Sunday, 30 December 2012

Chapter 19: You Can Wrap Your Fingers Round My Thumb

Anastacia found herself going into full on 'expectant mother' mode now she was pregnant.  She had  been working hard for most of her adult life, so kicking back and relaxing was odd to her, but not as boring as she'd assumed it would be.  She watched a lot of TV but inevitably found herself gravitating towards the children's channels.  Now she was pregnant, her mind just seemed like baby mush, and The Adventures Of Wolfman was right on her intellectual level.
She also spent a lot of time rocking back and forth in the new rocking chair, simply daydreaming and listening to children's music, planning out her unborn child's life.  She thought a lot about getting a bigger house, but money reserves were still low since they'd bought the Dog Day Plaza.  The stream of cash from this and the diner was more than sufficient each week, but it would take some time before they started making their money back on it.  Lawrence had also recently become a partner in the grocery store - a far more low-key investment, but a significant enough cost to prevent a new home being a possibility for a while longer.
On her final pregnancy trimester, Lawrence's parents invited them round to their large house on the other side of town for a pool party.  It was the last thing Anastacia wanted to do - it was so hot and humid outside and she felt grossly huge in all her clothes, let alone a swimsuit - but she knew it was important to Lawrence that his parents saw how he was getting on in life, so she reluctantly agreed.
Still, just because she was here, it didn't mean she had to be particularly sociable.  There were plenty of people around to keep Lawrence's parents busy, so she waded into the cool, refreshing pool water and climbed onto a lilo where she floated aimlessly for about twenty minutes, until Lily, Lawrence's mother, got into the pool and made her way over.  "Annie, there you are!  Let's get out of the pool, I want to see that bump of yours properly."
Anastacia still found it weird, random people wanting to rub her stomach, but she was used to it by now.  Lily gasped in delight when she felt a kick.  "Oh, my goodness, what a kick!  That's quite a big baby you've got in there."
"Really?" Anastacia frowned.  A few people had remarked on how big the bump looked.  She hoped the baby weight wouldn't be a pain to shift once she'd given birth.
"It's a good thing, my dear.  A big baby means a healthy baby.  Lawrence was such a tiny little thing, barely five pounds, and he was sickly all the way through his first year.  No chance of that happening with this one!"
"I hope not," Anastacia agreed.  She hadn't really thought about things like the baby's weight, or health, or anything like that.  So far, pregnancy had been a bit of a breeze.  She'd not expected to enjoy it as much as she was, and the science stuff made it all seem a bit daunting.

 Inside the house, Lawrence was networking with one of his mum's friends who had some experience soundtracking movies.  Truthfully, he thought she was a bit old to be working on a film, and her ideas were kind of outdated.  But as he had been taught by his parents (to the point of excess) to be polite to everyone, he duly listened to her ideas, trying not to look too bored.

"Of course," she said, her demeanour becoming a little more... flirtatious, "my other great passion is acting.  If you needed a more mature leading lady, well," she eyed him up and down, "I'm sure I could do my best."

Lawrence gulped, wondering what to do, but his mother luckily appeared at that point.

 "Oh, hello Matilda, are you having a nice time?  Lawrence, darling, I was just talking to that beautiful wife of yours.  She's positively glowing!  Imagine, you're going to be a father.  I'm so proud, sweetheart."

Matilda seemed to get the message, and Lawrence shot a grateful smile at his mother.  She was a bit of a busybody sometimes, but she was good at handling difficult social situations.  Lawrence was always at a complete loss when people tried to flirt with him; it happened occasionally, but he'd never viewed anyone that way apart from Anastacia.  He was completely devoted to her, as she was to him; they both had the Eternally Faithful reputation to prove it.

Anastacia had made her way up to the roof terrace where her sister and a few others were sunbathing.  Jennifer had been invited because she worked with Lawrence's father, and it was a pleasant surprise to see her here.  They greeted each other with a hug before Jennifer's eyes travelled to Anastacia's stomach.

"Wow, you're huge!  Much bigger than Chloe was."

