It was hard to know what to say to a man whose spirit and energy seemed to dissipate overnight. After the death of Yumi, Anastacia frequently found it difficult to speak to her father in the way that she had used to. Everyone in the family missed their faithful dog, but for Miles her death had become symbolic. Anastacia could only keep a respectful distance and hope he managed to pull through. He was still healthy, still fairly active for his age, and she desperately wanted him to have a hand in raising her own children when she inevitably had them, even for a brief period of time.
But the house was quiet now, and it would become even quieter once Harrison had aged up and moved out. Anastacia worried constantly, not wanting her father to give up his incentive for life. He still had many things to live for.
So she and Lawrence spent a lot of time in bed together, which wasn't exactly a chore, and she hoped that it would lead to something soon.
One evening they reclined on their pillows after a particularly enthusiastic love-making session. Lawrence sighed contently before looking over at his wife. "Still no signs, then?"
"No, but we haven't been trying for that long. I'm sure it will happen real soon. Don't worry." She tried to sound calm and rational. She didn't want to tell Lawrence the real reason she was so desperate to fall pregnant this early on in their marriage. She was approaching the end of her young adulthood and she realised that, like her mother, she had left it late. She wasn't worried, she knew there was plenty of time, but if she and Lawrence had started trying earlier she wouldn't have had to worry about her father never meeting his grandchildren. It was a depressing thought.
"I don't mind, you know, either way," Lawrence said. His voice dipped, taking on a confessional tone. "I know that children are important to you, but..."
"But what?" Anastacia had no idea what he was getting at.
"I'm not... I'm not fussed about them myself. I don't really... well, I don't really like children that much, if I'm being perfectly honest."
She frowned. She didn't understand why he was only choosing to bring up this pretty important aspect of his personality now.
"Perhaps you should have told me that at the start of our relationship?"
"What, when we were teenagers?" Lawrence laughed. "Come on, Ana, I was hardly going to say anything then, you'd have run a mile - and not because I didn't want them, but because I'd even brought the subject up!"
"Okay, yes, but when I proposed, surely?"
Lawrence glanced down, his smile fading. "It's not something that defines my life. I'm not keen on them, but that doesn't mean I won't have them. I'm just saying... if we don't have children, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for me. But I'm happy to keep trying because I know how important they are to you."
"And I suppose this means you just want one?" Anastacia snapped, trying not to sound too angry. She understood that Lawrence was trying to be reasonable here, was trying to reach a compromise, but she felt duped nonetheless. How could he possibly be a good father if he didn't like his own children? Did this mean that Anastacia would be bringing up a baby alone, to all intents and purposes? How could a baby thrive with a cold, distant father?
"I would prefer that, yes, but I know you're from a big family. I was an only child and I do feel sometimes like I missed out, that maybe I would be a bit better at this whole child-raising thing if I'd had a more interesting childhood myself. I'm willing to compromise and say two rather than one. But any more than that, I'm just not sure how I would handle it."
Anastacia sighed and stood up. She suddenly felt very disconnected from this situation, like she couldn't even find it in herself to argue. She left the bedroom silently to go and watch some TV, hoping it would take her mind off Lawrence's revelation.
Over the next few weeks, she threw herself into her work. She didn't know what to say, or how to react to Lawrence, and he seemed to respect her discontentment by staying away from her. Deep down, she just wanted to make it up with him and assure him that any or no children they had together were fine, so long as both she and Lawrence were happy. But a small, irrational part of her wondered whether the reason they had been unsuccessful in conceiving was due to Lawrence's non-paternal instincts. The thought ate away at her.
Gradually, the fire station had been filling up with new firefighters. Anastacia's success in the field, as well as her visibility about town due to the Mayor holding several ceremonies in her honour, had attracted a host of school graduates to the job, eager to replicate Anastacia's achievements - as well as her weekly salary.
But Anastacia soon began to realise that she'd enjoyed working independently. There wasn't nearly as much for her to do now there were so many eager young firefighters milling around the place, usually dressed inappropriately and useless in genuine emergencies. So Anastacia still did all the call-outs that they received, but around the station there was very little to do.
One day she received a call-out to Rustler's Den. She thought this was strange but hurried to get there; the wooden shack wouldn't withstand any amount of fire, and if there were people inside, no matter how morally corrupt, it was still her duty to save them.
When she got there, however, there were no flames licking at the building. She ventured inside and found nothing particularly unsafe looking, even after a thorough assessment of the disused barn. Minutes later, the police arrived. "It's empty," she said as she came out to greet them. "I was called out to attend a fire but there's nobody in there."
"Great," one of the officers grumbled. "Another hoax call. They're probably out robbing some other joint as we speak."
Anastacia rolled her eyes. Prank calls tended not to happen too frequently in Appaloosa Plains, what with it being such a small town where everybody seemed to know everyone's business, but they were always annoying when they did happen. She didn't have time to respond though; she suddenly felt a nausea take hold of her stomach, and she put her hand up to her mouth.
"You've gone awfully green," the other officer told her. "You ill? You should get home, put your feet up."
Normally Anastacia would have dismissed an absurd a notion as missing work, but she really didn't feel that great, so she decided to follow the officer's advice.
When she got home, she took a hot shower and changed into fresh clothes, trying to make herself feel like normal again. But no sooner was she dressed when the nausea crept up again and she headed straight to the toilet to throw up.
Lawrence was sat watching TV when she approached him later that evening. She cautiously sat down next to him and took his hand. "Hey," she said softly, and he squeezed her gently.
"I need to apologise," he said. "I shouldn't have sprung it on you that way, about the whole disliking children thing. I'm sorry. You know I'm happy to have children with you. I don't want this to tear us apart,"
"Me either. And I should apologise too, for overacting. I don't want tons of kids. My career is still really important to me. I don't want to be a stay-at-home mum for ever."
"It wouldn't come to that, even if we did have loads. I'm not going to not take responsibility when and if we have them. I'm not saying it will come naturally to me, Ana, being a father, but I'll try."
"Well, good," Anastacia said, biting her lip and hoping his next reaction would be just as reasonable. "Because I think I might be pregnant."
He paled - which Anastacia didn't think was possible on a guy as pale as Lawrence - and swallowed thickly, but to his credit he didn't freak out. "We'll go to the doctor and get you checked out," he said. "No jumping to conclusions, okay?"
The doctor simply confirmed what Anastacia already instinctively knew. She was pregnant, and Anastacia was overjoyed about it, as was Miles. Lawrence took the news a little more solemnly, but reassured Anastacia that he wasn't unhappy about it, especially as his wife and father-in-law finally had smiles back on their faces.
As Anastacia was under strict instructions to not even attempt to go into work, she used the opportunity to get her fire engine and a new alarm system fitted at the Cantrell family home. She was excited about this; once it was done, she would be able to respond to emergencies from home, which meant she would be able to spend more time with her child when it arrived. Lawrence had another (slightly weirder) phobia, this time about letting strangers into the house, and Anastacia saw his first paternal instincts come through when they were discussing childcare one evening.
"We may have to hire a babysitter sometimes, if we both want to continue with our careers," Anastacia said. "We can't just expect my dad to do it whenever we're out."
"No," Lawrence said bluntly. "No babysitters, no nannies, no nothing. If we're going to have a child, we'll do it properly, even if it means I have to put my career on hold for a while."
Anastacia couldn't hold back a smile. "Look at you, getting all protective of your unborn child."
Lawrence rolled his eyes but couldn't resist smiling back. "I was practically brought up by different babysitters. It sucked, and I don't want my own child to go through that. We'll manage between us. It'll be fine. How hard can one kid be?"
Lawrence had only just gotten started on his film-making career, and he practised daily in the mirror to improve his charisma. "The camera loves you, baby," was just one of the ridiculous things Anastacia heard him enunciating as she got ready for bed each evening, along with, "Work with me here, people!" It was even funnier considering he hadn't managed to hire any actors yet, just a motley crew of inexperienced sound and lighting technicians.
Still, she had to admit he looked very cute in his 'director's jacket', as he called it, and he always went to work with a smile each day.
Things were going from strength to strength between Lucy and Harrison, and the teenager lovebirds planned to move in together after they both aged up. Lucy was a little bit younger than Harrison, but she agreed to age up at the same time as him as she didn't want to miss a minute of their new life together.
"Just think," he told her, swinging her hands gently in his. "We had our first kiss at Ana's wedding, and from tomorrow we could get married ourselves if we wanted to. It's crazy. We can do anything we want now."
"I'm so looking forward to it," Lucy said dreamily. "Our own place, our own lives... and best of all, it will be with you."
He took her in his arms and gazed into her deep brown eyes. He still couldn't quite get his head around the fact that if he'd accepted his father's offer, and gone away with him, he would never have reached this point with Lucy. She would have just been some kid that he distantly remembered from school. If he'd had any doubts about whether he'd made the right decision on that cold, rainy, fateful day, they instantly disappeared when Lucy smiled that smile at him.
That evening, Miles, Anastacia and Lawrence gathered round to watch Harrison blow out the candles. They had invited Jennifer and Chloe over too, but little Edwin, Chloe's newly-born son, was in the teething stage, and Chloe was apparently 'feeling emotional', so Jennifer had phoned to apologise. Harrison didn't really mind, he was just eager to get this over with. So he made a wish...
...and blew out his candles. Nobody was surprised that upon becoming a Young Adult, he acquired the Natural Cook trait, given his love of cooking and the hours he had spent studying recipes in his lifetime.
As a young adult, he didn't look all that different to how he had done as a teenager. He still wore his hair longer than most other young men in the town, in loose surfer-style locks, and he still favoured dark clothes that showed off his now lean frame. If he wasn't so utterly devoted to Lucy, he might have been quite the town heartbreaker, but all he wanted from life was stability, happiness, and a job as a five-star chef.
So the next day, after graduating with surprisingly high honours, and being voted Most Likely To Be A Sports Star (which maybe one day he would consider, if the whole chef thing didn't work out) he went down to the bistro in town to see if he could get a job there.
He surveyed the pretty outside area and smiled. He would definitely enjoy working here. He went straight in and asked the head chef for an interview. The frazzled looking man looked him up and down critically.
"You know how to make an omelette?"
"Sure, I can make any flavour you want."
"Just the standard kind is fine," he was told curtly. "Make me a delicious omelette and you've got the job."
So Harrison made an omelette, and the chef took a bite of it sceptically before his expression softened. "Get started washing those dishes over there, kid. Hope you're not afraid of getting those soft hands of yours dirty."
After Harrison had finished his very first shift, he phoned the estate agent who confirmed that the new flat he and Lucy were moving into was ready. He punched the air, whooping joyfully, not caring if people thought he was crazy. Everything had come together just as he'd always secretly hoped it might, but never once believed it was possible until this moment. He knew that somewhere, Hailey was looking down on him, proud of everything he'd achieved.
He could now tell himself that he'd proved her unfaltering belief in him to be right.
Notes: I didn't really go into details for Harrison's graduation as there's only so many graduation pictures you can take before they start to get a little boring. I'm really going to miss Harrison a lot, he was absolutely my favourite from Generation 2, and I hope Story Progression doesn't mess with him and Lucy too much! Lucy is ultra pretty as a YA but I forgot to get pictures of her. I'll try to get some soon. :)
Lawrence unfortunately doesn't like children. He's practically the perfect man other than that, but the Dislikes Children trait is going to be interesting to play with, especially with the turn of events that happen next chapter! I haven't decided if this is going to cause some trouble later on down the line, but I think generally I like Lawrence as a character so it might just be that he'll find fatherhood difficult but will try in his own way to get it right. We'll see.