Sunday, October 2, 2016

Chapter 3.19- The Empress

            Mariah waved after her last customer. As an apprentice she was only allowed 4 readings a day. She sighed heavily and returned to the room behind her. 4 readings a day wasn’t nearly a tax on her, but she wouldn’t be on her own until her mentor felt she was competent enough in her abilities to not make a fool out of the Institute.

            “Oh, for PlumbBob’s sake, come on!” Mariah burst out upon seeing Christie. “It wasn’t that bad!”
            “Wanna bet?” Christie answered coldly. Which basically meant she’d never be competent enough in her abilities to finally earn her living around here.
            “Fine,” she returned wearily, dropping into the chair opposite her ‘mentor.’ “I’ll take the usual lecture today. Fries and coke on the side, please. In fact, SuperSize that Extra Value sermon! I’m not feeling nearly low enough.

            “Your ‘schtick’? Is cold. If you really want your customers to warm up to you take a leaf out of your grandmothers book and dive in. Quit pinching fingers and start holding hands,” said Christie wearily. “I’m really tired of telling you this.”
            “Yeah, well I’m tired of hearing it,” Mariah bit back. “Obviously, it isn’t going to happen, so drop it.”

            “And here I thought you wanted to get out of my clutches to receive your own clientele as well as earn a living around here.”
            Having her own thoughts constantly parroted back to her was as old as Christie’s criticisms and Mariah had finally had enough.
            “I.Don’t.Like.People.To.TOUCH.Me! I understand you think my grandmother was wonderful, but let me enlighten you for once. That old witch was just that. And it’s because of her that no one touches me without my permission!”

            Mariah had risen, bending over the table. Across from her? Christie chuckled coldly.
            “Oh, the irony there. Sit down before I have you written up and sent back to classes.”
            But Mariah’s line had been crossed. Baring her teeth she prepared to launch into the tirade of a lifetime.
            “You want to earn a living? Sit down.” Christie’s voice had become deadly quiet, her eyes wide.
            Mariah inhaled. She wanted nothing more than to get Christie out of her life. She owned the place. She didn’t have to have this as a job along the way. If she really wanted, she could fire Christie! In fact, that’s just what she should do to get the bitch out of her life!
            “I want you out of my life as much as you do, but my help only extends as far as you’re willing to take it. If you really want the Institute to succeed, if you really want to turn the Institute around to the point you don’t need this job, I’m your best bet and you won’t fire me. Now Sit.Down.”

            Glaring for all she was worth Mariah fell into her chair with as little grace as she could manage.
            “Good girl.”
            “I am not a dog.”
            “No. But neither are you a psychic.”
            “Teach me then!”
            “I’ve been trying. You refuse to listen.”
            “I don’t touch people!”
            “Pity. It seems we’ve come full circle, too.”

            Mariah groaned, on the verge of frustrated tears.
            “There has to be something else I can do! Something that doesn’t involve getting physically chummy with everyone who walks in the door!”
            “There are plenty of jobs you’re legitimately capable of doing. You’re the one who chose to take an interest here.”
            “I did Not choose this place! It was chosen for me by-”
            “-No! It was never her ‘choice!’ You have a whole world open to you. This was your choice. And you choose to be a failure at it.”

            “I am not a failure.”
            “Then prove it.”
            Prove it? When Christie should be the one begging her for… Oooooooh…
            “Fine. I’ll prove it. Help me find a way around it, help me succeed, genuinely, and I will make sure both you and Ruben keep your job when Delphine finds out her boyfriend got her best psychic pregnant.”

            She’d expected Christie to blanch, to gasp in horror, to blush and stammer or to fall to her knees thanking her for her generosity. Instead, like a Cheshire, her lips slowly curled into a smile.
            “About time.”

            “I’d almost given up hope that you’d offer to partner with me.”
            “I am not-”
            “-Without me, this place will wither away. Delphine’s abilities are too pathetic to sort through the real and the fake. Her eyes are closed to the truth of the world she lives in. Without you, the business remains undirected and without the reputation your grandmother gave it. The Institute would eventually close its doors, bankrupt and exposed. You along with it.”
            Mariah stared, jaw open, trying to follow Christie’s reasoning.
            “You need a real psychic to fake your way into a business that relies on your name. I need the business to give me a wider, more landed client base. It’s quite simple really.”

