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MTS Speed-Building Challenge - posted on 17th Oct 2018 at 7:25 PM
Replies: 38 (Who?), Viewed: 5638 times. | You are currently not a member of this group. Would you like to join it now?
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Field Researcher
#26 Old 4th Mar 2018 at 7:39 PM
Erin and Erik are tangential characters in this update, but added an amazing amount of value. I like what they add to the perspectives of the families. Jimmy and Lucy are oh, so very young and naive! I hope Lucy can settle down just enough to meet the demands of a baby. This is a lengthy and often thankless commitment she's making.
Instructor
#27 Old 4th Mar 2018 at 7:55 PM
Everytime I'm in here I just want to write my Crowborough the same way as you do with this story, and that makes me jealous because I know i'm too lazy to write that shit when i already have my book to write.

I build small houses *^*
Link Ninja
#28 Old 6th Mar 2018 at 6:06 AM
@bbostic8 Hahaha! I don't know if this was supposed to be a bit meta but I cracked up at Lucy claiming it took two hours to make food for her visitors because it really does seem like it takes two in-game hours for them to prepare a meal that's not and instant meal or that goes into a microwave oven.

It's interesting to see how you portray Jimmy, he's one of the few sims that came with the game that I took and incorporated into my play. I like how fun-loving your Jimmy is, kind of like a suave class clown. I always thought he was one of the most handsome uni premades (along with Mattew Hart) and you have made him handsome inside and out

Here's some more of that 'three dimensional writing' I mentioned tha tI loved in this installment: the way you described the guys getting out of the pool to go to the hot tub, the way Lucy's voice carries in an emptier house, Jimmy's job description which goes into depth of what he does, and the effects of Jimmy's personality on Lucy was just all very beautifully written, engaging and put me into the story. I think this is actually my favorite post on this thread so far!

Other little quips I liked was Swain's Ovulation Nation and Jimmy trying to call John 'Dad' and John not having it.

There's a lot of sims stories out there but ones that engage me are few and far between so I can agree with your reply, even more so, it's extremely rare to get me excited about premades because so many people play with them, because I feel it's redundant to read about them so kudos to you for your excellent work in drawing me in and making me feel excited to read--it speaks to the excellent quality of your narration skills! So by all means your time is very well used I too try to write what I like to read and do so in an engaging way. My group thread which I saw you commented on is more informational but I do have stories out there if you ever have time to read some, I'd love to know what you think!

Can't wait for the next post!

Uh oh! My social bar is low - that's why I posted today.

Lab Assistant
Original Poster
#29 Old 20th Mar 2018 at 3:54 AM
Default A Pleasant Place: The Brokes
A Pleasant Place
The Brokes

Across the road at the other corner of Main Street lies the smallest slice of suburban nostalgia blanching in the sun. Kitschy pink reminders of the proverbial "good ole days" frame the windows and pave the way through the tamed wild greenery of what once had been a sprawling valley, all the way to the front door. There's always noise, usually happy, but sometimes unseemly and cacophonous -- frantic barking, the high-pitched whine of a child in need, the deep tonal notes of an E minor chord struck to drown out all the other noise. Even on the bad days, it's a pleasant place to be.


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Scholar
#30 Old 20th Mar 2018 at 6:30 AM
I like that you write about the Premades because I have always played the Premades myself. I am sure that I play them differently than others including yourself, but that does not really matter as part of the enjoyment for me is reading how others play them differently than I do.

I really do like your writing and your writing about the Brokes was no exception. Really good pictures.

for info on changing the Mac Open File Limit check out my post here http://www.insimenator.org/index.ph...html#msg1628939
Curiosity killed the cat,
but satisfaction brought it back.
Field Researcher
#31 Old 20th Mar 2018 at 7:56 PM
I loved this look at Brandi Broke's extended family. She has her flaws, but she's a great mother and grandmother. Brittany is adorable, and I liked her mature sit-down with her parents to ask for a violin. I think Summer is going to enjoy getting to know her father's family, and from the sound of her mother, she's going to need them. Amber makes me laugh; I like her.
Link Ninja
#32 Old 21st Mar 2018 at 4:40 AM
I have to say, this update was fantastic! The ending, is my absolute favorite thing from your entire thread so far <3

Uh oh! My social bar is low - that's why I posted today.

Lab Assistant
Original Poster
#33 Old 12th Aug 2018 at 1:35 AM
Default A Pleasant Place: The Ottomases


A full house is a happy one. Or at least, that's what Babaanne Dora used to say. Her son, Peter, lived by those words, however much he questioned their validity in his younger years. Today, even after the loss of their dear Babaanne, the Ottomases are a close-knit clan, seven strong.


