"You've got a promotion?"
"No, not that. Better. Your dad has said he'll babysit tonight so we can go out on a date."
Anastacia immediately sighed and shook her head. "I'm not in the mood, Lawrence. I'm sorry."
Lawrence frowned. "What, how come? We are allowed a night off, you know!"
"Yes, I know that but I... I look frumpy. You know what people are like in this place. They'll all be gossiping about me going out on a date wearing a frayed cardigan and boots that need re-heeling. I'd rather just have a quiet night in."
"No, come on, Ana! I think you look beautiful, and I want to take you out and show you off."
"Lawrence," she said warningly. Her husband sucked in through his teeth, starting to get irritated, and she could see he was about to walk away before he turned back abruptly.
"No, you don't win that easily. You're the most beautiful girl in Appaloosa Plains and I'll prove it to you. Look, here's a hundred simolians. Go down to that stylist place downtown and get yourself done up. No excuses. Go!"
Anasacia reluctantly took the money (which she was pretty sure was hers, anyway) and glared at him as he smiled in amusement, knowing he'd won. Well, Anastacia let him think it. The truth was, she knew she'd been a bit baby-focused recently, and hadn't spent nearly enough time with Lawrence. They hadn't exactly been married very long, and she loved going on dates with him, knowing he would make her laugh and blush like they were a newly courting couple all evening long.
The salon was almost closing when she arrived, but it had been a quiet day so the stylist agreed to see Anastacia despite not having an appointment.
She stared at herself critically in the mirror. She felt like she'd been wearing this outfit for years; it was like a uniform at this point, unimaginative and dull but comfortable and easy to pull on. Beside her, the stylist let out a small 'hmm' before stating, "Yes, you definitely need some help."
"I guess I've let myself go a bit," Anastacia replied sheepishly. "I've just had triplets, so..."
"Oh, honey, don't you worry about that post-baby weight, that'll come off eventually.
Anastacia looked down at her stomach. That hadn't been what she meant! As a highly active sim, her weight had never been of concern in the past, and she hoped that it wasn't too obvious she'd just given birth. She shifted uncomfortably on the podium as the stylist continued to stare at her appraisingly. This was ridiculous! She was a slim, healthy woman.
"Look, just dress me in something nice, okay? That's why I came," she snapped. The stylist raised an eyebrow.
"It's also natural to be over-emotional after birth, honey. I'll go grab you a new season outfit we've just got in."
Anastacia contemplated making a run for it whilst the woman was out of the room. This whole process was highly embarrassing. But she gritted her teeth, realising she'd already handed the money over and they couldn't exactly afford to throw away a hundred simolians. Maybe she was wrong, and the stylist would actually come up with something decent for her to wear. After all, that was what she did for a living, so she must know more than Anastacia did about this sort of thing.
But the outfit she returned with was... well.... interesting. Anastacia tried not to burst out laughing when she saw herself in the mirror. She looked like a woman pretending to be a teenager. It wasn't her at all, and she felt more uncomfortable than she did when she walked in.
"Is this the best you've got?" Anastacia asked. The woman frowned.
"That's high class couture, from Champs Le Sims!"
"Oh, do they all dress like teenage hookers in Champs Le Sims?! Surely you've got something more... sophisticated?"
The stylist grumbled under her breath and went off again in search of another outfit. When she returned, not looking quite as enthusiastic about what was in her hands this time, Anastacia's eyes lit up. That was a bit more like it!
When she arrived home, she strutted through the front door and gazed in her best 'smouldering' expression at Lawrence who had just stopped dead in his tracks.
"Does this meet your approval?"
"Damn straight. Now get over here and kiss me!"
Anastacia melted into his arms. "Ready for our date?"
"Maybe we should just skip it and head upstairs?"
"Uh-uh. What happened to taking me out and showing me off?"
"I've kind of forgotten about that."
"I haven't," Anastacia smiled deviously. "Come on, let's get out of here."
Later that evening, with Anastacia and Lawrence both still out on their date, Miles carried Alexis up to the bedroom in order to soothe her to sleep in the rocking chair. The oldest of the triplets was also the least settled when it came to sleeping patterns, and she often needed extra attention to get her dozing off.
He stopped when he saw who was in front of him.
Hailey's ghost was silently rocking in the chair, back and forth, back and forth. Miles blinked, not quite believing it.
Hailey's ghost didn't say anything. She simply looked at Alexis, then Miles, and smiled before floating upwards. Her ghostly breath whispered soundlessly against Miles' ear and then she was gone.
Miles sunk into the rocking chair and sighed. Hailey had loved this spot in the house; her 'little corner of peace' was how she'd described it. Naturally, her ghost had gravitated back towards it in the afterlife.