            “Why cover for me then? Why be so horrible to me? Why didn’t you just propose a partnership in the first place?”
            “Oh, don’t feel so special. I’m horrible to everyone. I hate people.”
            “Even Ruben. He’s an idiot. Just a pretty one. Why didn’t I propose this in the beginning? Because the time wasn’t right. Why cover for you?” Christie paused, weighing Mariah in her gaze. “Because you’re my Empress.”

            “Your Empress?”
            Christie looked thoroughly provoked. “Yes! Like the card, stupid. I had you pull a card the first time we met, trying to see exactly what your influence on my life would be. You pulled the Empress. You’re my Empress. You will guide and lead not just me but all in the Institute. You know what to do without knowing how to do what you have to do, what you must do. You’re the exception to the rule. You’re in between my beginning and my ending. But you can’t be any of that, without me.”

            Head whirling, Mariah took a deep breath. She was missing something.
            “So you are offering to help me in exchange for me helping you?”
            “Yes,” Christie answered placidly.
            “Once again, why didn’t you offer to begin with?” Mariah was so weary of Christie that she’d also become wary of her.
            “Because I needed you to know just how much you needed me.”

            Sitting back hard in her seat, Mariah surveyed Christie.
            She was right. She really did need Christie. The Institute attracted truth seekers from around the nation, not just around town and she’d not be able to fool those she didn’t know very well. Christie would be able to weed out the fakers who applied to the Institute’s school, which would only raise their reputation. If Mariah could emulate Christie’s method, she’d be able to pass herself off much more credibly as she worked her way toward making the Institute great again.
            “Once the partnership has outlived its usefulness- As in, when one of us is no longer an asset to the profitability of the Institute- our agreement will automatically dissolve so neither holds the other back. How about it partner?”

            Christie’s hand was proffered. It was the first time Mariah had witnessed such a friendly gesture from her. It was also a reminder that she wanted Mariah to touch people. Fine.
            Spitting into her palm, she slapped it into Christie’s, holding on tight as she suppressed her gag reflex.
            “Because you need me. Partner.

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            The trapeze artists were a little too good. They floated just a little too far across open space. They stayed suspended at the top of their arcs a few seconds too long. Their smiles were a little too bored. Their routine was a bit too complex. And it was freaking.Vivia.Out. And what was up with the floor?!?

            Was it a floor? Was it a pit? Would one of them fall with gruesome results? Or would the unfortunate aerial acrobat simply plunge, fading slowly as they fell forever? Or maybe they’d fall back through the ceiling like in those cartoons her dad showed her?
            However, even if one of them fell Vivia wouldn’t see it.

            Beside her, Dove gave an exaggerated yawn.
            “Oh, don’t be such a ninny,” Dove said
            “I am not a ninny,” Vivia parted her fingers just enough to peep through to prove she wasn’t scared.
            “Then put your hands down, ninny.” Dove replied. “The circus isn’t going to let them fall. They’re wearing harnesses that will stop them and there’s a net to catch them.”

            “There are? I don’t see nothin’.” Vivia looked wildly about for strings, wires, steel beams, anything that might prove the flyers were being protected.
            “Of course you don’t see them! Duh! If you saw them it would ruin the illusion,” Dove was thoroughly exasperated by now. “I know they’re there because they hafta take care of their employees. Besides, if one of them died, Taylor would hafta arrest them for not being responsible enough.”
            Vivia glanced down to where Taylor sat sandwiched between her new bestie, Mom, and her new girlfriend, someone or other, it might have rhymed with mess, or maybe it was Beth, Heather? She was called Something anyway, and was slightly mollified. Taylor had a way about her that brought calm out of chaos. Like the day when dad brought his new girlfriend over? Wow, that was- What was that word Dove just used? Losin’? What would ruin losing? Wasn’t that already kind of no fun?

            “-Besides,” wait. Dove was still talking? Vivia had missed most of it. She’d better pay attention again or Dove would get grumpy. “There’s no other way those people could do half of what they’re doing if there wasn’t something holding them up. I mean, he could have dropped her! As it is, he only caught her at the very last second. I bet he could have broke her back.”
            Sparing a glance at the black pit, half afraid to see someone still falling through space, Vivia could see Dove’s point. How’d that guy get the lady there? Then she remembered.
            “Ceeven says it’s magic.”

            Eyes nearly rolling out of her head, Dove scoffed.
            “Ceeven believes in the Sim in the Moon, too.”
            “But even Abyn says this circus has magic!”
            “Oh! Well if Abyn says it…”

            “I like Abyn.” Smiling, Vivia turned to the girl sitting between her and Ceeven. Abyn had been allowed to tag along so Mariah could get to know her sons new best friend better.
            “I only like her because she made Ceeven shut up about that stupid Poppy,” Dove snorted. “I mean, look at how she’s dressed! And her hair!
            “She is pretty isn’t she?”
            “No, Vivia. And she’s dumb. Why else would she hang out with Ceeven?”
            “That’s not nice.”

            “I don’t care about being nice to her. Besides, what kind of name is Abyn? It’s a perfect name for someone who hangs out with our baby brother with frumpy, too big, ugly clothes, who doesn’t brush her hair and who believes in magic.”
            Vivia scratched her head. “Well, she said her mom was a real airy fairy. So maybe she named her? And then it would be a magic name!”
            “No, Vivia,” Dove sighed. “Fairies aren’t real. Magic isn’t real. Abyn is dumb. And ‘Airy Fairy’ is just another way of saying someone is kinda stupid. ”
            Vivia frowned at her sister’s assessment.

            In front of them, the lady did a flip over her bar before launching herself toward the other.
            “Well, I like her,” Vivia stated firmly. “I think she’s nice. And I think having a fairy mom would be cool. And I think it’s great Ceeven has a new friend!”
            Beside her, Dove cracked up.
            “Says the girl who has never met a stranger!”

            Vivia was puzzled. How could you meet a stranger? Once you met them, didn’t that make them your friend? When she couldn’t work herself out of the knot she reverted to happy thoughts about Ceeven and Abyn as the two male flyers reappeared.
            “Maybe one day they’ll get married!”
            “Oh, PlumbBob Viv!” Dove blurted out.
            Vivia cast a wary eye at their mother. She’d never heard Dove swear before.
            “Mom doesn’t care,” Dove snipped defiantly. “Besides, I’m almost a grown up now. I can say it.”
            Still frowning, Vivia nodded a little.

            “Now they’re just juggling themselves,” Dove grumped under her breath.
            Vivia watched the three tumbling over each other in the air. They kinda were juggling themselves. Like three balls. Sometimes people were cannonballs. But snowballs were her favorite ball. Maybe it would still be snowing when the show was over. Then they could have hot chocolate!
            “Maybe those two getting married would be a good thing,” Dove finally piped back up.
            “I think it would be wonderful,” Vivia gushed, abruptly brought back to the present. “But you’ll have to be nice and not scare her away.”

            There was a split second where Vivia worried Dove might take her suggestion wrong, but instead she turned to grin at her.
            “You might be right,” she conceded. “And even if they don’t get married, at least Abyn is better than Poppy. No one can tease him about Abyn being imaginary.”
            Vivia’s heart swelled. It always made her happy when someone else wanted to see someone else happy. Or was it that she wanted… oh, forget it. Dove was promising to be nice!
            “No one can tease him. Or her. It’ll be wonderful.”

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Huge huge thanks to the simmers who provided my Trapeze Artists! I had a ton of fun dressing them up and playing with their hair and then throwing them around like rag dolls. Lol.
So Thanks to HeatherFeather for Moze Diffy!

Thanks to Skyegal19 for Cooper Starling!

And thanks to Toxi for Alexei Cuckobell!

Since the crowd is huge (*GASP*kaffkaff*UNDERSTATEMENT*kaffkaff*) The Spot My Sim feature is up on the bloopers tab, as well as the trapeze artists’ full routine (and an actual Blooper!) I didn’t add a huge number of sims to the crowd this time. But if you're still looking to Spot Your Sim in the crowd, there are opportunities to come.

