30 April 2011

Brief Note

In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, my OWN house caught fire. No serious damage, but I think the better part of tomorrow/this week will be spent cleaning, so the next update and the first part of the Maltese Llama will be delayed by a few days.

As a side note, you really should remember to change the batteries in your fire alarms and get a fire extinguisher. We didn't so much... Had to rely on my sister to dump water all over everything. If she hadn't been out there to get a snack for our Harry Potter night, shit might have been worse. So yeah- they tell you to do those things for a reason.

28 April 2011


It had been two months since the Pesce's house had burned down, and things in Twinbrook were slowly getting back to normal. Kids played in the street, trains rumbled through the rolling green countryside, people slipped away to the local fishing holes for an hour or two of solitude. It was almost summer, and people had started dragging out their rusty lawnmowers to trim their unruly lawns. Teenagers celebrated the end of the school year by blasting music and slipping away to hidden corners of the woods to get drunk.

Yes, things in Twinbrook were almost completely back to normal- except for one noticeable difference.

Where the Pesce house once stood, there was now only a pile of wreckage stretching across the barren ground. The grass had been scorched away, and within the timbers and warped glass that stretched across it, there wasn't even the slightest hint of the former house.

But their house wasn't the only part of Jane and Moe's lives that lay in ruins.

As Jane sat on the bed, staring at her husband tucking Izzy into her crib, she couldn't help but think about how far things had veered off track. Two months ago, they'd been happy, in love, safe and warm in their own house... and now they were as good as strangers, living in a strange home and sleeping in the same bed, but as far away as two people could be.

Living in her parents' house was taking a toll on their marriage, but it was more than that, Jane knew- even if she didn't want to admit it. The incident with Chase, and the pictures, had caused an irreparable rift. She didn't know who had left the pictures for Moe to find, or how she could explain to him that it had meant nothing other than old reflexes.

But to Moe, it was more- much more. Whatever fragile trust they'd managed to build up since their move to Twinbrook had been shattered. Every night was a new argument, or- more often- silence. And tonight was no exception.

"Moe..." Jane trailed off, her voice tired and worn as she realized that she didn't even know what to say anymore. Weeks of the same conversation had shown her that there was no possible way this ended well for her. "Moe, we need to talk" had resulted in only stony silence and the cold shoulder. "Moe, it didn't mean anything" had cost her three hours of yelling and screaming. And "Moe, I'm sorry" didn't seem to mean anything at all.

"What? What do you want now?" Moe's voice was equally tired. It was difficult enough to pretend in front of the children; there was simply no energy left to pretend with each other. "Let's just... not, tonight. Okay?"

Jane bit her lip. "We can't just keep dancing around the same argument for two more months, Moe. Something's got to give. We either sort this out, or... or..."

"Or what?" Moe asked acidly. "Do you want a divorce?"

Jane's eyes widened in hurt shock. "No- why, do you?" She'd been afraid to ask that question ever since the fire.

"Well... no," he admitted. Despite his anger, it seemed ridiculous to get a divorce over something so trivial. Not that he considered it trivial, but others would. It was hard to explain exactly why he was so upset over something that hadn't even developed further than that one moment- or so Jane claimed.

Simply put, it was a lack of trust.

"This just isn't how I saw things," he said finally. "I didn't sign on for ex-boyfriends and threats and arson and cheating, and all this... pink." He gestured around the room wildly. And it was true; the room was filled with an inordinate amount of pink. From the pink mirror to the pink bedspread, pink rug, and pink mirror, it was to stretch any man's patience.

And Moe was already stretched to his breaking point.

To his surprise, Jane began to laugh. "What? What's so funny?" he demanded.

She simply shook her head and continued to laugh. "I'm sorry, it's just... Pink? That's what it comes down to? That's what you choose to complain about?"

Moe shook his head ruefully. "It's just... It's so goddamn pink." The corners of his mouth tilted upwards, and for a moment, he began to smile.

But only for a moment.

The familiar uneasiness seeped back into Moe's mind like fog, filling him to the brink with the same emotions he'd been fighting for weeks. Even a single moment of light-hearted normalcy felt too foreign, too unwelcome right now.

As he lay awake and stared at the ceiling tiles, fighting the insomnia that had started ever since the fire, he thought about everything he'd lost in the past few weeks: his possessions, a home, security... Everything except his family and the clothes on his back. Those things could be replaced, but the worst thing he'd lost was something he didn't know if he'd ever get back.

"Thanks for the coffee, Mom." Jane gripped the hot mug carefully. "You don't have to keep waiting on us hand and foot like this, you know. It's enough that you're letting us stay here while the new house is built."

"Oh, don't be silly, dear." Isabel Evans waved her hand dismissively. "And it's not coffee- it's a triple non-fat white chocolate latte with foam. I didn't get that espresso machine shipped all the way from France to drink coffee," she added reproachfully.

Jane snorted into her coffee but said nothing.

"And anyways, it's the least we could do for you, after that horrible fire," Isabel continued, oblivious to her daughter's amusement. "You poor dears lost everything- of course we're going to try to make things a little easier for you! Especially with... you know."

Jane lifted an eyebrow. "I know? What do I know?"

"Well..." Isabel set her cup down. "Philip and I couldn't help but notice that things are a bit... strained between you two. Not that we've been eavesdropping or anything," she added hastily.

"Yeah... well, we haven't exactly been quiet," Jane admitted reluctantly. "Still, it's nothing you need to worry about. Things have just been difficult, with the fire and the threats. And..." She couldn't bring herself to tell her mother about the incident with Chase. "Things are just hard."

"Oh, honey... Things will get better," Isabel assured her. "And until then, you just try to get back on your feet. The house will be done in no time, and the insurance money will pay for most of what you need. And of course, you know you're welcome to stay here as long as you need."

Jane smiled sadly. "I know, Mom. But I don't know if that'll be enough."

"Wait, where is everybody?"

Jane stared around the nearly abandoned park, searching for any signs of the school picnic that their children had dragged them to.

"It is today, right? Sophie?" Jane eyed her daughter suspiciously. Something about this whole situation seemed fishy.

"I... may have gotten the time and day wrong," Sophie offered. "But look, there are people here! Let's go find out where everyone is." The look on her face was a little too innocent for Jane's taste.

"Well, I guess there's no harm in staying, as long as there are other families here... It'll be nice to get out for a bit," she admitted. It had been a while since they'd gone anywhere as a family.

Sophie grinned and ran over to the picnic tables, waving frantically. Jane looked in the direction her daughter had run, and she suddenly knew exactly what her children had been up to.

Sneaky little devils.

The only other people at the supposed "school picnic" were Lucy and her father.

Chase was at the grill, cooking hot dogs and whistling a cheerful tune. Does he know about his daughter's treachery yet? Jane wondered.

Judging by the look on his face when he turned around with the food, he did not.

"Er... hi." Jane did her best to nod nonchalantly, but Moe had been standing in the same exact spot ever since realizing that Chase was there. All Jane could do was hope that he didn't do anything stupid.

"Well... this is an odd coincidence," she said finally. "I suppose your daughter got the date and time wrong, too?"

Chase simply nodded. "Apparently so. Look, I know this is awkward... You don't have to stay if you don't want." But the twins had already dug into the food. There was nothing to do except grit their teeth and get through the meal in one piece.

After devouring as many hot dogs as Jane would let them, the children rushed over to the swing set and began conversing in hushed tones. Jane had learned enough to know that she should leave them alone if she didn't want to know what they were up to. Judging by their latest behavior, it was a plan to create world peace and solve poverty.

But knowing the twins, it was probably something far more nefarious.

As soon as she could politely manage it, Jane made her escape and went off to feed Izzy, leaving Moe and Chase alone. They watched her as she walked away, both painfully aware of each other's proximity. What did you say to the person whom you hated more than anything in the world, especially when your children tricked you into having a picnic together?

"So..." Chase said finally. "Izzy's getting pretty big, isn't she?"

Moe nodded, and they slipped back into an awkward silence again.