He stared down at the baby in his arms. Alexis had finally begun to drift off, unaffected by the eerie encounter she'd just witnessed. In his mind, Miles began to make a list of things he needed to do before he went. He knew it would be soon and he wanted to be ready. But he soon realised with some sadness that there wasn't anything that required any action from him now. Anastacia and Lawrence were more than ready to take on the responsibility of parenthood, the management of the household... his whole family, in fact, were living their lives in a way he was proud of. Even Harrison - it surely wouldn't be too long before he was wed to Lucy and fathering a family of his own
No, this was the perfect time for the Grim Reaper to take him, and Miles was ready.
It happened the next day. Miles was out in the garden playing chess as Lawrence harvested produce in the vegetable garden. Anastacia was inside feeding the triplets and so didn't realise what was happening at first. Miles felt a strange presence behind him and stood to turn and look.
In the next moment, his body faded away. Lawrence looked up and yelled, realising what was happening. He ran over, calling loudly for Anastacia as he did so, but there was nothing else he could do; Miles' time was up.
Behind Miles' spirit, the Grim Reaper made his way into their world, ready to collect his third member of the Cantrell family. Lawrence saw nothing, just felt the world grow a little colder, and then Anastacia was outside as well, crying silently as she realised what was happening.
"Please, daddy, no, don't leave, don't take him, please," she begged. Lawrence frowned, not understanding who her second plea was directed at. He could see nobody, but Anastacia was staring at something in front of her, holding her hands out in a strange sort of offering. "Please, I'm scared," she sobbed.
But Miles' ghost faded away without another word, leaving Anastacia devastated. She shivered against the rain in her thin dress as her sobs began to grow louder.
Lawrence took his wife in his arms and pulled her close. "It's okay," he soothed her as she wept into his chest. "He was ready, Ana. He was ready to go."
"But I wasn't ready to say goodbye," Ana whispered. "The Grim Reaper, he doesn't let you say goodbye. He just takes them away like they're nothing, like they have no connections or ties here. It's not right."
"There's no such thing as the Grim Reaper. He's the stuff of old wives' tales. Now come on, let's get inside, you'll freeze to death out here."
Ana shook her head. "I saw him, Lawrence. He was there, right in front of us. How could you not see him?"
Lawrence frowned. He had a logical mind, a sensible mind. There was no such thing as the Grim Reaper, he was sure of it. Yet Anastacia looked so certain that all he could do was sigh and pretend to agree. There were more important things to worry about right now then debating theology, and if Anastacia believed she had seen the mystical figure then there was nothing Lawrence could do to convince her otherwise.
There was no time to mourn Miles properly, however, as the triplets aged up that same day. All of Anastacia and Lawrence's time was now devoted to ensuring these vital years passed peacefully.
Alexis was a pretty little girl with hair darker than her mother's but not as dark as her father's; Anastacia figured she probably took after her grandfather in that respect. She had her mother's slightly more tanned colouring as well as resembling her facially. She loved the colour aqua and seemed to be a very intuitive little sim, taking in the moods and personalities of everyone around her.
Aidia quite clearly resembled her father in hair colour and facial features. She was a lively, slightly odd toddler that loved the colour yellow and seemed to gravitate towards the front door when the sun was shining outside. She always instinctively knew when this was and would scream if her mummy or daddy didn't take her into the garden to crawl around in the sun.
With the ageing up of the triplets, and no Miles to help out with babysitting, Lawrence realised with a sinking heart that he would need to take time off work in order to stay with the children during the day. Anastacia worked from home but she could be called out to an emergency at a moment's notice. And despite her thinking that Lawrence's dislike of babysitters was irrational, she had to admit that it wasn't practical to wait around the house for the babysitter to arrive whilst someone was potentially burning to death.
So Lawrence made the phone call the next morning. Shooting on the film would be postponed until the winter. There was no other way around it.
He definitely didn't find it easy, however. He tried not to get annoyed by the triplets but there were some moments he seriously questioned his sanity. He found their temper tantrums self-indulgent, their music ability laughable and their refusal to sleep perplexing. Didn't they wear themselves out during the day with all that misplaced energy?!
Still, he was mostly fine as long as he didn't have to do anything with them. It was when he had to be hands-on that he faltered. Potty training? Surely he hadn't had to suffer this indignity when he was a toddler?
Teaching them to talk was even worse. He'd tried to do it logically, attempting to teach Alexis her alphabet first so that she could start to piece together letters and then sounds, but this had proved far too difficult so he'd had to resort to the kind of baby speak that Anastacia used which Lawrence usually refused to lower himself to. But as soon as he started, Alexis's eyes lit up and she started babbling back at him. Well, this one clearly wasn't going to grow up to be a genius.
He was a little more comfortable with Leith who seemed to be a bit more intelligent than his sisters and also a bit more socially awkward. Sometimes he would look at Lawrence as if he really understood where he was coming from, and it made Lawrence feel a little better.
Still, that didn't mean that showing him affection came easily, and as for potty training him...