"Everyone keeps saying that," Anastacia replied, shrugging.  "Guess I just got a heavyweight in here.  How is Chloe?  And Edwin?  I keep meaning to pop round but, well, the sofa is way too comfy these days."
"She's okay.  The father has been sniffing round, literally.  Did you know it was Benjamin Schmidt?"
"No!  Isn't he... isn't he a werewolf?!"
"'fraid so."
Anastacia held her hand up to her mouth, eyes widening.  "So... is Edwin...?"
"Too early to tell.  Chloe keeps asking me whether I want them to move out, in case he does turn out to be one, but I don't know how she's going to cope if she does.  Besides, Edwin is probably the closest I'm going to come to raising my own child, so..." she shrugged, trying not to look too sad, and Anastacia quickly changed the subject.

"I've heard you're getting on amazingly at work though, right?  You'll be CEO in no time!"

"I suppose."  Jennifer plastered on a smile, trying to take comfort from her success in business, but Anastacia knew there was a sadness there that she wasn't able to shake.   Jennifer was hardly on the shelf yet, but she seemed to believe she was.  Anastacia hoped it wouldn't stay that way.  If anyone deserved to be in a committed relationship, it was her sweet younger sister.


Just a few days after the pool party, Anastacia was watching TV on the sofa when she felt it... the baby was coming.  It took her completely by surprise, and there was no time to get to the hospital.  She was going to have a home birth.

"Lawrence," she puff out.  "It's happening."

Her husband dropped the laundry pile and stammered, "I... let me go and tell Miles!"  With that he rushed off, and Anastacia was kind of relieved; it would surely be easier to do this on her own. 

Giving birth was pretty simple, and soon Anastacia was holding her new baby girl Alexis.

But then she felt the pain of childbirth return, and she groaned in surprise.  Surely not?  Not two of them?   She breathed her way through the second birth, screaming out for her husband and her father to get here and help!

By the time they had arrived, the second baby girl had arrived, as well as the third and final baby boy.  These two she named Aidia and Leith.

She turned to Lawrence shakily.  She didn't think she'd ever seen him look so pale.  "Surprise! Triplets!" she said with all the enthusiasm she could muster. 

Her husband looked like he was about to pass out.


The next few days were a blur of nappies and bottles and crying... endless crying. 

Miles was content to help out - in fact, for the first few days he barely let either parent near his grandchildren, such was his enthusiasm and joy at having three new babies around the house.  Anastacia knew it meant a lot to him to hold his grandchildren before he departed as an elder, especially as Chloe was reluctant to bring Edwin round to the house.  She was desperately relieved that she was able to give him something back for all the love and attention he had given her over the years.

Anastacia loved being a parent, just as her own parents had.  As she put Leith to bed one evening, she felt his tiny fingers wrap round just one of hers, and she swallowed away tears.  This was the most amazing feeling in the world.

There wasn't enough space in the newly decorated nursery to fit all three cribs, so Leith lived out in the hallway.  Miles had been reluctant at first, saying the youngest of the triplets should go in his room, and he would sleep on the sofa, but Anastacia wouldn't hear of it.

"We'll make some space soon, dad, it's fine."

She saw his mouth tighten and she sighed, realising what she'd just said.  More space would only become available when her father passed away, and they both knew it.  She tried to apologise but he shook his head.  "No, you're right.  I haven't got long left, Ana, so let's make the most of the time I've got left, eh?"

Anastacia nodded, trying not to show her emotions at how easily her father was accepting his inevitable fate.

 She felt exhausted all the time.  Most of the time she stayed up most of the night, feeding or changing the triplets, or simply playing with them to keep them happy.  When she crawled into bed in the morning, whilst the babies dozed off, Lawrence would inevitably be getting up to go to work.  Anastacia wasn't allowed to go back to work yet, as she was still pretty weak from the strenuous birth, so Lawrence was the main breadwinner, temporarily.  She understood that he had no choice, but she still felt slightly resentful when she saw him heading off each day.

Still, she had to admit, he was trying at the whole fatherhood thing.  The first time she'd handed him Aidia to hold, he'd stared at her blankly with a 'What am I supposed to do with this thing?' expression on his face.  She sighed as she attempted to burp Alexis.

"Feed her, she looks hungry!"

 So Lawrence awkwardly attempted to feed her, and though a lot of milk splashed over her chin, most of it went in her mouth and Anastacia had to smile at the proud expression on her husband's face when he put the baby back into the crib.  No sooner had he put her down, though, did she start to cry again.

