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A Specter Legacy Ch 13

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A Specter Legacy Ch 13

  1. 1. Ch 13 Soundtrack: Tall Tales for Spring, Vanessa Carlton; Between Sheets (Instrumental Version), Imogen Heap; We Own the Night (feat. Pixie Lott), Selena Gomez & The Scene; Everything Is Everything, Lauryn Hill; Loose Ends, Imogen Heap; Piece of Me (Tiesto Radio Edit), Britney Spears; A Piece of Peace, Kingdom Hearts Soundtrack
  2. 2. Greetings simmers and welcome to another installment of A Specter Legacy. It’s chapter thirteen and generation two still doesn’t have an heir. I think I might go cry a little. But never mind about all that; I’m sure you all just wanna know what happens next, so here it is: Specter family vacation time. But first, a little detour…
  3. 3. Liz took a shaky breath and sat down. She’d thrown up again. It was the second time that morning. Maybe if she was someone else she could pretend that she didn’t know what it meant. Hell, maybe if she were someone else she could pretend that the news was happy news. But it wasn’t. All it did was remind her of Zeph.
  4. 4. It had been a few days since she last saw him. He hadn’t been at home when she returned from the fundraiser and she hadn’t heard from him since. Not that she’d expected him to after what he’d said. And what she’d said. Still, that night put things in perspective. How were she and Zeph supposed to handle a baby when they couldn’t even manage to tell each other the truth? Could she count on him to be there when she needed him most? Or would he simply disappear into the night again?
  5. 5. She didn’t know, and Liz wasn’t sure if she’d ever know. That was the problem. She sighed. It looked like she had some tough decisions to make.
  6. 6. When she got into bed that night and Zeph still hadn’t returned, she realized that this would be her life now. She’d have to figure things out on her on.
  7. 7. She wouldn’t ever be able to rely on Zeph completely, just like he would never truly confide in her. *****
  8. 8. “Okay, kids, do you have everything?” Melanie called over her shoulder. “That depends on what you mean by everything,” Rose answered. “I mean, I can’t bring my boyfriend, but I did remember to pack my bathing suit.” “Great! Paige, you coming?” “Yes, mother; I’ve just got to grab this last bag of books.”
  9. 9. “Alright everybody in,” Asher said as he loaded bags into the car. “And Rose, no long faces—this vacation’s all about fun!” “Riiight.” ******
  10. 10. Several hours later, the Specters were standing in front of their cabin. “Hey, kids, gather over here for a sec before you run off. Your mother and I want to lay down some ground rules.” The kids groaned.
  11. 11. “Relax. It’s nothing too taxing I promise. Now, we’ve got the whole place to ourselves, so remember to clean up after yourselves. The town is close by—within walking distance--and you all are free to go, but tell us first.” “Right,” Asher agreed. “Now, since this is a vacation for your mom and me too, I’ll say this. I don’t want to see or hear any of you except at meal times.”
  12. 12. “Asher!” “I’m serious. I don’t want to break up any fights and generally, if you want to ask me for something, the answer’s going to be no—I’m on break. Everybody got that?”
  13. 13. Melanie rolled her eyes while the kids snickered. “One last thing. One of the bedrooms is bigger than the others so—” “Please tell me Rose and I don’t have to share,” Sydney blurted. “Yeah, I wanna have my own room for once,” Rose pleaded. “So you’ll have to decide who gets it,” Melanie finished, smiling. “And no one has to share, alright?”
  14. 14. “Yes!” “Woo!” “Oh, and before I forget—let’s take a family picture!” “Aw, mom…” “Do we have to?”
  15. 15. “Oh, come on. Everybody squish together and smile.”
  16. 16. “There that wasn’t so bad, was it? You’re officially on your own now.”
  17. 17. Rose turned to her siblings as their parents walked off into the house. “Alright,” she said. “Let’s decide the rooms now and get it out of the way. How about rock, paper, scissors?” “Why do you get to be in charge?” “Oh, don’t start, Syd,” Spencer groaned. “That’s fine, Rose. I’ll—” “Play Paige and I will play Rose. Winners will play each for the room,” Syd cut in.
  18. 18. “Whatever,” Spence agreed. “Okay, Syd. Here we go. Rock, Paper, Scissors—”
  19. 19. “Yes!”
  20. 20. “I win, I win!” Sydney sang. “Sydney, this will take all day if you sing and dance after each round,” Paige noted. “Don’t ruin my fun,” Sydney retorted.
  21. 21. The next few hands were a draw, however.
  22. 22. Spencer sighed. “Okay, this is taking forever. How about me and you get this over with already?” he asked, turning to Paige. “Agreed.”
  23. 23. “You are aware of your imminent loss, are you not? I believe the last time we played this game I creamed you.” “No, I believe I creamed you. Now bring it on blondie—I want that room.”
  24. 24. Theirs was a quick battle. Spencer won a hand or two but ultimately lost to his younger sister.
  25. 25. The two laughed it off. “Alright, fair’s fair. I guess I’m out,” Spencer conceded. “Better luck next time?” “Yeah, yeah.”
  26. 26. Others weren’t so easy going about their loss. “No fair, you cheated!” Sydney stomped, screaming after her last loss. “Syd, it’s rock, paper scissors,” Rose said, exasperated. “One more round!” Rose rolled her eyes and agreed, but Sydney only lost again.
  27. 27. “It is time to accept the realities of the game, sister. You have lost.” “Oh, shut up Paige.” “Hey, don’t be mean to her—” Sydney cut Rose off. “Just because I lost doesn’t mean you get to boss me around.”
  28. 28. Sydney stormed off in a huff. “Wha? Aw, Syd, come back! Don’t be like that!” Rose sighed. “I guess, we better give her some time to cool down.”
  29. 29. She turned to Paige. “You’re not going to freak out on me if you lose, are you?” “Of course not. I am infinitely more mature than Sydney.” “Hey, be nice. Okay, let’s get this show on the road.”
  30. 30. Five minutes later and Paige had the big bedroom.
  31. 31. “Sweet. Good game, Rose.” Rose laughed. “Sure. Enjoy the room, kiddo.” *****
  32. 32. After the room assignments were settled, everyone wandered off to do her own thing and relax. Paige could be found outside under the trees, reading in the hammock.
  33. 33. Surprisingly Rose stayed indoors for a bit, getting in some much needed time to work on her music. Spending all that time with Heath meant she didn’t get to play as much anymore and she missed learning to play a new song and writing her own ones, figuring out lyrics and melodies.
  34. 34. Sydney decided to give axe throwing a try and found herself getting very involved in it.
  35. 35. While Spencer greeted a passerby and began making a new friend.
  36. 36. And Melanie and Asher staked out the hot tub. “Ah, this is nice,” Asher smiled. “I feel like I never have time to relax at home. And I definitely don’t have enough alone time with you.” Asher wiggled his brows suggestively. Melanie grinned. “Oh, agreed. But there is something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.” She paused. “Mind if we talk first?”
  37. 37. “Of course not.” “Well, it’s about your father, actually.” Asher frowned. “What about him?” “It’s been years, Asher. The kids are almost grown. Don’t you think it’s time to make up?”
  38. 38. “How can you say that? I told you about the legacy—about what he wants our kids to go through.” “You did…” Melanie trailed off, unsure of how to proceed. “But?” Asher prompted. A corner of Melanie’s mouth turned up. “But just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean you should never see your father again.”
  39. 39. “Normally I’d agree, Mel, but this is life or death stuff here! This isn’t just a simple disagreement about—I don’t know ice cream flavors or something. Lives are at stake here.” “I understand that and in fact that’s exactly what I mean.” Asher looked at her blankly. “Ash, your father probably doesn’t have much time left. I mean, forget the fact he’ll never really know his grandkids—don’t you want to say goodbye to him? Talk to him one last time?”
