*Beep beep beep*
*Beep beep beep*
“Wait… what? Who is this?”
“Oh? I… Look, doctor, I don’t… I…”
“I… I don’t know. I just… Really?”
“Look, I have to think about this. Uh-huh. Okay, thank you…”
“Donna, I… hey, what’s wrong?”
“I just… nothing. Just worried. Thinking about… kids.”
“I know I keep doing it and I should already get over it, but I…”
“Hey, hey. Come here.”
“It’ll be alright.”
I was feeling a bit surreal. Not melty-clock surreal, but just… a bit floaty and weird. Tomorrow I’d turn eighteen years old. I’d be an adult. And we’d celebrate this milestone with friends, family, cake and candles. And after that I could visit a local bar and have a drink legally for the first time in my life. It wasn’t something I waited for the most, but it was a rite of passage I wanted to try. It wouldn’t be anything too special, really. I wasn’t expecting to somehow become different overnight. I wouldn’t twirl around and turn more mature or be suddenly taken more seriously… okay, well, I might be taken more seriously by some, but not in a way that would matter. But there was still something almost magical about it all.
Besides, Bree and Jace would visit. That was definitely awesome. They’d promised to arrive soon after my school day ended, and I’d promised to be there to meet them. And so had Min, who had jumped at the chance to see Jace when she’d heard that he was coming to town.
So in the afternoon we stood in the rapidly melting snow – the proper winter days in Sunset Valley didn’t last long, if even that – and watched the yellow bus appear from behind a corner, and we greeted and hugged our Twinbrook friends and Bree teased Jace and Min for letting their hugs and kisses last a bit longer than necessary.
“Get a room, you two,” she said with a playful grin on her face, “Oh, who am I kidding? You guys are adorable!”
“Aaaand there goes the mood,” Jace rolled his eyes, and then smiled at me, “Hey, Lynn! It’s been way too long again!”
He hugged me briefly, maybe a bit too quickly, and I wondered if he was afraid he’d make Min jealous. Or maybe he was just remembering that disastrous kiss from almost two years ago. Bree and Min exchanged quick fist pumps and then the greetings turned into conversation. Mostly about the birthday party.
“This is gonna be great!” Bree gushed, “I love birthdays; they’re a great excuse to travel all the way here to spend time with friends!”
“You don’t need excuses for that,” I said.
“I know. But I’m soooo busy all the time! My violin teacher is determined to bury me under a mountain of sheet music! And I have so much schoolwork it’s crazy!”
“But let’s forget about all that! Now we’ll celebrate and have fun!”
She caught me in a one-armed hug and practically led me, Jace, Min, and a bunch of luggage towards our house.
We had a system for the few times Bree and Jace visited us overnight. Jace got the spare bunk in Rem’s room and Bree put up a sleeping bag in my room. We’d watch films and play video games and eat snacks. Sometimes Rem might join us, but for the most part he let me have my friends. He usually disappeared to either play with Merrill or to draw or paint. Today he and Patrick were in the kitchen, where Patrick was trying to teach him how to bake good cookies for my birthday party. Mum took care of Merrill this time, so Bree, Jace and I could just focus on spending time together. Min came to our place with us too, and we laughed together at some comedy about robots for an hour and a half and then played some fighting games together. We chatted and asked each other how we were doing. You know, typical friend stuff. I let myself relax and stop worrying. If I had to think about the future, I only had to think about how much fun tomorrow would be. I didn’t want to think about studies or family issues, so instead I let myself laugh at Jace’s silly jokes and cheer when Bree beat an especially even fight during our game.
“Oh, come on!” Jace whined after the match, “I would have so beat this one if you guys stopped spamming such cheap moves.”
“Oh, get over it,” Min smacked him lightly in the arm, “Bree was being awesome and you know it.”
Bree smiled with fake smugness.
“Yup. It’s not my fault you suck at this.”
“Okay, that’s it! I demand a rematch!”
“Oh, you’re on!” Bree smirked, “Prepare to be crushed!”
She was indeed being awesome.
