4.2

There was nothing more satisfying than the sound of sizzling meat in my pan. The kitchen smelled of fish and herbs, and I was pretty pleased at my first attempt at this dish. Maybe I should have gone for something I knew I could do well, given the occasion, but I didn’t want to make the same old boring food I always made tonight.

“Five more minutes,” I said when Mum stuck her head into the kitchen.

“Are you sure I can’t help?”

Yes! Now sit down or dance with grandma, or whatever it is you want to do. It’s your party, Mum.”

She smiled, and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. “Thank you.”

Grandpa Milan and Grandma Morrigan were over to celebrate Mum’s promotion. She’d just made Chief of Police, and I had offered to cater. We weren’t short on money exactly, but this was huge and I wanted to help. Mum had achieved her dream; the least I could do was cook some haddock in white wine sauce with garlic new potatoes and green beans.

Okay, so I did use her party to show off some new recipes I’d been dying to try. Mum usually let me cook whatever I wanted and bought the ingredients I needed, but this was the latest winner from SimChef (followed by chocolate souflee, which I’d tried three times now and failed miserably, so I wasn’t doing that tonight). A special dish for a special night.

“Dinner was wonderful, Gary,” said grandma Morrigan once the plates were tidied away and the dishwasher was humming in the corner. “Are you sure your Mum hasn’t enrolled you on an evening course?”

I shuffled my feet. As much as I loved it when people liked my cooking, I wasn’t very good at taking compliments.

“Thanks, grandma.”

“Have you thought about what to do after high school?”

I had, extensively, but there were still some details I hadn’t told Mum about.

“Gary wants to go to university to study cooking,” Mum said. “There’s one not far from here, he can get there by train.”

I nodded. I was lucky that my first choice was also nearby; at least I wouldn’t have to move. Which was kind of what I needed to talk to Mum about.

“How about SimChef?” grandma said and winked. “Milan and I think you’d do well on it.”

My heart stopped. SimChef? Me? She couldn’t be serious. Right?

“Oh no, I couldn’t.” It was televised, and the people who won went on to have huge careers, but… It was something other people did. And besides, the guys who went on that show were all pretty good cooks already. I was good, but I wasn’t that good. The only people who had ever tried my food were my family, so they were probably biased.

I was grateful when grandma dropped it after that.

Two days later, I decided today was the day. Mum and I were watching an early evening cooking show, and the recipes were nothing I hadn’t made before. I’d done my research. I was ready.

My heart beat so fast it threatened to choke me when I cleared my throat. I had a feeling Mum would say yes, but what if I was wrong?

“So, Mum, I’ve been thinking.”

She turned down the volume on the TV, and sat to face me.

“What’s that?”

I took a deep breath in. This was it.

“I was wondering if, maybe, I could stay home a little while longer. I know it’s my birthday next week and you probably expected me to move out, but tuition fees are really expensive and I’m not sure if I can pay all that while also paying rent or bills.”

Truth was, I already had a place in mind, but I needed to save up for it. And tuition fees were insanely high, so everything I’d said was true. I just didn’t mention the small bungalow I’d seen.

“Oh sweetheart, you know I offered to pay for your tuition. You don’t have to worry about that.”

Mum had saved up quite a lot of money over the years. I wasn’t sure how much exactly, but easily enough to pay for three years of uni. I didn’t want to cut into her savings, but I had a feeling I had no real say in the matter.

“Thank you, but–”

“No buts. I’m paying your uni fees, sweetheart, but I expect you to pay your other bills yourself.”

“Of course, my job should cover that.”

I wanted to work while going to university to build up my savings, but I knew it wouldn’t be much. When I had interviewed at the grill’s kitchen, they were impressed by my cooking skills but it wasn’t enough to land me a job as chef right away. Still, I didn’t have to start at the very bottom of the ladder, either, and I was determined to prove they’d made the right decision.

“And you know I love having you home. I won’t complain if you want to stay with your old mother for a little while longer!”

“Really? I can stay?”

“Please, Gary, you know you’re my everything.”

She pulled me into a hug, and I didn’t resist.

Family was important to Mum. I was her only child, and she wasn’t married, so I was doing this for her sake really. Some kids at my school got kicked out as soon as the last term ended, and I was grateful my Mum wasn’t like that. I didn’t plan to stay for the entirety of my degree. She had earned a break, and maybe she’d start dating again once I moved out. Mum hadn’t shown any interest in it while I was growing up, but raising me by herself couldn’t have been easy, and her job demanded the rest of her time. I didn’t want her to be lonely once I left, but I remembered what she and grandma Morrigan had told me: our family couldn’t get too involved with anyone, because we’re not supposed to be alive in the first place and the universe would right itself if we tried.