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Link Ninja
#34 Old 13th Aug 2018 at 5:25 AM
Awesome update! Even though it was short, it was very informational and ofc well written as always!

Uh oh! My social bar is low - that's why I posted today.

Lab Assistant
Original Poster
#35 Old 19th Aug 2018 at 8:53 PM
Default A Pleasant Place: The Goths

Ask after a Goth and one will show you a moneyed traditionalist. Fiercely private. An intellectual and a progressive, despite the outward appearance of old timey pomp and class. Still, cloyingly sentimental. On the self-same grounds of the proud Goth manor, its newest iteration stands solemnly, waifishly eclipsing the horizon with its black Victorian spire and ash colored shakes. Certainly, the Goth manor has a charming new skeleton, but all the same problems lie chafing and splintering just behind closed doors.


Cassandra Goth considered herself a daddy's girl, once. She remembers her small brown fingers clasped against his leg, wrinkling the fabric of his trousers as she used his body as a shield from whatever eccentric lie in wait for her on the other side. She remembers his smooth voice rippling through his chest like an echo in a deep, dark cave as she rested her cheek against it while he perused the morning paper. She remembers the smell of fresh ground coffee beans as she tumbled down the stairs, her rump bounding off each step until finally her feet hit the floor, then leaping over the threshold and into the kitchen. He'd turn from the coffee maker and beam brighter than the sunlight stabbing in through the blinds masking the window behind him, then open his arms like the pearly gates to heaven and invite her, wordlessly, into an embrace.

Isolated in those golden, sun-kissed memories in a dress shirt and trousers tucked beneath a red smoking jacket, with a pair of slippers on his feet; this is how Cassandra will always remember him.

She watches with a swollen, blissful heart as her own daughters play, embarking on childhood adventures entirely unique to themselves. Tears sting her eyes and worry wrinkles her brow as she wonders how they'll come to remember her someday.


Her knees ache and click as she pulls herself up from the floor, reminding Cassandra that "someday" fast approaches. She shoves the sour thought aside and makes her way to the kitchen. She languors in the clanging of the frying pan as it clashes with the stovetop and reverberates down the hall. She scoops globs of ground meat onto the sizzling surface and grins indulgently as savory smell fills the air. Two of the cats, Lucretia and Lazarus, apparate on the kitchen floor. It's getting close to dinner time, and they're just as entranced by the scent of browning meat as she is.

Cassandra casts a sly look over her shoulder at the cat and tosses her a generous chunk of meat.

She can't resist a pretty face.


Cassandra's husband trawls through the kitchen, eyes fixed forward. He rummages through the refrigerator for a moment before pulling out cold leftovers and finds his seat in the dining room.

Cassandra calls to him, "Hey, Jim? I'm already making dinner in here. It'll be done in a second if you wait."

The silence gnaws at her ears. It's been days since there's been a single word between them.


Some scraping of forks and the smearing of food on little faces later, Cassandra hikes the stairs to the girls' rooms. A halo of soft lamplight casts a sleepy spell across the sage colored walls and warm wood floors. Small brown eyes flicker awake and drowsy, then finally rest at a close. Cassandra plants a kiss each on either of her daughters' foreheads, and cradles their heads as she lays them down to rest. She flicks the light switch as she creeps from the room, enveloping the precious space in a down blanket of darkness.

Her heart is full in moments like these.


And yet it feels so far away when it comes time to look her partner in the eyes. She's a little surprised to see him here. Usually he slips into the office to peck away at the keyboard and play a steady stream of classical music to drown out the sound. A large part of her is comfortable with this setup, with the silence and the lack of eye contact. It's far from the smell of ground coffee and honey-colored sunlight of her childhood, but it feels familiar all the same.

Cassandra thinks back to her first marriage. She remembers long and painful silences as she lobbed questions at him across the dinner table.

"Where were you all night?"

No answer.

More hesitantly, she'd said, "Is...is there someone else?"

Nothing.

Then finally, angrily, "How long are you going to put off having a baby, Don? It means everything to me. You know that."

Never a goddamn answer.

But that marriage is years older and years underground. Today, it's the home she shares with Jim. It's the two beautiful daughters, the three cats, the large swath of grass in the backyard, the work, the heartfelt conversations that run until the sunshine spills in, the look he gets when he sees her and the touching that follows, and the laughter and the music that has all but disappeared since the day she kissed that man.

