Sunday, October 2, 2016

Chapter 3.19- The Empress

            Mariah waved after her last customer. As an apprentice she was only allowed 4 readings a day. She sighed heavily and returned to the room behind her. 4 readings a day wasn’t nearly a tax on her, but she wouldn’t be on her own until her mentor felt she was competent enough in her abilities to not make a fool out of the Institute.

            “Oh, for PlumbBob’s sake, come on!” Mariah burst out upon seeing Christie. “It wasn’t that bad!”
            “Wanna bet?” Christie answered coldly. Which basically meant she’d never be competent enough in her abilities to finally earn her living around here.
            “Fine,” she returned wearily, dropping into the chair opposite her ‘mentor.’ “I’ll take the usual lecture today. Fries and coke on the side, please. In fact, SuperSize that Extra Value sermon! I’m not feeling nearly low enough.

            “Your ‘schtick’? Is cold. If you really want your customers to warm up to you take a leaf out of your grandmothers book and dive in. Quit pinching fingers and start holding hands,” said Christie wearily. “I’m really tired of telling you this.”
            “Yeah, well I’m tired of hearing it,” Mariah bit back. “Obviously, it isn’t going to happen, so drop it.”

            “And here I thought you wanted to get out of my clutches to receive your own clientele as well as earn a living around here.”
            Having her own thoughts constantly parroted back to her was as old as Christie’s criticisms and Mariah had finally had enough.
            “I.Don’t.Like.People.To.TOUCH.Me! I understand you think my grandmother was wonderful, but let me enlighten you for once. That old witch was just that. And it’s because of her that no one touches me without my permission!”

            Mariah had risen, bending over the table. Across from her? Christie chuckled coldly.
            “Oh, the irony there. Sit down before I have you written up and sent back to classes.”
            But Mariah’s line had been crossed. Baring her teeth she prepared to launch into the tirade of a lifetime.
            “You want to earn a living? Sit down.” Christie’s voice had become deadly quiet, her eyes wide.
            Mariah inhaled. She wanted nothing more than to get Christie out of her life. She owned the place. She didn’t have to have this as a job along the way. If she really wanted, she could fire Christie! In fact, that’s just what she should do to get the bitch out of her life!
            “I want you out of my life as much as you do, but my help only extends as far as you’re willing to take it. If you really want the Institute to succeed, if you really want to turn the Institute around to the point you don’t need this job, I’m your best bet and you won’t fire me. Now Sit.Down.”

            Glaring for all she was worth Mariah fell into her chair with as little grace as she could manage.
            “Good girl.”
            “I am not a dog.”
            “No. But neither are you a psychic.”
            “Teach me then!”
            “I’ve been trying. You refuse to listen.”
            “I don’t touch people!”
            “Pity. It seems we’ve come full circle, too.”

            Mariah groaned, on the verge of frustrated tears.
            “There has to be something else I can do! Something that doesn’t involve getting physically chummy with everyone who walks in the door!”
            “There are plenty of jobs you’re legitimately capable of doing. You’re the one who chose to take an interest here.”
            “I did Not choose this place! It was chosen for me by-”
            “-No! It was never her ‘choice!’ You have a whole world open to you. This was your choice. And you choose to be a failure at it.”

            “I am not a failure.”
            “Then prove it.”
            Prove it? When Christie should be the one begging her for… Oooooooh…
            “Fine. I’ll prove it. Help me find a way around it, help me succeed, genuinely, and I will make sure both you and Ruben keep your job when Delphine finds out her boyfriend got her best psychic pregnant.”

            She’d expected Christie to blanch, to gasp in horror, to blush and stammer or to fall to her knees thanking her for her generosity. Instead, like a Cheshire, her lips slowly curled into a smile.
            “About time.”

            “I’d almost given up hope that you’d offer to partner with me.”
            “I am not-”
            “-Without me, this place will wither away. Delphine’s abilities are too pathetic to sort through the real and the fake. Her eyes are closed to the truth of the world she lives in. Without you, the business remains undirected and without the reputation your grandmother gave it. The Institute would eventually close its doors, bankrupt and exposed. You along with it.”
            Mariah stared, jaw open, trying to follow Christie’s reasoning.
            “You need a real psychic to fake your way into a business that relies on your name. I need the business to give me a wider, more landed client base. It’s quite simple really.”

