The sound of water flowing through the fountains was a bit off. Perhaps he hadn’t paid attention to water enough when he had made them. It had been a long time ago, after all. Oh, well, that was easy to fix. With a bit of concentration, the sound shifted. Tad smiled. Now it was much closer to the real, flowing, floating music it should have been.
Tad couldn’t quite remember why he had wanted a room filled with fountains. Maybe he had been extra fascinated with moving water at some point. There was something relatable in the ever-shifting, gentle and essential but also dangerous liquid. And at least now the room did help him relax and sink into a meditative state that was only slightly broken by the constant deaths around the universes.
Yes. This was as close as he could get to proper relaxation.
Well, perhaps not quite.
For he remembered the warm cups of tea and the moments of friendship. He remembered the acceptance that was always the special spice in the kitten-shaped teapot.
He wondered if Amelia was worried about him. He had left without saying a word, after all. Sometimes he’d heard her calling for him, but he hadn’t really listened. Perhaps he really should go back.
Although perhaps he was getting too concerned for no reason. He would go back in a moment, before anyone had time to miss him. And Amelia was probably fine and having one of her own relaxing evenings with tea and smiles. He shouldn’t disturb that.
When Amelia rang the doorbell, no one answered at first. But she could hear heavy footsteps bounding up and down the staircase. She rang again. Finally a voice called through the door:
“We’re not buying anything!”
The voice was suspended on that awkward bungee cord of puberty, and right now it was a bit higher-pitched than normal.
“Basil? Is that you?” Amelia called, “I’m not selling anything! It’s me, Amelia!”
Basil was quiet for a tense moment. The footsteps got louder. Someone shouted something, but Amelia couldn’t make out the words.
“Is everything alright?” she asked.
“Yeah, yeah, everything’s fine,” Basil said, “Look, mum’s not feeling well right now, so I’m sorry, but I have to ask you to leave.”
“Oh? Really? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. It’s just… Dewey! She’s downstairs already!”
“I’m on it!”
That didn’t sound “fine”, despite Basil’s claims.
“What’s going on in there?” Amelia asked.
“Nothing! I’ll ask mum to call you tomorrow! See you later! Bye!”
“Basil?” Amelia called, but it was obvious that no one was at the door any longer. Basil’s footsteps retreated out of her hearing range. Somewhere in the background, someone was growling.
Well, that was definitely odd. And it made Amelia very worried.
She knew she was no expert on the magical side of the world, but she could read people. And whatever was going on in that house had put Basil on edge. And Amelia wasn’t about to just let it go without at least checking if the Nexus people were alright.
She knocked on the door and rang the doorbell, but once she got no response, she walked round the house into the backyard. She had just got through the charming wooden gate when it crossed her mind that if something strange, supernatural, or dangerous was going on, the people in the house would be much better prepared for dealing with it than she was. She stopped, eyeing the peaceful, small garden uncertainly.
What should she do? She couldn’t just leave now. But what could she do to help if something was indeed wrong?
Before she had time to decide on anything, the back door of the house flew open and something crashed through.
It was Brigitte. Amelia almost smiled and waved, with relief flooding her chest. But then she noticed the teeth.
She had known that Brigitte had fangs. But now the small, easy to hide canines had turned into a row of sharp, wicked-looking teeth that were about as long as Amelia’s fingers. Brigitte stared at Amelia with suddenly too large eyes and let out a dangerous growl. Amelia gasped and backed against the old wooden boards behind her.
“Brigitte?” she managed to ask in a shaky voice, “Um… is… uh… are you okay?”
In response Brigitte leaped, her elongated claw-like nails curled for a strike. Amelia shrieked and turned instinctively to protect her head and face, and ducked down to dodge the jump. She managed to stumble out of the way, and Brigitte collided with the barn wall. The normally so sweet woman shook her now wild head, howling in confusion.
Amelia was startled by the sudden voice. Before she could even see where it had come from, a blurry shape swept across the backyard with dizzying speed and pulled Brigitte away from Amelia. The blur solidified into Mimosa when she jumped at Brigitte, wrapping her legs around her and viciously pulling her head back.
“Down!” she commanded.
