In the last chapter, the Kingston twins celebrated their 13th birthdays at the beach- at their home. As kids, they had thought that living homeless by the sea was like an extra-long, extra-fun camping trip. It’s much nicer to feel the golden sand under their feet, and listen to the constant sweep of waves, than live in a proper house and have to endure their father’s hip hop music all day. Now do they still feel the same?
I realise I didn’t really show Briar and Ash’s aging into teenagers, so here they are. Briar’s favorite colour is lilac, so she has a violet lace top, shorts, and an adorable purple panda cap. Her black hair and lilac eyes are so different from the rest of her blonde/brunette family- just like her insane personality.
Ash is pretty much a better, younger version of Xander, as I have said before. His favorite colour is blue, so he’s wearing a surfer-type tank top and jeans from Isla Paradiso. He looks nothing like Briar.
Another characteristic that makes him so different from his twin sister is his sensible, family-oriented personality. So it isn’t a surprise when the first wish that comes up after his birthday is ‘Get a Part Time Job’.
“Mom, I’m planning to get a job.” He tells Fern, after all the guests from the party have left.
Fern frowns at her son. “What? Ash, you just turned thirteen. Isn’t it a little too early to get a job?” (Hmm. I can see her resemblance to Briar now.)
Although that’s her reasoning in the following argument, I think Fern is secretly embarrassed that her child has to work because they don’t have enough money.
Ash, being a genius, reads the emotions in Fern’s face. “Don’t worry, Mom. It’s not like I’m getting a full-time, with school starting and all. Please can I get a job?”
“Fine. Just remember to get all your homework done. And have a good social life. And-” Ash throws his hands up. “Okay, okay. I can handle it.” He says with a big grin. Fern nods tersely. She has noticed paparazzi snapping photos and scribbling down notes behind them.
Bubbling with excitement, he tells his sister about his plan. “I can help Mom buy a house now! A nice one, too, if I work hard.”
“Dude. You’re only getting a part-time job. Don’t get ahead of yourself.” Briar rolls her eyes.
Ash takes no notice of her. “Hey- why don’t you get a job, too? That way we can bring in the money a lot faster!” Briar isn’t so obliging. She likes playing on the beach with her toys much more than working.
After failing to convince his twin sister, Ash heads into downtown Sunset Valley. As he walks past various shops, he wonders which one he could work at. The bookstore? Nope. His mom already works there. Sharma Day Spa? Ugh, definitely no.
Night has fallen by the time he stops in front of a quaint yellow building. Inside, Ash can see shelves of produce and Sims bustling around with baskets swinging from their arms. He remembers doing a research project on the supermarket, and his mind clicks as his findings come back to him. Almost everyone goes to the grocery store, Ash thinks.
“I got the job! Produce quality assessor, $30 an hour.” Ash tells his family as he takes a bite of cold cheeseburger. A line of ants scurry past his feet, chunks of watermelon hoisted on their tiny backs. But Ash doesn’t care; he’s much too excited to notice.
“That’s lovely, sweetie.” Fern says, trying to hide her embarrassment. “Yes, yes, well done, we’re all going to be millionaires now.” Briar huffs sarcastically. She’s quite miffed that Ash won’t be around to play sand castles with her now. “You could help, Briar, by doing something useful too!” Ash snaps, almost throwing his burger in her face. “You’re such a goody-two-butterflies!” Briar shoots back. “Shoes, sweetie. Now, calm down!” Fern says.
So when it’s time to retreat to their tents, the twins part on a sour note. Briar sleeps in Fern’s tent, so Ash has a tent to himself now they are teenagers. Ash thinks Briar is being too childish, whilst she thinks her brother is a try hard.
Those ladies having a picnic, though. Don’t you know it’s rude to stare?!
The next morning, Ash stares hard at the weathered black-and-white chess pieces. He moves a pawn forward, despite there being no other player. In reality, he’s thinking about the fight yesterday. He and Briar had never argued before. Ash just doesn’t see why his sister is so unhelpful; doesn’t she want to live in a proper house too?
“Mom, Ash is being so mean!” Briar pouts to Fern. “I’m sure he’s only wanting the best for our family.” Fern says gently. Having teenagers is hard enough. Having an insane and childish one… well, this is challenging.
“Psh, he’s such a suck up.” Briar says loftily. “Maybe you could get a job too, sweetie. Bring in more income than he does.” Briar stares at Fern in disgust. “Seriously, Mom? You’re siding with Ash? I don’t want to work my behind off every night!”
Even the first day of high school isn’t enough to bring the twins together. Briar rushes ahead of Ash, purposely ignoring him as they jump off the school bus. At the top of the stairs, she looks up at the sunny yellow complex. Briar isn’t nervous that they will be in new classes today. She’s sure Max will be in the same class, and she’s not sad either that Ash will be in a different class, the advanced one. Nerd, she scoffs.