  40. 40. “Well—” “I mean, he’s your father,” Melanie exclaimed. “He could be dead already for all you know! Doesn’t that bother you?” Asher looked at her. “Some things had to be sacrificed…” “But your family? It just seems so weird, Ash. I mean, it’s not even just your father—you haven’t seen your siblings in years either.”
  41. 41. “Aren’t you the least bit concerned?” “And I thought I was the worrier. Look, Melanie, everything’s fine, just relax.” “But—” “I really, really don’t want to talk about this, especially not now. We’re on vacation for Plumbbob’s sake. I don’t want to spend our time together arguing.”
  42. 42. Melanie sighed and leaned into Asher’s arms. “Promise me that you’ll at least start thinking about it?” “I can do that,” Asher replied, touching his nose with his wife’s. *****
  43. 43. “Okay, you ready?” The next day Rose found herself outside. She had finally gotten her sister to agree to try out logrolling.
  44. 44. “Woah!” Sydney wobbled. “Careful, you—” “I’m fine; I don’t need your tips! Just prepare to lose!”
  45. 45. “You sure about that?” Rose teased, splashing water in Sydney’s direction. “Hey!” “All’s fair in war!” “Alright then, you’re on!”
  46. 46. Sydney went down first. “Aw, geez, Syd, that looked like it hurt. You okay?”
  47. 47. Sydney rose, gasping for air and trying to get the water out her nose. “Revenge,” she coughed.
  48. 48. “Victory!” Sydney screamed as her sister went down. She would have done a victory dance but she didn’t want to fall again.
  49. 49. “Come on, get up, I wanna dunk you again!” “Give me a sec, geez, Syd.” Rose pulled herself out of the water. “I think I have water in my ears.” “Aw, don’t be a baby—let’s go!”
  50. 50. “Is that all you got?” Rose jumped onto the log. The pair continued the game all morning, having fun dunking the other and yelling out taunts and insults.
  51. 51. Rose lost quite a few rounds, but then, so did Sydney.
  52. 52. Though Rose seemed to be more okay with losing. “Whee!”
  53. 53. “Phew,” Rose took a deep breath; they’d both fallen off in that last round. “I think I’m going to call a day, Syd.” “What?” Sydney stopped stretching. “But you can’t!” “Yes I can. I’m pooped. Plus I got enough water in my nose to put out a small fire. I’m done for now.” “But we’re still tied!” she protested.
  54. 54. Sydney ran over. “Come on, just one more round!” Rose shrugged. “I’m tired, Syd. Can’t we just play again later?” “But how will we know who won?! We can’t just stop, there has to be a winner. Just let me beat you one more—” Rose groaned. “Is that what this is about? Geez, Syd, just give it up.”
  55. 55. “You’re just saying that cuz you’re afraid to lose! You know I’m better than you so—” “Oh, shut up!” “What?” “Look, I don’t care who wins, okay? I just wanna get a snack and then go lie down.”
  56. 56. “You always do this,” Sydney stamped her feet. “You can never let me win, you never let me be better than you, you always have to—” “What the hell are you talking about?” Rose snapped. “You’re the one with the problem. You’re being ridiculous, Sydney!” “Am not!” “Are too!”
  57. 57. Rose sighed. “Look, I don’t wanna deal with this right now. I’m tired and I’m going inside.” “Fine. Run away. We both know that you’re really just afraid to lose to me and admit that…” Sydney trailed off, a little stunned at the murderous look Rose was giving her. “T-that you’re just—” “Arrgh!” Rose screamed, cutting her sister off.
  58. 58. “You stupid little—arrgh, just shut up, okay? I can’t take this anymore!” “W-wha—” “I can’t stand you when you’re like this! I don’t have a problem, okay, Syd? YOU have the problem—YOU are afraid to lose and frankly, I don’t care anymore! You always get on my last nerve and ruin absolutely everything with your CONSTANT BITCHING!”
  59. 59. Sydney just stared at Rose, open mouthed and frozen in shock. “You never know when to let things go and you can never just have fun. Everything has to be a stupid little competition; everything always has to be about who’s better…”
  60. 60. “Well I’m done, okay? DONE! Count me out, I’m throwing in the towel, you officially win. Get this through your head: I’M NOT COMPETING WITH YOU. And I never was, but I concede, okay? You happy now?” Sydney stared at Rose. “I-I…” “And it’s obvious that we can’t do anything together without you going all psycho, so you know what? Leave me alone.”
  61. 61. “Don’t talk to me until you get a grip, ‘kay?” Rose said over her shoulder before she stomped off to the house. Sydney stood there looking after her. “What the hell...”
  62. 62. “I didn’t even do anything!” *****
  63. 63. Spencer found himself outside late that night, unable to sleep. He too had taken a nap that afternoon.
  64. 64. He didn’t mind being the only one awake. In fact, the quiet was kind of nice. Sometimes it felt like his sisters took up all the space around him.
  65. 65. That’s why he couldn’t wait for college. High school was fun but college would give him a chance to spread his wings a bit. Get away from his family and just focus on himself. Though he was sure Sydney would still try to drag him into a scheme or two every now and then, he thought smiling.
  66. 66. But then, Spencer wasn’t sure he’d have it any other way. *****
  67. 67. Actually, Spencer wasn’t the only one awake. Paige couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t explain it, her brain just felt restless, unable to quiet her thoughts. So that night she made her way down to the living room, hoping to find a good book in there, uninterested in the ones she’d brought.
  68. 68. “Hmm, non fiction or...” Her fingers paused. “Ah, this one looks good. Fiction it is.” First one’s the only son. Second, it’s the founder’s day. “What the—” Paige whirled around. She was the only one in the room. Still, she’d thought she’d heard…
  69. 69. “Don’t be silly,” she told herself and sat down to read. She made herself comfortable on the couch and settled in for a long read.
  70. 70. The wind blew outside the window and rustled the leaves of the big tree in front of the house. Paige shifted in her seat and was turning the page when she thought she felt a chill. A cold draft wafted over her shoulder and a soft voice whispered… The game is here. It’s all around. You kids are all on my playground now.
  71. 71. “Huh?” Startled, Paige looked up and scanned the room. Frowning, she stared across the room. She could have sworn she’d heard something. But there was nothing.
  72. 72. “Spencer, if that’s you… Or Sydney… It’s not funny, you guys.” She paused. “Guys?”
  73. 73. But no one answered her. No one jumped out and yelled boo. Paige became uneasy, her eyes darting all over the room, even to the window and the view of outside. The shadows drifting across the window pane only made her more ill at ease. Finally, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She was just tired. Her mind was playing tricks on her.
  74. 74. She looked back down on the page. The character was on a playground. Right, she breathed a sigh of relief. Game. Of course. Sometimes the mind connected random thoughts together. She continued reading.
  75. 75. Soon there’ll be a reckoning. Just wait your turn to die. Paige started, then slammed her book closed. Deep breaths, she told herself. Deep breaths and everything will be fine and nothing is here and everything is fine. *****
  76. 76. The next morning Paige found herself retracing her steps in the living room. “Okay… Okay, so I was sitting here… And then… But there wasn’t anyone…” she muttered to herself. Finally she stopped pacing and closed her eyes. Stretched. “I feel like I’m going crazy…” she whispered. The thought made her smile, however. “Well, I am talking to myself. I’m sure I just—”
  77. 77. “Hey!” “Ah!’ Paige jumped, whirling around. “Whoa, relax,” Spencer laughed. “How can I when you sneak up on me all the time?” she demanded.
