Soon enough, Anastacia got to experience her first real fire. Admittedly it wasn't a particularly epic one - just an old bohemian woman burning incense which had somehow got out of control - but it was a definite start.
A very, very unimpressive start, sure, but a start all the same. And she even got paid the price of her weekly stipend for putting it out, which meant double the pay that week. Result!
In fact, as Anastacia's confidence grew, she found herself really enjoying the career path she had chosen for herself. She would have liked some colleagues, sure, but there was always plenty to do at the station, and she never grew bored with fixing up the engine to keep it purring over.
Harrison also grew to like fire, but in a different way. His rebellious trait had triggered some anti-social behaviour, and he now spent a lot of time on his own, doing things like lighting fire crackers...
...or carving grotesque faces into pumpkins. His family were all too busy to notice his growing isolation, and he'd not reacted well to Jennifer moving out. In his mind, it just confirmed what he'd believed since he was a child: that everyone left, sooner or later, and there was no point getting attached as he would only get hurt.
Despite that, he still did little things to look out for his family, especially Chloe who, despite being older than him, had an innocence about her that made Harrison's protective instinct kick in.
One day, he saw her heading for the haunted house at the autumn festival, and he rushed over to her. Just minutes before, he'd seen some of the bitches from school - the ones that made snide remarks about Chloe's fashion sense - sneak in, and he had a good idea of what they were planning on doing.
"Yo, Chloe, wait up."
"Hey, Harry! Are you coming in too?"
"Sure." He knew the haunted house like the back of his hand now, including the likely hiding spots where people tended to jump out to scare the crap out of others.
"I got a note from someone saying there were unusual robotic prototypes in here! Isn't that interesting?"
Harrison sighed. Chloe was obsessed with robots, had been since a kid, and that obsession had only grown now she was a teenager. It was just another thing people made fun of at school.
"Yeah, that does sound interesting. Let's go and look for them, then. Just stay close to me"
He told himself he was just doing it because Chloe was too lame to see when she was being punked, but deep down he hated thinking about her hurt or scared.
Also at the festival were Miles and Hailey, who had decided to come for an impromptu date. Miles had been feeling down recently; he was due to age up today, and he felt pretty damn insecure about it. He knew he was being a hypocrite, that Hailey had gone through exactly this when it had been her time to age up, and he'd told her she would always be beautiful to him (which was the truth.) But Miles was still very much an active, image-conscious sim. He didn't want Hailey to look at him and feel disappointed.
When he told her his fears, she laughed. "You're kidding, right?"
"I thought you liked me... y'know... buff."
"I do, but you won't lose that just because of some extra wrinkles and grey hair. I know you, Miles Cantrell, and I know you'll still be working out every day, doing those damn chin-ups of yours."
"Well, that's true."
"You didn't? What was it, then? My fabulous wit? My unsurpassed knowledge of the greatest sporting moments?"
"No, dear. I married you for your humility."
Miles smiled sheepishly and pulled his wife in for a hug.
Later that night, he quietly aged up in the bathroom.
And promptly cursed the atrocious clothes The Watcher had chosen to bestow on him. He might officially be old now, but he wasn't completely past it.
In fact, Hailey was right: things continued much the same as they did before Miles had aged up. When Haily wasn't gardening, she still spent long hours reading books (although preferred to stay indoors these days, instead of trudging to the library, now that the nights were getting colder)...
...they still did a lot of snuggling...
...and Miles definitely didn't let his fitness regime slip. He had standards to keep up, after all, and he didn't want to be side-lined to a glorified desk jockey job at the Civic Centre now he was nearing retirement age.
In fact, the only thing that did really change was their awareness that things weren't quite right with Harrison. One evening, Miles received a phone call from a work colleague. He sounded embarrassed.
"Look, uh, Miles... it's nothing serious, but Imogen Pelly phoned us up at the station yelling about some blonde kid pranking her house. We checked the cameras she's got installed and someone recognised that it was Harrison."
