November had sneaked in soon enough and October had stepped aside without a fight. And then November had all the power to start making the weather colder and catching people unawares with both frozen rain and autumn germs. A flu and influenza epidemic swept over Riverview, and people started complaining about the weather. The days got darker and more depressing to many. It was the month when Riverview would quickly go from autumn colours to barren trees and then to snow. The ground started freezing up from below the surface and even the hardiest of vegetables started to die or hibernate. It was easy to see why November had been called the Month of Death in the older Simlish.
Amelia was pleasantly surprised when the weather got one more warm spell in the beginning of the month. Amelia wasn’t a huge fan of autumn despite its pretty colours, and November often made her feel a bit glum, but in the warmer days she did enjoy watching nature slowly going to sleep. Right now November was only getting started, so the trees were aflame with oranges, yellows and browns and looked absolutely gorgeous. Amelia was more than content to walk all the way to the town centre to buy some groceries for the upcoming week.
It was Saturday, and tomorrow she and Tad would go to the Grisbys to celebrate Emily’s fifth birthday. Tad had been stunned and so happy when the Grisbys had called and invited them. But that would be tomorrow. Today was going to be mostly filled with housework. Amelia’s mum had the flu, so Amelia had been saddled with cooking some garlic-heavy soup and brewing some hot blackcurrant juice. She was going over the shopping list in her head and breathing in the prickly scents of autumn when a shout interrupted her train of thought:
“Oh, look, it’s Amelia. Hey, Amelia!”
Amelia halted when she saw Basil Hewitt and Dewey Kaarne from Ley Line Nexus walking down the street nearby. When Amelia made eye contact with them, Basil waved and broke into a run and Dewey followed more calmly. Amelia smiled.
“Oh, hello, Basil! And Dewey! What brings you here?”
“Food,” Basil said, “It’s going to be full moon soon, so mum’s feeling a bit apprehensive. Mimosa figured we could cook and bake something nice to cheer her up.”
“And to make her less hungry when the full moon rolls around,” said Dewey.
Amelia blanched, and Dewey gave her a ghost of a smile.
“Relax; it’s a joke. Morbid humour, you know.”
“Dewey’s feeling cheerful today,” Basil said, “He just managed to get a ticket to this big arts and design thing that’s going to happen in SimCity soon.”
“Oh. That sounds great!” Amelia said, “Good for you! Are you going there for some inspiration?”
Dewey looked at the ground rather bashfully.
“Maybe someday your work will be on display too!” Amelia went on, and Dewey let out a clipped laugh.
“You haven’t even seen my work,” he said.
Amelia beamed at him.
“Well, I’d love to someday! But that has to happen later. I love your idea of cheering Brigitte up, by the way. I’m here to pick up some groceries for my mum too right now. She has the flu.”
“That sucks,” Basil said, but then his face brightened, “Hey, I can make a really good flu-remedy! You wanna try it?”
“Oh. Sure,” Amelia thought about it, “It’s not too magical, right? My mum doesn’t know about magic.”
“Of course not! It’s just some veggies and herbs and maybe a little bit of magic, but nothing that would make anyone suspicious. Hey, maybe we can do our grocery-shopping together and then you can come by our place and I’ll get that remedy done!”
After a moment of thinking, Amelia said yes.
The house of the Nexus looked as inviting and normal as always. Basil and Dewey led Amelia around the house to the backyard, where Basil’s small garden was located. Amelia saw some still green plants and what looked like some kind of witch’s potion pot. Odd how she hadn’t paid much attention to it on her previous visits. Basil cracked his knuckles and stretched his arms.
“Okay, here goes. I’ll just need lots of ginger and garlic, and… hey, Dews, could you tell Mimosa that I’m working with garlic?”
“Sure,” Dewey grunted, and then raised his voice, “HEY, MIMI! BASIL’S WORKING WITH GARLIC AGAIN!”
Amelia heard no answer, but apparently Mimosa said something, because Dewey nodded.
“YEAH, HE’S HERE IN THE BACKYARD! I’M GOING TO MAKE HIM CLEAN UP THE SMELL AFTERWARDS!”
“Thanks, man. Now where did I put my dried lavender… ah, there it is! And here go some chilli peppers… You guys may want to stand back.”
