Ash looks down at his mobile phone, his fingers slippery from sweat. The pixels blink on the screen, forming a message that sends dread coursing through him. It takes him five minutes to send his reply.
He hates doing this, but it’s for the best. At least he’ll have Max with him. Shakily tucking the phone back into his pocket, he walks out of the bedroom with a brave face on.
“Dad, I’m going out.” Ash is tempted to turn around and stay home. The yummy smell of cheesy carbonara cooking on the stove beckons to his growling belly, but he forces himself to ignore it. Remember Briar. “Come back by ten!” Christopher replies.
As he carefully shuts the door behind him, Ash wonders what is wrong with his sister. Briar has been oddly quiet for days, and now that he thinks of it, Max has been too. Hopefully nothing bad has happened. Max is Briar’s only friend, after all, besides Ash. He thinks about this as he hops on his bicycle and pedals down to downtown Sunset Valley.
He arrives at Hogan’s Deep Fried Diner, a noisy ’50s diner that is full of cracked red leather booths and hamburger grease. The sight of flickering neon makes him feel sick. Through the grimy windows, Ash sees a figure waving her hand at him and blowing a saucy kiss.
Max walks up to him, and both stare at the doors with determination. “Well here goes nothing. For Bree.” Ash sighs. “For Briar.”
Max echoes his agreement and together, they enter the diner.
Briar stares at the mirror. She gingerly touches her lips. It’s hard to believe Max had kissed her a couple of nights ago. It had come as a total surprise, shocking and scaring her. Max has always been my best friend, Briar thinks. However, a voice at the back of her mind whispers something else. But a small part of you liked it, didn’t you?
That thought frightens her and she lowers her hands. Briar has always disliked romance, even hated it, because of what Xander did to her mother. She understands that Christopher loves Fern but her father had driven a hatred of love into her as a child. Here it still lingers; jumbling her feelings about Max and totally confusing herself.
“Get it over with, Briar.” She says aloud. Briar decides that she will find Max and tell her that she just wants to stay as best friends. Peeking into the kitchen, she finds Christopher serving up grilled cheese sandwiches and a steaming bowl of pasta.
“Would you like some dinner, sweetie?” Fern asks, twirling spaghetti around her fork. “No thanks, Mom. I think I’m going off to find Max.”
“Don’t you want to have some of Daddy’s carbonara, sweetie?” Fern asks. Isla stares at the table for a moment. “Yeah… it’s just school was scary. A birdie pooped on my head at lunch and everybody laughed at me!” Isla mumbles. Christopher stifles a laugh then puts on a solemn expression when Fern glares at him.
“Oh dear. That was rather mean of them.” Fern says gently. “Mmhm! And I fell over in maths so chalk fell on my head and I wanted to cry but I didn’t!” Isla suddenly looks proud of herself. Christopher laughs quietly. “That’s very brave of you, Isla. Did you like any classes?”
“Ooh! Art class was really fun. And music too!” Isla brightens.
Fern thinks this through. She had started writing a romance novel recently and had gotten some cash from the publisher. “If you work hard in school, why don’t we buy you an easel? So you can beautify our house with your paintings.” Isla claps her hands in delight. “Ooh please do Mommy! I’m going to work extra hard on my homework now!”
Briar has been searching the town for a while. Le Corsican Bistro is bustling, the scent of freshly-baked bread, some sort of French music, and clatter of plates wafting out onto the streets. A warm evening gently falls over Sunset Valley, and soon Briar finds herself pedalling in twilight.
Her belly grumbles in protest and Briar decides to call it a day, halting in front of Hogan’s Deep Fried Diner. Mm, cheeseburgers and fries and strawberry milkshakes for dinner. She inhales the delicious fatty smell, not understanding why her brother dislikes fast food.
She’s about to walk into the glowing diner when movement catches her eye. In the small green area close by, Briar spots two familiar-looking figures on a stone bench, crowned with a romantic cloud of blue hydrangea flowers.
The first thing Briar feels is betrayal, which is stupid considering she was about to go officially reject him. She watches in horror as Max and Shania –Shania– make out on the stone bench. Then she realises that Ash and Anastasia are doing the same thing close by.
Briar can’t believe it. Her brother and best friend dating Shania and Anastasia? Why are they… they… even in within five metres of the girls without yelling at them?! It’s so wrong that Ash and Max have her bitterest enemies as their girlfriends that Briar simply stands there, rooted to the ground by fury and burning hurt.
Wait. HOLD UP. Did I just see Xander Clavell? *mentalrage* He stares at his son coldly, his arms crossed as he carefully watches an oblivious Ash smooch with Anastasia.
Okay. Seriously, this is a bit scary.
After ten minutes, he turns around with a satisfied look and walks away.
What the hell was that just about?
It’s one minute past ten and a police car comes howling through the night. The weird keening of the siren, the bright flashing lights and Briar’s shock leaves her frozen there. So when the policewoman calls her over, Briar has no choice but to get in the car.
Um. Okay. I just saw the policewoman give a cackle, one that marks her as having the trait of evil. Well. It is not advisable to have an evil Sim in the police.
Max hears the screeching of the siren and he springs away from Shania, realising it is past curfew. Staring at the police cruiser, he notices a familiar head. Oh shoot. Briar.
Meanwhile, Ash and Anastasia are still making out on the nearby stone bench. Max stares at them, willing his best friend to notice. But Anastasia is all over him and has such a forceful grip they remain kissing until I actually have to pull them apart.
Briar sits in the police car, which smells like stale coffee and doughnuts. She stares right ahead, refusing to look at the policewoman triumphantly reeling in the other teens. I will not cry. I have no reason to. So why does she feel so hurt?
Ash finally manages to wriggle away from Anastasia and runs towards the impatient policewoman. His mouth dries and horror pulses through his veins as he recognises his sister in the front seat. She must have seen Anastasia and there is no doubt he will not be able to explain the truth to her. Instead… Ash can almost feel his friendship with Briar falling apart already.
What have I done?
Okay awesome readers, I was planning to only have one more chapter after this, but I want to age all three kids up into young adults. This means I will probably go up to 1.25 in chapters. I wish I could go onto the next generation but I don’t want to prematurely age them and not complete Fern’s LTW. Speaking of generation… if you haven’t yet voted in the heir poll please do so! Lila ❤