Miles furrowed his brow. "Harrison? Seriously?"
"You can come and check it if you want, but it's definitely him."
Miles sighed. "No, that won't be necessary. I'll deal with it, thank you."
The next day at breakfast he decided to just come right out with it. He didn't see the point in shouting and getting angry, but Harrison needed to know that what he'd done wasn't acceptable.
At first Harrison flat-out denied he'd done anything, but Miles simply shook his head and waited.
"Look, it was just a joke, okay?" Harrison then defended himself, changing his tact. "That Imogen Pelly is a right snob, I was just pranking her."
"It doesn't matter who you did it to or why you did it. I don't expect any member of this family to be acting in a way that's going to cause hurt or anger for others. I raised you better than that."
"My real dad raised me," Harrison said. He'd said it to be spiteful, and he immediately regretted it, but it didn't seem to phase Miles.
"You'll be doing chores when you get home from school tonight, and you're grounded for the next week."
Miles looked up to see Chloe walking away to the other side of the room, her pretty face pinched in distress, and he sighed. He hated family arguments, and he'd been lucky so far in that they'd been pretty rare with all three girls. He needed to be careful with Harrison. The last thing he wanted to do was push his only son away.
So Harrison did the chores that evening, grumbling the whole time. This wasn't turning out to be a happy period in his life, and increasingly he turned to food as a method of coping.
He was already fat, he told himself, so what did it matter if he snuck into the kitchen for midnight snacks of pancakes and ice cream and whatever else was leftover?
He convinced himself that nobody would ever want him, and therefore he was just going to stop trying. If he didn't try, he could never fail at anything. And that suited Harrison just fine.
One rainy day, Anastacia was called out to her first big house fire. She felt a rush of excitement as she turned the sirens on, pulled out of the fire station and sped down Main Street in the freshly-painted red engine.
Despite the heavy rainfall, a large house fire had started in a pretty residential house near the outskirts of the Plains. Anastacia had often wondered if she'd fall at the first hurdle in this kind of situation, but her instincts kicked in and she dealt with the flames licking at the windows...
...before chopping down the heat-stuck doors and rescuing two young men inside the house before dealing with the rest of the fire from the inside.
These were the first two sims she'd saved on the job (meaning she still had 28 to go before she achieved her lifetime wish) and she was proud of herself.
The Mayor was proud too, and immediately invited her down to the Civic Centre to pick up an award for bravery. Despite being in her dirty, smoke-darkened uniform, she happily accepted. She absolutely loved this job!
Meanwhile, back at home, Miles had attempted to make amends with Harrison. He wanted to let the boy know that he was here for him, and he also felt that what was needed was some positive reinforcement.
"Look, Harrison, you've dealt with your grounding sensibly and maturely, so consider yourself off the hook."
"I thought maybe I could teach you how to drive soon. We haven't been spending as much time together as I'd like, and it's a useful skill for a boy your age to have."
"And here I was thinking you'd bought me that pony."
Miles looked over and laughed. "That's a wild horse, as well you know. I don't think you've quite earned yourself a pony yet."
Harrison smiled. "No, I haven't. But I would love that. Learning how to drive, I mean. Thanks."
Miles patted him on the shoulder and went inside. Sometimes, it was so easy dealing with Harrison. His mood seemed to be constantly up and down. He looked at a photo of Harrison and Chloe, taken at the autumn festival, and sighed to himself. He really hoped things with Harrison would turn out okay. The lad had such potential.
One thing Miles was noticing more and more, however, was the disappearing food from the fridge. He brought up the subject with Anastacia and Chloe one morning, but they were both clueless.
"Dad, most of the time when I get in, I'm so tired you could have painted the kitchen neon yellow and I wouldn't have noticed," Anastacia replied.
"Maybe it's Yumi?" Chloe suggested. Miles decided not to question his youngest daughter, even though he was very tempted to ask how she considered it possible for Yumi to open the fridge, eat what was on the plate, and put the empty plate back on the shelf.