            “Why cover for me then? Why be so horrible to me? Why didn’t you just propose a partnership in the first place?”
            “Oh, don’t feel so special. I’m horrible to everyone. I hate people.”
            “Even Ruben. He’s an idiot. Just a pretty one. Why didn’t I propose this in the beginning? Because the time wasn’t right. Why cover for you?” Christie paused, weighing Mariah in her gaze. “Because you’re my Empress.”

            “Your Empress?”
            Christie looked thoroughly provoked. “Yes! Like the card, stupid. I had you pull a card the first time we met, trying to see exactly what your influence on my life would be. You pulled the Empress. You’re my Empress. You will guide and lead not just me but all in the Institute. You know what to do without knowing how to do what you have to do, what you must do. You’re the exception to the rule. You’re in between my beginning and my ending. But you can’t be any of that, without me.”

            Head whirling, Mariah took a deep breath. She was missing something.
            “So you are offering to help me in exchange for me helping you?”
            “Yes,” Christie answered placidly.
            “Once again, why didn’t you offer to begin with?” Mariah was so weary of Christie that she’d also become wary of her.
            “Because I needed you to know just how much you needed me.”

            Sitting back hard in her seat, Mariah surveyed Christie.
            She was right. She really did need Christie. The Institute attracted truth seekers from around the nation, not just around town and she’d not be able to fool those she didn’t know very well. Christie would be able to weed out the fakers who applied to the Institute’s school, which would only raise their reputation. If Mariah could emulate Christie’s method, she’d be able to pass herself off much more credibly as she worked her way toward making the Institute great again.
            “Once the partnership has outlived its usefulness- As in, when one of us is no longer an asset to the profitability of the Institute- our agreement will automatically dissolve so neither holds the other back. How about it partner?”

            Christie’s hand was proffered. It was the first time Mariah had witnessed such a friendly gesture from her. It was also a reminder that she wanted Mariah to touch people. Fine.
            Spitting into her palm, she slapped it into Christie’s, holding on tight as she suppressed her gag reflex.
            “Because you need me. Partner.

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            The trapeze artists were a little too good. They floated just a little too far across open space. They stayed suspended at the top of their arcs a few seconds too long. Their smiles were a little too bored. Their routine was a bit too complex. And it was freaking.Vivia.Out. And what was up with the floor?!?

            Was it a floor? Was it a pit? Would one of them fall with gruesome results? Or would the unfortunate aerial acrobat simply plunge, fading slowly as they fell forever? Or maybe they’d fall back through the ceiling like in those cartoons her dad showed her?
            However, even if one of them fell Vivia wouldn’t see it.

            Beside her, Dove gave an exaggerated yawn.
            “Oh, don’t be such a ninny,” Dove said
            “I am not a ninny,” Vivia parted her fingers just enough to peep through to prove she wasn’t scared.
            “Then put your hands down, ninny.” Dove replied. “The circus isn’t going to let them fall. They’re wearing harnesses that will stop them and there’s a net to catch them.”

            “There are? I don’t see nothin’.” Vivia looked wildly about for strings, wires, steel beams, anything that might prove the flyers were being protected.
            “Of course you don’t see them! Duh! If you saw them it would ruin the illusion,” Dove was thoroughly exasperated by now. “I know they’re there because they hafta take care of their employees. Besides, if one of them died, Taylor would hafta arrest them for not being responsible enough.”
            Vivia glanced down to where Taylor sat sandwiched between her new bestie, Mom, and her new girlfriend, someone or other, it might have rhymed with mess, or maybe it was Beth, Heather? She was called Something anyway, and was slightly mollified. Taylor had a way about her that brought calm out of chaos. Like the day when dad brought his new girlfriend over? Wow, that was- What was that word Dove just used? Losin’? What would ruin losing? Wasn’t that already kind of no fun?

            “-Besides,” wait. Dove was still talking? Vivia had missed most of it. She’d better pay attention again or Dove would get grumpy. “There’s no other way those people could do half of what they’re doing if there wasn’t something holding them up. I mean, he could have dropped her! As it is, he only caught her at the very last second. I bet he could have broke her back.”
            Sparing a glance at the black pit, half afraid to see someone still falling through space, Vivia could see Dove’s point. How’d that guy get the lady there? Then she remembered.
            “Ceeven says it’s magic.”