  78. 78. “I wasn’t sneaking. You were so busy talking to yourself, you didn’t hear me.” “I wasn’t…” Paige trailed off, blushing. “Look, what do you want?” “Well, I was just seeing what you were up to. Wanna play a game or—”
  79. 79. “No. No games,” Paige exclaimed adamantly. “I don’t have time for games.” “You never do. You do remember this is supposed to be a vacation, right? I’m sure your precious reading schedule can wait. I was thinking we could all go—”
  80. 80. “I’m busy, okay!” Paige snapped. “Besides, I’m too tired to go anywhere; I haven’t been sleeping well.” “Oh?” Spencer raised a brow in concern. “The big bedroom not comfy or something?” Paige gave a tight smile and tried to think of a convincing response. “It’s fine. It’s just… the time zone and the flight—the jet lag.”
  81. 81. Paige took a deep breath, trying to regain her normal composure. “My, uh sleep cycle is all out of whack and is making me a bit—” “Cranky?” Paige’s lips thinned. “Not my word of choice, but I suppose it’s adequate. Some other time okay, Spencer?” As her brother nodded, she quickly fled from the room. *****
  82. 82. “Oh, Heath, you don’t know how much I wish you were here. It’s totally boring without you.” Rose smiled as she listened to her boyfriend’s response. “Oh, nothing much, really. Everything’s the same. Mom and Dad are all gooey and mushy, hogging the hot tub; Paige is quiet—I swear sometimes I forget she’s even here. Meanwhile, Spence is out dating and Sydney’s…” Rose sighed.
  83. 83. “I don’t really wanna talk about Sydney. She’s driving me insane. Crap it, Heath I miss you SO much….” Rose took the phone into the living room—the couch had become her favorite spot lately. There she stayed on the phone with Heath and doodled in her song book. She settled in for another long call, wishing she could be back home instead. *****
  84. 84. Sydney was in a mood. A sulky mood. She was outside chilling on the swings by the small pond in the backyard, thinking about her fight with her sister. It was a bit unsettling. Rose had never really yelled at her before. “Hey, there you are.” Sydney looked up, seeing her brother walk over to her.
  85. 85. “What you up to? Let’s go do something. We could all go to the park or play a game or something. There’s a bunch of board games and video games upstairs—” “I’m not playing anything with Rose,” Syd interjected. “Aw, come on Syd—” “Don’t start with me, Spencer. I said no.”
  86. 86. “Syd, this is silly. Just make up with Rose—” “Not unless she apologizes first. Until then, I don’t want to see, hear, or talk to her.” “But—” “No buts!” Spencer sighed and walked away.
  87. 87. He went inside the house and to his relief Rose was finally off the phone. “Hey, little bro.” “Hey. I’m trying to get everyone to go out and do something. You in?” Rose snorted. “I’m not doing anything with Sydney.”
  88. 88. Spencer groaned. “Not you too. Come on, Rose, you’re usually the sensible one.” “Well for once I’d like to be the impractical one. I’m just tired of it all, Spence. She turns EVERY single thing into a competition. I need a break, ok?” “Couldn’t you just make up now? I mean, there’s no way I can get everyone to agree to something if you’re out.”
  89. 89. “Nope.” Rose replied unapologetically. Besides, I wanna stay home. Heath’s supposed to call me later.” Spencer groaned. “Didn’t you already talk to him today?” “Yeah, but I called him. Tonight’s his turn to call me.” Spencer sighed.
  90. 90. “Why are all my sisters crazy?” he muttered. Rose laughed. “Look, give it some time. If she’s still upset by the end of the week, I’ll talk to her then help you pull Paige’s nose out of a book. We’ll hang out then, ‘kay?” “I guess…”
  91. 91. “Good, now go away. I wanna see if I can get a new high score. Can you believe dad beat my old one?” Spencer laughed. “Yeah, I heard him playing last night.” “He probably stayed up late trying to beat it. Well, I’ll show him.”
  92. 92. Spencer just shook his head. “Good luck with that.” He sighed and went off to town by himself. Who knew, maybe he’d meet a girl. Then the day wouldn’t be a total waste. *****
  93. 93. “So,” Melanie began the next morning as they all sat down to breakfast. “How’s everyone’s vacation going? Everyone having a good time?” Her question was met with grunts, slight nods, and silence. She looked over at her normally talkative daughters. Rose was busy stabbing her pancakes, Sydney was pushing small squares of pancakes around her plate, drowning them in syrup, while Paige simply stared at her meal and played with her fork as though she was unaware of those around her. Even Asher was a touch moody, giving dark looks to his pancakes every now and then.
  94. 94. In fact, the only other person who seemed to be in a good mood was Spencer. “Here’s the gist, mom. Syd and Rose are fighting, Paige is all grumpy and sleep deprived and Dad is moody cuz—” “Dad is perfectly fine, thank you very much,” Asher interrupted. “I’m not moody at all.”
  95. 95. “Right,” Melanie said slowly. She thought she had a pretty good idea about what Asher was upset about. “Girls? What about you? Paige you—” “I’m fine mother. I merely stayed up too late reading and upset my sleep schedule,” she replied quickly. “Alright. Sydney? Rose? Anyone want to talk about what’s going on?” “Nope,” Rose replied, stabbing another piece of pancake.
  96. 96. “Nothing’s wrong mom,” Sydney spoke up. “But if there was, it would all totally be Rose’s fault and she should apologize for snapping and starting unnecessary yelling.”
  97. 97. Rose snorted. “As if. It would all totally be your fault and you should apologize for causing unnecessary drama.” “Yeah right! You started this!” “No, you did. You always start something.” “Well, you always cheat—” “I do NOT!”
  98. 98. “Here we go,” Asher shook his head. “You see what your mother started?” Asher tuned to his son. “She just doesn’t get that sometimes you don’t ask questions.” “I don’t know, Dad, maybe it’s a female thing. You know how they always want to know everybody’s business.”
  99. 99. Melanie rolled her eyes. “Very funny you two. Girls, calm down—”
  100. 100. “I think it’s probably best that we let the girls solve this themselves. Learn to handle their own problems and all that.” “But—” Melanie began to protest but trailed off when she looked at the girls faces. She sighed. “I guess you’re right. They’re not little girls anymore.” “It doesn’t sound too serious anyway, Mel.”
  101. 101. “With Sydney it never is,” Paige muttered under her breath. “What?!” Paige looked up, surprised. She didn’t really mean to say that aloud. “Oh, um…”
  102. 102. “You want some of this too?” Sydney exclaimed. “Because I’m just about tired of your little ‘I’m smarter than you’ act. I’m totally ready to kick your butt.”
  103. 103. “You see, you say that like it’s a threat but I simply do not feel the slightest worry,” Paige shrugged. “Oh, I’ll give you something to worry about you—” “Girls!”
  104. 104. Asher shook his head and turned to Spencer. Normally he’d be more concerned but at the moment, he couldn’t muster the energy. He was supposed to be on vacation. “Why don’t we let your mother handle this one? Care to go fishing?” he asked his son. “Sure. Anything to get out of the house.”
  105. 105. “That’s okay; you boys take off. Us girls will have our own outing.”
  106. 106. But the girls only groaned. “Do we have to? I was supposed to call Heath.” “And I don’t want to go anywhere with Rose.” “And I don’t want to go anywhere, period.” Paige put in. “I was going to go back to bed.”
