8.5 Marriage Penalty

“Okay… What do you think?” Emberlynn asked her friend with a smile as she finally pulled her pencil away from the page. “Princess Superheroes!”

Zelda’s eyes lit up the moment they fell on her cousin’s sketchbook. “Perfect!” She cried happily. “Nat 20 on your drawing roll!”

“Thanks!” She replied proudly, her smile widening. “I dunno what I’m gonna get on my sewing roll though…”

“It’s okay. Daddy and Papa will help!“ Zelda assured her, speaking at her usual lightning-speed. “Papa’s SO good at math. He’ll figure out ‘zactly how much cloth you gotta buy. And Daddy makes a bajillion costumes every year and he can totally help you make ‘em perfect!”

“I hope so… I’m gonna ask when they finish playing.”

Emberlynn’s uncles were downstairs with her parents for their ‘adults only’ D&D game. Emberlynn and Zelda thought it was very unfair that their parents insisted on doing a special game without them. But, despite their protests, the grown-ups never seemed to give in. They got together once every couple weeks to play while the kids kept each other company.

“Am I allowed to see the other stuff you drew too?” Zelda asked, lifting Emberlynn’s sketch book from her desk without even waiting for a reply. “You told me ‘bout all the cool wedding clothes. But I wanna see ‘em!”

With a shrug, Emberlynn hopped to her feet to join her friend at the end of her bed. “Sure. There were some really pretty ones… WAY too hard to try and make for a GeekCon costume. But still awesome!”

She watched as Zelda flipped back a couple of pages, her brow furrowing in confusion a bit. “A dragon? A space ship…?” She looked over at her friend, shaking her head. “Ember, are you sure you went to a WEDDING and not a CON or something?”

Emberlynn felt her cheeks grow slightly warm. “I drew those for Xander.” She explained quickly. “Remember?”

Ohhhhhh! Duh!” With a laugh, Zelda turned the page. “I was gonna say, that must’a been the coolest wedding EVER!” She peered down at the page full of sketches of formalwear. “These are still neat though!”

“Yeah, it was so cool!” Emberlynn had never seen so many well-dressed people in the same place at the same time. Her lips curled into a smile at the memory. “It felt like I was at a fashion show or something!”

Zelda nodded slowly as she finally put the book down. “When I get married, everyone is gonna look amazing.. But it’s not gonna feel like a fashion show.” She explained. “It’s gonna feel like a super-awesome convention!”

“What kind?” Emberlynn asked with a laugh.

Her cousin just shrugged. “I dunno. Everyone’s gonna show up dressed as their favorite character. Whoever they wanna be!”

“Onkel Tam and Onkel Jasper are gonna love that!”

Zelda beamed. “I know! It’s gonna be the best EVER. And instead’a walking me down the aisle, the three of us are gonna fly.” She said confidently.

“Fly?” Emberlynn raised an eyebrow. “How?”

The other girl seemed completely unconcerned. “I dunno yet. But I’m not getting married until I’m SUPER old. And that’s like, a billion years from now. So I bet they’ll have like jet packs or hoverboards or something by then.” Zelda explained.

“Yeah, maybe!” Or maybe I’ll invent something like that after I figure out my teleporter. Emberlynn added mentally.

“So what about you, Ember?” Zelda asked excitedly. “What’s YOUR wedding gonna be like?”

She shook her head slowly. “I’m not getting married.”

“Ever?!”

“Ever.”

There was no hesitation or uncertainty in Emberlynn’s voice when she spoke. She said the words with such confidence, it almost felt like this was some sort of very purposeful, deliberate decision she’d made long ago. Something she’d thought about for a long time.

But it wasn’t. She’d never even thought about it until that very moment. But Emberlynn just knew. There wasn’t a single doubt or question in her mind.

“But… why?” Zelda asked almost incredulously.

Emberlynn sighed. The last thing she wanted right now was to get into some long talk about it… But she knew her friend just wanted an explanation.

“Mama and Papa.” She replied with a small shrug.

“What?”

“It just doesn’t look like being married’s a lot of fun. It’s just a bunch of stupid fighting and feeling sad and acting weird.” Emberlynn explained. “Who’d wanna do THAT?”

“It can’t be bad ALL the time though.” Zelda shook her head as she spoke. “Tante Gigi and Onkel Phee are FUN! Can’t you hear ‘em laughing down there?” The little girl paused, and they both listened.

And Zelda was right — the sound of her parents’ laughter was carrying up the stairs from the dining room. But that didn’t really mean anything to Emberlynn.

“Well, yeah. They’re fun and they laugh together sometimes. Especially when your Dad and Papa are here.That just means they had a good Marriage roll today.”

“So maybe if YOU get married, you’ll have good rolls all the time, like Daddy and Papa!” As usual, Zelda kept her sunny demeanor.

But Emberlynn wasn’t having it. “There’s no way to KNOW though.” She insisted. “And even if it starts OUT with good rolls, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna stay that way. I think it just keeps getting worse and worse if you’re married a long time. It’s like me and Tristan.”

“Huh? What’s Tristan got’ta do with it?”

“You can’t EVER tell him this… But I love him. He’s fun. But he’s also REALLY annoying.” Emberlynn explained. “And the more time we spend together, the harder and harder it gets to pass my Will Saves to not go CRAZY. I think there’s some kind of secret Sibling Penalty that keeps getting bigger and bigger the longer we’re together.”

Zelda was thoughtful. “So… You think there’s a Marriage Penalty too?”

Emberlynn nodded, her voice suddenly hardening. “I know there is. And I don’t wanna ever have to deal with it.”

“What about Daddy and Papa though? They’ve been married for forever! And they always have good Marriage Rolls.”

Emberlynn shrugged. “Maybe they’ve got some special modifiers or something. I dunno. I just know I’m never getting married.” She paused for a moment. “BUT…”

Her friend eyed her questioningly. “But what?”

“I’m totally gonna have some kind of big party where I get to wear a pretty dress and everyone wears fancy clothes anyway. It just won’t be a wedding.” Her lips stretched into a wide grin. “It’ll be something even better! Like… Like an un-wedding!”

“Oh… Cool!” Zelda’s eyes lit up. “Can I come?”

Duh!”

“Knock, knock!” A voice called from the doorway, causing both girls to jump.

“Hey, Oma!” Emberlynn called happily when she realized who it was.

Harper smiled warmly at the pair of them. “Just wanted to know if you girls were interested in some cookies… Tristan just finished helping me make a batch. And I THINK if we’re quick enough, we can get down there before he and your Opa Dev eat them all…”

Emberlynn and Zelda didn’t need telling twice. With a bright burst of giggles, the two girls followed Emberlynn’s grandmother out the door and down the stairs to the kitchen. Their earlier conversation was almost completely forgotten.

After all, Emberlynn knew she’d have plenty of time to worry about not getting married and planning her un-wedding when she was older. For now, she had more important things to worry about…

Like designing GeekCon costumes, having fun with her best friend, and making sure she got the last chocolate chip cookie before Tristan did.

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I know that mini-arc went by super fast, but that was the last child chapter! 😮 Just a little prelude to the heart of Emberlynn’s story, which will begin in the teen arc and carry on into her YA one, as is the norm with most of my Rosebrooks (I love writing kids, but dang it, they can’t get up to quite as interesting shenanigans as they can when they’re older 😉 )

I’ll be back early next week with the debut of the teen arc! In the meantime, since I want to gratuitously share my baby (since she’s so pretty ❤ ), below is a peek at the teen banner, if you haven’t seen it on the forums or front page yet 😀

(Oh, and I also updated the Rosebrook Family Tree, which has become a freaking monstrosity at this point LOL)

Thanks for reading, guys! ❤ 

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8.4: Curse

Ugh! I don’t get it! How can something be super-awesome AND super-awful at the same time?

