Harrison would later reflect on the fact that it rained solidly for a week after he arrived in Appaloosa Plains. Every time he stared out of the school window, or ran for the bus, or attempted to play out in the garden, the rain was there, beating a steady pattern against his skin.
He found it unusual, but the rain didn't seem to bother any of his family (as they insisted on calling him, even though the word still sounded funny on his tongue.)
It didn't bother Chloe, even when she sat in dripping wet clothes whilst Jennifer coached them from their homework...
It didn't bother Miles when he was finally promoted to Super Spy, and stood outside of City Hall basking in his achievement...
Or when he got the chance to go and raid a nearby hideout that was apparently full of criminals, and which Harrison and the other children was never, ever allowed to go near...
It didn't even bother the burglar who snuck into their house one night, carrying an umbrella....
...and it didn't bother Miles when he confronted said burglar with only his underwear on.
And it definitely didn't bother Anastacia, who used the rain to her advantage, staying indoors with Lawrence to work on their homework...
Whilst coyly playing footsie with him underneath the table.
In fact the only person it really bothered was Jennifer, who was impressed by most things but definitely not the rain.
In fact, it amazed Harrison just how laid back people were in Appaloosa Plains. The fear and loneliness he had experienced daily in Al-Simhara now seemed like a distant memory to him, and though sometimes he found himself shaking and crying, missing his father very much, the Cantrell family were so caring towards him, so loving, that he never felt sad for very long. Miles had told him that there were 'experienced people' looking for his father, and even though Harrison didn't know much about Miles, he knew that when he looked into his dark brown eyes, he could trust him to tell the truth.
Harrison loved using it, but he especially loved it when Chloe screamed "Race you, Harry!" at the top of her voice, and they both ran breathless up to the top of it to try and be the first to slide down.
Even Hailey, who usually didn't enjoy getting her hair wet, loved the water slide.
With each passing day, Harrison began to feel more and more at home as he spent time with his new family. He loved it here, and he hoped they would never want to leave him, like his father had done. He had to be good, he told himself, and not upset them, and then they would stay forever, like families were supposed to.
The Cantrell family travelled to the summer festival in their swimsuits, and Harrison's eyes lit up when he saw the water balloon fences. Jennifer saw the expression on his face and smiled at him.
"You want to play?"
"Are we allowed?"
"Of course we are! Come on guys, water fight!"
Anastacia grabbed Harrison's hand as Chloe and Jennifer ran on ahead. "Come on, we'll take these guys on!"
Harrison could see that the other three had a lot of experience in this particular activity, but he'd always been quick to pick up on anything athletic-based, and he was soon aiming a lot better than Chloe.
It was definitely pretty funny to see Anastacia falling over after a particularly well-aimed missile from Jennifer, even though Anastacia was on his team. As he was laughing, Chloe and Jennifer began chanting and dancing on the other side of their fence.
"You'll never get us, we're the champions!"
So Harrison took aim...
And Chloe got absolutely soaked. Anastacia patted him on the back and then shouted across: "No, we're the champions. Don't mess with Athletic sims!"
Another Athletic sim doing his thing on the other side of the park was Miles. He was determined to win this shootout today. He'd practiced long and hard for it, and he was certain this would be his moment of glory.
So he took aim and launched the ball at the net. At first he didn't think it would make it past Zak Whipsnake, who was pretty evenly matched with Miles when it came to football, but at the last minute...
...he just about managed to slip it past Zak's outstretched hands. With that, Miles decided this was pretty much the best day ever. He even decided to treat himself to a celebratory snow cone.
He ate it as the sun beat down on his shoulders, watching happily as his whole family enjoyed themselves, and he had to admit, he felt pretty much perfect in that moment.
After eventually running out of water balloons, the Cantrell children scattered to enjoy the festival on their own. Chloe headed straight to the face painting tent to get a tiger design which matched her eccentric personality...
...whilst Jennifer, who was nervously waiting to see if Joey would accept her invitation to attend the festival, decided to walk round picking the pretty wildflowers that had recently begun to pop up in Appaloosa Plains.
She was wondering to herself whether Joey would like one, maybe one of the Indian Blankets, when she felt a tap on her shoulder and she turned round to see the other girl nervously facing her, carrying a pretty sun parasol to protect her skin.
"Hey," she said shyly.
"Hey," Jennifer replied. "It's so good to see you."
Joey blushed but nodded. "I agree. Sorry I haven't been around much. School is just... well, it's not good for me. Mum is pretty much educating me at home these days."
