Author Topic: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley  (Read 26711 times)

Online deedee_828

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #325 on: October 18, 2019, 08:24:57 PM »
Wow--I just caught up in your story and it's been quite the read over the past few weeks!
You are a wonderful writer and make your sims come alive! I've grown rather fond of your Wainwrights and their extended families and can't wait to read more.

The only thing that took me by surprise is how badly Claire Ursine and Jared Frio come off in your story as your SP really gave in to their traits!
They are the founders in my Town Jump story and part of their journey is over-coming negative traits, so when they were alive they had to work really hard not to give in to them.
Though we never managed to get Jared to stop mocking people on their birthdays.
And he still laughs when ghostly coward Sam passes out when he sees the other family ghosts.

Some traits are just to ingrained to break!
Much like Maria and her Diva drama queen histrionics, Patrick and his hot-headed temper which is a trait he shares with my Claire, and of course Boyd's neurotic personality, which many of my own Frios have experienced.
But those traits more than make up for themselves with how much it adds to the story.
Especially being such well-rounded characters as you have managed to make them.
Characters that many of us readers now look upon with such fondness we can't wait to see what adventures lie ahead!


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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #326 on: October 23, 2019, 02:24:24 PM »
I've been reading this for a while now, never having seen it when it initially posted. I'm sort of late to the game in reading Sims stories even though I am now addicted. I love this family. I love how  you work in their traits in a "show me, don't tell me" fashion. I hope, actually, that you write your own original fiction as well. You're a good writer with few grammar and punctuation errors!   Anyway, the other reason I am posting mid-story instead of at the end is that I have to the baby mat part of Generations pack or part of a mod?  I can't use mods. They crash my computer, which is a bummer because I love some of the different poses mods.  Also, do you make you own "sets"?  Like for the hospital scene when Cycl0n3 got his behind broken or when Blair is in the police station or the founders are in the lab? Because I know those are rabbit holes. LOL Dumb questions, I know. And I hope you are still around these boards to answer!

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Offline Cheezey

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #327 on: October 25, 2019, 11:23:53 PM »
Wow--I just caught up in your story and it's been quite the read over the past few weeks!
You are a wonderful writer and make your sims come alive! I've grown rather fond of your Wainwrights and their extended families and can't wait to read more.

Thank you so much! I'm glad you're enjoying it.

The only thing that took me by surprise is how badly Claire Ursine and Jared Frio come off in your story as your SP really gave in to their traits!
They are the founders in my Town Jump story and part of their journey is over-coming negative traits, so when they were alive they had to work really hard not to give in to them.
Though we never managed to get Jared to stop mocking people on their birthdays.
And he still laughs when ghostly coward Sam passes out when he sees the other family ghosts.

Yup, sometimes the NRaas Story progression really goes wild with a sim's traits. It likes to kick off the child support fail a lot, even with sims you might not expect it from. If they are evil, mean-spirited, dislikes children, or absent-minded, especially, it seems to trigger frequently.  So Jared got it a lot, but Connor did a few times (due to the absent-minded trait, I guess) with his daughter with Pauline, and Iqbal Alvi got it a couple times for Lane as well. Both Connor and Iqbal seem like good parents, though, so that seems out of character unless they just forgot to put the check in the mail or something. VJ gets it often and wound up in jail from it, too, but he's evil so I'm not super surprised about that. In my game, Thornton also didn't pay up a few times for Tad and Maria back when they were still minors, which is sad considering how rich Thornton is, but the dislikes children trait won out, I suppose.

Jared is one of those sims that I found hard to keep in line when I played him. Mean-spirited makes a sim autonomously rude so often.  In this game, Buddy has it, and I often have to keep an eye on Patrick when he's around or their relationship will start tanking, because Buddy will say something rude out of nowhere, and Patrick's hot-headed reaction will make it worse. (Though Patrick is guilty of starting it on occasion, too.)  But I agree Jared and Claire are a fun pair to play, as they have an interesting dynamic to work with.

Some traits are just to ingrained to break!
Much like Maria and her Diva drama queen histrionics, Patrick and his hot-headed temper which is a trait he shares with my Claire, and of course Boyd's neurotic personality, which many of my own Frios have experienced.
But those traits more than make up for themselves with how much it adds to the story.
Especially being such well-rounded characters as you have managed to make them.
Characters that many of us readers now look upon with such fondness we can't wait to see what adventures lie ahead!

Thank you! I like my sims to have a negative or at least a questionable trait or two, since it makes them more fun to play and write for.

I've been reading this for a while now, never having seen it when it initially posted. I'm sort of late to the game in reading Sims stories even though I am now addicted. I love this family. I love how  you work in their traits in a "show me, don't tell me" fashion. I hope, actually, that you write your own original fiction as well. You're a good writer with few grammar and punctuation errors!

Thank you! That's very kind of you! :)  I enjoy working in their traits and thinking about how and why they might have developed them, from a characterization perspective.   

Anyway, the other reason I am posting mid-story instead of at the end is that I have to the baby mat part of Generations pack or part of a mod?  I can't use mods. They crash my computer, which is a bummer because I love some of the different poses mods.

Nope, the baby mat isn't a mod. It's premium Sims 3 store content that came with the Titanic Toy Machine, which is part of the Golden Ticket Toy Shop venue that goes with Midnight Hollow.  It's something the machine makes, but if you have that content installed you can use cheats and buy it straight out of buydebug.

Also, do you make you own "sets"?  Like for the hospital scene when Cycl0n3 got his behind broken or when Blair is in the police station or the founders are in the lab? Because I know those are rabbit holes. LOL Dumb questions, I know. And I hope you are still around these boards to answer!

Not dumb questions at all!  I do have sets.  Some are lots in Sunset Valley that I customized that are in the game full time, like the lab lot.  I left the rabbit hole as it was, but I built a separate lab building on the same lot that the sims can use, which is where all the lab scenes were done.  My hospital lot is like that, too. I've changed and customized Sunset Valley quite a bit in this game.  I have Mick's Karaoke lounge on the original lot for the hospital, and put the Prism Studio in as my museum, and have the hospital on the old art museum lot, so I had room to build a second building next to it.  That one does have some mods and CC in it, though, hospital equipment decor that is player made.  Some of my "business office" scenes were actually taken on that lot, since I didn't have anything pre-built for that but some of the office rooms and cafeteria were close and just needed a few tweaks.

Other scenes like the prom gym, police station, and the alien ship room, are in a closed and inaccessible second floor of a building I replaced the Petit Shark Pool with that has my consignment shop, laundromat, coffee shop, and comic shop that I built in it.  I just teleport in the sims to get the screenshots I need when I need to make them.

Lastly, I have a few lots that I place in throwaway saves for staging only when I need them, becauase they won't work in my town full time without causing me to have to change a lot of stuff around. The theater/band set where Patrick works is one of these. I built it under the theater lot, but deleting and putting it back in means resetting every sim's job who works there when the 3 rabbit holes are deleted and that's a pain that I prefer not to deal with. My "inside the school" lot is similar. I built an open rabbit hole modeled after the original Sunset Valley school to be used with the mod rabbit hole rugs at one point, and really like how it turned out, but in this town I had to combine rabbit holes on other lots.  Unfortunately, because of that, it won't work full time on my current save because I used the smaller school from the Town Life stuff pack so I could also fit the police station on the same lot, to free the police station lot up to put a lounge on it.  Lastly, my "inside the diner" set is placed only when needed.  I have to temporarily delete another lot in a throwaway save to place it to get those screenshots because I don't have enough lots open anymore to leave it up.

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 110
« Reply #328 on: October 25, 2019, 11:25:12 PM »
Chapter 110

After blowing out the candles, Orion cut his cake and took the celebratory slice feeling like he was on top of the world.  He was legally an adult, he’d be graduating from high school with high honors, and he’d been accepted into a competitive technology program at a local university.  He was a natural with computers and advanced technology after so many years of messing around with it alongside his parents, especially combined with his innate telekinetic abilities.