I wasn’t sure how much of that I really believed, but Mum was convinced it’s what got Dad killed on the job, and had drilled it into me ever since I was a child. Grandma and grandpa were convinced, too, but I just wasn’t sure. It all seemed a little too much. Why would the universe care if there are a few extra people in the world? I didn’t know enough about the universe, but I figured if it was sentient it probably had other things to do, like preventing meteors from crashing into important planets.

Mum was Chief of Police, and that affected a lot of people. The universe seemed okay with it.

Still, there had always been this thought at the back of my mind that it’d be better not to date. Mum had never forbidden me from making friends exactly, but it had always felt like an unspoken rule that I shouldn’t interfere with anyone’s life too much. Friendship was a pretty big deal, so I’d mostly stayed away from that, too. I did have a couple of friends here and there, but they’d all moved away, and a small part of me had blamed the universe righting itself.

Anyway, after my chat with Mum I was too busy being nervous about officially becoming a young adult and starting my first job in a professional kitchen to worry about friends and my love life.

The only thing that kept distracting me was SimChef. Why did grandma have to bring it up? There was no way I was good enough to be on that show. Millions of people watched it every year, and the winners–sometimes the runner-ups, too–went on to have pretty amazing careers. They owned their own restaurants, wrote their own cook books, and things like that. Winning it would be awesome, but could I win it?

I’d be lying if I said I’d never dreamed of being a contestant. It was my favourite show, and daydreaming about winning it had got me through the more boring lessons at school, but I’d never seriously considered it.

Could I win SimChef? Would they even deem me good enough to let me try? I supposed if they decided I wasn’t good enough to be on TV, they wouldn’t give me a chance and I’d have nothing to worry about. But if they did… The current series had only just started, they wouldn’t open the application process for another six months yet, probably.

That was plenty of sleepless nights for me to stress over it.

***

Update:

As you can see Sophia is now at the top of her career ❤ Gary has now aged up and jumped straight to level 3 of the cooking career :3 He’s still a teenager in this chapter, but as of 4.3 he’ll be a YA 🙂 His skills are cooking lvl 6 (I think), gourmet cooking lvl 1, fishing lvl 3, and gardening lvl 3. I don’t think I remembered to check when I took these pictures, so I’ll have a more accurate update next time 🙂

Hiatus Notice

Hi everyone!

I haven’t put a blog on hiatus before, but I feel like I should now.

I haven’t posted in a while (wait- beginning of September? That’s not so bad!) and I’m not sure when I’ll have time again. The reason being that I’m trying to finish my rainbowcy this year and since writing these blogs is hardly a full-time thing for me, it’s taking up a lot of my spare time at the moment. I can’t spare any more, therefore the hiatus.

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Sorry, guys. It’s my fault. I’m getting all of the attention.

As soon as I’ve finished writing Poppy’s generation, I’ll be back here. I’ll have more time for Gary again once Whispers is finished 🙂

I’m sorry for the break, but I thought it was only fair to put up a notice since I’ll disappear either way :/

Love,

Mischief

4.1

05-01-16_7-58-45 PM

“Five more minutes, Mum!” I said and sprinkled a bit of cheddar on our omelettes.

“Thank you, Gary! I’ll be right down!”

I smiled and placed two plates on the counter next to me, turning down the heat a little as I went. Breakfast was ready, but Mum had a long morning routine. She spent a few hours every morning on some focusing yoga routine, and got up long before I did to fit everything into her morning. She started work at nine am every day, so there wasn’t much time.

That’s why I made breakfast! I loved cooking, and that way we both had something warm to eat before I left for school and Mum went to work. Mum was a cop and needed the energy, and I was happy to cook just for the sake of it. Mornings could be hard, but when the house smelled of pancakes, or french toast?

07-31-16_2-57-35 PM

We were lucky to live so close to a river. I always spent some time at the weekend catching fresh fish for our dinners, and it was a great break from school and homework.

Not as great as my garden, though.

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When I had first shown an interest in cooking, not just with helping Mum set the table, Mum had suggested setting aside a small spot in our garden for me to grow my own fruit and veg. I hadn’t been convinced at first, but I got into it quickly. It was so rewarding to see the tomatoes I had planted sprout and gain colour, and there was nothing better than a dinner cooked with my own ingredients.

I didn’t think that Mum had expected it to last, but five years later and my little garden was our primary source of fresh food.
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Mum was my inspiration. She loved cooking almost as much as I did, and it was because of her that I got into it at all. She always asked me if I wanted to help her when she made lunch, or dinner, and once I was old enough to do most of it myself she let me. She still operated the hob and oven until I was older, but I loved doing as much as I did.

Besides Mum, I watched cooking shows on TV. I got so many ideas from them and usually couldn’t wait to try them. Mum was my first food tester, and often Grandma and Grandpa Milan volunteered as well.
07-31-16_1-35-04 PM

There was so much I could do with food. It could be refreshing, warming, comforting, memory-evoking, and it made people feel good. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my life than by doing just that.

06-12-16_7-05-48 PM

Mum and I were close. I never knew my Dad, and I had no siblings, so Mum and I spent a lot of our free time together. We usually watched the Great Simtonian Bake-Off with dinner, or Sim Chef, and we always bounced ideas. Cooking wasn’t Mum’s calling, but she always had ideas for me regardless. At school most of the kids either hated their parents, were caught in the middle of a divorce, and tried to spent as much time away from home as possible. I didn’t know my Dad, but Mum and I were nothing like that. When I was younger Mum had told me why I didn’t know my Dad, and what Grandpa Milan had done for our family. I had been sad at first; I didn’t want to fall in love and get married right now, but knowing that I’d never have that option still hurt. Still, Mum and Grandma were hopeful. They said that the universe was righting itself. That my child might have a chance at love.

But that was way too far in the future. When Mum had told me all that she had said that it was her and me against the world, and that’s exactly what we were. My family was weird and complicated, and according to Grandpa Milan we shouldn’t even be here,but we were closer than any other family I knew.

06-12-16_7-45-05 PM

Grandma and Grandpa Milan lived close to us, and usually Mum and Grandma talked every other day over the phone, but we still went out together once a month to catch up. That was my other source of inspiration – the places we went to were amazing, and the food we had there was what had made me realise what I wanted to do with my life.

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I was going to be a chef, and maybe one day I’d own my own restaurant.

***

Just to give you a quick update of where everyone’s at: Sophia is lvl 9 in her career now, so she’s very nearly there!

Gary’s aspiration (in case you couldn’t guess from the chapter) is Master Chef, and his traits are Good, Neat, and Essence of Flavour, which he got from his aspiration. He’s currently lvl 5 of the cooking skill, lvl 3 of the fishing skill, and lvl 2 of the gardening skill 🙂 I’ve given him the side mission to create ambrosia for Sophia, hence the fishing and gardening skills ^-^

I also didn’t have time to edit this, and because it’s not my book I’m trying not to care so apologies if there are mistakes in this 🙂

3.17

04-23-16_12-28-03 PM

“Mum, look! Quickly!”

I smiled, and turned towards Gary. About a month ago we had gone to the park, and he had tried his hand at fishing for the first time. The information hut handed out fishing rods for a fiver to use all day, but I had a feeling I’d be buying him his own rod soon enough. I hadn’t expected him to be so taken by it, but he was and seemed to enjoy himself.

If it meant that he had a hobby he could pursue outside, I wouldn’t complain. Fishing wasn’t the most expensive hobby as long as you invested in a good fishing rod, and I could use the fish he caught for dinner. We both won.

04-23-16_12-25-21 PM

“Has he caught anything big yet?” Grandma asked, and I shook my head.

“Only goldfish.”

As if to prove my point his rod yanked him forward, and Gary nearly fell over his own feet. He caught himself just in time, sighed, and pouted.

Grandpa Milan chuckled. “One day. I’m surprised he’s caught anything at all with the equipment they let you borrow here.”

04-23-16_12-24-24 PM

“You fish?” I’d never pictured him with a fishing rod, wellies and one of those hats all fishermen seemed to wear. He fit perfectly into a science lab, or into a library, but I couldn’t imagine him reeling in a tuna.

He shrugged. “I used to. I know enough to know that the rods here aren’t brilliant.”

Grandma snorted. “What did you expect for a fiver a day?”

I smiled, and leaned back a little. Since my birthday two months ago we had gone out together more often. Willow Creak had a beautiful park, and all four of us could enjoy ourselves here. Work was busier than ever since Chief Chau gave me the most demanding cases, and I didn’t get much time to myself. This was lovely, and Gary loved to spend time outside with us.

04-23-16_12-26-43 PM

“Say, Grandpa, I’ve been thinking.”

