Month: July 2017

6.7: Interlude – Get Away With It

“Have you ever noticed your fingers get puffy and wrinkled when you take a bath or spend a long time in the pool?” Mr. Phoenix asked the class.

Yup. And I don’t care why. Harper thought to herself, sighing.

“Or have you ever wondered how a plant gets water from its roots?” Her teacher continued.

Nope. I haven’t. When she was sure he was not looking in her direction, Harper reached up and gently flipped the tiny switch on the back of her hearing aid.

She shifted slightly in her seat, turning her right side toward her teacher as best as she could. Her hearing was significantly worse in that ear — so much so that a hearing aid was of no help to her.

Though she could still hear bits and pieces of Mr. Phoenix’s speech about Mitosis or Osmosis or Boring-osis or whatever the heck it was, it was so much easier to tune him out when his voice was softer and a bit fuzzy — especially now that her bad ear was facing his direction.

Instead of listening to his lecture, Harper began allowing herself to daydream. She thought back to last weekend, when her cousin Dahlia had come to visit.

Dahlia was probably Harper’s favorite cousin, even though she was one of the oldest. Her mom, Auntie Charlie, was probably Harper’s favorite aunt too, so maybe that had something to do with it.

But then shouldn’t Harrison be one of her favorite cousins too? Auntie Charlie was his mom too, but he wasn’t nearly as cool as Dahlia was. He was only two years older than Harper, but he didn’t like many of the same things she did, and they often butted heads. Especially when it came to Void Critters.

Harper was happy that only Dahlia had come to visit. She had taken her to go see the new Wonder Woman movie, and Harper loved it. She’d spent a long time talking about it with her parents when she got home… Especially her Papa. He always had a soft spot for superheroes (though Batman would always be his favorite).

Thinking about the movie made Harper start to wonder though… What would it be like to try writing her own super hero story? One where the hero wasn’t perfect. What if the hero was like her? What if she wore a hearing aid or used an inhaler, but was still powerful and awesome?

Or what if the villain was like her?

Everyone always expected people like her to be weak and harmless. Innocent and good. But what if they weren’t, for a change?

“Harper? Earth to Harper!”

The young girl almost jumped at the feeling of a slight tap on her shoulder and the muffled sound of a familiar voice in her ear. Harper noticed that the rest of the class seemed to be out of their seats and moving around the room.

She reached up to turn on her hearing aid before finally facing her friend. “Sorry… Trying to ignore the snore-fest.” Harper laughed softly.

“I figured.” Nyla shook her head in amusement as she spoke, taking a seat beside her friend. “I was trying to ask if you wanna work together?”

“Sure! Um… Work on what?”

“The celery experiment. We’re supposed to work with a partner.”

Harper rolled her eyes. “Ugh. Another experiment?”

“Yup.” Nyla sighed. “You’re lucky I was at least kinda listening to the directions. Not everybody has an ‘off’ switch like you do when we wanna stop paying attention!”

“Oh yeah, lucky me.” Harper’s voice dripped with sarcasm, but she did not lose her smile.

“Well I hope you were at least paying attention to the announcements this morning… Did you hear football tryouts are tomorrow?” Her friend asked.

Harper nodded. “Yeah. Are you gonna go?” She she whispered, noticing that Mr. Phoenix had begun addressing the class yet again.

This time, she had to keep her hearing aid on so she could continue talking to Nyla, but she did her best to ignore him anyway. We have way more important things to talk about!

“Of course!” Her friend whispered back, leaning close and speaking into her good ear. “What about you?”

“Well, I want to. As long as my parents let me.”

“Why wouldn’t they?” Nyla asked.

“You know how annoying they can be sometimes…”

“Ladies!”

Both girls jumped at the sound of Mr. Phoenix’s voice. Harper could feel the eyes of the rest of her classmates, staring at her.

“Yes, Mr. Phoenix?” She asked softly.

“Are you having a nice conversation?” Her teacher scolded.

Harper pouted her lip slightly, and tried her best to look as innocent and unassuming as she could. She knew how to play this game. “I’m sorry, Mr. Phoenix. I was having trouble hearing. Nyla was just helping me.”

The man’s face softened immediately. “I understand, Miss Rosebrook.” He replied gently. “But if you have a question, please feel free to ask me, okay? Or wait until a better time to have Miss Flores assist you.”

“Yes, sir.”

Mr. Phoenix gave her a small nod. “Very well, class. You may begin.”

The classroom gradually began to fill with soft chatter as the students got to work.

Nyla stared at Harper for a few moments, wide-eyed. “How are you always able to get away with that?” She asked.

Harper shrugged, smirking as she allowed her innocent mask to fade. “Grown ups love feeling sorry for me. It’s so annoying most of the time.”

“Not all the time though, huh?” Nyla laughed. “You sneak!”