"I, um... I'm really sorry to hear about your house, man," Chase offered. "It must suck. If you guys need anything... I know I'm not your favorite person, but just let us know."

Moe eyed him suspiciously. Why was he being nice? A guilty conscience, perhaps?

"Before you ask, I was at the Red Rendezvous all night," Chase added quickly, as if to read Moe's mind. "Not that I'm saying you think I did it... but... just in case, I guess."

"No, that's fine," Moe said hastily. "I wasn't going to... I didn't think you had... Well, thank you," he finished grumpily.

"And listen... about those pictures... " Chase began. Moe's eyebrows shot up in surprise. How had he found out about them? And why on Earth did he think it was okay to mention them? "Nothing happened, Moe, really. It was just... an impulse, I guess. And I really regret it. I don't want to come between you guys. I mean, I did resent you both, at first... but the last thing I want to do is cause more trouble, especially with... Well, I'm sorry anything happened in the first place. I hope you can believe me."

Moe was too surprised to say anything at first, but after a while, he simply nodded his head. "Thanks, I guess."

Jane watched the proceedings from across the park, snuggling her daughter for some semblance of sanity. She didn't know what Chase and Moe were talking about, and she didn't want to know. It made her nervous enough, the two of them being anywhere near each other. She didn't have anything to feel guilty about, but knowing how angry Chase made Moe... it was enough to make her feel incredibly on edge.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the familiar ring of her cell phone. She took a quick glance at the caller ID- Angie. One of the few people whose phone calls she would actually answer right now.

"Hey, Angie, what's up?"

"Hi, Jane... I was just calling because... Well, Amy's mom is moving, and she invited a few of us to come take a look at her things, just in case there was anything important that we wanted to keep. I think I found something you might be interested in," Angie said hurriedly. "I don't have a lot of time though- can you meet me in a bit?"

"Sure!" Jane was thrilled to finally have a break in the case. She'd left it alone ever since the fire, and every instinct told her to do so now- but compared to the insatiable curiosity of finally figuring out what happened to that poor woman... Jane was powerless to resist.

"Meet me at the Lakeview Bar at ten," Angie said. "Crap- I have to go. Don't forget to meet me, okay?"

"Okay!" Jane hung up and slipped her phone back into her pocket, wondering why Angie had been in such a hurry to get off the phone with her- and just what she'd found.

Angie stood outside the back entrance to the Lakeview Bar, fidgeting slightly as she waited for Jane to show up. She wished she'd suggested a better meeting place- indoors, perhaps. At the very least, she wished she'd brought a jacket.

The sound of footsteps behind her put her instantly on her guard. "Hello?" she called out. "Who's there?"

As the intruder stepped into view, she reached for her purse and fumbled around, trying desperately to reach her mace. But the only thing her fingers could feel was the small leather-bound book she'd brought to give to Jane...

A book that she would never get to give to her.

22 April 2011

The 30 Day Sim Challenge: Days Six, Seven, and Eight (Whoops)

Day 6 - Something your Sims do that drives you crazy

This bugs the HELL out of me. I have ranted about it often, to everyone who will listen. Whenever I want my Sims to sit and enjoy a family meal, inevitably, all but one will sit down and eat obediently, ruining the group shot. And then when I finally get that one to sit down, the rest stand up and go about their business. I've tried turning free will off, I've tried timing things out, and every time, it just happens. This is why I don't feed them for pictures unless I really need the shot. They have ruined SO MANY scenes this way.

Day 7 - Favorite interaction or facial expression of a Sim

I have a couple of favorites, but I wanted to choose something original since my first few favorites have already been posted by people (and one turned out to not even be in the game, and was simply a product of my deranged mind). I really adore the Childrish trait and its idles/animations, particularly the silly face, as seen above! There are a couple, including the moose ears one that sims can make to each other and in the mirror, but I like the one that looks like they're pulling their eyes out of their sockets. Because it amuses me. And because I, myself, am Childish. 

