The evening of the funeral is beautiful.
It shouldn’t be.
The sky shouldn’t be a serene shade of violet, melting into bittersweet orange as the night slowly falls. The breeze shouldn’t be tasting of fresh life and warm summery days waiting ahead. The birds shouldn’t be chirping along happily as if nothing is wrong. It’s all wrong. Everything should be dark and horrible and achingly painful, because that’s what Briar feels like.
The funeral passes in a daze, in a fog of incomprehensible words, tributes and tears. Faces flash by, expressing worry and pain and sympathy that Briar does not hear. She vaguely recognises some of them. Wisteria and Scott, Max’s kind parents; Will with Kelsey, Rosanna in her arms, too young to understand all of this. Other Sims she doesn’t recognise, all whispering words of loss that are lost in the wind.
Briar buries her face in her hands, trying to block it all out. The shock, the terror, has numbed a little by now, to be replaced with a gaping void in herself where Ash used to be. Her brother, her twin, is gone from her life, and this time she can’t do anything to get him back.
The police had arrived ten minutes after the explosion, which apparently had shot a red beam right into the sky. They had had to drag her from Ash’s body into the police station, where only Allie could regain her voice to tell the lieutenant what had happened. Briar and Anastasia sat together and said nothing. Fern and Christopher, and Isla, rushed into the office. The lieutenant told her family the news.
His grave now lies under the sheltering boughs of an ancient oak tree, shielded by roses and lanterns. Briar watches as Sims place vases of flowers near the headstone, and feels the pain dig deeper into her. With that, she finds herself getting lost in the past instead of the present.
“I’m the best dancer in this house!” Briar twirled around, busting out her best moves. Her brother laughed behind her. “Please, I could beat you ANY day.” “You wanna bet?” “Yep. I know I’ll win.” “It’s on, smarty-pants!”
“Forensic investigating seems soooo boring though!” Briar chewed on her pencil, staring at her brother. “No, it won’t be. I’ll do the finger print dusting and blood splatter analysing, I bet it’s fascinating. You can go out and kick criminal behind and blow up their hide outs!” Ash twirled his pencil, his eyes dreamy. “Okay, that does sound cool.” Briar admitted. “We can be a team and save the world! The Kingston twins, super awesome crime-busting dream team!” Ash smiled happily. “You bet.”
“Hey!” Ash ducked as a handful of sparkling sea water hit him. He straightened up and glared at his twin sister. “Oh, you are SO getting it now!” He splashed back and Briar giggled, flapping her hands manically in the cool waves.
“Shaka Bra!” Briar yelled. “Shaka Bra!” Ash returned the surfer greeting a little reluctantly, but with a smile. They always got over their fights, because after all, that’s what twins are for.
“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.”
Ash jabs a finger at Shania. “For years you’ve gone around bullying Briar, and other people, and you don’t even care or regret what you do. Leave my sister ALONE!”
“I won!” Ash pumps his fist in the air and Briar sighs loudly. “Damn! I’ll beat you next time though!”
“Happy 18th Birthday to usssssss~” Briar warbled as she danced with her brother. Ash laughs. “You suck at singing.” “I’m still better than you!” “No way. Still… happy birthday to us.”
“Sounds fun. I brought hot dogs, by the way.” Ash greeted his best friend. Max punched him on the arm. “Awesome!” He whooped. ”Let’s get going, then!” Briar shook her head and smiled. Boys.
“WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING?” Ash skidded to a stop, his fists clenched. No way would he let his sister get hurt.
“Don’t leave!” Briar clutched her brother’s hand, wishing that it was her in his place, because Ash didn’t deserve this. He did not deserve death.
Ash closed his eyes. “Tell her hello from me… in a few… months.” “What?” Briar said desperately. “I’m sorry… I’m… leaving but remember… I love you.”
“Briar…” A voice jolts her out of the past, and she looks up to see Anastasia in front of her. “Yeah?” The dullness and the cracks in her voice shock herself. The other girl casts her eyes down to the ground, and the raw agony in them surprises Briar. She had always thought Anastasia and Ash weren’t that close, even though they appeared to be romantically involved.
“I… have to tell you something.” Anastasia’s voice is as dead as she looks. “Your brother and I… we were married.”
“What?” Briar is full of disbelief. Since when did Ash get married without telling anyone in his family? Anastasia seems to sense her doubt. “We married half a year ago. I know-” “That can’t be true.” Briar interrupts her. “Ash hated you when we were teenagers. You bullied me, remember?” Anastasia bites her lip. “I know that. I swear that I did not want to. But even back then, Mr. Goth was planning this all, and I was forced to take part in it. My job was to find a scientist smart enough, since he was fresh out of those. And… Ash fit the description. I fell in love. I know he despised me at first, but one day, he found out the truth. Even then, I didn’t know he would fall in love with me.”
“He proposed to me and we knew we had to keep our relationship a secret from our bosses. We married in secret on a winter’s afternoon.” Anastasia slips a hand into a pocket and gives a photograph to Briar. She stares at it, and feels her eyes start to sting. Her brother, smiling, holding Anastasia in his arms. It’s painfully obvious that he is with someone he loves very deeply.
“That’s…” Briar hands the photo back without another word. Anastasia smiles sadly at it for a moment before carefully tucking it away. “I think you ought to know something else.” She takes a deep breath. “After we married, we agreed that once this was all over… we would start a family of our own. Ash knew that we would have to stop it, somehow, but I don’t think he knew what he would have to do until it was too late.” “Too late?” Briar says. Anastasia looks down again and gently touches her stomach. “It means I’m expecting a child without him.”
Briar just gapes at her, lost for words. Her mother appears from behind, her green eyes still shining with tears. “You’re… expecting Ash’s child?” Fern asks quietly. “Yes.” “Do your parents know?” Anastasia shakes her head. “They… they don’t live in Sunset Valley anymore. I live by myself.” Fern nods, understanding. “Sweetie, you can stay at our house so we can help you.” Anastasia hesitates. “That would be wonderful. Thank you.”
Fern pats her shoulder softly. “We have a spare bedroom you can stay in. Don’t worry, we’ll look after you. It will be okay.”