Before she had a chance to reply, Harper noticed that, at the table beside them, Katie was talking quietly and giggling with one of her friends. The two girls kept glancing very obviously in Harper’s direction every now and then as they continued their conversation.

“Ugh!” Harper clenched her hands into fists at her sides. She knew Katie was making fun of her again. She had to be! Harper just wished she could find a way to get back at her.

Last time Katie had teased her had been one of the worst times yet. Miss Li paired them up for a project together, and the whole time, Katie kept saying “What? I can’t hear you!” any time Harper tried talking to her… Mocking Harper and laughing at her for her hearing problems, just like she always did.

As revenge, Harper had caught a frog at recess and hidden it in Katie’s desk when no one was looking. It still made her laugh to remember the look of horror on her face when she’d found it.

But what wasn’t so funny was all the drama that came after. No one could prove Harper had done it, but Katie certainly seemed to think it was her. There’d been a scary trip to the principal’s office and a meeting with Harper’s parents, but nothing had come of it. No one seemed fully convinced that she was guilty. And, as usual, everyone loved feeling sorry for her.

Still, it had been really scary being so close to getting in trouble, and it wasn’t something Harper was too keen on repeating. But knowing that Katie was back to making fun of her again made Harper’s blood boil. If only revenge wouldn’t be so risky…

“Uh, I think we should probably start doing something.” Nyla’s voice called her back to the present. “I’m not sure if we can trick Mr. Phoenix again…”

Harper sighed softly in resignation. “Yeah, okay.”

Nyla ended up doing most of the work, of course. And though she continued chatting with her friend about how excited they were for tomorrow’s football tryouts, Harper’s mind was very far away…

Daydreaming about a tall, beautiful supervillain who wore a hearing aid, used an inhaler, and rained a storm of slimy frogs on bullies named Katie Fletcher.

Advertisements

6.6: We’ll See

Okay, I still dunno if this whole journal-thing is really dumb or really cool.

Maybe it’s both.

Can it be both?

Hmm…

I dunno. But the reason is super dumb no matter what. ‘Cause this whole thing started because of school. And school is pretty much the dumbest thing in the whole entire world.

Miss Li is making us do a project about ‘tradition’. We’re supposed to figure out something that’s a tradition in our family and share it with the class (See? Dumb).

For some kids it was super easy to figure it out.

Sophie started talking all about how everybody in her family cooks, and how Vietnamese food is the best food in the world. I’ve been to her house for dinner a couple times, and it is pretty good. But my Papa could cook the pants off anybody in her family. I know it. I’d never ever tell her that though.

Then I remember Katie making this super long, super boring speech about how her family has this fancy vacation house in Switzerland and they go skiing there every year and blah blah blah. That’s when I turned off my hearing aid and just sorta tuned her out. She’s so mean and so annoying ALL the time. She’s such a bully, and she thinks she’s better than everybody. Ugh!

Anyway, it felt like everyone else already knew what they were gonna talk about. But I had NO idea. I was gonna ask mom or Papa about it, but I decided to ask Oma instead. Old people know all about that kinda stuff right? And my Oma’s pretty cool too. For an Oma, I mean.

But when I asked her, she got all weird about it. She was almost like, crying and stuff. It was so embarrassing! I got a big speech about how special it is to keep a journal and all the people in the family who had one. She said all this stuff about ‘preserving memories’ and ‘carrying on the family legacy’ (What the heck does that even mean?!)

Then she got Papa in the room and it just got worse. He started making his own speech about it too. Papa said he was planning on getting me a journal when I was a little older, but he’s really excited that I’m ‘so interested already’. Then he was going on and on about how fun it is to write about your life. And helpful too, he said. Because it’s so therapew… therapu..? Whatever.

Anyway, I really wanted to turn my hearing aid off and try to ignore them too, but I knew I couldn’t. That’d be super mean. And I’m not like Katie. I’m nice! So I just kinda nodded and let them be all sappy and hoped they’d stop.

And then they did.

But then like two hours later mom came home from work and gave me my own journal. And I didn’t even ask for one!

I told Oma and Papa I was just asking about it because it was homework. But I guess they got too excited about it. I think Papa called mom and told her to get one for me on the way home.

Or she COULD be psychic… But I have a feeling it was probably just Papa.

The good news is it’s pink though. One of my favorite colors. Which is kinda cool. And maybe the writing part might be kinda cool too.

Maybe. A big maybe.

We’ll see.

6.5: Interlude – No Matter What

“You really don’t mind if we paint the walls?” Zayne asked his grandfather as he took a seat on the edge of the bed.

It felt so strange to be back in his great-grandparents’ bedroom. They’d both been gone for years now, but the room still remained practically untouched and unchanged. Zayne supposed it made sense though. What else would they do with the old room?

