Author’s Note: I updated the About page with the links to the sites I’ve used to get custom content and mods for my game and I’ll keep updating it if needed. Thank you all wonderful and awesome people who have enriched the Simming experience with your work. If anyone wants to know the origins of a specific CC item, you can ask me and I’ll find it. You can ask me other more or less story or Sims relevant things as well, and I’ll do my best to answer them. But anyway, on to the story…
When I reached age nine, it was time for Rem to start school as well. By that time he had grown from the tiny chirpy chainsawy thing quite a bit.
He’d become a playful and sharp kid, who usually talked way too much about everything. He had gone from painting the walls to painting on canvas, and he could actually talk about the things he sometimes saw when he was here but wasn’t. Mum and Patrick called it good imagination. I thought it was different, and still weird, but I had to admit that I’d really grown to like my weird little stepbrother most of the time. In fact, pretty much everyone seemed to like Rem almost immediately after meeting him. He was just so cheerful that even when he started babbling loudly about weirdness, people didn’t usually seem to mind. I was quieter, and preferred to keep to myself.
When I said Rem had moved from walls to canvas, I wasn’t kidding. He painted almost whenever he had the chance. He’d become really good at it, too, and his paintings were hung all over the walls upstairs in our house. He’d got his beloved easel at the age of five, I think, and his first painting was still on the wall. It was called “Me & My Sister”, and yeah, I had to admit that it was sweet.
The most I got out of playing with colours was when I put them in my hair. I usually settled for the wilder colours to spice up the blonde, and mum would help me dye my hair every time the colour started to fade. So while Rem painted, I usually read books. I’d proudly moved from the thin kids’ books to young readers’ novels. Mum and Patrick had tried assigning both of us to some kind of after school activity clubs, but since we found nothing that interested us quite like books and paint, they’d let it be. I knew they didn’t want to push us into anything. I’d been thankful of that, especially since it was clear that some of my classmates were into sports or music mostly because their parents thought they should be into them.
When it came to hobbies, Patrick spent his free time – or at least what little he had between being a father and husband, grading papers, and preparing classes – in the small vegetable garden he’d put up soon after we had moved in all those years ago. It was all organic, of course, because that was how Patrick wanted his food. Most of the genetically enhanced, poisonous stuff they sold at the supermarkets Patrick wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole – his words, not mine – so most of our greens were grown in the garden. I had to admit that they did taste better than what we ate at school, for example. But then again, the school meals mostly tasted of lacking budget and bulk purchases, with a lot of salt and pepper to cover up the rubbery feel of potatoes and the sliminess of the chicken.
Mum still loved our gazebo. She usually sat in it, especially in spring and summer, when it was warm and usually sunny and even the nights weren’t cold yet. She usually read there, in the light of a lantern they hadn’t taken away even though it had at first been put up just for mum and Patrick’s wedding. She said it was nice and peaceful there, and being among the flowers helped her relax and think. I suppose she was right about the peace, but I’m sure a lot of it was just because the gazebo held so many nice memories to her.
We had all formed a very nice rhythm to our life, and at first mum and Patrick were a bit worried how Rem starting school would fit into it. You see, when the time Rem had to start school loomed in on us, mum and Patrick feared that Rem wouldn’t fit in. I mean, I’d had some problems with fitting in and I still did, but that was because I was what people might call “a loner”. I actually figured that Rem, even with his pointed ears and fantastical stories that would be prime fodder for tiny future bullies, wouldn’t be bothered by anyone because everyone just liked him. In fact, everyone liking my brother wasn’t just limited to other people. All animals seemed to like him too. I only started to really notice it this summer, actually, and mum and Patrick still didn’t see anything odd about it.
We went out on the small beach near our house to enjoy our last days of freedom before summer vacation ended for Rem, me and Patrick. Rem was a bit afraid of the water at first, so he started out playing in the sand, again getting that look with the shiny eyes. I think the sandcastle he was building became a real castle in his eyes. When we asked him to join us in the water, he said he was afraid of the Kraken that according to him lived in there.
I thought it was stupid, to be afraid of water while being so entranced by sand. To me, sand was boring. It was just grains that got into my lungs when Rem threw it around like it was fairy dust. And I know I sounded like a boring adult whenever I kept saying Rem’s imaginary things weren’t real. The thing was, my imagination was fine, but I actually knew when to stop. Imagination belonged to the pages of books, or in movies and video games and in the times I played with my few friends, but Rem just took it all too seriously.
When we finally convinced him that there was no Kraken and that he could go for a swim – I mean, mum and Patrick didn’t pay for those swimming lessons for nothing – Rem joined us in the water, and when he did, I saw almost immediately how fish started gathering around him as if he were a child-sized earthworm. Fish that usually swam away like crazy whenever people just came close to the beach. Rem just smiled at them serenely like he almost always did, and I got weirded out briefly again until I turned my attention to something else.