The night seemed to come way too quickly that day. Min had to leave before her dad got worried, and mum told us to start getting to bed around eleven o’clock. Usually we could stay up later, but this time we needed to get ready for the guests tomorrow so we couldn’t sleep all the way to noon. So Bree and I trudged upstairs and brushed our teeth. After we’d put on our pyjamas, I flopped onto my bed. Bree sat down onto the floor next to her sleeping bag and smiled up at me.
“You tired yet?” she asked.
“A little bit,” I said, “But not too much. Wanna talk?”
“That’s what sleepovers are for, right?”
Bree was quiet for a moment. The faint light coming from my reading lamp accented the pretty curve of her cheek.
“You know,” she said in an oddly sombre tone, “I really wish you’d still be in Twinbrook. It was much more fun with you around.”
“Really?” I asked, “Don’t you have dozens of other friends?”
“Well, yeah, but not friend-friends like you. I mean, there’s Jace, and a couple of others, but still… I’ve been thinking… would it be possible for us to go to university together? I mean, you’re going, right?”
“Really? I mean… yeah. I’m going, but I haven’t thought about the place yet. You know I’d like to write… maybe go to journalism like mum, or just study Simlish and literature.”
“I’ve thought about Sim State University,” Bree said, “I want to study international politics there. Maybe become a researcher or start working in an embassy or something. I checked, and they have awesome literature studies there too. Journalism as well. And it’s not too far away. Just a three-hour drive from here. Two and a half if we take the train. You could still visit this place, and I could visit Twinbrook. Even that’s just a five-hour drive away from Sim State.”
“Five hours is a long time.”
“Not too long, really. It could be way longer, considering how big this country alone is.”
I hummed thoughtfully. It sounded good. Almost too good. I’d love to study with Bree. Maybe Jace or Min could come too. We could maybe put our money together and rent an actual apartment instead of staying in a dorm… I noticed that my mind was already brewing all sorts of ideas and plans.
“That does sound great,” I finally said, “I’d love to study with you.”
“Great! Let’s work on that, then!” Bree smiled, “It’s pretty tough to get in to Sim State, though. So we both have to study a lot. I’ve asked Jace too, and he’s trying to get a scholarship by continuing to be a sports star. And I think you’ll get in without any trouble.”
“My grades are pretty average, really,” I said.
“But you’re smart! I know you can do it.”
I leaned my head on the bed and looked at Bree. I had the sudden urge to reach out and hold her hand. I didn’t, though. I just smiled at her.
“Thanks, Bree,” I said, “You’re awesome.”
The morning of my birthday dawned crisp and with a snowfall that I knew wouldn’t last. During the first years we’d been living in Sunset Valley, the shortness and sometimes an almost complete lack of winter had surprised me, but for a summer person the long summers had quickly become a welcome routine. Still, there was still something odd about my previously winter birthdays becoming spring birthdays. Sometimes I felt like the human mind got caught up in the most trivial things.
I got up early, put on some clothes I really liked and went downstairs only to be greeted with birthday hugs and a present from my family, who’d apparently made a point of getting up even earlier than me.
The guests arrived in the evening. Min and Michel came over, followed soon by Grandma and Grandpa, who gave me a couple of books I’d wanted for a while.
“You sure you still got room in your bookshelf?” Rem asked jokingly, and I rolled my eyes at him.
“I’ll make room.”
“Uh-huh. Soon it’s going to explode.”
Rem suddenly fell silent and his ears twitched, and then the doorbell rang. I walked up to it, wondering who it could be. Everyone that was supposed to be here was already present. I froze when I realised that behind the door stood… Sabine?
She looked tired, but she had actually made it all the way to our house. I was stunned for a moment, but then she smiled her small, almost unnoticeable smile, and I knew she was really there.
“I was invited by Mr. Monsoon-Farley,” Sabine said as an explanation, “I thought coming here would be the least I can do, considering all you’ve done to help me.”
She smiled again.
“So, eighteen years old. That’s a milestone right there. Happy birthday.”
I couldn’t have even guessed beforehand how happy Sabine being there made me. It was an unexpected thing that just seemed to complete the day. In a slightly grumpy, quiet way.