Nothing… Until now, that is.

Tobi smiled as he lowered himself onto the bed beside his grandson. “You can do whatever you like, Zayne. It’s yours now. And I think that’s what my Mama would have wanted.”

“You do?”

His grandfather nodded. “She’d be so happy you’re coming back home. And so am I.”

“Thanks, Opa.” Zayne smiled. “Hope and I have been wanting to move into a bigger place anyway. I guess it finally felt like the right time. And I figured maybe you could use some help with Oma now too…” He added uncertainly.

“Thank you.” Tobi replied. “But I think we both know the real reason you’re moving back into this old house… You’re doing the right thing for your Tante.” He smiled warmly at Zayne as he spoke.

Zayne felt a slight twisting sensation in his stomach at his grandfather’s words. “What do you mean, ‘real reason’?” He asked.

“Oh, come on, Zayne.” Tobi almost laughed. “We both know your Oma only has a few years left, at best. I’m not that delusional, you know.” He paused, shaking his head. “And once my Lettie’s gone… Well, I’m not planning on sticking around too much longer after that. I already lost my Bruder last year…” His voice was thick for a moment. Tobi cleared his throat before continuing. “And with Stefan and Lettie both gone… It’ll be my time to go too.”

Zayne shook his head slowly. “Opa, don’t talk like that.” He knew that everything his grandfather said was true, of course. But how could he sit there and talk about it so calmly?

“I’m just being honest.” Tobi shrugged as he spoke. “And I’m so proud of you for being here for your Tante. With the girls so far away now, you’re all she has left… Promise me you’ll take care of her.”

Zayne smiled gently at him. “Of course.”

“And… promise me one more thing?” He asked softly.

“Sure. Anything” Zayne replied. “But Opa, where is all this coming from?” It was so rare to see his grandfather so serious about things. What could have brought this on?

“I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking lately. With your Oma in the hospital again and my doctors upping my heart medication…” Tobi sighed. “I’m not trying to be a downer or anything. I just…” He paused for a moment. “These are the kinds of things I wanna make sure I get to say to you. Before it’s too late.”

“It’s okay, Opa. I get it.” Zayne assured him.

“I just want you to promise you’ll take care of your little girl too. Be the best father you can be, okay? Don’t make the same mistakes I did.”

His grandson’s brow furrowed slightly. Tobi had given him plenty of pep-talks about taking care of Harper before… But not quite like this. “Mistakes?”

“I let down my own kids so many times when they were younger. Especially your Onkel and your Tante.” Tobi said seriously. Zayne could see the slight sparkle of tears in his eyes. “I’ve apologized to them so many times. I’ve tried my best to make amends over the years… But nothing can ever undo the damage I caused…”

Zayne didn’t know what to say. He’d never heard his grandfather talk like this before. “Opa…”

“Just… promise me you’ll be there for Harper, Zayne. Don’t judge her. Don’t turn your back on her. Support her no matter what. Never let her forget how much you love her.”

Before he had a chance to reply, a soft voice called out to them. “Zayne? Papa?” Jocelyne stood uncertainly in the doorway, carrying Harper in her arms.

I wonder how much she heard… Zayne glanced briefly at his grandfather, who appeared to be wondering the same thing.

“Hey, Tante Joce.” He said at last.

“Sorry if I’m interrupting… But I think it’s almost time to take Harper to her appointment?”

“Oh, shit! I almost forgot. Thanks, Tante Joce.” He rose to his feet and crossed the room, gently taking his daughter from his aunt’s arms. “Ready for a ride in the car, baby girl?”

“Vroom!” Harper cried in reply.

Zayne glanced over his shoulder as Jocelyne headed toward the bed to join her father.

“Papa, come here.”

He let the bedroom door close behind him.

As he headed out to the car with Harper, Zayne found himself replaying his conversation with his grandfather over again in his mind.

The conversation had felt a bit unexpected at the time, but looking back, it made sense — Tobi had been noticeably more emotional and sentimental than usual, ever since the latest scare with Colette. The news that Zayne and his family would be moving in seemed to be one of the only things keeping him going lately.

Zayne was happy to share that heart-to-heart with his grandfather, and he was certainly grateful for Tobi’s words of advice… But wasn’t he already doing exactly what his grandfather had told him to do? Loving his little girl, and supporting her no matter what?

He and his wife had already had to support their little girl through so much more than any child should have to go through at her age. So much illness, so many visits to the doctor…

Today, it was a follow-up visit with the audiologist. Hope had taken Harper to get her hearing tested and her ears examined about a week ago. Even though she no longer seemed to have the symptoms of her infection, the little girl was still showing difficulty hearing and understanding. Could it be another infection coming on so soon? Would she need tubes put in after all? The doctor had requested a follow-up appointment, and Zayne hoped today he’d get some answers.

As he sat in the small examination room to wait for the doctor, Zayne found himself once again thinking about what his grandfather had said. Who knew what struggles still lay ahead for his little girl? What kind of challenges would Harper face?

Whatever they were, he and Hope would always support her, just like his Opa had said. He’d never turn his back on his own child, no matter what.

“Papa loves you.” He told Harper as she played with her favorite toy on the cold hardwood floor. “You know that, right? And I’m always gonna be here for you no matter what happens.” Zayne promised her softly.

As he expected, she did not respond. It was probably too difficult for her to hear him over the wheels of the car on the floor, or her own soft laughter.

“I said I love you, Harper.” He repeated, louder this time. He did his best to hide the bit of frustration he felt at her inability to hear him.

This time, his daughter looked up at him, putting down her toy at last. “What, Papa?”

“I was just telling you that I love you, honey.”

“I wuv you too, Papa!” She replied happily as the door finally swung open.

The look on Dr. Whidden’s face immediately sent a feeling of dread coursing through Zayne’s veins. “I’m sorry for the wait, Mr. Rosebrook.” He said seriously as he took a seat behind his desk.

“It’s fine.” Zayne struggled to keep his voice calm and steady as he replied. Oh God, what is it?

“Mrs. Rosebrook isn’t with you today?”

He shook his head. “She had to work.”

The older man nodded. “Normally I’d prefer sharing this information with both parents at the same time… But I don’t want to keep you waiting any longer.” Dr. Whidden explained. “I’ve analyzed the results from Harper’s scans, and…”

He went into a small speech then, using confusing medical terms like “chronic otitis media” and “ossicular chain dislocation”.

Most of the specifics went over Zayne’s head, but in the end, the doctor’s meaning was all too clear.

Harper’s ear infections had been worse than anyone had anticipated. The pressure from her infections had severely damaged and dislocated the bones in her middle ear. On both sides.

Surgery was still an option, but due to the extent of the damage, it was unlikely she’d ever be able to regain her full hearing.

Her hearing loss would be permanent.

——————————————————————-

I realize how abrupt it is but… This closes out the end of this legacy’s first toddler-arc! (Shoutout to the folks who’d predicted deafness in Harper’s future. Not completely deaf, but you all were close… unfortunately. Poor dear 😦 )

Also, three out of my seven sims available have been adopted… But that means four are still up for grabs. See who over at the Adoption Page 🙂

See you Saturday with our debut of child-Harper! And start being on the lookout for some of your casting call sims! ^_^

6.4: Everything

Warning: This chapter mentions the heavy topic of miscarriage/pregnancy loss. If those are sensitive subjects for you, please proceed with caution.

——————————————–

I still can’t believe how the time has flown… It’s kind of funny how quickly all these anniversaries can creep up on you. Every year, it feels like they come faster and faster. Kinda piling up out of nowhere.

There are lots of good ones, of course. Like birthdays (We just had Harper and Tante Joce’s a few weeks ago, and my 41st is in just a couple months… yikes!) or wedding anniversaries (it’ll be eight years for me and Hope in August!).

But there are some not-so-great ones too. And they’re just as important as the good ones, aren’t they?

Like yesterday.

It’s been five years since we had to say hello and goodbye to our little boy in the very same breath. It’s always such a difficult day for me and Hope… But we don’t really like talking about it. To anyone, really. They just don’t understand.

Even after all this time, it still hurts. And it’s still so damn frustrating when people don’t get it, y’know? I mean, we never even told anyone outside our families about the first baby we lost, since it was so early on. And sometimes I kind of wish we did. Why should we have to keep it some big secret from everyone?

The second time was so different though. We couldn’t keep it a secret, even if we wanted to. And I don’t think anyone really knew how to react. They still don’t. And that’s why we barely talk about it.

One of the most frustrating things is when they assume that just because we have Harper now, it somehow erases all the pain we felt about losing Levi. Or that losing him at nineteen weeks somehow changes things. He was technically a miscarriage, sure. But this was so much different than our first one. We knew he was a little boy. We picked out a name for him. We started buying baby clothes. We could feel him kicking and moving. He was already a part of our family.

I think the worst part was that even after we knew he was gone, Hope still had to deliver him. That was the most horrific day of our entire lives. But at least we got to hold him in our arms and say our goodbyes before they took him away.

We ended up spreading his ashes out at the Bluffs so he could be with Mama and Papa. That little heart in our bedroom is all we have left of him.

Harper’s too young to understand any of this, of course. But I hope someday we can explain to her just what a miracle she truly is. And everything we had to go through to get where we are today.

The pain and guilt of learning we couldn’t have a baby without help. The years of drugs and fertility treatments. The pain of losing our son before he even had a chance to be born. The heartache and struggling we had to endure just to get pregnant again. The fear and uncertainty waiting to reach that nineteen-week mark. The pain of losing grandpa before he had a chance to meet our little girl. And the terror and dread we felt that night Hope went into labor, barely twenty-seven weeks into her pregnancy…

Our little girl is everything to us. Everything. The most precious thing in our lives. I know every parent feels that way about their kid, but after everything Hope and I went through to have her… It just feels different, I guess. And someday, we’ll help her understand that.

But not yet. She’s still way too young. So last night, when Hope told me Harper had been asking questions, I was relieved to hear that she didn’t tell her anything.

But our curious little girl can’t be stopped that easily, I guess. Today we’ve had to deal with a whole new line of questioning from Harper… About Oma.

Yesterday was painful enough already, but getting that call from Tante Joce made it even worse. She told me Oma fell yesterday morning. I guess she got kind of confused and went outside. She tripped down the back steps. Thank God Opa found her so quickly.

We went and visited today. She was really tired, but she still managed to talk to us. And she seemed in pretty good spirits, all things considered. The doctors say she can probably go home in a couple days.

And we’re all so relieved she’s okay, but this whole thing just makes me so damn worried. She was lucky not to have any lasting physical effects from her stroke last year… But her mind is a different story.

I can see the toll this is already starting to take on Opa. I swear to God he’s aged about a decade in the last year alone. And poor Tante Joce has to stand by and watch her parents go through all this. It’s a nightmare. And what will happen when they’re gone?

I hate thinking about it, I really do. But it’s a fact we’ll have to face eventually. And I feel so sick imagining Tante Joce all alone in that house once Oma and Opa pass away. It’s bad enough already with just the three of them there. I can’t even imagine how terrible it will be for Tante Joce when she’s all alone.

Hope and I know all too well how painful it is to be alone in an empty house after you’ve suffered a loss. You’re surrounded by painful memories everywhere you look.

But at least we had each other. She’ll have no one. And I just wish there was something we could do to help…

But y’know, now that I think of it… Maybe there is.

6.3: Interlude – Tough Day

“Vroom! Vroom!” The little girl giggled to herself as she pushed the yellow car back and forth on her bedroom floor. “Beep beep! Vroom!”

Harper loved playing with her car almost as much as she loved riding in the car with her parents. She didn’t love being strapped into her carseat, of course. But she loved looking out the window and watching all the buildings and trees go by. She loved feeling the wind blow on her face when her parents put the top down. And she loved singing silly songs with mama and making funny faces with Papa in the rearview mirror.

She loved it when the car stopped, too. It was always a fun surprise to see what kind of place mama and Papa took her to. Sometimes they went to visit Oma and Ur-Oma and Ur-Opa at their really big house. Sometimes they left her to play with Miss Rachel at daycare while they went to work. Sometimes they took her to the park or the movies. Or to get ice cream!

Harper licked her lips and felt her tummy rumble at the thought. Leaving her car behind, the little girl picked herself up from the floor and made her way on shaky legs toward her parents’ bedroom. Maybe mama will get me ice cream!

As expected, she found mama sitting on her bed. But she wasn’t talking on the phone or looking at a bunch of words on her tablet like she usually was. She looked so sad. Was she crying? Harper’s ears didn’t hurt anymore, but everything still sounded so much quieter than it was supposed to. She had to get very close to her mother’s side before she was finally able to hear her soft sniffles.

“Sad mama.” Harper said quietly, looking up at Hope with her big brown eyes. “Why sad mama?”

Her mother quickly wiped away her tears and looked down at Harper, smiling. “Hey, Peanut.” Hope rose to her feet and crouched down to address her daughter.

“Why sad mama?” The little girl asked again. Even though mama was smiling, she still seemed upset. But why?

“Today’s a tough day for mama. That’s all.” For a moment, Hope’s gaze flicked up toward the little ceramic heart on the wall.

Harper didn’t know what it was, but she knew mama and Papa liked to look at it sometimes. But they didn’t always smile when they did.

“But you know what makes today wonderful?” Hope continued. “I get to work at home today so I can spend it with you. My favorite little girl in the whole world.” She leaned down to press her lips against her daughter’s forehead. “My little miracle.”

It was tricky to make out every single word her mother had said, especially when her voice was all quiet and shaky like that. Lots of the words were all mushed together and fuzzy-sounding. But Harper knew she’d heard her say ‘miracle’. Of course, she had no idea what it meant, but she knew mama and Papa liked to call her that sometimes. And it sounded like it was a very good thing to be.

“You’re a meercle too, mama!” Harper practically leapt forward to give her mother a hug as she spoke.

Hope laughed softly. “Thanks, Peanut. I love you.”

“I wuv you too, mama. I wuv you biggie much.”

“Biggie much? Wow!” Her mother’s eyes widened. “That’s a lot.