Back then, that something had been the horizon, which was my inspiration for fantasy. I was nine years old, and people said I was acting older than that, but I certainly didn’t feel older. Just because my fantasies were more about travelling far away and seeing what lay beyond the homely treelines instead of princesses and castles that I’d left behind before my school years had started didn’t mean I was becoming a boring, unimaginative person. I just wasn’t so in your face about it all like Rem was.
But yeah, if Rem could befriend fish, then he should have no problems with people even in the jungle that was elementary school.
And then the school really did start again. We both went to the Stary Community School, because it was the only really affordable but good quality school anywhere near our home. Patrick worked in another school, but it was much farther away, and I think I rather liked not being a teacher’s stepdaughter at school. Stary was a nice place, as far as schools went – not that I knew any other schools first hand – and I had no real problem with it at all. In fact, most of the teachers were nice, and the other students were… well, they mostly steered clear of me, which was just fine by me.
My class at Stary was led by Mrs. Vasquez. She was super nice, the kind of motherly type whom I could picture bringing strawberry pies to class just because. So far, she’d never done so, but I could still dream, right? She taught us maths and history and art, which was her real speciality.
In class, I sat in the back row whenever I could. There I felt safe knowing that others would have to turn around if they wanted to bother me. I usually spent the lessons either studying quietly or reading, or occasionally writing little stories into the margins of my notes.
The only classmate I really got along with was Mrs. Vasquez’s daughter, Bree. She was determined to bring about world peace and lead our country to ultimate happiness, and to become an astronaut all at the same time. She worked real hard too, but I doubted hard work was all it took to actually do all those things in life.
I never said anything about my doubts, though, because she was my friend. She was one of the few people who I’d actually smile at and laugh with, not just force it out of politeness.
When Rem started school, it was very different for him. Like I had guessed, he gained friends in no time. He was surprisingly quiet in classes, or so I’d heard, but he did very well in them. He never hid and his smiles were given freely to everyone. Mum and Patrick had had nothing to worry about.
Their teacher was great too. He’d taught me only a couple of times, but he was just so awesome that I remember him well. Many parents didn’t like the way he looked, but I thought he looked cool with his Mohawk and black clothes and dragon pendants. Besides, what did hairstyle or clothes have to do with teaching people properly?
Our parents really liked him, though. His name was Robert Herring, but he insisted that everyone should call him Bob. Patrick approved of him right away after he found out Mr. Bob had done some kind of project to get his motorcycle to run on biofuel. Mum was a bit more hesitant, but she was won over in the first parent-teacher meeting.
The way his awesomeness points just piled up more in my eyes actually involved another person who turned out to be pretty awesome too. It was also a day when I made another friend, and all things considered, that day was very normal compared to the things that would happen later.
Bob was substituting for our literature teacher, and most of our class was excited. He had given us a super fun assignment of writing a short story and fit in a list of random words he’d given to each of us. My words had been starfish, chicken, sunrise, muddy, and to row, and I’d had a blast writing it.
The story was tucked safely away in my schoolbag and waiting to be handed out. We still had a break before the English class, and I could hardly wait. The weather was great too for the beginning of autumn, and Bree and I had decided to bask in the sunlight for a while before going out to play. For a while, it almost felt like we weren’t at school at all, but instead just enjoying a really nice day at a playground.
“I really can’t wait for Mr. Bob to get our stories!” I said excitedly, “I really hope he reads the funniest ones out loud. It’ll be so great to hear what everyone’s written!”
“Yeah, I know!” said Bree, “And I really can’t wait to hear your story! He’ll definitely read yours, because your stories are always great.”
I almost blushed, because it was rare when I got compliments from anyone outside my family, and I never really knew what to do with them.
“Nah… they aren’t always great,” I muttered, “But thanks. This one I really am proud of. It’s got a starfish in it, and a chicken who’s been dumped in mud and they go on a boat trip. It’s funnier than it sounds.”
“Well, it sounds weird at least. I like it already!”
Our talk and the regular playground noises were interrupted by a thud, a grunt and then some pretty mean laughter. One of the boys on the slide had apparently landed badly on his butt, and the kids around him were laughing. I recognised the poor boy as Jace Herring. He was Mr. Bob’s nephew, and in our class. I knew little else about him, except that he was in the school’s football club and sometimes overly loud in class. Right now his face had twisted into mild discomfort because of the fall alone, and the laughter changed it to outright anguish.
Bree scrunched up her nose in disgust.
“Jerks. He could be really hurt.”
I watched Jace get up after a moment, debating whether or not we should go help him. I really wasn’t the type to do that, though. It would have meant drawing attention to myself. Besides, I knew little bumps like that were nothing to strong kids like us. Jace was up and running in moments, the laughter now all but forgotten.