Although he could’ve easily gotten into Sims University, Orion knew his parents wanted him to stay close to home, and truthfully, he didn’t want to go that far.  Taking the Galaxa or any major alien tech to a place like that was risky, and he wanted to keep using it like he always had.  Besides, Boyd and Susan were getting older and frailer by the day.  He didn’t want to burden them with unnecessary worries, and he didn’t want to be away if their time came while he was still working on his degree.  He didn’t like thinking about losing them, but he also knew it was inevitable.  No one lived forever, and they were far older than many who met Grim at a ripe old age.

“Happy birthday, Orion!”  Esmeralda sat down across from him and Travis.  Orion was still elated that Tara was there, but she was waiting in line for cake, so he hadn’t talked to her yet.  “It must be so cool being officially an adult now.  No more rules!”

Orion was grateful for both the sentiment and the temporary distraction.  “You’d think, but not exactly.  Believe me, I’ll still hear about it if I do something they don’t approve of.”

“Yeah, but you can tell them to stuff it and not get in trouble for it.”

“That depends on how you define ‘trouble.’  Grounding, no.  Long-winded speech of disapproval…?”

“And you’d never blow that off, of course,” Travis remarked wryly.

“No more than you’ve taken every one of Blair’s cop mom speeches to heart.”

Esmeralda giggled.  “He doesn’t.”

Travis eyed her over his glasses.  “For the record, cop Mom is a lot different than the cop Grandma you see.  Not to mention you’ve also got the world’s most laid-back spoil-the-kids grandmother ever living with you, along with Tad and Chris, who can’t even lay down the law with his freaking cat.”  He did an imitation of his brother.  “‘Diddy!  Shame on you, hopping right into the pizza box!  Bad cat!  I’m locking you up!’  One minute and sad meow later: ‘Oh, no, that won’t work this time.  Not like the last fifty!  Nope, no way…  Hey!  Stop looking at me like that!  …  Oh, fine, you’re cute and fuzzy.  I’ll let you out and pet you.’”

Both Orion and Esmeralda were amused, but Orion had to chime in again.  “True, but you and Chris also never got the same kind of lectures me, Patrick, Iris, and your mom did from my parents.”  He paused.  “Well, I don’t know about Blair, because to hear it told, she was an angel who never misbehaved, but I was there for the rest of us.”

“Tad’s not really that strict, but it’s not like I can do whatever I want,” Esmeralda pointed out.  “He gets mad about stupid things and gripes about them to everyone.  And when Caleb does something and Tad gets on his case, he can just run to Grandma Morgana saying, ‘She’s my mom and you’re not my dad.’  I can’t.  But I don’t get in trouble that much anyway.”

Orion raised an eyebrow.  “You don’t get in trouble, or you don’t get caught?”

“What?  I can’t believe you’d say that,” Esmeralda replied with playful haughtiness and an overly innocent expression.  “Is this the face of a troublemaker?”

Orion snickered, and Travis smirked.  “Uh-huh.  Luckily for you, I owe my llama of a brother a lifetime of paybacks, so your secret is safe with me.”

When Susan got her cake, she sat down next to Orion.  “I hope your birthday’s been nice so far, sweetie.”

“It has.  Thanks.”

“I’m glad.  We’re very proud of you.”  She paused.  “I noticed Tara’s here.  Did you invite her?”

Orion glanced around and saw her standing by some balloons eating cake by herself.  “Yeah, but I was surprised she came.  Especially since it’s her birthday, too.  But she did say on SimBook she wasn’t doing anything special.  Just going out to lunch at the bistro with family.”

Susan smiled.  “I guess she wanted to wish you a happy birthday in person, then.  Have you talked to her yet?”

“No.  She came in while I was blowing out the candles, but I don’t think she wants to talk much in front of people.  So I will when I’m done.”

“Well, I hope you two have a nice birthday chat.  You deserve it.”

Although he knew she meant well, he couldn’t help but think sourly that if she and his father had just let him tell Tara everything back when he first wanted to, it wouldn’t be like this now.  But saying so would just be petty and hurt her feelings, and he didn’t want to do that.  It wasn’t like it would fix anything with Tara anyway.  “Thanks,” he said.  “Me too.”

He finished his cake and noticed Tara was also done.  She was still keeping away from the crowd over by the balloons, but Eni Jish Xip had gone over and introduced herself.  Orion hoped that neither would say anything too weird and create an awkward situation.  Tara had an unfortunate knack for putting her foot in her mouth, and Eni Jish Xip might have been a Sixam diplomat, but she wasn’t exactly a smooth conversationalist among the Earth crowd herself.  Not only that, she knew about Tara’s history with him, and while he didn’t think she’d intentionally do anything to upset him, he didn’t want any of her “help” with his relationship, either.  Not with her track record.

He put his plate in the dishwasher and went over.  “Hi, Tara.  Thanks for coming.  I see you’ve met Eni Jish Xip.”

Tara looked from him to her, and then down anxiously.  “Yeah.”

Eni Jish Xip was more empathetic than Orion anticipated, and he realized she must’ve been reading Tara, and him, too.  “Yes.  Tara Keaton is a pleasant individual.  I can see why you enjoy her companionship.”  She turned to Tara.  “I can tell you would like to express birthday wishes to Orion Wainwright, so I will go indulge in another libation so you two may converse.  It was a pleasure meeting you.”  She nodded to Orion and went to the living room while he talked to Tara.

“It’s nice to see you.  Happy birthday.”

She smiled, but seemed even more anxious now.  “Thanks.  Happy birthday to you, too.  You look great.  Happy, I mean.”  Oh, why’d I say it like that?

Orion wished he couldn’t still pick up on her thoughts so easily, especially since it felt to him like maybe she did mean it the way he hoped.  He motioned for her to follow him to the counter where they were less likely to be interrupted.  “Thanks.  You look great, too.  How was lunch with your family?  I saw on SimBook…”

“Good.  Mom and Dad took me to the bistro, and Wilbur and Penny and Rodrigo came, too.  I was kind of surprised, since she and Wilbur haven’t been getting along great lately, but it was nice.  Rodrigo’s gotten really big.  And it was so fancy, I had to scale down and change before coming here.  I’m glad I did.  That formal dress would’ve been way overkill and I’d have stuck out even more.”  She glanced through the archway to where Eni Jish Xip chatted with Plumboptimus.  “More than her, even.”  I can’t believe that’s his alien mom!  I hope she never abducted and probed me and I just don’t remember!

Orion hoped that, too, and he hated that Tara still feared that even though they were broken up.  She should’ve at least been able to not worry about that now that they weren’t together anymore, but apparently not.

“So she’s…?”

“Genetically, my mother.  That’s her.”

“I can kind of see how she looks like you.”  She bit her lip.  “Aside from just being green and her eyes, I mean.  Like in the face.  Your cheekbones.”  I hope that didn’t come out rude!

“I get what you mean,” Orion assured her.

“She was nice, but kind of…”

“Off?  Strange?  Dare I say, alien?” he said with a light smile.  “Yeah, that’s how she is.  I hope she didn’t say anything too odd.”

“No.  She was fine.  But it’s kind of weird knowing she probably knows we…”  She regretted her words mid-sentence and re-started.  “So, who do you tell everyone else she is?”

“Just someone with my condition that knows me and my parents from the lab.”

“Like you’re test subject buddies, or something.”

“Something like that.”

If I hadn’t made him tell me his secret, that’s what he’d be telling me, too.

Orion hated that he sensed that, that she thought it, and that it was true and she knew it.  It made the next thought he picked up on even worse.

And I wouldn’t even know because he’s so good at lying about it.

I have to be, he wanted to tell her.  I never wanted to lie to you, and I won’t do it again!  But he couldn’t say any of that, not without letting on that he was reading her thoughts, intentionally or not.  He knew exactly how well that would go over.  Their eyes met in an awkward silence that fell between them, and he picked up on yet another thought.

