The best thing about Sunset Valley, Fern thinks, is that it is sunny all day, everyday. She closes her eyes, letting the afternoon sunlight spill over her like honey, warming her aching bones. The glimmering grey sea stretches all the way to the horizon in front of her, peaceful and calm. Just like she is feeling right now.
A quiet sigh escapes her lips. It’s lovely having a cottage now, with a proper kitchen and bathroom. Fern needs those precious spare moments to relax before Briar and Ash come home from school.
During her pregnancy, Fern finds herself visiting the bookshop often. There, she chats with the friendly clerk and browses through the shelves, finding recipes and parenthood books. Fern also checks in on how her first novel is doing –The Faraway City Lights– which had been published a couple of nights ago.
Christopher is taking this whole new ‘father’ thing quite seriously. He’s used to looking after Briar and Ash, but teenagers are a lot less of a handful than babies. Before he has to go to work at the bistro, he reads as many pregnancy books as he can.
Not that it helps a lot. When Fern awakes at twenty to five in the morning, clutching her stomach and crying out, Christopher goes into full-scale panic mode. “OH MY GOSH!” Christopher yells, while Fern tries to choke words through the almost unbearable pain. “Chris- listen- JUST GET ME TO HOSPITAL!”
Luckily, Christopher comes to his senses and drives her to hospital, almost crashing into a couple of earlybird taxis. Fern stumbles into the brightly-lit foyer, and her husband follows after and tries not to succumb to another panic attack.
I am so happy to welcome a beautiful baby girl to the Kingston family- Isla! Named after the breathtaking island (so it’s pronounced eye-la) of their honeymoon, Isla was born with the traits Artistic and Loves the Outdoors. She has inherited Fern’s emerald eyes and brown hair. ❤
(Yes, okay, so I cheated and aged her up into a toddler right away. But in my defence, Sim babies look like larvae with creepy human masks on.)
Mother and daughter. Wow. Isla looks so similar to Fern it’s kinda scary. But so cute!
“Up you go!” Fern lifts Isla into the air, who giggles and kicks her legs happily. It has been a few days since Isla’s birth and Fern adores her already. Isla is such a cute, quiet and friendly little baby. “Ooh! Be careful not to kick Mommy in the face!” Fern laughs and gently cuddles her.
“Mommy loves you so much, Isla.” Fern whispers, rocking her daughter back and forth. “I’m glad you have a wonderful family to look after you.” “Goo!” Isla pats her mother’s arm and gives her a big smile.
Ash and Isla become friends immediately. He loves having a sweet little sister to take care of, carrying a giggling Isla around the house and playing games with her. “Af.” Isla mumbles, snuggling into her big brother’s shoulder. “It’s Ash, Isla.” Ash beams at her. “But close enough!” He doesn’t notice Briar giving them the evils behind him.
Briar is glaring at her brother and runs outside, slamming the door. Everyone is overjoyed with having a new addition to the family… except her. “Stupid baby. What an attention seeker. Can you believe it?” She grumbles to the trash can. “I don’t get why Mom and Dad and Ash are so excited. Ash is supposed to be the popular jock at school but he’s such a soppy idiot!”
“No one plays with me anymore. Except you. I know, let’s play who can pull the silliest face?” She crosses her eyes and sticks out her tongue.
The trash can doesn’t reply. “You’re stupid too!” Briar scowls and kicks the bin over.
“What did the trash can ever do to you?” A voice says lightly. Briar looks up into a pair of startling blue eyes. “Oh hey, Max.” Briar greets her best friend glumly, and leans to pick the spilled rubbish up. “What’s up?” He asks worriedly. “Just a dumb baby.”
“Aw, Isla can’t be that bad. She seemed like a little angel when I came by.” Max says. “That’s just it! She’s such a perfect baby and everyone loves her, so ignores me.”
“They can ignore you?” Max gasps in mock amazement. “Come on. You’re like the funniest, loudest, prettiest…” Max falters, flushing a brilliant red. But Briar doesn’t notice and pulls Max inside. “Come on, Mom made us afternoon tea.”
“Really!? Woo! I mean, good afternoon, Mrs. Kingston.” Max says solemnly when he enters the house. “Hi Max. Help yourself to some food.” Fern laughs.