“He seems fine to me,” I said.
“Yeah, I guess. It’s not nice, though.”
“No, it’s not.”
We sat in silence for a moment, before compassion became boring.
“Hey, want to go play?”
And play we did, until the school bell signalled for Mr. Bob’s awesome lesson of awesomeness to start. Later it turned out not to be as awesome as I’d hoped. Not nearly. But by the time we ran into the school, I still had a blissfully ignorant smile on my face.
”Okay, everyone. I think you all have a story for us today,” said Mr. Bob as soon as we’d settled to our seats in class.
Bree and I shared a grin in anticipation. My grin died, however, when Mr. Bob continued:
“So now you all can take turns in telling that story out loud in front of the class.”
“What?” I hissed at Bree, “That’s not how it works!”
“Um… yeah, it can,” said Bree, “We’ve had to stand in front of the class dozens of times.”
Yes. Dozens of awful, awful times when I stuttered like mad and my hands started shaking and after I’d got my part done I always did a perfect imitation of a cell phone on mute: silent and trembling.
“If you girls are so eager to start, then you can,” said Bob with a pleasant smile. At the moment he was way less awesome than usually, “Bree, come on.”
Bree cast me a slightly annoyed look and stood up. She went to the front of the class shyly, leaving her story on the desk. She took a few deep breaths, and then started. She really had nothing to worry about.
Bree was a natural talker. Her voice was clear and strong and she could make her story come to life with her wildly gesturing hands and the tones of her voice. Not to mention her apparent shyness disappeared the moment she started talking. It was an alright story too. There was a raspberry cake, and a dolphin, and so many different ways one could get in trouble for driving a car too fast. In the end we all laughed, but it was a nice sort of laugh, the kind the story was intended to cause.
When she was done, and we’d stopped giggling, we all clapped politely and Bob nodded to her.
“Well done, Bree. That was a great start for the fun. Now it’s Marilynn’s turn.”
I hesitated, wringing my hands around my story so that it got all crumpled up. Bree sat next to me and smiled encouragingly. I bit my lip and stuffed my wrinkled story into my pocket. Then I walked to the front, with Bob giving me a thumbs-up in the way.
I could have taken out my story and just read it. Actually, I wouldn’t have needed the notes to tell it. I’d had so much fun with it that it had stuck in my head in the writing phase. There was a starfish who saw a bunch of angry chickens dumping a smaller chicken into the mud, and the starfish chased them away, and they became friends and had all sorts of adventures that I had put down on paper much better than how it was in my mind right now. But the words wouldn’t come out.
My hands started shaking, and my legs felt weak. It was always the same, but never this bad. Other times it was just some geography presentations about countries, or writing maths homework on the old blackboard. But now it was about my story. I’d never read my stories out loud to anyone. I managed to squeak out something, and my throat felt closed. I looked at my classmates, and heard something past my too loud breathing.
They were laughing at me. Almost all of them. It wasn’t the nice kind of laugh either.
I did the only thing I could think of, and ran. My legs were shaky and I stumbled, but I managed to get out of the door, with the laughter and my heartbeat deafening in my ears.
Out in the hall, I took a few deep breaths, trying to steady myself. Why did I freak out so badly? I knew I was anxious whenever I had to step up in front of people and speak, but this…
It had to be because of the story. The story didn’t want to come out of my mouth and wanted to stay firmly on paper.
The door to our classroom opened, and Bree walked out to me.
“Mr. Bob let me go after you,” she said, “I think he’s pretty mad at the others.”
“I don’t really care,” I said quietly.
“Hey, you don’t have to be upset by those jerks,” Bree said, “You know how they can be. I mean, we laugh at people sometimes too.”
“Yeah…” I said almost fondly, “Does Mr. Bob still want me to tell my story?”
Bree shook her head.
“He said you didn’t have to do it now. But you should get back to class.”
As if on impulse, Bree stepped forward and hugged me.
“Hey, if they laugh at you again, I’ll yell at them for you!” she said.
I went rigid for a while, because outside of family members, I didn’t usually hug or touch anyone. Bree tended to be a cuddly sort of friend. Sometimes it annoyed me a bit, but at this moment it was more than called for.
“Thanks, Bree,” I said.
“Let’s go back inside. I’m sure Mr. Bob’s done frowning at the others.
Despite Bree’s support, I wasn’t really in the mood to go outside to face my peers. I sneaked into the library when the next break started, wary of not getting caught because students weren’t supposed to “loiter” indoors during breaks.
The library was always my safe haven in the school. When I wasn’t feeling alright or when I just wanted a moment of calm, I went there. Most of the other students avoided it whenever they had no business there, so I could sit in silence and read the books. Even the fed-up-with-his-life librarian had learned not to bother me.
