Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Chapter 87: Keeper of Time



Milo's parents wrote to him asking him to come to Monte Vista quickly. They would not say what for, so he was left to assume they badly wanted to see Fairuza or something.

"It's great to see you, Mom, Dad, but your letter made it sound like somebody was going to die," Milo complains.


Ben cuddles Fairuza, delighted to meet his granddaughter. The toddler blinks slowly at him, with eyes the same dark green as his own. He realizes suddenly she is not a werewolf. That's a good thing, he reasons, thinking of all the upholstery he had to replace when his sons were too small to control their destructive urges.

Lucida shoots an annoyed glance Ben's way, one he doesn't notice. She would rather the politician be the one to break such delicate news. "Nobody is dying, Milo. But there's someone you really need to meet. Guadalupe had... a daughter... a while back. I didn't even know about it until she dropped the poor girl off with us. Do you, um. Do you take my meaning?"

Milo twitches.

"I knew about the out of wedlock child," Ben says, well-versed in all the town gossip, "I just didn't think she'd keep quiet for so long if Orazia were yours."


"Orzaia," Milo repeats. He feels like he's experiencing this moment underwater, blurry, from some other dimension. He wants to be anywhere but here.

"Orazia Giordano," his father says.

"She cried for her mother for days," Lucida says sadly.

"I was only with 'Lupe the once," Milo murmurs. His parents both speak at once to chastise him, because, of course, it only takes once, but Milo is busy mentally calculating how long ago this was, and how old this Orazia must be.

She'd have to be old enough to go to school by now...



Ben leads Milo downstairs, chattering softly about all the nonsense Guadalupe has been up to, in and out of jail. Milo tries not to listen, because the more he listens, the angrier he gets, and the angrier he gets, the more he thinks about clawing his dad's eyes out, and the gory mess it would make. Maybe he could smash Ben's head off the wall, and see how much blood comes out. Why won't he shut up?

Milo shakes his head. His father means well.

As the men descend the stairs, Lucida scurries out to the back porch, where Izalee is talking with the others. Lucida has yet to properly meet with Lela, so is pleased Carlos took the time off work to make this trip with his wife.


"Mm, well, he looks a lot like you," Izalee smiles fondly as she gives her analysis of little Acheron, who aged up on the long voyage across the world.

"He's got a little bit of his father," Ceth says with a shrug. "That's alright... the guy was handsome."

"I sense magic in him. Strong magic," Izalee warns.

"You're going to magically break all the girls' hearts," Ceth coos to her son.


"Promise you will bring him back to me for training when the time comes," Izalee implores.

 "Umm... okay... that's a freaky request... what if he doesn't want to become a sorcerer?"

"I think he will," Izalee murmurs, more to herself. "A weak link breaks the chain..."

Ceth rolls her eyes. "What are you talking about?"

"I've learned a lot since you were last home. I'm already training Orazia."

So the new kid is a mini-witch. Ceth processes this information quickly. "Man, Milo cannot catch a break, can he?"

"He is lucky she wasn't born a werewolf..."

"Yeah. Does the magic thing have anything to do with why 'Lupe abandoned her daughter?"

"No, absolutely not." Izalee's expression turns angry. "The woman is stupid and selfish. It must run in the family."


Orazia didn't think she was a bad girl... at least, she didn't mean to be, but when her mother said she couldn't "deal" with her anymore, and left her with grandparents who had until that day been strangers to her, how else was she supposed to interpret it?

Her grandparents are kind to her, and their home is large and beautiful, with so many things to play with and nice food to eat all the time... but Orazia is afraid to upset them, afraid anything she does may make them want to send her away, too, so she mostly keeps quiet, and plays alone in this room full of treasures.


Orazia looks a lot like Milo, leaving everyone in the family wondering why nobody put two and two together before... but of course, Guadalupe did not associate with anyone who would connect the dots. She is estranged from even the Giordano clan, and is rumored to owe most of them money.


Milo's anger melts when he sees her. He didn't know she existed, and that's Guadalupe's fault, not hers, and not his father's. The person hurting most from this is obviously not him.


She knows who Milo is before he even introduces himself. She knows his excuse for not being in her life before he makes it. When he says he wants to be part of her life now, wants to get to know her, she is silent. When he asks what her mother told him about her, she is silent. When he asks if she knows she looks frightened, she is silent.

