Friday, April 19, 2013

Woods Random Legacy: Chapter 43 - Responsibility

While James pulled in a steady income, he didn't offer much to Alpha for pocket change.  While he provided the basic necessities - food, clothes, school lunch money - he didn't see what point there was in giving her an allowance.  She'd just spend it on something silly.  So she turned to completing odd jobs around town to save up some money.
The school's boiler was making a funny noise, and they said they'd pay her if she could get it working again.  How hard could it be to fix a boiler?  She'd watched James fiddle with the plumbing around the house when it started acting up more than once, and if he could do it then she certainly could.  The basement was dark and creepy, though, so she resolved to finish the job as quickly as possible.
So much for getting it done quickly.  After several hours of work, the boiler was finally running smoothly again, and Alpha walked away with $300 in her pocket.  It wasn't much, but if she saved it it could go a long way.  Maybe she could even go to university, one day.  For now, though, she took out $55 from the meager fund to buy a colorful toy box for the younger children.
Epsilon loved playing with the fluffy toy sheep, though she managed to lose it alarmingly often; it was never gone for long, however.  When she got bored of the sheep - or couldn't find it - she had just as much fun by climbing into the box itself and spying around the room.  Alpha had to pick the sleeping toddler up out of the box more than a few times.
Omicron was growing up quickly, soon getting old enough to be let out to play by himself.  He was always clumsily dropping things or crawling into furniture, though, so Alpha tried to discourage him from following his sister's example when playing with the toy box.
He and Epsilon preferred to play together, yet apart.  Omicron would fuss when he was alone for too long, but as Epsilon had very little interest in actually playing with her little brother she often chose to remain across the room, playing by herself with her sheep.
There was a lot to do with taking care of two toddlers.  Alpha's prom was held in the middle of summer, but she chose not to attend.  There were more important matters to take care of at home, and she knew that she couldn't count on James for any of it.

True to form, when Leisure Day came around James left the house early to attend a party he was throwing at the public pool.  He'd only invited a handful of people, but he hoped that they would each bring friends of their own.  More people was always more fun!  He made sure to get changed before he left the house, in order to minimize the time before he could dive into the refreshing water.
That, of course, left Alpha home with the children.  James hadn't even asked, he'd just walked right out the door.  Typical.  Alpha hid her irritation well when instructing Omicron in the proper use of the potty, as it wasn't appropriate to take out her anger at her father on a little kid who couldn't help who he'd been born to.
After Leisure Day, summer drew to a quick close, the weather becoming chillier by the day.  While she hadn't had much help from James apart from potty training - the lesser of two evils, as he didn't want to change diapers - she'd managed to help her younger siblings develop their life skills satisfactorily.  Epsilon was walking and talking, even if she didn't have much to say to anyone but Alpha, and even young Omicron was starting to toddle around.  Epsilon would be starting school soon, though, and there were some things that Alpha needed to prepare her for.
Alpha: "You'll be going to school soon, Epsi.  It's a big step to take."
Epsilon: "I'll learn things?"
Alpha: "Yeah, like math and science and language arts.  You'll love it."
Epsilon: "Yeah!"
Alpha took a deep breath.  Things had gotten a lot worse at school since Sondra and James had broken up - she suspected that Sondra had been spreading rumors about James sleeping around and who he'd had children with.  Alpha could deal with it, but Epsilon was young, and still so innocent.
Alpha: "Some of the kids at school might be kind of mean.  They'll make fun of you, and tease you for things."
Epsilon: "Why?  It's not nice."
Alpha: "I know it's not nice, but sometimes they do it anyway.  They even do it to me, but I try not to let it bother me."
Epsilon: "They tease you?"
Her eyes got wide as she tried to imagine her older sister getting made fun of by other kids.
Alpha: "Yeah, all the time.  I just don't let it bother me, alright?  They might say stuff like you don't have a mom."
Epsilon: "I don't have a mom though."
Alpha: "No, you do have a mom, I met her when I was little.  I think she loves you a lot, she just had to leave.  But the kids don't understand that.  Just try not to let it make you sad, okay?  If anybody is bothering you, you can always come to me, okay?"
Epsilon smiled and reached out to give her sister's neck a hug.
Epsilon: "Okay!"
It was getting late, so Alpha stepped away to put Epsilon down for the night in the nursery.  No matter what happened in the next few months as Epsilon started school, they'd handle this together.

~ * ~

I'm actually keeping track of the money belonging to the children of this generation, separately of what's in the main family funds.  It's a bit annoying, but I figure that James won't buy them anything that isn't necessary.  Toys, cake, skilling objects, phone repairs, university, and so on are "extras," so they'll have to find the money on their own.  It was especially challenging at this point in the generation, because Alpha couldn't take a job after school and also take care of the children, so she was limited to opportunities, which suddenly became few and far between for her.  It's been a fun way to play, but I definitely don't want to do it every generation!

And yes, I have been having Alpha do 90% of the childcare.  James feeds and potty trains when Alpha's at school, but once she's home she does all the socializing, care, and teaching.  James didn't help to teach any of the walking/talking skills, fitting with his role as the parent who does only the bare minimum.

Omicron's hair is the same color as Eliza's was.  It drove me crazy for way longer than it should have, trying to figure out where I'd seen that color before.  I knew it wasn't anything that EA put in my game!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Woods Random Legacy: Chapter 42 - Custody

On the other side of town, things were hectic at the Woods household, dealing with both a toddler and a newborn baby.  Sondra handled most of the work, cheerfully at first, but as the days went on she began to get frustrated with James's unhelpfulness.  One day, she cornered him in his bedroom, the traditional location of all his unpleasant discussions.
Sondra: "Look, something's going to change around here."
James: "What do you mean?  Things are going fine.  I've got a son, and you're a great help."
He gave her his best winning smile, which quickly faded when he saw the look on her face.
Sondra: "Right, that's exactly it.  I'm the great help.  I do everything while you just laze around and play at being a chef, or stay out all night at some party or other."
James: "I really appreciate it."
Sondra: "Well, you know what I'd appreciate?  You actually stepping up and taking some responsibility.  You're a grown man, with a family!  But you take no interest in any of your children."
James: "That's not true, I was just in the nursery talking to Omicron earlier today."
Sondra: "What about your daughters?"
James: "They're great.  Alpha's always a help, and Epsilon seems to be learning lots of things."
Sondra: "You hardly pay any attention.  Do you even know what Epsilon's first word was?  You also still refuse to take her to see a doctor.  I'm telling you, there's something not right about that girl.  The way her hair is so faded out and brittle can't be healthy."
James: "So she has dry hair, so does half the population of the world.  That's why they sell so many fancy hair products.  She doesn't seem sick, I hear her laughing and stuff."
Sondra: "Half the time.  And the other half she spends falling asleep at random, even if she'd just gotten up from a nap.  Narcolepsy isn't normal, James."
He shrugged in response.
James: "What do you want me to do about it?"
Sondra: "See, this is what drives me crazy!  You just don't care about them, it's like they exist only as a minor distraction to you.  You know, I was at the store the other day.  Know who I ran into?"
James was confused at the non sequitur, but played along anyway by shaking his head.
Sondra: "Rickey.  We ended up talking, and you know what I realized?"
She didn't wait for James to respond before continuing.
Sondra: "I really don't know why I left him in the first place, especially not for you."
James: "I'm smarter than he is."
Sondra scoffed at that, rolling her eyes.
Sondra: "Of course you'd think so.  You know what, James, I'm leaving you.  It's over, we're done.  I just can't deal with you anymore, not with how you treat everybody around you.  There's something just not right here."
James: "Fine, leave then.  I managed without you just fine, and I'll keep on managing when you're gone."
Sondra shook her head again, clearly not believing that.
Sondra: "Oh, really?  Well fine, then, I'm glad we're in agreement.  I already have most of my and Omicron's things packed, we're leaving now though.  I'll send for the rest later."
Who did she think she was?  Omicron wasn't going anywhere.
James: "Uh, no, I think you're misunderstanding something here.  You're leaving, yes, but my son is staying here.  He's mine, and I need an heir."
Sondra: "Like I'd leave him here with you.  I've seen how you handle children."
James: "You won't have any say in the matter.  Statute 687b, look it up.  If I invoke that in court, I will ruin you, and you won't be able to come within fifty yards of him."
The words were cold as he said them, and despite not having much legal knowledge, something about the tone of his voice made Sondra know that he was telling the truth.  There was nothing she could do to fight this.  He had won.

With Sondra gone, Alpha began taking up even more of the slack around the house.  Housework, like laundry and the dishes, took second priority to taking care of her younger half-siblings.
While James occasionally socialized with Omicron - not going so far as to change the dirty diapers, though - he did his best to pretend that Epsilon didn't exist.  It was frustrating, but not surprising, as the young girl's face bore a strong resemblance to that of her mother.  Even if James hadn't talked about it in over a year, Alpha knew that he was still hurt from her sudden departure.
That didn't excuse any of what he was doing, though.  Whatever that woman's issues had been - surely she had a lot of them, like attracts like - they weren't Epsilon's fault.  It just wasn't fair for him to take out his frustration and hurt on the little girl.  At least he seemed determined to involve himself in Omicron's life, so thank goodness for small victories.
Alpha couldn't spend all her free time with Epsilon, as she was still struggling through her own school years.  She had almost no time to herself to meditate or train, so sometimes she had to leave Epsilon alone.  Luckily, she didn't seem to mind.
Epsilon took to Alpha's old peg box, quickly mastering the concepts.  She was a smart girl, and Alpha was determined to help her succeed, even if everything in life seemed to be stacked against her at this moment.

Sondra had sent a strange doll in the mail to Omicron.  James didn't care much for it, but also didn't care much about it - it would stop the baby crying for attention in the middle of the night, at least.
Alpha was glad that Omicron had a toy of his own, as she'd only had her own doll to give to Epsilon.  She'd been worried that the little glowing thing on top of the toy's head would keep the kids up at night, but Epsilon slept like the dead and Omicron didn't seem bothered by it.  It was an eccentric doll, sure, but Sondra had sent it, so it had to be harmless.

~ * ~

Just in case anyone had forgotten, James is in fact a huge jerk.  Still scheming and planning, even though he's made it to the top of his career.  Could his new plans involve his son?

I'm not entirely happy with Sondra's breakup with James, from a story standpoint.  It's really hard for me to write characters who break up for no good reason, and I had to do it three times this generation(well, twice, Epsilon had a pretty good reason).  I think I made it work, but it could have been a lot better.  Single rolls are just hard, story-wise, especially if you have a male heir, so you can't just get him knocked up.  Severin Overlord has the monopoly on butt babies for the next while, I think.  I'd just seem like a lazy copycat

I'm actually really surprised that nobody who commented on the last post seemed to notice either of the two hints I dropped to Anne's identity.  The more obvious one was Epsilon's hair color, which isn't an EA default and was quite different from Anne's(dyed, obviously) hair color and anything from James's family.  The trickier hint was Anne's necklace, which you can see her wearing as Anne here.  As the Seer/Arcadia, it's visible here in chapter 26 and all through chapter 41.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Woods Random Legacy: Chapter 41 - Control

FYI: this chapter contains a depiction of a rather disturbing relationship dynamic(aggressive/abusive), that might be triggering to some.

The woman stumbled as she walked down the street, taking deep, ragged breaths.  Perspiration on her face reflected the light from the streetlamps and dark sweat stains saturated her clothes, although the early summer night wasn't hot enough to make anybody sweat that much.
She reached the front door of the house, a town home no different than the others lining the street, and fell against the door, knocking feebly.  After a moment with no response, she gritted her teeth and lifted her hand again, knocking twice before hitting her palm against the door, her ragged fingernails scraping against the paint as her hand descended.
As she huddled at the base of the door, the lock clicked and the door opened, just a crack, but enough for her to push it open the rest of the way and crawl inside; the downstairs was dark, silent, and empty.
She pushed the door shut behind herself and used the rail on the stairs to pull herself to her feet, holding tightly with both hands as she climbed.  The exertion of climbing caused her to breathe even heavier, even as she stopped to rest halfway up the stairs.  Upstairs was dark too, but she could feel a presence.  His presence.  She opened the door to the bedroom, looking in from the doorway.
She couldn't see him, but she knew he was there.  Why wouldn't he show himself?

She stepped into the bedroom, stumbling as she had no wall to steady herself on.  The door swung shut behind her with a sharp thud and she turned, already knowing what she'd see.
He was standing there, his face a emotionless mask.
Seer: "H-help me."
Her voice as she spoke was unsteady, and she stuttered as if she had to force the words from her lips.
Magician: "And so the prodigal son returns, seeking my forgiveness and aid."
Seer: "F-f-forgiveness?  I d-did what y-y-you asked, all...of i-it."
The reply was sharp as he turned away from her.
Magician: "Did you?  We shall see.  Rest now, we will speak tomorrow."
Seer: "P-p-please!"
He paused, one hand on the slab of stone in the center of the room, and spoke without turning.
Magician: "Something for sleep, then."

The next night she awoke.
Her hands shook as she reached for the edges of the seat, her grip slipping and failing as she tried to wrap her fingers around the fabric-covered wooden arms of the sofa.  Where was he?  As if summoned by her thoughts - of course he was - the Magician entered, a small vial in his hand.  Noticing she was awake, he stepped quickly across the room and opened the vial, holding it to her lips.
Magician: "Drink, mei delicata."
The liquid touched her lips and she turned away, pressing her face into the fabric of the sofa.  No, she wouldn't!  Not this time!
Magician: "Do not be difficult.  I brewed this just for you."
She didn't want to See, not now.  In a trance she could say anything.  She tried to open her mouth to decline, but her lips wouldn't cooperate.  They were mashed into the cushion, that was probably why.  She twisted her head to the side - the rough fabric scraped her sensitive lips like sandpaper - but the words still wouldn't come.  She was too far gone to even say no, but she could resist physically.  She could do that much.
As prepared as she was for a struggle, it never came.  After a few moments, she rolled over again, peering out at the room with blurred vision.  He was gone.  Her head was dizzy, and as she reached for the arm to attempt sitting up again she fell onto the floor, gasping involuntarily at the pain as she hit the floor.
He was back.

This time he had a different vial, not that she could have resisted if it had been the first again.  She knew this one though, it was a reprieve, a step back towards normalcy.  She swallowed it as he held it to her lips, then lay curled on the floor for a few moments, collecting her strength again.  It wasn't enough - it never was - but it was something.  He reached down and lifted her to her feet after a few moments had passed
Magician: "Now tell me, once you gained his trust, what did you find out?  Where has he hidden it?"
Seer: "C-catacombs, up the hill behind his house."
Her voice was steadier than the previous night, and gaining strength.
Magician: "A simple matter, then."
She shook her head, her tangled hair falling into her face, though she made no effort to brush it away.
Magician: "No?  Explain."
Seer: "Only someone of his blood can open the lock."
Magician: "He has a brother, and sisters."
Seer: "No.  It isn't close enough."
Magician: "Clever boy.  Too clever."
His voice took on a hard edge as regarded the Seer, reaching out to brush her hair away from her face as he stared at her intently.
Magician: "Tell me, why did it take you a year to find out only that much?"
She could feel him probing her mind.  She summoned what was left of her strength to deflect him, and for a long moment they were locked in mental struggle.  He tightened his grip on her chin and she cried out in pain, even as she felt his presence receding from her mind.
Magician: "You fell in love with him."
It wasn't a question.
Seer: "N-no!  It was part of the act.  He had to believe me."
Magician: "Liar.  I can see into your mind, even as you try to hide it from me."
Was that all he'd found out?  She couldn't be sure, but if it was...

He dropped her chin, though his eyes never left her face.
Magician: "You disappoint me, Acadia.  After all these years of loyalty, you would run off with that boy, who has never been anything more than a thorn in our side.  And waiting so long to come back afterwards, dear me."
Seer: "I had to w-wait so he wouldn't find me.  H-he would look."
Magician: "So you claim.  Surely you did not think you could stay away from me forever."
Seer: "I came back!"
She spat the words out clearly and without the stutter that had been working its way back into her speech - a small victory, and one that wouldn't last.  He smiled cruelly, taking her face in his hands again.
Magician: "We both know you only came crawling back because I stopped sending you the serum.  Do not try to play games with me.  It won't work."
Each of the three words in his last sentence were sharply and distinctly enunciated, cold steel against her vehement defial.  She tried to pull away from his grip, but it was as hard as his words; as she struggled, he leaned in and kissed her roughly on the lips.
She could feel his fangs against her mouth, but she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of struggling.  After a moment, he dropped her face and pulled away, leaving her huddled on the floor.
Magician: "It will have to be the daughter then.  So be it."

~ * ~

Wow, my chapter outlines are going all to hell.  I need to stop deciding that my organization of events are awful, and get with the program!  So after moving that bit of chapter 40 to this chapter, I realized that this chapter was an awful monster with way too much dialogue, so I chopped it in half.  Now the last half of chapter 41 is squished in with chapter 42, so some of chapter 42 will probably end up in chapter 43, etc.  This irritates me more than it probably should.

When I'm writing dialogue for the Magician, his voice in my head sounds like a combination of Sherlock and Russell Edgington.  You're welcome.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Woods Random Legacy: Chapter 40 - Growing Older

Soon, Alpha's time in elementary school came to a close.  As she prepared to graduate to high school, Sondra called the school and invited over several of Alpha's classmates to celebrate.  Among those invited were Reid, Alpha's cousin; Floyd, a young relative of Sondra's; and Valerie.  Alpha really only wanted one of those people there, and typically that was the one guest who didn't show.
Alpha: "I really didn't want a party..."
Sondra: "You don't have to be all modest, every girl likes parties!  Enjoy it and blow out your candles!"
James: "Sondra?  Why are there strange children in my house?"
Sondra: "We're having a party for Alpha!"
James: "Why would we do that?"
Sondra: "Because it's fun!  Now come watch her blow out her candles!"
True to form, Valerie only arrived just after the cake had been served; apparently, she'd missed her bus three times in a row while watching a particularly neat-looking butterfly.  After all the children, including Valerie, had been sent back to their houses, Sondra found Alpha.
Sondra: "There you are!  I was starting to think you were hiding from me."
Alpha: "Erm, why would I do that?"
Sondra: "I don't know!  I just wanted to tell you that I'd gotten you a present."
Alpha: "Ah, really?"
She wasn't too enthusiasatic about the idea; knowing Sondra, it was probably a dress or some make-up.
Sondra: "Yeah.  It's customary to get presents when you graduate elementary school, right?"
Alpha had never heard about that, but lots of things were weird at her house, so she just shrugged in response.
Sondra: "I was thinking about you taking the bus all over, and it still seems pretty unsafe to me.  So, I got a bike for you to ride instead!"
Alpha was momentarily stunned by the gift.  A whole bike for herself?  That had to have cost at least $100!  Finally, she found her voice.
Alpha: "Wow, thanks!  I really wasn't expecting anything like that.  It'll be nice to be able to ride to the library and stuff."
Sondra smiled down at the girl, her expression seeming slightly troubled.
Sondra: "You don't seem to expect much of anything.  Doesn't really seem right to me."
Alpha shrugged again, not sure what Sondra was getting at.
Alpha: "It works, I guess.  Can I go now?  I want to try it out."
Sondra nodded, letting the girl go.  She seemed happy, but was that just because she didn't know what she was missing?
Alpha coasted down the hill on her new bike, looking towards the town center.  It was sunset, so the lights above the theatre were shining up into the sky, drawing sims in to watch a show.  She didn't have any money to attend, but that didn't matter; there were plenty of things to do for free in this town.  There was no telling what tomorrow would bring, but for now she had the evening to herself.

In preparation for the baby, Sondra re-decorated the nursery.  Gone were the sterile white sheets on the cribs, replaced with spring green nature patterns.  There wasn't much she could do about the carpeting or paint job - why these colors, when the rest of the house was painted so nicely? - but she hung a few decorations on the walls and from the ceiling.
She also fixed up Alpha's bedroom, adding some color to the room along with a set of bunk beds, intended for Epsilon and the new baby.  It would be cramped with so many children in one room, but it was better than keeping one or more of them in the nursery until they moved out.
James watched Sondra doing all of this with some irritation.  It wasn't so much that he was opposed to what she was doing, as he was opposed to the fact that she didn't ask before just changing things around in his house.  Besides, it wasn't even necessary, so she was just wasting time.  He kept his objections to himself, though.

