29 March 2011



Moe blinked groggily and looked around the bedroom, trying to get his bearings. Everything felt foggy and far away, and his vision was uncharacteristically bad. He had to squint to see across the room to Izzy's crib, and he'd never even needed glasses before. Why do I feel so exhausted?

He glanced to his right, but Jane was already gone. She hadn't gone to feed Izzy, so where was she? Moe wiggled his toes to try to wake himself up more, but he still felt bleary and tired. And grumpy, for that matter. 

He dragged himself out of bed and stumbled over to the dresser, fumbling with the drawers as he blindly grabbed some clothes. But when he looked up, what he saw almost gave him a heart attack.

He was old. Really, really old. Decrepit, even. Yet even as he stared at his worn and wrinkled countenance, he seemed to be growing older by the minute. "What the hell is going on here?" he muttered, surprised at the gravelly tone of his voice. 

Growing more alarmed by the second, he patted his leathery cheeks frantically, trying to discover the source of this odd transformation. Was this some kind of practical joke? A trick mirror? Bad lighting? How could he have gone completely gray overnight? Let alone the wrinkles and saggy skin and aching back...

No, there was no explanation here, other than the blindingly obvious: he was old. Hideously, irreparably, awfully old. And why wouldn't he be? He was turning thirty five now- of course he was dried up and wrinkly. He hadn't expected it to be so sudden, but it was going to happen anyways. Might as well be now.

As he tore his eyes away from the mirror and glanced around frantically, he heard Izzy start to babble. Was she saying her first words? He started to call out for Jane as he bent over Izzy's crib, but her next word stopped him in his tracks.

"Grandpa!" she gurgled.

Moe screamed, his reflection in the mirror twisting and distorting as he aged at warp speed.

"Morning, sleepyhead!" Jane's familiar chipper voice greeted Moe.

No wrinkles, no gray, no flannel pajamas... Oh, thank the Builder, it was just a dream. Moe struggled to swing his legs out of bed, still disoriented by the nightmare he'd just had. It had felt so real, so inevitable... and now that he was his usual self again, it was difficult to adjust to the shifting realities.

"Come on, get out of bed! Don't you remember what today is?" Jane tossed a pillow at him.

"Don't remind me," he groaned, running his hands through his hair.

"It's just a birthday," Jane exclaimed in surprise. "I wasn't aware you hated them so much."

"I don't, it's just..." he sighed. "I'm just getting older, that's all."

"Well, you still look young to me." Jane smiled and kissed him, and for a moment it was enough to make him forget about his worries. But Jane was a good five years younger than him; how could she grasp the desperation that filled him as he contemplated his ever-shortening lifespan? And did she understand the burning need to leave some kind of mark behind?

She'd never had to worry about things like this. Or anything else, for that matter. His wife's life seemed almost effortless, to him; things just came easily to her, and she'd never really seemed to worry all that much about anything. Whenever they got into a fight, it was always Jane who tried to keep the peace and smooth the worries away. Moe was the worrier, and this would just be yet another problem she tried to solve for him.

And so he resolved not to tell her about these thoughts, or the nightmare. Not just yet, anyways. There was no use in troubling her with things that didn't really matter.

Unaware of the problems that plagued their parents, Sophie and Ethan were busy playing video games while they waited for Moe to return home that afternoon. While it was a Saturday and neither of their parents had to work, Moe had gone to the store and Jane was busy baking his birthday cake, and for the moment there was nothing for either twin to do but kick the other's butt at football.

It wasn't long before Moe returned, filled to the brim with excitement and news. "Come on, I want to show you what I bought!"

Jane followed him out to the garage, her curiosity piqued. What she didn't expect to see was a brand new bright red convertible sitting in the driveway.  

"Moe, what the... What is that thing doing in our garage?" Her voice rose several decibels as her surprise turned into anger. "We have a baby and two small kids- we do not need a new car, let alone a convertible. And what happened to our station wagon?!"

"Okay, Jane, calm down," Moe began. "I was driving by on my way home and saw this and it was on sale, you like sales, and I had the money for it, so I bought it! And anyways, the station wagon's right outside, so we still have it for the family and everything. This is kind of just... a present for me, you know?"