I wish I could tell when you’re telling the truth so I could trust you again.  Tara shifted awkwardly and looked away, remembering that he could read thoughts and hoping, horrified, that he hadn’t sensed any of that.  Maybe he hasn’t since he hasn’t said… but you’ll never know for sure, will you?

It made him glad he hadn’t let on, but it felt dishonest anyway.  Was there any way he could not be wrong here?

“I almost didn’t come,” she admitted after a moment.  “But I didn’t want to not see you again before…”

“Before you leave for Shang Simla?”

“You saw that post, too, huh?”  So he is still reading my posts like I do his…

When he sensed that, he tried not to give it the weight he did, but he couldn’t help it.  Was his wish coming true?  Could she really be coming around?  But if so, why was she still leaving?  “Yeah.  And Wilbur told me.”

“Oh.  I didn’t know you ran into him.  He didn’t say anything to me.”

Big shocker there, Orion thought, although he was glad she didn’t ask more about it.  He wouldn’t have kept it from her if she did, but Wilbur’s Golden Llama visit wasn’t anything he wanted to bring up now, especially in front of other people, even if they weren’t in direct earshot.  “Do you want to go over to the study and talk?  Just so people aren’t…”

“Staring and wondering why we’re broken up but talking like this and what we’re talking about or what’s going on?”  Tara cast a nervous look around the kitchen, especially as Maria glanced over at them curiously while putting her own plate in the dishwasher.  “Yeah.  Okay.”

As they left the room, Iris shook her head while chatting with Travis.  “Man, this party’s turning into one of your horror movies.  Attack of the Awkward Exes.”

“I didn’t think Lane bothered you that much.  You talked to him a while.”

“Yeah, but he’s still an ex.  Mostly I talked to him because he just lost his mom.  I’d feel bad for anyone that happened to.  Even someone I had a bad breakup with.”  She paused.  “He didn’t even really want to be here anyway.  He said Miraj and Holly made him come so he wasn’t sitting at home all depressed and stuff.”

“Hey, you don’t have to justify it to me.  Talk to who you want.  I’d talk to Lane over Lester any day.”

Iris sighed.  “Really?”


“You say something rude about Lester every time something about my boyfriends comes up.  I know you don’t like each other, but do you have to bash him all the time?  It’s not like I go around making fun of Starla in front of you.”

“Sorry.  Didn’t realize it bugged you so much.”  He frowned.  “You don’t like Starla?”

“I didn’t say that.  What I meant was, how would you like it if I was always saying bad stuff about her?”

“Honestly?  She probably wouldn’t care any more than I think Lester does about what I think of him, so I’d blow it off.  But okay.  I’ll lay off mocking him when you’re around.”

“Thanks.”  She smirked.  “I realize what a Herculean effort it is for you.”

“Well, at least you agree that it’s a grand favor I’m doing for my favorite aunt.”

“Favorite aunt?  I’m your only aunt, you llama,” she joked back.  “Unless you count Maria as that instead of as, like, your sister-in-law once removed or whatever.  And you’re lucky you don’t have any awkward exes, or they’d have probably shown up at this party, too.”

“A problem I’ll hopefully never have.”

Iris raised an eyebrow.  “Oh?  Could it be that surly little Travis has the golden heart of a romantic who believes he’s already found his one true love forever and ever underneath that grumpy everything-sucks exterior?”

“Shut up,” he retorted, turning just a bit red in the face.  “All I said is I hope I don’t ever have an ex that makes me want to either hide under a rock from them or bury them under one.”  He paused.  “Though anyone with half a clue could see that Orion doesn’t want to do either with Tara.  What he wants is pretty obvious.”

“Tell me about it.  Honestly, I wish he’d just get over her so he doesn’t keep getting jerked around.  But unfortunately, like everyone else in this family, maybe even you,” she said with a gleam in her eye, “he seems to think that the first person he falls totally in love with has to be ‘The One’ and he should work it out with them no matter what plum they pull.”

“Hey, Starla’s never pulled any plum with me.  I wouldn’t put up with that.  It’s one of the things that makes her great.  Super low levels of llama load.”  He chortled.  “You think I’d put up with what Patrick and Maria do from each other for five minutes?  Or Tad’s constant mooching of my snacks every time he’s over while complaining about stupid plum, or Chris’ dumb jokes and needing to be BFFs with every cat on the block?  And don’t even get me started on Mom and Dad and how I’m pretty sure they’ve been together forever only because no one else could deal with them but each other.”

“Maybe it’s the woohoo,” Iris quipped, doubly amused when Travis blanched.

“Ew.  Thanks for that montage of mental images I never wanted.  May you now be cursed with wondering whether werewolves actually do it doggy style the next time Patrick and Maria get too loud.”

Iris made a face.  “You’re a pain the plumbob, and Chris is now my favorite nephew for at least the next week.”

“Love you too, favorite aunt by default,” Travis replied cheekily as he headed off to grab another potato chip.

Once they were alone in the study, Orion and Tara continued their conversation.  “So, what did you want to talk about?” she asked, shuffling nervously.

“You said you almost didn’t come, but you wanted to see me before you left.  Was that so you could tell me you were going?”

“I—I guess so.  I thought you probably knew already from seeing it online, but since you didn’t like or comment… but you said you also heard it from Wilbur anyway.  It’s not like it was a secret or anything.”  She paused.  “Are you mad I didn’t tell you?  I just figured since we were broken up, you wouldn’t care.”  She frowned.  Wait, does that makes it sound like I think he’s a jerk? “I mean, I didn’t want to bother you or be all weird thinking you even should care since we’re not together anymore, not like I think you hate me or anything.  But—”

“I’m not mad.  I’m… I’m happy for you.  If going to Shang Simla is what you want, then you should.  You’re good at martial arts and you’re getting a chance to study with masters.”  He met her eyes as she looked up.  “And I’ll always care about you.  I didn’t comment because, well, I didn’t think you’d want me to.  Since you hadn’t told me yourself.  I figured you still wanted space.”

Tara looked down again.  “It’s not—it’s not so much that I want space, Orion.  I need it.”  Because I can’t stay away from you and I have to.  “What I mean is, I do want to study martial arts, and if stuff hadn’t happened like it did and we were still together I’d have hoped maybe you might come with me, but obviously, that’s not going to happen, and it can’t happen.  So I just need to go.  By myself.”  She let out a self-deprecating laugh.  “Maybe I’ll learn some of that discipline and peace and be able to put it to work on my head as well as my body.”

Orion couldn’t pretend he didn’t sense that.  “So are you saying you’re leaving just as much to get away from me as you are to study?”

Tara balked.  “No, I—wait, were you reading me?!”

“I didn’t have to.  You said it.  You need space.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” she said, her voice rising.  “You said you wouldn’t lie to me anymore!”

“I’m not lying.  Yes, I sensed it.  I’m sorry.  I told you that you broadcast sometimes.”  He looked back at her.  “But even if you weren’t, if you want the truth, here it is.  I do tune into you.  Just like you, I can’t help myself.  You know why?  Because I still love you.  Because I can’t stay away from you, either.”

“Orion, don’t—”

“No.  Let me finish.  I’ve tried to move on.  To get past this, us.  But I can’t any more than you can.  To the point that you’re going to China to study just as much as you’re doing it to force yourself to stay away from me,” he vented.  “I haven’t seen anyone else, been with anyone else, any more than I think you have, and it’s all because I’m not over you any more than you’re over me.  Not really.  You say you don’t want to be together, but you act like you do.  It sure feels like you do.  Your actions say just as much as whatever I’ve picked up on that you don’t say does.”

