all the drama Gretchen’s going to drag into your gigs and practice sessions!  She’s nothing but a drama factory!”

Patrick and Maria’s raised voices caught the attention—and eavesdropping ears—of everyone else in the house, but only Buddy was brazen enough to pop into the room to watch and add commentary.  “Oh, ho!  Pot!  Oh, Pot!  Kettle has a message for you on line one!”

Patrick ignored him and glowered back at Maria.  “Gretchen’s not the one giving me a bunch of plum right now!”

“I’m giving you a bunch of plum because you don’t even seem to care how much losing this hurt!  It meant a lot to me, not that it matters to you, I guess!  But why should it?  You still get to go on and live your dream, just with some different girl to sing with.  You even got a personal offer to join that band from Stiles.  But apparently, I don’t rank that!”

“Until this audition went public for PR, it was only going to be offered to pros, just like my position,” Patrick retorted hotly.  “Comparing the offer I got because of my years playing guitar, my entire academic career at Sims U, and all my experience would be like me throwing a hissy fit for not getting some hobby thing I wrote published on the best-seller list like a novel you poured your heart and soul into for years!”

“Well!  Far be it from me to question your professional opinion, then!  Obviously, you know everything!  I’ll just take my ignorant, musically inferior self on up to bed and resign myself to writing blog reviews for your shows instead of being in them.  I wonder how long it’ll be before Gretchen acts up and causes some tawdry little scandal I’ll have to creatively write around so you don’t look bad?  One show?  Two?”  She started for the stairs in a huff.

“It’d be more than you made,” Patrick snapped, turning to leave the opposite way.

Maria paused on the staircase.  “You know what?  Here’s a free tune for you, from the runner-up.  ‘You can sleep on the couch tonight,’” she sang sarcastically, then flounced up the rest of the way.

“News flash, baby!” Patrick hollered after her.  “That was my room long before it was yours, and I’ll sleep in there if I want!  If you don’t like it, you sleep on the couch!”  Furious, he kicked the side of the nearby desk and stormed out.

After punching the wall in the hall hard enough to knock down a picture as he passed through, Patrick ended up at the bar in the living room.  Muttering obscenities under his breath, he poured himself a stiff drink.  What was wrong with her?  How could she say those things?  He loved Maria more than anything and she should know that!  How could she blame him, or think he wouldn’t do whatever he could to help her?  When had he ever been anything but supportive of her?  It reminded him of back at Sims U when she lashed out at him for getting into the fraternity after the sorority rejected her, only this time she had the gall to accuse him of being complicit in a rejection.  Even though she backpedaled afterward, that she’d said it at all and not apologized was bad enough!

Like he’d ever do such a thing to her!  Patrick was so hurt and angry that even the sweet strong juice tasted bitter as he gulped it down.

He was mixing a second when Orion turned up in an equally sour mood.  Although he was preoccupied with his own situation with Tara, everyone in the house heard the blow-up between Patrick and Maria.  “I’d ask if you were okay, but…”

Patrick let out a dark chortle.  “But you probably overheard all that plum.”

“She’s not being fair to you.”

“Yeah.  No freaking kidding,” he retorted, then sighed.  “Sorry.  Don’t mean to take it out on you.”

“It’s all right.”  Orion handed him a glass.  “Make me one and I’ll join you.  We can drown our sorrows together.”

That caught Patrick by surprise.  Although he wouldn’t judge about having a juice at Orion’s age, it wasn’t the sort of thing he usually did.  “What happened?” he asked as he mixed him a light blend.  “Are you okay?”

“No.  Tara and I had a fight, too.  She started asking about my condition and what it is and got all suspicious because of how I had to answer.  She knows it’s a llama load and told me to tell her what the deal is, or we’re done.”

“Plum!  What did you say?  Did you tell her?”

“Nope.  Like a dumb llama, I kept my word to Mom and Dad.”  His face wrenched up in frustration.  “She almost dumped me, but I managed to convince her—barely!—to let me talk to them tonight so I can tell her tomorrow.  So now I’ve got to have it out with them, because I don’t care what they say anymore.  I’m telling her whether they like it or not.  I know I can trust her, and she deserves to know anyway!  I won’t lose her over this.  I won’t!”

“I don’t blame you.  If it was me, I’m not sure I’d have held out as long as you have.”  Patrick was about to hand Orion his glass when Boyd and Susan came down the stairs.  “There they are now, if you want to lay it on them.  Good luck.”

Orion stood while Susan put the fallen picture back on the wall and Boyd looked over in their direction.  “Thanks.  You too, with Maria.”

“Heh.  Here’s to both of us, then.”  Patrick raised his glass and took a swig while Orion went to confront their parents.

“I’m telling Tara tomorrow,” he asserted.