"Someone's a bit smelly," Anastacia pointed out in the baby voice she'd perfected over the last couple of days.  Lawrence sighed.

"Does that mean what I think it means?"

"I expect so.  Best do it quickly, those screams are only going to get louder."

Lawrence suppressed a grimace.  "How many years until they're teenagers?"

"Thirteen, Mr Genius.  Come on, quit stalling!"


One night, Yumi came out for the first time since her death some months earlier.  Miles saw her across the garden as he took out the trash.  She glimmered in the darkness, resting on the ground leisurely, and Miles smiled.  "Not long now, Yumi-dog."
Notes: Triplets!  Yes, triplets!  I was looking forward to a quiet Gen 3, with just the two children that the roll had dictated, but then Anastacia had to go and have triplets. :-/  Well, at least this generation won't be boring, I suppose.... >_>
Alexis was the first born and has the Perceptive and Light Sleeper traits, Aidia is the second born and has the Insane and Loves The Heat traits (good combination, lol!) and Leith is the youngest and has the Genius and Grumpy trait.  I've decided to start randomising traits this generation with just a couple of rules I've set for myself: 1. If any children from the same generation acquire the same trait as one of their siblings, I reroll, and 2. The final trait when they become a young adult is free choice, so that the heir has at least ONE helpful trait for whatever career I've rolled for.
I thought it was neat that Lawrence and Anastacia both got the Eternally Faithful reputation.  I've never seen that happen before.  Apparently they get it when they've only been in one relationship in their life and have been in the relationship for 20 days or more.  I thought it was a bit strange as Anastacia was in a sort-of relationship with Locke when she was a teenager (although I don't think they ever went steady, so maybe that's why), and  Miles and Hailey never got it despite both being faithful for their entire relationship, so I don't know if it always works properly, but it gives them a nice little positive moodlet so I approve. 

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Chapter 18: We've Come A Long Way Together

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.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Chapter 17: I Want To Hold Your Hand

Anastacia spent a lot of time over the next few weeks getting into perfect shape for the upcoming wedding.  It was important to her that she looked her best on the day, so when she wasn't working she dedicated a lot of her time to running on the treadmill, effortlessly keeping the pace up for hours.

There was still plenty of other things to do, though.  She spent a large part of her time fixing various household appliances.  It seemed like the higher she raised her skill level in Mechanics, the more things went wrong around the house!
"Washing machine's broken again," Harrison pointed out, rather needlessly, one morning.  Anastacia grumbled at the sight of it.  They really, really needed a new washer.  She was sick of fixing this one every ten minutes.

Especially because stopping to fix it meant she was late for work that morning.  She grumbled as she got out her tools and tightened up the water pressure gauge inside the ancient machine.  She was pretty sure her parents had bought this thing when they'd first moved into the house; the fact that it was still going was unbelievable.

After wolfing down some breakfast, she hurried to work in her fire engine.  She eventually wanted to get the alarm system set up at the family home so that she could cut out the trip to the station each day. She would be able to respond to emergencies more quickly once she could deal with them from home.  But at the moment, she was only focusing on the wedding, and those sorts of adjustments to the house would need to wait.
After work that day, she realised that she needed to finalise the hen party that she'd been planning on throwing before the wedding.  She didn't have lots of friends in Appaloosa Plains - mostly her family, to be honest, and Chloe and Jennifer were unable to make it over due to previous commitments - but she did invite Joyce, who she was still fairly close to despite everything that happened with Locke, and Irene Funke-Parrott who was always up for a good night out (or in, in this case.)
Anastacia had decided to throw the party in the garden, to keep costs down.  She invested in some 'mood lights' for the evening, which the rather suspicious-looking shopkeeper assured her would create a 'wild' effect.  Anastacia had originally dismissed his words as hyperbole, but as she stood out in the front yard, she felt a weird sensation come over her, and she looked down to see that she was very... pink.
Joyce, who had just arrived, noticed as well.  "Um, Anastacia, you're kind of glowing...?  And you weren't wearing that a minute ago, were you?"
It seemed as though the 'mood light' had some weird transformative effect.  In fact, the only guest it didn't seem to effect was Joyce, who had recently undergone a change herself... a werewolf-related change.  She never talked about it, and Anastacia didn't like to bring it up.  Besides, if anything, it made her friend a little more easy-going.
As it wasn't a school night, Anastacia agreed that Harrison could stay up for some of the party.  He seemed pretty keen to socialise with an actual werewolf, and politely shook Joyce's hand.  Okay, he was a bit freaked out when she decided to sniff him, in much the same way Yumi often sniffed him, but she was pretty fun.
And a surprisingly good dancer.
A male stripper turned up at some point, but Anastacia absolutely forbade him from taking his clothes off in front of her little brother and father (who had also been transformed into rather an odd costume); she figured it would scar them both for life. 
She was soon interrupted from her discussion by Joyce shaking up the fizzy nectar bottle...