I THOUGHT this was gonna be the best vacation ever. And it kinda was. Lotsa cool stuff happened. I rode on a boat and I went to a lighthouse and I got a really pretty pair of earrings! Plus I had a TON of fun with Mama and Papa and even Tristan (but he’s still a dummy). And I even made a new friend too!

But it was kinda the WORST vacation ever too. After the first couple days, it was like Mama and Papa failed ALL their Marriage rolls. And it ruined everything! They were all sad and grumpy and I have NO clue why.

Well, okay. I have ONE clue. Mama and Papa both said it’s got something to do with “bad memories”. But I still don’t really get it. What could be so bad that it made Mama not buy me that pretty dress? Or made Papa act really weird at the wedding? Or made them both so sad? And MAD?!

They’ve been fighting like CRAZY ever since that stupid wedding. And I’m used to it, since they get in stupid fights ALL THE TIME. But this time it feels different. I don’t know why. I can’t really explain it.

And it’s not just awful ‘cause it feels different. I wish they waited til we got home before they decided to start arguing every single day! This was supposed to be a super-awesome, fun vacation. But they ruined everything with all their dumb fighting.

I’m happy we’re going home tomorrow. I think that’ll make things better. We’ve just gotta get away from this place. Tristan told me Mama said Brindleton Bay was haunted with ghosts. But I know ghosts aren’t real. So that can’t be it.

But I DO think there’s something really really wrong about this place. I think it’s CURSED or something. And like Onkel Tam would say, it’s giving a -2 penalty to everything… especially Marriage rolls. Ugh!

So being away from the curse has gotta help, right? Then maybe everything will finally feel normal again. And even if Mama and Papa are still fighting, at least it’d be their NORMAL type of fights and not… whatever the heck this is! I can’t wait til it’s all over.

Plus, I can’t wait to see Zelda too. Writing stuff down in this journal’s kinda fun, I guess. But it’s not the same as talking to somebody. I’ve gotta tell her about everything that happened. Even the good stuff, like making a new friend.

This sounds SO weird, but I keep thinking about that Xander kid I met (but not like THAT. Ewwwww!). I just can’t believe I made a cool new friend, but now I’m never gonna see him again! It’s so stupid. I wish there was a way we could still play together. Especially after he taught me all those cool new English words too! I tried to write down all the ones I could remember, but I probably messed some up.

I was gonna try asking Papa for help, but he was so weird after the wedding that I didn’t wanna. Plus, I was sorta mad at him and Mama after the wedding too. And not just ‘cause of the fighting. They made me leave early! It’s their fault I’m never gonna see Xander again!

I didn’t even have time to ask him for his phone number or something… But I guess we wouldn’t really be able to talk anyway. You can’t point at stuff over the phone like you can in person.

It’s still so dumb that Papa and Mama made us leave though! I was having fun. And I didn’t even get to REALLY say goodbye.

Now do you see what I’m talking about? This trip was the best AND the worst at the same time. And now I’m just kinda sick of everything and ready to go back home!

I miss sleeping in my real bed and being around people who speak German instead of English all the time. Plus, sharing a room with Tristan is SO annoying. I would die if we ever had to share at home! It’s the worst thing EVER. Bleghhhh! Why are little brothers so awful?

Anyway, I’m gonna be REALLY busy when I get home though. Once I get back, me and Zelda only have two weeks to finish our costumes for GeekCon! Papa was lazy and BOUGHT his costume. But I wanted to make mine like Onkel Tam does. And he said he’d help us and even let us use his sewing machine to make them too.

This is gonna be my first time making my own costume. Ever! I’ve drawn lotsa pictures of costume ideas before though. Last summer when Onkel Tam DMed me and Zelda’s first D&D campaign, I drew pictures of ALL my character’s clothes. Even her pajamas!

Me and Zelda don’t know EXACTLY what we wanna dress like yet, but we’ll figure it out. We keep changing our minds between wearing pretty dresses like princesses, or cool costumes like superheroes!

Ooh! Or maybe there’s a way we can do both! Maybe we can be superhero princesses who can slay the dragons all by themselves and don’t need any robots to come save them! (See? I remember SOME English!)

Okay, I should probably stop writing now. Mama just told me we need to have dinner soon, and then we’ve gotta go to bed right after ‘cause we’ve gotta get up SUPER early tomorrow and go to the airport.

Ugh. I’m still really excited to go home and see Zelda and stuff. But I’m NOT happy about spending another trillion-jillion years on a stupid plane again!

Mama just keeps saying ‘you’ll survive’ every time I try talking about it. And I really hope she’s right.

I mean, I DID survive a trillion-jillion years on the way here, so I can probably last a trillion-jillion years on the way back too, right?

And it’ll be worth it if it gets us away from this stupid curse.

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Hey guys! Sorry for such a short chapter this time (but hopefully the last two longer chapters make up for it!)

I just wanted to take a second to make a little post because I doubt the next chapter will be done in time for Tuesday… which happens to be a very special day.

Tuesday, December 11th marks three years since I started A2A! 😱 I am thinking of doing a couple special posts on my forum thread on that day, but I wanted to throw a sappy little note in this chapter too!

The last three years writing this story have consisted of a lot of ups and downs (both on the page and off), and I wanted to take a moment to thank you guys for sticking by me and my story and always being wonderful and supportive, especially during some of those harder times. ❤️ I never really talked publicly about most of those difficult/drama-filled moments, so you might not have even realized you were helping me. But you were. And I’m so grateful.

All of your support has really helped me make it through those awful moments and hold on to the joy I feel writing this story. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. ❤️

We’re finally in the home stretch! Sort of 😛 Hopefully this time next year, we will be nearing the coveted Gen 10. And I hope that most of you reading this right now will still be there with me when we get there. Love you guys!

-Amanda/CitizenErased14

8.3: Ghosts

Note: This one is kinda long too… Sorry! LOL

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The next morning, Emberlynn had all but forgotten about her mother’s strange behavior and her parents’ arguing the night before.

She was too focused on the wedding, and how much fun it was gonna be to get all dressed up, wear her new earrings, and see the bride and groom and all the guests wearing their most beautiful clothes. Emberlynn had already asked for her parents’ permission to bring her sketch book along so she could draw some of the pretty outfits she saw. I can’t wait to show Zelda! She thought happily.

Emberlynn had only been to one wedding before — her Onkel Tam and Onkel Jasper’s. But she was only four years old when they got married. She couldn’t remember anything about it (though everyone loved telling her the story of how she had snuck away from her parents’ table and helped herself to several large handfuls of wedding cake before the reception even started).

Emberlynn was practically bouncing in her seat all through breakfast. But she couldn’t help but notice that her brother seemed to be the exact opposite. Tristan had barely said a word all morning… And normally, that would have been a good thing. Most days, Emberlynn was sick of his constant chatter about stupid baby stuff.

But today, she couldn’t help but worry that something was wrong.

When they returned to their hotel room to get dressed for the wedding, Emberlynn decided to voice her concerns. “Are you okay?” She asked him while her parents were in the other room getting ready. “You’re acting super weird today…”

Her little brother seemed to hesitate for a moment before deciding to reply. “It’s… the ghosts.” Tristan replied softly. “I’m kinda scared.” He confessed.

