Friday, 24 November 2017

2.28 Prioritize

The new study upstairs is the only unoccupied space to put Haliya's crib for the moment. Right next to the big, expensive, temperamental machine that can splice DNA. 

No one seems to worry about this. 

Tula spends a lot of time in the nursery. Her younger sister is endlessly fascinating, even if she isn't capable of vocalizing or thinking beyond her most basic of needs. 

Tula wonders if anything will make her feel attachment to this small person. It's her half-sister, connected to her by blood, and she's cute and defenseless... 

And yet that connection doesn't seem to be there. Something's missing, and Tula can feel it. Something everyone else seems to innately have when they hold a baby, or interact with a sibling. 

Smiling at her doesn't seem to make Tula feel any differently. She rocks Haliya, cuddles her, feeds her... 

But nothing really changes within Tula. Haliya is just a small bundle of human right now. 

One that cries a lot. 

Tula changes her diaper, too. But no amount of tending to her younger sister seems to make any difference. She still cries and Tula still doesn't care. 

That doesn't mean she stops trying, though. Her father- unsurprisingly- seems to be taking a "hands-off" parenting style once again. Guy and Tula are finding themselves unwittingly in charge of taking care of Haliya at least several times a week. Sun and Paolo can't bear to be in the same room together, it seems, and Paolo spends much of his time working. Sun focuses all of her time and energy on her inventions and widgets, which she churns out and hoards en masse. 

Tula usually waves Guy away from her younger sister, not really trusting him to handle anything as fragile as a child. Guy gladly lets her take over, having no idea how to change a diaper or burp a baby. 

Haliya gurgles happily and Tula smiles indulgently at her. Such a trusting little thing, her sister is. 

How... beneficial. 

Several weeks into their frosty silence, Sun and Paolo find themselves tending the garden at the same time. It's a weekend, meaning Paolo has no work to run off to. He's been trying his best to fulfill his promise to be around more, but with him and Sun not speaking it's just been easier not to be home during the week. 

They make eye contact then look away. Both stubbornly stay in place, pretending that the other isn't there. 

It doesn't take long for their tasks to synchronize. It seems that they still work well together. 

The silence between them is as thick as it is unbearably heavy. Paolo can't take this. 

"We need to talk." 

Sun pointedly ignores him. He sighs with frustration. 

"This isn't a game Sun, we need to talk this out." 

"I'm not going inside until you apologise." 

Paolo rubs his forehead. "I'm sorry." 

"It didn't sound like you meant it." 

"Sun, for Plumbob's sake..." 

"You were mean to me first," she replies mulishly. 

He takes a deep breath, then gets down on his knees. "Sun, I'm sorry. I want to make us work...please. I love you." 

Sun stares at him, mouth agape. Did he just say....? 

"Let's talk," he says again. This time she does not resist. 

"I've thought things over," Paolo says once they've sat down, "and I know what I want from our relationship, but we need to come to an agreement." 

Sun is slightly taken aback by his business like tone, but nods. 

"What is it that you want, then?" 

"I want to be with you. Properly. No more of this upstairs-downstairs business. I realize how unfair that was to you. But I can only do it on one condition... my pictures of Krista stay. She's the mother of one of my children, and I'm not going to hide her." 

Sun sighs. She can see that this is a battle she won't win. "Ok, that's...fair. What else?" 

Paolo grows quiet, and looks at the wall behind her. 

"I want to marry you. If that's what you still want." 

Sun's heart soars. Did she really hear that right? 

"You mean we'll be a proper couple and everything? Mr. and Mrs. Winterly?" 

Paolo laughs, "Yeah exactly. What do you say?" 

She just squeals and throws her arms around him. 


Tonight is academic achievements awards nights, and the entire household (minus Haliya) is in attendance for the ceremony. Yet Tula thinks that, somehow, her long list of awards and certificates is not the reason why Sun has been beaming all night. She doesn't know what exactly is making her dad's girlfriend so happy, but she wants to find out what it is. 

When they all get home, she lingers in the kitchen to talk to her father. 

"Oh I'm so proud of you Tula," he says. She scans his face and her eyes narrow. She has no doubts of his sincerity, but she knows there's something else he wants to say. 

"Thanks dad. But I have a feeling it's not just my good grades that are making you and Sun so happy tonight. So spill it. What happened?" 