Still, the fact that it wasn't the two girls - and he'd already spoken to Hailey who denied knowing anything as well - made it pretty obvious who was responsible. He didn't want to confront Harrison over it, as it was a pretty sensitive subject, but he'd noticed that the teenager was putting on weight recently, and was starting to avoid looking in the mirror or going clothes shopping. Miles didn't care what weight Harrison was, but he did care if this was adding to Harrison's insecurities, so one day he asked Anastacia for a favour.
"Do you think you could suggest to Harrison that you'll do some training with him on the treadmill? Maybe once a week?"
"Dad! When on earth do you think I'll find the time to do that?! Can't you just do it?"
"Please, Ana. I'm already teaching him how to drive - he doesn't want to spend more time with an old man like me. He needs a younger role model, and he looks up to you. Come on, I did it for you when you were younger."
"But I wanted to do it. Harry couldn't care less."
"He's actually very good at athletics - his teacher at school tells me he has a natural ability for it, just like you did. But he's lost his way, and it's a crying shame. He needs some guidance."
Anastacia sighed. She really didn't feel she had the time to do this, but she could see it was important to her dad, so she nodded. "Fine. When I've got a spare five minutes I'll talk to him about it."
But Anastacia found it hard to keep that promise when she was still working so hard, and Harrison's frustration at the world grew as winter in Appaloosa Plains set in, casting white blankets of snow everywhere he looked. Despite Miles keeping to his word and teaching him how to drive (in the old patrol car)...
...Harrison still dreaded going to school, having to interact with others, and so he inevitably started to bunk off. Just the odd day, here and there, so he wouldn't be noticed.
One day, he was in a particularly foul mood, and he decided to purchase some eggs from the grocery store. He didn't know whether he was going to use them or not, but he trudged around in the snow until he reached a non-descript looking house.
Without giving himself time to think about it, he took aim and fired one against the door...
...and then another. He felt good, and laughed about it, and was just about to walk away when a brunette figure came rushing out.
His heart sank when he realised who it was.
Jennifer. He hadn't even realised this was her house.
"Harrison, you should be in school! What are you doing? Why would you want to do this to me?"
"I'm sorry," he whispered. His icy breath plumed out in front of him and he felt tears at his cheeks. He'd hurt her feelings. He was such an idiot. "I'm sorry, I didn't realise it was you."
"Please, Harrison, come in and we'll talk about it," Jennifer said gently, but Harrison was already running. He was a loser, a trouble-maker. He hurt people he loved and made them unhappy. He pulled at his hair, clenched his fists up. He hated himself.
He didn't return home until much later that evening, as the sun was beginning to go down. Bracing himself for the massive telling-off he was sure to receive when he went in, he opened the door and stood there, waiting for the worst of it.
But his family were simply sitting down for dinner, and none of them looked at him as if anything was out of the unusual. Miles beamed heartily at him. "Just in time for some spaghetti. Your mum's favourite! Come on, come and grab a plate."
Harrison waited for the phone call all evening but it never arrived. He didn't understand. Why hadn't Jennifer told on him? He'd messed up, majorly, and yet she hadn't dobbed him in to their parents. He slept an uneasy sleep that night, worrying the whole time about it.
The next day was a Saturday, and Hailey took Yumi for a walk across the road to the Dog Day Plaza.
She was astounded by how beautiful the park looked in the snow, and called the whole family across to come and enjoy some quality family time. She also phoned Jennifer, who said that she would try and drive down a bit later on if she could get her car to start.
Miles was called into work at the last minute to go over some important records, but he assured her he would be down by late afternoon. Anastacia was doing some overtime at the station, and wasn't able to make it over. Both Harrison and Chloe, however, quickly came over to join Hailey and Yumi.
Hailey and Chloe soon got to work building a snowman...
...whilst Yumi pondered the depth of the snow...
