I’m really sorry it took a week longer than I said for this chapter to be posted, ever-patient readers! You know how it goes- no time, writer’s block, etc. It’s honestly been a struggle, so don’t worry if some pictures aren’t accompanied with words. Anyways, I finally managed to crawl through this seriously long chapter, which will be the last until December. It’s the first with the Seasons EP, too. Hope you guys enjoy!
P.S: Briar has a random outfit change during the festival, please ignore~
“MOOOOOM!” Isla dances into the house, beaming, one hot summer evening.
“Yes, sweetie?” Fern pops out of the kitchen, dusting her sugar-sprinkled hands off. She had been in the middle of brewing up homemade ice cream, with fresh strawberries from her garden. Her youngest daughter fans her face delicately. “I have decided what I want to do for my birthday party.” Isla declares dramatically.
Briar rolls her eyes from the sofa. Finally. For days now, her sister has been fussing over how she wants to celebrate for her 18th birthday. Yesterday, Isla had wanted to hold an extravagant pool party and the day before that, it was watching a movie at the theatre’s special beanbag cinema. Dork.
“Aunt Anastasia told me that the summer festival is opening on my birthday, so I want to have a party there. Can I please, Mom?” Isla begs, skipping about in excitement. Her mother smiles fondly. “Of course, sweetie. I’ll buy tickets and bake a cake, so you can spend the whole day there and blow out your candles in the evening. No more than ten guests, though. I can give you money to buy snacks too, does that sound okay?”
There is a squeal of happiness from Isla. “I can’t wait! Don’t worry, I’ll only invite Jeannie from school, Kelsey and Rosanna and Max can come too, and blah blah blah…” She continues on and on about boring details, so Briar tunes her out.
Instead, Briar focuses on the plasma television in front of her. An immaculately dressed Mrs. Oliver smiles at the camera before folding over her sheaf of papers. “And now, we have the Sunset Valley Weather Forecast with our weatherman, Jimmy.”
A pot-bellied man in nothing but swimming shorts describes the soaring temperatures the valley has been experiencing all summer. “Okay, my eyes are FOREVER scarred.” Briar groans, slapping a hand over her eyes. “The heat wave in Sunset Valley is predicted to continue through to fall, so remember to slip-slop-slap!” The weatherman sings, as if he hadn’t heard Briar at all, which he hadn’t.
It’s true about the heat wave. This year, summer has been unusually scorching, nothing like what mild Sunset Valley normally experiences. Weathermen and scientists alike are baffled and have no idea why the temperatures are so high this year. Some speculate global warming. Others, alien activity. Briar knows better…
She is distracted by a reporter who is talking about the heat, clearly in pain from his sunburn. It hurts even looking at it. Briar snorts, and snatches the remote up. No need to see that anymore. Yawning, she switches the T.V off and heads off to bed.
It must be around five in the morning when Briar is awoken by a loud thundering noise. Hopping downstairs and peering outside, it turns out to be rain falling heavily from the violet dawn sky. Surprised, Briar takes a few cautious steps onto the grass. Thunder and lightning crackle over the distant hills, and the fat raindrops sting against her skin. It’s a strange sight; for a Sunset Valley summer, at least.
Frowning, Briar grabs an old umbrella and heads over to the oak tree. Underneath, the leaves shelter her brother’s grave, the rain slowly dripping through nevertheless. It’s quiet and peaceful out here, the world still in sleep. “The weather’s been so strange recently, hasn’t it?” Briar says aloud. “No one really knows why. I bet you would if you were here.” She bites her lip in thought. “Although, if you were still alive, maybe this wouldn’t be happening at all…”
Sighing, she gently touches the cold headstone before heading back inside. In the past three years that had slowly crawled by, the weather in Sunset Valley had changed drastically. Summers heating up, rain falling heavier, winters getting colder, and the occasional sleet. The town had reacted in excitement to this and anticipation has been growing about the prospect of the valley’s first snowfall. Perhaps this year. To what Briar knows, the townies have no idea of the cause. But an idea has been forming in her head, and it all traces back to the night the lunar light machine exploded….
The day of the Summer Festival Grand Opening is hot and sunny. Central Park is bustling, chatter and laughter drifting on the salty breeze, stirring with the delicious scent of lemonade and onion rings. Briar leans on the metal railings of the rollerblading rink, breathing it all in. It’s amusing to see her family gingerly inching around the rink, trying not to fall over.
“Hey.” Max appears beside her, smiling, and gestures at the rink. “Want to skate?”
Briar shakes her head, but her boyfriend teases her until she reluctantly agrees to pull a pair of stupid pink rollerblades on. How come all the girls have to wear pink and the boys get to wear black and red? Sexist, much? Shaking her head, Briar steps onto the wooden rink carefully as Max heads off clumsily.