Amelia took a step backwards when some kind of peppery and garlic-y cloud of colour and aroma started to rise from the pot. Logically, it shouldn’t have looked so… occult considering the ingredients Basil was using. Maybe smoke and small explosions were just a mandatory side effect of using a witch’s potion pot. Amelia glanced at Dewey.
“Is the brewing process always this flashy?” she asked.
“It shouldn’t take too long, though.”
“Okay. Good. Not that I mind being here, but I sort of left Tad in charge of answering the door at home because mum is sick and Philippe is still not very fluent in Simlish and… well, I just hope he can handle all possible door-to-door people.”
“Do you guys get a lot of them out there?” Dewey asked, “Salespeople don’t really come to our place.”
“Well, not salespeople, but sometimes there are some Jacoban missionaries…”
“Oh yeah, those guys. I think they avoid us because they think we’re already lost causes to them. And we probably are, what with all the occultism and my kill-count.”
“Huh? Oh, never mind. Monster hunting -flashbacks.”
Amelia studied Dewey’s face. He looked sad, remorseful and uncomfortable. He also looked like he had said too much.
“Sorry,” he said, “I got too comfortable for a second. Didn’t mean to make this weird. I’m already forgetting that you don’t know nearly enough about our world.”
“That’s alright. I was just surprised,” Amelia chuckled, “I guess I’ve already gone through enough to be okay with a lot of things. And I’d love to learn even more about you.”
“You people are really lovely.”
She could have sworn she saw a faint blush on Dewey’s face. The poor guy probably wasn’t used to being complimented much. Amelia wasn’t yet sure what his life had been like before he’d come to live in the Nexus, but from his reluctance to talk about his past and his reactions to it, she could assume it wasn’t very pleasant.
“You know, I really would love to see your art sometime,” Amelia said to make the conversation less uncomfortable for the poor man, “What kinds of things do you like to sculpt?”
“Mostly abstract. It’s fun to just do stuff that doesn’t mean anything.”
“I thought art always has meaning.”
“Sure, but with abstract art most of the meaning often comes from the people who see it.”
“Really? That sounds really neat! I usually prefer art that looks like something, but I think I wouldn’t mind finding out what I’d project onto something that isn’t so obvious.”
“I think the more obvious ones can surprise people with what people project onto them too,” Dewey said, “It all depends on your context.”
“I guess you’re right. Contemporary art is difficult.”
“I love it.”
“I guess I know who to take with me if I ever go to a contemporary art exhibition, then,” Amelia half-joked and saw Dewey suddenly become awkward again, “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to sound like I’m butting into your lives.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it!” Basil piped up with a bottle of something glowing and aromatic in his hand, “We’re happy to have you in our lives! Heck, mum especially is super glad to have met you. She usually just meets people she’s supposed to help or work with, so having an actual friend is awesome!”
He smiled and walked over to Amelia.
“And don’t worry about Dewey. Dews is always pretty asocial, but he loves to talk about art. So now he’s just conflicted between babbling and being his sulky self.”
“I’m right here, Basil,” Dewey said, crossing his arms over his chest, “So shut up.”
“Hey, someone needs to help Amelia figure us out,” Basil shrugged.
Amelia laughed and could have sworn that even Dewey cracked somewhat of a half-smile. It made Amelia realise in passing that Dewey was very nice-looking with his bright eyes and gorgeous profile. It was all just often masked with a frown.
Basil gave Amelia a full-on smile that made him look quite a bit like his mother and handed Amelia the bottle he’d been holding.
“Put about ten drops in whatever warm drink you want to serve your mum. Repeat after about four hours. She should be better in the morning. You can store the rest in the fridge. Just label it clearly so no one drinks it undiluted.”
“Is it dangerous?” Amelia asked while she studied the liquid. It warmed her hand even through the glass bottle. It was purple and glowing and smelled like a pot of excellent curry but with a chunk of a flowerbed mixed in.
“Nah,” Basil said, “But it tastes surprisingly terrible that way.”
“Right,” Amelia beamed at him, “Thank you! I’ll try it right away!”
“Let me know how it works. I mean, I’ve tested it plenty of times, but I could always use more user feedback.”
“I will. It was nice to see you.”
She waved at them and started walking back home. The last thing she heard was Dewey telling Basil to clean up all traces of the garlic smell.
November felt much less depressing at that moment.