And ever since that day, she's been cooling her heels in a cold, familiar silence -- only it's her at the other end of the table.

Jim scowls at her then, and Cassandra knows she deserves it.


Cassandra's heart races when he sits beside her anyway. It feels like a chance, and a massive piece of her grabs hold and sings she should take it.

"Jim," she starts, then pauses as a decade of futile chances and empty declarations of love swallow her whole, "What are we doing here if you're not going to talk to me? Think about Mathilde and Isadora. What kind of a life is it for them if we don't work together?"

There's a beat as Jim turns away from her. She watches as his shoulders pitch and drop with his every seething breath.

Finally, he turns back to her, eyes steely and distant. "How could you say that to me after what you've done? 'Think of Mathilde and Isadora'? That's bullshit and you know it, Cassandra. Did you think of them when you cheated on me? Were you thinking of what kind of life they'd have when you hacked our marriage in two?"

Cassandra rolls her eyes at this. "Jim, you're a rational guy. So please, let's not act like I slept with someone."

He's taken aback and stares at her in rage and incredulity. "Oh, I'm sorry, were you looking for a marriage where we both go around kissing other people? Because I don't remember that being a part of our wedding vows."

"Of course not --"

"So why do it? Did I deserve that?"

"No --"

"Did you even consider our family?"

"That's not --"

Jims' fingers grip the back of the couch and his glassy blue eyes are alight, boring into his wife's. "You want to know why I haven't spoken to you, Cassandra? Because I can't believe you. All you've been through, all the conversations we've had about goddamn Don Lothario and your father and your dad's second wife -- all of the baggage I spent years working through with you to allay any fears you have, and you pull this shit with me."

Cassandra sets her jaw and cradles her cheek with one hand as though she's been struck. "I...I'm sorry."

"Yeah. You are." he says, and stalks away.


That night, Cassandra curled up with a duvet on the rocking chair in Isadora's bedroom. She was the twin who had the most trouble staying asleep, and Cassandra hardly had intentions of being able to fall asleep regardless. After several hours' time, Cassandra tired enough of making that ritualistic march from the chair to the crib that she cradled her daughter in her arms and roosted upon the rocking chair with her. It was only then that either of them were able to dredge up enough peace to find sleep.

Today is a momentous day for the Goth-Menon family, however extenuating circumstances may jeopardize it. It's Isadora and Mathilde's birthday, and both their parents are ecstatic and anxious to see them through to childhood, wherein real memories and emotional trappings are formed. Cassandra grins nervously across the table at her husband, though his words echo in her head.

She is sorry, isn't she?


She's astonished to find the gesture returned.


The girls transition without much fanfare, as neither parent is fond of social gatherings even without the fate of their marriage being at question. Isadora grows into a restless child who cares very little for other people and is more concerned with her own fun. Cassandra worries most about her. Mathilde is a charming and gleeful personality who gets on easily with others, though her focus is squarely fixed upon philosophical questions. At her age, it's little things like "Why is the sky blue?" and "Why are Mom and Dad different colors?" but both Jim and Cassandra anticipate a fierce activist to be borne of that ceaseless curiosity. They worry about her too.


Tonight is Jim's night to lay the girls to bed, so Cassandra uses the time to shower and groom herself. She's noticed a lack in her self-care since her cheating. She feels a bit like she doesn't deserve the time -- that washing her hair and changing her clothes is somehow flaunting a level of joy and confidence in the face of her partner, who's suffered a painful infidelity. At least she's thinking in terms of his perspective now. That's progress, isn't it? Is that worth anything, after what she's done?

Cassandra raps her knuckle against the door frame, hoping to steal Jim's attention from the computer screen for a few precious moments.


To her surprise, Jim abandons the activity all together, and meets her halfway into the room. He watches her through expectant, alert eyes, his hands planted staunchly at his hips. He's opened the door to conversation, and Cassandra's hands quake at the thought that she'll ruin it again. It may be her last chance. She closes her eyes and exhales sharply before opening again, this time a little more open and a little less proud.

"I know that I've betrayed your trust, Jim," she begins, "I knew it when I did it, I knew it when you saw he and I -- I knew I was in the wrong and that you didn't deserve that. There's no excuse for the choices I've made, for belittling your feelings and disregarding the terms of our partnership -- a lot of which are ones I insisted because of my own insecurities -- I know what I've done. I hope it's not unforgivable."


He glowers.