“Ghosts?” Emberlynn raised an eyebrow at her brother as she took a seat beside him on his bed. “What ghosts?”

“Didn’t you hear Mama and Papa last night? After dinner, when they were really mad, and yelling?”

She shook her head. She hadn’t even bothered trying to eavesdrop on their argument. But apparently Tristan had.

“Mama said she saw a ghost at the store yesterday!” He cried. “And then Papa told her she had to get used to it ’cause there were gonna be even more ghosts at the wedding!” Tristan looked almost as though he were about to cry. “Then Mama got really mad and said we never shoulda come here ’cause it’s haunted! She said there are ghosts of Christmas past everywhere!”

Emberlynn shook her head slowly. “There’s no way they really said that. Christmas isn’t for a long time. And ghosts aren’t real, dummy.”

“I’m not a dummy! And they are real! Mama’s really scared of ’em!” Tristan insisted. “I even heard her and Papa fighting one last night!”

“What?”

“I couldn’t sleep. I was too scared. So I was gonna go in Mama and Papa’s room to sleep with them.” He explained. “But then I heard lotsa banging sounds from the other side of the door. And Mama and Papa were making these noises and breathing really hard, like they were fighting something! And I think it was the ghost!” His cheeks had begun growing red and his eyes were glistening slightly with tears. “I was too scared to watch the fight, so I came back to bed. But I still couldn’t sleep.”

Emberlynn just rolled her eyes. Her brother had the craziest dreams sometimes. “That was a nightmare, dummy. Mama and Papa would’ve told us if they got attacked by ghosts.” She assured him.

“Not if they wanna protect us! I asked them this morning about the scary ghost attack.” Tristan explained. “I told them what happened last night and they looked at each other all weird. They looked really nervous. But then they said it was just in my head. And I know they lied! They just don’t want us to be scared of the ghosts too. But I am!” Without warning, tears began falling down his cheeks. Tristan jumped up from the bed, balling his hands into fists at his side as his tears continued to fall. “I don’t wanna go to the wedding! I don’t wanna see any ghosts!”

No matter how stupid and babyish he was being, Emberlynn couldn’t stand to see her brother cry.

A heavy sigh passed her lips as she pushed herself from the bed. “Come here, dummy.” Emberlynn placed her hands on his shoulders as she spoke. “There’s no such thing as ghosts. But… if there are any ghosts hanging out at the wedding, I’ll protect you.” She said softly. “Okay?”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

Emberlynn couldn’t help but smile as her little brother wrapped her in a tight embrace. “Thanks, Ember… You’re the best big sister ever.”

She chuckled softly. “I know.”

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Several hours later, Emberlynn found herself wishing there was a ghost or two at the wedding.

At least that would have made it interesting!

As she’d predicted, everybody looked amazing. They wore some of the prettiest clothes she’d ever seen, and the bride’s dress was incredible. But after about ten minutes, that was no longer enough to keep poor Emberlynn amused.

The ceremony dragged on forever. Maybe not a trillion-jillion years like the plane ride. But at least a billion.

And the food at the reception wasn’t nearly as yummy as she’d been expecting it to be. The chicken was dry and the carrots were soggy and everybody else there was a stranger. And even worse, they were speaking English. Emberlynn had no idea what anyone was saying.

She’d tried a few times to ask her parents to help translate, but they were too busy being weird. Her Mama had been grumpy all day. And sad too. Sometimes, it almost looked like she was going to cry. But no matter how upset she seemed, Emberlynn noticed that her Mama stayed by her Papa’s side the entire time. She made sure she was always holding his hand or wrapping her arm around him. Emberlynn wondered why would she do that if she was so upset. It didn’t make any sense.

But her Papa didn’t really seem to notice. Or even care, really. It felt like he wasn’t paying attention to anybody. Well, not anybody he was supposed to. He was barely even looking at his wife or his children all day. And even when his friends came over to say hello (and finally speak some German, much to Emberlynn’s delight), her father still seemed so distracted.

Tristan had told her it was all because their parents were worried about the ghosts. But Emberlynn hadn’t forgotten what her Papa had told her about the wedding bringing back some bad memories. That’s gotta be it… Ugh. Why do they have to be acting so weird?! She wondered bitterly. But at least they aren’t fighting.

Once the meal was over and the dancing had begun, Emberlynn decided to take advantage of the freedom and explore the reception hall a bit. “Mama? Papa? Can I please go walk around or something?” She asked as her parents awkwardly sipped their coffees. “I’m bored. And I can’t just keep sitting here doing nothing or I’m gonna die.

“Don’t joke about that, Emberlynn!” Her mother snapped at her. “It’s not funny.”

“I’m not joking. I’m really bored and I’m really gonna die!”

“I won’t let you.” Tristan interjected before Gigi could reprimand her daughter once more. “You said you were gonna protect me. I’m gonna protect you too!”

“See?” Her father forced a smile as he finally tore his eyes away from the other side of the reception hall. “You’ve got Tristan to protect you. No dying tonight.”

Papa, you know what I mean!” Emberlynn groaned.

Gigi sighed, seemingly annoyed at her husband’s response as well. “Yes, you can go walk around, honey. But take your brother with you.”

“Ugh. Fine.” Emberlynn knew better than to argue, especially when her parents were in such strange moods. “Let’s go, dummy.” She beckoned for Tristan to follow as she jumped up from the chair and began wandering around the reception hall.

It wasn’t long before she found something of interest. Over at the corner of the dance floor, she saw a small trio of children who looked around her age. Finally! Somebody to talk to! Emberlynn eagerly skipped over to them, her little brother following along in her wake.

The other children turned around at their approach.

“Hi!” One of them called out kindly.

In English.

Oh no! Emberlynn had almost forgotten. How the heck was she supposed to talk to these kids?

“Hi!” She smiled back at the others, summoning all the English knowledge she could muster, limited as it was. “I am Emberlynn. He is Tristan.” She pointed to her brother as she spoke slowly and carefully in the unfamiliar language. “Who are you?”

She watched as the other children exchanged confused glances. Oh no! Did I say something wrong?!

“I’m Dennise!” The little girl finally replied. “And this is Bernie and this is, uh…?” She seemed to have forgotten the other boy’s name. Maybe they’d just met each other too?

“Xander.” The boy finished for her, smiling at Emberlynn and her brother. “Dooyu wamp laywitus?”

Emberlynn and Tristan both raised an eyebrow. “Huh?”

“Dooyu wamp laywitus?” He repeated, more slowly this time but still in gibberish. Or English. Same thing.

She shook her head in reply, wracking her brain for the right words to reply. “Mein English is… small?”

Dennise and Bernie both laughed at her reply, and Emberlynn felt her cheeks grow red with a mixture of embarrassment and anger.

But Xander, at least, kept smiling. “We… Can… Teechoo.” He said, very slowly.

Emberlynn shrugged. She had no idea what he was saying. But at least he seemed friendly.

She followed Xander as he beckoned them over to an empty table. Dennise and Bernie hung back, watching. And so did Tristan.

The black-haired boy pointed at one of the objects on the table. “Plate.”

“Plate.” Emberlynn repeated, returning Xander’s smile as she reached out her own finger to point. “Teller.”

“Teller.” Xander’s pronunciation was horrible. Emberlynn couldn’t help but giggle at the sound.

Teller.” She repeated, nodding. Emberlynn then turned her attention to one of the chairs beside her. “Stuhl.”