To be honest, rollerblading is pretty hard. Briar stumbles along for half an hour, clinging to the railing and trying not to faceplant. It’s only after the blue sky begins fading into evening that she has the courage to go out into the middle. Max is already there, and he offers his hand, which Briar accepts.
They spin around slowly for a bit and Briar can’t resist the urge to smile.
“Ow…” Briar groans, her cheek stinging from hitting the rink. “Note to self: Don’t ever try bellyflopping onto wood ever again.”
“Crap, are you okay?” Max says, horrified, after he helps her up. “That was all my fault, I’m sorry…” His eyebrows knit with worry in what Briar secretly thinks is really cute. “No, I’m fine, it’s not your fault.” She shakes her head, trying not to wince. “I’m going to have bruises for a month, but I’m fine…” But she says the last part under her breath, so her boyfriend doesn’t hear.
After that catastrophe, Briar decides to take a break from rollerblading and wanders around the park, drinking in the heady fragrance of summer blooms, the evening air warm with the dying rays of sunlight. There are two little face painting booths with blue-and-gold bunting fluttering in the wind. “Eh… why not?” Briar shrugs and pays for delicate swirls of purple around her face.
Next to the face painting booth is a cute baby blue snow cone machine. As Briar is drizzling the lime syrup onto her awesome rainbow snow cone, she senses someone watching her. Turning her head to the right, she spots a teenage boy with glowing amber eyes staring at her before he quickly walks away. It’s Clayton Alto, which Briar hasn’t seen in a long time. Probably because he never explained to Isla why he broke up with her.
As the evening slowly melts into night, Isla finally gets bored of rollerblading and everyone gathers around the birthday cake. The candle flames flicker in the light breeze, like little fireflies. Everyone cheers as Isla blows out the candles with a huge smile on her face. Briar knows her sister has been aching for her 18th birthday for a long time.
“So… what is it you wanted?” Briar asks. The driver stares straight ahead, gripping the steering wheel hard even though he can probably drive with his eyes closed. “I want to cure my vampirism.” Clayton finally says. This confuses Briar. “Why?” She twists to look at the vampire. “I would have thought being immortal and having awesome superpowers would be totally epic. Except for the burning-in-the-sun thing, which would suck, I guess.” Clayton is silent for a while, the streets flashing by. “Can you help me?” Is all he says. It’s an unsatisfactory answer, but Briar reluctantly nods. “I think I know someone who might be able to…”
“Hi, I’m Allie Beard.” Allie shakes the vampire’s pale hand warmly. “Clayton Alto.” He returns the smile. Allie listens to his request, her yellow sundress floating around her knees, before slowly inclining her head. “I might be able to help you with this matter.” The scientist says, adjusting her glasses. “Let’s go talk inside, before you begin to burn, yes?”
Allie leads them though the cozy wooden manor, onto a second-storey wraparound balcony that overlooks the town and the sea. They settle around a little blue mosaic table and Briar relaxes into the comfortable chair. Seagulls wheel in the cloudless sky and even from this quiet balcony, she can hear the distant swish of waves. Allie leans forward, staring at the vampire. “Tell me why you want to become human again.” She says simply.
“I was born in 1497.” Clayton begins, only to be interrupted by Briar. “Wow, you’re that old? The hell…” She gapes at the vampire, and Allie shushes her. “Yes, I’m that old. I’m one of the oldest of the night children to still exist today, which is why I’m such a history geek. Anyway… I was born to a nobleman, so I lived comfortably until my 17th birthday, where a vicious war, which would eventually lead to the birth of Sim Nation, began. It was a bloody struggle for land, and my father enlisted me to fight in it. I was old enough, and proud; I could fight well, I was quick, and much too confident. I only survived -if you turning undead surviving- from because a vampire was too lazy to finish me off when I lay amongst the hundreds of dead and dying, in the living hell after one battle, or what the vampires called a feast.”
His voice shakes to a stop and Briar realises how intently she had been listening. It’s horrible, but fascinating, to hear who looks like a teenager talk about his death in the 1500s- something she could never imagine. “Go on.” Allie coaxes gently. The vampire nods. “I’ve been seventeen for five hundred years. Moving from town to town every five years, changing as time went by yet never changing. Witnessing technology blossom and fashions fly by. The 70’s and 80’s were particularly horrible. And watching everybody grow up, build families and die, while I am here, never able to love.”