Her bluntness takes Paolo by surprise. He was planning on announcing it to Tula and Guy- with Sun present- over dinner or maybe have a family meeting. But it's happening here and now between just him and Tula. For some reason, this makes him more nervous than proposing to Sun did. 

"I proposed to Sun. We're getting married!" he beams. A wide smile overtakes his face as he waits for Tula's response. 

But she doesn't smile back. She looks away, a neutral expression on her face. 


"What's wrong? You don't seem happy," Paolo observes. 

"What, you expect me to fucking smile and congratulate you two?! Whoop de fucking doo, you're getting married again! Guess who's been taking care of your kid while you were figuring that out!? I get that mom's gone and that you've gotten over her, but do you think that  I have? Did you ever once stop and think that maybe you should include me and Guy in these decisions before you fucking make them?" she seethes. 

Paolo is helpless in the face of his daughter's rage. 

"Tula..." he looks so hurt that he could cry. 

But this is of no concern to Tula. Her father, as smart as he is, needs to re-evaluate his decision making skills. If she's going to have to accept dependence on him, he needs to prioritize her needs too. Somehow having a second child hasn't made this clear to him, and thus he needs some "tough love", as one might say. 

"No! Don't give me that face! I'm so damned tired of you just acting like me and Guy don't even exist! What are we to you!? Definitely not your kids. Parents take care of their children. Parents take responsibility for their children. Parents talk to their children. When's the last time you did any of that?" 

She takes a step back and wipes a hand over her face. 

"You know what dad, whatever. You do you. Do whatever makes you happy, I'm done," her voice cracks on the last syllable and she pushes past him and into her room. 

He knocks on the door and pleads insistently to just "talk to him", but she ignores it. 

She's so tired. Smiling in front of all of those people at the ceremony, then channeling the anger for this argument... she wonders if actors ever feel this fatigue, the exhaustion of maintaining a facade. 

As Paolo's knocks grow less and less fervent, she wipes her makeup off of her face. Tomorrow's a new day, filled with more smiling, micro-managing, and delicate conversational balancing. 

"Tula, please..."

She doesn't have time for anything unimportant. 

2.27 Confinement

Time passes. Sun's belly slowly expands and things seem to fall into some kind of routine. To keep her mind off of things, Sun frequently turns to the inventing table for stress relief. Some evenings Tula keeps her company, albeit mostly wordlessly, working on chemistry experiments. 

Tonight, however, she decides to break the monotony with a question. 

"Hey, Sun, do you know what valerian root does? We were talking about it in Chem. today." 

"I was never much good at biology, or botany. But I guess it depends on what you mean by "does". Do you mean how it affects Sims, or the environment?" 

"I guess Sims. We don't talk about the environment too much in chemistry." 

"Well, if I remember correctly, not much on its own. If you mix it with the right substances, however, it can be used for a variety of things. Some people used to smoke it, back when that was a thing people did," she pauses to solder off a piece of her widget, "Otherwise, I guess if you had trouble sleeping it could be helpful. But it's pretty strong, if you mess up the dosage you'll be asleep for days or you'll hallucinate. Way safer to just use normal medicine." 

Tula nods. Her chemistry teacher mentioned something similar in passing, but oddly the public library contains very little on the peculiar plant. Tula wasn't able to find anything verifiable on the internet either. Sun is the closest to a certified botanist she can get, so Tula files this information away. 

"Do you know how my class could get some? When we switch to studying biology in the next term, we have to do an experiment with plants. I don't want to be boring and use roses or other flowers like everyone else does every year." 

Sun hesitates, "Why not just use another plant? Something...easier for you to find." 

Tula shrugs, "I just thought it'd be cool. Besides, it's the only non-flower, small and easy to care for plant we could think of. But I guess if you can't get it, I'll just make a boring experiment with a rose like everyone else. Too bad, though. We could've grown it together and everything." 

Sun thinks about it. Valerian root isn't inherently dangerous. And Tula just wants to use it for a school project. Would it really be so bad to get her some? Besides, she wants to bond with Tula. If they're going to share a living space, not to mention a relative, they need to get along. 

"I'll see what I can do," she promises. 

Tula, who has slipped out of her lab-coat, yawns, then smiles. "Thanks so much Sun! You're a life saver." 

Just as they were about to end the conversation on a positive note, Sun's hand slips on the blowtorch. 

What the- Tula's thought is cut off by the screeching fire alarm and Sun's shrieks. 