Julia Sprigg didn’t really agree with the non-depressing November. She had woken up with congested sinuses and almost no voice. She especially hated it when the flu took away her ability to talk enthusiastically. She was partly sustained by talking to others. By sharing happiness around her through words. And after Alex had passed away, her words had felt even more important. They drowned out the grief a lot of the time. Silence was too empty and depressing, so Julia didn’t really want to stay in it for long.
But now she had caught one of those darned November colds. And at her age it felt even worse than it had just a few years ago. She hated getting old. And being sick.
She lay in her bed and Philippe was there next to her, reading silently to himself and occasionally checking up on her. Philippe was such a dear. He had immediately sprung downstairs to fetch some coffee for Julia in the morning when Julia had felt lightheaded and tired and miserable. Julia had drank her coffee, taken a quick shower and then gone back to sleep. But now she was feeling the silence in her ears, pushing away warmth and safety and making the air hiss with hollowness.
She had to get up and do something. She stood, and Philippe looked up at her questioningly.
“Chérie? Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?”
“Tout est bien,” Julia responded, “I just need to get up for a moment.”
She smiled at Philippe, and Philippe smiled back. Julia didn’t know what she’d do without him. He made even this lousy day feel better just by being there.
As Julia walked downstairs she also wondered how she’d manage without Amelia. She was such a great daughter, always helping and being so positive towards life and everyone. And she was handling Alex’s passing much better than Julia was. Julia knew that she hadn’t been very considerate when she had just left, but at the time she hadn’t really known what else to do. Riverview… the whole SimNation had been too close to her grief.
Julia was about to walk to the kitchen to get another cup of coffee when she noticed the pale, skinny young man in the living room. Young Tad Dustpine was reading a book and didn’t seem to mind the silence at all. Amelia didn’t seem to be at home. Maybe she had left to get some groceries. There was a fire crackling in the fireplace. Julia sighed contentedly at the warmth.
“Good morning, Tad,” Julia said despite her sore throat, “I don’t see you in these parts of the house that often when Amelia isn’t around. This is a nice change!”
Tad looked up at her when she sat down next to him. She ignored the young man’s nervous shift of weight.
“Um… hello,” Tad said in that quiet, unsure and almost ethereal voice of his, “Amelia left to buy some food. I believe she wants to help you feel better. I heard you are sick.”
“Well, nothing to keep me down for long!” Julia chuckled, “It’s just a bit of flu. It always sweeps over Riverview in November.”
“Yes. It does. I hope you feel better soon.”
“So do I. Being sick is so annoying!”
“What does it feel like?” Tad asked, and Julia raised a brow.
“Have you never been sick?”
Tad suddenly looked away, embarrassed.
“Oh, you’re so lucky then! Some people have immune systems made of steel, it seems. Well, be glad you don’t get sick often. It’s so tiring and makes me feel like my head is stuffed with plastic bags.”
“Yup. But don’t you worry about that,” Julia leaned back in the couch, “Oh, it’s so lovely here. I’ve always loved our fireplace. It’s one of the things we just had to preserve when we were renovating the house.”
“It is lovely.”
“I could sit here forever,” Julia said, “Or at least all day. Say, would you be a dear and get me a cup of coffee?”
Tad blinked a couple of times, uncertainty in his extraordinarily pale eyes. Julia smiled at him in a calming manner. The poor boy really needed to get more self-confidence.
“I uh…” Tad said slowly and then got up, “Of course. Certainly. No problem. Just… wait a moment.”
“Chouette! The coffee beans are in the cupboard under the coffee maker! S’il vous plaît!”
She listened to the clicking of Tad’s shoes against the wooden floorboards and then let herself bask in the warmth of the fireplace. The fire crackled nicely, filling the cold, sad silence. Julia’s sour mood was starting to melt away. Perhaps November wasn’t all that bad. A little pause from all the everyday chores was welcome, really
Here in Riverview, it was easy to be sleepy and take a break if one just had the mind to stop for even a moment. It was just so peaceful and endearingly ordinary.
A sleepy town without that many surprises.
Julia had almost fallen asleep when Tad returned with a cup of coffee in his hand. He was smiling quite proudly.