Brigitte growled and shook Mimosa off. She landed on her feet and bared her own fangs. Brigitte growled again, her eyes now fixed on Mimosa’s. Mimosa raised her hands like a tiger ready to strike and hissed back at the larger woman.
Amelia’s legs felt very weak, but she managed to scramble back to her feet.
“What the hell is she doing here?!” asked a very frustrated, gruff voice from the back porch.
Amelia managed to tear her eyes from the strange, animalistic fight between the two monstrous women and saw that Dewey had also stepped outside, with his shirt torn, and with a silvery knife in his hand. Wait, knife? What?
“Not relevant right now!” Mimosa yelled without looking away from Brigitte. Her voice was considerably stronger that usually. It almost echoed, “Just do your job!”
“Hey, it’s not my fault she got spooked by that doorbell! I thought you had the back door guarded!”
Mimosa suddenly jumped, colliding with Brigitte so forcefully that it made her lose her balance. They both landed on the ground, with Mimosa on top, her fist hovering in the air as if ready to punch.
“STAY!” she snapped, “Now, Dewey!”
Dewey approached with deliberately slow steps. Amelia barely remembered to breathe.
“What is-?” she whispered, but went completely unheard.
She watched with hypnotised horror as Dewey bent down and made a small cut on Brigitte’s flailing hand while Mimosa held the enraged woman down. Brigitte’s struggles slowed, and after a terrifying while she went still, with the calm rise and fall of her chest reassuring Amelia that she was alive.
“Whew. This was a pretty bad night. Good thing I wore my already ruined shirt.”
Mimosa stood up, worry in her eyes.
“I hate it when we have to resort to your knives.”
“I don’t like it either,” said Dewey, “but you have to admit that this time it was totally warranted. There was no way she’d have agreed on voluntarily taking the sedatives in that form.”
Mimosa hugged herself.
Then they both looked at Amelia, whose legs still felt a bit too weak. Though perhaps not quite as weak as they could have been, considering what had just happened. Mimosa quickly looked back at her feet, her shyness obviously back again. Dewey cleared his throat.
“Uh… so, do you want to sit down for a second?”
Amelia definitely did.
As she got inside and heard the grunts that came from Dewey and Mimosa dragging the unconscious wolf-Brigitte up the stairs, she was surprised to notice that her breathing was evening out relatively quickly. Was she already this used to the strange and frightening occurrences in her life? Despite that she had to admit that Brigitte had really given her a scare. She hadn’t really even started to think of Brigitte as anything other than a friendly, lovely woman. And while that meant that she could give herself a pat on the back for her natural tolerance, it had also almost made her walk right into the claws of a werewolf. Because that’s what Brigitte had to be, according to Amelia’s knowledge on fantasy and horror stories.
A set of footsteps thankfully stopped Amelia’s train of thought before it could arrive to the proper realisation that she had indeed been in mortal danger. Basil Hewitt walked into the living room and sat on the vacant armchair.
“Hey,” he said cautiously, “Sorry about all this. I guess I should have been a bit clearer on… things.”
“It’s fine,” Amelia said.
Basil shook his head.
“Not really. I mean, we really don’t want this to get out, but I didn’t think you’d start snooping around and… then you almost got mauled by mum.”
“She wouldn’t have really done that,” Amelia said with a nervous laugh, “Right?”
“Uuuh… Well, she actually might have.”
Her train of thought reached that “Mortal Peril Realisation” -station with a rather unpleasant screech of brakes. Amelia’s shoulders tensed considerably.
“But she wouldn’t have meant it,” Basil hurried to add, “Not that it helps much… It’s just… this time of the month… look, she can’t really control herself at full moon. It’s normal for werewolves – and I guess you figured out that mum’s a werewolf – and there isn’t much we can do except sedate her. Some times are worse than others. You came at a pretty bad time. Usually we keep her in check here, just like she keeps us in check the other times. She just happened to get away… just… sorry.”
“I really hope this doesn’t make you hate mum. Or fear her. I mean, she really likes you, and she’s really sweet. Aside from this one… thing.”
He fell silent, and for a while no one spoke. Amelia sorted some things out in her head and then managed a small smile.
“I… I think I’m surprisingly okay with this.”
Basil’s eyes widened.
“Oh? Really? I mean… most people would have probably run by now. First Mimosa and now this. And this time mum can’t calm you down with tea. Though I did brew something for you. I’m already pretty good with herbs.”
He nodded towards the small table, and Amelia just now noticed a good-sized teacup on it. It was still steaming and seemed to contain something sweet-smelling.
“Thank you,” Amelia said, “Look, Basil. I haven’t known your family for that long, but I can see that Brigitte is one of the loveliest people I have ever met. I’m not about to run from someone who has helped me and had so much patience when I’ve been scared and stumbling about in this new world.”
Basil let out a relieved sigh. He closed his eyes and basked in the warmth of the living room and the sweet scent of chamomile and passionflower that rose from the teacup.
“Actually, if you see her in wolf form, you should run,” he said.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“So you really mean it? About being okay and all? Because that’s awesome if you do. None of us have that many friends in this town. Mum’s got her contacts in our previous hometown of course. She’s one of the founding members and one of the head therapists for the actual Ley Line Nexus. It’s basically a centre for troubled supernaturals. This commune is like a small branch of that. But I’m rambling now. My point is that, well, it’s nice to fit in here too.”
“Of course,” Amelia said slowly, “So… I’m sorry, but I have to ask, so you aren’t…”
“A werewolf?” Basil raised a brow, and then laughed, “Well, no, duh. I can’t even grow a beard, and that sucks because it would give me some more credibility when I become a wise old healer who will invent the cure to lycanthropy among other things. No, mum was bitten only after I was born. I got my magic from dad. He’s some bigshot wizard in SimCity, but we never visit him. He’s a bit of a…”
He was rambling again, but in a rather naturally friendly way, and Amelia only realised he was nervous when he started spilling maybe a bit too much about his dad. He seemed to realise that himself too, and he snapped his mouth shut.
“Uh… so yeah. Thanks, really.”
“It’s no problem,” Amelia said, “I just hope you are all okay. After all this.”
“We can take care of ourselves.”
“So I noticed.”
“We don’t have to wrestle her every month, though,” Basil said quickly, “This time she transformed before we had time to give her the sedatives.”
Amelia could only nod quietly. The tea next to her smelled inviting, but before Amelia could really consider tasting it, the patter of bare feet made its way down the stairs, stealing her attention.
“Basil?” the fragile voice of Mimosa asked from the staircase, “Brigitte is asleep in her room now.”
“Dewey’s watching her, and everything’s okay. You should check on her, though.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that. I’ll just see Amelia off…”
“I can drive her home,” Mimosa said, her purple eyes flashing in the faint light, “It’s already night time, after all.”
“It’s okay,” Amelia said, “I can walk back home.”
Mimosa shook her head.
“It’s no trouble,” she said, her voice gaining a bit more strength again, “The car is much faster. And it’s already cold outside.”
Before Amelia knew it, she was ushered outside, and Mimosa stood in the moonlight, taking a deep breath and savouring the night air.
“I love this town at night,” she said, “Don’t you? It’s so calm.”
Amelia nodded uncertainly. To be honest, something about Mimosa still had her on edge occasionally. She realised that she wasn’t being fair, seeing how she had just forgiven and almost accepted Brigitte’s near-attack just like that. She supposed some part of her was very trusting in first impressions.
Mimosa led Amelia to a spacey green car and sat on the driver’s seat. Soon they were headed towards the Spriggs’ house, drenched in the awkward silence that filled the car.
Mimosa drove like she talked: timidly and cautiously. Amelia fidgeted on her seat, and Mimosa kept glancing at her as if she wanted to say something. It was one of the most unpleasant car rides in Amelia’s life. The familiar green walls of her home were an even more welcome sight than usually.
After Mimosa had parked the car some way away from the front door, and Amelia had made her way to her mailbox, Mimosa called out to her:
“Amelia? I… I have something to say.”
Amelia turned, and in the dark Mimosa’s eyes looked like small Snowflake Day lights, and they darted to and fro as if looking for something. She wrung her hands nervously.
“I know who – or what – your tenant is,” she finally said.
Amelia blinked. Mimosa looked defiant and tense, as if she had spent all their car trip gathering her courage for this one moment, and it was one wrong move away from being shattered again.
“Uh… you do?” Amelia dared to say.
“I’m good at seeing other people’s thoughts,” Mimosa said, her hands clenching into fists, “Almost all vampires are. Sometimes I see even when I don’t want to. And I don’t want to see his thoughts, but I do, and it’s like looking up at the night sky and seeing all the stars in the universe at once. He’s not human. He’s not even a creature. He’s so dark and terrible that he has to be Death itself.”
Amelia took a step backward. She opened her mouth to speak, even though she didn’t really know what to say, but Mimosa continued before she had time to talk:
“So if you breathe a word about Brigitte’s condition to anyone, I’ll make sure those who will believe me will know about Mr. Dustpine.”
“Mimosa… are you blackmailing me?” she finally asked.
That was the thing that cracked Mimosa’s courage. She would have blushed if she had had blood in her.
“I… I d-don’t want to. B-but I just need to protect Brigitte… I just… I don’t want her to get hurt. She really is… I just don’t want our commune to be broken or driven away!”
“Mimosa,” Amelia said in her gentlest, most calming tone, “I wasn’t planning on telling anyone.”
“But I… wait, you… weren’t?”
“I can’t pretend to know Brigitte as well as you do, but I’m her friend too. I understand this is difficult for all of you, and that… that you seem to make it work.”
“Oh?” Mimosa grunted, completely caught off-guard, “Well… then… uh… forget what I just said… I just… sorry…”
She dissolved into nervous mumbles and Amelia couldn’t make out the words anymore.
“I’m sorry if I made you worry for Brigitte,” Amelia said, because she didn’t know what else to do.
Mimosa let out a small gasp.
“No, I’m sorry! I mean, I said that already… This is awkward.”
“Yes. A little bit.”
“I… uh… I’ll talk to Brigitte in the morning. About this,” her eyes flickered towards Amelia’s forehead, and Amelia felt a strange tug in her mind, “You really do mean what you said…”
“I tend to do that,” Amelia said.
“Yes. Of course. Sorry. I’ll just… go. I can already hear Death thinking and I don’t want to listen…”
She looked so lost that Amelia almost wanted to hug her out of sympathy. But she probably would have reacted badly to that. And now Tad wasn’t here to save Amelia from vampire bites. But he was close, wasn’t he? And Mimosa had just said that he was maybe waking up. Maybe. The thought made Amelia feel safer. She would have never guessed that Death would be her safety net when her new friends turned out to be full of frightening surprises.
“Have a safe trip back,” she said, “I think we all need a little bit of rest now.”
Mimosa excused herself one last time and ran back into her car much faster than Amelia had thought possible. Amelia walked back inside her home. She stopped at the hall, glancing at Tad’s door.
“Well, this has been a strange day,” she said out loud, tasting the words on her tongue. To be honest, the strangeness of the day ranked only somewhere in the middle compared to some of the other days in her life lately. Just accepting something new – albeit a bit scary – without too much of a shock was actually rather… refreshing. Amelia felt the tingle of excitement in her stomach. She had faced something scary and supernatural, and she was still functioning rather well. She hadn’t really thought that she had it in her.
With a proud smile on her face Amelia knocked on Tad’s door, and then opened it.
He was still there, unmoving like a corpse, but just when Amelia had time to think that he would be gone until tomorrow again, his eyes opened.
He sat up slowly, with strange fluid movements that didn’t seem to care about how muscles worked for a moment until he was properly there again. He shook the last remnants of sleep – or whatever it was – from his pale eyes, and his face immediately gained a smile when he saw Amelia.
“Hello,” he said in a voice that carried with it a breeze from dark, yet lush gardens.
Amelia smiled back.
“Hi. I was worried.”
“About me?” Tad’s eyes widened.
“Well, of course.”
“Oh. That makes me oddly happy.”
“Well, that’s nice to hear,” said Amelia.
“I suppose it is. Although, being happy is… complicated. Wait… have you been here all this time, worried about me? It is night time already.”
Amelia realised only now how late it was. And how tired she had become. She considered just calling it a day, but Tad’s presence was calming the lingering shock she had managed to almost push away. Knowing that Tad was back and not just a shell on the bed made her feel almost completely safe.
“Oh, don’t worry,” she laughed, “I didn’t stop functioning while you were gone. In fact, we should sit in the garden for a while and you can tell me all about what you were up to.”
Tad nodded slowly.