Tara’s eyes filled with frustrated tears.  “That’s not fair!  You can literally read my mind!  I don’t have alien powers.  I can’t even figure out normal people half the time, whether they like me or hate me or find me annoying.  And sure as plum not when they’re being honest.  When they say one thing and do another.  I trusted you, but—”

“I get it,” Orion groaned frustratedly.  “I really do.  I lied to you, a lot.  I kept something huge and major from you, and I shouldn’t have.  I screwed up!  I know that.  Plum, do I!  If I could hop in a time machine and go back, I’d tell my parents to go suck a meteor, take whatever punishment they gave, and tell you as soon as it wouldn’t have been breaking my word to them.  I’m sorry.  I hate that I hurt you, I hate that you don’t trust me, and I hate that despite that, you still love me enough that part of why you want to leave is because you’re afraid of it.  Of me!”

She turned away, upset.  “I’m not afraid of you, I’m afraid of what happens if I’m wrong like I always am, and trust you not to hurt me only to end up even worse than now!”  Her lip quivered.  “The alien stuff, that’s weird and scary enough, but I think I could deal, if I could trust you to keep me safe and not let them hurt me.  But how can I trust you?  Even if I know you love me and want to believe you’re telling me the truth now?  How do I know for sure?  I loved and trusted Tom, a long time ago, and I was blindsided when he hooked up with Bianca.  I trusted my brother, only to find out he’s been a freaking Golden Llama and lying to everyone about what he’s doing when he’s out doing that, including the woman he loves!  I thought Penny loved him, but she’s cheating with one of her friends—yeah, found that out by accident when I saw them together, and I know Wilbur doesn’t know about that!  So she’s a liar, too.  Everyone lies!  You did, at least in the past, even if you say you don’t anymore.  And even I do, when I say I’m over you.”  She laughed bitterly.  “So I wonder how and when I can really trust, because I can never tell for sure!  So as much as I want to believe you, as much as I’d love to…”

“Then take a leap of faith and let me earn it back!  You don’t have to believe me now, but I’ll prove it to you.  Just give it, give us, another chance.  I won’t let you down.”

“I can’t,” she sobbed.

“Why?  Because going on like this is so much better?” he challenged.  “Come on.  We both know it’s not.  We’re both miserable!  Just turn around and look at me, Tara.  Tell me you don’t still love me, and you really want it over.”

“That’s not fair,” she argued, even as she turned to face him with tears in her eyes.  “You can read me, and I can’t—”

“You can’t deny how you still feel.”  Orion met her eyes and took her hands, stroking them tenderly as he held them while she leaned closer.  “Not any more than I can,” he finished, and, now that he knew for sure she wanted him to as much as he wanted to do it himself, he kissed her.

They stayed in that embrace for a passionate moment, enjoying being in one another’s arms, together, again.  They lingered, savoring that feeling…

Until Tara’s fears got the better of her and overwhelmed her once more.  She wrenched away.  “Oh, Watcher!  What are we doing?  This can’t happen!  We shouldn’t—oh, I was so stupid to come!  So freaking stupid!”


“No!”  Her voice went shrill in panic.  “Don’t you see?  This is why I have to leave!  Because whenever I’m around you, I just—Oh, what’s wrong with me?  What am I doing?”

“Being honest with yourself?” Orion retorted, hurt and frustrated.  He reached for her again, but she wrenched away.

“No!  I can’t!  I want to, but I can’t!  I’m sorry.  I’m so, so, so sorry!  But I can’t do this,” she gasped miserably.  “I love you and I want to stay, and I want to imagine it’ll work, but it won’t!  It won’t!  I know it won’t!  It can’t!  It never does!”

Orion tried not to fall apart himself.  “That’s not true!  We love each other!”

“I know, but that doesn’t matter!”  Tears streamed down her face.  “It doesn’t mean—”

“Doesn’t mean what?”

“It doesn’t mean getting back together isn’t a mistake,” she sobbed.  “I’m sorry!  I shouldn’t have come!  I have to go!” 

“No, you don’t,” he insisted.  “Please!”

“I’m sorry,” she repeated tearfully.  “I never meant to hurt you.  I really didn’t!  I’m sorry!”

The worst part was, he knew she meant it.  All of it, good and bad.  “Tara…”

“Good luck with your tech degree and all the stuff you’re going onto now,” she said, eyes closed and voice wavering.  “I’m sure you’ll do really well.  You always do.”  She swallowed.  “Goodbye.  I’ll—I’ll see you when you I get back from China, I guess.  Or online.”

She turned and bolted through the door, and he followed, upset.  “Tara, please!  No!  Don’t do this!”

“I’m sorry,” she repeated raggedly one last time before running through the crowd, grabbing her coat, and dashing out the front door.

“Yeah.”  Orion clenched his jaw so he wouldn’t burst into tears in front of everyone still at his birthday party bearing witness to the spectacle.  “Me too.”  It seemed that his birthday wish came true after all, just not the way he wanted, and it made him bitter.  But hey, at least nobody died, except maybe me inside.  Guess I just should’ve been more specific.

He noticed everyone in the living room staring at him after Tara ran out.  Boyd was the first to speak.  “Orion, are you…?”

“I’m fine.”  He forced a smile although it felt as fake and flat as his tone.  “We just had a… conversation that went somewhere it shouldn’t have.  That’s all.  Don’t worry about me.”

He could sense the concern and pity radiating from his family and friends, and while he appreciated the sentiment, it only made him feel worse. Even freaking Buddy feels bad for me.  How sad a sack must I look like for that? he thought ruefully as he walked over to the bar.

He looked at Patrick.  “I think I’ll take that birthday drink you offered me earlier.”

“Sure, though I’d start with one of these.”  He handed him a glass off the tray.  “Plumboptimus whipped them up a few minutes ago.  Nice and smooth.  Made with the premium stuff.”  He left off that they weren’t nearly as strong as what was in his glass.  Although he didn’t think it’d hit someone built like Orion too hard, he didn’t drink often, and the last time Orion was that upset over Tara, he dropped a meteor across the road.  Patrick wasn’t one to throw stones about a drink and blowing off steam on a bad day, but he didn’t want Orion to overdo it and end up doing something he’d regret later.  While Orion took a heavy sip, Patrick and Iris watched him with concern as the rest of the crowd distanced themselves a bit and gave him his space.  “Sorry your birthday got a llama load dumped on it,” he said.  “That sucks.”

“It was my own fault.”  He swallowed down about a third of his glass.  It tasted good, and it warmed him, although he already decided he was done after that.  He glanced over at Iris.  “Should’ve known better than to talk to the ex, right?  Though at least you were smart enough not to invite yours.”

“It’s just a shame mine went so much better than yours,” she said sympathetically.  “I’m sorry.  Whatever happened—”

He put up his hand as he downed the next third.  “Like I said, just got into stuff we shouldn’t have.  But it’s over.  I’ll be fine.”

Both Iris and Patrick were dubious of that, but since it was obvious he didn’t want to say more about it, they let it go.

The festive mood picked up a little, and Orion put on a happy face to appreciate the well meant sentiment of the guests there to celebrate and wish him well.  After the last of them left, Boyd approached him.  “I’m sorry things went plumbob-shaped in the middle of it all, but I hope you enjoyed at least part of your birthday.  We’re all real proud of you.” 

“Thanks, and it’s… it’s all right.  It is what it is.”  He knew his parents felt guilty about their part in his breakup with Tara, but it just wasn’t in him anymore to hold it against them at this point.  It was over.  Tara had made that clear.  Being angry at them wouldn’t change her mind or keep her from running off to Shang Simla for months.  “I’ll be fine, really.  It’s my birthday.  A new beginning.  A fresh start.”

“That’s true,” Susan agreed with a hesitant note of concern.

“Really, Mom.  Dad.”  He looked from one to the other.  “Yeah, it sucks.  I hoped Tara and I could work things out, but that’s not going to happen.  And now I know it.  We’re moving on to different parts in our lives.  She’s going to Shang Simla and I’m going to get my tech degree.  New school, new people, new… friends.  Onward to new adventures.”  He smiled.  “Like I said, I’ll be fine.  Thanks for everything.  My birthday was all right.  Plum just happens.”

