For a couple of hours, Briar glares at the calm silver surface of the spring, trying to drown her thoughts in there. The sky turns pink to violet, the night lights of downtown Sunset Valley begin to glow, yet she doesn’t move. She simply listens to the piping chorus of frogs and the splish splash of leaping fish.
Stupid girls. Stupid brothers. Briar fumes, crushing a poor blue daisy under her shoe. A pebble arcs into the water, shattering the painting of stars on the surface. She’s not surprised Mom has not come looking for her yet. This little island is where Briar has spent many hours sulking since the Kingstons have moved here.
Knowing her twin, Briar is 100% sure that Ash has told Mom what had happened that afternoon. “Mooooom, today I totally broke my pinkie promise with Briar, Briar got into a fight with a stupid *censored*, Briar is a little girl so I need to protect her, Briar Briar Briar…” She can almost hear her brother spilling her secrets as she mimicks him in a high voice.
Briar sighs. She knows that she has to return home soon. The policewoman that patrols the town at night loves catching teens after curfew and escorting them home in a big way, even if they’re only a few steps away from their garden. Seriously, get a life.
In the Kingston house, Fern sits quietly on the couch, cradling her little daughter gently. “Wa Bree?” Isla asks sleepily, burying into her mother’s shoulder. Fern glances out of the window, checking to see if the bobble-eared shadow of Briar is still there. “Briar’s in her own little world right now, sweetie.” Fern sighs.
Christopher walks over and sits down, staring the broken T.V. “I’m sure Briar will come home soon. You know how much she hates the policewoman.” Christopher gives a light laugh, and Fern nods tersely. There’s a lot of thoughts swirling in her mind right now.
The front door opens and Fern hands Isla over to Christopher. Isla is too tired to protest and her head donks onto Christopher’s chest. “Let’s get you tucked in for the night.” He pecks Isla’s head and heads off to the bedroom, sensing Fern’s feelings.
“Briar!” Fern calls. Briar slowly turns around and glares at her mother. “Mom, I was about to go shower.” She complains. Fern simply pats the couch next to her.
Briar reluctantly flops down. “What do you want, Mom?” She says loudly.
“I want to know why you never told me about Anastasia and Shania.” Briar curses silently. Idiotic Ash, what a tattletale.
“…because I know you would never understand!”
To Briar’s surprise, Fern doesn’t go on a hurt motherly ‘of course I would understand!’ tirade. Instead, she throws Briar an almost sly look. “What makes you think that?”
“Cos.. cos… you’re so kind and pretty and everyone likes you, so you never would have been through what I have!”
Fern bursts out laughing and Briar gives her a deeply offended look. “MOM! Stop laughing at me!” Her mother attempts to stop her laughter and ends up hiccuping.
“Sorry. Oh, sweetie, when I was your age, I was a spoiled little brat.” Briar gapes at her and Mr. Panda gives her the equally startled eyes. “Seriously?”
“Yep. I was overweight and rude and had no friends. I was homeschooled, and if I went outside, the townspeople would whisper and laugh at me. So I holed up in my library, watching T.V and eating food so I grew even more fatter and lazier. I hated people but I was an utterly hopeless romantic, too. I dreamt of a handsome prince rescuing me from my gloomy manor and from my drunk father. Then he died and I got kicked out of Moonlight Falls…”
“What happened to your Mom?” Fern’s green eyes dull and her little smile drops from her lips.
“I don’t know. She just disappeared when I was young. Anyway,” Fern quickly changes the subject, “I escaped to Sunset Valley, 20 years ago. I was still an obese snob and I hated the outdoors, so when I became homeless it was so hard for me. There were times when I was so hungry my stomach felt like it was screaming…” Fern trails off and Briar rolls her hand in a ‘go on’ gesture.
“I changed to the better with a lot of time at the gym and a healthy diet. I still made mistakes, though. Like courting your father and marrying him.”
