"I guess we all get old," she sighed. "You understand how it feels, don't you, girl?"
Yumi licked her cheek happily, and Hailey laughed. "I guess you know but don't care. I could learn a lot from you!"
Yumi jumped up for a hug and Hailey rested her head against Yumi's chest, feeling the dog's steady heartbeat. It seemed so unfair to her that life was slowing down in this way. She felt like she still had so much more to give.
Hailey had tried ringing the adoption agency, but always lost her nerve when they picked up on the other end. She'd considered talking to Miles about her feelings, but she could see how happy he was with their three daughters, and Hailey knew deep down that taking on the responsibility of a new born baby at her age was downright irresponsible. Still, it didn't stop her from craving something, even something intangible, all the same.
There was one thing, though, that she thought might help her, and this she did decide to talk to Miles about one evening.
"I think I'd like to go to Egypt."
Miles raised an eyebrow. "Like a family holiday? You know we can't afford that, sweetheart. Maybe in a couple of year's time... I'm not far off becoming fully-fledged into Intelligence and then the money should start rolling in."
"No, I mean.... on my own. I've only been outside of Appaloosa Plains once, Miles, when I went to France all those years ago. It's different for you. You get to travel with your work. You've seen the world. I'd like to go and pick up some pomegranates; you know they're native to Egypt, don't you? I've looked into importing them over and I can't, so I could go and pick them up and..."
She knew she was babbling, but she was afraid Miles would put his foot down. She'd predicted what he'd say; she wasn't a feisty young woman anymore, and Egypt was a far more dangerous place than provincial France. And she accepted that he had every right to be wary, but she needed him to realise how important this was to her.
"You've been thinking a lot about this, haven't you?"
"Well, I'm not thrilled about it. I'd prefer to come with you. But we can't leave the girls here on their own, and work-wise, it's not a great time for me to be taking an impromptu holiday. You do realise there are dangers involved with going to Egypt?"
"I've done my research. I'll be staying very much in the tourist district of Al-Simhara. Around the market and the basecamp. There should be no danger to a woman going about her business there."
"And you can't wait? Until I can get some leave, and Anastacia has aged up and can take care of the other two?"
"Anastacia still has months before she ages up, and it's not fair to just expect her to do that whilst we go on holiday. I want to go soon. In the next couple of weeks, preferably. If I leave it too long, I'll lose my nerve."
Miles sighed and nodded. "Okay. I'll book your flight and accommodation for you. Just for a few days, okay? I'll..." he smiled, embarrassed, "Well, I'll miss you too much if it's much longer than that."
So Hailey found herself in Egypt a couple of weeks later. Night had settled over Al-Simhara by the time she arrived, and she only had time to look around the camp briefly before heading to her tent . It was similar to what she expected, and Miles had of course told her exactly where to stay, who to speak to and what sorts of activities were safe, but she still felt strangely nervous as she settled down for the night. This is living, she told herself. You're not too old to enjoy it, so relax.
She bedded down for the night, unaware of the movement outside her tent: small, light feet trying to find shelter from the night.
The marketplace was everything she had hoped for. The small square bustled with life and excitement, and she spent a long time simply drinking in the sights.
The snake-charmer in particular fascinated Hailey. She had seen snakes growing up in Appaloosa Plains, but they were all harmless; this one, though clearly tamed, looked deadly, and she wondered whether the female charmer ever got scared by what she was doing. Hailey tipped her some money and moved on in contemplative silence.
She was just making her way to the café when a small boy came running towards her. He wasn't looking where he was going, and she held her hands out to grab him when she realised he was going to collide with her.
The boy looked up with scared, frightened eyes as Hailey chuckled. "Watch where you're going, young man. You don't want to hurt yourself."
She didn't think he would speak the same language but his eyes widened in recognition. "You speak Simlish?" he asked. "For real?"
"Of course. I'm from Simland. Appaloosa Plains. Have you heard of it?"
He shook his head, and Hailey laughed. "Well, it's a pretty small place."
She took a moment to take in the boy's appearance. Now that he had risen his head, she could see beyond the scruffy clothes. He had fair hair poking out from underneath his hat, and striking blue eyes. For such a blonde-looking child, his skin was a tanned olive colour which suggested he'd been out here for a while.
"And where are you from?" she asked, curious. He looked confused, as if he didn't understand the question.
"Here, I guess."
"Oh, do your parents live out here?"
"My dad used to. Not anymore."
"So you live with your mum now?"
Whatever Hailey was expecting next, it wasn't for the boy to suddenly burst into tears. She looked around, worried that the boy's mum might come and find him like this, and assume Hailey had done something to make him cry. Had she said something to make him cry? She wasn't sure.
"Hey, hey, what's wrong?" she asked soothingly. "It's okay, you can talk to me."
"I don't remember my mum."
Gradually, Hailey began to piece together what the boy was trying to tell her. His dad didn't live here anymore, and he didn't remember his mum. He was dressed in grubby, mismatched clothes two sizes too small for him. And he had a haunted look in his eyes that no child should ever have had to experience.
"Can you tell me your name, darling?"
"Harrison. My dad, he liked those old Indiana Jones movies, you know?"
"Yes, I know. So you're named after the actor?"
"Yeah!" He was smiling again now, remembering a happier time, and Hailey's heart sank when she realised how vulnerable this boy might be.
"Do you want to go and get something to eat?"
Harrison shuffled uncomfortably. "I don't have any money, lady. Sorry."
"No, I'll pay. Come on. Oh, and call me Hailey."
They sat down at the tiny little café on the other side of the market place. Hailey brought over some Shawarma for the boy, which he feasted on as though he hadn't eaten for weeks.
"So where have you been staying, Harrison? If you haven't been with your dad?"
"Just... around." He shrugged. "It's warm out, so it's not too bad. Sometimes I go over to base camp and use the showers and stuff there, and once or twice I've been able to sneak into one of the empty tents, when there aren't tourists staying. The owner... he doesn't mind, so long as I don't make a nuisance of myself."
Hailey contemplated this for a moment. She would be able to check to see if Harrison was telling the truth with the base camp owner. Not that she thought for one minute that he was lying, but if she was going to help him she needed to know the full facts.
"And your dad... did he say how long he was going to be?"
"No. He didn't say goodbye. We were here because he had to take care of some work stuff, and one day I woke up at base camp and he was gone." Harrison's voice dipped as he said this, as if ashamed. "Do you think I did something wrong?"
"No, of course not! Perhaps..."
But she stopped herself from finishing the sentence; it was easy to forget that Harrison was just a small child when he spoke so seriously, but Hailey was worried that maybe his father had been involved in some sort of accident which prevented him from getting back to his son. Surely it had to be that rather than the unthinkable: that the man had deliberately abandoned his own child?
They ate and chatted, this time about more light-hearted subjects, until the sun went down. Troubles plagued Hailey's mind. What was she going to do about this? To leave Harrison alone in this strange country was out of the question, but where could she find out about the boy's father?
She took him by the hand and they headed back to base camp. On the way, Harrison suddenly stopped and flung himself at Hailey, his arms wrapping around her waist.
"Please don't make me stay here, Hailey. I'm scared. I don't like it here and I want to go home."
She wasn't sure what home meant to him: by all accounts, it sounded like the boy's father had dragged him round from country to country from an obscenely young age. She thought about her own daughters, about how innocent and protected their existence had been, and she knew she couldn't deny this boy the security he clearly yearned for.
"Come on, let's go and get some sleep and in the morning I promise, everything will be okay."
Back at base camp, Harrison slept soundly but Hailey found she was unable to. She finally relented, climbing out of the tent and heading over to the owner's lodging on the other side of the camp. A candle light lit up the room he was reading a sordid-looking magazine in.
"What can I do for you, beautiful lady?" he leered.
"I met a small boy today. Harrison? Do you know him?"
"Little Harry? Sure, I know him. Sweet kid. Just another street rat."
"Do you know where his father is?"
The man's expression suddenly changed, and he jumped up from his chair to stride over to where Hailey was standing. "Look, lady, I don't know where you're from, but you need to stop asking questions about MorcuCorp."