“And then you can tell me about your day. That is how it goes, right?”
“Yes. You know, you’re getting the hang of this. And I think I’m also getting the hang of this strange, scary and supernatural world.”
Tad was silent for a long moment. Then he looked uncertainly at Amelia.
“I hope that is a good thing.”
Amelia actually clapped her hand on Tad’s shoulder. Tad recoiled, but then relaxed after he interpreted it as a friendly gesture.
“I’d say that’s just right.”
They talked long into the night. About happiness and fear. About discoveries and gardens. About friends and meditation. And about acceptance.
“I kept talking to plenty of things,” Tad said, “But I only got vague answers. Perhaps that is alright, though. At least I realised that I wanted to ask you about this too.”
“That’s funny. Because after I had a scary experience at the Nexus, I realised I felt safer knowing I could come back to you.”
“What does that mean?” Tad asked with a slight frown.
“I’d say real friendship.”
Tad’s smile mirrored hers.
“I like the sound of that. So… what do you think I should do? Embrace the fact that I have meddled into people’s lives? Be happy even though it might mess things up? Or should I leave you all in peace? Return to being professional?”
Amelia thought about it.
“I see no reason to run away from happiness. I’m sure we can figure this out together. And be… I don’t know, smart about it.”
Tad leaned to the table, his eyes one with the stars.
“That is a bit along the lines of what Lethe told me. But coming from you it makes more sense. Perhaps because you are not being interrupted by Styx.”
“Who are Styx and Lethe?”
“Ah. O…kay?” Amelia took a moment to remind herself that this was Tad she was talking to and then dismissed it all as normal to him, “So… maybe instead of thinking what you should do, we could think of what you want to do?”
Tad nodded slowly. Then he smiled again, and Amelia realised that it was just a little bit more like a smile than before.
“I think I have an answer now.”
The next morning Brigitte called Amelia, with a mix of grogginess, worry, and embarrassment in her voice, but Amelia assured her that she was fine. Brigitte still apologised profusely, and then added a few apologies for her commune’s behalf in case they had got overprotective. Apparently they had a tendency to do that. She also assured that she was okay, and that she couldn’t wait to see Amelia again.
Amelia concluded that the Ley Line Nexus was a place filled with love. And she was still surprised by her own bravery.
A few weeks later it was Tad’s turn to demonstrate bravery in the face of confusing things by doing the thing he had wanted to do.
Erica Sato was buried in a very small, bare bones ceremony in Riverview’s old graveyard. Her gravestone was small, and only had the basics written on it, along with a very small carving of a diamond shape. It was the Crystal of Life, the holy symbol of the Peterans – one of SimNation’s majority religions. Amelia stared at it through teary eyes, only occasionally stealing glances at the others around her. The social workers, Mr. Strummer and Miss Biller were there, as were Yvette and Walter Grisby, who had been very quickly appointed as Emily’s foster parents.
Amelia wasn’t surprised by that. The wealthy Grisbys were known in Riverview for their charitable deeds, and for taking in some children that needed a better home.
Then there was Emily herself, looking cute as a button in her black dress. Her face was filled with confusion and unsure sadness, though, and Amelia couldn’t look at her for long without tearing up again.
They talked quietly after the ceremony. Well, the Grisbys and the social workers did. Tad and Amelia were mostly just polite funeral crashers again, and no one paid much attention to them. No one except for Emily.
When Emily looked at Tad, there was a smile on her face, and Tad smiled back. And after gathering up his courage, Tad surprised both Amelia and himself by walking up to the Grisbys and starting a conversation. And by the end of the day, no one was in jail this time and the Grisbys had gladly asked Tad and Amelia to visit their home to see how Emily was doing.
Amelia couldn’t stop smiling through her tears after that.
Author’s Note: Well, here’s some action. And pics I really liked shooting. Also a reference to The Sims Medieval, with the Peterans and all. I made the plumbob their holy symbol because it totally is a holy symbol. Also the “Crystal of Life” is a direct translation of the Finnish term I’ve always used of the plumbob.
Also I’ve been taking way too many pics of Emily being cute and playing with her new family and Tad, so at least the next chapter might be pretty overly cute. But considering what I have planned, some cuteness is called for before things get darker. Mwahahahahahaaaa!