The sticky liquid splashed over her face and she laughed merrily.  She'd already had quite a lot to drink and was beginning to enjoy herself.

Gradually, everyone else got into the swing of things too, and they danced and drank and ate for a few very fun hours.

At about 1am, the Cantrell family admitted defeat and slumped off to bed.   They hadn't quite planned on Joyce, Irene and the stripper staying on, but that's what their three additional party guests decided to do.

At about 3am, Miles woke in his bed and realised that music was still blaring outside in the garden.  The temperature had dropped, and he was slightly disturbed by the scene that faced him when he came out the front door: Irene and the stripper were still enjoying themselves, somehow, dancing into the small hours of the morning, whilst Joyce was a frozen solid mass on the icy floor.

Miles sighed, went inside to get the hairdryer, and then attempted to defrost the comatose werewolf from her block-like state.  Irene and the stripper didn't seem to care in the slightest; they were obviously having too much fun grinding against one another.

"Party's over, kids," he told them all as Joyce eventually thawed out and stumbled to her feet.  "Off you go home."

 "Worst party ever," he heard Joyce grumbling as they left the front yard.  He rolled his eyes, wondering how Anastacia had ended up with such stupid friends, then went inside to get back into his warm, comfy bed.


Anastacia spent her last day as an unmarried woman helping her dad out in the garden.  She found that she enjoyed this activity; her mum had always been quite protective of her crops, to the extent where she would often lock the gate to prevent her family getting in, but Miles was more than happy to accept her assistance.

She also made a trip down to the Civic Centre to buy her second property.  It was something that she, her father and Lawrence had discussed together, and though the investment this time was more sentimental than anything else, Anastacia knew it was something that a lot of people visited.  They had decided to purchase the Dog Day Plaza that Hailey had loved so much when she was alive.
With that task finished, Anastacia was free to enjoy day-dreaming for the rest of the day about  fortunes that might come her family's way as a result of the money they had invested in protecting their future.  She felt very happy that the money she had earned fire-fighting was going on something meaningful, and something that would keep their mother's legacy alive.
Later, she noticed Harrison looking around deviously before pulling out a whoopee cushion from his pocket.
"What are you doing?" she asked.  He looked up, face flushed from being caught, but she just laughed when he begged, "Don't tell dad."  Recently, she was happy to see Harrison acting a bit more, well, like a teenager.  He'd been so quiet and sullen all year, and it was good to see him acting more his age.
"I won't," she promised.  "So long as you behave at the wedding tomorrow."
"Like I would ever spoil that!" he protested.
Later that evening, they both stifled a laugh as their dad sat down on the sofa, emitting a long, lingering fart sound.  "Very funny, Harry," Miles said.  "Good job your sister is getting married tomorrow otherwise I'd have to ground you."
But Anastacia could tell from their dad's face that he was relieved as well.  It was always a happy surprise to see Harrison laughing and smiling, and it seemed to be happening a lot more frequently these days.
The next morning was a last-minute rush of wedding cake buying and dress fitting, but Anastacia finally allowed herself to relax when she looked at herself in the mirror.  Everything was going to be okay.
They had decided to get married at Hangman's Tree, as it was the most picturesque spot in Appaloosa Plains.  Anastacia hadn't quite planned for having to run the last part of the way to the park, as cars weren't allowed past a certain spot, but she gamely hitched her dress up slightly and took off up the hill, Harrison and Miles close behind.
"I get why she's beating me up here," Miles puffed.  "I'm an old man.  But there's no reason why she should be faster than you."
"Dad, just shut up and run."