  107. 107. “Too bad!” Melanie informed them cheerfully. “You don’t get to choose. We’ll all have a spa day and go shopping in town. I think we could all use a change of scenery.” *****
  108. 108. Paige decided to wait outside while her sisters got ready. Syd and Rose always took forever so she brought a book to pass the time. Spencer was right about her being sleepy, however. It wasn’t long before her eyelids began to droop. Lying on the hammock in the warm morning sun was relaxing. Giving in to the call of sleep, Paige set her book aside. She stared up at the blue sky and the circle of pines that framed it, letting her mind wander.
  109. 109. Brisk mountain air wafted over her and tugged at her sweater. Sighing in contentment she shut her eyes and before she knew it, soon she was floating on the edge of consciousness, slowly drifting into sleep. That was when she heard it. A voice barely louder than a whisper: The game is here; it’s all around. First one’s the—
  110. 110. Paige suddenly sat up straight, completely awake. Frantically, she looked around. I could have sworn I heard… But I couldn’t, there’s no one else around. Where did— Paige took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. She looked down at her hands, surprised to find them clenching the hammock .
  111. 111. Relax, she mentally instructed herself. Just relax. She stood up to stretch. I’m just a little sleep deprived. There’s nothing wrong with me, I didn’t hear anything, I just need sleep. Picking up her book, Paige headed off towards the house. Surely everyone would be ready by now. “Let’s get this day over with,” she muttered. *****
  112. 112. “Okay girls, ready to have fun?” “Meh.” “Whatever.” “Shopping instead of talking to Heath? Yeah, fun.” “Boy, what an excited group we have today.”
  113. 113. Everyone perked up once they reached the town market however, eventually finding some things to pique their interests. For Sydney it was shopping…
  114. 114. And trying on clothes. “Hmm, not bad for a mountain boutique.” *****
  115. 115. Rose found herself in the jewelry section. “Sweet, earrings,” she exclaimed as she stopped to look at a display. “Oh, cool! Nose rings!” “Don’t even think about it!” Melanie’s voice came out of nowhere. *****
  116. 116. Melanie headed straight for the magazines. “I’m behind on all my simcelebrity gossip!” She stayed there for a while, catching up on the latest news. “What?! Cassandra Goth and Malcolm Landgraab IV! When did that happen?” *****
  117. 117. And Paige amused herself by pointing out all the historical inaccuracies of the tiny souvenir shop. “The décor of this place is all wrong. Three Lakes’ geography plainly suggests that the location was isolated from the rest of Simerica at the time these architectural influences came into prominence. Obviously these buildings are not ‘authentic log cabins’ but rather are new props to attract tourists. And look at these so called ‘authentic’ souvenirs. Clearly junk. Who would buy this stuff?”
  118. 118. “Oo, look at all the souvenirs! Oh, this authentic lumber mill range axe replica will go perfectly on my mantle!” *****
  119. 119. Eventually the girls did end up at the spa. Melanie spent the afternoon in the massage room…
  120. 120. While Paige sought some quiet time in the sauna. She even managed to relax and catch a few zzzs.
  121. 121. Sydney soaked in the hot spring and chatted with locals...
  122. 122. While Rose hung out in the lounge and learned some new dance moves.
  123. 123. “I think we all had a good day didn’t we, girls?” Melanie sighed on the way home. “Yeah, I did get some cool stuff,” Sydney answered. “I guess it wasn’t so bad,” Rose admitted.
  124. 124. “Any one else notice that we all had a good time because we spent the day apart?” Paige mused. “Shh.” Rose nudged her little sister. “Or else she’ll make us come back.” *****
  125. 125. Meanwhile, the Specter men were enjoying their afternoon as well. “Hey dad, can I ask you something?” Spencer spoke up suddenly . “Of course. What’s on your mind?” He paused. “Well, um… It’s just… How did you know mom was the one?” Asher laughed. Quite hard, too. It wasn’t really the reaction Spence was expecting.
  126. 126. “I didn’t. It—she—kind of just took me by surprise one day. Still does sometimes,” he smiled. “But how are you supposed to know, you know? That you’re really in love, that you found the right person and everything’s going to be all good forever?” “Well, I don’t know about everything being all good all the time…” Asher trailed off. This time he was the one who need a moment to think. “Listen, Spence… I know you’re growing up; that you’ve a lot of stuff on your mind. All I can say is…. Relax.”
  127. 127. “There’s no need to rush. You never really know, but one day, it’ll just hit you—and if you’re lucky, it’ll hit you hard. Hard enough to realize that you’ve got something special and that you might want to hold on. It won’t be perfect and there’s never a guarantee. But that’s a part of love too; it’s also about having a little faith.” Spencer mulled that over. “…So, what was mom like back then anyway?” Asher smiled and got ready to talk the afternoon away. He’d miss this when the kids went off to college. “Well, like I said, she took me by surprise.” *****
  128. 128. Paige ran back up to her room after breakfast the next morning. In the sauna the day before, she had thought of something and today she had finally decided on a course of action. She took a blank notebook from the bookshelf and sat down. She was going to start a journal. It’s what all the scientists did. After all, observation was a key part of the scientific process.
  129. 129. She reached back to shut the door then dated her new journal. “Okay, how to start?” she tapped her pen. “Well, I guess I should introduce myself.” Subject: Paige “No, that’s not right…” She crossed out the first line, then went to a new page. The Observational Diary Of Paige Specter Volume 1
  130. 130. As young scientist in training, I have resolved to begin a diary chronicling my thoughts, observations, hypotheses, experiences, etcetera. I suppose a quick description of myself is called for: I am a blonde teen sim, almost halfway to adult. My aspiration is Knowledge and for the record, I am a Virgo, 10/3/9/2/7, though everyone knows astrology is hardly a science.
  131. 131. A quick family background: My father, Asher Specter is a retired Educational Minister married to Melanie Specter, formally Wilson, a Game Designer. As a typical Family-Knowledge couple, they are very stable. I am the youngest of four siblings; my siblings are, in order, Rose, Sydney, and Spencer Specter—Popularity, Family, and Romance respectively.
  132. 132. Here Paige paused for a moment and tapped her pen. She realized that she didn’t really know much about her parents’ backgrounds and histories. She never paid much attention before. She vaguely recalled someone mentioning her dad’s siblings; she knew she had an aunt and an uncle, but couldn’t recall meeting them before. She frowned. Family history was important in diagnosis, but hardly a primary concern. She made a note to look into her family tree later and continued on with her entry.
  133. 133. “Okay, symptoms,” Paige muttered. She was a little reluctant to write anything down, almost as if putting words to paper would be an admission of insanity. Symptoms: I have been experiencing… Paige hesitated, unsure of what to call it. Delirium. I have been experiencing delirium, primarily in the form of hearing voices. Perhaps, though, delirium is too strong a word. I do not recall the first incident of hearing ‘voices’ but note that now, as a teen these ‘incidents’ have become more frequent.
  134. 134. Once again, though, frequent is not really the correct word. There have been… Paige stopped counted the amount of times she heard voices since her family went on vacation. Two incidents. “Really, only two?” Paige blurted. Why that wasn’t frequent at all! Suddenly feeling a bit silly and relieved, she wrapped up her journal. As such, there is no immediate cause for alarm; will monitor myself and record any changes. *****
  135. 135. “How was fishing with Spencer yesterday?” Melanie asked as she sat next to her husband for lunch. For once downstairs was quiet and they had the dining room all to themselves.
  136. 136. “It was good. The fish were biting, we had a nice father-son chat; I caught a few fish—it was nice. How was your day at the spa?” “I think the girls had a good time.” Melanie blew on a spoonful of soup. “And it was definitely good for all of us to get out the house. Did you notice all the moping going on?” “Nope, I’m on break remember? I’m a dad on vacation.”