When he asks if it's because he's a werewolf, she looks away; she knows all about those, now. She doesn't have their powers but she does have their claws, ugly black growths instead of proper fingernails. The doctors never knew what to make of it. Guadalupe kept trying to paint them.

When Milo tries to tell her about where he lives, about Starlight Shores, she looks glum. He sighs. She knows that sigh. It means she's being difficult.

"Your Grandma and Grandpa are getting old," he says. "It's better if you stay with me... I can keep up with you better. You understand, right?"

She tears up. They don't want her. She thinks of her mother's friends, the many houses they stayed at as she grew from infant to child; those people considered her a nuisance. Don't touch this, don't get too close to that. "I didn't touch anything in here," she whimpers.

Funny story, Milo thinks to himself, your mother was arrested for touching something in here.

He winces. "Uh... it's mostly all junk. You can take anything you want with you. Okay?"

She just stares at him. He doesn't understand. She doesn't know how to make him understand. He says more things, asks her more questions, stupid questions like what her favorite color is, and what does she like to eat? She stares at his face as he talks, searching out every sign of familiarity. Lucida showed her pictures and videos, of course, but it's not the same as watching him in person.


Milo is getting nowhere. He runs out of things to say and questions to ask. He only has one left.

"Do you want to see your little sister?"

To his relief, Orazia gives an enthusiastic nod.



Orazia bonds quickly with Fairuza. It helps that Fairuza cannot ask her any questions.



"I think Orazia means Keeper of Time?" Ceth is pretty chill about this news.

"Well I didn't pick the name," Milo grumbles.

"Interesting that your daughters were both named by their mothers... the names end in A and have a Z in them..." Carlos muses.

Milo groans. "How is that interesting?"

"Orazia is not a strange name for our area, it's likely Guadalupe got the idea from a friend or ancestor. Meanwhile Fairuza was a Persian name. It means turquoise. Probably inspired by the color of your eyes?" Carlos speculates on Kirstin's reasoning.

Milo balls his hands into fists. "Would you both knock it off?"


Meanwhile...

"If I had a hot tub in my home growing up, I don't know that I'd ever leave," Lela remarks.

"Starlight Shores was as close to the actual stars as Carlos could get," Lucida chuckles. "That boy never left the 'want to be an astronaut' phase."



"Still, I think I shall like seeing where he grew up. You can tell a lot about a person, from that."

Lucida tilts her head. "A little late to get to know him. You're married!"

"You have a point, but... people never stop evolving."



Lela and Carlos set out bright and early so he can show her the town. Lela spends most of this vacation in her swimwear.


Ceth seems to think her origins are important, too. She spends some time walking with Acheron, showing him the quiet places she sought out when she was a child. He is too young to converse with her about it, but the new sights and sounds seem to fascinate him.

"The ocean looks different from here, see."

"Ma." It's all he can say.

She smiles anyway. "Yes... that's me."



Milo has only one thing he wants to see in Monte Vista, and finding her takes over a day.

Keeper of time. Orazia's age marks how long it has been since Milo was home, since he has spoken to this woman. How can it feel like it was yesterday? How can childhood memories of playing tag with 'Lupe around his aunt's garden feel so clear?

He had all these ideas about confronting Guadalupe and giving her a piece of his mind, but now that he is in the moment where that is supposed to happen, his bottled up rage doesn't explode like it's supposed to. It just fizzles into apathy. "You look different," he greets her.



She shrugs. "You wanted to see me? Here to yell at me like everybody else?"

"I thought I had something to say to you. But now that I'm here... I don't."

"Good," she says.

Even though she's dressed like a little girl going to a cartoon convention, even though she's staring at him like he's a pile of gross garbage that was just thrown down on the floor in front of her, he can't help but think she's gorgeous. He shakes his head and walks away. What's wrong with me? he thinks. What is wrong with the universe?


_________________________________________________________________
Etc.: That's 3 of 4 kids. I can't make an heir decision until #4 arrives.

Both Fairuza and Orazia have traits randomly assigned by the game, since they were born outside the household. I forget what they all are, but I know Orazia has shy and bookworm.

Aaaaand that's a wrap for 2016! Thank you for reading! I'll be back next month with more randomized legacy adventures.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Chapter 86: Goodbye



Carlos and Lela decide to have a wedding now, instead of waiting for spring. They host the party at home at 7 PM, so as not to conflict with Milo's busy game schedule. In attendance are some scientists, a bunch of Ceth's friends, several of Milo's coworkers, Lela's parents, Lela's brother Barry, Lela's brother Barry's wife Becky, Francis Worthington, and Ernesto Gonzales. Carlos and Milo's parents were going to attend, but bad weather forced them to turn back.



Fold out chairs courtesy of Milo's boss.



Egg Man isn't overcome with emotion. He's just freezing his butt off.



Lela wants to keep her surname for professional reasons, and insists Carlos should do the same.



Lela has never been happier.



Jamar Whitfield takes a seat near his new son-in-law. "Boy, I want you to know I don't hate you."

"That's... good," Carlos manages to say. This is his first time speaking with Lela's parents.

"But this is the worst time for a wedding," Jamar criticizes.


Ceth has not been feeling great, so Milo brings her a drink.

"I'm not sure I should have this," she sighs. "I think I'm pregnant."

Milo presses his lips together, trying not to frown. "Who's the father?"

"Um. Not sure." The timing indicates Floyd Quill or Mithun Khan. Ceth isn't sure which option would receive a worse reaction.


By the next morning, the snow has melted due to heavy rain. Milo hops onto Ceth's bike and pedals as fast as he can towards a spot downtown, where a text from Kirstin asked him to meet her...


Despite all she's done, he goes to embrace her, to tell her she can drop her criminal lifestyle and they can work things out... but she pushes him away.


"I don't understand, Kirstin. Fairuza needs us."



"No," Kirstin sighs, "you never did understand a damn thing, Milo. The boss arranged for me to be out on bail, he owed me that much, and I'm running before I get put away for good. I can't go play house with you."

Milo fidgets. Does he look as horrified as he feels, he wonders? What is this 'for good' talk? Why is everything so final and unshakeable these days? "Kirstin-"

"No. Shut up. The organization's favorite corrupt judge can only pull so many strings, he can't magically erase all the evidence against me. Fairuza is better off not having to visit me behind bars. I'm sorry, I do love you, but I can't be who you want me to be." She pauses, trying to catch her breath after that tirade. She had to get it all out before she could be interrupted. "I guess I don't love you as much as I should. I don't know. I've never actually loved anyone before."


They stand in silence for a moment. His hands twitch into fists. Her eyes close. The rain pours down around them.

"Will I ever see you again?"

"No, probably not," she replies. "Forget about me."

A blue pickup pulls up behind them.

"I gotta go," Kirstin says. "That's my ride. Try not to take pictures of it and share with your friends... 'kay?"

Milo grits his teeth. He doesn't want these to be their last words, but he cannot will a different situation into existence. If she's not who he thought she was, did he ever actually love her? Is anyone who he thinks they are? "Goodbye, Kirstin."


As suspected, a visit to the hospital confirms Ceth is pregnant.

She worries constantly about her growing belly, and cancels all of her gigs so she can hide it from the world. Instead of leaving the house, she spends her days in the tiny room adjacent to her bedroom, where she works on other forms of artistic expression.


She allows Milo to lure her out exactly once for a game of flying disc.

"Ceth, seriously you can barely even tell..."


The sports star has many sleepless nights caring for his newborn daughter. At first he thought a lot about Kirstin and his broken heart, but as time passes, her memory becomes remote and unreal.

A second crib is added to the nursery, for Ceth's future child.


Milo still has his magic question ball, from when he was a kid.

"Am I going to mess this up?" he asks.

You'd better not, it replies.


Fairuza is far too small to play with the toys Milo's teammates keep sending her, so Lela plays with them instead.


Out of the four adults, only Carlos rolls a wish to read a parenting book.

"Baby Incoming: Preparing with a Vigilance," Ceth mocks.

"You want to read it? It has some interesting tips."

Ceth rolls her eyes. "Tip number one... remember to feed the baby. Tip number two... remember to clean the baby. Tip number three... if the baby is ugly, set it on fire..."

"All babies are ugly, Ceth."


With Ceth staying home and keeping an eye on Fairuza, Milo is free to waste some time at the park. As a child, he rolled several wishes to build a snowman, but the snow was never deep enough to do so. Now he is free to experience that simple joy.


Why stop at one snowman when you can have two?


Or three?


Or eight?



Late one night, Ceth is digging around in the fridge for leftover crepes when she suddenly grabs her belly and cries out in pain.



Milo freaks out, wondering aloud how someone as ridiculously thin as Ceth can give birth without issues. Ceth just screams and screams.

"Calm the hell down, blondies," Carlos says calmly. "I'll take her to the hospital."


Ceth is sent home a few hours later with a son. She is still starving for those crepes.



She pauses, reluctant to leave the nursery. "You'll be okay, right? I'll be back in a minute..."

The sleeping newborn does not answer her.



"I guess I'm the only one who got any sleep last night," Lela chuckles, after being told about the new tiny person in the household. "What's the baby's name?"

"Acheron," Carlos informs her.

"Uhm... Acheron... as in the river one crosses to get into the underworld?"

"Yeah, that's probably what she was going for."

"Interesting choice."


"So... who do you think the father is?" Milo whispers, as if keeping his voice low could somehow influence the answer.

"It's a little early to tell..."

Milo groans.

"Oh stop," Ceth hisses. "I think the father is Floyd Quill. Not your idiot boss."

"Okay, okay... that's good... so... are you going to try to contact the guy?"

"No."

"Just like that? No? It's his kid..."

"He's scum and he means nothing to me. Why invite him into my son's life?" Ceth rocks Acheron slowly, at a loss for words to describe how fiercely protective she feels over him.



Fairuza grows quickly into a toddler. She has her father's eyes, and her mother's nose.




__________________________________________
Etc.: I rolled for four kids this generation, so that's two down, two to go...

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Chapter 85: Law


"Did you know the guy you were with last night is married?" Milo hisses.

Ceth blinks a few times. "No, he didn't mention it."



The two of them stand in silence for a few moments before Ceth shrugs and says, "Well, it's not like I'll be seeing more of him. His marriage problems are not my problems."

"Where are your pants?"

"You mean where's my dress."

Milo facepalms. "Where's your dress?"

"No idea! Kind of misplaced it during the night. Your boss gave me this shirt though."

"Did you sleep with my boss last night too?!"


"Is your boss also secretly married?"

Milo makes gagging noises instead of answering.

Ceth rolls her eyes. "Okay... mature..."



Lela gets caught rummaging through the neighbor's mail.

She didn't find what her client was after, but she did find some secrets dirty enough to stop her neighbor from calling the cops on her.


As a PI, most of Lela's work involves stealthily finding out if people's spouses really are where they say they are. Not very exciting.

This scientist, though, wants her to gather data on a local gnome kicker.

"Probably just a llamas fan," she hypothesizes.

The man with the impressive degree frowns disapprovingly. "I'm sorry, do you want to get paid or not?"



Milo reacts negatively to the sink upgrade in the upstairs bathroom. I guess he was hoping for unbreakable, but Carlos keeps putting "self-cleaning" on everything.

 

Huh? Why is this guy even in the house? Did someone invite him over?



Some random pictures...


...to indicate...



...the passage of time...















Carlos and Lela get engaged on the first day of winter.



Ceth feels creeped out about the finality of this, but also angry with herself for feeling that way, and also determined to be happy for them, and also excited about helping them plan a big wedding party....

"Weddings are special! This has to be an exception to the no house parties rule! We have perfect beachfront property for it!"


Milo gives his brother a congratulatory hug.



Milo's own bit of interesting news comes the next morning. Kirstin sends him a text about the birth of their child. The baby is a girl, born in the dark hours before dawn.

"She just got home with her!" Milo squeals. "I need to get over there!"


"Congratulations!" Lela says.

Milo surprises his soon-to-be sister-in-law by pulling her into a tight hug. "Thank you!"

"Have you named her?"

"Kirstin liked the name Fairuza for a girl. So, um, Fairuza Law, I guess." It just now hits him that his last name is probably not on his daughter's birth certificate. He decides he doesn't care; Fairuza Goldbeard-Rossi is too clunky anyway.


When Milo shows Lela the pictures of Fairuza in Kirstin's arms, Lela's smile fades.

Little Fairuza seems normal for a baby, but the laptop on the table next to Kirstin has a distinctive sticker on it, matching one Mimi Olivia reported missing.

Kirstin was the main suspect in a string of art robberies several years back, but no evidence was ever found to link her to that or any crimes. Now a glaring piece of evidence has shown up... for a case Lela has been put on. Lela has kept quiet about Kirstin's suspected past, but now...

"Tell Carlos and Ceth where I've gone when they wake up," Milo says, not noticing the expression change.


He turns to leave, positively gleeful, while Lela trembles in another unstable trait fit.

What should she do?


Carlos hardly knows what to say. Lela's financial future with the police station could be riding on this stroke of luck, but if she takes Milo's phone photo to the authorities, the mother of his newborn niece will definitely end up in jail. Furthermore, who knows what a proper search warrant could uncover in Kirstin's house? The police couldn't even get one before, according to Lela.

"This is going to break Milo's heart, but we can't not tell him. I think you should go to the police."

"And not to your brother first?"

"No, he would just corner Kirstin about it."

"...And then she would have time to hide any further incriminating evidence," Lela murmurs.


Milo spends the whole morning with Kirstin and Fairuza, and would be spending the afternoon that way too, if not for Officer Docket and Officer Worthington knocking at the door with a search warrant.


Kirstin ended her day in cuffs, and Milo ended his in tears.

Carlos and Lela do their best to comfort him, and decide not to mention Lela's role in busting Kirstin.

"I can't believe it!" Milo cries. "I have a freaking type!"

"Calm down..." Ceth says softly.

"Seventeen counts of theft, eleven counts of breaking and entering, one count of stalking Darren Lott with malicious intent?! They said someone noticed a stolen laptop in that pic she took of Fairuza... the one I sent to practically everyone!" Milo doesn't know who to be angry at. Logically, he wants to be angry at Kirstin, but thinking back on all of her obvious lies over the course of their relationship makes him angry at himself, too.


When Milo leaves the room to check on Fairuza, Ceth turns to Carlos and Lela. "So we live with a PI, and Milo's response to his girlfriend being arrested is still 'who could possibly be responsible for this'?"

"Please don't say anything," they beg, in unison.



Lela sleeps in Carlos's bed, now, so the baby has the nursery all to herself.

Fairuza is too young to understand or miss the mother who didn't plan on being a big part of her life in the first place. Milo hopes he will not be as terrible at parenting as he is at dating.



Ceth tells The Egg Man about the wedding planning, about the new baby, about Kirstin getting arrested, and about meeting The Pirates.

"Ew. Quill is one of the main reasons I left home to begin with."

"Really? It wasn't to get rich and famous?"

"Yarr, it was mainly to get rich and famous," he slips into his native accent to amuse her.

Ceth laughs. "Okay, what's wrong with Floyd Quill?"

"Ehh, never mind it."

"Tell me!"

"Well, he was a big jock in high school, and I was smaller and bookish, and he liked to pick me up and hang me by my clothes off this beam on the second floor, because he knows I'm irrationally afraid of heights."

"Is that why you always give the stairs a weird look..."

"Aw, you noticed. I'm trying to get better about that."

"The Ceth notices all," she says. Ceth decides not to mention she slept with her friend's childhood tormentor.


She has more important things to worry about than the moral character of men she was just using as objects to make herself feel better.


Such as performing in front of huge audiences at a crowded stadium!


After all this time, Ceth still uses than rainbowriffic guitar she received as a child.


She's thought of replacing it with something more edgy, but... she just loves it so much!

It's her most loyal friend.


Sometimes, when the crowd is so full of strangers, Ceth wonders if her biological parents could be in that people-sea somewhere. It's a very silly thought, she thinks, but the thought comes back like some kind of recurring nightmare, again and again.


Ceth jogs home after her show. The stadium is not very far from where she lives.

Halfway there, the weather changes from clear to light drizzling rain.



The last time Rayna Ramos tried to rob this house, things went poorly. She's been having nightmares ever since, and hasn't been able to steal a single thing since. Tonight she returns to take her revenge and conquer her fear.


Unfortunately for Rayna, this family installed an alarm since she was last here.

She didn't notice it because it was on the garage, but it definitely notices her.


Things quickly go from bad to worse as Milo spills out of the garage, eager to fight.

He won't be turning into a werecreature outside where the neighbors can see, but he's more than capable of taking her down, even in his "weak" state. And oh boy, is he ever itching to destroy someone right now...


Officer Nancy Docket, one of the cops who arrested Kirstin, saves Milo the trouble. Carlos cheers! This is the third robbery he has survived, but only the first where the criminal will get booked.


Rayna trembles. Milo looks perfectly normal. Was she only imagining his monstrous change before?


Officer Docket slips Rayna's umbrella into her cuffed hands. How sweet.


Ceth arrives late to the event. "Oh wow," she laughs. "Milo is like a criminal chick magnet!"

Carlos doesn't think this is funny.








___________________________________________________________
Etc.: C'mon, Carlos. It was pretty funny.