Isla pauses, dipping her brush into the paint palette. Another clear, perfect day in Sunset Valley. A problem of sorts for Isla. The vista of gentle green hills, violet water and the iconic lighthouse behind her house is spectacular as always, but as an artist, it is becoming a little boring.
Maybe today she will paint another layer of unseen reality. Setting a blank canvas on her easel -a precious seventh birthday present- Isla begins painting a new picture. A dandelion instead of oak. Invisible giant birds and cats.
Something different from what she always sees.
Things in the Kingston cottage have not changed much in the years that have slowly passed. I shall now proceed on an update of the family before I get on with the story 🙂
Fern is working out in front of their T.V, her daily workout in the morning before writing her third novel, Shadows and Light. Her career is going pretty slow with only $3000 in royalties per week so far, but the latest book had been a hit, so Fern still continues towards her author LTW.
Christopher is going okay. Here he is eating his delicious waffles :3 His age is clearly creeping up on him; Chris must be around 45 by now. He’s still Vegetable Slicer in the Culinary Career so there’s a lot of work to do before he ages into an elder.
Of course, Fern and Christopher are still totally and completely in love, so they always have the Faithful moodlet. ❤
Briar remains as childish as ever. Her favourite past-time is playing with her dinosaur from the toy box, which she uses more than her little half-sister Isla. She and Ash do talk again, but still don’t get along well together as in their childhood. Her twin brother did work up the courage to tell her the truth about what happened years ago, but it had caused a invisible rift between them.
Speaking of Ash, he’s currently in the gym working out. He always works hard at his grades as well as his athleticism, so he’s been on the honour roll for ages now. He is best friends with Allie Beard plus Max. For a couple of years, his life has been going pretty good. Except for a small problem that has lain almost ignored.
Now lets get on with the story~
Things have been a little restless in Sunset Valley lately.
“STOP G.E EXPERIMENTS!” A collective group of angry Sims pump signs in the summer air, stamping their feet on the hot pavement outside the Town Hall. As always, the marble portico of the hall stays silent and empty. No politicians appear to speak to the protestors.
It has been like this for a while now; the residents gather each day to protest about rumours that had leaked from the secretive science facility up in the hills.
Ash walks by on his way to the park, where he is due for a celebratory start-of-the-holidays lunch with Max. To his surprise, he sees a furious Aunt Tamara (“Please don’t call me Auntie Tammy, children.”) clutching a small wooden sign and chanting at the hall. Ash glances in confusion to the crowd. He has no idea what they are exactly protesting about; some strange science experiments, it seems.
He takes a turn into Sunset Valley Central Park. The park is humming with greenery and laughing kids alike. Picnicking families chatter, lounging on blankets spread on the soft grass, admiring the pretty gardens. Ash sits down at a table with a friendly greeting.
“Hey Ash. How’s it going?” Max grins at his best friend. “Help yourself to some food. Mom cooked up these epic grilled cheese sandwiches.”
As the group begin enjoying lunch, Max’s older brother Will gives a contented sigh. “It’s such a nice day today,” Will clasps his hands together, “too bad it’s ruined by those protestors.” He jerks his head to the vague shouting that can still be heard behind them.
“What are they protesting about, anyway?”
“Well, I heard some of my teammates talking about this yesterday.” Will is a professional basketball player who’s often away playing at Bridgeport and other towns. “It seems like the scientists are conducting genetic engineering experiments.”
Okay. Hold up. CAN WE JUST APPRECIATE HOW CUTE WILL LOOKS IN THIS PICTURE ❤
Ash carefully sets down his apple, confused. “What’s so bad about that? Aren’t they always doing weird things no one understands?”
Wisteria, Max’s mom, speaks up with her usually kind face twisted in a frown. “That’s true, but there’s some nasty rumours that there has been doing dangerous experiments on Sims. Testing unregistered drugs and things like that. Some things that mess with biology, the brain, I think.”
“Are they true?” Ash asks, a bit dazed with this new onslaught of information. He hadn’t heard about this at all; he had been too buried in studying for the end-of-year exams, probably. Then again, Mrs. Oliver is a news anchor, so she’s bound to know about these kind of things.
“We don’t know. There is something suspicious of the whole affair, but the scientists seem like good people, so I dunno.” Max furrows his eyebrows, looking like a rebel as always; with his dyed black-and-violet hair, he stands out from has brown-haired family. Only his electric blue eyes mark him as an Oliver.
“Yeah, have you met Gabriel and Lillian Payton? They’re really nice people, even if their daughter is a bit of a…” Will crinkles his nose. He had heard all about the Anastasia/Shania fiasco a couple years back.
Max’s father sits down at the bench with a grim look. “Are you four talking about the protests?” Ash nods, feeling a little awestruck, even though he has known Mr. Oliver for years. Scott Oliver is Sunset Valley’s most famous football player, although he retired a while ago. Sporty blood definitely runs in the Oliver family.