Now that Alpha had shorter school hours, she picked up more of the childcare duties around the house.  While she didn't enjoy the company of most people, she found that she really enjoyed taking care of her younger sister.
Whether she was playing with Epsilon, rocking her to sleep, feeding her from a bottle, or even changing her diapers, Alpha adapted quickly to caring for the infant.
When Sondra was home, Alpha would steal a few hours to herself.  She'd found James's old book on martial arts, and took that to the library often to read up on the techniques involved.  She found the concept of achieving clarity through meditation to be particularly fascinating, and resolved to train her body and mind in order to pursue that goal for herself.
Training her mind was easier than training her body.  The training dummy was still on the back porch, unused since she was a toddler, but she dusted it off and got to work.
Her punches were feeble, and hurt herself more than they hurt the target, but it was progress.

James found himself bored.  He'd achieved his life's goal, but what now?  He found himself drifting aimlessly, irritated by the most minor things, until one day inspiration hit.  He had all the time in the world now, so why not show the kitchen who was boss?
He'd become a master chef, and then everyone would see!  No longer would they laugh at his wilted salads and burnt waffles.  He would master spices, too, and not just salt!
He'd have to make up a name for himself, like on TV.  The Kitchen Overlord!  The One-Handed Knife Master!
Alpha tried her best to ignore the cursing that came from the kitchen as the knife was inevitably dropped.  It would only encourage him.

Sondra had planned a private celebration for Epsilon's first birthday, even going so far as to purchase the cake, but her plans were disrupted when she went into labor.
James called a cab and escorted her to the hospital, seeming quite out of his depth.  He'd never done this with previous children, they'd just shown up on their own!  But Sondra insisted that he be there, and it seemed a poor choice of battles to fight this one.
Left alone to watch her younger sister, Alpha took matters into her own hands.  She helped Epsilon blow out her candle, patiently encouraging the young child.
After the cake was cleaned up, Alpha brought out her old teddy bear, the one her grandmother had given her.  She was practically an adult now, after all, so she didn't have much use for it anymore; why not let Epsilon enjoy it?  She smiled as she watched the toddler hug the bear happily; if their father wouldn't step up, then Alpha would take matters into her own hands.  It was that simple.
After only a few minutes of playing with the stuffed animal, Epsilon started to drift off to sleep, so Alpha scooped her up to carry her off to bed.  There would be time to play and learn tomorrow, but for now the day's events seemed to have tired the young girl out.
James arrived back home from the hospital that evening.  He wouldn't say much, but Alpha gathered that the baby was a boy, and that Sondra was fairly upset about that.  James, on the other hand, couldn't be happier - at least an heir to the family name had come out of all of this baby-making.  He'd wanted to name the kid Omega, implying of course that he would be the last one, but Sondra insisted on Omicron, another Greek letter that she'd come across when reading about James's previous daughter's names.  Alpha looked forward to meeting her half-brother.

~ * ~

This chapter is shorter than I anticipated, because I realized that a conversation that I'd originally placed in the middle of it should actually take place next chapter.  So yay, not as much of a monster of a chapter as I'd feared!

Ah, the kitchen interlude.  Just making sure that nobody forgets that James is Greg's son.

Omicron brings the total number of children this generation to three, which is what I've rolled.  Alpha is too old to be the heir, therefore she's destined to become a spare.  Let the debate begin on whether Epsilon or Omicron will carry the legacy forward.  I already know, but I want to watch you guys make up awesome theories.

I propose a caption competition.  There are so many things going on in this picture, caption it for me:
The kid in the hat is Floyd Kimura-Campbell(some relation to Sondra, not sure what), the kid who looks like him is Reid Woods(one of Faye's kids) and the girl at the door is Valerie, who was 1.5 hours late to the party.