“Oh! Stool!” He sounded very excited this time, though Emberlynn couldn’t understand why.

Close enough, she thought with a smile.

“We kallituh chair.” Xander continued, pointing.

Emberlynn tried her best to imitate his pronunciation. “Chair.”

It didn’t take long before the others grew tired of Emberlynn and Xander’s language game. Even Tristan. He ran off after the other two kids back toward the dance floor, though Emberlynn had no clue how he expected to communicate with them.

Meh. He’ll figure it out. She told herself as she led Xander back to her family’s table, which was now deserted. Emberlynn secretly hoped her parents were off somewhere finally getting along with each other. But something told her that was not the case. Oh well. She chased the thought from her mind as she picked up her pencil and beckoned Xander closer.

They’d both started growing tired of naming objects around the room. So Emberlynn had come up with a different plan. Her pencil danced across the page for a few moments as her drawing began to take shape. When it was completed, she pointed down at her sketch proudly. “Das ist ein Raumschiff.”

“Ram-shiff.” Xander repeated horribly. “We kallituh spaceship.”

“Space…ship?”

He nodded, his smile widening as he examined her drawing more closely. “Ureeley good atchrawing!” Xander paused when he saw the confusion on her face, and tried again. “This is very good.” He said slowly.

This time, Emberlynn understood. “Thank you very much.” She replied in her best English as she lifted the pencil and began drawing once more.

This time, she did a fantasy scene, with a princess, a dragon, and a knight in shining armor. She’d never tried drawing a knight before, so it wasn’t her best. But she was proud of how awesome her dragon looked.

She and Xander leaned in close together to peer down at the new sketch. “Prinzessin is Princess.” Emberlynn beamed, proud of herself for already knowing the English word. “Und das ist ein Drache.” She said as her finger drifted across the page to the dragon. “Und ein Ritter.” She tapped the knight’s helmet this time.

Drache… Dragon.” The boy explained. “And, uh…” He squinted down at the poorly-drawn knight.

Ritter.” Emberlynn repeated.

Ritter... a robot?” He said uncertainly.

She smiled down at her drawing. “Princess. Dragon. Robot.”

Xander nodded happily.

“Emberlynn? There you are.” The little girl nearly jumped at the sound of her father’s voice over her shoulder. “Say goodbye to your friend, honey. It’s time to go.”

If he’d asked her half an hour ago, she would have leapt on the chance to leave. But now… Emberlynn shook her head. “I wanna stay.” She whined.

“We can’t, honey. It’s getting late.” He sounded so tired and sad.

“Can’t we stay just a little longer?”

Phoenix shook his head.

“But…”

This time his voice was stern. “No more arguing. Your mother already went to look for Tristan. Let’s go.”

Emberlynn turned sadly toward Xander. “I go.” She said softly in English. “Sorry.”

“I’m sorry too.” He replied, his smile fading. “I had fun.”

“Me too.” With reluctance, Emberlynn finally rose to her feet and lifted her notebook from the table. “We are… Freunde?” She asked. Even if she never saw this boy again, it would be nice to know she’d made a new friend.

Xander nodded eagerly, a small smile coming to his lips. “We are.” He replied. It seemed he’d understood what she meant. “Friends.”

She gave him a small wave and returned his smile before finally turning to follow her father.

At least the wedding wasn’t TOTALLY lame. Emberlynn told herself. In fact, she’d ended up learning a lot, and having a lot of fun too.

She just wished she could have said the same for her parents. They’d both been acting so strangely all night. And on the way back to the hotel, her Mama and Papa were both so quiet and cold, even worse than before. It almost felt like something had changed… But what?

If she didn’t know any better, Emberlynn would almost say that her brother was right. Maybe they had seen a ghost at that wedding.

Because whatever it was haunted them for the rest of the night.

8.2: Not Every Day

Note: This chapter is super long! Sorry haha

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Emberlynn hummed softly to herself as she and Tristan followed their parents down the sidewalk. She’d known that taking a family vacation together would be super awesome. But it was already even better than she’d dreamed it would be.

Today was only their third day in Brindleton Bay, and they were already having so much fun! They’d had a really yummy lunch once they landed, then they’d spent most of the first day napping and trying to get rid of what her parents referred to as “jetlag” (Emberlynn wasn’t sure what that was, exactly, but it felt like some kind of terrible sleeping spell).

Yesterday, Tristan had gotten his wish and took a boat ride to visit the lighthouse. They all did. And, much to Emberlynn’s chagrin, she was the one who panicked once they hit the open water, not her brother. Thankfully, her parents managed to calm her down and by the time they reached the island, she was fine. And she and Tristan were having so much fun re-living their lighthouse adventures that she’d completely forgotten about her fears on the ride back to the mainland.

Today had definitely been the best though. Everything had been perfect, ever since the moment they woke up. And Emberlynn knew she could thank her parents for that.

Her lips curled into a small smile as she watched her mother and father talk and laugh together. She loved seeing them like this. They TOTALLY rolled a 20 today. She thought happily.

Emberlynn always loved the way her Onkel Tam explained things using D&D. And that was the best way she could come up with to explain her parents’ marriage too. Like she often told Zelda, it was like her Mama and Papa made a Marriage Roll every morning. And most days, their roll was pretty crappy. Sometimes even a Critical Failure. And those days were the worst.

But other days… Her smile grew even wider as she thought back to their trip to the beach earlier that morning. Her parents had giggled and splashed together in the ocean waves, like they were two little kids.

And they’d both been in such a good mood during lunch too… It was amazing. And Emberlynn already didn’t want the day to end.

Look!” Tristan’s shrill cry suddenly called his sister back to the present. “Toys!” He’d stopped dead in his tracks, staring eagerly at a large window display full of stuffed animals and figurines.

Emberlynn rolled her eyes. When her parents had promised to take them shopping after lunch, she’d been afraid something like this would happen. Tristan was still into so much boring, little-kid stuff. But not her. She liked clothes and jewelry and art supplies and video games. Cool stuff. Not baby stuff.

“Looks pretty cool… Wanna check it out?” Gigi smiled down at her son.

His eyes lit up instantly. “Yeah!”

Ugh!” Emberlynn groaned. “Do we have to?”

Phoenix’s brow furrowed slightly. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t wanna look at baby stuff.”

“It’s not for babies!” Tristan shouted. “It’s fun!”

“No it’s not!”

“Yes it is! You just don’t like it ’cause you’re boring, Ember!”

“Yeah, well you’re a baby!” Emberlynn stuck her tongue out at her brother as she spoke.

“Mama! She called me a baby!” Tristan’s eyes had already begun to well with tears.

Emberlynn’s brow furrowed in anger. “No fair! He called me boring first!”

A heavy sigh of frustration passed Gigi’s lips. “Okay, okay, enough!

Both children went silent.

Phoenix took a step toward them. “No more fighting, or we go straight back to the hotel, understood?”

Emberlynn sighed. How come they were allowed to fight all the time, but she and her brother weren’t? “But he –”

Her father silenced her with a look. “No more.” He repeated. “Now, Tristan, why don’t you and I go check out the toy store?” Phoenix offered. “And Emberlynn, you and your mother can go find something else to do. And we’ll meet back up after?” His eyes flicked toward his wife as he spoke.

Gigi smiled gently at him. “Sounds good to me. Are you two okay with that?” She asked her children.

Both nodded in unison.