With the kids off to high school, Fern struggles to bring in enough income. Working part-time at the bookshop and writing articles for the newspaper isn’t enough to buy a house. The novel is proving hard to finish.
Miserably, Fern calls Christopher. “Sure, I’ll be right there.” His voice crackles over the line when she phones him. Fern smiles, her heart beating a little faster. Sort out your problems first before getting into a relationship again, she chides herself.
“Hi Fern!” Christopher greets her with a big smile. “What’s up?”
Fern has to consciously tell herself to reply, because she’s getting distracted by his sparkling blue eyes. “Not good, I guess. Briar and Ash aren’t very happy with each other right now.”
“Really? They seemed really close when they were kids. I remember, Ash was very protective of Briar… what happened?” Christopher raises an eyebrow.
“Ash is really annoyed with her because she doesn’t want to get a job. I feel like all this is my fault. They shouldn’t have to argue about going to work! I’m such a terrible parent.” Fern replies, almost crying. “No, you are a wonderful mother. Better than Blair, anyway…” There’s an awkward pause when Christopher falters.
“Forget about that. How about we pretend to be kids and go play in the ocean?”
When they wade into the ocean, laughing, a man fishes his cellphone from his pocket. He snaps a photo of the two, who don’t notice. Creep shots, much?
For the rest of morning, Fern and Christopher swim in the cool waters of the bay, fish for lunch and play in the sea. The laughter as they splash each other is so sweet.
Honestly, Christopher makes such cute expressions compared to Xander.
At 4, when Fern is working at the bookshop and Ash is on his very first shift at the supermarket, I go check where Briar is. I find her in one of the stylish metropolitan lofts near the town square, reading a book. Her panda hat though, oh my gawd.
Briar is at Doreen Pratt’s house (yea, explains why the interior design is so meh). She tells a ghost story to Patrice Pratt, who thinks this teen is a bit odd.
When she leaves, Briar doesn’t want to go home just yet. On a completely strange part of hers, she decides that she wants to do some research at the science facility to improve her grades. Huh. I didn’t think she cared about school work.
Back at the beach, Ash is wondering where his sister is at such late hours. It doesn’t matter, Briar’s always been an irresponsible wanderer, he thinks. He tries to concentrate on his homework, but it’s much too easy for him. Algebra? Meh. Ash wants to learn about non-right angle trigonometry and parabolas.
Briar returns with a big smile on her face. The prototype Plumbots at the science facility were so cool! The one time homework was fun. To her disbelief, she finds that she had finished her work earlier than Ash, who is tapping his head with his pencil.
When Briar settles down to check her papers, a random girl named Janie sits down. “Hi, are you Briar Kingston?” She asks, waving her pencil. “Yea, why?” Briar says as she erases out a spelling error. “Well, I want to be a journalist-” Briar freezes and her senses go into high alert. Paparazzi. She had noticed a creepy old man following Fern around, maybe this girl is in league with him too?
“What do you want?” Briar says suspiciously. She had learnt not to trust paparazzi after they had made a huge scandal about how her mom and Xander had broken up.
Janie’s words rush out. “Well I heard that your family is homeless and has no money, and Fern Kingston’s daughter is a mental case, and her husband was a criminal, if you would like to tell me about that-” Her pencil suddenly looks like it is about to stab Briar.
“You don’t need to know anything.” Briar says coldly. She stands up and glares at Janie, who looks nervous. “Our family is perfectly fine and we want nothing to do with Xander!” She yells.
As Briar marches away, thoughts rush through her head. Is Mom really in this much trouble, she thinks. Suddenly, she’s ashamed. How selfish she was to think only of herself when Mom was struggling to get enough money for them all.
When the sun rises next morning, new resolve runs through Briar. She hops up to Ash, putting on her biggest grin possible. “Shaka Bra!” She shouts. Her twin brother stares at her for a moment, but hesitantly returns Briar’s favourite surfer greeting.
“What’s up with you today?” Ash asks tentatively. “Well… I’m really sorry, Ash, for being so unhelpful. I was being very selfish and I promise to get a job now.” She blurts out. Ash looks surprised, but he pulls his sister into a hug.
“It’s okay, Briar, you don’t have to. I’m just glad to have you back.”
“I’m going to help you and Mom gain loads of money. I’ll even work at grocery store or tutor toddlers or something really boring like that. We’ll be living in a mansion before long!”
Ash snorts with laughter. “I thought you told me not to get ahead of yourself!”
Briar doesn’t mind. She closes her eyes, happy at how she and her twin were now back on good terms. I’m going to be as helpful as I can. I won’t let us be homeless for much longer, she promises herself.