Jennifer wished Joey would open up to her about this, but she'd tried and tried to talk about it in more detail, and Joey always pushed away from her when it began to get too uncomfortable. Jennifer desperately wanted to help her, but she was unsure what she could do. She supposed it didn't matter too much, in terms of school, as Joey aged up soon, but it made Jennifer sad that Joey would always look back at this period of her life with negativity.
"You look amazing!" Joey said brightly, changing the subject. "That colour is so cute on you. I mean..." she blushed again, as did Jennifer. Joey thought she looked cute?
"Thank you," Jennifer said. "I... I like that dress on you, too. Even if I've never seen you in anything else!" Joey's dress was a long-running joke between them. Jennifer was sure the older girl did possess other clothes, but the green sun dress was pretty much the only thing she wore out.
Joey smiled as if Jennifer had said the nicest thing in the world to her, and then she surprised Jennifer by quickly responding with: "I think you're really pretty, Jenny. You are so cute and so funny and whatever guy gets you is going to be so lucky."
Jennifer frowned. "What if I don't want a guy?"
"What do you mean?"
"I don't like guys. I mean, I like them, but not like that. When I think about kissing, I don't think about kissing guys. I think about kissing girls. Girls like you."
She supposed that she should be nervous about telling Joey this, but Jennifer was never the type to get nervous about silly things like explaining feelings. That was the thing about feelings, you had no control over them, so why should you be nervous about telling others about them? Jennifer didn't understand that.
Joey was staring at her shyly. "You... you think about kissing me?"
"All the time."
Joey dropped her parasol in surprise. She started to pick it up but Jennifer grabbed her hands...
...and pulled her close. "You don't need to be scared, Joey. I really like you. You get that, right? Like, really really like you."
Joey paused for a few seconds, which felt like a lifetime, and then nodded. Jennifer pulled the older girl into a hug, and rested her head on her shoulder. "Come on, let's go and enjoy the rest of the festival."
On the roller skating rink, Anastacia was having a lot of fun showing off her latest moves...
...as well as showing off her killer figure in her bikini. (Although her mum sharply told her to put on some more clothes when she realised some of the teenage boys here were enjoying Anastacia's performance a bit too much.)
Harrison nervously skated onto the rink, looking terrified, and Hailey grabbed onto him as he started to wobble.
"Are you enjoying yourself, darling?"
"Yeah! The water balloon fight was epic."
"I'm glad to hear it."
She spun him round in a circle, and Harrison looked up at her with wide eyes. "Would you ever leave me, Hailey? Like daddy did?"
Hailey realised, from the serious expression on the boy's face, that this was something he'd been thinking about a lot. She squeezed his hand. "I would never, ever leave you. None of us would. You're part of the family now, Harrison, and we all love you so much."
His expression turned from worry to relief. "I love you all too."
As the sun started to go down, Anastacia was busy eating some nachos when she looked across to see Jennifer and Joey shyly talking to each other, before Jennifer plucked up enough courage to land a kiss on Joey's lips.
Anastacia smiled. They were so cute together, and she hoped that Joey wouldn't let her experiences at school influence her relationship with Jennifer. Jennifer needed someone who was proud to be seen with her; she didn't deserve anything less than that, and Anastacia hoped she would never have to pick up the pieces of a relationship shattered by fear and self-loathing. Jenny was just too sweet-natured to have to go through that sort of heartache.
Harrison, meanwhile, was choosing which flavour snow cone to have. As both him and Jennifer came over to the benches to sit down (Jennifer with a plate of tasty onion rings), Anatascia smiled at her.
"Things going pretty good between you and Joey, then?"
Jennifer nodded shyly, even though there were very few things her younger sister actually got embarrassed by. "I think so, yes. We're going to see how things turn out between us."
It seemed a pretty vague thing to say, and Anastacia suspected it wasn't Jennifer who had suggested that, but she seemed happy, and that's all that mattered.
Suddenly, Anastacia looked down to see Harrison bent over double on the bench, clutching his head. Her heart sank; was he upset?! Had today all been a bit too much for him?"
Quickly, she knelt down next to him. "What's wrong, baby?"
"My head... my brain. It huuuuurts."
Anastacia burst out laughing when she realised what had happened.
"Did you eat that snow cone very quickly?"
"A bit, yeah."
"That's brain freeze, Harry. It will wear off soon!"
Harrison didn't look convinced, and Anastacia tried to keep her laughter contained. She was just relieved it wasn't something more serious!
When they returned home that evening, a present was waiting for them in front of the TV. Hailey clapped her hands in delight.
"I knew that Yumi would find something impressive one of these days!"
"How did she reconstruct it?" Jennifer asked suspiciously. Chloe, who shared Hailey's deep affection for dogs, responded to this question with ease.