“Great… Have fun, you two.” Phoenix smiled warmly at his wife and daughter before looking back down at his son. “Let’s go, buddy.”

Tristan eagerly followed his father into the toy store while Emberlynn and her mother continued down the sidewalk.

“Emberlynn…” Gigi began gently, shaking her head. “You’ve gotta stop giving your brother such a hard time.”

“It’s not like I wanna be mean to him.” She replied. “He’s just annoying. I get sick of all his little kid stuff.”

Her mother laughed softly. “You’re still a kid too, sweetie.”

“Yeah, but not a little kid.” Emberlynn insisted.

“Well, you used to be. Try to remember that the next time your brother starts getting on your nerves, okay?”

The little girl sighed. “I will.” She promised.

“So… since the toy store was too boring, what else did you have in mind?”

“I dunno… Something cool. And pretty!” Emberlynn’s eyes scanned the row of stores they passed. “OOH! Like that!” She skipped over to a beautiful window display full of sparkling jewelry. “Can we go inside, Mama?” She begged. “Please?!”

“Sure… But just to look.” Gigi replied, smiling.

Emberlynn eagerly pushed open the heavy glass door in front of her and headed inside.

Her eyes widened as they took in all the beautiful gold and gemstones that surrounded her. Emberlynn had never seen so much jewelry in her entire life. It was like she’d stepped into a secret lair, full to the brim with treasure.

Her mother followed in apparent amusement as Emberlynn made her way around the store, eagerly examining every display. “Wow, Mama.” She breathed at last. “Look at those! They’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!” She gushed, staring down at a glittering pair of earrings. “They’re perfect! Can I get them?” She asked. “Please?”

She watched her mother’s eyes widen as she looked down at the price tag. “I don’t think so, honey.” She replied gently. “They’re beautiful, but… They’re way too expensive. I’m sorry.”

Emberlynn’s face fell. “But Mama…”

“Come on. Let’s go look somewhere else. I bet we can find something way better.” Gigi assured her daughter as she gently guided her to the door.

Emberlynn pouted the entire way.

Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before the earrings were far from her mind. The next store they stopped at was full of bright and beautiful clothing that caught Emberlynn’s eye immediately. She started imagining all the different costumes she and Zelda could create with them, and how beautiful and special some of those dresses would make her feel.

“Can I try this one on, Mama?” She asked. “It’s amazing!”

This time, Gigi looked much less taken aback at the price tag. “Alright… But only if you give me a fashion show!” She teased.

Emberlynn rolled her eyes, but smiled as she eagerly took the dress from the rack and headed back to the fitting rooms.

The dress was even better than she’d thought it would be. It fit her perfectly, and made her feel like a princess. “What do you think, Mama?”

Gigi smiled warmly at her. “I think somebody’s getting a new dress. Just don’t tell Papa how much it cost… It’s better than those earrings, but we’re still pushing it.” She laughed.

“I won’t tell.” Emberlynn promised. “Thank you, Mama!”

The dress was so beautiful, she almost didn’t want to take it off. But Emberlynn knew she had to. Maybe I can wear it to the wedding tomorrow. She’d already brought one of her favorite dresses from home to wear. But this one was so much better!

She was so busy daydreaming about how pretty she’d look at the wedding that she nearly ran into her mother as they made their way toward the cash register. Gigi had suddenly stopped walking and was staring, wide-eyed and pale, at something on the other side of the store.

“Mama?” Emberlynn asked softly. “What’s wrong?” She tried to follow her mother’s gaze, but she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Just a bunch of clothes, some bottles of perfume, and two men talking at the register.

“I’m sorry, honey.” Gigi muttered, turning quickly away from the register. “But we’ve gotta go.”

“Huh?”

“Put the dress back. Let’s go.”

“But Mama, you promised! You said I could get it!”

“I know.” Gigi’s voice was pained as she began heading back toward where they’d found the dress. “But you already have such pretty clothes. You don’t need another dress. We’ll find you something better somewhere else, okay?”

“But Mama, it’s not fair!”

“That’s enough!” Gigi replied harshly. “No arguing. Let’s go.”

This time, Emberlynn did more than just pout. She cried the entire way back to the hotel.

And, for some reason, it looked like her mother might do the same.

Just like that, their perfect day was ruined. Emberlynn didn’t understand what she’d done wrong. She loved that dress. And her mother had promised her she’d get it. So why did she change her mind? What had made her so upset? What did I do?!

Every time she tried asking her mother about it, Gigi got angry.

And, when he learned about what was going on, Phoenix got angry too. He and Gigi retreated into their bedroom after dinner that night, and began arguing with one another. But Emberlynn didn’t even have the strength to try and eavesdrop this time. It didn’t matter what they were saying. What mattered was that her parents were fighting again. And it was all her fault.

But she still didn’t understand why.

When the fighting was over, Gigi left the hotel suite without a word. Her father remained in the bedroom. He’s probably still mad, Emberlynn thought.

Tristan was busy playing with the new toy Phoenix had bought him at the store, so Emberlynn pulled out her journal to try and write about all of the confusing and upsetting things that had happened that day.

She’d only written a couple of pages before she was interrupted by a voice calling to her from her parents’ room. “Emberlynn. Could you come here please?”

Oh no… What now? Is Papa mad at me too? Her heart sank with dread as she made her way through the open door.

She found Phoenix sitting on the edge of the bed, eyeing her expectantly as she entered.

“Hey, Papa.” She said softly, carefully taking a seat beside him.

“Hey, Munchkin.” Her father gave her a warm smile. “I just wanted to make sure you’re doing okay. I know today was kind of crazy.”

Emberlynn’s face fell at his words. “Yeah… Do you know when Mama’s coming back? I wanna tell her I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” His brow furrowed in confusion. “For what?”

She hesitated before replying. “I dunno.” Emberlynn confessed. “I don’t know what I did. But I made Mama mad. Did I make you mad too?”

Phoenix shook his head. “Honey, no. You didn’t make either of us mad, okay? I promise.”

“Then how come Mama didn’t get me the dress?” She asked. “And how come you guys started fighting again?”

“I swear it wasn’t about you.” Phoenix assured her gently. “Look… You remember that Mama and Papa lived here for a little while, right? A long time ago. Before you were born.”

Emberlynn nodded. That was how her father had made friends with Addy and Niko in the first place.

“Well… Back when we lived here, we had a lot of good memories. But there were some bad things that happened too. Things that make us both feel really sad.” He explained. “And while you were at the store today, Mama got reminded about the bad stuff. It made her upset. But it had nothing to do with you.”

“So she wasn’t mad at me?”

“Nope. She was just sad.” He assured her. “And tomorrow at the wedding, we both might feel sad about some of those bad things too. I don’t know yet. But if we do, just remember, it’s not your fault. I promise.”

Emberlynn was thoughtful for a moment. “But I don’t get it… How come you got mad at her? It’s not Mama’s fault she felt sad.”

Phoenix’s face fell instantly at his daughter’s words. “You’re right. It’s not her fault.” He agreed. “Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten so angry with her. I was just upset that she made you sad.” Her father wrapped an arm around her.

“So it was my fault.” The smile slowly disappeared from Emberlynn’s face as she spoke. “You got mad at Mama because I was sad…”

“Honey, no. It’s not like that.” He replied almost desperately. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay. Because I love you, Munchkin.”

“I love you too, Papa.” She nuzzled her head into his shoulder as she spoke.