The guests gradually started to arrive, as did the groom - who hung back near the bottom of the hill to greet everyone who came up.  Lawrence frowned when he saw Chloe working her way up to the park.  Was she... no, surely not?

"Hello, Lawrence, you look very handsome and pale today," Anastacia's little sister greeted him.  He bit his lip to stop himself from saying anything.  He was probably wrong.  He was usually wrong about stuff like this.

But as Chloe approached the top of the hill, the way she was walking was unmistakeable.  Although she was still very slender, there was a small but unmistakeable bulge around her stomach area.

"Um, Chloe... something you want to talk about?" Miles asked as soon as he saw her.  Chloe looked down, blushing.


"Chloe," Miles said, more sternly.  "There is something you want to tell me, isn't there?"

Eventually, Chloe gave in, nodding slightly and sighing.  "Congratulations, daddy! You're going to be a grandfather."

Miles reached out with uncertain hands to feel Chloe's swelling tummy.  He felt a strange sort of happiness run through him, but also a great deal of worry and anxiety.  Chloe... his baby Chloe was pregnant?  She was his youngest daughter, for goodness sake.  He hadn't even been aware that she was in a relationship.  Or... was she?

"So... who's the father?" he asked, praying it was someone respectable and, preferably, rich enough to support his little girl.

"He's not around anymore," Chloe said.  "And I don't really want to talk about him."


"But Chloe, this is madness.  You're barely out of high school.  You're going to be a scientist!  How are you going to cope?"

"Jennifer has said she'll help.  I'll manage somehow.  It was a mistake, I know that now, but I'm not going to take that out on this little one inside of me.  I'll get by, I'm sure I will.  Please, say you're happy for me, daddy."

Miles groaned.  He didn't know what else there was to say.  It was done now, and Chloe had clearly made up her mind.  "I'd be happier if I knew who the father was."

"Why?  He's made his feelings on the whole thing clear, just as I have, so there's nothing more to say.  You don't need to know about him."

Their conversation was interrupted by people gathering on the folding chairs placed in front of the wedding arch.  The ceremony was about to start.  "We'll talk about this later," Miles said, but Chloe was already sheepishly walking away.

As the guests took their seats, Lawrence and Anastacia happily waited, sometimes smiling at one another, sometimes gazing into the distance as they imagined their lives together.

The turnout was fairly small, but Anastacia was happy that her whole family was there, along with a few more guests. Amongst them was Imogen Pelly, who Miles had struck up an unlikely friendship with after apologising to her about Harrison egging her house, and a pretty girl from Harrison's school, named Lucy Haskins, who the teenager had shyly invited on a whim, not thinking she would turn up.

Anastacia couldn't contain her happiness as Lawrence slipped the wedding ring onto her finger.  She couldn't wait another minute to start her life with her husband, and she giggled with anticipation as he solemnly declared his vows for her.

She knew from his face, too, that he was struggling to contain his excitement, as she put the ring onto his finger.  He squeezed her hand, whispered, "Love you", and Anastacia gazed helplessly into his eyes before completing her part of the vows.

After that, there was nothing left to do but finish the ring-giving ceremony with their first kiss as husband and wife.  The guests cheered as they embraced and kissed each other deeply before parting to smile in adoration at one another.

After the ceremony, the guests scattered and began to mingle, and Harrison made his way over to Lucy.  He was hoping it wouldn't be too awkward, talking to her, but she pulled him into a hug as soon as she saw him.

"Thank you for inviting me.  It's beautiful up here."

"Thank you for coming," he mumbled into her shoulder.

"No problems.  Sorry I'm a bit underdressed, I've never been to a wedding before!"

"I think you look nice," he said, then flushed.  "I mean... well, yeah, not that you don't always look nice."

She smiled at him as she pulled away.  "Smooth, Cantrell.  Anyone would think you've got experience in chatting girls up."

"So are you going to stay for a while?" Harrison asked, changing the subject and trying not to sound too hopeful - he didn't want Lucy to think he was desperate or anything like that.  He knew that girls didn't like desperate guys.  But she just laughed.