No, she did not know, but Jane held her tongue. It had always been a rule between the two of them that whatever the other person bought was none of their business, as long as it was with their own money. "Okay, Moe," she conceded finally. "But if you could run these things by me once in a while... Anyways, the party's almost ready to start, so we'll talk about it later."

Moe hoped that she'd forget by the time the party was done, but the look on her face suggested otherwise.

The backyard was decorated for his birthday party, and Moe was extremely touched to take it all in. The kids had been working hard to set up the decorations and games, and Jane had outdone herself with the cake. The twins were flitting around the backyard like demons, and Jane had plastered a happy smile on her face for the party. "It's gorgeous!" Moe assured them with a smile.

Someone had given the twins noisemakers, which in hindsight was probably a bad idea. They were buzzing and humming up a storm as Jane presented the cake, and despite the onset of a major headache and the impending argument with his wife, everything felt... perfect.

Even if he was turning thirty five and felt old and washed up, he had a wonderful family who loved him, a great career doing something he enjoyed, and a loving wife who was willing to delay an argument for the sake of giving him a good birthday. What more could he really want? What more was there to even wish for?

As he leaned in to make a wish, he closed his eyes tightly and prayed that things would never change. He knew deep down that time would pass, his children would grow, and he would definitely get older- but suddenly, that thought didn't scare him as much. 

After all, thirty five was hardly old. There was time to do everything he wanted to do, to make a name for himself in his field, to achieve something truly great, to see the world... And in that moment, Moe had an epiphany.

His life was perfect. 

As he blew out the candles, he felt somehow different. More mature, perhaps, or maybe more confident. Somewhere deep inside, a switch had flipped. It was ridiculous to imagine that he had grown up in the span of only a few minutes. But as he devoured his birthday cake, a small part of him couldn't help but feel like that had indeed been the case. 

And he couldn't have been happier.

The rest of Moe's birthday party took place indoors, as it was getting steadily darker. In true Pesce fashion, they had planned to celebrate the rest of his birthday with a family game night, complete with pizza, root beer, and every board game they owned. The twins were more than thrilled, though their parents perhaps would have enjoyed something a bit quieter.

"Okay... right foot, blue!" Ethan called. As usual, Sophie had demanded that she go first, but she was also the worst at Twister, and would more than likely insist on a re-do if she fell over.

Jane and Moe cuddled on the sofa while they waited for Sophie to follow Ethan's instructions, Jane having momentarily forgotten that she was mad at her husband and Moe deliberately not reminding her. Izzy was finally sleeping, the twins were actually getting along, and for the moment, everything felt absolutely perfect.

"Left arm, green!"

Sophie bent backwards to try to reach the nearest green piece of the mat, but tipped over just when her fingertips reached the circle. "Do over!"

"No way!" Ethan cried, immediately starting to rattle off a list of reasons why Sophie shouldn't be allowed to start over. But his tirade was interrupted by the sound of breaking glass and the blaring of the security alarm.

"What on earth was that?" Moe stood up and peered into the kitchen.

"I'll go check it out!" Sophie called immediately, grateful for the distraction.

"Sophie, don't you dare!" Jane replied furiously, but her daughter had already left.

Moe followed his daughter into the kitchen, holding her back cautiously as they gazed at the source of the commotion. Underneath the window was a sea of glass and broken vase shards. In the midst of the debris were a rock and a note that read "Stop digging or you'll be sorry." 

Someone was far from happy with the Pesce clan.

23 March 2011

Sims Medieval

The Sims Medieval is a dirty, dirty game. I think EA forgot KIDS PLAY THESE GAMES.

That being said, I'm laughing so hard I'm crying.

If any of my readers get this game, the quest about finding an heir? Yeah, I'm half expecting someone to yell "Giggity!"


Jane's head was reeling with questions. What did Chase have to do with the local artist's murder? Was that why he'd come back to town? And why was he no longer involved in the investigation? For that matter, why had the police abandoned the investigation altogether?
She doubted that she'd ever know the answers to all of these questions, but there was one place she could start.

And that place was Chase Cruz.

"Chase... we need to talk."