Day 8 - The most common reason your Sims die

I wish I could be meaningful and say that my Sims die of old age or creative need, like Kaleeko and others... but I'll be honest, the most common reason my Sims die is accidental neglect. It happens allll the time- I'll get an IM from someone, look away from my game and forget to pause... and then twenty minutes later, I'll remember them and look back at the screen, and shit- someone died. Or got burned up in a fire. Or got taken away by the Social Worker. I'll often play with motives static just to avoid this, because I know how easily distracted I am, but I really try to remember to pause and not be a neglectful Maker. Let's just say, several of the Pesces have died from my failure to multitask properly. 

19 April 2011

The 30 Day Sim Challenge: Day Five

Day 5 - Your favorite EA object in the game
My favorite object is by far the time machine that came with Ambitions. There's just so much to love about it- the creating, the adventure, the pretty lights. And it's a lot of fun seeing what happens! The first time one of my inventors tried it out (before I realized you could just buy one in buydebug), she wound up saving the life of someone, and their descendants became friends with my sim. The second time I tried it, my sim adopted some random person. And the third time, she came back with ridiculous medieval outfits. In fact, every time I try it, something different happens. I've always wanted to write one into my story, but there's like, no possibly way it's relevant. ALAS.

18 April 2011

The 30 Day Sim Challenge: Day Four

Day 4 - The skill your Sim is most commonly learning

Most of my Sims- right now, Jane in particular- spend their time learning to write. I tend to have a lot of writer Sims, mostly because I love writing, and I love to make them do it. In Jane's case, it's because she's a reporter, though several of my other Sims learn it for a hobby, or to become a self-registered writer. Sophie, for instance, has recently rolled a LTA to become an Illustrious Author, and will most likely be learning the writing skill a lot in the future. 

17 April 2011

Into the Frying Pan

The sun was beginning to set when Jane pulled up to the small parking lot of the Lakeview Bar. Not her first choice of how to spend her precious few hours after work, but it was ideally suited for her purpose- hidden, out of the way, and exactly the kind of place Moe wouldn't be caught dead in. Of course, she had no experience in this situation. Where are you supposed to meet the private investigator whom you'd hired to track down the person sending you threatening emails because you know about a murder they most likely committed and refuse to tell your husband about it? But the PI had suggested the meeting place, and who was she to argue with someone like Jebediah Kane? He probably did things like this all the time.

"So, Mr. Kane... What news do you have for me?" No pleasantries, no small talk, just getting straight down to business. But after all, she was paying by the hour.

"Unfortunately, not much." The investigator shook his head. "I spent some time following the woman you told me about, Jenni Jones-Brown... Well, Jenni Baker, now, I should say," he corrected himself.

"Wait, what?" The last time Jane had seen Jenni, she'd been screaming at her on her front lawn about staying away from "her man"- aka, Chase. But now she was married?

"Yes, I actually know her from... somewhere else. Went to her wedding a few weeks ago, funnily enough. From what I hear, she's a piece of work." Jebediah rolled his eyes in disgust. He'd met Jenni when she'd hired him to follow her ex-boyfriend, and she'd been a regular customer ever since. From what he'd heard, she was living with both her husband and another man. She had kids with both of them, and word on the street was that she might be expecting a baby from a third man. A very married man. His wife had recently hired him to find out whether or not these allegations were true. The husband had doubled his money to make sure she never found out.

The citizens of Twinbrook were single-handedly funding the Kane children's college tuitions.

"At any rate, based on what you told me about that incident on your lawn, I agreed that she seems like the most likely candidate for your mystery murderer, so I followed her around for a bit, just to get down her daily routine. It's pretty much the same every day- the woman doesn't exactly lead an exciting life. Out of the bedroom, anyways." Jeb cleared his throat and turned to the next page in his notebook.

"Every morning, she goes to the gym and works out for an hour. Usually the treadmill, sometimes an elliptical, nothing really strenuous. Just enough to keep in shape. Then she heads to the market and gets groceries. Fairly standard stuff."

"After that, she usually heads to the consignment store to do some shopping. Occasionally she pawns some of her own stuff. I've seen her lugging boxes down there and coming back out with a fistful of cash." Jeb rifled through his notes. "She doesn't seem to talk to many suspicious characters. Mostly older men, single and married, but nothing out of the ordinary, at least for her." Jeb snorted in derision.