“And I never want you blaming yourself when your Mama and I get mad at each other, okay? It’s just… being married is complicated.” He explained. “But your Mama and I love you and Tristan very much, no matter what. And we love each other too.”

Emberlynn shook her head, finally pulling away from his embrace. “Not every day though.”

“What?”

“You don’t love each other every day.” She repeated sadly. “But I wish you did.”

“Sweetie, no… That’s not…” Phoenix sighed softly. “Look, honey, your Mama and I…”

They were interrupted by the sound of the opening hotel room door.

“Mama!” Tristan’s cry carried from the other room. “You’re back!”

Gigi’s reply was too muffled to make out, but was interspersed with a series of loud smooching sounds. Kiss attack! Emberlynn couldn’t help but smile. That was Tristan’s favorite. And hers too… but she’d never tell anybody that.

“Knock, knock.” Gigi said softly as she appeared at the bedroom door.

“Hi, Mama.” Emberlynn smiled at the sight of her mother.

“Can we talk for a minute, honey?”

The little girl nodded as Phoenix rose from the bed. He gave his wife a small smile as he passed her and headed out to join Tristan in the other room.

Gigi quickly took her husband’s place beside their daughter. “Emberlynn, I wanted to apologize for before.” She said seriously. “What happened at the store… that was really unfair. And I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Mama. Papa explained it to me.”

“He did?” Gigi asked nervously. “What did he explain, exactly?”

Emberlynn shrugged. “He said you had a bad memory when we were at the store. He said it made you sad, and that was why we had to leave.”

Her mother appeared visibly relieved at her words. “Well, he’s right. That is what happened… But it still wasn’t fair. And I feel awful about it… But I have something that might make it up to you.” Gigi’s lips curled into a smile as she spoke, reaching into her pocket.

For one wild moment, Emberlynn almost expected her to pull out the beautiful dress from the store. But there was no way it could fit in a tiny pocket.

And she was right. But what her mother pulled out was almost as good.

“The earrings!” Emberlynn squealed in delight. She pulled the sparkling studs from the box in her mother’s hand and put them on instantly, rushing over to look at herself in the mirror. “They’re perfect, Mama!”

Gigi laughed softly. “Good. I’m glad you like them.”

“But… you said they were too expensive.” For a moment, her face fell. “Are you sure it’s okay?”

Gigi nodded. “It’s fine. But this time you really can’t tell your father how much they were.”

“I won’t, I promise.” Emberlynn assured her mother, beaming. “And I’m gonna wear them every single day. Forever. These are the best! Thanks, Mama!”

“You’re welcome. I love you so much, sweetie.” Gigi said softly as she pulled her daughter into a warm hug. “Never forget that.”

“I won’t, Mama… I love you too.”

8.1: A Trillion-Jillion Years

Ugh! My Mama is a big fat liar. (Hmm… Okay, maybe not the big and fat part, but the liar part!)

She told me flying on an airplane was “fun” and “exciting” and “an adventure”. But it’s really just noisy and stupid and boring.

We’ve been on this thing for a million-jillion years already. And Papa told me we STILL have four more hours! Which is secret code for a trillion-jillion years. Blegh!

When I grow up, I’m gonna invent a teleporter. Like the ones in Galaxy Quest 7. Then you can go wherever you want in the whole entire world and it won’t be boring and make your ears feel like they’re gonna explode.

I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if there was something fun to do. But all the movies on the plane are lame and my tablet died, so now I’m stuck. I was gonna get out my sketchbook and start designing me and Zelda’s costumes for GeekCon, but I don’t wanna do it without asking her for ideas first. And I wanted to call and talk to her about it, but my parents said you aren’t allowed to use a phone on an airplane (Why????).

That was when Papa gave me one of his notebooks. He told me I should try writing. So I am.

I guess it’s kinda like one of those “tradition” thingies. Everybody in my whole family writes something. My Oma Harper writes books. My Opa Erik writes computer-y stuff. My Onkel Tam writes D&D campaigns. My Onkel Jasper writes science-y things. My Mama writes magazine articles. And my Papa writes lotsa notes about his clients.

And he writes in a journal too.

And out of all those choices, that one’s definitely the easiest. Papa says journals are where you write down everything you’re thinking and feeling. And I’m thinking about lotsa stuff right now. So I’m gonna have a lot to write about.

And maybe if I keep writing and writing and writing, the next trillion-jillion years will go by faster, and we’ll be in America.

I bet it’s already been like an hour since I started writing. I’m gonna ask Papa.

Ten minutes?! Ughhhhhhh…

Okay. Gotta find more stuff to talk about.

I don’t even know who’s gonna read this thing anyway. Probably nobody. I guess it doesn’t matter if anybody does… as long as it’s not the pain-in-the-butt (aka Tristan).

Nah, I don’t think he’d really do it. He’s still the biggest pain-in-the-butt ever, but he’s not the worst little brother in the world. And according to him, I’m the best big sister (duh). So he wouldn’t do it… I think. And besides, he doesn’t like reading anyway. And he’s only six, so he sucks at it too.

But Zelda is definitely allowed. She loves reading (even though she’s only a year older than Tristan. He’s just dumb). And I tell her everything. She’s two years younger than me, but she’s still my best friend in the world. And my cousin too.

But she’s only been my cousin for a couple years. I know that sounds weird. I have to explain it to people all the time.

I still remember when Tam and Jasper told me I was gonna get a new cousin. I thought it was gonna be a baby. Everybody did.

They always love telling the story about when they saw Zelda’s picture for the first time. They thought they wanted to get a baby, but they said when they saw her, they just knew. And when they found out her name was Zelda (like the princess), Tam said it was destiny. They’ve been a family ever since.

She was really quiet when I first met her. Way more quiet than me. She told me it took a little while before she felt like she was part of the family. But now, it’s like she’s always been here. And she only gets quiet now if super rude people ask her about being adopted. Ugh. Dummies.

Okay, that had to be an hour now. I’m gonna ask Papa again.

FIVE minutes?! Did somebody cast a Slow Time spell or something?! Maybe Papa’s watch is broken. That’s gotta be it. We HAVE to get there soon. Or else I’m gonna go CRAZY! Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I swear I’m not usually this grumpy about stuff. It’s just SO annoying. Even more annoying than Tristan!

I’m still excited about going to America though, even if the plane part is super lame. I’ve never been so far away from home before. And we’ve never gone on a family trip together either!

We’re going to Brindle Bay because Papa’s friends are getting married. Addy and Niko. Papa says I met them before when I was really little, but I don’t really remember. It was a long time ago. He’s told me about them before though. He says I’ll really like them. And they know some German too, so we can talk to them. That’ll be cool.

I’m just happy Mama and Papa said me and Tristan could come too. I was afraid they’d say we couldn’t. They fought about it after Papa got the wedding invitation. I still remember the day it came in the mail. I watched him open it when he got home from work.

At first he looked really happy. Then he looked… kinda sad, maybe. Or confused. It was weird. Then he went downstairs to talk to Mama (by the way, “talk” means “get in a super-stupid fight”).

I don’t think he knew I followed him. And I definitely don’t think he knew I could hear what they were saying. But it was mostly just yelling. Same as always. Ugh.

It started out with all this stuff about “bad memories” that was really weird. It sounded like Mama didn’t wanna go.

But then they couldn’t decide whether Papa was gonna come by himself or not. Or if they were gonna bring me and Tristan too. And then they started fighting about how long we were gonna stay. It was so stupid. But their fights are ALWAYS stupid, so I guess I’m used to it.