"Yumi is magic. She can do anything."
The last days of summer passed quickly, and the water slide was given its final few outings before being put away for the approaching autumn months.
Chloe observed that the days were starting to get shorter, which meant that she seemed to be in her pyjamas more often...
...whilst Harrison realised that whenever he went round to do homework with his friend Malika, the evenings were often dark by the time he rode his bike home.
(Not that he minded, because he really enjoyed spending time with Malika, even if she seemed a little bit bad-tempered sometimes.)
Now that everyone was spending more time inside, the house felt smaller than ever and they struggled for space.
So when Hailey asked Miles to run errands, he jumped at the chance. One day he was in the salon picking up Hailey's favourite face cream when he saw the boy - or man, now, just about - that Anastacia used to be sweet on (what was his name? Locke something?) having a deep and meaningful sort of conversation with a young blonde woman.
He couldn't help overhearing her inviting him to move into her new house, and though Locke seemed unsure, he accepted.
Still, Anastacia seemed much happier now that she was shyly establishing a relationship with that Lawrence Lum lad, who seemed a much better fit, so Miles didn't care too much. He knew Anastacia was going to be absolutely fine.
In the last few days before Anastacia's year graduated from school, Joey came round to visit Jennifer one last time before she too aged up.
"I just want to say, I've had an awesome time being with you recently, and I can't wait until you're aged up as well so we can be together properly. But when I'm a young adult, and you're still a teenager, you need to understand that I can't be your girlfriend, okay? I'm not ready for the town to talk about me in that way."
Jennifer nodded. She knew this was the kind of thing Joey worried about, but as long as Joey saw a future for them, she could hold off a little while longer.
"We'll still be friends, right?"
They hugged, and Joey kissed her on the cheek, a little bit embarrassed. "I'll see you soon."
Jennifer couldn't wait to grow up after that. She sat and day dreamed about a lot, even though she knew it wasn't her turn yet. Still, when Anastacia had her own birthday, and transitioned into a beautiful young adult...
...Jennifer knew her own wouldn't be very far off.
The night Anastacia aged up, she sat down with her father in front of the TV to watch the sports channel and, more importantly, talk about her future. She knew she needed to have this conversation with him sooner rather than later, and she hoped he'd be okay with what she'd decided.
"I think I'd like to stay in this house with you guys. I know we're short on space, but I can continue to bunk with Jen and Chloe."
Miles nodded; secretly, he was happy to hear this.
"What about you and Lawrence? Don't you want to move in with him."
"Eventually, yes, but I'd rather focus on my career at the moment, and Lawrence is happy to do the same. If I'm serious about being a firefighter, I need to really work on my athletics and handiness, and who better to learn from than the best?"
Miles smiled at that. Anastacia definitely knew how to flatter him.
"It's fine, Anastacia. I want you to stay here, for as long as you need to. This is your home, and it's where you belong. We will expect you to contribute to rent and bills, of course, but only your fair share."
"I can't wait to start helping you guys out! Maybe we'll finally be able to afford a washing machine that actually works."
They went back to watching the TV, cringing at '100 Worst Sporting Injuries', and Miles let out a small sigh of relief. He had his entire family with him for longer than he'd expected, and it was an awesome feeling.
Notes: Phew! Long chapter is long. Well done if you managed to stick through reading all of that. :D So as is probably apparent now, Anastacia will be the heir, and therefore Gen 2 has officially started, but it will be pretty slow to start properly as there is literally no space in the house so Lawrence can't move in yet. To be honest, I was undecided between Anastacia and Chloe at this point, but as the primary career for Anastacia's generation was Firefighter, Anastacia's traits were just a much better match all round.
In case people are wondering about the traits for children (as I haven't been too great on incorporating them into the story, they are as follows.
Anastacia: Loves the outdoors, Ambitious, Athletic, Lucky, Brave
Jennifer: Charismatic, Easily impressed, Workaholic, Family orientated (Jen is just a bundle of contradictions, lol!)
Chloe: Dog person, Eccentric, Good
Harrison: Athletic, Bookworm, Good sense of humour
Also, just a couple of pictures which I liked but didn't make sense in the story: I received a notification saying the prom was going to be on a particular day, and I thought 'that's odd' because it was the day before Ana aged up, and I didn't think teenagers got two proms. Anyway, I duly got them both dressed up, took some pictures etc, but it turned out the prom wasn't that night, it was the next night. And then Jen couldn't go anyway for some reason (the limo didn't turn up and I couldn't click on the venue.) But anyway, the pictures, I thought, were pretty, so here they are: