1.14. The Other Side of the Coin
Luna isn’t exactly shocked when she sees her little sister’s Simstagram post: a glass of wine with a fittingly somber black and white filter, followed by the description “should have seen this coming. #cursed” According to their brother Solaris, Nova’s boyfriend Mercury disappeared, leaving Nova no explanation for where he went. While Luna feels for her sister, she isn’t exactly surprised. Mercury didn’t seem like the reliable type the few times she met him.
In contrast, Luna’s life is quite boring. She’s fine with it, though. She might be nothing more than a baby warden right now, but at least her life is uneventful. She’s more than happy to settle for uneventful--she’s seen the other side of that coin and she doesn’t care for it.
Lydia has learned to walk, making her a full-blown terror. She toddles around the house, yelling “wok wok wok!” Luna follows Lydia with a watchful eye during her escapades. She has to keep herself from being a helicopter mom because while it’s painful to see her daughter fall, she needs to learn how to pick herself back up.
Meanwhile, newborn Lark doesn't get as much attention as her older siblings. Luna feels guilty about it, but having another child is like watching your favorite movie for the second time: it's still enjoyable, but it doesn't have the same sense of wonder as the first time. Besides, she isn’t capable of getting into the same kind of trouble as her older siblings. Luna makes time to cuddle her daughter and talk to her, but the treatment is still uneven.
The house begins to feel claustrophobic. The twins are growing by leaps and bounds, and it’s becoming harder to live in such a confined space with them. Quentin and Luna eat what they can when they can, trying to hide the less kid-friendly foods--or the foods they don’t want to share--from the twins. Lydia in particular is a little glutton.
“Cake?” Lydia asks when she sees her mother eating leftover birthday cake.
“It’s spicy, sweetie. You wouldn’t like it,” Luna lies.
“Cake.” Lydia knows cake isn’t spicy, “Cake! Cake! Cake!” Each iteration of the word becomes a little whinier.
“I guess I need to hide when I eat something like this,” Luna says, annoyed. She’d like to spoil herself for once, and eating cake for dinner is exactly the kind of spoiling she needs.
“I’m sorry, honey,” Quentin says. Really, he’s just relieved Lydia’s asking for Luna’s food instead of his.
The house gets even smaller when Lark becomes a toddler. She is obviously smart--at least Quentin and Luna think her big, brown eyes indicate so--but doesn’t babble as much as her older siblings. While Luke and Lydia were able to express needs shortly after their first birthday, Lark hasn’t said a single word. Quentin tries to encourage her to speak--he was, after all, the one who helped the twins learn to speak--but Lark insists on grunting instead.
Lydia and Luke try to play with their little sister, but she prefers to be left alone. Instead, Lark annexes the toy box, turning it into her own fort and effectively banishing the twins to play with the block table in the living room. She can play in the box for hours, just like Luke used to, only without the menagerie of animal noises--she remains silent in her realm. In some ways, Luna is relieved: Lark’s independence gives Luna some independence as well.
Luna’s latest novel, The Cursed Fae, becomes a bestseller, drastically increasing the family’s income overnight. And the Bees know exactly what to do with the money: purchase a larger home. It’s on the outskirts of town, right by the sea--a truly beautiful view, which makes up for the extra commute time Quentin has to deal with.
Quentin recently received news that his father had passed away, apparently of a heart attack. It surprised Quentin, but what surprised him more is how little it affected him. He doubles down on his efforts to leave a positive impression on his children. On the twins’ first day of school, Quentin is on breakfast duty while Luna sleeps in. He lets them eat whatever they want. Lydia chooses frozen birthday cake, while Luke selects a questionable smelling lobster.
“Fool,” Lydia remarks, “you could have had cake.”
“Lobster is fancier.”
“Who cares about fanciness? Cake, Luke. Cake.”
Luke regrets his decision, but is too proud to go back on it. “Whatever. Enjoy your cake, plebeian.”
During the day while the twins are at school, Quentin fills the house with music. Although he’s barely learning how to play the piano, he’s naturally talented, and he provides inspiration for Luna's art. Lark, meanwhile, plays with a stuffed fairy teddy bear, a gift that had been given by one of Quentin’s coworkers. It’s by far her favorite toy, and it’s becoming stained and well-worn with love.
“Ah-tey,” Lark squeals, “ah-tey!”
“What is she saying?” Luna asks.
“Eat? Hat? I don’t know,” Quentin shrugs. When Lark does deign to speak, it’s often difficult to understand her. She tends to turn one syllable words into two syllables, which doesn’t help.
Lark doesn’t seem to be asking for anything, though. She’s content to play with her fairy bear. They decide Ahtey is the bear’s name--that has to be what Lark is saying.
Quentin still plays with the house band at the theatre in the evenings, a gig that’s becoming tiresome as he gets older. He recently tried his hand at composing music. He’d eventually like to move completely to composing, a field he’s certain must be lucrative. He just needs to pitch his music to the right person. Until then, he leaves his wife alone four nights a week, with no backup against the growing threat the children pose.
Luna makes a habit of inviting Elysia, Crimson, and their son Lowell over for dinner. She hopes that if Lark has another toddler around, she’ll start to become more social. Lowell and Lark are more than happy to play near each other, but they don’t actually play together. Still, it’s nice to hear their harmonious giggling as they play with their respective favorite toys.
With their father at work, the twins take over responsibility of entertaining the guests. Luke can play the piano competently, and Lydia is fairly talented with the violin.
“Piano, Luke!” Lydia orders.
“Yeah, dummy, I’m playing a piano.”
“No, piano. This part of the song should be soft.”
“Then stop yelling!”
“Ugh. If dad were here you would play it right.”
“I’m pretending I’m Thelonious Monk. It’s not my fault you can’t keep up,” Luke says as he clumsily improvises on the piano.
Elysia watches the children with bemusement. The twins bicker just like her siblings used to. The desire for a second child hits her hard. She never wanted to be a mother, but now that she has a child, she can’t imagine having just one. Lowell can’t grow up alone.
Crimson is oblivious to Elysia’s wants. He is currently in the kitchen, watching like a hawk as Luna cooks dinner. “Do you need any help? I really don’t mind helping.”
“It’s fine, Crimson. Go relax. Dinner will be ready soon,” she says as she chops an onion. Crimson lets out a tiny gasp as she narrowly avoids cutting her own hand. Luna is dangerous in the kitchen--he’s personally witnessed her start two fires. He's surprised she's managed to pass on her genes.
“No, really. I’m happy to help cut onions or something.”
“Crimson, go sit down. Spaghetti is easy. It’s basically just boiling water.”
Crimson continues to hover, but he doesn’t offer any more help. He’s relieved when Luna manages to finish dinner without mangling herself or burning the house down.
Luna smiles when she sees everyone enjoying the food she prepared. Even though she and Quentin had originally come to Aurora Skies for a new start, Luna is glad Elysia moved here too, and she’s grateful that she met a friend like Crimson. Sometimes, dinners like this make her miss the family she left in Sunset Valley.
“Is dinner okay?”
The majority of the table agrees, save Luke: “It’s okay.”
“That’s not very nice,” Luna says.
“Yeah, you’re supposed to lie,” Lydia adds.
“Lydia,” Luna’s voice is sharp, “what have we said about lying?”
“Practice makes perfect?” Lydia offers. What did Luna do to deserve such mouthy children?
“Just eat your food, kiddo,” Crimson says. He’s not good at being authoritative.
“But the onions are cut too big!” Luke has watched enough cooking competition shows to know how to cut vegetables.
“Well then chew more, okay?” Luna wants to add a “that’ll shut you up, know-it-all” at the end of that suggestion, but she stops herself. She should at least act like she’s more mature than her children
Quentin arrives home in the middle of dinner, but he declines to join the rest of the family for dinner. “Stefan brought donuts today, so I’m not hungry,” he tells Luna. She reminds him he’s not a teenager anymore, and hasn’t been for years, so he needs to eat real food. He assures her that he’s eaten enough, though (“I had like five donuts, Luna. I’m fine”). Instead, Quentin offers to put Lark to bed. It doesn’t make any sense, but he misses her immensely whenever he's at work. How can he love a useless little creature so much?