“I thought that after the lunar light machine exploded, all the supernaturals in Sunset Valley turned mortal again.” Briar says curiously. Certainly, she had not seen a single werewolf or fairy since the night. “Well, vampires have existed even here before Mr. Goth’s schemes.” Allie points out thoughtfully. “I suppose it’s because you are one of the ancients, right?” Clayton dips his head.
“I hate it. I hate never being able to change along with everyone I know. I hate that as an immortal, I can’t even have a chance to get back with Isla, as the Goth’s are gone. I know she doesn’t trust me or even want to see me again, but I want that chance.” Clayton looks embarassed. “I know that curing vampirism is dangerous and rarely successful, I have heard that from talking with Ash… but Isla is special. You haven’t seen your sister’s true side.” He focuses on Briar, who had coughed quietly.
Allie tilts her head. “It’s a process which is so unstable and unsafe, that scientists have not revealed it yet. But I can sense how you feel. It’s a tiny chance of success, but if you really want this…” “…I will risk it.”
“Max!” Briar embraces her boyfriend happily, who returns the gesture with a laugh and a light peck on her nose. “Oof.” He smiles. “You’re bubbly today.” The night sky glitters in his blue eyes, reflecting the scattering of bright stars. Today, Max had asked her out on an evening date at Plumpuddle Park. Supposedly he has a surprise for her.
“Come, I’ll show you the surprise.” Max says, as if he has read her mind. He sets off down the cobblestone path and Briar follows. “Wow.” She stops and gazes at the adorable sight in front of her. A picnic, for two; glazed baby donuts, fresh fruit skewers, a basket stuffed with even more goodies. Soft music floating out of a portable stereo. Candlelight wavering on the black sheen of the pond. Briar is no expert on the business of romance, but even she can tell that this is an incredibly sweet and romantic thing for her boyfriend to do.
Max pats the blanket spread on the grass, and she sits on a cute satin pillow. “Thought this would be nice for our three year anniversary.” He explains. “It’s a lot more us than dinner at Le Corsican… and it’s a lot more quiet here. We can have the park to ourselves. Care for a burger?” “Thanks.” Briar accepts the cheeseburger gratefully and digs into it. It’s delicious.
While they eat, they talk. Briar tells her boyfriend about the trip to Allie’s with Clayton a few days ago, and Max shares everything that has happened with his Oliver-Green relatives. It’s a good picnic; joking and laughing, and enjoying each other’s presence. And yes, a few kisses as well.
After a while, Max lifts a pillow near him. “Sparklers!” He announces, his eyes twinkling. “Yes!” Briar jumps up straight away, making him laugh. Soon, Plumpuddle Park is alive with the crackling and golden sparks, and excited whoops as the sparklers pop and throw off light.
Six more sparklers and much more excitement later, Briar finally exhausts herself of the little fireworks. “That was awesome!” She hops around, a big smile dancing across her face. Max laughs and pulls her in suddenly for a kiss. “What was that for?” Briar jokes. Her boyfriend gently cups her cheeks. “It’s just amazing to see someone so genuinely… happy. It makes me happy.”
“That’s cheesy.” Briar says playfully, although really, she finds it kinda cute. Max holds up one finger. “Just one more cheesy, cliche romantic thing, please?” “Sure…” She’s expecting a bad pun or joke, so it surprises her to see that Max has bent down on one knee, reaching behind him. “Um… what the heck are you doing?”
“Doing my cheesy thing.” Max looks up at her, his eyes sparkling, a small velvet box in his hand. It’s only when he presents the box to her with a hopeful smile on his face when Briar finally understands. “Briar Kingston, the amazing, hilarious, beautiful and only love of my goddamn entire lucky life… will you grant me the honour of marrying me?”
“Yes. Hell… yes, I would love to. Yes!” Briar finally gets the words out, shocked yet elated. Max slips a brilliant diamond ring onto her finger, quite expensive with a lovely filigree design. She supposes she should be more excited at this, but the only thing Briar cares about is the guy standing in front of her with his arms spread wide, an adorable dorky lopsided grin on his face.
“Thank you.” Briar whispers as she squeezes her boyfriend -no, fiancée– in a massive hug. Max kisses her happily. “Thank you for saying yes.” He replies. “I’ve got one more surprise for you…” Briar laughs. “I’m not sure this date could get any better.”
“Hmm.” Max leads her by the hand to the stone bench by the pond, where they had their first kiss. They sit down and Briar snuggles down in his warm arms. “Love you.” She sighs and rests her head on Max’s shoulder. “Love you more.” He replies mischievously.
There’s a few seconds of contented silence before there is a loud bang and a firework explodes in the sky, splashing sparks like tiny stars across the deep indigo sky. To Briar, feeling so happy in her fiancee’s (fiancée?!) arms… it’s the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen.