Saturday, October 26, 2013

Chapter 2.41- Black Shadow

          “Wait a second,” Tibi’s voice shook as she suppressed her giggles. “Wait wait wait wait wait. Your Roger is older than mom’s Pilar? Like, as in Roger’s aunt is younger than he is?”
          Ottawa frowned at the little half-sister in front of him. It wasn’t that big of a deal to him, but it was almost as if Tib was making fun of their shared parent.

          “Hey, Mom was just a kid when I came along,” Ottawa’s voice held just a hint of a reproach. “She’s still got plenty of time ahead of her.”

          Tiburcia put on a blank face, surprised that her ‘big brother’ (she barely knew him- the blood bond was a mere formality) could gloss over Melly’s many shortcomings. Soon enough Tibi would be a young adult, legal and on her own. When that happy day occurred she would officially, finally, write her mother off. In her opinion, Ignacio was the one who raised her, (with the help of Abuela and Layla,) and was thus the only one who counted.

          Standing in the corner where he could see everything as well as he wanted, Ignacio watched his little girl attempting to talk to one of the siblings she barely knew. At least she had the opportunity to be around Mariah enough that she could say she knew at least one of them.
          And Mariah would be a lot easier to connect with after this. A child has far more attraction for a teenager than a toddler with a somewhat morbid view of life.
          Morbid… Speaking of morbid…

          Why wouldn’t Raul stand still? Act like nothing was going on? Instead he kept fidgeting, clearing his throat loudly, staring a hole in Ignacio’s head.
          The pair had already managed to attract Nalleli’s attention; they didn’t need any one else staring at them either.
          “I swear to PlumbBob,” Raul’s voice was taut. “I swear that you said you needed to talk to me. Now all you’re doing is staring at everyone else in the room. Iggy I’ve lived with you long enough to see you stare at people before, it’s nothing new. If you don’t start talking soon-”

          “Shut up!” Ignacio hissed throwing a sharp look over his shoulder. “Don’t you see Nalleli? She’ll go away faster if she thinks we’re just standing here.”
          “Oooooooh,” Raul sighed. “Yeah, I didn’t see her there.”
          “You’re missing a lot fidgeting and trying to see how hard you can stare at me,” said Ignacio.
          “Well, then maybe we can just slip away?”
          “No,” Ignacio whispered. “Layla would notice.”
          “Then tell me another time.”
          “No!” Ignacio winced, looking around furtively and sighed. Thankful his exclamation hadn’t attracted attention and that Nalleli had wandered off.

          “No, it needs to be now,” Ignacio continued over his shoulder. Why wouldn’t Raul stand next to him? It was weird talking over his shoulder like that.
          “Why now?”
          Sighing instead of answering, Ignacio just shook his head. He couldn’t give his real reasons to her brother, and it saddened him. But telling his brother that he wouldn’t be assisting with his smuggling any longer was best done in a room full of happy, talking, noisy, watching, people.

          “You’ve gained Mami’s attention,” Ignacio had spent weeks trying to come up with what to tell his brother, how to start it. He could hardly march up to him and quit. And what he wouldn’t give to be able to do just that. “And then Mami went and pulled Layla aside and blabbed to her.”
          Raul moved fractionally closer to hear better.
          “They don’t know anything do they?” asked Raul.

          Tiburcia looked through the milling crowd at her Daddy’s taut face. Something was up, but she was too far away to hear.
          “It’s not like they actually know what we’re doing,” Raul said. “I mean, Mami hasn’t touched any of us in ages.”
          “Tha’s not true,” responded Ignacio. “She touched me while Layla was gone and I don’t know what all she got. It was enough to scare my wife though.”

          “Scare your wife! It’s not like we’re doing something horrible…” Raul’s voice trailed away at the quelling look his brother gave him.
          “Quit lying to me,” Ignacio spat. “Mami could only get confirmation of what I know, everything else is guess work and matching the ends of the different paths we choose. But she is damn good with her guesses and her latest guess is tha’ whatever we used to be doing isn’ what you’re doing anymore.”
          Chest swelling slightly, Ignacio’s eyes were slits when his brother failed to contradict him immediately.
          “I want out.”

          “No, no,” Raul’s voice higher pitched than usual. “No, don’t quit. I’ll tell you- I… I got caught.”
          Stomach sinking to his toes it took everything in Ignacio to keep his mouth closed. This wasn’t what he’d been expecting to hear at all. Then the questions began forming and the implications of those three words finally sunk in.
          “I got caught by the Simgolean army one night.”

          Sighing, Raul continued. “They took me into custody right there, brought out a bunch of guys with rifles, said they were going to kill me but they had to wait for this one guy. So I just knelt there waiting figuring the guy was one of those twisted sicko’s who get their jollies watching others snuff it, but that wasn’t it. They’d been watching me and they were going to offer me a deal. But it’s kind of one of those ‘A deal you can’t refuse’ things, because if I’d refused to go along with it they would have killed me.”

          “They wanted me to start bringing in supplies for their army,” Raul continued. “Food to keep them going, blankets, medicine, really it was the same stuff we were already sending over there only the army was going to pay me a lot more for it.”
          “You should have said no,” Ignacio interrupted. “We weren’t doing it for the army we were doing it-”
          “-For the Lee’s.” Raul interrupted the interruption. The Lee’s were the family Raul had stayed with all those years ago. “They said they had the Lee’s in custody. And if I went along they’d take care of them using my supplies just like always, but they would kill them too if I refused. So the Lee’s are alright. And that’s why I can’t say no.”
          “The Lee’s are one family,” Ignacio said. “One. We were supposed to be helping the people, not their government. This isn’t a mercy mission anymore. And how do you know they haven’t already killed the Lee’s just to simplify matters?”

          “You’re not the only one with a brain brother,” Raul growled at Ignacio, his apologetic manner of only moments before vanishing. “I insisted on seeing them that night, and have on many other occasions. And not just one of them, but their entire family to make sure they are well fed and taken care of. I take care of my people.”
          “You haven’ taken care of me,” said Ignacio. “I’m donating fish to a foreign army for free. How does that take care of me or my family? You drive the nicest car in town! How is that taking care of starving people?”
          “You want a cut? Is that what this is about? I’ll give you a cut.”
          “It’s not about money.”

          “Of course not,” the sarcasm in Raul’s words made Ignacio cringe. “It’s never about money. No. What is it about then Ignacio? Because to me this is about life and death. They’ll kill me. They’ll kill the Lee’s. Is that really what you want on your conscience?”
          “It’s not about my conscience,” Ignacio sneered back. “It’s about yours.”

          As he walked away from his brother Ignacio felt like scum. Raul was right that that his life would be on Ignacio’s head now. But he’d already promised Layla he’d get out, and hearing that he was no longer helping innocents caught in a political battle made her right to want him out. Was the cost worth it in the end though? Or had his Mami not seen the correct sim lying dead?
          Behind him, he could still feel the black shadow his brother was. No matter how much he tried to focus on his baby girl and this joy that should be her birthday, the shadow was there. For him, it would always be there now.

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          With only a half understanding of what was going on, Mariah blew as hard as she possibly could at her candles as Layla watched anxiously. Somehow, this was supposed to trigger something magic according to Mommy. Mariah hoped it would make the cake explode.
          Tiburcia looked down at the cake and remembered her last one, how this tiny little mite had arrived on that day. She’d have another cake of her own soon leaving her small sister behind to keep their parents entertained. Or shocked depending on what new tales Mariah might come up with.

          Required Blackmail Shot to show future boyfriends.

          Oh, that hair is for sure going to have to be changed. The Clipping! The Clipping!!

          When her eyes didn’t automatically uncross as normal Mariah got a little flustered and had a mini- princess- tantrum until she could finally see straight enough to walk to her cake without tripping on the edge of the rug.

          Mariah quietly selected the largest slice of cake. The smile she first grew up with had disappeared, replaced by a prim look. Sweeping her gaze around the room, she smirked. There’s no way that cake would feed this many people. And she laughed to herself knowing she had hers, envisioning those remaining brawling to get a slice. It was good to be the queen.

          When Mariah found out there were adults who purposely skipped the cake, while others asked for only tiny tastes and no one had fought she was most disappointed. How rude of them not to think her cake worth fighting over!
          As her family prepared to leave, Sally stopped before Layla.
          “Come by tomorrow,” Sally said, smiling at her cousin. “Roger will be having his birthday and it’s time we caught up.”
          Despite her efforts to the contrary, a single tear snuck out of Layla’s eye. It had been too long since she caught up, really caught up, with those who matter most.
          “We’ll be there.”

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          So there you go. I’m going to pretend it’s not painfully obvious what’s coming up and I’m sure you all will as well. ;) Nah. We all know what’s coming. I’ve been too distracted too really do good work on the smoke and mirrors I prefer to have going so I beg your forgiveness. But things seem to kind of actually be settling back into routine (after nearly 2 months of it) at last which gives me the time to work out some of the kinks a little better. There are bloopers for this one. A lot of them, lol. But with 28 sims in the house you know there had to be a few funny moments, and with Cyrus in there? How can I resist making fun of Cyrus? It’s just so easy sometimes. So go have a peek.
          And for the record- Tibi has 4 days until she moves out as a YA, just for the math freaks out there. ;)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chapter 2.40- Like So Many Clouds In The Sky

          “Stupid dishwasher,” thought Layla, tottering a little, still feeling a slight tingling in her veins where the electricity had coursed through moments before.
          Putting a hand on her temple, she rubbed, feeling the gritty soot there before moving the tips of her fingers to her eyebrows. Damn. Singed eyebrows was not a great way to start the day.

          Another mistake on her part. The entire week she’d been careless and clumsy, something normally unheard of for her. However, dropped dishes also hadn’t ended up nearly causing death either.
          It wasn’t like she was trying to dwell on anything. Really she was trying to function as normally as possible, but Sabria’s words came back and back again floating lazily through her thoughts like so many clouds in the sky. And when they did, she saw her own version of Sabria’s vision. The momentary shock that she could even envision it would derail whatever she was doing resulting in yet another accident.

          Finally deciding the risk to her health wasn’t worth the frustration, she did something unheard of. Something her mother would have scoffed at. An act that made her almost hate herself.
          “Hi,” Layla’s voice came out nasally and weary. “I understand you repair dishwashers?”
          She called for help.
          Rolling her eyes at the ineptitude of the secretary on the other end of the line she sincerely hoped the repairman was more competent than this or she’d still need to fix it herself.

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          The delight in her eyes caused him to shake his head, even though he couldn’t keep the smile from his face.
          She looked like a little girl, she sounded like a little girl with her high pitched squeak of a voice, but the things she was interested in...
          “Da bad guy keel da supah guy an’ fwy away!” That had been several months ago and had had her chortling with delight for hours. Tibi had been reading her little sister a book when Mariah had interrupted, putting a chubby baby hand on the page and making up her own ending.

          “Da twucks faw off da cwiff and go boom! Den dey all die.” Layla had received that explanation after coming upon her tiny daughter playing with an elaborate set up of blocks and toy cars. Layla had tried to convince her to use the structure as a bridge instead, with survivors arriving on the other end. Mariah then decided an earthquake would wake up her mother’s game. It still ended with the same four words. ‘Then they all die.’
          Layla and Tiburcia had then left Mariah mainly to Ignacio’s attention since they had such a hard time following along.