Chase's eyebrows raised in surprise, and for a moment she was sure he'd refuse to let her inside; but after a few seconds he simply nodded and gestured towards the front door. "Sure, come on in."

She realized that she'd never seen the inside of Chase's house. The one time she'd ever been here, it had been to drop Sophie off. As she followed him through the foyer, she was surprised at the color and warmth of the house's interior. Chase had never had all that much taste in... well, anything, and the decorations looked as if they'd been picked out by somebody else. Maybe Lucy's mother, she realized. Whoever that was.

"What's this about?" Chase asked once they'd shut the door. He'd never been one for small talk, and their last encounter had left a lot of unresolved tension. Jane fidgeted nervously as she tried to figure out the best way to bring up the subject.

"Who was Amy Jenkins?" she eventually asked, deciding on the direct approach.

Chase's face froze in a surprised expression. He opened and closed his mouth several times, trying to figure out just why exactly Jane was standing in his hallway asking about Amy Jenkins, or how she'd even heard about her.

"She... was my ex-fiancée," he replied finally. "Lucy's mother."

It was Jane's turn to be surprised. She'd been ready to hear just about anything, but that was one scenario that hadn't crossed her mind.

"She died about six months ago, and I came here for Lucy. It's kind of a long story," he added, glancing at Jane. When she gave no sign of reply, he continued, explaining just who Amy had been, how he'd left her, and how she'd been found dead.

"And did you... did you..." She couldn't bring herself to ask the one question that had been on her mind since she'd left the library.

"You mean, did I kill her?" Chase asked, his face darkening with anger. "I may not be perfect, and I'm certainly not necessarily the best boyfriend, but I would never have done anything to harm Amy. The police asked me all of this already, Jane. You're not going to uncover anything they haven't spend months trying to do themselves." He laughed bitterly. "Besides, it's none of your business."

"It kind of is!" she exclaimed. "I don't want my kids doing homework here or eating dinner here or sleeping over here if this is the house of a... a... murderer!" Jane finished vehemently.

"For Pete's sake, Jane, I didn't kill her!" Chase yelled, wincing as he realized that they could possibly wake up Lucy. "My family's already been through this nightmare, Jane. You don't have any right to waltz in here and dig it up again. It's over. Finished. In the past." By the time he finished, his voice had returned to its normal volume.

Jane said nothing, but merely looked at Chase, as if to weigh the sincerity of his words. "I'm sorry," she mumbled finally. "I know you wouldn't kill anyone. It's just... it really freaked me out," she explained. "There you were in black and white, being handcuffed and accused of murder. And I didn't know anything about it."

"Well, why would you? We hadn't spoken in years." Chase shrugged and looked away. "You're an ex-girlfriend, Jane. What happens to each of us... it doesn't concern the other anymore."

They fell silent again, aware that the conversation had wandered into uncomfortable territory.

"Well, I guess I should be going," Jane said helplessly after a few minutes. "Isabel probably needs to be fed, and the twins will be in bed..."

He nodded, staring at her in an intense way that made her feel slightly uncomfortable. "You'd better get going... Oh, wait. You've got something on your cheek. An eyelash, I think." Chase reached out to brush it away without thinking.

He pulled his hand back immediately, but not before Jane had had a chance to react to his touch. Her skin felt warm where he'd touched her, and a slight flush was spreading across her face. After all this time, he could still make her feel like the most important person in the room, like he was a fire that burned only for her.

It was surprising, especially after all that they'd been through, and it was certainly the last thing Jane wanted at the moment, but there it was. 

It's just his natural charisma, she told herself firmly, stepping back a few paces. He'd always been that way; the minute he walked into a room, any girl in the place started swooning. It didn't mean she had any kind of residual feelings for him. If anything, it had just been a knee-jerk reaction.

Still, as she said her goodbyes and started to drive back home, she couldn't help but shake the feeling that things were veering completely off track.

The next morning, as Jane sat in her boss's office and waited for her to finish glancing over her very first article, she felt only slightly better about the previous night's events. She hadn't decided quite what to tell Moe about the murder investigation, or the connection to Chase, or the awkward moment in his kitchen. Instead, she'd gone straight to the den and started typing away at the article, chattering nervously every time Moe checked in on her.