"Sure, it's gotta be better than school work, right?"

 He smiled weakly, thinking 'that's how you play it cool.'
Miles and Imogen, meanwhile, were dancing up a bit of a storm after Miles sidled over to her and asked for a dance.  He'd had a bit of fizzy nectar and was starting to enjoy himself, truth be told.
Imogen was a funky dancer, even if she'd decided to come dressed in what looked like her most casual summer clothes.  But Miles was just happy to have someone to distract him from the fact that Hailey wasn't here to enjoy this beautiful day. 
Imogen had mentioned dating a couple of times, but Miles had always rebuffed her advances; he liked her a lot, especially now he'd got to know her a bit better, but dating again was out of the question for him.  He just wasn't ready for it.  He wasn't sure he ever would be.
"Smile for the camera!" Jennifer said from behind them.  They turned to pose, and Miles jumped as he felt Imogen grab his bum.
"Sorry," she laughed.  "Couldn't resist!"
He knew it was good that he could spend time with Imogen and not realise where the time had gone.  In fact, he barely noticed that the sun was beginning to go down, and that they had been dancing for hours.

He missed Hailey every day, but he was thankful that Imogen was easy, uncomplicated company.  She was a lot of fun to be with, and was a much needed friend in a time in his life when he was beginning to feel like he needed all the friends he could get.
Harrison was also finding out how easy it was to spend time with a female friend.  He and Lucy had been talking for ages, whilst secretly swigging nectar when nobody was looking, and they were both starting to feel a little tipsy as a result.
"You're so pretty, Harrison.  I love your hair.  You look like a Barbie doll.  Can I stroke your hair?"
"No, you can't," he laughed.  "And don't call me pretty!  I'm going for rugged here, can't you tell?"
"How about cute?"
"That's no better."
"Yeah, that works.  Come on, let's dance."
Lawrence and Anastacia were working their way round the guests at the wedding, ensuring everyone was having a good time.  Lawrence took a bit of time to chat with Jennifer, who he'd always secretly liked best out of Ana's siblings; she was friendly and approachable, but had a business-focused mind that Lawrence admired.
"You make my sister very happy," Jennifer told him matter-of-factly.  "I don't think I've ever seen her smile like she did today when you exchanged rings."
"Well, she makes me very happy too," Lawrence said.  He meant it.  He'd always been a loner in school, a bit of an outcast. The fact that a girl as stunning as Anastacia had wanted him had meant everything to him.  He knew he wasn't typically handsome, but he genuinely saw desire in Anastacia's eyes when she looked at him, amongst other emotions.  "I'm going to treat her right, you know."
"I know you will.  And if you don't, my dad can still pull some strings if he thinks you're not doing a good enough job," Jennifer said in a serious voice, and Lawrence spluttered out the sip of nectar he'd just taken.  "Just kidding.  You'll be fine.  Dad likes you a lot."
"I hope you're right..."
Anastacia had decided to accost Chloe who, at this point, was getting a little bit sick of people asking her about her pregnancy or staring at her stomach.  Had nobody ever seen a pregnant girl before?
"So do you need any help?" Anastacia asked.  "Financially?"
"No," Chloe sighed.  "I've got some savings, and the father did give me a bit of money, enough until the baby's old enough for me to go back to work, at least.  We'll be fine, Ana."
"I can't believe you're going to be the first one out of us to have a baby," Anastacia grumbled.  "That was meant to be my job."
"Well, you're the first to get married!" Chloe pointed out brightly, and Anastacia grudgingly conceded that this was true.  She leant forward and felt Chloe's stomach.
"Oh," she said, feeling herself welling up.  "It's so lovely.  It's just in there, growing inside you... a tiny little baby.  I want one, Chloe."
"And you'll get one," Chloe reassured her.  "Tonight, probably, if the way Lawrence has been looking at you is anything to go by!" 
It was weird for Anastacia to hear her innocent little sister talking about stuff like that, but the thought did cheer Anastacia up, and she decided to go and see if Chloe was right about Lawrence.  Maybe they could duck out of the party early.
She saw her new husband over by the buffet table and headed over, smiling at him as he beamed happily at her.
"We did it!" she giggled.  "Mr and Mrs Cantrell.  How awesome are we?"
"The most awesome."
They talked for a while about the ceremony, about how well everything had gone, but gradually Anastacia saw that Lawrence was thinking along the same lines as her.
"Come here, Mr Cantrell," Anastacia said, pulling her husband into a tight embrace.  He stared deeply into her eyes.  "Best day of my life," she announced, and Lawrence nodded in agreement.
"I think there's something that can make it even better, though," he said, then whispered in her ear: "Home time?"
She felt a shiver run through her, knowing what that meant.  "Absolutely."
Harrison had been working up the courage to kiss Lucy all evening, and when she announced that she really had to get home, he decided to just make the first move and try it.  The fizzy nectar helped, sure, but she looked like she was waiting for him to try, so...
She seemed surprised at first, as if she couldn't quite believe what was happening, but her lips were soft and yielding and gradually she closed her eyes and moaned sweetly.
It was Harrison's first kiss, and he knew he'd remember it forever.
Back at home, Anastacia and Lawrence headed straight up to their new bedroom.  They'd had to do some reshuffling in the house to best suit everyone now there was an extra person in the house, and though Anastacia had felt bad about Miles moving out of the bedroom he had shared with Hailey, he wouldn't hear any other suggestion; she and Lawrence couldn't carry on sleeping in bunk beds as a married couple, and there was plenty of space in the girls' old room now that Jennifer and Chloe had moved out - just not enough room for a double bed - so Miles would move into there instead.