“There you go,” he says in a sing-song voice as he changes her into her pajamas, “nice and comfy.” He gently places her in the crib. He made sure to put Ahtey in there with her, lest Lark throw a fit--she refuses to sleep if her teddy bear isn’t in the crib with her.
“Good night, baby girl,” he whispers.
“Wah?” Lark asks. She isn’t actually saying anything, but Quentin knows she’s asking for a song.
“One song, okay? Just one.”
“Ba,” Lark agrees to the terms.
Quentin sings in a smooth, tenor voice that fills the nursery: “go to sleep you little baby, go to sleep you little baby, your momma's gone away and your daddy’s gonna stay, didn't leave nobody but the baby.”
Lark lies down and smiles contentedly, her eyelids drooping as her father serenades her to sleep. It takes only a few moments for her to fall asleep. Quentin sneaks out of the nursery, careful to not step on any of the creaky floorboards. He’s memorized the path he must take to successfully retreat without waking her.
The twins have gone to bed, and Lowell is asleep on Luna and Quentin’s bed, pillows piled around him to keep him from rolling off. This leaves the adults free to discuss things without interruption. Elysia, Luna, and Crimson are already engrossed in conversation when Quentin comes downstairs.
“What are we talking about” Quentin asks as he sits down. He’s exhausted from work, but he also desperately wants to talk about something other than music. He loves his bandmembers, but they’re definitely single-minded.
“Crimson is refusing to knock me up,” Elysia says, glaring at her boyfriend.
“I just think we should fully think about the consequences of having a second child.”
“I doubt our son will be normal,” Crimson says. In his opinion Lowell is exceptionally smart and talented, but he's bound to be a little eccentric if he’s anything like his father.
“Elysia has a point. Children do better with siblings,” Luna doesn’t have any scientific evidence to back up this claim, but she couldn’t imagine being an only child.
“We can barely handle one,” Crimson frowns.
“Quentin and I are outnumbered and we’re doing fine,” Luna smiles, “you could definitely handle another.” While Luna is personally opposed to having another baby, she would love to snuggle a newborn again. A niece or nephew would satisfy that desire.
“What do you think, Quentin?” Crimson turns to his brother-in-law for support.
“Shut up,” Quentin raises his hand.
“Shh!” Quentin looks towards the ceiling, “did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Luna asks.
“Footsteps. Someone’s upstairs.”
“Could it be one of the twins?” Elysia asks.
“No, Lark’s room is above us,” Luna looks worried.
“Keep talking,” Quentin stands up, “I’m gonna check it out.” Before he heads upstairs, he grabs a baseball bat out of the umbrella rack that’s by the door. It’s a strange place to keep a bat, but the umbrella rack seems to collect oddities.
Quentin creeps up the stairs and slowly walks towards his youngest daughter’s room. The door is cracked, and he can see the figure of a man moving by the crib, softly illuminated by the nightlight.
“Don't you weep pretty baby, don't you weep pretty baby,” the man sings in a raspy voice, “you and me and the devil makes three, don't need no other lovin’ baby.” He doesn’t seem to notice as Quentin tiptoes into the bedroom.
Instinct takes over Quentin: there’s a man standing over his daughter’s crib. Quentin doesn’t know why he’s there, or what he’s doing. His daughter is defenseless, asleep, prone. A predator could just snatch her up--no, a predator is here to snatch her up.
Mercury doesn’t see it coming. Quentin swings hard, his aim flawless. The bat cracks against the back of Mercury’s skull. He’s taken worse hits, but this stands as one of the most surprising.
For once, Quentin is relieved his father made him participate in little league. It was an impressive swing.
I know that there are a lot of coincidences in my Simverse. But you know what? A plot is just a series of coincidences. So there.