“Yea, I know, he’s such a llama.” Fern laughs for a moment.
“Mm, yes. At least two good things came out of that ruined relationship- you and Ash. Then I met Christopher… he was so sweet and he still is.” Fern sighs in contentment.
“So you finally got your dashing prince.” Briar raises her eyebrows and smirks, causing Fern to blush. “I guess you’re right.”
“So what was the whole point of this story, proving to me that you do understand?”
Fern looks thoughtful for a moment. “Partly. But what I really want to say is that you have no reason to be bullied. Unlike I was, you’re genuinely fun and friendly, and you’ve got a great best friend. And brother. Don’t let those girls make you think anything else. Don’t make the same mistake I did, Briar. Just stick by your friends and you’ll be fine.”
Briar reaches up to hug Fern tightly. “Thanks Mom.” She whispers.
Later that night, Briar picks up her teddy bear, comforted by the feel of frayed denim and soft worn fur. “I’ve missed you, Mr. Teddy.”
Good to see you too, Mr. Teddy says. Now it’s time to forgive your brother and stick with him. That’s what twins are for, right?
“Mama!” Isla’s little hands reach for Fern, who gently picks her up. “Good morning, sweetie. Today I’m going to teach you how to walk, is that okay?” “Ok Mama.”
Fern carries Isla to the lounge and sets her on the ground. Isla grasps at Fern’s hair and she laughs, kissing her daughter’s forehead. “Let’s hope you learn faster than Briar.”
“Put your foot one after another, sweetie. That’s right.” Fern gently holds Isla’s hands as she stumbles across the wood, almost falling on her face.
Half an hour later, Isla takes her first clumsy steps. “Yay Isla, you did it!” Fern hoists her daughter into the air joyfully. “Go me!” Isla giggles wildly and pokes her mother’s head.
“Fern…” Christopher comes up to her with a worried look on his face. “Everything okay, Chris?” He presses a finger into his temple anxiously. “I was thinking that Isla is going to need her own room soon. And Briar and Ash are really getting too old to share a bedroom. The problem is, we don’t have enough money right now to celebrate their birthdays and build extensions…”
Fern reassuringly takes his hand. “I think we should save up so when their big birthdays come up, we can surprise them with new bedrooms for a gift. They don’t need anything else, and Ash told me the other day that he doesn’t want a car when he turns 16, that he understands.”
“We’re lucky to have such kids.” Christopher smiles.
On Isla’s 4th birthday though, Christopher had gotten a promotion at the bistro, so they are able to buy a teddy bear for her. When Christopher comes to present it to Isla, she falls in love with it instantly.
“Iz that for me?” Isla warbles excitedly, reaching for the teddy bear. “Yes, it’s for the special birthday girl.” Christopher ruffles his daughter’s hair and speaks through the toy. “Hi Isla! I’m your new friend. Hmm… what’s my name going to be?” He pipes up. Isla chortles and claps her hands clumsily. “Mo-mo. Momo. Momo!”
“Momo it is then.” Christopher grins. “Now Daddy has to go to work, why don’t you play with her? See you later, little one.” He smooths Isla’s hair down and gets up. “Bye, Fern!” He calls out. “Have fun at work!” Fern replies, her eyes fixed on the screen. Her publisher had sent her an important email reporting on the success of her novel, which is currently selling at $46.
Isla blinks her emerald eyes for a moment, before reaching a tentative hand out. “Momo.” She touches the button nose and giggles.
“Hey! What are you doing with Mr. Teddy- oh.” Briar is about to yell at Isla when she realises that must be the birthday gift. Sigh. Seeing her little sister play with -what, Momo?- makes her realise how old she is.
“Bleh bleh blehhhhhhhh.” Briar pulls a face at the mirror, which is covered with years of peeling magazine cutouts. She’s in her formal outfit, which I have noticed she usually puts on when… Max comes over.
Oh. OHHH. Okay.
She then smiles and sticks her thumb up. I wonder if, despite Briar’s dislike for romance, she might have a teensy little crush on someone…
Sure enough, Briar soon joins her best friend on the couch. They watch a movie about an evil mad scientist, talking and laughing easily.
I really wish I could understand Simlish. Are they talking about popularity or something?
Now let’s leave those two because all they are doing is watching T.V. No excitement here.
Fern makes spaghetti bolognese for dinner that night. She stirs the sauce happily, throwing in spices and cheese. Four years of living in their barely-changed cottage means that Fern’s cooking skill has improved to nearly as high as Christopher’s.
Christopher comes home late at night. “Christopher!” Fern rushes over to her husband and smooches him, gazing up at him with her big green eyes. “Eww Mom!” Ash complains from the dining table, rolling his eyes at his English essay. Fern ignores her son.
“Ash, you’re 16 now. You can date now, I’ve seen plenty of girls stare at you.”
“MOM, NO! First of all, I’m not interested in dating right now, second of all how come you notice such things? and third of all you’re getting too old for this mushy love-dove stuff.”
Fern laughs it off, but when she goes to bed that night a little worry gnaws at her. I’m getting old now, she thinks as Christopher wraps his arm around her. She still feels young but it’s only a year until she turns 40.
“Oh, you can come? That’s great Tam! See you at three.” Fern slowly puts her cellphone back in her pocket. Today is the day her little baby will turn five.
Christopher’s working on the surprise bedroom, so they can’t hold a big party. Instead, Fern invites only Tamara and Max over for a small family celebration.
She cracks an egg and drops it into the cookie dough. For the party she blows up some pink balloons, grills hot dogs and cranks up the kids music on the rickety stereo they had bought for the twin’s 16th birthdays.
In the bedroom, Christopher picks his daughter up and pokes her in the belly. “It’s your big birthday today, Isla! How old are you turning?” “Five!” Isla chuckles.
As Fern slides the cookie tray out of the oven, she marvels at how many years have passed by since she first came to Sunset Valley. It seems so long ago when she was lonely and homeless, and now she has her very own family with a house of their own.
Fern bakes her special Neapolitan birthday cake for Isla, one she has made for every single one of her children’s birthdays. At the start of the party, she blows the candles out for Isla and sets her carefully on the floor.
Multicoloured sparkles begin to swirl around Isla, who tries to grab at them excitedly. She spins on her toes, giggling the whole time.
Isla grows up into child who looks like young Briar. I can see that while she has inherited Fern’s colouring, Isla has her father’s nose and mouth. She gains the trait Unlucky.
Erm… okay. That’s nice. Poor kid.
Then Briar (who is in her bikini) promptly drops her slice of cake. Christopher looks down to see a haze of light surround him too.
Christopher doesn’t look too bad as an adult, I guess. But Tamara looks really startled. What kind of face is that?
Fern feels glitter tickling her skin and knows she’s about to age as well… let’s take one last look at her youthful face before she goes all wrinkly.
Um. Well. Fern looks… old. 😦
Ash looks bored as hell, that boy needs to work out a bit more.
Fern gingerly touches the wrinkles on her face. Forty… “I feel so old!” Fern complains. “You look as beautiful as ever to me.” Christopher kisses his wife and all the kids groan.
Reassured by her husband, Fern goes over to give her youngest daughter her birthday congratulations. “You’re such a big girl now!” Isla stares up at her mother. “Mommy, I’m only five.”
“Even so… you’ll be going to your first day at school tomorrow.” Fern gets somewhat teary and Isla reaches up for a warm hug. “Don’t worry Mommy, I’ll be fine. Ash and Bree will look after me.”
A couple of minutes later, I receive a note saying something about a T.V and Landgraab Industries. I’m guessing its something to do with Fern’s 5-star celebrity level.
Sure enough, when I look into the family inventory, I see a giant television. It’s a metal high-definition confection, with glass shelves lining the edges. The whole family is entranced with the huge screen, which is probably worth more than the whole room.
(I also found a foosball table which I happily sold for $6,000!)
It’s hard to tear the kid’s eyes from the dancing pixels, but Fern and Christopher reveal Isla’s birthday surprise. What used to be the master bedroom is one for two girls.
Briar isn’t too happy about this. “Mom, why do I have to move here?” She complains loudly.
“Sweetie, you and Ash are getting a bit old to share a room now.” Briar pulls an annoyed face.
Isla thinks the opposite and is very pleased. “Thanks so much Daddy!” She thinks it will be great fun sharing a room with her eccentric older sister.
In the room next door, Ash relaxes on his bed and lets a sigh of contentment escape. A bedroom, finally all to himself! It’s a bit smaller but now he doesn’t have to worry about Briar putting toothpaste in his hair while he sleeps.
“Roar! Roar!” Isla makes the dinosaur gallop across the floor. “Can you shut up?” Briar mumbles from her bed, clutching Mr. Teddy tight. Silly baby sisters.
The Kingston house has a new extension to the front, where the master bedroom has been relocated. Christopher didn’t have enough money to buy new furniture, but in here it’s a lot lighter. The fresh mint of the walls soothes Fern as she types up her second novel (a romance one!)
On Isla’s first day of school, after a special breakfast of waffles, the kids board the bus. Ash lets his nervous little sister sit next to him, so Briar takes a seat a bit back.
With the three children off to school, Fern finally has some free time. She’s been feeling a little stir-crazy lately, because Isla had prevented her from taking trips to the beach.
She jogs down to a secluded curve of golden sand, tucked away from the bustling downtown by a set of green hills. Here it is silent and tranquil.
Fern spends the morning swimming in the cool salty waters. It’s an incredible tonic for her frayed nerves and by the time lunch comes around, she feels young and refreshed again.
After school, Ash goes off to his grocery job, while Isla is dropping off permission slips at the Town Hall. Briar feels a bit lonely, as Fern is writing and Christopher at the bistro, so she’s glad when a text from Max comes up. You want to hang at the park?
Sure. See you in 10 minutes. Briar sends the message and heads downtown.
At the park, the breeze is warm and lazy, tasting of nature and freshly roasted coffee. It’s a gorgeous afternoon.
“Hi Briar!” Max greets her cheerily. She smiles at him, always glad to see his shining blue eyes.
They hang out at the swings for the evening. Briar draws lines in the dust with her shoes, chatting with her best friend about school. “You know, Anastasia and Shania seem to be avoiding me now.” Briar frowns slightly. “Maybe you scared them away.” Max laughs. Briar grins, not noticing the nervous edge to his voice.
Briar is glad to have such a great friend. Max is always laughing and joking around with her. Swinging gently in the evening air, she feels contented.
For a while, they push each other on the swings, trying to see who can go the highest. It’s a lot better without Ash worrying if they will fall off the swing. Briar and Max have a lot of fun, but the emerging of stars and an elderly paparazzi force them to stop.
Leaping off the swing, Briar turns to grin at Max. “Thanks for curing my boredom, Max.” Her best friend’s eyes glow the way they do when he’s happy.
“No problem. It’s the best hanging out with you, Briar.” “That’s what best friends are for, right?”
“Um… well… there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.” Max stammers. He cautiously takes her hands, making Briar’s eyebrows to knit. “What is it?”
“So… uh… I’ve been planning something for a while… Shania and-” “What, is she giving you hell or something?” Max turns his head away, flushing.
Then he leans forward and kisses her. Briar’s too shocked to do anything for a moment, simply freezing in place.
Max senses something wrong and withdraws anxiously. “I’m sorry, I just had to do that…” Max falters as Briar turns on her heel and flees.
“Briar, wait!” But Briar ignores him and runs through the park, shock running through her veins. What just happened?