  137. 137. “Asher!” But he just shrugged. “They’re teenagers, Mel. They’re at that moody, moping stage. Every little thing becomes a dramatic production.” Melanie rolled her eyes. “Interesting parenting style you got there.” “Why thank you ever so much.”
  138. 138. They ate in silence for a few moments. “So did you think about what we talked about yet?” Asher nodded. “Yes, we should definitely go to the Lumber Mill Range tomorrow. I hear there’s an axe throwing competition.” “Asher!”
  139. 139. “You know very well what I’m talking about,” Melanie frowned. Asher sighed. “Melanie…” “Just one phone call. Just make sure he’s okay. He’s old and lives alone. He’s probably going to die soon. Do you even remember the last words you spoke to him?
  140. 140. Asher sighed. “I mean, you’re really content to never speak to him again? Ever? You don’t care about his well-being at ALL? You really—” “Okay, okay. I get it. I feel guilty enough as it is.”
  141. 141. “Good, then my job’s done.” Melanie smiled and dug into her soup while Asher frowned and muttered into his own bowl. *****
  142. 142. Later that day, he decided to take Melanie’s advise. One phone call couldn’t hurt, right? A quick chat then his mind would be at ease and he could go back to ignoring his father as usual.
  143. 143. “The things wives will make you do…” Ash muttered as the phone rang. “I swear, I don’t know how she does it…”
  144. 144. Asher sighed and waited for his dad to pick up but he didn’t. He got the answering machine.
  145. 145. Asher left a message and hung up, frowning as he did so. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something didn’t feel right about this. He’d called his dad’s cellphone. He should have answered. “What are you up to, dad?” Asher wondered as he stared at the phone. *****
  146. 146. ***** “Hey, uh, Rose, I know you said that…” A few days after their fight, Sydney finally decided to talk to her sister, but she was unsure of what to say. “What is it?” “Well, I just… I’m not quite sure just what…”
  147. 147. Rose sighed. “Look, I’m sorry, Sydney.” “You are?” “Yeah. I was a little harsh. More than a little harsh. And for that, I’m sorry.” Sydney frowned, thinking that over. “Wait, but…” “Look, sis, I may have been mean, but it was something that you needed to hear.”
  148. 148. “I don’t want to fight with you anymore, Sydney.” “Um, well, I guess I did get carried away…” Rose raised her brows and Sydney squirmed, shifting her feet. “Well, it’s just that… Well, you said you weren’t going to college and so what am I supposed to do now? You and I were supposed to join rival sororities and see whose is better and now we’ll never know and now I have to beat you in everything right now before I go to college and—” Rose rolled her eyes and laughed. “I think that’s the problem right there.”
  149. 149. “It’s not funny! This is everything to me and—” “And I don’t know why. Syd, I’m not competing with you. I never was. Ever. You’re my sister and I love you and sure, I’m better at some things but then you’re better at others—” “Like what? We do all the same things!” “Sydney, you’re missing the point. You can’t define yourself by me.”
  150. 150. “By being better than me,” Rose continued. “It’ll only drive you crazy—well, you and everyone else. I’m not out to get you, okay? I do things with you because I wanna have fun with my sister, not because I’m trying to prove I’m better.” Sydney just looked at Rose. “And I know it’s okay if we tie sometimes because you’re just as good as me. We can be equal.” “But… But then, who am I?”
  151. 151. “Huh?” “Without you, I’m nothing. I’m just your little sister, a nobody. I’m you with blonde hair.” “Where do get these things?” “Look, I’m second, okay? Second oldest and in the middle. I-I don’t know who I’m supposed to be. If I’m not the best at everything then—then who am I?”
  152. 152. “You’re still you. Look, Sydney, you can’t spend your whole life chasing after me. Don’t be me, but better. Be you.” “Huh?” “You have to figure out who you are. Only then will you ever be comfortable with yourself and stop being so obsessed with beating me. You don’t really need me, Syd.”
  153. 153. “But I do. I mean… We were supposed to do all this stuff… I had all these plans…” “Like what?” “Well, the like the Battle of the Bands and prom queen and—” Rose laughed again. “Syd, I never cared about any of that stuff. Prom queen and all that isn’t really my style.”
  154. 154. “But—But what about the Battle of the Bands? You love singing!” “Um, Syd, maybe it escaped your notice, but… I’m not in a band.” “Huh?” “I’m a solo act. How could I possibly compete against you in a competition for bands?”
  155. 155. Sydney slumped, dumbfounded. “Look, stop worrying about me, okay? If you want to win Battle of the Bands and Prom Queen and Dancing Queen or whatever—then do it.” “But I was only doing it because I thought you were doing it…” “Well, do you still want to do any of that stuff?”
  156. 156. “I-I don’t know…” Rose sighed and took her sister by the shoulders. “Sydney, I’m going to give you some advice. Well, some more advice. Stop trying to be me. Stop trying to beat me. Just be you. Find whatever it is that makes you happy and do that, okay? Find what’s important to you, not what you think is important to me.”
  157. 157. Then she gave her little sister a hug. “Come on. Let’s go see what Spence and Paige are up to.” “O-Okay…” *****
  158. 158. Turns out their brother and sister were outside, having a little competition of their own. Each had things they wanted to take their minds off of.
  159. 159. It was rare to see Paige outside having fun without her nose stuck in a book…
  160. 160. And gloating to boot. Smiling, Rose and Sydney decided to take advantage of the moment and join in the fun. *****
  161. 161. They spread out over the backyard and had a water balloon fight.
  162. 162. They spent the afternoon soaking each other and filling the mountain air with their screams and laughter.
  163. 163. And yet, later on Sydney found herself by the swings, moping again. And thinking. She felt so lost. Rose wasn’t going to college, there wasn’t going to be a battle of the bands, at least not with Rose anyhow, and everything just felt… off. What am I supposed to do now? She wondered. Competing with Rose was her whole purpose, the only thing she’d ever been sure of. It was why she’d started singing and dancing and why she became friends with Houston.
  164. 164. It was just so easy to do everything that Rose had done, instead of finding something different to do. Ever since she was little, that was all she could remember. She had to do what Rose was doing. Now they were growing up and growing apart. Doing different things. But without her sister…
  165. 165. Sydney wasn’t sure who she was. She didn’t know what she wanted to do or who she wanted to be. *****
  166. 166. “Okay, Rose, let’s talk more about the whole ‘not going to college’ thing.” That night Asher and Melanie finally took a moment to talk to Rose about her future. “Mom…” “I just don’t think you’ve thought this through.” “It’s not that we don’t like Heath,” Asher added, “but you two are very young—”
  167. 167. “That doesn’t mean we don’t know what we want!” “No, but you may you want something different later. As you grow up, Rose, you find that plans change. You don’t always end up with who you set out to be.” “Not me,” Rose told her mom. “Ever since I was little, all I wanted to be was a rock star. I know that that’s what I want to do, and even if it’s just a small chance, I still have to try.”
  168. 168. “Yes, but—” Rose cut Melanie off. “And it’s not like I’m being irresponsible or unrealistic. I know things don’t happen right away. That’s why I plan on working until I get a record deal. And opening a club with Heath is the perfect solution for me, don’t you see? It’s not just a job, but a way to pursue my career! If I sing in the club, I can build a following and get noticed and be right in contact with managers looking for talent, cuz I’d own the club. And I’d get tons of practice being on stage.”
  169. 169. “I can’t reason with her,” Melanie threw up her hands and turned to Asher. “You talk to her.” Asher made a face at his wife. “Look, Rose, we’re not saying it’s a bad plan—” “We’re not?” Melanie interjected. “We’re not,” Asher continued. “But there’s no reason why college can’t be a part of your plans too.”
  170. 170. “You can study music and the music business in college. Learn what the music industry is like from those who’ve been in it. Learn how to produce and record music. Learn what to do and what to avoid from those who’ve been there.” “That’s a good point,” Melanie nodded. “I hadn’t thought of that.” “And you can still build a following on campus, among your peers, your target audience. And who knows what kind of connections you can make there.”
  171. 171. “I… I guess I never thought of it that way…” “We know, sweetie,” Melanie said gently. “You’re young. You don’t realize yet that some things aren’t always black and white, or only have just one solution.” “But…But Heath and I…” “Rose,” Asher tried again, “I don’t think you realize just what kind of opportunity you’re throwing away.”
  172. 172. “Sweetie, there’s a reason why so many people aspire to go college; it’s a huge opportunity that can give you a great jump start. Not to mention that if things don’t turn out the way you plan, you’ll have a degree to fall back on.” “You don’t have to rush, Rose,” Asher added. “Like you say, fame and stardom don’t happen overnight. There’s no reason why you can’t do both, go to college and then start a club.” Rose sat quietly, thinking.
  173. 173. “You’re right when you say I haven’t thought of everything,” Rose admitted. Melanie beamed, thinking she’d finally swayed her daughter. “But,” Rose continued, “That doesn’t mean I haven’t thought this through. I know myself and I can be honest about my strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. College may be a great opportunity, but it isn’t right for me. I don’t want to spend the next four years writing term papers. I’m tired of being in the classroom. I learn better by doing, by going out there and trying something and seeing if it works.”
  174. 174. Asher and Melanie looked at each other, unsure of how to respond. “Rose…” Melanie began. “Mom, Dad, I know you mean well, but you have to trust me and let me make my own decisions. This may not be what you want, but it’s what I want. What I think is best for me. And if it’s a mistake… Well, then you have to let me make it.” Asher sighed.
  175. 175. “Oh, no.” Melanie frowned. “I know that look. Don’t tell me you agree with her?” “Well, she has a point. She’s not a little girl anymore, Mel.” Rose sat quietly, holding her breath. “She’s going to be an adult soon and part of being an adult is making your own decisions. It is her life.”
  176. 176. Melanie looked at her husband. Then at her daughter. “I just don’t think it’s what’s best for you. And moving in with a guy fresh out of high school?” Melanie shook her head. “Whoa. Hold on,” Asher straightened. “We did not discuss you moving in with Heath. This conversation is only about you going to college. That is another conversation entirely.”
  177. 177. “Dad,” Rose sighed. But Asher just shook his head. Okay, one battle at a time, Rose thought. “Alright, fine, back to the college issue.”
  178. 178. “Mom, I know it’s hard for you to hear, being a lover of knowledge and all, but, can’t you maybe kinda see that I should make my own decision? That me going to college and not being ready, or being unwilling to put in the right amount of work and effort—well, it’d just be a waste.” “That’s true, but…”
  179. 179. Melanie looked back and forth between Rose and Asher. “I’m beaten, aren’t I?” Asher smiled. “Come on, it’s not that bad. Don’t worry so much.” Melanie raised her brows at the irony of that statement. “Alright, fine,” she turned to Rose. “But I reserve the right to try and change your mind until you transition.”
  180. 180. Rose smiled. “Deal.” *****
  181. 181. “Hey, what’s up?” Sydney looked over her shoulder and saw her brother walking toward her. She shrugged. “Nothing much. I thought you had a date.” “I do,” Spence admitted. “But I thought I’d talk to you first.” “Oh, yeah?” Sydney replied as she got the fire going. “How come?”
  182. 182. Spencer sat down next to his sister. “We’re twins, Syd. I think I know when something’s bothering you.” “What are you talking about? Nothing’s bothering me.” Spencer just looked at her. “Honestly. Rose and I made up. Everything’s frickin’ peachy.” Stared at the fire with a scowl on her face.
  183. 183. “Just because you two apologized to each other doesn’t mean you’re not still mad at her.” Sydney was silent for a beat. Then she blurted, “It’s just—how can she not want to go college? Did you hear them talking in there? I think mom and dad are seriously considering letting her not go!”
  184. 184. “It’s her decision, Syd.” “She didn’t even say anything. All this time…” Sydney trailed off, hurt in her voice. “We were supposed to do stuff together. And now…” “Oh, come on—it won’t be that bad. Paige and I are still going.”
  185. 185. Sydney shook her head. “I know that. But you’re my brother. And Paige isn’t Rose…” Sydney gave a deep sigh. “It’s just… Everything’s changing so fast. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” “Are you sure? I mean, maybe this wasn’t your plan, but Rose has her own dreams and—” “I know that!”
  186. 186. Sydney blew some hair out of her face. “I’m sorry,” she said after a moment of silence. “I didn’t mean to snap at you.” She looked at her brother. “I know we’re all different, that we all want different things. But don’t you see? This was supposed to be our time together, before we all split up and did different things. Before we really grew up.” “Syd, you’re acting like we’re never going to see her again.”
  187. 187. “And we basically aren’t! She’ll be here or in the city and we’ll be off at college and who knows where we’ll all end up after that.” Spencer stared at his sister, a little surprised. “Don’t be a ninny, Syd. We’re family; we’ll always be together.” “Are you sure? I mean, look at dad. He never talks to his siblings.” Spencer frowned, thinking. “When was the last time we saw them?” Sydney went on. “I can’t even remember what they look like. Do you?”
  188. 188. “Maybe that’s true…” Spencer acknowledged Sydney’s point, “But we’re not them. Maybe they just weren’t close. It doesn’t mean we won’t keep in touch. And why wouldn’t we? Even if we moved a bit away, we’d still get together every now and then.” Sydney threw up her hands. “Ugh, you don’t get it,” she stood up, about to leave. “Syd, wait. Just relax, okay?”
  189. 189. “Don’t you think it’s possible that you’re overreacting, just a little?” Sydney shrugged. There really wasn’t any point in trying to explain herself further. “I think you’re just a little scared.” “What?” Sydney looked at him, startled. “Rose is first. Always has been. But now you have to go off on your own. Be your own trailblazer. Maybe you’re just a little worried how you’ll do with your big sis watching your back all the time. But don’t you see? You’ll be fine.”
  190. 190. “We’ll all be.” And with a pat on the shoulder and a quick smile, Spencer left for his date that night, leaving his sister behind. She stood there for a while, watching the fire die down. She knew things were changing and she knew that they had to. She just wanted some things to stay the same a little longer. She didn’t want everything to change all at once. Was that really so wrong? *****
  191. 191. Spencer walked into town, shaking off his conversation with Sydney. He didn’t know why she was so moody lately. The short walk, fresh air, and starry sky did a lot to restore his good mood though, and soon he reached the market. He went over and stood by the tree ring statue, waiting for his date. Tonight he was hanging out with Renee, another tourist he’d seen around.
  192. 192. “Hey.” “Hey yourself.” Spencer flashed one of his charming smiles and made a show of kissing Renee’s hand. “So, where would you like to go tonight?” he asked, pleased by her blush. “Oh I don’t know. Let’s just hang out here. Get to know each other.” “Here?” Spencer raised his brows.
  193. 193. “Yeah,” Renee plopped down on the grass. “Uh, okay.” Spencer followed suit. “What do you want to talk about?” She shrugged. “Anything.” Spencer cocked his head and stared at her. After a moment he spoke. “You know, your eyes are really pretty in the moonlight.”
  194. 194. “Oh, no,” Renee exclaimed. “None of that. No flattery and all that fake flirting stuff. Let’s just talk. Tell me about yourself.”
