During the first days of spring, James celebrated both the end of winter and his new-found freedom from the responsibility of watching a toddler by hitting the town. He stopped by Varg's Tavern to get dinner most nights; Alpha, of course, stayed home and ate whatever was the most edible out of James's attempts at cooking. It was at the tavern that he first saw her.
The woman turned, her eyes widening in shock for a moment before a slight smile came to her lips.
Woman: "You could. Is it good?"
James: "Well, it's not to my tastes, but it's a popular drink among the women in this town. You're not from around here, though."
Her accent wasn't lost on him; it wasn't strong, but it definitely wasn't local. She appraised him for a long moment, then nodded, ordering the drink from the bartender.
Woman: "Perceptive. I'm new in town, yes. I'm actually supposed to be meeting my friend here, she's offered me her couch until I get on my feet. She's just a bit late, is all."
James: "I see. Well, it would be un-gentlemanly of me to let a lady wait by herself."
James: "Please, let me. I was recently promoted at work, with a nice bonus, so it's my treat. James Woods, by the way."
Woman: "Anne Darrow."
James: "Pleasure to meet you, Anne. Now, what brings a lady like you all the way out to Sunset Valley?"
James: "What's wrong?"
Anne: "Turns out my friend's boyfriend decided he doesn't want me sleeping on their couch, even just for a few days. I don't have anywhere to stay now."
James: "You can stay at my place. I mean, I know we just met and all, but if you're really in a bind."
Anne turned to him, smiling gratefully.
Anne: "Is that really okay? I'd owe you one, definitely."
James: "Sure. I, um, do have a kid though. If that's going to be a problem."
He wasn't really sure why he'd said that. It wasn't exactly the sort of thing he wanted her to know, unless this was going to be a long-term thing. Which it wasn't.
Anne: "Oh, you're married?"
Her face fell, and James quickly shook his head.
James: "No, I'm not, sorry. It's a bit complicated, but the short answer is no, I'm not married. Never been."
Anne: "Oh, maybe I'll get to hear the long answer one day."
James slipped the last of the tab to the bartender and walked out of the tavern. As he turned to say something, he was suddenly intensely aware of Anne standing very close to him.
Soon, it was time for Alpha to start school. Homeschooling was an option in Sunset Valley, but James didn't feel that it was necessary. Nobody asked too many questions about the kids in school, as long as they stayed out of trouble. Alpha knew this, and didn't think that she'd have a problem flying under the radar. She just wished that James wouldn't make so much noise at night while she was trying to sleep.
Valerie: "Thanks! Want to play tag? The bridge out front is great for that."
Alpha: "I think we should do our homework first."
Alpha: "Well, you have to do it sometime tonight. I like to do it first, so I can have fun later and not feel bad."
Valerie: "You'd feel bad about having fun? I don't!"
Alpha: "Not always, just when I have something important to do."
Alpha: "I don't have a mom."
Valerie's eyes widened.
Valerie: "Don't be silly, everybody has a mom! Who taught you to walk and stuff when you were little?"
Alpha: "Well that was Gran, but she died when I was little."
Alpha's new friend frowned at that.
Valerie: "Oh, sorry. I didn't know."
Alpha: "It's okay, I miss her but I was pretty little, so I hardly remember her."
Valerie nodded, clearly still feeling sorry for her friend.
Valerie: "Come on, let's go do our homework so we can have fun before you have to go."
Valerie: "You're so smart!"
Alpha: "Not really. There's lots of hard questions on here, I just study a lot."
Valerie: "I don't like studying."
Valerie worked on her arithmetic for a few moments before looking up with a grin on her face.
Valerie: "Hey! Why was the math book sad?"
Alpha looked up from her homework, confused.
Alpha: "Um, I don't know?"
Valerie: "Because it had lots of problems! Ha ha!"
Valerie giggled to herself, then pouted at her friend's blank expression.
Valerie: "Like math problems, get it?"
Alpha: "Oh, right! Hey, do you have #11 yet?"
Valerie: "I can't believe you're still here helping me! You're a good friend, Alpha."
Alpha: "Thanks. I've never really had a friend before."
Valerie: "That's so sad! Hey, it's pretty late, won't somebody be worrying you're not home?"
Alpha: "My dad doesn't care as long as I'm not out past curfew."
Valerie: "That's cool. Hey, maybe I can come over to your house sometime."
Alpha: "Uh, I don't think you can, sorry. I'm not allowed to have guests over."
Valerie: "Oh, that's stupid. And so's this problem!"
Alpha: "What? Let me see. Oh, you got it backwards."
Days had turned to weeks for their houseguest, and she showed no signs of finding housing anytime soon, though not for lack of trying - the market was a mess. Despite his best efforts to stay emotionally distant, James could feel himself falling for her in a way that he'd never felt about a woman before, and that scared him a lot.
James: "Hey Anne, how's it going?"
She smiled back faintly, seeming troubled.
James: "What's wrong?"
Anne: "Oh, it's nothing, just worried."
James: "About the house situation?"
Anne looked faintly surprised.
Anne: "You mean you don't want me out of here as soon as possible?"
James: "No, I like you. You know, being around you, and doing...other things...with you."
She looked relieved.
Anne: "That's really good to hear. Because I'm pregnant."
~ * ~
James, you've done it again. Just keep it in your hot pink pants, man!
James: "But the dice rolls command me!"
I'm trying hard to express Alpha's traits, but it's a bit difficult to get across anything apart from loner. She also has no sense of humor and is disciplined, the latter of which has been extremely difficult to write. I keep thinking that she's coming across just as incredibly strange.
Valerie is so sweet, it's a shame she continually ends up being a total airhead, through no fault of my own(the game does it, I swear!). She's Crystal's daughter, but neither her nor Alpha know they're cousins. Yes, Crystal moved into Faye's old house. Everybody's been playing musical houses in my neighborhood.