What had resulted was a 1000 word summary of the murder and its subsequent investigation, and a short paragraph at the end about Amy's art. Not exactly what her assignment had stipulated, which was why Jane was slightly nervous as she waited for her boss's critique.

"It's crap," Celina said finally. "Complete and utter crap."

"What?" Jane was flabbergasted. "I worked really hard on that! And I'm not exactly a bad writer," she declared defensively. "I was an editor for my college's literary magazine!"

"It's not bad writing, Jane." The editor was quick to placate her newest employee's obviously bruised feelings. "It's just... not what I asked for. You're not an investigative reporter. You're supposed to write little fluff pieces about local art exhibitions and Little League games and the local theater company. That kind of stuff. I didn't hire you to try to dig around into a cold case or win some kind of prize for hard hitting journalism."

Jane was still seething internally, but all she did was nod and smile. "Of course. I'll rewrite it and email it back to you by 2," she assured Celina.

"I mean it, Jane," her editor warned. "I don't want you wasting company time sniffing around at a case that's been dead for months. You've got a job to do."

"Don't worry, boss." As she left Celina's office, Jane couldn't help but smile to herself.

Celina hadn't said anything about what she could do on her own time.

She began by tracking down everybody who had been friends with Amy Jenkins. The list was surprisingly small for such a lively person, but most people Jane talked to wouldn't admit having really spent any time with the artist. Either they hadn't counted Amy as a close, personal friend, or they didn't want to be involved in any discussion about her murder. 

But eventually, she found people who would talk.

"Miss Morris? Hi, I'm Jane. We spoke on the phone?" 

"Oh, Jane!" The stylist beamed effusively at her, glancing at her clothes and hair in a way that made Jane worry she was about to be the recipient of some kind of guerrilla warfare kind of makeover. 

"I'm writing an article about Amy's art," Jane explained hastily, before Angie could get any ideas. She'd already thought of a convincing cover story for her questions, and she'd brought along a notepad in order to facilitate the scheme. "I hate to bring up such a sensitive subject, but I was hoping you could perhaps share a bit of what she was like with me?" 

"Oh, sure! I was her roommate in college, you know." Angie started rattling off a long list of anecdotes about Amy and her wacky ways, and it was all Jane could do to jot down her notes fast enough. According to Angie, Amy had been a friendly and intelligent girl with very a lot of talent, and a bit of a track record with men. 

"So she had a lot of boyfriends in college?" Jane asked innocently, her pen poised on the pad. 

Angie shook her head. "No, not so much in college. She had a steady boyfriend she'd been dating since high school, but it didn't last. He wound up cheating on her after they got engaged, and after that..." She shrugged nonchalantly. "She was never really serious with anyone after that, especially when she found out... well, you know. But a few years later she started dating again, and she definitely had a type, you know what I mean?" 

Jane shook her head. "What kind of type?"

"Well, she was always going after the bad guys. You know, leather jackets, tattoos, cigarettes, rock and roll." Angie smiled fondly as she thought about her old roommate. "Not my kind of guys, but Amy sure liked them. Didn't bring them home to meet Lucy, though. But then, why would she?" 

"Was she with any of these guys the night she... you know?" Jane asked cautiously. She hadn't mentioned that the real reason for her interview was to dig around in Amy's murder, and the subject might make Angie reluctant to talk.

"No, not that I know of." Angie shook her head thoughtfully. "In fact, it had been a few weeks since she'd mentioned seeing anyone. I think she was kind of trying to sort things out. You won't write about any of that, though, right?" she asked as an afterthought. "I don't really want anyone remembering Amy as some kind of skank."

"Don't worry, Angela," Jane assured her. "I definitely won't." She thanked the stylist for her time and headed to the outskirts of Twinbrook for her next interview.

Her next stop was to meet Matt Schtick, a firefighter who'd known Amy since elementary school. "She was my oldest friend," Matt reminisced sadly. "We'd known each other since the first grade, when she moved to town and no one else wanted to play with her. And we were pretty much attached at the hip ever since."

"So you knew her pretty well then?"

Matt nodded. "Better than almost anyone else, I'd wager. Not as well as Angie, perhaps, but yeah, we were pretty close. I was really broken up when..." He couldn't finish the sentence, and Jane didn't blame him.