Cassandra feels herself shrink under is skeptical, distrusting eyes. She kicks herself for what she's done to be deserving of it.


"Even worse, we have a family. And I put myself and my selfish, thoughtless, ugly desires before you, before the twins, before the life we have worked so hard to build together. Even worse than a single kiss, I willingly ignored all that to pursue whatever awful thing I wanted to without acknowledging the consequence."

Cassandra chuckles joylessly.

"I can't even say that that's not who I am. As much as I want to create distance between what I've done and who I am, that is me. I've become the expressionless, unfaithful, self-serving dickhead who's thrown a wrench into all your plans. And until now, I wouldn't even admit I was wrong. It's everything I hated about my last marriage, and I've dragged it in through our own front door. I'm that guy, now. And lord, does that put me in a shitty place, mentally."


"But the point is, I love you. Choosing you has brought me everything I ever could've dreamed for myself, and even if you choose not to forgive me, to divorce me, and wash your hands of me -- which is completely valid -- it won't change that my life is ineffably better because you were in it."

Jim's expression softens. He relents in his stance and his eyes which gazed upon her like a stranger only moments before, glisten with unshed tears as he relives each and every painful, loving, intimate, angry, honest, perfect, and awful memory he has with his wife. He glances away from her and down at the floor, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. He grits his teeth, then flicks his gaze up at the sky, pleading with whatever deity, if any, why they'd put him in this, of all scenarios.

He sighs. He looks at her.

"Let's...let's work on it, then," he finally says.

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Link Ninja
#36 Old 20th Aug 2018 at 7:10 PM
This was an intense, emotional, entry! I would love to see more of this family and if the trust ever returns between Cass and Jim, also interested to see the ripples of Cass's actions and how it affects the rest of the community or if it does. The writing here was so intimate and intricate, very well done, as always!

Uh oh! My social bar is low - that's why I posted today.

Lab Assistant
Original Poster
#37 Old 27th Aug 2018 at 3:53 AM
Default A Pleasant Place: The Ramaswamis

The condominiums on Lilac Street are inundated with pollution of all kinds. The waves of working folk passing by foot, train, trolley, bus, and car swallow the entire street in a cacophony of sound. The clip-clopping of high heels on the pavement, the sounds of a thousand manifold voices chatting idly or urgently into cellphones -- the "Tell Sandra I won't be able to make the reunion, I've got a meeting with a major investor this evening," kind of calls and those of the "What did that bitch say this time?" variety. Smog blots out any remnants of blue sky, most days. The incongruous and clashing scents of food spill out into the street from open windows, restaurant doors, hotel balconies, and the revolving cycle of delivery boys bearing searing boxes of pizza, steam streams following them from curbside to doorstep.

It's a hectic place to be. No time of day seems to slow from the constant stream of life and activity. Nothing matches. A lot of the same faces and cars streak by on an endless thoroughfare of meet and greets and handshakes and cheek kisses and lunch breaks and power walks and chirping cellphones, but nothing seems to tie them all together aside from the need to be somewhere other than here.


Kabir Ramaswami watches the commotion from his bedroom window. His attention flits between the landlord scraping at leaves with the clawed end of his rake to the busy commuters on the street, to the sand-dollar sized disc of steam breathed upon the glass in front of him. His whole life has been lived in this house which is really not a house, but a vertically built condo sandwiched between two others, full of people living entirely separate lives with only a few inches of drywall between them. He isn't as familiar with the new neighbors as he was with the last ones, who've all gone and skittered off to other parts of the city, to other cities in general.

Kabir was relieved when the Gavigans moved away -- their youngest kid Jesse was a terror who used to park himself at the top of the slide in the park and wait for him to emerge from his house, then slide to the bottom and kick him in the shins. This went on for a decade. He was sorry to hear that Mrs. and Mr. Gavigan were getting a divorce, but asked his mother to make gulab jamun to celebrate that he may never see the likes of Jesse ever again. Jesse's older brother, Isaiah, was dating his babysitter, who lived in the unit on the other side of the Ramaswami house. She was a blonde haired, honey-skinned goddess with eyes like clovers. She was kind and funny, and sang like an alley cat trapped in a dumpster. Kabir loved her dearly, and was devastated to see her go.

Her name was Tina. She fell pregnant halfway into high school and finished her studies remotely once her belly grew too big and travel from home to school and back again became too difficult. She'd hang around the play structure in the afternoons while Isaiah was away at work, and Kabir would revolve around her like a moon to its planet. One day, the park laid bare all day long and well into the night thereafter. There was some shuffling from the Gavigans' house and everyone piled into a taxi, and after that, it was rare to see Tina. Kabir later found out she'd given birth to twins, then shortly after, earned a scholarship to college. She left, and he'd hardly seen her since.

Now it's Kabir's turn to cash in his scholarships and haul a laundry bag full of all his earthly possessions to some school full of people from all over the state. He's full of warm nostalgia, though his teeth grit and his stomach lurches with fear of the looming change.


Downstairs, Kabir's mother eagerly prepares an early dinner. The wooden spoon in her hand makes an ungainly sound as it squishes and squelches against raw vegetables, spices, and ghee. To Priya, tonight is the beginning of her son's life, and the part she most looked forward to when Kabir was a mere whispering in the back of her head on especially wistful days, or after a hard rain and she found herself alone wrapped in a blanket, dreaming of the boy she might someday come to know. The cusp of adulthood is a precious time -- it certainly was for her. She longs for the sting of her heart as she watches the taxi peel down the street and out of sight carrying her only son off to university. If Kabir can make it to college and survive on the skills she's imbued him with -- emotional intelligence, musicianship, logic, and grace, of course -- she'll feel like a success. The hallmark of a good mother is her son's aptitude to survive without her. Letting go is an art, and Priya thinks she's done exceptionally well.


And, following a conscious effort to change out of their comfort clothes on a Sunday evening, the Ramaswamis gather in the dining room downstairs. The entire house is rife with the warming scent of turmeric, the bite of chopped chilis, and the crispness of freshly shorn cilantro leaves, Priya's favorite. Kabir is the last to come in. He's wearing the maroon button-down his father bought him, the one Priya begs him to wear more often because it makes him look so grown up. Priya smiles kindly at her boy and gestures for him to join her and his father at the table. He obliges, but he feels a little distant.

"Is your room all packed away?" she asks in a voice more sugary than the norm. It's noticeable to everybody.

Kabir scrapes at his food with a fork, not meeting her eyes. "All my clothes are in a bag, yeah."

"And the sheets?" she adds, more stern this time.

He nods. "In the bag."

Sanjay clucks his tongue and spreads a frown across his face. Conversation isn't usually this terse at home, and it makes his skin crawl. "Is something the matter son?"

Kabir takes a big breath and reels his eyes up to meet his parents'. "I just kinda want to see my friends."

Sanjay looks puzzled. "We're having the Tinker twins over tonight, aren't we?"

"Yeah," Kabir nods, a hint of dread creeping up his throat, "and that's cool, but they've already been in college for a whole semester. I kinda wanted to see my high school friends before I go."

"Beta," she says lovingly, the saccharine sound flowing from her lips like song, "Who better to see you off than your future schoolmates? And I thought you loved Tom and Abigail."

The boy sighs and knits his brow, visibly frustrated. "I do, Ammaa, but...Abigail and I haven't even talked since she left for school. I don't --"

Sanjay cocks his head towards his wife a bit and says lowly, though he knows everyone can hear, "Perhaps he's trying to avoid her, hm?"

Priya pats her husband's arm. "He'll be fine."

Kabir groans.


The doorbell rings quite suddenly, stabbing clean through whatever remained to be said at the table. There's a dense silence between Kabir and his parents for a long moment as Kabir scours the eyes of either Priya and Sanjay, then to the uneaten bowl of food before him. He says nothing and scoots from his chair and walks briskly, purposefully out of the room and toward the front door. He throws it open and beholds his friends, plastering a broad smile across his face and lifting his voice to high heaven to feign enthusiasm.

"You made it!" he exclaims, and invites them in with all the showmanship and warmth that he's lifted from years of watching his mother do the same.

"My mom made some potato tikka, so help yourselves," Kabir gesticulates grandly towards the back of the kitchen at this, "How was your drive? Decent, I hope."

He notices that Abigail averts her eyes immediately and darts for the food. She can't wait to be anywhere else, he's sure. He sets his jaw and wills the balloon of anxiety rising in his chest to quell just another moment longer. He rests his eyes upon Tom Tinker, Abby's twin brother. If he notices her reticence, he doesn't say so. Really, it isn't all that unusual for Abigail to allow her shyness to overshadow any obligatory social niceties. She's always been the quiet one. In fact, when Kabir and her were dating (are they still, he wonders?), they spent most of their time indoors, binge watching television shows and waiting for movies to come out online rather than seeing them in the theaters. To Kabir, the social butterfly, this was always a bit of a disappointment, but he loved (loves?) her, so concessions were made.