            Eyes nearly rolling out of her head, Dove scoffed.
            “Ceeven believes in the Sim in the Moon, too.”
            “But even Abyn says this circus has magic!”
            “Oh! Well if Abyn says it…”

            “I like Abyn.” Smiling, Vivia turned to the girl sitting between her and Ceeven. Abyn had been allowed to tag along so Mariah could get to know her sons new best friend better.
            “I only like her because she made Ceeven shut up about that stupid Poppy,” Dove snorted. “I mean, look at how she’s dressed! And her hair!
            “She is pretty isn’t she?”
            “No, Vivia. And she’s dumb. Why else would she hang out with Ceeven?”
            “That’s not nice.”

            “I don’t care about being nice to her. Besides, what kind of name is Abyn? It’s a perfect name for someone who hangs out with our baby brother with frumpy, too big, ugly clothes, who doesn’t brush her hair and who believes in magic.”
            Vivia scratched her head. “Well, she said her mom was a real airy fairy. So maybe she named her? And then it would be a magic name!”
            “No, Vivia,” Dove sighed. “Fairies aren’t real. Magic isn’t real. Abyn is dumb. And ‘Airy Fairy’ is just another way of saying someone is kinda stupid. ”
            Vivia frowned at her sister’s assessment.

            In front of them, the lady did a flip over her bar before launching herself toward the other.
            “Well, I like her,” Vivia stated firmly. “I think she’s nice. And I think having a fairy mom would be cool. And I think it’s great Ceeven has a new friend!”
            Beside her, Dove cracked up.
            “Says the girl who has never met a stranger!”

            Vivia was puzzled. How could you meet a stranger? Once you met them, didn’t that make them your friend? When she couldn’t work herself out of the knot she reverted to happy thoughts about Ceeven and Abyn as the two male flyers reappeared.
            “Maybe one day they’ll get married!”
            “Oh, PlumbBob Viv!” Dove blurted out.
            Vivia cast a wary eye at their mother. She’d never heard Dove swear before.
            “Mom doesn’t care,” Dove snipped defiantly. “Besides, I’m almost a grown up now. I can say it.”
            Still frowning, Vivia nodded a little.

            “Now they’re just juggling themselves,” Dove grumped under her breath.
            Vivia watched the three tumbling over each other in the air. They kinda were juggling themselves. Like three balls. Sometimes people were cannonballs. But snowballs were her favorite ball. Maybe it would still be snowing when the show was over. Then they could have hot chocolate!
            “Maybe those two getting married would be a good thing,” Dove finally piped back up.
            “I think it would be wonderful,” Vivia gushed, abruptly brought back to the present. “But you’ll have to be nice and not scare her away.”

            There was a split second where Vivia worried Dove might take her suggestion wrong, but instead she turned to grin at her.
            “You might be right,” she conceded. “And even if they don’t get married, at least Abyn is better than Poppy. No one can tease him about Abyn being imaginary.”
            Vivia’s heart swelled. It always made her happy when someone else wanted to see someone else happy. Or was it that she wanted… oh, forget it. Dove was promising to be nice!
            “No one can tease him. Or her. It’ll be wonderful.”

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Huge huge thanks to the simmers who provided my Trapeze Artists! I had a ton of fun dressing them up and playing with their hair and then throwing them around like rag dolls. Lol.
So Thanks to HeatherFeather for Moze Diffy!

Thanks to Skyegal19 for Cooper Starling!

And thanks to Toxi for Alexei Cuckobell!

Since the crowd is huge (*GASP*kaffkaff*UNDERSTATEMENT*kaffkaff*) The Spot My Sim feature is up on the bloopers tab, as well as the trapeze artists’ full routine (and an actual Blooper!) I didn’t add a huge number of sims to the crowd this time. But if you're still looking to Spot Your Sim in the crowd, there are opportunities to come.

Ignore the physics defying ropes, please. A physicist I am not. lol

Anyway, as to story. Hinthinthinthinthint. That’s all you’ll get. While most of the hints are for much later on, there are one or two up there for the present. And of course, which ones are red herrings? =D After that, Dove is a work in progress. She loves Ceeven dearly and is extremely frustrated at how he opens himself up to criticism. Kids just don't deal with frustration well.

I probably don’t need to explain why this one took so long to get out. Haha. But a funny did happen while I worked on it. A horse named Sunny tried to eat the shirt off my back. No joke. My son is still laughing that horse Sunny then got mad at this Sunny when he found out my shirt wasn’t made of apples and sugar cubes. How rude of me! Lol