Anyway, I was soooo sure they were gonna be mean and say me and Tristan had to stay at home. But they didn’t!

So now it’s gonna be a big vacation! Papa promised he’d take me to the beach and Mama said we could go shopping and see the lighthouse. I can’t wait! And I know Tristan’s really excited too. He says he wants to ride on a boat while we’re there, but I bet he’ll be too chicken. Ha!

Uh oh. I’m running out of stuff to say again. Plus this dinky little table thing is all wobbly. And no offense, but all this writing’s starting to get kinda boring… And my hand sorta hurts too.

Do you think NOW it’s been an hour? It has to be, right?

I’m gonna check again.

I give up! Papa says I need to stop asking, or time will go even slower (Is that even possible?!)

Then he said I should take a nap ‘cause sleeping is the only thing that can speed up time. And I think he’s right.

It’s like in the movies, when people are on a space ship and they go to sleep in those weird tube things. And when they wake up, BAM, they’re on the other side of the universe and it feels like it only took two seconds to get there.

So… I guess I’ll try it. I think I’ll write some more later though. Maybe when we get to the hotel. But for now, Papa’s right. I guess I’m kinda tired anyways. I should try and go to sleep.

I mean, how else am I supposed to survive the next trillion-jillion years on this dumb plane?

————————–

All readers: “OMG Amanda, SLOW DOWN! What happened to your supposed ‘once-a-week’, irregular schedule?”

Me: “I’m just excited, okay?!” 😥

LOL no but seriously. Sorry for inundating you guys with chapters lately. I was just eager to get the ball rolling. This will genuinely be the last one in this random ‘burst’, because I’m no longer on vacation and am now back to teaching and taking my class 😦 Next chapter will probably be Saturday (yes, really. I have work to do for my class that I can’t put off anymore 😛 )

Okay, enough chatter from me. Welcome to Gen 8! 🙂

7.61: Well Enough

Everybody always talks about how “time flies when you’re having fun”. And obviously time doesn’t actually move any faster. It’s all in our heads. It’s an illusion.

But you don’t have to be having fun for that illusion to take effect either. Sometimes time flies when you’re insanely busy. Or incredibly stressed out. Or both. Anything but bored, really.

The last few months haven’t been ‘fun’ at all… But they’ve definitely been busy. And stressful as hell. So they flew by.

But it was worth it, because they all led up to one of the most amazing moments of my entire life.

This is probably the craziest thing I’ve ever had to write, but… I’m a father now.

Our little Emberlynn decided to make her grand entrance two weeks sooner than we expected. She took us all by surprise.

Gigi had been feeling some contractions throughout the day, but we really didn’t think anything of it at first. She thought it was the usual kind she’d been getting. The kind that don’t really mean anything.

But when we were over at Papa and Rubi’s for dinner that night, we realized it was go-time.

And then, about eight hours later, our little girl was here.

Gigi did so great. She was screaming and swearing the entire time, but it’s not like I could blame her. And seeing her go through that… I dunno. It’s like I saw her in a different way or something. A way I’d never seen before. And it made me feel a lot closer to her.

Especially when I got to see our daughter for the first time. The little human being we created together. It’s one of the oldest cliches, but seriously, I fell completely in love with her the second I saw her. It was incredible.

I’ll be honest though, it’s kind of bizarre too. If you think about it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Like, you’re holding this squishy little thing in your arms that screams and cries and poops and essentially looks like a wrinkly little potato. And yet all you can think is “Oh my God, I would literally die for this smelly little lump.”

Tam says all newborns automatically cast a level 20 charm spell on anybody who looks at them. And, well, I’ve gotta agree. She’s got us all wrapped around her little fingers (all of them!) already.

The first couple days, we were totally on cloud nine. It felt so amazing to be able to have Gigi and Emberlynn in my arms and just know that we’re a family. A whole one. Complete. What I’ve always wanted.

It hasn’t been quite so easy since we came home though. I’m not really sure what changed. Being in the hospital just felt different, I guess.

Even with Mama and Dev and Oma and even Lila helping out, it’s just so much work. Like, more work than I ever thought it’d be. Between doing work for my classes and trying to take care of the baby, I can’t even remember the last time I slept for more than like four hours at a time. And I know it’s just as bad for Gigi too.

But that hasn’t been making things any easier for the two of us. We stopped going to therapy back in October. It finally felt like we were getting somewhere. We really didn’t think we’d need it anymore. And things were pretty good for a while.

But now that the ‘high’ of having a new baby wore off, we’re just… tired. Of everything. Including each other, most days. We always get into these stupid fights over the most pointless shit. Like whose turn it is to feed Emberlynn. Or change her diaper. Or get up and check on her when she cries at night.

I guess we’re back into that old pattern again — it’s like a rollercoaster. We have amazing days, where everything feels perfect. And then we have terrible ones, where it feels like we can’t stand each other.

I’m really hoping it all wears off soon. I think it’s normal to have some extra stress at first, isn’t it? We’ve just gotta get into a routine. Then things will be better again. They’ve gotta be.

For now, it’s just hard.

And when things get hard, I catch myself thinking about Lola. I know I shouldn’t. I’ve tried so hard to put her behind me, especially after that night she called me.

But I just can’t help worrying a little. If my math’s right, she should be having her baby in just a couple months. Will she be alright? Is this Jorden guy still treating her okay? Are they gonna be able to handle all the stinky diapers and spit up and sleepless nights? Will he stick by her through it all?

I still talk to Addy and Niko sometimes. Not nearly as much as I’d hoped we would, but every once in a while. And as much as I hate trying to spy, I’ve gotten them to tell me a bit. They said Jorden’s a nice guy. They say Lola’s happy and she’s doing well… But that’s all they really say. And I think I know why.

I have a feeling Lola doesn’t really want them talking about her with me. She’s totally shut me out again. I’ve tried reaching out to her a couple times over the past few months, but she ignored me. So I gave up.

I guess it’s really over now. And as much as I hate to admit it… it still hurts. So fucking bad.

I know things will get easier, eventually. I’ll be able to move on, and stop thinking about Lola. Gigi and I will settle into a routine and stop being so miserable. And we’ll get to watch our little girl grow up together.

She’s what makes this whole thing worth it. When I think back on how fucked up this whole thing is, how different this all is from what I ever wanted, or imagined… I just keep reminding myself that if none of it had happened, we wouldn’t have Emberlynn. She wouldn’t exist.

And now that she’s here… How could I ever wish for a life without her?

There are a hell of a lot of things I regret about the last couple of years. But she’ll never be one of them. She’s everything to us now. And for her, we’re gonna find a way to make this thing work.

I know things will never be the same again. Even if we didn’t have Emberlynn, things are always gonna be pretty fucked up between me and Gigi. Some things are just too broken to ever go back to how they used to be.

But just because you can’t make something as good as new again doesn’t mean you can’t still patch it up. Maybe there are still cracks. A few holes. A leak or two…

But even something beaten, banged-up, and hanging on by a thread can still work, can’t it?

It reminds me of that old food processor Opa used to have. He loved that thing. He had it for years. But after a while, the motor kept dying, the blades had to be replaced way too many times, and the plastic cover had this huge crack in it. And Opa could’ve easily thrown it away and gotten a new one. But he didn’t.

He’d always tell us that it was because he’d had it for so long, and he didn’t wanna give up on it.

Because as banged up and broken as it was, it still worked. Definitely not perfectly… but well enough.

I know Gigi and I can never be perfect either. We’ll never work together as well as we used to… but it’s not time to throw us away yet either.