"Who said anything about-"
"That boy's father was a pest. Asked all the wrong people all the wrong questions. He's not around anymore, took our warnings and ran. Best thing he could have done for that kid, if you ask me."
"You're telling me the boy has no family but that's the best thing for him?" Hailey asked incredulously.
"Damn right I am. Now get out of here before you start asking the wrong questions. You hear?"
He pushed Hailey out of the door and slammed it in her face, and Hailey felt herself shuddering with fear and anger and rage. Who were these monsters? How could they be so casual about driving a boy's father away from his child? Hailey didn't intend to wait to find out. She headed straight back to the tent and packed her things up haphazardly whilst shaking Harrison awake.
"We need to go, darling. Come on, don't be scared. I'll call us a taxi to take us to the airport."
Harrison rubbed his eyes, still hazy from sleep, but Hailey was able to make out a small nod in the darkness. She kissed his forehead and whispered, "I promise, everything is going to be okay. I'm taking you home."
When Miles received the call from a tearful Hailey, he had just been about to settle into bed for the night, but he was immediately awake when he realised something was wrong. She quickly outlined what the base camp owner had told her, what she'd done in the aftermath, and how she was now waiting at the airport with Harrison but they were refusing to let him travel without a passport.
Miles hadn't reached the almost-top of the law enforcement career for nothing. He put in a call to head office, and Hailey and Harrison were permitted onto the next flight home.
Harrison didn't quite know what to make of Appaloosa Plains when he arrived the next morning. He'd been living in sand-swept desert lands for so long that the lush green grass astonished him. The rain, that was falling lightly when he stepped out of the cab with Hailey, astonished him even more.
But the thing that astonished him the most? The big, beautiful white house he was apparently going to be living in now. He took a moment to look around before Hailey called him...
...and then he went running after her, not wanting to annoy her and make her change her mind.
Still, it took Harrison a lot of courage to work his way up to following her through the door. A gentle looking dog was eating her food as he stepped up onto the porch. "Hey, dog," he whispered. "I'm Harrison. Nice to meet you."
The dog wondered over to him and give him a small, inquisitive sniff, before returning to her food.
When he got inside, he felt very overwhelmed. The house was so beautiful. It was the kind of place he'd seen in picture books growing up. He didn't think he deserved to be in a place this nice, and tears prickled at his eyes.
Then a little girl, not much older than him, looked up from the other side of the downstairs living room and smiled at him. "Hi, I'm Chloe. Do you want to play with me?"
Harrison looked at Hailey for approval, and she nodded before pushing him gently in Chloe's direction. He wandered over shyly before kneeling down next to her and picking up some blocks.
"I'm making a robot, but a special one. It needs to have a heart, and a brain, and a way of zapping people it doesn't like."
She didn't ask him who he was, or how long he was going to stay. She didn't look like she didn't want him there. She just played with him, for hours, until the sun went down and Harrison's stomach started to rumble.
"I think it's dinner time soon," she told him. "I hope mum cooks tonight, she makes the best food! You like spaghetti? That's my favourite."
The two children didn't notice Hailey and Miles watching them from the other side of the room, Miles' arm wrapped around Hailey's shoulder as her head rested on his. "You did the right thing, bringing him back," Miles told her. "I didn't realise the MorcuCorp grip had got so bad out there."
"Do you think he'll be okay? Will he adjust to being here?"
"I don't think it will be easy, but look at him. Look at how happy he looks. Did he look like that when you first met him?"
Hailey shook her head. "No. He looked scared."
"Well, he won't ever feel that again. We'll make sure of it."
And as Hailey stared at Harrison, she realised she'd found it. She'd found her 'something missing', and now, everything seemed complete.
Notes: So finally, I've introduced all the children of Gen. 2. :) Harrison is hands down my favourite character to play but he won't be heir because I didn't want to break the genetic line. Still, I love playing with him, he's an absolute cutie (and he grows up pretty nicely too!) I don't know how significant the MorcuCorp thing will be. Possibly it will come more into play in future generations, and there's some backstory with Harrison I'll be developing, but it will be more of a passing reference in this current generation. Sorry for the short chapter length, but I wanted to get this one out while I had the time. The next one should be longer to make up for it!