  195. 195. Spencer stared at her. She definitely wasn’t like most girls he met. The girls he usually dated were happy to flirt and make out for a few hours. Of course they’d talk—but it was only small talk: what’s your name, where are you from, let’s make out. He didn’t really have an actual conversion. “Um, what do you want to know? I mean, you know I’m from Crystal Valley; I’m visiting Three Lakes with my family… I have three sisters…”
  196. 196. “Wow, you are bad at this.” “Well, I don’t—I’m not sure what you want to talk about.” “Come on, just relax. Tell me about you. About your family if you want, what you like to do, your hopes, dreams, aspirations… Anything.”
  197. 197. “How about you go first? Just so I know what to say when it’s my turn.” Renee rolled her eyes. “Alright, whatever. I’m visiting like you. My family’s like professional tourists or something. I hate them. I don’t have a real home, we’re always off visiting some new place, drifting.” “Yeah, but you probably got to see a lot of cool places.”
  198. 198. She shrugged. “Maybe it was cool when I was little, but now? It’s just exhausting. You know what I want? Roots. I wanna settle down, live in one place, have a family—not a fake one like I have, but a real one that’s close and cares about each other and stuff.” “What do you mean?”
  199. 199. Renee shrugged again. “I’m not really close to my family. My mom died when I was little and my dad’s a deadbeat. He can’t hold a real job. He comes up with all these schemes and plans and ‘big ideas’ and that’s the real reason we travel around a lot—he’s a con man afraid of getting caught. My older brother left as soon as he transitioned and stuck me with Dad; I don’t know where he is. Like I said, my family’s not close. As soon as I turn eighteen, I’ll be gone and nobody will care.”
  200. 200. “Wow.” Spencer took that all in. “My family’s not like that. At all.” “I can tell,” Renee said bluntly, a touch of envy in her voice. “My family’s really close. I mean, we drive each other insane now and then, but we all look out for each other. No one ever stays mad for long and we talk a lot. My mom and dad…” Spencer trailed off, trying to think of how to describe his parents. “Well, they’re awesome.”
  201. 201. “They really love each other and you can just tell by looking at them. They’re so close it’s freaky, sometimes. They’re like, almost always on the same page, you know? I don’t think I’ve ever seen them fight—like with raised voices or anything.” “That’s what I want,” Renee interrupted. “True love.” “Me too,” Spencer said softly, not realizing he’d spoken aloud.
  202. 202. “Really? A lover boy like you wants true love?” Spencer smiled. “Yeah.” He’d already admitted it, so what did he have to lose? “I want…” He shrugged. “The greatest love the world’s ever known. I want…. What my parents have. I’ve seen love, so I know it exists, so I just need to find the right person. I date a lot of girls because that’s what I’m looking for.”
  203. 203. “People can call me a player or whatever, but I don’t care. I’ll date over and over again until I get it right. And I’m not going to settle. I’m mean… Why? Why settle for someone ‘okay’ or ‘good enough’ when you could have perfect?” “And what are the chances of finding that?” Renee asked, skeptical. “Who cares? I mean, if you aren’t willing to put in the work and look for it and learn what it really is, then maybe you don’t deserve true love.”
  204. 204. “Wow, that’s harsh.” Spencer shrugged. He’d never really put his feelings in words before. “I just mean that… It’s not always easy. Love, I mean. And if something doesn’t feel right… Then it’s just not… Right,” he finished simply. The two sat in silence for a moment, absorbing that last statement.
  205. 205. “So what else do you want, after a family?” Spencer asked after few moments. He couldn’t explain it, but he was interested in this girl. He’d never had another conversation like this, never revealed himself this much. The two sat there and talked the night away, the conversation like food for their souls. All too soon it was late, and as they looked up at the sky, they realized that it was time to go home, well, at least time for Spencer to go home.
  206. 206. “Sorry to leave so suddenly, it’s just my parents will probably flip when they realize I’ve been out so late.” “No problem.” Renee waved off Spencer’s apology. Spencer turned to go then stopped. “Could… Would it be alright if I… You know, called you? Like, just to talk?”
  207. 207. Renee grinned. “You better.” Spencer smiled too. “Great. I will. Thanks for… Well, everything. Tonight. I had a great time.”
  208. 208. He gave her a quick kiss goodbye then ran off into the night. *****
  209. 209. Paige walked out her room, about to go downstairs for some hot chocolate. As usual, she was having trouble falling asleep. She was so lost in thought that she didn’t see her brother coming up the stairs as she shuffled toward the steps.
  210. 210. “Oh, hey!” “Ah!” Paige jumped at the sound of her brother’s voice, still a little on edge. “Oh, um, hey Spence. You frightened me.” “Sorry,” her brother smiled sheepishly. “What are you doing up so late?”
  211. 211. “Date,” he said simply. Paige rolled her eyes. Of course. “What about you?” Spencer caught her eye then suddenly he knew. “Never mind, reading—stupid question.” Paige smiled briefly. If only.
  212. 212. She stood there, regarding her brother for a moment. “Spencer do you ever…” she trailed off, not quite she what she wanted to say. Her brother waited patiently, eyebrows raised expectantly.
  213. 213. “Do you ever feel like there’s something wrong with you? Like you’re different somehow and you just don’t—” “All the time,” Spencer said easily, cutting her off. “Really?” “Sure, I mean. We grew up with Rose and Sydney after all.”
  214. 214. “We just have to remember that they’re the crazy ones,” Spencer went on. Paige smiled. “I guess…” “Look, I know everything seems kinda crazy now, but you’ve got to remember that you are a lot younger than us. And a completely different person. I know it seems like all your siblings have lost their heads and suddenly have become crazy about dating…”
  215. 215. “But you don’t have to worry. You’ll get there in your own time and I’m sure one day there will be someone that makes you swoon too.” Spencer smiled, happy to give his youngest sister some advice. He was on a roll today. “Just take it easy and everything will eventually fall into place.” “Um…” Paige blinked, staring at her brother. Suddenly she realized that they were having two completely different conversations.
  216. 216. Paige gave her head a shake, sure that if she confessed her real concerns, she really would seem crazy. “Thanks,” she said finally, realizing that Spencer was still peering at her, waiting for a response. “Uh, I think the others are still up. Want to watch a movie or something?”
  217. 217. In the end the four decided on a game of Don’t Wake the Llama, staying up late into the night laughing and teasing and having fun. Sometimes there were arguments, accusations of cheating, and even some deliberate sabotage, but that was what siblings did. Each had to admit that they loved being in a big family. They couldn’t imagine things any other way. *****
  218. 218. “So, last night…” Melanie said as she fluffed her pillow. “I think we had a pretty good vacation, don’t you?” Asher barely heard his wife. Andy still hadn’t called him back and his father had remained in his thoughts all day. Thinking about his dad made him think about the past, about the family vacation he went on when he was little. About how everything changed shortly after that. Zeph had met Liz, and everyone had grown up…
  219. 219. “Asher?” Melanie prompted. “Huh? Yeah, good vacation. Very relaxing.” Melanie raised a brow. “I’m just thinking,” Asher smiled softly. “About the family vacation I took when I was little.” “Oh? More good memories?” “Actually, no. That’s when my parents my parents started fighting. When my dad started talking more about the heirship challenge and the legacy.”
  220. 220. “Aerith and Skye grew up shortly after we came back. Before I knew it, Zeph and I were almost ready for college, then… Then the challenge. Mom and Skye died and we all went our separate ways.” Melanie stayed quiet, unsure of what to say. She laid a hand on his arm. “He didn’t answer, you know. I called him. My dad. There was no answer.” “It might not mean anything. Give it some time. Another few days.”
  221. 221. Asher turned to his wife. “I’m being way too depressing, aren’t I?” Melanie shook her head. “No. Sometimes we remember sad things. That’s okay.” “It’s just… I hope they have a better memory than I have, you know? I wanted— want—things to be good for them.” “We both do. And they’ll be okay. We have a good life, Asher.”
  222. 222. “Yeah?” “Yeah.” “You always know just what to say to make me feel better. I hope they find that too one day.” Asher pulled his wife into his arms and kissed her.
  223. 223. “I hope they find real love, too,” Melanie agreed. “Just as long as it’s after they grow up and finish college,” she stated, making Asher laugh. *****
  224. 224. Melanie woke up the next morning in a very good mood. It was the last day of the vacation, and that was a bit sad—her babies were growing up after all. Still, she couldn’t help but smile as she listened to the shouts of laughter, taunts, and bickering that signaled her children were now awake.
  225. 225. The phone rang as she passed through the living room and she paused to pick it up, thinking it was the cab company confirming their shuttle to the airport. “Hello Specter—Liz?” Melanie leaned back, surprised. “Whoa, whoa, slow down…” Liz was talking fast and Melanie couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
  226. 226. “What? That doesn’t sound like—okay, well, actually it does. But… Sure, of course. Just calm down. Tell me everything.” *****
  227. 227. While Asher, Melanie, and the kids were on vacation, Zeph and Liz had been on their own vacation of a sorts—a vacation from their marriage. After not speaking for a few days, Liz had stormed over to Roxie’s, angrier than she’d ever been before. She couldn’t believe the phone call she’d gotten that morning. She had thought it might Zeph, that they might talk, apologize, and work something out. Instead it was Roxie, telling her that her husband had overdosed the night before.
  228. 228. Liz gave Zeph’s truck an angry look as she passed by. She just didn’t understand what Zeph saw in Roxie and Blossom and hated that he’d rather spend time here than be with her. She turned to go up the steps and ring the doorbell, but she didn’t have to.
  229. 229. Roxie had come outside. “How is he?” She blurted out. “Like I said on the phone, he’s… okay. Stable. You really didn’t have to come all the way down here—” “The hell I didn’t! Zeph needs to be around someone who cares about him.”
  230. 230. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” “What kind of friend just sits by and lets a guy destroy himself?” “In case you haven’t noticed, Liz,” Roxie retorted with a sneer, “Zeph is a grown man. He’s going to do what he wants to do. Better he be here with friends, than alone. Otherwise he could have died last night.”
  231. 231. “Exactly! He could have died! And instead of helping him get over his problems, you sit around and enable him. You actually encourage him to drink and smoke and ignore everything—” “Whoa, that is not true!” “I know it is! Every time he comes here, you all just sit around and watch him get high, and surprise, surprise, things get worse, not better. It’s like you don’t even care about helping him.”
  232. 232. “How dare you question my loyalty. I do care about Zeph and I’ve been there for him, ever since college. Where the hell are you? Too busy looking down your nose from your high horse to realize you don’t know shit. You barely even know Zeph anymore; all you care about is who he used to be.” “Oh, excuse me for thinking that drowning your problems in juice and bubbles isn’t a solution to anything. Excuse me for trying to get him some help instead of more booze.”
  233. 233. “Oh, whatever. You clearly don’t get it. You just can’t grasp the idea that maybe you don’t know what’s best and that your way isn’t the greatest—” “At least I’m doing something! At least I’m trying to fight for him. You talk about caring, but all you do is sit around and do nothing!” “I do care and Zeph knows it. Say what ever you want, but that’s all that matters. Maybe if you tried being supportive instead of being a nagging bitch, he’d actually talk to you instead of running over here to me.”
  234. 234. Liz bit her tongue before narrowing her eyes and taking a step closer. She paused before saying, “You better watch it. Act tough all you want. Have fun with the little outcast act. Just know I am not afraid to fight you. Come between me and Zeph and his wellbeing and I will bring you down.” Roxie rolled her eyes. “Whatever.” Liz’s eyes flashed. “I wanna see my husband. Now.”
  235. 235. The two stared at each other for what felt like eons. There was no way Liz was leaving without seeing Zephyr. And as much as Roxie would love to tell Liz to go to hell and kick her off her property, she had to think of Zeph first. Liz, unfortunately, was married to him. He’d picked her. For some reason. So eventually Roxie turned slightly, gesturing with her hand. “He’s in the back.” *****
  236. 236. “Zephyr?” Zeph stirred at the sound of Liz’s voice. He opened his eyes. “Hey.” His eyes flashed with warmth as he sat up and he smiled before he remembered that he wasn’t supposed to. He wasn’t supposed to be happy to see her. He wasn’t supposed to try and make things better. He had to make her get away from him.
  237. 237. “Are you okay? What were you thinking? Why didn’t you come back?” Zeph held up a hand as he tuned back into Liz’s voice. “Stop. We… We need to talk. We can’t do this anymore.” Liz’s brows furrowed. “What are you—” “I’m saying we’re through Liz. We’re over. We were over when I left… You shouldn’t be here. Go home.”
  238. 238. “Zeph… I still care about you. I still want to make sure you’re okay.” Liz paused, unsure of whether to continue. “Besides, I do have something to tell you.” Zeph shook his head. “I don’t want to hear it. You were right, Liz. We’re two different people. We’ve got two different lifestyles. It’s never going to work.” “We can make it work. We’ll get help. You just have to—”
  239. 239. “I’m not a problem to be fixed, Liz. This is who I am. I’m not getting better.” “But you don’t have to be! I don’t understand you, Zeph. It’s like you don’t even want to try—” Zeph’s eyes flashed. “I did try. And I’m done, okay? I’m done pretending. It’s just not going to work. I’m not the same person any more.”
  240. 240. Liz took a breath and rubbed her temples. “Alright, fine,” she said shakily. “I get that that’s how you feel. But there’s something you need to know.” Zeph stomach clenched. He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like it. “I don’t want to know,” he blurted. “I don’t want to hear it. Just leave.” Liz rolled her eyes. “You can’t ignore everything, Zeph. I just want you to be sure that—”
  241. 241. “I am sure. This is what I want. Leave.” Liz sighed. She was just going to have to say it. “Zeph—” “Don’t.” “I’m pregnant.”
  242. 242. Liz’s words hung in the air and the silence that followed became oppressive, like a great weight settling on both their shoulders. Zephyr looked at his wife and made a split decision. He swallowed, choosing his words carefully.
  243. 243. “I don’t care.”
  244. 244. Liz just looked at Zephyr. “What?” She finally managed to say.
  245. 245. “I don’t care,” Zeph managed to spit the words out again. “It doesn’t change anything. How I feel. We are over. I want you to leave.”
  246. 246. Liz just stared at Zeph. In a daze she slumped onto the wall and slid to the floor, unable to comprehend. She ran a hand through her hair. “What?” ***** The End.
  247. 247. Finally! Chapter 13 is done, the family vacation is over, the kids are all teens, and everyone’s in position. Next chapter: generation two is off to college and there will be an heir! Sort of. I mean, technically, there already is an heir; I wonder if you all can tell who it is yet. Is it Rose?
  248. 248. Sydney?
  249. 249. Spencer?
  250. 250. Or Paige?
  251. 251. Or maybe you all don’t care because, hello, Liz and Zeph, right? Well, I promise there’ll be more of them next time, and Aerith and Taz too. Yep, the latter is going to have a little reunion. So even if you can tell who the heir is, you might want to stay tuned; I still have a few more surprises in my bag. That’s all I’ll say for now. Later and happy reading!

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