Both Susan and Boyd were taken aback.  They overheard Patrick and Maria arguing, but had no idea about what happened between Orion and Tara.  “Wait,” Susan started, while Boyd tried for discussion.


“No, you listen!” Orion snapped, his voice rising with his temper.  “I’m not asking.  I’m telling you, just as a head’s up.  This lying and keeping secrets crap is over, and I’m not doing it anymore!”

Susan held up a hand.  “Whoa.  Let’s calm down first.”

“I don’t know what happened, but,” Boyd began, but Orion shut him down again.

“But nothing!  It’s over!  I’m telling her whether you like it or not.  Me promising to keep this secret is done!”

“Just like that?  No!”  Boyd was upset and agitated.  “No.  Let’s discuss this rationally.”

“You mean another pointless talk where I bang my head against a wall telling you how I need to tell her, that I might lose her if I don’t, and you just say no anyway because you’re so paranoid something bad might happen that you don’t care if it ruins my life?  No!  Forget it!  Not this time!”

Boyd groaned in frustration while Susan tried to reason with him.  “That’s not true!  Of course we care!”

“Not enough to lighten up and listen to me!  Well, it doesn’t matter anymore, because I’m telling her tomorrow, and if you don’t like it, you can both just get over it!”

“Hey.  Cool it with the attitude,” warned Boyd.

“No!  Not when listening to you and not telling her like I begged you means I’ll lose her if I don’t!  She’s not stupid!  She knows there’s something going on, and she’s mad because I won’t tell her what it is!  And she’s right!  She deserves to know!  I should’ve told her ages ago!  But no.  You two wouldn’t hear it.  Well, now you can hear this loud and clear!  I’m telling her, no matter what!”

“Oh, for the love of the Watcher,” Boyd groaned again, frustrated.  “Just stop and think about what you’re doing!  You’re just going to up and tell her you’re an alien hybrid created by aliens that conventional science doesn’t acknowledge exist, from a planet that’s technically undiscovered, and you think this will not only go well, but not spread throughout your entire high school like wildfire, and from there who only knows, if Tara tells just one friend?!”

“I’ve said a million times, I trust Tara!  She can keep a secret.  I know a big one she’s kept under wraps for a long time now!”

“A secret she still told you, though, apparently,” Susan pointed out.

“Me and only me.  She trusts me, and I haven’t told anyone.  I gave her my word.”

“Well, you may be a Ned Stark when it comes to keeping secrets, but it doesn’t mean everyone is,” Boyd retorted.

“That’s a risk I’m willing to take!”

“Maybe you are, but we have concerns,” Susan said bluntly.  “Friends aside, what about her family?  Are you absolutely certain she’d never tell her brother, or her parents?”

“One of whom, I’ll remind you, is a retired forensics cop that probably still has government connections out the wazoo, and unlike Blair, doesn’t have the fact that you’re her brother to stop her from blabbing?  Especially if she and Marty get worried about Tara’s safety because of who and what you are?  There’s very little your mother and I wouldn’t do to keep you kids safe if it came to it, and I doubt the Keatons are any different!”

“So, basically, your solution is just never tell her, then?  It’ll always be too dangerous?” Orion shouted incredulously.

“It’ll always be risky, yes!” Boyd argued back.

“That’s a llama load!  You can’t seriously expect me to never live my life and keep everyone at arm’s length and not trust them!  How the hell am I ever supposed to get married or have a family?  Or do I just not get to have that because of what I am?  Is that what you’re telling me?!”

Susan let out an exasperated breath.  “What we’re telling you is it’s risky to tell anyone, so you should only do it after very careful consideration and in very strict circumstances.  If this proverbial cat gets out of the bag, that’s it.”  She gave him a sharp look.  “If that happens, and things go badly and spiral out of control, damage control could end up being options nobody will like.”

Still listening but staying out of it over at the bar, Patrick remembered a similar exchange long ago, back when he was only a child.  Back when they told him, Blair, and Cycl0n3 the truth about Orion, and his mother informed his upset older sister that while they regretted lying to her, she probably shouldn’t ask questions she didn’t really want answers to.  Patrick wondered exactly what that involved, and what he still didn’t know about things they’d done or even still did, or what they might be capable of in the right circumstances.  Sometimes it was easy to forget that his easygoing, geeky scientist parents had some rather big secrets.

Meanwhile, Orion glared back at Boyd and Susan defiantly.  “There’s no option I hate more than losing her!  So, I’ll take my chances!”

“No!” Boyd shouted back.  “Please, listen to us!  You can’t just—”

Orion stood his ground and stared his father right in the eye.  “Try and stop me.  I dare you.”


“Go ahead.  Ground me.  Punish me.  Whatever.  It won’t stop me.  You can’t stop me.  I’ll find a way.”