"You look so beautiful," Lawrence told Anastacia as they moved closer together on the bed.  "How did I get so lucky?"

"Because," Anastacia replied, "I love you, and it's not about luck.  We both found one another because we were meant to."

She leant in to kiss him, and when she pulled away he felt... giddy.  Giddy, light-headed and hot all over.  With her soft hand resting on his arm, he didn't think he'd ever seen anyone or anything as perfect looking as this.

It wasn't long until the wedding dress and tuxedo were thrown in a less than perfect heap on the floor.


Miles, unfortunately, didn't end the day on such a positive note.  After saying goodnight to the remaining guests, he returned home with Harrison, who fell asleep in the taxi, his head resting on Miles' shoulder, and after Miles had half-dragged, half-carried his teenage son to his bedroom, he noticed that something was... amiss.

On the floor in the hallway was a small urn of ashes.  The reaper had been earlier for Yumi.

Miles blinked in shock.  Yumi had been part of the family for so long, had exceeded her years for so long, that Miles had almost let himself believe that she wouldn't ever die.  He stumbled into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water, then began to weep silently, not wanting to wake his slumbering family up with the distressing news.

Yumi had been the most faithful, patient dog a master could ever hope for, and he would miss her with all his heart.  But part of him knew that she would be with Hailey now, playing Fetch on the other side, and he allowed himself to be comforted by that. 
Miles now truly felt like he was the last of his generation, and deep down he realised he was ready to go too.  It would be lovely to see his first grandchild, of course, when Chloe gave birth, and hopefully Ana's would follow soon after.  But the need to be with Hailey and Yumi pierced him strongly, and he vowed then not to fight it when it happened.  When his time came, even if it was tomorrow, he would go happily, knowing that he had left a legacy that would continue for many generations to come.
Notes: So... this is Chloe's baby daddy.
I know, I know.  Damn you, story progression.  Although to be fair, it does suit Chloe's eccentric, dog-loving personality to allow herself to be impregnated by a werewolf with a penchant for dressing up as a giant hot dog.  And when I took him into CAS, he actually isn't TOO bad looking in his human form, especially as a young adult, so maybe the kid won't be hideous.   :-/
Pretty soon after she had the kid, SP told me that she and Benjamin had split up, so I didn't see the point in introducing him to the story.  He's just some nameless werewolf jerk as far as I'm concerned.
I was really sad to see Yumi go, and... might have even cried a bit when I was playing. :(  It did happen on the evening of the wedding, which was horrible as nobody was in to grieve for her.  But the family sure grieved plenty when they got home - probably even more than they did for Hailey.  She was a very popular dog. 
Anyway, long chapter, but as I haven't updated for a while I figured it was needed.  Hope you enjoyed reading!