          “-Out da caswle, da peoples dey scream,” Mariah was currently in full flow to her father. Her active imagination providing another story she was eager to impart. “And da monzder, he go ‘RRRRaaaaaaawwwwwr!’ And da peoples twying to get pwincess out a’ towah runned away. But Monzder run faster and eat da peoples fa brekkist. Yum! An’ da pwincess stay in towah wit da Monzder all time and she be happy.”
          How could he resist such cuteness? It was adorable, if not slightly disturbing, that she could come up with such tales without a tv and no male influence other than himself. And isn’t imagination a wonderful thing for any child to have?

          Leaning in toward his ear, Mariah tapped her Daddy’s chest with an insistent little palm until he leaned in as well.
          “Da monzder no eats da daddy’s,” she told him in a quieter voice. “Da monzder finks da daddy’s too pwetty fa eatsin.”
          “Oh,” Ignacio’s eyebrows rose fractionally at the flattery his little girl lavished on him. “But wha’ if the monster is still hungry?”
          “He no eats da daddy’s,” Mariah insisted with a frown showing her confusion.

          “Who hug da pwincess if da daddys be dead?” explained Mariah. “Da Monzder not mean.”
          Chuckling at the reproachful tone in her voice, Ignacio nodded. Well of course! Who would hug the princesses then?

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          Since their marriage Ignacio was wont to come upon Layla at odd times.
          “What are you doing?”

          “Hopin’ you will catch me!”
          Layla’s back and knees ached more than ever these days. The aches and pains of her pregnancy with Mariah forgotten as she dealt with a much larger baby.
          “Ooooof!” Grunting, she struggled to catch her breath and balance. “Sweetie?” This time, her voice was strangled. “Sweetie, I can’t breathe.”

          Ignacio slid down slowly, grinning from ear to ear.
          “Honey,” there was a sharp note in her word, despite the term of endearment. “Honey, you’ve got to stop that. Okay?”
          “Ooooooh, it’s jus’ because I love you!”
          “And your love is going to kill me,” she answered quickly, not thinking.
          “I will never le’ you die,” was the answer, swift, full of confidence and swagger. The old Ignacio firing up as Layla shriveled inside, Sabria’s words again swimming around in her head. ‘Please, don't let him die.’
          The puffed out chest, the confident smile, his wink as he walked off. Finally, it hit her. What if she just talked to him? Would that be enough?

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          It had been raining steadily for two days now. Because of the dark and overcast weather neither Ignacio or Layla had much energy, and both were getting a little stir crazy. They had talked and talked about nothing in particular and then talked about nothing again some more since Layla couldn’t bring herself to ask Ignacio about what Raul was really up to, or his mother’s visions.
          And as he stroked her hair she found herself fighting sleep. The sound of the rain hitting the roof, the warmth and security she felt, being bored out of her skull, it was relaxing. Why break the spell?

          But across from her the pictures silently beckoned her, forcing her to stay alert. Her mother’s voice in her head wondering why she’d given up fighting. Phedra telling her life was too short for such uncertainty, that she needed to seize her chance. And Galen, who had gone with the flow and who now lived a life completely out of his own control. Arden even picked out what he wore day to day laying his clothes out like a child’s because he’d never stood up, never taken the reins, had simply drifted along with the current in an attempt to never rock the boat.

          She felt a slight pressure on her palm as Ignacio gently squeezed the hand he held.
          “What are you thinkin’ about,” he asked quietly. “What’s got you so quiet today?”
          She allowed the tug of a smile to pull one corner of her mouth up momentarily. She really wasn’t eager to leave the security she currently felt behind.
          Oh, who was she kidding? She wasn’t comfortable in her mind, and she didn't really feel secure. Not really.

          “I’m just thinking about a story I heard recently,” she said. Ignacio continued to stroke her hair gently and she grew bolder knowing he didn’t know what she was talking about yet. “It was really interesting, about a boy who went on a student exchange trip and who allowed his compassion to break the law in order to help the family he stayed with.”
          Ignacio’s hand fell a little heavier on her scalp this time.
          “And while the initial outset was noble, something changed for him,” she paused, wondering just how far she should go. “Ironically, the story ends with the death of his brother as had been foretold by their mother.”

          The hand stroking her head had stopped, resting, as Layla waited for a response. Finally, she turned, accepting that he just couldn’t find the right words to say.
          “Your mother told me everything,” she said sadly. “And while I know that something that nice shouldn’t be a problem, you didn’t tell me yourself. And then, your mother says the longer this has gone on the more certain she is that it’s linked with her vision of your early death. She also says Raul and Lottie have changed recently. So, why don’t you fill in the rest of the story and tell me what’s really going on.”

          Seconds stretched as they gazed at each other. Moments silently passing made Layla feel heavier and heavier. Was she still not trustworthy enough for him to confide in her?
          “I don’ know what’s changed,” Ignacio’s voice broke into her thoughts, quietly, gently, sadly. “But I agree with Mami. Raul drives a nicer car than we do. He and his family dress very well. I believe he’s even paid the house off for my parents. When we started, I had to give him help so they could eat. If this is still charity, why is he rolling in money?”

          “If you think your mother is right about Raul, then you have to agree that whatever has changed has put you in a worse position,” there was a lump in her throat that choked her words. He’d confirmed half her mother-in-law’s story. How much more could be true? She couldn’t let that happen.
          “Not necessarily,” Ignacio immediately said. “My mother’s vision does not mean anything is concrete. It is our actions that make what she says come true. Maybe, if we do nothing, I will live to be a ripe old age. Me? I see me bouncin’ my grandchildren on my knee with you at my side.”

          “But me? I’m afraid that whatever your brother is up to will be your death,” Layla turned her head, looking at Phedra’s high school photo on the wall. “Stop whatever you’re doing with Raul. For me, please.”
          His hand flexed, dropping hers several inches before he caught it again, pinching her knuckles hard as he struggled to maintain his grip. His other hand had flown from her head in the same instance. He was frightened, his reaction had shown that. Sabria was right. This was dangerous, and he knew it.

          “He is my brother,” he tried to reason. “It won’t be that simple. And what if that is what pushes him over the edge? What if tha’s what causes my mother- we’re putting too much stock in Mami’s- It won’ come true. I’ll be fine. Raul would never hurt me.”
          The blood flow he was cutting off had her fingers tingling and Layla gently tugged her hand out of his. He still hadn’t acknowledged her request.

          Turning her eyes toward him, she begged him silently to just give in. His face crumpled a little and the hand that had held hers began to stroke the side of her face. He was stalling, he was hoping she’d relent and give in and let it drop. Blinking slowly, she took a deep breath shaking her head as slightly as she could.

          “You’re ignoring my request,” Layla felt the words leave her mouth, their heaviness weighing on her like a lead balloon. “And with what you just told me, there is reason to be frightened of Raul. People don’t have ‘edges’ to be pushed over when things are going well. Get out. Please.”

          Sighing so that he actually slid down a little, he began tracing her jaw with one finger. From chin to ear, barely touching. He traced her mouth, her eyes, her cheekbones, and back to her jawline.
          “For you,” his chest had constricted, his heart beating loudly. “For you I will do anything. I will do anything you would wish me to do that has you so concerned, so unhappy.”

          Her face remained impassive as he continued.
          “Bu’ you have to let me feel out the situation first,” said Ignacio. “You have to give me a little time to make sure that I can get out. Okay? It may take a little bit. But for you? I will do it.”

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          Again! So sorry for the delay. But things seem to have settled down for a little while so hopefully I will be able to start updating more regularly again. Hmmm… Didn’t I say that last time? Lol.

          Anyhow, I had a funny little moment with Tibi and one of Cyrus’ daughters and Iggy I’d wanted to put in, but it just didn’t fit. Sorry. Needless to say, Tibi is still around and is doing well. Hopefully we’ll see her coming up.