Ignore the physics defying ropes, please. A physicist I am not. lol

Anyway, as to story. Hinthinthinthinthint. That’s all you’ll get. While most of the hints are for much later on, there are one or two up there for the present. And of course, which ones are red herrings? =D After that, Dove is a work in progress. She loves Ceeven dearly and is extremely frustrated at how he opens himself up to criticism. Kids just don't deal with frustration well.

I probably don’t need to explain why this one took so long to get out. Haha. But a funny did happen while I worked on it. A horse named Sunny tried to eat the shirt off my back. No joke. My son is still laughing that horse Sunny then got mad at this Sunny when he found out my shirt wasn’t made of apples and sugar cubes. How rude of me! Lol

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Chapter 3.18- A Sign of Peace

            “This shouldn’t take long,” Taylor clicked the pen she held in one hand. “What is your connection to Andre Parker?”
            Mariah’s head still spun. Roger had walked into the door not five minutes ago announcing his return. She’d barely registered when he told her Taylor was on her way to ask her a few questions.
            “Uhm, he’s, uhm,” Mariah blinked, shaking her head trying to catch up to the moment. “He’s the father of my oldest child. You know this.”
            “Yes,” Taylor barely glanced up from scribbling on the note pad. “Yes, but this is for the official record. We need to make sure we’re covering all bases.”

            “When was the last time you had any contact with him?”
            Closing her eyes hard, Mariah rubbed them furiously, hoping to get a clue. “Uuuh, I think, gosh,” she panted. “It’s been a really really long time.”
            Roger scoffed, sharpening Mariah’s focus considerably. Ah. They were back to this then. Okay. Fine.
            “The last time I saw Andre was the night after high school graduation. Over 9 years ago now. The last time I had any contact with him was almost 9 years ago.” She put as much venom in her words as she could. Roger would have to get it through his thick head that she was NOT in love with Andre, much less in contact with him!

            “What’s going on, Taylor? Roger only told me you’d be here to ask a few questions after asking me where Andre is. I’m really in the dark here.”
            Taylor, glanced up again. There it was in her eyes. Taylor really didn’t care much for her. Why?
            “He was reported as a missing person about a week ago.”
            “Oh, wow. I’m so sorry to hear that! Is foul play suspected?” Did anyone other than cops on TV talk like that? It felt stupid once Mariah said it.

            “Were you aware that Andre intended a visit to Appaloosa Plains before his disappearance?” Taylor ignored the awkward question.
            “No. Like I said, we’re not in contact any longer. As far as I know, he didn’t know his daughter was alive.”
            This time Taylor’s gaze hit Roger, who had the decency to look slightly abashed.
            “Would you know anyone else in town he might have been coming to visit?”

            “Uhm, Kelci? Kelci Jenner? Maybe? I dunno.”
            The corners of Roger’s mouth rose fractionally and his eyes softened. Even Taylor smiled sadly.
            “Kelci Parker?”
            “Oh,” Mariah nodded to herself. “I didn’t know they’d married. But I guess I should have known.”
            The scratching of the pen on paper stopped.
            “Why should you have known?”
            Whoops. Not the time to go there.

            “Maybe because he wouldn’t leave her for me, the mother of his child, so long ago?”
            “Was this recently?”
            “Dove’s going on 9. No. Didn’t we already go over the whole ‘it’s been a really long time since I’ve seen him’ bit?”
            “Just trying to find a missing person, Ms.Sixkiller.”

            “Perhaps he was on his way here to visit his parents. They still live in town,” Mariah offered.
            This time, Taylor looked at her with something akin to pity.
            “We’ve already talked to them,” Taylor clicked her pen closed. “I have no further questions, but I do want to issue a warning for you off the record.”
            Bracing herself, Mariah took half a step back.
            “Andre might not have been aware of Dove, but for whatever reason, his mother has half guessed she might have a grandchild in town. I suggest you brace yourself, and Dove, for a visit once they find out we came by here.”

            As Taylor made her exit, Mariah got a hand on Roger’s arm.
            “Mind explaining why you just had me questioned?” she hissed at him.
            His shoulders slumped a little. “Yeah, sure,” he said. “Guess we might as well talk now. Let’s sit.”
            Waiting for him to begin, she had a hard time reining in her patience. He was home! And he was still hung on the non-existent possibility that she might still be in love with Andre. Jackass.