“I’ve heard that there might be something a bit… sinister about this project. Sims are speculating that there is a dark purpose behind all the research into studying minds in such a way.” He taps his head. “Lets hope none of this is for a bad cause.”
On that gloomy note, the picnic lunch adjourns.
Later that evening, Ash goes up to the science facility. It is a modern building, steel and concrete, with strange clicks and whirrs coming from it. A summer project for school, Ash says to himself. Something about the Payton’s being mentioned reminds him anew of a memory…
He gets the prickling feeling that he’s being watched, and Ash looks up. A vaguely familiar woman is staring at him hard.
The woman comes over, and with a rush of hatred, he recognises her. Blair Wainwright. Ash had never talked to her, but Fern had told him the story. How his father had cheated on her with Blair. Ash knows that he has a half-sister named Charmaine, a snobby little girl with blonde hair like her parents.
“Hello, Ash.” Blair says coldly, looking down her nose at him in disgust.
“What are you doing here?”
Blair pouts, which looks really weird on her aged face. “That’s none of your business.”
“Is Xander here?”
“Ye- no, no he isn’t. Now scram! It’s getting too dark for a wimpy little boy like you.”
Ash thinks about that moment all night and morning. As he grabs a stack of grape pancakes from Christopher, he muses about Blair’s strange reaction- like Anastasia, she had been close to saying something about Xander. What was she doing out there? There is something a bit dodgy about all this.
That muscle definition though.
After breakfast, Isla begs her older brother to play catch with her, so the two go out into their backyard. It is a wide green lawn which is about triple the size of the house, so it’s perfect for playing sports in.
Fern and Christopher, along with Ash, have been saving up for a house makeover. So in the holidays I will redo the entire cottage, make it bigger, and create a garden. I can’t wait! 🙂
Meanwhile, Briar is pedalling down to the beach. It’s the summer holidays, so she’s over at the Oliver’s beachfront home almost everyday.
The Oliver’s live in a beautiful beach villa, with a light and luxurious interior. With such successful parents and eldest brother, the family is quite rich and so have a much better house than the Kingstons.
“So you’re finally telling me the truth?” Briar said in disgust, after Mr. and Mrs. Oliver had invited her over to their new house, and Fern had made her go.
“Yes.” Max bit his lip. He had wanted to explain by himself; after all Ash had seemed preoccupied lately.
“Go on. Explain to me why the hell you two hooked up with those two little-” Briar turns her nose up in contempt.
Max turns red. “We did not hook- oh, whatever. After Shania and you got into a fight we made a deal with them.”
“It was agreed that if we became their boyfriends, they would leave you alone. Anastasia insisted she must date Ash, for some reason. The night you found us, Anastasia was threatening to break off the deal if we didn’t do what she said.”
Max looked at Briar imploringly. “We weren’t trying to hurt you. We were trying to protect you… you’re my best friend. And I hope you understand that.”
“3, 2, 1… Go!” Ash and Briar plunge underwater, pinching their noses and trying not to let any bubbles escape. The three always hang out in Max’s pool on hot afternoons, a cool relief to the blazing sun.
Briar surfaces, gasping and laughing, a few seconds before her brother does. “Ha! I win!” Ash pumps his fist and grins at Max, who splashes him in the face.
After clambering out of the pool, shaking out the drops from his hair, Ash sips lemonade from a tray Mrs. Oliver had set out on the bar. Revelling in the iced sweetness, Ash once again muses about the recent strange happenings. Maybe today, he should visit the Payton mansion.
The sun is beginning to set when he walks up the long, winding driveway. The gorgeous, modern masterpiece of architecture sits alone and proud on the headland. The sight is breathtaking.
Ash swallows his anxiety and knocks on the glass door. The sound echoes through the giant manor before a man in a grey cardigan and half-day stubble comes running down the stairs.
“Hello. Can I help you with anything?” The man speaks with a pleasant, quiet lilt, but his blue eyes blink rapidly behind thick glasses.
“Uh, yes. I’m Ash Kingston. I was wondering if Anastasia is home?” Ash asks nervously. The man stares at him for a moment, his skin paling, before replying.
“…oh. Ash! My daughter has spoken of you on many occasions. She’s not here right now, but please, come in.” He invites Ash in and flinches when the door closes.
“Thanks, Mr. Payton.” Ash wonders why he is so jumpy. Mr. Payton busies himself in the kitchen and hands Ash a steaming cup of tea. “Call me Gabriel. P-p-please make yourself at home…”
Gabriel Payton leaves an impressed Ash at the games loft. He walks over to the security box and taps a complicated code with a shaking finger. He wipes his forehead with his sleeve when the light blinks green, and takes a deep breath when a voice comes from it.