They realized it was over.  If Orion was that determined, there really wasn’t anything they could do.  Love could blind one to reason, and Orion obviously loved her that much.  Even if they did try to punish or ground him, he’d just tell her at school or sneak out, or worse, run off.  Besides, it was ultimately his life and his choice.  Even if they were terrified it was the wrong one, it was still his to make.  Defeated, they exchanged a look, and Boyd took a deep breath to calm his nerves while Susan spoke.  “All right.  It’s true, we can’t stop you if you’re hell-bent on doing it no matter what.  I just hope you’re right.  Like I said earlier, once you do this, there’s no undoing it.”

“So if you have any doubts, any at all, heed them,” added Boyd.

“I don’t.  You’ll see.  She’ll be fine.  Just like Maria.”

“Yeah.  My sweet, understanding Maria,” Patrick muttered on a bitter note as he came over and gave Orion a pat on the shoulder for support.

Susan eyed her other son with concern.  His and Maria’s loud fight was what brought her and Boyd downstairs in the first place.  “And how are you doing?”

“Just peachy, for getting reamed out by my beloved wife for something totally out of my control.  But hey, her ego was bruised, so…”

“Need to talk?”

“Nah.  There’s nothing you can do.  Thanks anyway.  I just need to blow off some steam.”

Susan glanced over at the bar, where he’d finished whatever was in his glass—and she guessed it probably wasn’t his first—and the one he’d made for Orion.  “Might I suggest an angry guitar riff?” she said, hoping to redirect him to something less self-destructive.

“Heh.  No.  If I touch that guitar right now, I’d be too tempted to shove it—well, let’s just say she wouldn’t like the tune in my head.”  He frowned.  “Maybe I’ll sculpt.  Too bad that ice block I ordered isn’t due in until my day off.”

“Probably for the best not to use a chainsaw right now anyway.”  Susan was reminded uncomfortably of a line in one of future-Maria’s books from Oasis Landing, where the protagonist’s short-tempered redheaded lover cut a studio table, chair, and lamp post in half with his sculpting chainsaw after a bad argument.

“I’ve got plenty of clay.  That’ll work.”  He looked over at Orion.  “Good luck tomorrow.  Glad you’re finally getting to tell her.”  He looked at his parents.  “And you guys, try not to worry so much about it.  With his mind-reading powers, he’d know if she’d have a problem with it.  Watcher knows I wish I had them sometimes,” Patrick finished with a sigh, and headed off the study to sculpt away his foul mood.

While Boyd, Susan, and Orion went downstairs after Patrick and Maria’s fight, Iris decided to check on her.  Even if Maria was the one more out of line from what she overheard, she knew from recent experience that even when you’re wrong, when you’re upset, it can be nice to have someone to talk to that doesn’t judge.  Besides, she liked Maria and knew how much she and Patrick loved each other, even if they were upset at one another right now.  Maybe she could even nudge Maria toward some introspection and an apology.  She knew Patrick would calm right down if Maria apologized.  He was a hothead, but usually reasonable once he cooled off.

“Maria?”  Iris knocked and peeked her head in after all she heard was a sob.  “Maria, are you okay?”

“No.  No, I’m not okay at all!” she bawled.

Since that wasn’t a “go away,” Iris took it as an invitation and came in.  “Want to talk?”

Maria sniffled.  “I don’t know.  I guess.  I mean, you probably heard everything anyway.”

I think half of Sunset Valley heard it, Iris thought.  “Yeah.  Sorry you didn’t get it.  I know you really wanted it.”

“I did,” Maria said through another sob, but the sympathy worked exactly like Iris hoped, and she opened up.  “I always dreamed about how amazing it would be to perform together.  Now I thought we’d really be able to, and just… just freaking Gretchen Ursine!”  She spat the name out like venom.  “Stupid little tart.  She had to horn in and ruin it!  I can’t stand her!  She just always has to be the center of attention!  She was like that in high school and still is!”

Iris had only met Gretchen in passing, so she had no idea if Maria was embellishing or not, but it was hard not to think that Maria calling anyone on being an attention-seeker was fairly hypocritical.  Still, she kept that to herself.  “I take it you weren’t friends?”

“Hah.”  She sniffled.  “We were, I don’t know, Penny’s friends with her and she was in band with Patrick and Jamaal, and I guess she was okay at times.  But she’s one of those people that always has to show everyone else up.  Always has to have all eyes on her.  Especially the guys.”  She emphasized the last part with distaste.  “And they always eat it up.  She and Jamaal were together and broke up a bunch of times, always because she cheated on him.  With that jerk I dated before Patrick more than once!  She even slept with Julius while she was pregnant with Jamaal’s kid.  But whatever, the guys always keep flocking to her, because she loves their attention and does whatever she can to get it!  The first thing she did when she saw me and Patrick at the audition was flirt with him.”  She got up and stared out the window.