            “I didn’t tell you this, but Andre was working for Tex too,” Roger started apologetically. “You know what I did. Andre managed the casino Tex used to launder the money we made him, and we know that on some level Andre was at the very least aware of what was going on and we suspect much more.”
            Suddenly, he shot her a fiery look. “You don’t know any of this.”
            “I never have known any of what you’re doing, Rog,” she soothed with a sneer, annoyed at how far his trust with her had been broken. “No one will hear it from me.”
            “Yeah,” Roger sighed. “Anyway, we thought we were finally closing in on Tex’s supplier and thought we might finally get a chance to shut that entire ring down but something happened.”

            “The casino hadn’t been doing as well as Tex would have liked under Andre’s reigns. He was too busy schmoozing, wanted to run for mayor of Lucky Palms or something on his way toward becoming Leader of SimNation. He’d gotten careless with managing profits especially and the feds were getting suspicious, that’s how Kelly got involved.”
            “Wait. Kelly is a fed?”
            “She’s an agent, yes. And Tex finally figured out that the feds should be suspicious and didn’t see them clearly so he came in one day and shut the whole thing down. He wanted us to clean the entire warehouse out and up with instructions on where to meet up across the border with his goods. But this was all the front end of the chain, on the back end, Andre had disappeared three days before and Tex was a little too blasé about it.”

            “We figured he suspected Andre was his mole,” Roger continued. “But Kelly was really freaking out. Devi, Tex’s mistress, had been suspicious of her for a while. Then you’ve got that I can’t cross the border, Kelly could. She was also worried that I was a little too close to Andre’s disappearance for my own good. She said it was to protect me from having to explain awkward things to LPPD later, but she phoned my supervisor and told him that I had outside connections to Andre that might lead to a conflict of interest if I continued to follow Tex. So here I am. I had Taylor question you because she’s the detective on the case here in Appaloosa Plains. I also needed to make sure there isn’t a shadow of a doubt that I was not involved. I’ll get a ton more respect from the force here for my experience, but if there are rumors I did something to my baby mama’s ex I won’t get to go as far as I’d like. Sorry.”
            Mariah’s head spun. If that was a short explanation, she’d hate to hear the long one.

            “So what about your relationship with Kelly then?” she asked. Totally not for her own reasons. Sure.
            “She’s gone,” he whispered. Mariah had seen that look before. He was heartbroken and while she was still very annoyed with him she couldn’t find fault with him for that. “She felt it would be best. Long distance is one thing, but she didn’t think she could keep it up internationally and undercover.”
            “I’m so sorry,” somehow, she almost meant it.
            “I want the kids every other weekend.”
            Her head snapped up. That was a 180. After how he’d just blindsided her with his own mistrust, what made him think he could trust her now? Or just waltz in and take her babies? And that camping trip? The half-truths and a very hurt Dove? Nope. Not happening.

            “No.” You will NOT get my kids without some ground rules about who sees them buddy!
            “I want my kids, Mariah.”
            “They don’t know you.” And they sure won’t know you if you’re too busy playing with another woman!
            “They will.”
            “No,” she said firmly and his face hardened. “They don’t know you. If you’d like, you can start coming once a week after school, and a couple of hours on weekends for at least a month. Then we’ll talk about you seeing them more often.” In MY HOUSE. With MY RULES. About MY KIDS. While I’M around!

            “You promise?”
            “Pinky swear if you want to,” she quipped, offering her little finger. I’ll break each and every one of your fingers if any of the kids come home complaining about some new girlfriend.
            “Nah,” he relaxed into a smile. “Nah, I believe you.” You shouldn’t.
            “I believe it’s called co-parenting. They do need to know their dad.” But not your next booty call!
            “Can I have Dove, too? When the time comes?”
            “Of course! Unless they find Andre and he objects that is. The kids belong together.” With me!
            Roger chuckled, nodding. “Alright.”