“You know, your resiliency is one of the things I’ve always admired about you,” Boyd said fondly, while Susan nodded with him.

“We love you, Orion.”

“I know, Mom.  I love you all, too.  Thanks.  I’m going to call it a night and meditate for a while.  Good night.”  He headed upstairs.

“Poor Orion,” Susan said after he left.  “He’s talking a good game, but he’s crushed.”

“He really loved her,” said Boyd.  “I hoped when she showed up that maybe things would go the other way.”

Iris sighed.  “I wish I could say I did, but I had a feeling two exes turning up at the party wasn’t a good omen.”

“Do you think one of us should talk to him?  Not right now, but maybe later?  Soon?  To make sure he’s all right,” Susan suggested, glancing over at Boyd.  “Not us.  I’m sure we’re the last ones he’d want to talk to about it, but maybe one of you?”  She looked over at Iris, Maria, and Patrick.  “How about big brother?  You two have always been close, and I’m sure he’ll be more willing to open up to you.”

At that, Iris spoke up.  “Uh, no offense, but Patrick, or any of you guys, are the last people Orion needs advice from right now.  Sorry, but none of you in your long term I-married-my-first-love-from-high-school fairy tale relationships are going to be able to say anything that he really needs to hear,” she said bluntly.  “What he needs, what he’s needed for a long time now, is to stop clinging to the notion that they can magically work things out when the reality is that she’s going to keep hurting him.  He needs to just let her go and move on, once and for all, for good.  And none of you, or Chris or Tad, or Blair or Cycl0n3, have ever done anything like that, have you?  You’ve all been together forever and worked it all out through thick or thin, no matter what the plum.  Even if you might’ve dated someone for five minutes before winding up with each other, none of you ever had to walk away from something super serious with someone you were with for a long time, right?”

“No,” Maria admitted.  “I thought I was in love with Julius when I dated him before Patrick, until he didn’t call me like he promised.  And we were only together a couple weeks when I dumped him on Love Day with a note in his locker so I could go out with Patrick and not feel bad about it.”

Patrick didn’t say anything, and Susan shrugged.  “I had a crush or two on boys at my old school before moving here, but it’s true, your father’s the only one I’ve ever really loved.”

“I was almost as big a nerd as Cycl0n3 at that age, so I was thrilled that someone as amazing as your mom would go out with me,” Boyd confessed.  “Before that, most girls who talked to me were trying to get me to do homework for them.”

“So you get my point, then?  Because I’m pretty sure none of us want Orion to take a cue from you guys and go off to his classes and other stuff and not take a chance at meeting someone new, because some part of him believes that Tara is his one true love and she still loves him, so he should keep freaking pining for her while she’s away in Shang Simla because she might change her mind when she comes back?”

“No, of course not,” Susan agreed.

“Though I’ll point out a very similar situation did happen with Blair and Cycl0n3 way back when,” said Boyd.  “They broke up when he went off to university and got back together when he came back.”

“And she actually didn’t date anyone while he was away,” Susan continued.  “She was heartbroken a while, and then just immersed herself in her last year of high school and then her new job on the force.  I remember when she got Hank Goddard as a partner.  I hoped she might go out with him, even if not seriously, just to get a bit of life experience.  She never did, though.  And obviously it all worked out for the best.”

Iris groaned.  “Yeah, see, that’s exactly the kind of thing Orion doesn’t need to hear right now, anecdotal evidence or not.  Something to reinforce the idea that since he really loves her, he should hang in there because fate will work things out.”

“Probably not,” Patrick agreed.  “But I wouldn’t encourage him to hang onto someone who’s jerking him around.”

It was all Iris could do not to say how rich that was coming from the fairy tale relationship king of being jerked around by his big bad wolf, and how it was another example making her point, but she kept things diplomatic.  “You know, back in Egypt, he was this close to falling for another girl.  One he had fun with, that he had things in common with, who seemed to like him.  But he didn’t, because he was so hung up on Tara.  And yeah, it might’ve been just a fling, but maybe after, he might’ve realized that there are billions of girls on this planet that aren’t Tara Keaton!  Even if just a tiny percentage of them are someone he’s compatible with, that are attracted to him and he’s attracted to, and that could accept his alien secret once they knew—even just a small percent—that’s still a heck of a lot of options and way more than the one who keeps breaking his heart.  He just has to realize they’re there and seek them out.  But it’ll never happen as long as he doesn’t actually let her go.”

“It seemed like he’s accepting that, though,” said Maria.

“Yeah, and the last time you got mad at Patrick, you said he was the world’s biggest llama and you were never ever speaking to him again until you calmed down and got over it twenty minutes later,” Iris said sarcastically, continuing before Maria could huff about it.  “And Orion’s probably doing the same thing.  Saying he’s done with her for now, while he’s hurting, but once he sits and mopes—excuse me, meditates—on it, there’s going to be a part of him whispering ‘maybe’ and ‘what if.’  So we can’t encourage that.  Consciously or not.”  She frowned.  “He’ll just end up hurt again, and he’s been hurt enough.”

A silence fell over the room, and none of them could disagree.  Boyd and Susan exchanged looks with Patrick and Maria, and each other, and then Susan spoke, proud and impressed with her youngest daughter’s insight.  “You’re absolutely right, sweetie.”


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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #329 on: November 05, 2019, 09:37:52 AM »
Oh, no! I'm of story!  So, some thoughts. For so!e reason, when Blair speaks I hear the voice of actress Teri Polo in my head. Blair's voice in the game is much higher pitched. Not a fan of Supernatural or vampires or that stuff, but you've done well with the alien and plant SIM states so far, so l am still hooked. LOL. Can't wait for more!

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 111
« Reply #330 on: November 10, 2019, 10:43:59 PM »
Oh, no! I'm of story!  So, some thoughts. For so!e reason, when Blair speaks I hear the voice of actress Teri Polo in my head. Blair's voice in the game is much higher pitched. Not a fan of Supernatural or vampires or that stuff, but you've done well with the alien and plant SIM states so far, so l am still hooked. LOL. Can't wait for more!

Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying it. :)

This save is the first time I played an alien, plantsim, or werewolf for more than just briefly. They can be fun and some of their abilities are useful, but it's a different playstyle for sure. I used the retuner mod to make the werewolf lifespan normal length instead of the default 1.5 times longer than normal, though. I'd rather Maria not outlive Patrick and the others by that much.

Chapter 111

After Orion’s birthday, Boyd and Susan finally completed the working prototype of Blair’s now much belated birthday present—a plumbot named Cybelle.  They designed her to be helpful around the house, like Plumboptimus was for them, but with some more advanced touches that they’d learned since building him.  Cybelle was a more feminine bot, complete with a metallic ponytail that reminded them of Blair’s playful nature.

They equipped her with the friendly functions, competent cleaner, and solar powered chips that Plumboptimus also had, as well as one that allowed her to perform basic workplace functions.  If it worked like it should, Cybelle could have a job outside the home and pick up some extra income, something that was always nice in retirement.  Boyd and Susan didn’t need that, as wealthy as they were, but they thought Blair and Cycl0n3 might like it.  Even though they’d done well for themselves and stood to inherit plenty from Boyd and Susan when the time came, and the elder Wainwrights had also set up generous trusts for their grandchildren, Blair still felt strongly about supporting herself and not coasting on her parents’ wealth.  She didn’t mind gifts, though, so Cybelle was a way for them to respect her wishes and give her something while they were still around.

Cybelle needed some final tweaks and a test run before going to Blair and her family, however.  They wanted to troubleshoot away any bugs and see how she performed in the workplace first, so they gave her a low-level position at the lab cleaning glassware and doing basic maintenance.  If all went well, Cybelle could go to Blair and Cycl0n3 shortly afterward, complete with an extra paycheck for them to use as needed.

Plumboptimus got an upgrade, too.  With Patrick and Maria’s baby on the way, they wanted to make sure he could help care for an infant.  That required special programming, but one of the manuals from Oasis Landing had the schematics for a chip that granted plumbots that capacity, so they made one for him.  Unfortunately, Plumboptimus only had a limited number of chip slots, so that meant replacing his new solar powered chip with that one for now.  He was rarely away from home long enough to need it anyway, and the other chips were too useful to give up, even temporarily.

Orion also helped with the bot maintenance and building, but he was still learning and nowhere near as proficient at it as his parents.  He found that out the hard way, along with the fact that Plumboptimus was advanced enough to experience, comprehend, and react to discomfort.

“Please take care placing the electric probe during tune-up!  It is unpleasant to experience this!”

The shock to his senses caught him off-guard, but if it felt like that, Orion couldn’t really blame Plumboptimus for being upset.  He couldn’t sense AI emotion like a regular sim’s, but that got the message across loud and clear.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, shaking the static away.  It hadn’t done him any actual harm, but it did almost knock him on his rear end.  “I’ll remember that.”

“Thank you.”

Boyd and Susan also discussed creating another plumbot for Chris’ ever-growing household after Cybelle was ready to go to Blair’s.  They could certainly use one, since Tad’s application to foster another child was approved and social services placed a girl a little bit younger than Caleb with them.  Her name was Hilda, and she was an orphan like Esmeralda.  She’d never known her father or who he was, and her mother had been a lonely and troubled woman who attracted abusive men.  Her mother’s last boyfriend put her first in the hospital, then in the morgue, and while he was in prison for the rest of his life for it, Hilda was left with no mother or family to care for her.  That was changed now, though, since Tad and Chris were happy to welcome her into theirs.

Despite her traumatic background, Hilda was an energetic child that loved music, and she was also a natural with technology like many of the Wainwright clan.  As an only child who’d been alone a lot, Hilda spent a lot of time on computers and tablets from a young age.  Before long, she was the one doing tech support for Morgana, Caleb, and Esmeralda on theirs when Chris and Tad weren’t around.

Esmeralda was growing up fast, too.  Her birthday came and she started high school.  Even though she professed not to be “all that interested” in boys or dating, she spent a lot of time with Owen Frio, a boy her age, to the point that Caleb teased her often about it.  That usually got him smacked with a pillow—and Hilda would sometimes join in on the pillow fighting depending on who she felt like siding with—but it was pretty clear that even if Esmeralda didn’t like all the flirty romantic teenage girl stuff, she certainly liked Owen.

He was at the birthday celebration she had with her friends, along with her friends Venus Alvi and Estevan Donner.  “I see you side-eyeing Owen,” Chris teased Tad when they noticed Owen flirting with her.  Esmeralda might not have been much of a flirt, but Owen certainly was, and it seemed like opposites attracted.  “Come on.  He’s a nice enough kid.  She could do worse.”

“Heh.  I don’t know.  Look at him.  He thinks he’s hot plum.”

Chris snorted.  “So does Esme, by the looks of it.”

“Oh, shut up.  You’re worse than Caleb.”

Caleb overheard and snickered.  “He’s worse than me at just about everything.”

“Hardy har,” Tad retorted.  “Not at cleaning.  Go put that plate in the dishwasher.  Don’t just leave it on the counter.  Diddy will be all over that and get fur and frosting everywhere.”

“Mom said the party host is the one who’s supposed to clean and you’re hosting the party, so…”  Caleb shrugged cheekily.  “And Diddy’s asleep over there.”  He went over to the chair Diddy was in and gave him a gentle shove.  “Hey, move your fat fuzzy butt.  I want to sit here.”  Diddy meowed in protest, but moved, resettling his head on Caleb’s leg once he sat down.

Hilda tossed him a video game controller.  “Play with us.  Estevan and I just beat level 10.  I bet we could get even farther with you playing, too.”

In addition to Hilda, the family was also excited about the impending arrival of Patrick and Maria’s baby.  She was starting to show just a bit, and she was thrilled when she felt the baby kick for the first time.  “Can you feel it?”

Patrick felt a tiny flutter when he put his hand against her belly.  “Yeah!  I wonder if I can hear anything.”  He knelt down and put his ear against her baby bump.  “Hey, kid?  You’re awake in there, right?”

“That’s a good way to teach Junior to kick you in the face,” quipped Buddy.

“Ah, shut up, Buddy.  I’m trying to hear the baby.”

“What’d he say?”

“He’s just messing around.”  Patrick listened more intently.  He thought he heard a little swish, and a moment later, he felt a slight tap against his cheek.  “Hey!  That’s so cool!”  He stood up.  “Our baby’s getting bigger.”

“And me with it,” Maria sighed melodramatically.  “I’m in the stretchy pants full time now.”

Buddy scoffed.  “Yeah, sure.  It’s all baby.  Not the half a carton of Ben & Simmy’s you polished off after lunch.  It must be a werewolf with an appetite like that!”

That time Patrick knew better than to comment.  He just shot Buddy a quick “don’t even go there, dude” look before Maria could notice, and then planted a smooch on her lips.  “Well, you look cute in your stretchy pants anyway, so don’t worry about it.”

The werewolf subject was still a touchy one, and Maria’s hormone-driven pregnancy mood swings didn’t help matters.  When the time for the next full moon came around, she was extremely edgy, even though they had a plan in place.  She was going to a special secure room that Boyd and Susan set up at the lab so she couldn’t hurt herself or anyone else, where she’d have things to do and food to eat that would satisfy the werewolf urges.

Before that, though, Patrick took her to the spa.  “I should probably go here after I wolf out, not before.”  She sighed and looked up at the wintry afternoon sky.  Moonrise was hours away, but she dreaded it more with each passing second.  “I might need to wax off all that awful hair if it doesn’t fall off.”

“If you need to, you can, but that didn’t happen last time.  Just try to relax and enjoy your pampering package.  The massage, the aromatherapy, all that stuff.”  Patrick hoped the spa trip before nightfall would put her in as good a mood as possible so her transformation wouldn’t be as traumatic.  “And I promise I’ll be there with you tonight.”

“Not in the room with me.  I—I don’t want to hurt you when I change, and I don’t remember enough from when it happened last time to be sure I won’t.  I was alone then.”

“I’ll watch through the window, but if you need me, I’ll be in there in a flash.  I promise.”

She smiled weakly at him.  “I’m glad.  And I’m so glad you’re not working tonight.”

“I’d have just told them some llama load to get the night off if I had to anyway,” he assured her.  “Now, go on in and get out of the cold.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“Mom would probably like me to get a haircut and all clean-shaven before Orion’s graduation tomorrow, but I don’t feel like it, so I think I’ll just head over to the diner and get a burger or something.”

Her eyes lit up.  “Mmm.  A cheeseburger.  I want one of those tonight.  The beast within craves it,” she teased.

“Then I’ll do you one better and get you a fresh one to go, with extra bacon, before we head to the lab.”  He kissed her.  “Text me when you’re done.  Love you.”

“I love you, too, Paddy-cakes.”  Maria went into the spa while Patrick dashed across the snow-crusted street to the diner.

Thankfully, Maria’s full moon transformation came and went without incident.  She handled it reasonably well.  The spa visit left her nice and relaxed, and going through the transition in the safety of the lab with Patrick, her mother, Boyd, and Susan all there made it easier.  Much of it was a blur to her afterward, but she did little more than howl, scarf down some meat, and run around to burn off the energy before crashing for a nap.  It wasn’t nearly as traumatic as her first transformation, and she came home tired, but otherwise all right.  She didn’t even need the emergency waxing or manicure she worried about.  If anything, her hair and nails were shinier and stronger than ever thanks to the prenatal vitamins she’d been taking.  They were model-perfect, aside from needing a brushing and a polish, respectively.