Well, Lawrence didn't think he'd ever get used to doing this, no matter how clever the kid was.
Yup, she was definitely insane. Maybe she'd grow up to be a mad scientist. That wouldn't be so bad. At least she'd be channelling her craziness into something useful.
It didn't help, either, that Anastacia was a complete natural with the triplets. She was endlessly kind, patient and sweet-natured with them, even when their energy levels were at a maximum, and hers were at a minimum. She genuinely seemed to enjoy devoting all her spare time to them. Which was pretty insane in and of itself, Lawrence thought.
And the triplets adored her too, obviously. Even grumpy Leith, when she came home from a job, still in her fire fighter's uniform, would clamour for her attention.
Lawrence tried not to feel anxious at the comfortable, easy way she had when holding them but it did make him feel a little sad. He was trying his hardest not to miss out on the experience of being a father but it felt like an uphill struggle not to snap at them constantly.
One day, he looked over from the other side of the room to see Anastacia talking to Leith about his upcoming birthday. "In just a few days you're going to be a big boy!" she cooed at him. Leith cocked his head to one side inquisitively.
"Because you're going to have a birthday. You're going to blow out the candles on your cake and age up like all little sims do."
"And then will daddy like me more?" Leith asked. Anastacia frowned, looking up quickly at Lawrence, who glanced down at his book pretending he hadn't heard. But his face, he knew, gave him away, and Anastacia sighed.
"Your daddy loves you very much, okay?"
Leith huffed out a sigh of his own and toddled over to the play table to join his sister. Anastacia disappeared upstairs to get changed out of her work uniform, then came to join Lawrence at the table.
She worked on upgrading her fire extinguisher as she tried to work out what to say to him, just for something to keep her hands busy. Lawrence knew the subject was embarrassing for her. "You aren't doing a bad job, Lawrence. Before you use this to beat yourself up over."
"Children always know," he said. "You can't fool them, can you?"
"To be fair, I don't think Leith is a typical child."
"Alexis knows as well. And Aidia is too crazy to realise but I'm sure she will in time."
Anastacia let out a small giggle. "Maybe that's the issue? The fact that you have no qualms about calling your little girl crazy?"
"Well, she is!" He looked over and smiled ruefully at her. "Sorry."
"You'll be okay, sweetheart. Just stop trying so hard. They're your children, and they'll still love you despite your imperfections. That's what so great about having kids."
"What, getting your ego boosted?"
They laughed together, then looked over to see similar giggles emerging from the play table. All three toddlers were huddled around it, playing together sweetly, and Lawrence had to admit that in moments like this he could almost see why people enjoyed having children so much. Hell, even Aidia looked relatively normal.
Maybe things would be different when they aged up. He hoped so, because he wasn't sure Anastacia would remain quite so understanding if she genuinely thought his hesitancy around the triplets was having a detrimental effect on their childhood. Lawrance prayed that this wouldn't ever be the case.
Before notes, a bit more toddler spam because I wanted to get all the toddler stuff done this chapter but still had some cute pictures I couldn't work into the story:
(I love Alexis' face in that last picture! Very tricksy looking. ;))
Sorry for the delay on this chapter, and it not being especially long. First week back at work after Christmas was a bit of a bitch and I've had nowhere enough time as I'd like to write/play, but a small update is better than nothing. hopefully!
I've got a rough idea of what's going to happen with this new generation but their childhood is going to be very quiet. Things will get going a bit more when they're teens. I'm really enjoying playing with the triplets and from a game point of view, it is actually a lot more convenient to have all potential heirs born in one go as I now have a pretty good idea of who is going to become heir but will be able to change my mind if one of them randomly rolls a really awesome trait for the next primary career.
It was very sad to say goodbye to Miles in this update, but to be honest I think he was more than ready to go, and it felt like I'd passed a real milestone (no pun intended!) having my founder pass away; it feels like I'm properly into the legacy now! From a challenge point of view, it was difficult as I'd hoped to keep both Lawrence and Anastacia in work whilst keeping to the whole No Strangers roll, by having Miles take on main responsibility for skilling the triplets up, but he literally died a few hours before they aged up so that went out the window. Then I figured I could probably still do it as Lawrence finished work an hour after Anastacia officially started and where she was working from home, it was unlikely she would be called out to an emergency immediately. But then Lawrence got promoted the next time he went to work and he started working much later hours, so that went out of the window too. I did consider having Anastacia take the time off, but the family are still saving for their big move and Anastacia just earns so much more than Lawrence for each job she does that I couldn't justify it, even though Lawrence genuinely hated being with the kids (seriously, negative moodlets every damn time he had to interact with them, agggh!) But they all grew up perfectly with all three skills taught, so he must have done something right.
I'll try not to be so long with the next chapter! Would be interesting to know what your initial thoughts on the triplets are. :)