“I did it,” he declared as if operating a coffee maker was a big deal. Well, maybe it was for the boy. Maybe his family weren’t coffee drinkers. He apparently wasn’t, at least. Julia took the cup and Tad hesitated for a moment before he sat down next to her.
“Mrs. Sprigg…” he started.
“Oh, call me Julia!” Julia chirped and took a sip of her coffee. She frowned when she tasted what could only be described as a hint of seaweed and microplastics in her coffee.
“Oh… right…” Tad fumbled for his words for a moment, “Well, Mrs. Sprigg… I just wanted to thank you for being nice to me.”
“Oh, you’re such a sweetheart! Of course we’re nice to a lovely thing like you! It’s the Sprigg way!”
“I have noticed. Thank you.”
Julia sipped her coffee again.
“Well, that’s odd,” she said, “We should maybe wash the coffee maker. I’m tasting seaweed and… plastic?”
“Oh, and I was so sure I hadn’t messed things up this time… well, at least nothing exploded.”
Julia laughed. For such a shy, serious young man, Tad had an excellent sense of humour. Laughter made the silence shatter completely and Julia felt refreshed again.
In the evening, Amelia returned and brewed excellent blackcurrant juice and made some lovely ginger, garlic and potato soup. And when Julia woke up the next morning without a trace of her cold, she was convinced that she might actually like this year’s transition to winter.
So while the ground froze from underneath and the plants and other things started preparing for winter, and while more people got sick and depressed and the sky got darker, it was still easy to see the beauty and happiness of late autumn as well. At least in Riverview, where the month of death that year started to look more and more like the month of life.
And really, it was just an old name and had nothing to do with-
“Freakin’ finally! At least my fish are still alive. I need to remember to thank the caretaker guy… what was his name?”
“Yeah. Good man. But on the other hand, the guy who’s in charge of getting me out of prison should things go south is definitely fired! Getting out shouldn’t have taken months of playing with papers and money!”
“But we’re free now.”
“Yes, but my operations suffered a big dent because of that… farce in Valley.”
“I’m very sorry, boss.”
“You should be… but then again, you did perform pretty well considering the circumstances.”
“Thank you, boss.”
Mr. Phineas Beagle slumped into the leather upholstery of his desk chair and opened up his laptop. He was fuming. And when he was fuming, someone was always going to get burned. Sometimes literally. And he knew exactly whom he was going after. That fucking Brent or whatever his name was. And the weirdos who had helped him escape.
“I really need some time to get things back up and running,” he muttered and then glanced at Jay, who had settled into the couch in the corner of his office, “But then we act. And we act fast and efficiently. And with… well, catharsis. Who was the woman you chatted up at the bar?”
“Um… her name was Amelia Sprigg. She lives in Riverview.”
“Excellent. I’ll ask my intel guys to find her. How many vampires do we have employed right now?”
“Good. Get at least four of them ready for when we go get our target. If the bulletproof kid and the witch are still with the Sprigg-woman and our target, we need something weird to counter that. Also get Mike and a couple of his guys ready too. You’re off this case after that.”
“What?” Jay jumped up, “But I-“
“You were distracted out there. And besides, I need you elsewhere. There are a couple of operations that need a guy with good aim.”
“I…” Jay sighed, “Yes, boss. I’ll call the vampires and Mike. Tell me when you get the bastard.”
Beagle grunted and didn’t take his eyes off the numbers and words that kept scrolling across the computer screen.
“Don’t worry, I’ll give him your regards too.”
Okay, so it seemed that November still had plenty of time to live up to its name after all.
Author’s Note: Remember when I said that I’d get another chapter centred around Emily out next? Hmm… did I even promise that? I think I did. Anyway, it turns out I lied. Or more like changed my mind at the last minute and left the Emily-scene for the chapter after this one. It works better that way, I think. And thanks to that this chapter isn’t TOO overly long. And as a bonus, I now have about half of the next chapter written too! Yay!
So here’s some slice-of-life-y chapter that sneakily and not-so sneakily sets up some future things. I don’t know… these chapters feel necessary, but also like I could kind of leave them out so… I don’t know. What I’m trying to say is, try not to get too bored with me. Or feel free to get bored, if that’s what happens. I’m not one to police your feelings and experiences. 🙂
But I do hope you enjoyed! I guess a Fey of Life chapter should be up next… unless I get into a writing spree with something else. Have a lovely time!