Knowing the emotional toll it took on her, though, Patrick still went out of his way to pamper Maria when she came home.  He surprised her with a bouquet of roses.  “Welcome home.  See, I knew you’d handle it just fine.”

“You’re too sweet to me.”  She inhaled their scent, noticing some nuances that she’d never really picked up on before.  She wondered if that was part of the werewolf thing, scents being more powerful, but even if so, it was at best a mixed blessing.  Sure, roses might smell nicer, but what about the baby’s diapers when the time came?  Ugh.  No, she’d pass on that, thank you very much.  She still resented that she couldn’t be cured, but she supposed if she had to live with it, she could manage.  It made for angsty inspiration for a novel, if nothing else.  Hopefully, the baby would be spared.  Maria certainly never wanted to have to explain to her child that she was sorry, but they were both stuck with a hideously awful curse from Grandpa Thornton that Uncle Orion’s misguided alien mother made incurable, so they would both have to endure it forever with no hope of it ever going away.

Orion’s graduation was a happy occasion, and all the family attended.  His grades were excellent, and he graduated with high honors, making them all proud.  Susan boasted that she bet no other parents there could say they had not only three children, but also a grandchild, who all came out of high school with near perfect GPAs.  “No pressure on you two, though,” Boyd teased Iris and Travis.  Not that he or Susan thought they would be any different.  Travis had always gotten good grades in everything but gym class, and despite all the time she spent socializing or hanging out in the greenhouse, Iris’ academic performance had always been stellar.

Although it was a happy occasion and a proud achievement, graduation was still bittersweet for Orion, especially when he saw Tara in her robes.  It signaled not only the end of high school, but of his time with her, and his heart still ached over it.  He wished he could be at her side, moving on with their lives together, but instead they were going their separate ways—her all the way to Shang Simla.  He knew this would be the last time he’d see her other than online for a long time.  A part of him wanted to go and say goodbye again, but he didn’t.  Everything had already been said that needed to be, and the way things stood, it was time to move on.  Instead, Orion indulged in one last long wistful look at her and resolved to accept things as they were.

It seemed Tara was doing the same.  She didn’t come to him, either, although he caught her looking over at him a time or two as well.  The one time their eyes met, it was as if to say a regretful silent farewell, or see-you-later, anyway.  Despite everything, they hadn’t unfriended one another on social media, but Orion did unfollow her so he wouldn’t see any more reminders of her unless he sought them out.  He still cared about Tara, but until he got over her, he wanted space as much as she did.

Luckily, he had plenty to distract himself with after graduation.  He started classes at the local university, and even though he lived at home rather than at a dorm, he still spent a lot of time on campus.  He liked to study at the student union coffee shop between classes.  He didn’t need it for an energy boost the same way regular humans did when they were behind on sleep, but he still enjoyed a good cup of coffee.  It was nice for keeping warm on a cold day, and it gave a little bit of zing to his workouts.

He also started working part-time at the lab.  Although he was taking a full credit load, only needing a few hours of meditation instead of a full night’s sleep allowed him to do both without overextending himself.  Orion wanted to learn about Wainwright Innovations’ various projects and operations.  It was good experience that counted as work-study credits toward his degree, and he was the first Wainwright from the younger generation to take more than a casual interest in the family business.  While Patrick knew the board members, and Boyd and Susan gave him basic instructions for keeping the business going if something happened to them, he had his own career to focus on.  They were all glad when Orion expressed interest in taking it over in a more hands-on way.  Boyd and Susan always hoped one or more of their children or grandchildren would run Wainwright Innovations after they were gone.

It wasn’t all nose to the grindstone for Orion after graduation, though.  He still hung out with his friends that were still in town.  He met up with Guillermo French at the gym for a workout.  Guillermo was taking classes at the same school he was, but his major was fine arts with a focus on culinary classes.  He’d always been good in the kitchen, like his mother, and he decided to pursue that passion as a career.  That was one of the reasons he was at the gym as much as Orion.  “The leftovers from class are great, but man, I’ll end up with a huge gut if I don’t use them for bulking.”  He flexed.  “Today we had to make a stu surprise out of whatever was handed to us, and I got chicken and cream sauce ingredients.”

“Bet it was good, though.”

“Too good.  I ate it all.  I should’ve brought some home for Dad, but he was a llama this morning and gave me a hard time because I didn’t let Luna out before she took a dump on the rug.  He’s freaking retired and home all day, and I was rushing to get to class first thing, but ‘It’s your plum dog!’  Even though his lazy plumbob wasn’t doing anything but watching TV or playing dirty old man on the dating sites.  So screw it.  He can eat his canned soup.”  He frowned.  “Especially since the old geezer has better luck on Senior Singles than I do on Sim Finder.”

“Iris keeps saying I should try that.”  Orion gave him a curious look.  “Not worth it?”

Guillermo shrugged.  “Depends on what you’re looking for, I guess.  I’m looking for other guys, so I can’t really say what plum the women on there pull, but the guys I’ve met from it so far are either just after a hook-up, or they turn out to be nothing like they said they were.  Using profile pictures five years old so they don’t look anything like you thought, or they’re not actually single.  Oh, and one guy lied about not only having a job, but having a degree, too.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Some of that plum wouldn’t even matter if they were honest in the first place, but who wants to deal with someone who starts off pretending to be someone they’re not?”

Orion felt for him, but he couldn’t help but wonder if that’s how he would come off with his alien secret.  But it wasn’t like he could put that on a dating profile.  “Sorry.  That sucks.”

“Well, maybe you’ll have better luck on the other side.”  He chuckled.  “Shame you’re not into guys.  If you were, we could skip that whole step, and I’d just ask you out.”

“Hey, if I was, I’d go for it.  Someone I already like who can make me gourmet meals?  Sign me up.”

Penny, who just finished her workout on the treadmill, came over.  “Hey, guys.  Good to see you.”

“Hi, Penny,” Orion replied, while Guillermo nodded to her.

“How’s it going?”

“All right.  You know, I couldn’t help but overhear what you guys were talking about, and it reminded me of that dance way back when the three of us and Sommer were the depressed lonely singles club while everyone else had a date.”

“Yeah, but you had a date.  Or a boyfriend, anyway.  Wilbur was just working.”

Penny scoffed.  “Heh.  Some things never change.  Just add a never-ending engagement and a kid to it.”

“And I’d just gotten hung up on freaking Mario Kayes.  Who’s now saying he and Rachelle are getting married after his birthday, if you didn’t hear.”  Guillermo frowned.  “Despite totally leading me on, on the side, for ages.  I wonder if she ever realized.  I probably should’ve told her, but I guess I’m enough of a llama myself that I hung in there hoping he’d pick me and tell her himself.”

Orion remembered that dance, way back when he first started high school, before he’d even been with Tara.  “Shame it didn’t work out that way.  I liked Rachelle.  She never saw me as anything more than a friend, though.  Then I got with Tara later anyway, but… well, we all know how that worked out.”

Although Guillermo didn’t know all the details, as Orion’s friend, he knew enough, especially about the mixed signals she’d been sending since the breakup.  “Yeah.”

Penny gave Orion a half-joking sympathetic smile.  “Maybe you and I should form a support group.  We could call it Burned by Keatons.”

Before Orion could react, Guillermo turned to her with a wry gleam in his eye.  “And here I heard you already got some salve on that burn.”

“Whoa!”  Penny was obviously shocked, but then she tried to play it off like she didn’t know what he was talking about.  “What do you mean by that?”

“I think you know what I mean.  Rumor has it you’ve got a little, uh, side action?”

“What?  Keep your voice down!”  She looked around in a panic.  “Good Watcher, Lisa came here with me and our kids and I just saw Kristian go downstairs.  The last thing I need is for her to hear something like that!  Now who told you that?”

Orion wondered that, too, because he’d heard the same rumor, from Tara.  He hadn’t mentioned it to Guillermo, though, so he wondered just how well kept a secret Penny’s affair was and who else knew.  You’d think an observant Golden Llama like Wilbur would notice his own fiancée cheating, Orion thought sarcastically.

“Let’s just say, quoting that old song… I heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another you’ve been messing around.”

Penny’s eyes went wide, but she responded in an even more hushed and anxious tone.  “Very funny.  Whoever it was, they should mind their own business.  Yes, I’m frustrated with Wilbur, but do me a favor and don’t spread that any farther, please?”  She glanced at Orion.  “You too.”

“Not my circus, not my monkeys.  And even if I did hear something…”  He shrugged and smiled.  “Like you said, burned by Keatons.  I hardly see Wilbur anymore unless it’s something involving Patrick’s band anyway.”  Or him skulking on my property, but with Tara away, hopefully he’ll knock that plum off and find someone more interesting to spy on than me and my supposedly crazy mad scientist parents.

“I’ll keep my yap shut, too,” Guillermo agreed.  “But if, hypothetically, something was going on you didn’t want people knowing about, you might want to be more subtle about it, because there is talk.  I heard about it from a classmate who works at the diner who works with someone that delivered to the alleged, uh, someone in the Doo Peas newsroom who was sweet-talking you on the phone in their cubicle when lunch arrived.”

Penny paled a bit more, but straightened, trying to keep calm.  “Great.  Freaking Sunset Valley rumor mill strikes again.  Thanks for the heads up.”  She glanced nervously at the stairs.  “I’ve got to go.  Nice seeing you guys.  I’ll talk to you later.”

After Penny left, Guillermo turned to Orion.  “Plum like that really makes you want to hop right on that Sim Finder app, huh?”

“Hopefully, that’s not where Penny met her special new friend.  Besides, there have got to be some people looking for an honest, meaningful match on there, right?  They can’t all be duds.”

“That’s what I keep hoping.  If nothing else, I figure trying beats pining after someone you already know is a dud.”  They headed over to the pull-up bar.

“Are you talking about Mario or Tara?”

“Both,” Guillermo replied, and started his set.

Despite his initial reluctance and what he’d heard about it, Orion decided to give the Sim Finder app a try anyway.  Even if he didn’t find lasting love, he might at least meet someone he liked and have some fun.  He made a profile and tried to be both honest and interesting.  He doubted he’d get many matches because of how he looked, but at least anyone who did probably wouldn’t be shallow or put off by it or his “condition.”

When he mentioned to Iris that he was taking her advice and trying it, she immediately volunteered to “troubleshoot” his profile to make sure, from the ladies’ perspective, that he wasn’t making any “major blunders.”  Orion was too amused to be insulted, although he ribbed her about knowing so well how to use a site that she was technically not supposed to be on at her age.

“Please, it’s not like I don’t know how this stuff works.  Even regular old social apps have things in common with people looking for dates.  You think I’ve never gotten random DM’s from thirsty guys on SimBook hoping I’ll go for them?”

“All right, then.  I defer to your expertise,” he said, and handed her his phone.

She made a few minor tweaks, and insisted Orion add two pictures.  One of him in a tight workout shirt to show off his muscles because, “You’ve got the athletic body, so show it off, especially since you’re worried about not looking attractive enough.”  Then she took one of him in his leather jacket by his motorcycle.  “Some girls really go for that rebellious guy with a heart of gold thing you’ve got going on.  So rock it.”

“Yeah, I’m a real rebel.  Letting my little sister take my dating profile pictures.  I wonder how many cool points that would lose me.”

“It’s me,” Iris retorted on a haughty playful note.  “I can only add coolness points.  You’ll thank me later.”

It turned out she was right.  When Orion checked back, he had a few matches, and a couple of them even mentioned the pictures Iris suggested.  One was from a motorcycle enthusiast who told him he had a great bike, and two others were complimentary remarks on his physique—even if one did imply she hoped it was real and not hidden behind a new juice gut like the last guy she met with a picture like that. 

Overall, he was surprised by how many responses he got.  After exchanging a few messages, some didn’t turn out to be as a good a match as he hoped, but there was one named Kelly he particularly liked and felt hopeful about.  She was enthusiastic and responsive, and seemed as interested in him as he was in her.

“Don’t let it go to your head, but you were right about the motorcycle picture,” Orion told Iris after he and Kelly made plans to meet at the coffee shop in town.  “Kelly just told me she’d love to go for a ride sometime.”

“Haha, did she say on your bike?”  Iris enjoyed watching him turn a slightly purplish shade of green in the cheeks even as he chuckled back.

“We’re just meeting for coffee and maybe a movie or something after.  We haven’t been sending those kinds of messages.”

“Yet.”  She gave him a sly look.  “I’ve seen how you’ve been looking at your phone.”

“You mean the same way you look at yours when not-Lester from Egypt messages you?”

She waved her hand dismissively.  “We still talk sometimes, that’s all.  Besides, he lives halfway around the world. What’s a few messages?  Anyway, this isn’t about my old flames, it’s about you meeting the mysterious Miss Kelly.  So, what’s she like?”

“Nice.  Kind of enthusiastic about stuff.  Uses lots of exclamations and emojis, but it’s cute.  She works at the bookstore and likes the beach.  She also likes collecting shells and rocks, and horseback riding.  She told me when she saw my motorcycle picture that she prefers the fuzzy low octane version, but maybe we could compare stories sometime.”  He handed her his phone with her profile pulled up.

Iris noticed how much Orion brightened when he talked about Kelly, and she gave him an encouraging smile as she looked over the profile.  “She’s pretty.  Lots of pictures of her on a horse.  Does she live on a farm?”

“No.  She boards her horse over at the stables up by Pinochle Pond.  She rides up in that area.”

“Maybe you can take her up there on your motorcycle and let her give you a ride on… Dragon?  That’s an interesting name.”

“Anyone who likes horses has to be a keeper,” Patches chimed in from nearby.  “You should go for her, Orion.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.  And she likes fantasy stories, so that’s why she named him that.  That and she says he’s a real spitfire.  But she likes that.”

Iris smirked.  “Then I guess we know what attracted her to you, Wild Motorcycle Man.”

“Yeah,” giggled Patches.  “Orion loves living on the wild side!  That’s why he goes on all those adventures at night.”

“And now he can go adventuring with Lady Kelly on her Dragon!”

“Ha.  You two are just full of laughs today, aren’t you?” Orion quipped back good-naturedly.

“Aw, we just want you to have fun,” Patches said.

“Yeah, but before Kelly and I go on any adventures, we need to complete the coffee shop quest of a first date first.”  He smirked deviously.  “Speaking of potential dates, let me show you one whose profile I saw as a potential match.  You might recognize her.”  He tapped at his phone and turned it around to show them.

“Oh, my Watcher!  Is that Mrs. Black?!”  Iris was horrified to see her Simlish teacher from last year wearing a skimpy leather outfit that was very unlike the professional school dress code and her prim and stern demeanor in the classroom.

Orion laughed, because she’d been one of his teachers as well.  “Apparently she’s into younger guys.”

“She’s like almost sixty!  And a dominatrix or something?  What the plum!”

“Aw, she doesn’t look bad for her age,” Orion argued on a teasing note.  “And you’re never too old to have fun, right?  It says on her profile her husband died last year, so she’s probably pretty lonely.  There’s nothing wrong with an age difference if that’s what you’re into.  Some guys like an experienced woman.”

“Tell me she didn’t match you, or you didn’t match her back!  Weren’t you her student once, too?”

“Nah.  She was just a suggestion.”  He was still amused by Iris’ over the top reaction.  “So, do you think she takes her trusty old red pen out along with that whip?”

“Ugh!  I don’t want to know!  Put it away.”  Iris made a face.  “Or better yet, send a screenshot to Travis.  I think he has her this year.  Let him enjoy it.  He likes horror shows.”

“Maybe later,” Orion replied with a grin as he put his phone away.  “Right now, I’ve got a date to get ready for.”