"That's okay, Matt, we don't have to talk about that. If you want you can just tell me a little of what she was like, and maybe some of her art?" She smiled reassuringly at him.

"Oh, her art!" Matt's face brightened considerably. "She was so talented, you know? I kept telling her her stuff would wind up in the Met or the Louvre someday, next to Picasso and Da Vinci and all those dead guys. She'd always say I was too biased to give a good opinion."

"I've seen some of her stuff- it is pretty good!" Jane smiled at him again. "How long had she been painting?"

"Since we were little, really. Truth be told, she stopped focusing on her art as much after college," he frowned.  "I always thought it had something to do with that Chase guy. Never liked him. And then when he left, she was never really the same. Always a string of guys, one douche after another." Matt scowled.

"Did you two ever date?"

"Who, me and Amy? Nah, I wasn't her type," Matt waved dismissively. "No tattoos or dyed hair or piercings. Besides, after Chase? I don't think anyone really had a chance." He smiled at her wryly. "He really did a number on her, that one."

"Great, thanks." Jane finished writing her notes.

"No problem. Just promise me you'll let me know if you catch the bastard who killed her." 

"Will do," Jane promised as she headed back to her car. But with no real leads and an embargo from her boss, her investigation of Amy Jenkins' murder was heading down a dead end. After a day of inquiries and interviews, she was no closer to understanding what had happened than she had been sitting at the library desk, staring at about Chase's likely guilt. And despite everything that had happened, she was inclined to believe him when he said he hadn't done it.

But if Chase hadn't done it, who had?

22 March 2011

Brief Update

Hello, everyone- I haven't fallen off the edge of the world, I promise. I had decided to take a few days off to try to pace out the story more. The plan was to update it tonight, but then I got the Sims Medieval and I want to check it out ;) Therefore, the story will definitely be updated at some point this week- if not tonight, tomorrow or the next day!

18 March 2011


"Jane... Why are you playing Madden?" 

In the week since she'd brought Izzy home from the hospital, Jane had grown increasingly bored. Quitting her job had seemed like a good idea post-pregnancy, but now that her brain was unclouded by hormones and baby-related happiness, she'd begun to wonder if it had been a good idea after all. True, she had gone into teaching because she loved English and wanted to teach countless generations the value of literature and proper grammar; but after her promotion to assistant principal, she'd begun to face every day with a sense of grudging obligation, rather than actual happiness or joy. 

Playing computer games was all she really felt like doing, day after day. After Sophie and Ethan, Izzy was painfully easy to manage, and with everyone but mother and baby gone during the day, she was bored, lonely, and restless. 

Quitting had been easier than she'd thought. One push of the button, a brief conversation with the principal, and a small amount of paperwork later, she was unemployed- and surprisingly happy. But after the initial elation, she realized that she was now back in the sea of unemployed Sims, struggling to find her dream job. 

Immediately after pregnancy probably hadn't been the best time to do this, but she was feeling oddly driven. And so she'd sent out her resume, made a few phone calls, and tried to figure out what exactly she wanted to do with her life. 

It was hard to remember what she'd wanted to do before she started teaching. Once, she'd wanted to be a writer, and she'd never fully abandoned that dream, but with three children to raise and a husband who'd already made a sacrifice in his career, she didn't feel comfortable sitting around trying to write a bestselling novel. 

So what was there left? 

"... Jane?"

"Huh?" Jane barely looked up from the keyboard. "Oh, hi, honey. One second here... Just have to get this one... last...." Her voice trailed off as she concentrated on her game.

"Jane!" Moe's reprimand did not have the effect he wanted, so he reached out and turned the computer screen off.

Jane finally looked up, glaring at him as she waited for an explanation. "I was playing that, Moe!"

"Yes, I know, dear, but you've been playing it for days. Every time I come home you're glued to the screen, and I don't think it's very good for you," he pointed out hesitantly. "I think you need to get up, out of the den, and start getting back into the swing of things."

"I'm just saying!" Moe added hastily as she started to speak. "I know you're happy about quitting your job, but you've got to do something with your time, other than playing computer games."