“Your mom makes the BEST PB&J sandwiches, Briar!” Max says thickly through a mouthful of peanut butter. “Yep. We ate them 24/7 as children!” Briar giggles, drawing a smiley face in her jelly. “You should try some of her choc-chip cookies.” Ash joins the two at the table. “Man, are they to die for, especially when they’re fresh out of the oven…” All three teens sigh as Isla coos at the television.
As another lovely evening falls over Sunset Valley, the three play tag outside in the big backyard. “Gotcha!” Max laughs as Briar bends over, huffing. “No way! Mr. Panda just tagged you, so you’re it!” “Aw, I didn’t even know he was playing!” Max complains, grinning. Ash calls to him from across the yard. “Dude, you’re supposed to be the sportiest guy in school! A panda can’t just beat you!'”
“It’s okay. I guess Mr. Panda’s just too fast for me…” Max sighs. Briar straightens up and laughs at him, her violet eyes sparkling. Her smile makes his heart beat a little bit faster.
I saw Fern making this incredibly sappy ‘My Love!” face that evening.
I almost choke because she’s cuddling with this random guy… no, that’s just Christopher in his work clothes. He’s wearing that ugly beanie because he works as a kitchen hand at Le Corsican Bistro, with his lifetime wish of becoming a celebrated five-star chef.
Fern, NO. That face is even more stupid than the last one!
Christopher usually comes back home late at night, and that’s when Briar and Ash have gone to sleep. Isla, being a frequent afternoon napper, gurgles and sucks her thumb as her parents make out on the couch.
(That ‘what is this’ face Isla is making though…. ahahahaha)
“I love you, Fern.” Christopher murmurs after kissing her one last time. Fern blushes and smiles at him. “I love you too. I’m so happy we have such a lovely baby of our own.” Christopher tenderly strokes her arm. “Isla is just like you. And I’m so glad for that.”
“Come on, little one, it’s time for bed!” Christopher picks his daughter up and tickles her. “Da. Da! Da!” Isla bursts out giggling and flails her tiny hands around. Christopher plants a kiss on her soft hair. “Yes, I’m your daddy. I’m proud to be so.”
After tucking Isla into her crib, Christopher comes back into the kitchen. He finally puts off his stupid beanie and grubby apron, thankfully. He pulls Fern into an embrace and begins making flirty faces at her, causing Fern to laugh.
Okay, that kinda looks devilish and is not the Christopher I know.
Ah, that’s more like it.
They don’t have too much fun that night (bleh. No more babies yet, please) but it’s nice to talk, cuddle and kiss for an hour or two till Fern falls asleep.
On Saturday morning, the wonderful smell of apple pancakes fills the cottage as Fern flips breakfast in the saucepan. She feels a lot more energetic than when Briar and Ash were babies. They cried a lot, whilst Isla is such a breeze to take care of.
“Ooh! Pancakes!” Ash stacks a few on his plate, topping it with knobs of butter and apple slices. He sits next to his mother, who asks him about school. “So how has the last week at high school been?” She asks, pouring maple syrup over her pancakes. “Okay, I guess. Class is pretty easy, I got an A+ for a history test yesterday.”
“Good job, sweetie. I’m proud you’re doing so well at school.” Fern pauses for a moment, her fork poking at a chunk of apple. “…I’m wondering if Briar is okay at school. I mean, she never says anything about it to me…”
Ash chokes on his breakfast and coughs for a moment. For a second he almost spills out all his worries and anxious thoughts about his sister.
“Briar, just tell Mom already!” Ash dug his hands into his hair, almost pulling some out in his frustration. They had just come back from school, with Ash sporting a black eye. “No! Mom would never understand. Just let me handle it, okay?”
“Do you have ANY idea how I feel every time? I want to help and I do, but I can’t let this go on-” Briar placed a hand on her twin’s shoulder.
“Bro, I totally appreciate you getting into fights and all, but you can’t be the shining knight in armour all the time. You might get hurt even more and you’ll get into trouble! Keep your sparkling reputation. Don’t tell Mom, or Dad, and stop trying to defend me. I’m the same age as you. I’m not your little sister, okay?”
“But-” Ash bowed his head.
“No buts. Pinkie promise, on the word of your twin.” Ash sighed. Briar was stubborn as hell. He hated doing this but… “I promise.”
It has been months since he made that promise, and Ash finally breaks his promise this afternoon. Briar goes over to the pretty fishing spring in front of their house, planning on picking some wildflowers to put in her room. But there’s two people there that she does not want to see.
“Hey, loser!” Anastasia saunters up to Briar with her best friend, Shania. “Can you go away? You’re running the natural beauty of this park.” Briar snaps. Anastasia smacks a mocking L on her forehead. “You shouldn’t be talking, trash.”
Anastasia Payton- the most popular girl in school. Briar has hated her since they were five. Anastasia flirts with all the guys in the school, especially with Briar’s brother and Max, which totally grosses Briar out. Thanks for being so popular, guys, Briar often grumbles to herself. Anastasia has been bullying her for as long as she can remember.
In Briar’s opinion, though, Anastasia’s best friend and evil sidekick Shania is worse. Shania loves beating people up and blaming it on the victims when the teachers ask. She always gets away with it, because she acts like a total innocent suckup to the principal. But Briar knows how vicious Shania is- even worse than any boy, with a father rumoured to be part of the criminal gang.
Shania copies her best friend, her red lips twisting into a sneer. “Yeah, loser! Now get out. This place is only for rich, cool people, you… llama butt!” Shania throws a contemptuous look at the plain silver cottage behind them. She has conveniently forgotten that Briar’s parents are 5 star celebrities.
“Who are you calling a llama butt?” Ash says behind them, glaring. Anastasia whips around and immediately gives him a sickeningly sweet smile. “Oh, hey, Ash! What are you doing here?” She simpers, putting her hands up in an innocent gesture.
Ash doesn’t buy it. “I live here.” He snaps.
Max steps in, glaring daggers at the two girls. “Stop trying to act innocent, you no-hearted bully.” He spits when Anastasia pretends to lay a shocked hand on her heart. “What, me?” Anastasia pouts.
“Yes, you. And you!” Ash jabs a finger at Shania. “For years you’ve gone around bullying and physically hurting Briar, and other people, and you don’t even care or regret what you do. You disgust me!” Shania’s hands curl into fists.
Max feels likes he’s about to lose it and slap Anastasia round the face when she speaks. “Why are you defending an ugly, insane loser like her, hon. Have you got yourself a girlfriend? Because you can do so much better than that.” She flicks her head at Briar, who is staring into the pond.
“Briar isn’t insane… or ugly, either! If I had a girlfriend I would much rather date her than you!” Max yells. Anastasia snarls. “You must be insane, too, because she obviously belongs in a mental asylum!”
“WHY CAN’T YOU JUST GO AWAY!” Briar snaps out of her reverie and suddenly screams at Shania, who was about to throttle her brother. Shania’s pond-scum eyes glitter. “You want to know? Because you’re a stupid little freak, no one likes you, and obviously someone needs to get that into your messed up head!”
Shania throws herself at Briar, fists raised. “NO! Briar!” Ash and Max shout furiously. Anastasia laughs loudly. “Go Shania, teach that little *censored* a lesson.” Anastasia says with glee. “Max is mine, and no one else’s!”
Shania plants her hands on her hips in triumph as Briar gets up, trying not to cry.
Ash is about to punch Shania’s lights out. He doesn’t care if she’s a girl or not. “You’ve gone too far-” “Oh my god, Ash!” Briar yells. “I told you not to intervene, won’t you ever listen! I’m sick and tired of my brother trying to come to my rescue all the time. Just leave me ALONE!”
Briar runs off, leaving Max and Ash helpless behind her.
Briar skids to a stop, bending her head and letting the tears spill over. She can hear Ash and Max shouting at the two girls, forcing them to leave. Why do the girls have to be so mean? And why do the boys have to try be so macho? Briar had kept the situation at school well hidden from everyone but her brother and best friend. But she knows Ash will tell Fern what is going on, tonight.
The point of a secret agent is to operate alone. All this is to practise for her lifetime dream- being an international super spy, helping people, solving other people’s problems in an epic way. But her brother and Max keep on ruining it.
Why can’t they just let me be.