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            Roger had held true to his promise of allowing the kids to get to know him better, arriving each Monday as soon as the bus dropped the three off. Yesterday’s visit had been a particular triumph for him. For the first time since the camping trip Dove had begun to warm to him again. It was because of that Mariah thought it might have been him at the door, even though it wasn’t his day to come.
            Instead, the face through the window nearly stopped her in her tracks. It couldn’t be, but the person on the other side looked just like the missing Andre.

            The closer she got, the more convinced she was it couldn’t be him and her heart stopped racing. This man wasn’t as tall, his face wider and more lined, his hair lighter than ever Andre’s was.
            “Can I help you?” she asked, hoping for once in her life the couple in front of her might be religious peddlers. She had no use for The Watcher or His PlumbBob and slamming the door in someone’s face would give her an unusual amount of satisfaction right now. However, she wouldn’t get that pleasure today.

            The woman looked up and the man took a deep breath, narrowing his eyes a little.
            “I believe you’re the mother of our grandchild,” he said. Next to him, the woman nodded slowly.
            Mariah closed her eyes, steeling her nerves. Taylor had warned her this day would be coming; she hadn’t thought it would be this soon.
            With a sigh she nodded herself.
            “Dove,” she answered. “Her name is Dove. Please. Come in.”

            Leading them into the house, she indicated a loveseat for them while she took the other. No one spoke. No sounds were heard. The kids were upstairs playing so quietly you wouldn’t have known they were in the house. Mariah would have paid for a year’s supply of ice cream for dessert had one of the twins noisily raced down the stairs at that moment. Instead, she was left to feel the awkwardness of the situation while she scrambled to find the right way to start a conversation with Dove’s other family.

            “I’m sorry,” she whispered at last. These people must hate her now they knew about her Dove. How she’d kept them from her while living in the very same town. Long ago, Mariah had taken pains to find out where they worked, where they preferred to eat out, what route they took while jogging all to make sure she could keep Dove out of their sight for as long as possible.
            And now they knew of her, like Roger, they would try to take one of her most precious treasures. Their judgement of her was nothing compared to their intended crime against her.

            “We haven’t given up hope they’ll find him, dear,” Andre’s mother replied at last. “We’re actually more curious about Dove. Is that what you said her name is?”
            Mariah nodded without looking up.
            “The police questioned you because you have his daughter? Dove is his daughter?”
            Once again Mariah was only able respond with a silent consent.
            “I don’t want to be rude, or appear ugly, but you are positively sure this is Andre’s child?”

            This got her full attention at once.
            “I’m positive,” she answered harshly. “I notified him when I found out I was pregnant. He acknowledged that Dove was his as well.”
            The couple exchanged glances; a spark of excitement along with a hint of incredulity mixed with their mirrored surprise.
            “I saved that last letter from him, if you’d like to see it,” she offered. “The folds are a little delicate from the years and it has a-”

            “-No, nono,” the woman interrupted as his face softened. “No, that’s not necessary right now. We believe you. Uhm…”
            Again the two looked at each other, this time he appeared to be urging her on.
            “I’ve seen her. She has my nose and her father’s hair color,” she continued. “I’d noticed her while the circus was in town. We’d taken one of our grandsons, Amber’s son, while they were in town. Patrick took him while I-I’m sorry for this but you didn’t seem to notice me-I followed you. I knew who you were, and when I saw Dove I remembered something your grandmother told me that I’d thought impossible.”

            “I was one of your grandmother’s clients and she once told me we’d have a relative in common, a female, an eternal sign of peace between our families,” she said. At her side Patrick nodded benignly. “When you and Andre worked on that project in high school I just knew he would break up with Kelci for you for this to happen. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when it didn’t happen. Or so I thought.”
            “Cassandra and I have been wondering: Were you a couple while he dated Kelci?” Patrick finally spoke again.
            Mariah sighed heavily. She really didn’t know these people and airing her sins out to them was not something she wanted to do. Besides, their son was missing; telling them how horrible he was most likely wouldn’t go well for her.
            “Yeah,” she said shortly. “Before he left for college we were still secretly seeing each other. It ended when he left town.”