As much as I used to dream of having this perfect, happy marriage, I’m starting to think I can learn to live with ‘well enough’.

And I think Gigi can too.

I just hope that’s enough for our Emberlynn.

————————-

And on that note, we bid goodbye to Phoenix’s generation 😮 My shortest generation aside from Alex’s and Mari’s (yes, even Tobi and Stefan’s was longer!) but honestly one of my favorites. I hope you all enjoyed it too!

Like I did at the end of the teen arc, I wanna give some quick shoutouts for people who helped made the YA arc special (including a second round of applause for OJenn and Wagonfruit for Gigi and Tam! I gave them shoutouts in the teen arc, but they deserve another round!) But this time I’d also like to add some huge thanks to…

haswh, for creating Gigi and Phoenix’s Windenburg apartment

Bugsie2016for Tam and Jasper’s apartment

cecrose0208, for creating the vacation home Gigi and Phoenix lived in in Brindleton Bay

OJenn, for creating Phoenix’s friend Niko

YJB19299, for creating Phoenix’s other friend, Addy

BBQPenguinWings, for the unforgettable Lola

I’m so grateful to all of you for submitting these sims and lots for me! They were all wonderful and I loved using them in my story ❤

Thank you all so much for reading this rollercoaster ride of a generation!

See you sometime next week with the debut of Generation Eight: Emberlynn ^_^

7.60: Would It Matter?

“H-hey Lola… It’s me again. Um, call me back when you get this, okay? Thanks. Uh, bye.”

Phoenix sighed heavily as he returned his phone to his pocket. That was the third time he’d called Lola since watching the video. He called her last night after watching it for the first time, and now twice today… But every time, she hadn’t answered.

She’s probably busy. He told himself. It was still the middle of the afternoon back in Brindleton Bay. She’s probably at class or something. The semester would have started just a week or so ago. Phoenix felt his heart sink at the thought. It was still so painful knowing that he’d never take another class at BBU again.

Or maybe she just doesn’t wanna talk to me. As much as it hurt, Phoenix knew that this was probably the true answer. Lola had ignored the messages he’d tried sending her after he’d returned home. And she hadn’t even said goodbye to him before he left Brindleton Bay — the last time he saw her was that terrible day at her apartment, when he’d told her his decision and broken her heart.

She probably never wants to speak to me again. At first, Phoenix had been able to come to terms with that. Part of him knew that was truly for the best. But… If what was in that video was true… How could she be ignoring him now?

It was starting to feel like he would never know the answer.

Until he was awoken at nearly two o’clock that morning by the sound of a loud buzzing beside his ear.

Phoenix shot up immediately, glancing down at the glowing screen. His heart practically skipped a beat when he saw Lola’s name flashing up at him. He grabbed the phone tightly in his hand and made quickly for the door, hoping he could slip away without waking his wife.

Gigi stirred slightly as he walked by, but remained asleep. With a soft sigh of relief, he made his way out into the hall and raised the phone to his ear.

“Hello?” He whispered.

“Phoenix? I can barely hear you.” Despite everything, the sound of her voice sent a rush of warmth through his heart.

“Hold on a minute…” Phoenix tiptoed quickly down the hall and out onto the patio, hoping it would be enough to prevent his voice from carrying back into the house. “Sorry. I didn’t wanna wake anybody up…”

“Oh, shit. I’m sorry… I guess I kinda forgot timezones are a thing.” Lola confessed.

“It’s alright. I’m just glad you called me back.”

When she replied, her voice was suddenly cold. “What’s going on, Phoenix? Why did you call?”

His stomach twisted unpleasantly. “I, uh… I saw that video you posted. The ‘big announcement’ one.”

“… Oh.”

“And… I guess, um… I guess I wanted to say congratulations.” Phoenix muttered uncomfortably. “To Duchess, I mean… On being a big sister.” He tried his best to lighten the mood, ignoring the nausea that still swelled in his stomach.

“Thanks… I’ll tell her.” She replied flatly.

Neither of them spoke for a few moments. Phoenix’s heart was pounding in his chest. Guess I’ve just gotta say it. “Lola…” He said at last. “Why… why didn’t you tell me?”

She let out a sigh. “Because it’s none of your business.”

“But… But I –”

“Phoenix, look. I was a total mess when you left, okay? It was bad. And I was lonely.” Lola admitted softly. “But I’m not anymore. I met someone… and he’s really great. He treats me well… and we’re really excited about this baby. Even if this isn’t exactly what we were planning.” She added quickly.

It took a moment or two for the implication behind her words to finally sink in. “Wait… So… there’s someone else?” It made no sense for him to feel jealous, but he couldn’t help it. He’d been gone just over three months, and she’d already moved on.

“There is.”

“And… the baby….?”

“He wasn’t exactly thrilled at first, but we’ve talked about it. He’s onboard.” She assured him. “And things are going great for us right now. We’re just taking it one day at a time, not rushing into anything… not even for the baby.” Lola paused for a moment. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Phoenix shook his head, though he knew she could not see it. “Does that mean… It’s… it’s not mine?” It felt like his heart had stopped beating as he waited for her reply.

“Would it matter if it was?”

“What?”

“Would it make a difference?” She asked. “If I told you this baby’s yours, would you hop on a plane and come back here? Just leave behind your pregnant wife?”

“I… No. I don’t think I could.” He confessed softly. “I don’t really know what I’d do.”

“Then it doesn’t matter, does it? It wouldn’t change anything. So what’s the point?”

“Lola…”

He heard a long, deep sigh pass her lips. “But if it makes you feel any better, it’s not yours. So you can stop worrying now, okay?”

Phoenix never realized it was possible to feel so relieved and so disappointed at the same time. “Are you sure?”

“I am.” She said seriously.

Despite her reply, Phoenix’s stomach still felt as though it were twisted in knots. How could he be sure she was telling the truth? “You promise? I mean… you would tell me if it was, right? You wouldn’t lie to me?”

Lola’s laugh was devoid of any humor. “I’m not your wife, Phoenix. So, no. I wouldn’t.” She hesitated for a moment then. Her tone was much softer when she spoke again. “I’m sorry. That was a shitty thing to say.”

Phoenix felt no anger at her words. Just… emptiness. “It’s okay. And… uh, I’m sorry I bothered you. I just had to make sure.”

“I know. You were trying to do the right thing. Just like you always do.” He could almost hear the smile in her voice. “But you don’t have to worry. You’re off the hook.”

Phoenix still couldn’t quite shake his feeling of unease, but he knew that Lola meant what she’d said. She wouldn’t lie. Not to him. “And… you’re okay?”

“I’m fine.” She replied gently. “And I’m happy. I promise.”

Phoenix felt a sudden tightening in the back of his throat as he realized that it was almost time to say goodbye. “I’m glad… You deserve to be happy, Lola.”

“Thanks.”

“And congratulations on the baby.”

“To Duchess, you mean?” She teased.

Despite everything, Phoenix still managed a soft laugh at her words. “Of course. Oh, and to you too, I guess.” He added, smiling. “And to, um…?”

“Jorden.”

“And Jorden.” The smile slowly fell from his face. “I really hope it works out for you guys.”

“Thanks.” Lola replied. “You and Gigi too. And the baby.”

“Thanks, Lola…” The tightness in the back of his throat had suddenly returned. “I miss you.”

There was a few beats of silence before she finally replied. “Goodbye, Phoenix.”

She hung up before he could say another word.