Harper nodded eagerly. “An’ I wuv isa cweam biggie much too!”

“Is that so? Well, Papa should be home soon to make us some dinner, and mama finished all her important work for the day…. Why don’t we go play together until he gets here?” Hope suggested, scooping Harper up into her arms as she spoke. “And maybe later, when we’re done eating, we can go get some ice cream, okay?”

“Okay, mama!”

Harper smiled to herself as her mother carried her back toward her bedroom. All of her previous concerns were suddenly forgotten.

The little yellow car was still sitting there, ready to go on another adventure. And this time mama could come too!

Harper smiled to herself as she took another bite of her french fry. Papa always made the bestest food. The yummiest. That was why he was the best Papa ever. She just wished he and Mama would smile more today.

Mama had said that today was a ‘tough day’ for her. Harper wasn’t sure exactly what it meant, but it sounded like something bad. And now that he was home from the restaurant, Papa looked like he was having a ‘tough day’ too.  But Harper didn’t understand why.

She got to play with her car and be silly with mama and eat Papa’s cooking and they were gonna get ice cream later! It was the best day ever!

The little girl continued enjoying her meal while her parents talked to each other about boring grown-up things. They’d left the TV on in the living room, and Harper found the indistinct murmuring from the television much more interesting than her parents’ conversation. She didn’t even bother trying to focus hard enough to make out what they were saying. And the fact that they were talking in such hushed tones didn’t make it any easier to hear.

But a few bits and pieces of their conversation still managed to break through.

“… as if today wasn’t… enough already.” Hope sighed.

“I know. And I’m sorry I… with you today. But I… about him.”

“It’s okay. You already… your Oma. …visit her tonight?”

Zayne shook his head. “Tomorrow. Opa says the doctor… be okay. But who knows?”

“I think we should… Harper. …lift her spirits?”

The little girl looked up at the sound of her name. “What, mama?”

“Do you want to go see Ur-Oma tomorrow?” Hope asked.

Harper nodded. “Okay!” Ur-Oma was soft and wrinkly, but she was really pretty too, and loved to smile. Sometimes she called her ‘Jocelyne’ though. Harper didn’t understand why. But she liked seeing Ur-Oma anyway. And going to her house meant she could get stories from Oma and football lessons from Ur-Opa too!

“Great! She’s gonna be so happy to see you, baby girl.” Zayne replied warmly. “Are you all done?”

“Uh-huh!”

Hope rose to her feet and began clearing the plates from the table. “And did you leave room for some ice cream?” She asked Harper as she bent forward to pick up the little girl’s plate.

“Yayayayayaya!”

Harper smiled as the sound of her Papa’s deep laugh reached her ears. She could hear it so clearly, despite how fuzzy so many other sounds were right now. Harper knew it was because Papa was special. Mama was a meercle, and he was one too.

As her father lifted her into his arms, she was relieved to see that both he and her mother seemed so much happier than before. And Harper knew why — ice cream was the perfect way to make anything better. Even a ‘tough day’… Whatever that was.

“You happy now, Papa?” She asked softly. “All better?”

“Are you kidding?” Zayne smiled at his little girl. “I’m always happy when I’m with you.”

———————————

Quick little note for everyone! 🙂 I have some “spare”/background characters that I am looking to offer to good homes in other SimLit stories.

If you are looking for a new character to add to your SimLit story (does not have to be a main character, but more than a background extra!) and are interested, click here to see a list of characters I currently have available for “Adoption” and read about how I will be deciding which character goes to which story 🙂

Thanks!

6.2: Joy

I know it’s one of the cheesiest cliches out there, but I can honestly remember the day Harper was born like it was yesterday. I think about that day so much… Especially whenever her birthday rolls around.

Looking back now, it was without a doubt the happiest day of my entire life. But it sure as hell didn’t feel that way at the time.

I have never felt more terrified and hopeless than I did that day… And I pray I never feel that way ever again.

After everything Hope and I went through to have her — All the years of pain and frustration… All the tragedy and loss we had to go through to finally have our baby girl, it felt like the universe was trying to take all that joy away from us, just like it had before. And I couldn’t go through that pain. Not again.

But our Harper was a fighter. And look at where she is now, three years later. She’s a miracle.

She’s so beautiful, just like her mother. And so smart too… She’s catching up to other kids her age so much faster than we were expecting. She’s so curious about everything, and she loves to laugh and smile… Every day with her is a new adventure, that’s for sure.

I just wish those adventures were always fun ones. I hate seeing her get sick so damn much.

At least this time it was just an ear infection… But God, she’s had so many this past year. Her doctor says it’s not uncommon for preemies to get more ear infections than most kids, but that the number she’s been getting is “unusual”. Especially getting ones that block her ears this badly. He told us if she has another one before August, we’ve gotta start looking at getting tubes put in. Surgery.

Hope and I both feel so sick just thinking about it. But we’ve gotta do what’s right for Harper… And if that’s what has to be, then that’s what’ll happen.

Anyway, I’ve been rambling way too much about the bad stuff… Today was a celebration of everything I just talked about. My beautiful little girl, and what a miracle she is. It was a really awesome day for everyone.

This year, our ‘midnight movie’ with Tante Joce really turned out to be an ‘after dinner’ movie so I could be up bright and early this morning to get everything ready for the party. It was a hell of a lot of work, but so worth it. We had a big family party for Harper and Tante Joce like we usually do. It’s always so fun seeing Harper get to celebrate her birthday with her Oma.

And what made today even better was that everyone was able to make it this year… Seriously, everyone. It’s really rare for all of us to get together like this anymore, so it was kinda awesome seeing everybody.

Even Alex and Tony ended up flying out to Windenburg for a visit. I was almost surprised — They haven’t made the trip out for Tante Joce’s birthday for a few years now. But I guess turning sixty-six is a pretty big milestone for their Mama, huh? And I know she really loved having all three of her girls there for once.

Oma was having a really great day too, and that just made the whole thing so much better. She was really alert and ‘with it’, y’know? She was happy and smiling, she recognized almost everybody… We were all so happy. Especially Opa. I know seeing Oma on her bad days has really been killing him. I loved seeing him smile again. Both of them.

I’ve really been worried about them lately. Tante Joce too. I guess it really hit me when we finished cleaning up and were heading for home. That big, beautiful house I grew up in just feels so empty now.

I mean, grandpa’s already been gone for a few years. It’s just Tante Joce and her parents now, all alone in that huge house. And I know it’s even harder now, after Oma had her stroke last year.

I’ve never heard any of them complain about it… But I can tell how lonely they all are. And can I really blame them?

I guess it all just makes me feel even more grateful for days like today. Chances to help bring a little bit of life back inside those old walls, y’know? To see the whole family come together like that.

And to watch my little girl fill them all with so much joy.

6.1: Interlude – Sweet Dreams

Zayne’s deep, booming laugh echoed in the silence of the empty bedroom. Beside him, his wife shushed him, trying her best to stifle her own laughter.

“Shhhh! If you wake up Harper, I swear to God…” Hope shook her head.

“Hey, this is your fault for springing it on me like this!” Zayne smirked playfully at her as he spoke. “Serves me right for working late, I guess…”

“Right? I’ve been waiting to show you all day.”

Zayne looked down at the magazine cover once more, half embarrassed, half amused. He’d nearly forgotten agreeing to a photoshoot and interview with one of Windenburg’s business magazines a few months ago. Dom had convinced him it would be good for business. And Hope, well, she’d been working so hard running the modeling agency for the past several years… But Zayne had a feeling she was eager for the chance to be in front of the camera again.

“God, did they have to use this picture?” He said at last. “I look ridiculous.”

“What are you talking about? You look hot!”

Zayne let out another loud burst of laughter.

This time, Hope didn’t even bother trying to shush him. “I just love that we somehow became ‘Windenburg’s hottest power couple’… And wait until you read the article.”

With a strange mixture of dread and anticipation, Zayne flipped through the pages to find his and Hope’s interview.

As he’d predicted, the article focused more on their personal lives than he would have liked… Especially his. Namedropping a bunch of famous Rosebrooks, detailing the tragedy of losing his parents, and, of course, all about Harper and the struggles they faced as parents.

A soft sigh passed his lips as his eyes scanned the article. “This is supposed to be a business magazine, right?” He asked Hope, half-amused.

“I know. It’s a little ridiculous, isn’t it? But… I guess sob stories are what sells these days.” She rolled her eyes. “They kept in some great quotes from you about opening that second location in Falkenburg though.” Hope pointed down at one of the pages for a moment.

“True!” Zayne agreed. “And look here… ‘From posing in front of the camera to sitting behind the desk at one of the top modeling agencies in Europe, Hope Forrester has single handedly changed the face of the modeling world as we know it’… Damn. That’s good.” His smile widened. “I guess this article isn’t all bad.”

“Definitely not.” Hope agreed. “It’s good publicity too, right?”

Her husband nodded as he closed the magazine and set it aside. “I just wish they’d taken a few pictures of the Peanut to put in there too… We spent half the interview gushing about her, didn’t we?” He laughed.

“Mmm… Our little girl.” Hope smiled warmly. “A picture would have been pretty adorable… But honestly, I’m really liking the eye candy.” She smiled playfully at him and wrapped an arm around his broad shoulders as she spoke. “Maybe you’re the one who should have been in a model instead of me.”

“Oh yeah? My face plastered all over magazines and billboards, huh?” Zayne shook his head. “You’re supposed to make people wanna buy the products, right?”

His wife giggled. “True. All those poor ladies will be too busy wiping the drool off their chins to even think of buying anything…”

“Unless I do an ad for baby bibs?”

“Ha! Genius…”

A high pitched wailing suddenly pierced through the still night air. “WAAAAAAHHHHHH!”

Zayne felt a terrible sinking feeling in his chest at the sound. Oh no.

“WAAAAAAHHHHHH!” The screeching continued as Harper stumbled through their bedroom door, tears running down her chubby little cheeks.

Zayne was the first one to reach her. He crouched down so he could look Harper in the eyes as he spoke. “Come here, baby girl.” He whispered. “Tell Papa what’s wrong.”

Harper simply continued to cry, though her ear-piercing wails had dropped down to small sobs and sniffles instead. Zayne was grateful for that. Her sobs had already begun giving way to a bit of coughing and labored breaths. He hoped she would be able to calm down enough before they had to resort to her inhaler.

“Does she feel warm?” Hope asked nervously.

Zayne placed a large hand on his daughter’s forehead. “Hmm… A little warmer than usual. But I don’t think it’s a fever…”

His wife leaned closer to Harper for a moment. “Does it hurt, sweetie?”

The toddler continued crying, seemingly ignoring her mother’s question.

“Show us where it hurts, okay?” Hope tried again, carefully enunciating each word.

This time, Harper reached up one of her tiny hands and began tugging on her right ear. Her mother and father exchanged a worried glance.

Great. Zayne’s heart sank as he reached down to scoop the little girl into his arms. Another ear ache… “Guess we can’t take any chances.” He told his wife softly. “We’ll call the doctor in the morning?”

Hope nodded. “I’ll go grab the ear drops.” She quickly headed out the bedroom door toward the bathroom.

Zayne sighed, hugging his sniffling daughter to his chest. He could hardly count the number of times they’d taken Harper to the doctor since she’d been born. Back when she was a newborn, it had almost felt like they lived at the hospital — and they more or less did, for the first several weeks of her life, at least. But ever since, it felt like there was always something bringing them back.

Her weakened immune system and poorly developed lungs were a dangerous combination — one that still caused problems even now. Zayne just prayed it was another simple ear infection this time… The last time Harper had ear pain, it had been a symptom of walking pneumonia.

Her party was on Saturday, and the last thing his little girl needed was to be sick on her birthday.

“There.” Hope forced a smile as she squeezed a few drops into Harper’s ear. “All done, Peanut.” She spoke a bit louder than usual as she addressed her daughter. Whenever this happened, it was normal for Harper’s ears to become so blocked that she could barely hear. “It’ll be all better soon.”

“Tank oo, mama.” The little girl replied softly.

“You’re welcome, honey.” Hope reached out and took Harper into her arms, carrying her back toward the bed with her.

She scooped up the little girl in one of her hands, tickling her ribs with the other until a soft giggle escaped Harper’s lips. “Ah, there’s the smile.” Her mother beamed.

Zayne looked down at the pair of them, marveling at the beautiful sight of his two favorite people in the entire universe. He would never understand what he did to deserve either of them… But whatever he did, he was so grateful for it. He just wished he didn’t have to see his little girl in so much pain.

“Feeling better, baby girl?” He asked his daughter as he climbed into bed beside them. Zayne realized too late that he was speaking into her blocked ear. He looked toward his wife for a moment.

“Harper, Papa asked if you’re feeling better.” Hope repeated gently into the little girl’s left ear.

Harper nodded, the pout finally gone from her face. “A wittle.” Her soft little voice replied.

“Tomorrow, Papa will take you to the doctor, okay? And the doctor will make it all better.” Zayne assured her, speaking loudly and clearly. He supposed most three-year-olds would be dreading a trip to the doctor… But Harper didn’t even flinch. She was so used to it already. “And then maybe afterwards we can get some ice cream.”

Harper’s entire face lit up. “Isa cweam!” She pulled away from Hope, racing eagerly into her father’s arms.

“Aha, I knew that’d make everything better.” Zayne teased.

“Let’s try to get some sleep now, okay Peanut?” Hope asked kindly. “Do you wanna sleep in here with mama and Papa?”

The little girl nodded. “Pwease?”

As always, neither of her parents could say no to her sweet little face. Hope slipped out of bed to turn off the light while Harper pressed her lips against her father’s for a moment.

“Mama and Papa love you so much, baby girl.” Zayne smiled warmly at her. “Goodnight.”

“Nuh-night, Papa.” Harper turned toward Hope as she crawled back into bed with them. “Nuh-night, mama.”

“Sweet dreams, Peanut.”

Within minutes, all three of them were fast asleep.

——————————————–

Shoutout to Maladi777 for helping me edit the magazine cover in this chapter!