"After that, she does other errands. Goes to the Laundromat a lot, though she probably would have a lot of laundry to do with all the bastard children she's got running around. I've gotta say, Mrs. Pesce, everything seems on the level, as far as criminal activity is concerned," he concluded, putting his notepad away. "If I had to guess, I'd say Jenni wasn't your culprit. A bit of a whore, maybe, but not a murderer or vandal. Sorry I couldn't be of more help, ma'am."

She'd only known him for a few days, but she already disliked this Jebediah Kane. But what else had she expected from a private investigator? One suspect didn't work out and he was already willing to give up.

"Well, thank you for your time, Mr. Kane. I'll send you a check for the bill." Jane began to stand up.

"Well, hold your horses, Blondie. I didn't say I was done. I can keep looking at other suspects, of course," he pointed out, scowling grumpily. "There are a couple other contenders I can take a look at, and I can take a look at your computer, maybe do a little digging."

All of which spells more money, Jane thought wryly. But what price was her family's safety worth?

"Do whatever you have to," she assured him. "Just catch the damn bastard, I don't care about the cost."

Jebediah smiled. That was exactly what he'd wanted to hear.

After her meeting with Jebediah, Jane headed straight to the library. She'd been camping out there for the past few weeks; it was one of the only safe places to research Amy Jenkins' life and death. She'd had too many close calls with Moe peeking in on her or people like Angie dropping comments that might lead him to become suspicious. She'd already changed the password on her email three times, and it never felt like enough.

So the library had become her safe haven, a place where she didn't have to worry about Moe finding out that she'd been lying about stopping her investigation. Even if it was more like careful wording, rather than lying, she still felt horrendously guilty.

As she reached for a dusty and frayed book about Twinbrook's local artists, she heard a familiar voice call out her name.

"Hey! Jane, right?"

She turned around to see who had called her, and smiled warmly as she spotted the firefighter she'd interviewed about Amy Jenkins. "Hey, Matt! Nice to see you again," Jane greeted him.

"How's the investigation going?" Matt nodded to the book. "I hope my answers were at least a little useful."

"They were," Jane nodded, lying slightly. So far, nothing had been useful. "I'm just here looking up a bit about her artwork, to see if anything stands out."

"Find anything interesting yet?" Matt inquired.

She shook her head. "Nope, not yet. Well, a few things, here and there. Got an interesting lead the other day, as a matter of fact." More lies, but she couldn't help it. This was one of Amy's friends- she felt like she owed it to him to find the killer. Admitting she was getting nowhere felt like letting him down.

"Well, keep going!" he encouraged. "There's got to be something somewhere. I think we'll all sleep a bit better at night knowing whoever did this is behind bars."

"Thanks." Jane smiled ruefully. "At least you believe me! Between you, Angie, and Chase, that's about three people who do."

"Speaking of the devil!" Matt nodded towards the doorway where the stylist had just entered. "Hey, Angie!"

Angie smiled politely and paused for a second to greet them. "So, what are the two of you up to?" 

"I was actually just about to leave when I ran into Jane," Matt explained. "I hate to run out on you, but I should probably get going." He waved goodbye and loped down the front steps, leaving the two of them alone. 

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Angie said anxiously. "I'm glad I caught you, though- I did want to talk to you about some of the questions you asked me." They spent the rest of the afternoon discussing Amy, and Jane forgot all about the book she'd come there to read. 

The only thing Jane wanted to do when she got home was take a nice, warm bath. It had been a ridiculously long day, and she had absolutely no energy left. But when she walked into the house, Moe was blocking the entrance to their bedroom door. 

"Hey, Moe," she greeted her husband wearily. "Can I get by? I'm going to hop into the bath." 


"Um... what do you mean, no?" Jane was taken aback by her husband's uncharacteristically rude demeanor. 

"No, as in, no, I won't move. We need to talk." Moe was clearly standing his ground, but Jane had no idea what for. 

"Talk about... what?" she asked in confusion. 