Tom is a man after his own heart, though. He's an astronomical personality who captivates a room as though he's just transmuted all his joie de vivre and energy into a literal burning star, right there on display in some guy's living room. Kabir can't get enough of him.

"What's been going on?" Kabir asks, a grin creeping unto his face already.

Tom rears back as though the breadth of his experience is far too much to disclose in a single, paltry conversation. He'll try, though. "Oh, man. College is a trip, Kabir. I've been running all over the place trying to put together my frat."

"You're in a frat?" Kabir inquires, shock and eagerness drawn across his face.

"I'm vice president of a frat!" Tom bursts with joy, "So like, I knew I wanted to be in a frat way before I got to school anyways, but I show up and who do I meet but Brittany Upsnott -- who's like, the sorority queen. She's worried the sorority is gonna die because none of her girls have what it takes to take over, blah blah, I mention I was hoping to join the frat and that sets her gears turning. We petition the dean to have a co-ed frat, make some appearances, start some protests and boom -- we've got a co-ed frat."

"That's amazing, dude. I'm really glad to hear you're making things happen, especially after...well, your mom."

Tom nods, as solemn as his jolly face can approximate. "Hey, thank you, man. I gotta keep going, y'know? If I slow down, all that shit will catch up to me."

Kabir nods quietly, though he can feel himself cling to Tom's philosophy. Running is always an option.


Kabir tires pretty quickly of watching Tom and his dad go back and forth on the bass upstairs. He drags a hand across his face, exhausted, as he roams downstairs to try and catch a moment of solitude. He hears his mother's and Abigail's voices commingling sweetly in a thoughtful but soft conversation. He overhears words shared about Wanda and Stephen, Abby's parents, whom his mother met just once before their deaths. A heavy silence blankets itself over the whole room, and then Abigail follows it up with a rushed and forcibly upbeat "Well, I really should be going now."

He watches, unnoticed as she all but flees from the house, and something inside demands he follow. He runs for the door.

"Hey, Abby?" he says.


Kabir pulls open the front door after her, but she's nowhere to be found. He watches after a taxi ambling down the street, its cab light flicked on. In the briefest of moments he catches the glimmer of sour yellow lamplight on her long black hair, and then nothing, as the cab light flicks off and the taxi drives out of view. He mops his brow with his hand.

"Shit."


The next morning ensues just as expected. Priya and Sanjay stand at the curbside, elbowing away the onslaught of Monday morning commuters to bid blessings and brief goodbyes to their son as he begins the next chapter of his life. At Priya's behest, no tears are shed. Kabir is uncharacteristically quiet, as he was the night before, and though Sanjay feels a profound desire to press a hand to the boy's shoulder and exchange words, he doesn't. Instead, he hands him his bag and stands at the ready by the cab door, ready to close it once he's situated. He does, and his only son, his boisterous, excitable, friendly Kabir, leaves his family home for the first time.

Priya quickly makes her way to her office, thereafter, offering no words of support because, of course, today is supposed to be a happy one.

Sanjay sulks off to Park Pleasant to contemplate why it doesn't feel that way.


A young woman claims the seat beside him. Immediately, the smell of cheap perfume, like that of a teenage girl's, overwhelms the senses and elicits a wrinkle from Sanjay's nose. Her hair is sheared close to her scalp, though a short crop of striking red hair fans across her forehead on top. Sanjay, who supplies bass tracks for a number of recording artists in the state, isn't unfamiliar with girls like her. He takes particular notice of her protruding belly.

"What're you looking at?" she asks sharply.

He's a bit taken aback, but answers sincerely. "You, I suppose. Sorry. I'm Sanjay."

The girl studies him a moment before guardedly replying, "Lilith."


She rolls her eyes and sucks in a breath impatiently. "So what brings you to the park at ten in the morning on a Monday, huh? You don't seem like you're coming down from a long night partying. Retiree?"

Sanjay chuckles, though his pride is a little wounded. When did he get this old? "My son left for college this morning, so I took a mental health day. You?"

Lilith jams her thumb toward her belly. "Knocked up."

Sanjay chuckles again. "I see. Your kid's lucky -- you're taking time off to walk in the park. My wife worked all through her pregnancy till her boss sent her home one day. They didn't want to have to deliver a baby in the middle of the office."

"Shit, she must be really into her job," Lilith looks a little forlorn at this, "I know how that is. My mom is really..."

She sighs.