Sabine didn’t take off her winter clothes or start singing any birthday songs and didn’t even try the cake, but she chatted with people, especially with mum and Patrick, and seemed to enjoy herself. She didn’t seem to get too creeped out when Rem at one point stopped to stare at her with wide eyes for almost a whole minute until I punched him in the arm so he would stop.
She even joined the others when they started a semi-joking clapping and cheering session – started by Michel – when I blew out the candles on my cake.
She left way before the others, though, and I knew why. She got tired very easily, and often took naps even when I was visiting her. She grabbed her sleek cane and leaned to it.
“Well, this was nice,” she said, “Thank you for letting an old lady crash your party, and thank your father again for inviting me.”
“I will,” I said, “And I’ll be at your place tomorrow to help with the groceries again.”
“Well, don’t let me keep you from the festivities,” she sighed and looked around, her eyes shining as if seeing something from the past, “It’s been a long time since I’ve been to any kind of party.”
She said it so wistfully. For a moment I thought I could see a bit of the pains and the sadness she kept hidden from everyone. Then the moment was gone and she waved me goodbye and then she was gone too.
“She seems cool. But lonely.”
I started and looked at Bree, who had come to stand behind me. She looked at the door where Sabine had just gone through.
“So, she was your boss, right?”
“Sort of,” I said.
“She’s the town witch,” Michel piped in, “Or so they say. I’ve never really seen her before much, really. She didn’t seem too witchy to me.”
“She’s not a witch,” Rem said, “But she is… never mind.”
I narrowed my eyes. The others looked at Rem oddly, but he was already going back to the living room and left Bree, Michel and I into the hall. I shrugged my shoulders.
“You guys should know by now that he tends to say weird things.”
“I heard that, Lynn!”
“Freedom of speech, little brother,” I said theatrically.
“Mum hates it when people abuse that!”
“Yes, I do,” said mum, who had been sitting at the kitchen table and talking with Grandpa Lórccan, “Even as a joke.”
“Yeah… that was a bad one, wasn’t it?” I sighed, and then laughed. It felt really easy to laugh that day.
I was even smiling when the party was over and Bree and Jace had been escorted to the bus that would take them back to Twinbrook. I was going to bed when I noticed Rem trying to get my attention by creepily standing at the door to his room and waving at me.
“What?” I asked, “If you wanna talk, you can just say so.”
“I know… I just… Sabine… she’s sick, isn’t she?”
I shook my head and felt a frown creasing my face.
“I don’t know. She hasn’t told me. Then again, she doesn’t tell me much. She is tired often, though. But she’s old, and that’s what happens when you’re old.”
A thought suddenly occurred to me and made everything feel much more ominous.
“You saw stuff again, didn’t you?”
Rem hesitated for a moment, but then nodded.
“Not much,” he said, “I just know she’s sick. There’s little shadows around her sometimes. Like sparks, but made of darkness. I wish I could make sense of it better.”
I wrapped my arms around myself.
“Go to bed,” I then said, sounding a little harsher than I’d intended, “That’s… not something you should be seeing, or thinking about. She seems fine now.”
“I know,” Rem said apologetically, “I’m sorry.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. All the happiness was gone already.
“It’s okay. I mean, you can’t help it. Besides, maybe I can help her if she really is sick. I’ll ask her tomorrow.”
Rem’s face brightened a little.
“Okay,” he said, sounding awfully young again. He slipped into his room, and I tried my best to get some sleep.
After I’d helped Sabine with her groceries the next day, we sat down again in her living room and watched some rather old film about a growing up and time travel. This one I knew about, and liked quite a lot. I pretended to focus on watching, but I kept turning Rem’s words around and around in my head. Then I kept thinking about Sabine’s frequent naps and the fact that she couldn’t walk long distances properly anymore.
She looked worn, but then again, she’d looked that way for as long as I’d known her. Which to be fair wasn’t for very long. But there was still this… strength about her. Like she was a rock that would get worn but not broken.
Finally, I had to ask:
“Hey, Sabine? Are you feeling alright?”