This time my peace was disrupted by soft footfalls and a voice that sounded sheepish:
I looked at Jace Herring, who’d been sitting in the front row in class, laughing like most of the others. I snorted. What was he doing here? If he wanted to keep making fun of me, then he-
“I’m sorry about laughing at you,” Jace said, derailing my train of thought.
“Wait, what?” I managed to ask. Then a thought occurred to me. I jumped up from my seat.
“Wait a minute, did Mr. Bob put you up for this? Is that why you’re being so nice?”
“No!” Jace said defensively. His deep green eyes actually did seem to be filled with regret. And I had to blame Rem for this, but I think I could almost hear his guilt, “I came to find you all by myself! Bree told me you’d be here, and that you wanted to be alone, but I just thought…”
His speech was getting faster, more like babbling. He seemed nervous, and really embarrassed. It was actually very touching.
“Alright, I believe you,” I said, feeling a tiny smile tugging at my lips, “And it’s okay.”
I actually laughed a little.
“So you laughed, big deal. I mean, it’s not like I stood up for you at the playground. Sorry about that.”
“Hey, that’s okay, too,” Jace smiled with relief, “So we’re cool?”
“Yeah, we’re cool.”
Jace left me after that, looking kind of awkward. I sat back down in the armchair that was way less soft than it looked – and it didn’t even look like the softest seat in the world – still not feeling quite ready to go out. But it seemed I couldn’t be left alone in the library for five minutes today, because soon enough Mr. Bob sat down next to me and smiled.
“Hey,” he said, “My nephew told me I’d find you here.”
“Great, everyone’s ratting out my spot today. Am I in trouble for staying indoors?”
“Nah, I’m not telling anyone,” Mr. Bob said, “It seemed like you needed some time alone anyway.”
“Are you failing me for not telling my story out loud?” I asked.
“Not this time, as long as I can still read it, if that’s fine.”
I was taken aback. Mr. Bob’s awesomeness had returned with a vengeance. I reached into my pocket, suddenly nervous again, and handed the crumpled story to Mr. Bob. He smoothed the pages out carefully and read it in silence, actually laughing quietly at some parts. Once he was finished, he handed it back to me and grinned.
“Yep, you’re definitely not failing,” then his smile turned into a frown, “But I’m really sorry your classmates laughed. You can bet I gave them a good telling off while you were in the hall.”
“Well, I guess I just have to work on my talking,” I said shyly.
“Hey, not everyone is going to be a great talker,” Mr. Bob said, “That doesn’t mean they can’t find a way to express themselves. I know a guy who’s best at getting his messages out with ice cream sticks and glue!”
“And you, Marilynn, are clearly great at getting your stories on paper.”
“I… thank you,” I realised I was blushing. I still didn’t know what to do with compliments, but this one felt especially nice.
Mr. Bob stood.
“Now, go outside before I have to scold you for loitering.”
Bree and I chose to play with Jace that day. And the day after that. And soon it became normal to see the three of us together. What started out as general kindness had become friendship sooner than I’d even realised.
When I told about becoming friends with Jace to my family, mum was especially happy. She’d been worried that I’d become too dependent on one friend or something. She sometimes even said it our loud, much to my annoyance. Patrick seemed happy too.
“He’s Mr. Herring’s nephew?” he asked enthusiastically, “Well, if his parents are anything like Mr. Herring, then he’s going to be great company!”
“You just like him because of biogas,” I said.
Patrick just smiled.
“Hey, biogas is a great reason to like someone.”
“Well, Mr. Bob really is awesome,” I said, “and Jace is real nice too.”
Rem had been sitting and listening to us with a smile on his face. Then he said:
“He’s your first prince.”
“What?” I asked.
“Prince,” Rem repeated, “Like a hero boy who helped you, and you’ll help him.”
I sighed. I suppose I’d helped Rem’s fairy tale logic along by reading to him sometimes when he’d been too young to read himself. So in a way I’d had this coming, maybe.
“He didn’t so much help me as was just a little less of a jerk than the others,” I said, “And he’s not my boyfriend or anything, that’s gross. Also, I’m not a princess. That’s baby girl stuff.”
Rem nodded sagely.
“No, not a princess. You’re a phoenix.”
“What? I’m a bird that comes back to life after burning?”
It was meant to be a joke, but Rem nodded again.
“You’ll become stronger for it. We’ll all have to be strong when the danger starts.”
I’d just replied with a very cynical “Yeah, right. Sure.” and left it at that. And for a couple of years, my dubiousness really worked fine. Then one day I saw a glimpse of a man stopping near our porch and standing there for a while.
I didn’t think much of it back then, but in retrospect, I probably should have noted the bad feeling the passing glimpse to the man had given me.