"Your kid's gonna be okay. College is stupid and intense, but it only lasts a little while. He'll be back before you know it."

The corners of Sanjays eyes wrinkle as a smile unfurls across his lips. "I hope so."


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Link Ninja
#38 Old 27th Aug 2018 at 7:25 AM
I really hope that Kabir has a good time at college. I wonder what happened between him and Abby?

Uh oh! My social bar is low - that's why I posted today.

Lab Assistant
Original Poster
#39 Old 20th Sep 2018 at 4:16 AM
Default A Pleasant Place: The Brokes

Dustin Broke hates his apartment. The pipes swell and groan in the summer months, crooning a creaky, awful chorus in the ceiling until cold weather sets upon them and they freeze over entirely. What the landlord calls "stucco" peels and flakes in palm-sized chunks and litters the concrete beyond the walls. Despite being an abomination of steel beams and asbestos, the whole building sags and sighs as it settles in the evening. It's only ever just enough to keep him awake, but not enough to mask the sound sex coming from the unit next door. He's elbowed at the wall a couple of times, but it only ever seems to encourage them -- applause from a tired, tightened fist.

His wife and daughter don't seem to mind it much. Summer loves feeling the curls of cheap carpet between her toes. She says the electric hum of the dryers down in the laundry room soothe her at night, and whisk her off to sleep with thoughts of swirling socks and stockings, the imagined smell of lavender dryer sheets and powdered soaps. It's not so much about the little things, Dustin's wife always says, it's that she can take her daughter's hand and walk down to the corner store without fear. For the freedom to walk hand in hand in sunny or stormy weather, Meadow will endure just about anything. And besides, it's only temporary.

Or at least, that's what she said ten years ago.


It's afternoon and the sun beats a little less harshly on the pavement as Meadow Broke steps out of her coworker's car. She doesn't get so much as a moment until the clickity clacking of plastic heels kisses her ears and steals her heart. She's swallowed up in a warm embrace, skinny little arms encircling her neck and a dainty, thoughtful kiss planted upon her cheek. Meadow laughs softly at her good fortune -- a daughter whose heart quickens at the sight of her mother from the bleary bus window, who leaps onto the sidewalk and races toward her, arms outspread. The woman wraps her arms around her daughter and breathes in the scent of strawberries and sweat from the girl's hair.

"Hey!" Meadow says, relieved and overjoyed, "How was the day?"

Meadow can imagine Summer's face pinched in consternation as she drags the morning up from the back of her mind. There's a pause, then she exclaims.

"Oh! Liam forgot his lunch again and his mom had to bring it, but this time she brought along Liam's baby brother! He's small and cute and only knows a couple words, but if you ask him about what noise a cow makes, he moos. Liam's mom let me pick him up, even."

Meadow tugs back her freedom and meets her daughters eyes, a feisty grin on her face.


"I'd rather pick you up!" Meadow growls playfully. She grabs her daughters hands and leverages the girl's weight against her's, sending the girl soaring through the air but anchored at her hands.

Summer gasps. The wind licks across her face and a warm smile unfurls across her cheeks. She's home.


Effervescent laughter and contented, happy banter lulls into contemplative quiet as Summer sits, puzzled and intrigued by a good book. Meadow takes perch at the mirror as always, watching her expression carefully and minding the volume of her voice as she practices her opening remarks for the next town hall meeting. She cringes a little internally as she narrows her focus on her pores, larger now than they've ever been. Her voice carries on, unwavering, though her focus is slipping. She doesn't remember her laugh lines being so deep. The last few years have brought with them a lot of joy so naturally there'd be something there as testament. Meadow's shoulders heave and her eyes fall half-mast as a sentimental, sort of sad sensation finds her slightly numb. How long has it been since college, anyway?

How long since never-ending nights and fervent heartbeats and eager hands in public bathrooms? How long since clandestine looks in the cafeteria, holding hands under tables, and flirty texts in the dead of night? It's sped by like a car into darkness, memories skittering in its wake like autumn leaves across the asphalt. Things are a lot less complicated now, but more mundane to be sure. Her and Dustin's tawdry, secret romance has gelled into stable matrimony. The insatiable anticipation for the future has slowed to a feeble crawl, staring at her wristwatch under the fluorescent glow of town hall, willing the minutes away. Youth's freedom has died a little death as well, with soccer games and doctor's visits and work and parent-teacher conferences hanging in the balance of a well-managed calendar.

Meadow bites her inner lip and tightens her brow.