She covers her ears. What shrill, annoying sounds. 

Paolo thunders into the room, the memory of Krista nearly dying at the same table playing so clearly before him. Just like that day, his girlfriend is singed and screaming in front of an inferno. 

Unlike that day, his girlfriend is heavily pregnant

"Dad, what should we do!?"

His daughter's voice cuts through his momentary panic, and his training as a soldier takes over. 

"Call the fire department. Call them now." 

Tula calmly dials the emergency number and hurriedly describes the problem to the operator. 

"Guy! Get me the fire extinguisher!" Paolo shouts at the sleepy teen. Guy, who just wanted to grab a glass of water, blinks in surprise. He looks to his left and his eyes widen and his mouth falls open. 

"Sun's on fire!" 

"Yes, clearly! Get the fire extinguisher!" Paolo barks at him. 

"Where is it!?" 

"Under the sink! Hurry up!"

After what feels like an eternity, Guy throws the fire extinguisher to Paolo. He wastes no time in putting the flames out. 

Everyone screams in concert. 

The confusion, fear, and sight of the charred mess that is Sun, Guy begins to cry. Is this hell? This feels like hell. 

The blaze finally dies down. Guy looks around sheepishly. 

"Are we...alive?" 

"I...I'm just going to say yes," Sun says, her voice raspy. She looks down at her soot covered body and realizes that she miraculously has no burns. "Yeah, yeah we're alive..." 

Guy cries tears of relief, and claps happily. Sun takes a look around, and feels her knees begin to buckle underneath her. 

A short trip to the hospital and overnight observation for the baby later, Sun is cleaned up and allowed to go home. 

She worries about what all this stress must be doing to the baby. Why can't anything during this pregnancy go right? 

She looks outside the window, and feels a crushing sense of confinement. She needs to get out of this house before it kills her. 

But of course, she can't escape that easily. She barely makes it to the garden before her contractions begin. 

"Paolo!" she wails helplessly. And though it only takes him seconds to rush to her side, she feels more alone than ever. 

This feeling is only slightly diminished by the arrival of their daughter. Despite her seeming flightiness on the issue before, Sun already had a name picked out by the time the nurse came by to ask for a name on the certificate. 

"Haliya?" is all Paolo could say. 

"It was the name of a moon goddess in the Phillipines," Sun defends. 

The corners of Paolo's mouth twitch, "Sun and moon?" 

"Oh hush." 

After Haliya is tended to, Sun's anxiety comes back full force. Having their baby in her arms puts her living situation in a harsh light; she needs it to change. 

"Look Paolo, I'm just going to be straight up with you. We have a daughter together, and I live in your house and we don't see anyone else. Are...Are we going to get married or not?" 

Paolo blinks. Marriage? They haven't even said "I love you" yet. But he sighs, and knows that she's completely within reason to ask. But after that accident at the inventing table, so painfully similar to Krista's, he can't help but feel history is repeating itself. His live-in girlfriend, now the mother of his daughter, almost died during an inventing table accident and now marriage is on the table. 

When did his life become a bad soap opera? 

"Look Sun, I care for you. And I love Haliya. Nothing will change that. Do we really have to rush things? Marriage is a life-long commitment and we're both tired and stressed-,"

"Stressed? You want to talk to me about stress? I-I don't have a job! I've been living in this house for nearly a year and I barely see you alone! You treat me more like a housemate than a partner! You keep pictures of your dead ex in the room you sleep in by yourself!" Exhaustion, her aching body, and months of anxiety fuel Sun's tirade, "You didn't even pick a name for the baby! Do you even care?" 

"Sun..." all Paolo can do is look wounded. Lately it seems to be all that he can do. 

Seeing the pain on Paolo's face sends Sun crashing down into a cesspool of guilt. 

"Oh Paolo, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said any of that... Plumbob, I'm sorry..." 

Paolo begins to move to comfort her, but she takes a small step back and looks him in the eye. The sadness and hurt in her face silences him. 

"But one thing is true Paolo... you sleep up there, with Krista. Not down here, with me. Right now, you love her more than me. You love her more than our daughter." 

Sun walks off, tears streaming down her face. 

Paolo sighs, and looks at the ceiling imploringly.

"Oh dad, what should I do?" 

Like he has for so many years, Marko remains silent. 

And as it has been for just as many years, Paolo is alone.