"No, you're probably right. There's only so much Madden I can play before going crazy," she conceded, stretching as she went into the kitchen and filled up the basket in the coffee maker. "I just don't know what I want to do and it's driving me crazy. I haven't heard back from anyone, and I'm not even sure which jobs I'd want to take even if I got any offers," Jane admitted. 

"You don't have to go back to work if you don't want to," Moe pointed out. "We can get by without a second job. But a hobby, or something, just so you don't go crazy." He was trying to be as tactful as he knew how to be, but there weren't many ways of saying "get your lazy ass off of the computer chair and start doing something." 

It probably wouldn't have bothered him if she hadn't seemed so uninterested in everything. As a doctor, he knew the signs of post-partum depression, and he wanted to make sure that Jane didn't suffer from it- or if she did, that he got her the help she needed. 

But so far, she hadn't seemed depressed- just directionless, like a sailboat with no wind. He hadn't even been aware that her job made her so unhappy, but apparently it had. All Moe wanted was for her to find something to care about again, so he wouldn't have to worry about her being bored, home alone playing football against some thirteen year old in Florida all day. 

"Who's the best baby on earth? You are!" Jane tickled the baby's stomach and blew her a raspberry, smiling as her daughter giggled happily. So far, Izzy was a much quieter and docile baby than either Sophie or Ethan, and it was a welcome relief. She ate when she was supposed to, slept when she was supposed to (for the most part), and responded to Jane's playing with appreciative gurgling. Yes, Isabel Pesce was shaping up to be a dream child.

Jane's thoughts were interrupted by the abrasive jingling of her cell phone. "Hold on, Izzy, we'll keep playing, Mommy has to answer the phone... Hello?"

"Yes, Mrs. Pesce! This is Celina Lay from the the Daily Sim. I'm calling regarding the resume you dropped off at our offices last week. I was wondering if you were available for an interview tomorrow morning at ten?"

"Ten? That's perfect! Thank you so much!" Jane hung up the phone, smiling happily as she contemplated the phone call. She'd never pictured herself working as a reporter before last week, but it did involve writing, and the pay was definitely more than she would have received at any of the other places she'd applied.

Still, was it really something she wanted to do? It was difficult to say, so she resolved to at least give it a try.

A few days later, Jane began working on her first article, a piece on the museum and some of its contributing local artists. Not exactly groundbreaking material, but she was excited to write her first piece.

If it ever got written.

"Jane, you've been staring at that paper for an hour," Moe pointed out. "Shouldn't you be doing this on the computer anyways?"

"I already tried," Jane replied glumly. "I wasn't getting much done there, either. I'm just not sure how to format this... There's so many directions I could go with it, and I don't even know where to start."

"Maybe focus on only a few of the artists and their exhibits?" Moe mused. "There was an exhibit by a local artist that Ethan rather liked last time we were there. Amy Jenkins, I think it was."

"Yeah... I've come across a little bit about her in my research. Kind of sad, actually, she was murdered out at Hollowlog Springs earlier this year."

"Really?" Moe's eyebrows raised in surprise. "I hadn't heard anything about it- do they know who did it?"

"No, it was dismissed as a mugging in the end, so there's not much I could really use for the article," Jane admitted in defeat. "Still, it might be a point of interest I could use... I'm just not sure. And I can't get anything done around here!" 

"Why don't you try the library? It might help to get out and away from the house," Moe suggested. 

And it actually did. 

The library was mercifully empty this late in the afternoon, and Jane was glad for the peace and quiet. It didn't solve the problem of what to include in the article, but she at least felt more productive. She flicked through the first few pages on the library's website, hoping that she'd find inspiration in one of the articles. 

Out of sheer boredom, she pulled up the library's newspaper archives and began scanning the ones from earlier that year, entering in the keywords and filtering the results to bring up anything that discussed the artist's murder. "Amy Jenkins, age 28, found dead in Hollowlog Springs... survived by one daughter..." Jane skipped ahead to the end of the article, her eyes drawn like a magnet. 

"Investigation underway... Main suspect brought into custody.... main suspect-" Jane stopped reading, her mouth frozen in mid-word. The police's main suspect had been... 

Chase Cruz?

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