Another night sees Meadow, Summer, and Dusting all together again -- a rarity. The air outside is balmy and thick with summertime. The window is just open enough to feel a hot breeze seep in and disrupt the stagnant air inside. Sweat dribbles down Dustin's temple, his hairline slick with sweat. He's underdressed for tonight, he knows, and a pang of self-consciousness pulls at him. He glances over his shoulder and observes the elegant frame of his wife, still clad in work clothes and suffering the same heat in silence.

She would want him to dress up.

He bites the inside of his cheek and jerks back to face his daughter, steeled in his own stubbornness. He wears what he wants. She knows that.

"Summer, you know what's happening tonight, right?" Dustin says in that darling tone of voice reserved just for his daughter.

Summer purses her lips and then shakes her head no, time still just a vague shadow of an idea to her young mind. "No, what?"

Dustin snickers. "Well, your mom and I are going out, and your aunt Amber is coming to keep an eye on you while we're gone. We're gonna wrap up dinner here in a minute, then take care of your homework,"

"Because we absolutely can't trust your aunt to make sure it gets done," Meadow adds from afar.

"That's true."

"You told her we've got beer in the fridge?" Meadow asks tentatively.

He nods and tugs his lips into a toothy smile, "She wouldn't be coming if we didn't."


Underscored by the sound of forks scraping and dishes clattering, Dustin and Summer stalk back to Summer's room to tend to the day's homework assignments. Mrs. Ottomas is an immeasurably engaged teacher, for which Meadow tends to sing her praises, but something about her cuts right to Dustin's core. He remembers trudging down the linoleum floors of his daughter's elementary school with arms folded taut before his chest, breathing through his teeth. He relents as he finds his fingers curling themselves into fists at his sides.

Oh, give her a chance. Just because you had some shitty teachers doesn't mean they all are,, Meadow's voice rings on in his head. He can hear the tonal quality and everything. It sounds just like church bells, soaring and ethereal, making the listener aware of their own smallness and fragility. And she's right.

She's always right.

Dustin grows painfully aware of himself as he listens to his daughter sigh in frustration, knotting her fingers in her hair. He softens.

"Summer? You doing okay?"

"It's just. Ugh. Mama usually helps me with spelling stuff. I --" She seethes and crumples the corner of her paper. "I'm just no good!"

Something like grief wells up inside, and he speaks gently, a tentative smile etched across his lips.

"You get that from me. Sorry." His footsteps are soundless as he nears the little girl's work space. "But I can certainly try to help."


Unlike the busted old system at the apartment complex, the air conditioning at Casa Casanova works perfectly. Dustin relishes the feeling of cool air upon his skin, pressed and glossy playing cards betwixt his fingers, the smell of cigarette smoke in the air, and even the sticky feeling of sweat drying at the nape of his neck. There in the periphery, men hurl curses at each other over what's likely their third or fourth round of drinks. A woman rushes to the restroom, cupping her mouth with one hand and a cell phone in the other, her high heels punching into the floor tiles. A couple of the guys around the table coyly steal glances at Meadow, their lascivious eyes lingering at her lips and chest.

Dustin doesn't laugh so much as he expels a breath from his nostrils, shaking his head. They're rancid pigs, the lot of them. But still, that familiar balloon of self-importance swells under his ribcage, puffs out his chest, and plants his hand upon his wife's thigh with a flourish. He leers at her from the corner of his eye himself, captivated momentarily as the world crumbles away.

She's objectively beautiful, as true as Mars is red and wheat fields sway in the wind. The light catches her cheek as she smiles and betrays her hand. She's just happy to be here. She's not noticing them noticing her, nor the way it makes him feel. She's here, boundlessly cheerful just to share the same space for a change. She never even asked him to change his shirt.

Dustin swallows.

How long's it been since they were together like this?


He leads her by the hand under a streetlamp. It flickers weakly as they step, drenching them in darkness as it dies above them. Dustin chuckles more nervously than he'd like as he slips his arms around his wife's waist and pulls her close.

"I feel like we don't see much of each other these days."

She peers up at him from the pall of her hair, cheeks flushed, "That's life, isn't it? We want happily ever after, but we've gotta work to maintain it."

Her face falls. She smears her hand across her forehead. "God."

He catches her jaw in his hand just as she moves to turn from him. "Hey. I love you, y'know?"

"Of course." she says in a hapless birdsong. She presses up from the balls of her feet to brush her lips against his ear. "I love you too."

And he realizes that's enough. He pulls her ever closer. Their lips collide.

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