“Hm?” Sabine looked at me as if she had been way too lost into the world of the film for a moment, “Why do you ask? I feel fine… for my age.”
“It’s just that…” I sighed, “You seem to be more tired than before. And I was just wondering…”
Sabine’s face suddenly gained this deeply sad and weary expression. I’d seen glimpses of it before, but I could only now really see it.
“Lynn,” she said very seriously, “You don’t have to worry about me.”
“Yes, I do!” I snapped, suddenly feeling angry. Sabine looked at me, shocked. I probably hadn’t raised my voice in front of her before. We both fell silent, looking at each other for a long while, the film on TV forgotten. Then Sabine smiled very weakly.
“I’m just old, Lynn,” she said, “I’ve seen a lot and I’ve lived for a long time. I can handle a lot life throws my way.”
She paused, looking into the past.
“But one thing I don’t want to deal with is bad blood with people I care about.”
“There’s no bad blood between us,” I said at once, “I just want to help you.”
“I know. But you’re already helping enough. And I take good care of myself. But thank you, really. For being here, and for putting up with me.”
I frowned, but didn’t know what to say. Sabine sighed as if trying to expel a very persistent sorrow she knew would never go away.
“Those letters you found…” she said slowly, as if each word pained her, “They were from my son.”
I stared at her, my lungs forgetting what they were supposed to do for a moment. I’d almost forgotten about the letters. I didn’t even care about them anymore. But now…
“Your son?” I repeated.
“It was a long time ago. He was a soldier. And we… we argued not long before he left to…”
She trailed off and couldn’t finish the sentence. I could put the pieces together well enough despite that and felt something turn hollow in my stomach.
“I’m so sorry,” was all I could say.
Sabine didn’t say anything. She didn’t even look like she was waiting for me to continue the conversation either. She had just wanted to share that and nothing more. I still had to ask at least an innocent:
“What was his name?”
Sabine looked like she didn’t want to answer even that, but then she smiled fondly at some memory.
“Félix,” she said.
I put my hand on her shoulder for a little while. Sabine smiled again.
“You know what? I think I’d like to play some music now.”
“Oh? I… go ahead.”
I knew it was just her changing the subject, but I let her. I supposed it was her business, after all. We didn’t talk at all for the rest of my visit. I followed her upstairs and listened to her play for almost an hour before she started feeling tired. She went to bed, and in no time she was asleep.
I didn’t want to leave her, but I knew there wasn’t much I could do. So I left. I had promised to meet with Michel at a local pub named The Little Corner for my first proper drink anyway. I made a mental note to visit Sabine even more than before, and then I headed for the pub. I had a feeling I wouldn’t be in the partying mood, though.
I walked to The Little Corner, and Michel was waiting for me there. He grinned and waved and I managed a half-smile back.
“Okay, Lynn. You ready for the rite of passage?”
“I sure am,” I said. Michel frowned at my lack of enthusiasm, but then he ushered me inside.
I had to admit that the feeling of stepping into the building and knowing I was an actual customer was pretty awesome. Sure, I’d been to bars before, but only during the day and mum had been pretty strict about not drinking before eighteen. Sure, I’d tasted beer, but found it didn’t taste anything special, and I’d always been shy and introverted enough to never really get the appeal of partying or gathering together for some secret alcohol-tasting. But now it was different. It was legal and now I was actually curious about it.
The Little Corner was a small pub that tried very hard – and in some ways even succeeded – to be Irish. It smelled like varnish and spilled beer, but it was still pretty welcoming. It had nice green walls and a warm wooden floor, and a friendly young man named Gage Briody behind the bar. Michel led me to the bar and then nodded towards the drink menu on the wall.
“The first one is on me. Happy birthday.”
I looked at the names. They were mostly beer labels followed by some cocktails and some stronger stuff. I thought about it for a while and then ended up ordering a beer from the tap and some kind of mild cherry and lemon flavoured cocktail. Michel ordered a stout in a large glass. He raised his glass and waited until I’d also got a glass in my hand.
“Here’s to being awesome. And not dying yet.”
“Oh, come on. I’m not nearly old enough to start thinking of birthdays as just ‘not dying’,” I said.
Then I thought back to my past. To the fires and the gunshots and thought that maybe I was old enough. Or at least I had seen enough. Sometimes life was twisted that way.
The beer was kind of bitter and I wasn’t a fan of it, but the cherry-lemon drink was delicious. None of it was enough to make me feel anything other than slightly more cheerful and light of feet. Soon Michel and I were laughing and I was jokingly quizzing him on his upcoming entrance exams.
“You’ve got to remember this even when drunk,” I giggled.
“Hey, this isn’t even close to being drunk!” Michel said.
“Well, then you suck because you can’t remember it even when sober!”
I laughed again, this time a bit louder. I looked at the half-empty glasses in front of me and thought about how arbitrary a line eighteen was. But the line had to be somewhere, and even though it wasn’t really magical, it still felt different. I was now officially in charge of my life. I knew I wasn’t completely ready for that, but I also felt like I’d now been handed the keys to so many places. In that moment I could imagine that I had power to get through our obstacles and to shape my life into anything I wanted, family problems and future troubles be damned.
“Thank you for agreeing to see me, Mrs. Brooke. I’m Doctor Brian Hillstrandt.”
“Pleased to meet you… though I’m also surprised, as you can guess.”
“Of course. I have been thinking about this a lot. About calling you. After your outburst here at the hospital-“
“I’m sorry about that. That was completely uncalled for. I… I don’t know what came over me.”
“I think you do. I called you here because I think you are onto something.”
“I think we should sit down first.”
“You talked about fairies, didn’t you, Mrs. Brooke? Don’t worry; I made sure no one can listen in on us. Well, didn’t you?”
“I… maybe. I don’t remember…”
“Ah, yes. You did spend some time at the psych ward after that… medication can do that, as can the heat of the moment.”
“What is this about, Mr. Hillstrandt? On the phone you said it had something to do with… with my son. Nathaniel.”
“Yes. I am simply trying to make sense of something. A curious incident that happened after a family was brought here after a shootout at the beach.”
“It was in the news. Yes.”
“The family of Monsoon-Farley.”
“I… what? Isn’t that confidential?”
“Yes. It is. And I trust you not to tell anyone. But this could be more important than any of that. I checked the records. I’ve done my research. You were married to Mr. Monsoon, weren’t you?”
“And you blamed the hospital for stealing your firstborn baby soon after the birth.”
“That case was closed ages ago. No one thinks it was true.”
“But you do, don’t you? Someone, or something took your child away from you.”
“I called you here because I need your help, Donna. You and I could perhaps uncover this together.”
“How? Even I think it sounds insane.”
“Yes, it does. But I believe you. Because I saw one of them.”
“You did? You saw a fairy?”
“Yes. A woman was killed in the incident I mentioned earlier. Her body was… it wasn’t human. The strange thing was that no one else seemed to remember it at all. There are no records of the woman even being in our morgue or being taken away by the police. I seem to be the only one who remembers anything amiss at all. So imagine my surprise when you walked in… claiming that someone had stolen your child. And when it turned out that you were connected to this family.”
“So what do you say, Donna? Do you want to help me? Who knows, together we could perhaps even find your son, if he’s still alive.”
“Yes. I’d love to help you.”
Author’s Note: Well, I’d say there’s at least SOME plot going on… Also I’m trying not to do a retread of the first story arc’s plot even though I feel like I kind of am… Except not. I don’t know.
Also Lynn is growing! I have to age her up for reals soon! I based the drinking age of SimNation to the one we have in Finland (and in many other countries).
What else… uh… well, it’s been a while. I was doing NaNo throughout November (and I won! Yay!), and I was also a part of our university theatre’s scrip writing -team, so I put my SimLit somewhat on hold for that time. As for December… I’ve had a lot of schoolwork and other stuff. But I figured I’d get this out before Christmas so yay?
Also this story will be on Book Club in The Sims Forums from 2- 8 January, so if you feel like discussing it, then drop by there then. 🙂
I hope you enjoyed and have a lovely time!