"About you and Chase, and why the hell you're going around to his house and getting all lovey-dovey with him!" Moe announced angrily. 

"Okay, what?! That never happened! I have no idea what you're talking about!" Except that she knew perfectly well what he was talking about. But how in the world did he know? There was no way he had any proof. He hadn't been there, and Chase wasn't crazy enough to actually tell Moe anything... was he? 

"You can cut out your fake protestations, Jane." Moe's voice was coated in thinly-veiled rage. "I saw the pictures, okay? I know." 

"Wait, what pictures?" Jane was thoroughly confused now. Who the hell had been taking pictures of them? They'd been alone in his house. 
"I don't know, they just appeared on our doorstep in an envelope. I don't really care who took them, or when- all I know is that you've been lying to me." He threw the pictures down on the table in disgust. "I trusted you, Jane. Maybe not him, but I always trusted you. And then... this." 

Jane's eyes filled with tears as she realized just how much of a mess she'd made. "Listen, Moe... Nothing happened, okay? We were just talking, and it brought back some old memories... And he just touched my cheek, that's all. I left right afterwards." Unbidden desperation crept into her voice as she tried to get him to understand. 

"I don't believe you, Jane. I really don't. You've been acting so secretive lately, and now these pictures? If it was so innocent, why didn't you just tell me?" The more he pointed fingers and yelled at her, the worse Jane felt. 

"It really didn't mean anything, Moe. That's why I never told you. It just wasn't important, especially not with... everything else." She had to stop herself from mentioning her impromptu investigation. Something told her that wouldn't go over too well right now. 

"You can't say anything to make this better, Jane." Moe turned around and started to walk away, leaving Jane feeling heartbroken and helpless. She didn't know who'd taken those pictures, or who'd left them on their doorstep, but everything was going wrong somehow and she had no idea how to fix it. "Moe, please don't do this," she begged. "Can we just talk about it some more? It really was just an accident..."

"No, Jane, just leave me alone for a bit, okay?" Moe started to close the bedroom door, but stopped in horror when he glanced out the window. "Jane..." 

"Okay, I heard you the first time. I'll leave you alone," Jane added bitterly. 

"No, Jane! Turn around! I think the house is on fire!" Moe pointed behind frantically. 

Jane rushed over to the window, staring in shock at the waves of fire that were engulfing the garage. "Oh my God! Moe, call the fire department!" Even as she watched, the tendrils of fire started to jump from the garage to the roof of the kitchen. She backed away fearfully as the kitchen filled with oppressive heat. 

As Moe ran into the bedroom to grab Izzy, Jane looked around for the twins. "Ethan! Sophie!" As she looked around, she grew more and more frantic. 

"Mom?" Their voices echoed from the yard. She exhaled in relief and ran over to the door, pausing only to grab her purse and notebook. The twins wore matching expressions of fear and shock, and Jane wished that she could say anything to make them feel less afraid. But she couldn't- she couldn't even make herself less afraid. Not at a time like this.

Moe ran outside, gasping slightly as he carried Izzy. Already, the house was filling with thick black clouds of smoke. He hadn't had a lot of time to look at the damage on his way out, but what he had seen hadn't been reassuring. The flames had engulfed the entire kitchen, and were well on their way to spreading. 

The blare of the fire engine filled the night with a horrifying shriek, but to Jane and Moe, it was a reassuring sound of assistance- one that couldn't get there fast enough. Jane glanced at her husband, but he shook his head dismally. "Jane... it's not good." She blinked back tears, but kept silent. There was no point worrying the children any more than they already were. 

As the Pesces watched their home burn to the ground, all of their petty problems and arguments seemed to disappear. The memories they'd made there, the childhoods they'd formed, the experiences they'd shared... All of it was fading away before their eyes. None of them could speak; words were too painful. Jane slipped her arm around Moe's shoulder, and he didn't shrug it off. Their previous argument about Chase had escaped both of their minds- the only thing that mattered now was that they were all safe. Whatever happened next, they'd have to face it as a team. After all, there was nowhere to go but up now. Things would have to get better. 

But things were going to get far worse before then. 

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