Iris realized that was the biggest issue right there.  Not only was her ego smarting, but she felt threatened to boot.  “That’d bother me too, but you know Patrick would never cheat on you, right?  He never has, has he?  I’ve never even seen him look at anyone else.”

“No,” Maria admitted.  “I mean, I don’t honestly think he would, but… I still don’t like it.  Especially the thought of them all traveling together on the road without me there.  She’s totally the type who’d do something like ‘accidentally’ forget something and knock on your hotel door at 2 am just happen to be in nothing but her underwear, or have a bit too much juice and kiss someone ‘innocently,’ like, ‘oh hehe I’m just partying!’ and stuff like that.”

“But Patrick’s faithful, and too smart to fall for that.”

“Maybe, but he’s also a man,” Maria retorted.  “Sure, they’re not all as bad my dad, who used practically any excuse to cheat on my mom, but that doesn’t mean I want her hanging all over Patrick or seeing him as some kind of challenge.”

“Isn’t Wilbur in the band, too, though?”

Maria scoffed.  “And Penny’s naïve if she thinks Gretchen won’t pull that same plum with him, too.  Believe me, I already warned her.”  She glanced at her phone, where earlier she’d messaged her friend some choice words about the whole thing, including that.  “But whatever.  They picked Gretchen, so Gretchen it is.”  She waved her arms dramatically.  “I guess I just get to sit at home and not only feel like a big reject loser, but also like a little boring wallflower or something while Patrick rocks out on stage for the world with Miss Attention Llama.”

“Oh, come on.  You’re not boring, Maria.  And Patrick loves you, no matter who he’s on stage with.”

“I know.”  She sighed.  “And I know I was hard on him before, but… I just wish he could’ve at least seemed like he was a little disappointed about us not being able to perform together.  And that he got what an epic llama load this whole thing with Gretchen is going to turn into!  But no, he had to defend it.”

Iris wasn’t going to debate that point with her as she was more inclined to agree with him, but she did see an opportunity to bring her around.  “Maybe when you guys talk you should tell him that?  That you don’t like how Gretchen acts around him, I mean?  It’s possible he just doesn’t get how much that bothers you, even if he knows she plays games?”

“He should know, though.”

“Sometimes guys can be kind of dense about stuff like that.”  And sometimes the reverse, Iris thought guiltily, reminded of how Lane hid just how jealous he was of her little flirtations with Lester until it built up into the drama bomb it did.

“Yeah, maybe.  But whatever.  I’m not talking to him about it until he calms down and stops biting my head off.”  She folded her arms and pouted.

Iris supposed that was the best she was going to get while Maria’s ego wound was still so raw, so she let it go at that.  “It’s kind of late anyway.  Might be best to just sleep on it and talk tomorrow.  Once you’ve both had some time to think.”

“Probably,” Maria agreed with a weary sigh.  She was calmer now, but still pouty and sour.  “Thanks for listening.”

“No problem.  I’m sure you two will work it out.  You love each other and you’ve been together a long time.  I’m sure one day you’ll be as old as Mom and Dad, still together and happy as can be just like them, looking back on stuff like this like no biggie in your rockers together.  Good night.”

After Iris left, Maria took a shower and went to bed, still brooding over her fight with Patrick.  While she wasn’t as upset anymore after talking to Iris, she still felt that even though she might’ve been a little out of line with some of the things she said, she still wanted Patrick to apologize for yelling at her like he did.  Even if she did maybe overreact just a bit, he didn’t have to holler and be so rude just because something might have come out wrong, after all.  Hopefully, he would be more reasonable after sleeping on it, like Iris suggested.  She would talk to him then.

A couple hours later, Patrick came to bed.  He’d calmed down after chiseling out his frustration for a while and hoped they could talk.  The lights were off and she was already in bed when he came in, though.  He switched on the lamp on his side of the bed.  “Maria?”

There was no answer.

“Maria?  Are you really asleep?”  He wasn’t sure if she was actually sleeping or just ignoring him.  It was hard to tell in the low light, especially with the headache he was now starting to get.  When she didn’t answer, he decided to just let it go until tomorrow.  If she was asleep, waking her up would only make her mood worse, and if she was ignoring him, she was still being childish, and he was too worn out to deal with any more drama tonight.  At least she didn’t try to kick me out of my own room again, he mused glumly as he brushed his teeth and changed for bed.

Patrick’s head started to throb in earnest when he returned from the bathroom, and he was glad he downed a glass of water while in there.  He suspected it was more from stress than the juice, though.  Back in his fraternity party days, he drank a lot more than that, anyway.

“Maria?”  He tried one last time before calling it a night, and again, there was no answer.  “Heh.  Good night to you too, baby,” he said with a resigned sigh, and climbed into bed beside her for a night of fitful sleep.