...and Harrison went for a slightly more ambitious igloo design.
He liked the idea of creating his own little space within the snow that he could crawl into... and preferably not come out of for a very long time. He was so engrossed in finishing off his igloo that he didn't hear footsteps crunching up the snow behind him. Eventually, someone cleared their throat, and he looked round to see Jennifer standing there.
"I was going to ask if you needed a hand, but it looks like you're about done."
Harrison nodded. Here it came. The lecture. He looked across to see that Hailey and Chloe were just putting the finishing touches to their snowman, which meant Jennifer would be calling their mum over soon to listen.
But Jennifer did nothing of the sort. She looked at him for a long time and then said, quite simply, "I am here, okay, if you need someone to talk to. I'm not going to lie and tell you my own teenage years were difficult. They weren't. I can't imagine what you've already been through in your life, but I do consider you my family, Harry. We're blood, as far I'm concerned, and I will never leave you, no matter how hard you push away."
Harrison blinked back tears. How did she know that that was what he needed to hear? He felt even more ashamed of himself in that moment for doing such a terrible thing to her yesterday.
"I'm sorry," he told her. "I was acting like a jerk yesterday. I genuinely didn't know it was your house."
"Forget that," Jennifer urged him. "Just promise me that if it feels too much again, you'll give me a ring, okay? That if things hurt for you, you'll come to me first so I can help you?"
She pulled him into a warm hug, and Harrison whispered, muffled into her shoulder, "I'll try."
After that he felt a bit silly about how emotional he'd got, so he started to crawl into the igloo. Chloe, however, took it upon herself to start a snowball fight at that precise moment.
Jennifer was her first target, but a snowball soon hit Harrison square on his backside as he tried to dive for cover. "You can't hide in there, Harry," Chloe sing-songed. "We'll pull you out and tickle you if you don't play with us."
Well, that was a threat he wasn't going to take lightly. And it felt good, laughing like this, surrounded by his family. At times like this, even though he was too scared to ever really believe it, he could at least trick himself into thinking that maybe things were going to be okay.
Miles arrived later that evening and wolf-whistled as soon as he saw Hailey. "Who's this hot chick with hair as white as snow?"
"It's meant to be skin as white as snow, you doofus."
"Last time I pay you a compliment, missy."
"I am my boss."
"Tell him anyway."
"You tell him!" He pulled Hailey down into the snow, laughing, and after a minute of adjusting to the freezing temperature...
"We're getting too old for this sort of thing."
"Nonsense!" Miles protested. "You're never too old for a roll around in the snow."
Hailey raised an eyebrow suggestively. "Miles Cantrell, surely you're not suggesting... not in front of the children!"
Miles looked around and then leaned across to whisper in his wife's ear: "Well, maybe not here, but that igloo seems pretty fit for purpose."
Hailey laughed. Her husband was such an old rogue, but she had to admit... the idea was tempting. Very tempting indeed. With a quick glance over at her occupied children, they secretly crawled into the igloo to round off an extremely enjoyable day.
Notes: Two chapters in one day? Yup! I'm really, really into writing this now, and when I get obsessed with something I find it difficult to stop! Plus, I'm eager to start playing my game again and I'm getting closer to the point where I'm all caught up and able to do that.
As you can tell from this chapter, Harrison is sort of my favourite. He's just much more interesting to play, as the rest of the family are so nice. He's the only one remotely doing anything controversial (even though he's just a misunderstood w00bie deep down), so as a result I'm devoting a lot of time to him even though he isn't the heir. I figure I've got loads of time to tell Anastacia's story (and she features much more heavily in the next chapter) so... meh. Sorry, but Harrison is mah fave at the moment. :D
(Also, it was a genuine surprise to me when Harrison pranked that house and it turned out to be Jennifer's. I'm terrible at remembering where other sims live, so I was like... 'Oh nooo'. But it's fine. Jen is lovely and didn't seem to mind once it was done, so all's well that ends well.)