            “And you told him you were pregnant with his child and he agreed it was his?” Patrick prompted.
            “Look,” Mariah stated. “Look, Cassandra? Patrick? Is that right?”
            Both nodded.
            “Andre is missing, correct?”
            Again, both heads bobbed an acknowledgement.
            “If they find him, do you really want to know all of this?”
            “We want to know our grandchild,” Patrick stated.
            “We know Andre isn’t perfect,” Cassandra gave her a sad smile. “C’mon, Mariah. We’ve already found out his job might not have been legitimate, that he was eyeball deep in debt to some very shady characters and that he had a secret love child. I think we can handle whatever you tell us about who he really is.”

            “He wasn’t… entirely aware of Dove,” Mariah said haltingly, casting about for words that didn’t want to come. “I told him I was pregnant pretty early on, but I didn’t hear back from him for months. Finally, when I was in the third trimester he wrote me back. He’d sent me some cash and insisted I abort her. That he didn’t want her, or me, or ever want to see either of us.”
            Cassandra gasped, a hand flying to her mouth in horror while Patrick’s eyes went round as coins.
            “He also stridently urged me to keep both the pregnancy, and his involvement, a secret. In particular, I don’t think he wanted Kelci or her dad to find out. But I’m also fairly positive he didn’t want either of you to know. Or his sister. I doubt he knew that I’d carried her to term. Or that she’s healthy and alive at all.”

            “I’m very very sorry to be the one to tell you this,” Mariah finished lamely. “It must be hard for both of you to hear such things.”
            A tear slipped down Cassandra’s cheek. Patrick bowed his head. The brittle hush wouldn’t be interrupted by Mariah. The dead needed to stay dead. Why won’t Abuella stay dead??? Yet again Abuella Sabria had meddled in my life. The old bat.
            “I wish you would have told us anyway,” Cassandra finally whispered. “That’s our grandbaby.” Patrick nodded solemnly.

            “She’s here,” Mariah offered, defeated by her empathy. “She’s home from school and is probably playing with her brother and sister upstairs.”
            Both brightened, a smile nearly appearing on Patrick’s face. Perhaps he could sense what she was about to offer against her better judgement.
            She sighed, internally wincing at her words. “Would you like to meet her?”
            At this Cassandra beamed and both squeezed the other, nodding away.
            “How old is she?” Cassandra asked.
            “A very grown up 9,” Mariah managed a small smile. “I’ll go get her.”

            A few moments later, she had walked her oldest down stairs, marching her up to her new relatives.
            Cassandra beamed, clasping her hands together and crying. Patrick somehow managed to be too stiff and formal for the moment.
            “Dove,” Mariah began, but she wasn’t allowed to finish.
            “I’m your Mimi! Mimi Cass! And this is your GrandDad Pat.” Cassandra gushed at Dove.
            Dove had shot her mom a single wondering look when the other two adults fell on her, enveloping her in a tight embrace.

            “Our darling Dove! We’re so glad to meet you!” Cassandra’s voice wavered as both adults held Dove tightly, patting her back, stroking her hair, crying.
            Mariah felt a twinge of sadness amidst her annoyance at the scene. Dove couldn’t be her exclusive property any longer. It was the beginning of the end. Roger wanted his kids, and after such a maudlin show of emotion at their meeting these two would claim grandparents rights and she’d have no choice but to allow visits.

            Mariah snuck around behind the trio on her floor. A box of tissues in the kitchen would be sorely needed after all this blubbering.
            Once she was around the group she turned to glance at her Dove’s face and decided to stop altogether.
            Maybe she wouldn’t have to worry about sharing Dove so much after all.

            Dove stood ramrod straight. And the look on her face?

            Was priceless.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Sorry that was so long, but a lot of explanation was needed. There will be even more explanation next time. Though from a different direction and about other matters. lol

So! Who remembers Cassandra from the circus crowd? :D (3.15-Time to Move on) Go back and look for her if you’d like. Dove drew Cassandra’s notice during Ori’s fire dance though she’d been following them since the Illusionist’s show and only lost them briefly before the Contortionists appeared. 

(For anyone wondering about the inlaws eating crow- It took Hubs’ grandmother chewing them all out to get it, but in the end they were most gracious with their apologies. For days. xD [Well, almost all of them-MIL still had to both discount it and take credit for the turn around all in one breath to any random relative that would give her an ear. The old bat.])