The universe being a living being of some kind was still a little too much for me to comprehend, but there was one thing I couldn’t stop thinking about. I had thought a lot about what Grandpa Milan had told me on my birthday – about Gary possibly being able to live happily ever after with the one he loved – and I always arrived at the same question.

“About what?”

“About what you said to me, that the universe is adjusting itself.”

He nodded. “Go ahead.”

“You said you saved Grandma so that we could change the world for the better. That without us, the world had a bleak future and that somehow my family can change all that.”

Again, he nodded. “That’s right.”

“I know we can’t be too involved with anyone outside our family because we weren’t supposed to be here. Because I’m not supposed to exist, my interfering would change the course of someone else’s life, even if only in a small way. Correct?”

His eyes narrowed when he nodded again, trying to figure out what I was getting at.

“If our family is meant to change the world in some huge way, wouldn’t we have to interfere in the lives of other people? How can we stay away from everyone else if we’re meant to affect the world in this big fashion?”

04-23-16_12-26-38 PM

“That’s an excellent question!” Grandma said. “I’ve wondered that very same thing many times.”

Grandpa Milan looked surprised. “You did? Why didn’t you say anything?”

She shrugged. “Because, for better or for worse, I’m here now. My books are already out there, and have been for years. I may have been using a pen name for a while now to avoid suspicion, but they are still my books.”

I nodded, relieved that I wasn’t the only one who had noticed the contradiction. “So, even if you never meet your readers yourself, you have still affected their lives. You being here has touched the lives of thousands of people.” Grandma blushed and waved it off, but she was being modest. She had a massive fan base, and I knew I was right. How could we change the course of the world’s future without interacting with people? It didn’t make sense that we were supposed to alter the future in this huge life-changing way but not talk to people if it wasn’t necessary. It just didn’t work.

“Huh.” Grandpa Milan looked genuinely taken aback. “I hadn’t considered that.”

Grandma gave me a proud smile, and winked. “I can see who Gary got his smarts from.”

I blushed. I had no idea what I was talking about. At best it was a theory, but I knew I was right. It didn’t make sense any other way, and if what Grandpa Milan had told me about the universe getting used to us, then the universe knew it, too. Apparently.

Grandpa Milan borrowed a fishing rod, and joined Gary. Grandma and I laid back on the grass, and enjoyed the sunshine.

04-23-16_12-31-14 PM

“See that one there?”

I nodded. I’d never taken Grandma for someone who saw shapes in clouds, but of course it made sense. She was a writer; naturally she had a creative side.

“It looks like a daffodil, don’t you think?”

I smiled. “That’s very specific.”

Grandma traced the outline of the flower for me, but I still couldn’t see it. “Well, that’s because it is. It couldn’t be a rose – there! It’s definitely a daffodil.”

I smiled happily and closed my eyes. “I’m glad you and Grandpa Milan moved here. Gary loves you both a lot.”

04-23-16_12-30-20 PM

“I’m glad too, sweetheart. Living as long as I have isn’t always easy, but seeing my great-grandchild grow up makes it worthwhile. How many grandmas can say that?”

I chuckled. “Not many.”

For a moment we relaxed next to each other in a comfortable silence. When Grandma spoke again I realised I had nearly fallen asleep.

“Milan loves that you call him Grandpa. I don’t think he ever expected to be a part of our family. It means a lot to him.”

“Doesn’t he have a family? Outside us, I mean?” I was ashamed that I’d never thought about it. I was so used to calling him Grandpa that it hadn’t occurred to me.

Grandma shook her head. “His parents lived in Bridgeport, but they died many years ago. He never married, and he has no children of his own. We’re all he has.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t imagine us without him.”

Grandma rolled onto her side, and smiled at me. “Me neither, sweetheart.”

The strangeness of it all struck me. My grandma was over a hundred years old but looked younger than I did. Her own child – my mum – had died of a proud old age, and still she looked younger than me. Grandpa Milan was only a part of our family because he had made a deal with a spirit – who now kept him alive and young – and had resurrected Grandma. The only reason I was here was because of an odd, supernatural exception.

We were a strange little family, but I wouldn’t have changed any of it.

——————————–

And with that, Sophia’s gen is officially over! I’ll take a few weeks to plot Gary’s story, and then he’ll take over very soon 😉

3.16

04-02-16_2-05-41 PM

“Mummy?” I looked up from my book to see Gary standing next to me, his eyes shy and his hands restelss. I had heard him sneak in, but I had a feeling this was something he needed to say for himself, without me pushing him. “Do you have a moment?”

“Of course I do, baby!” I patted the spot next to me. “Come here, sit down.”

It was 10pm – several hours past his bedtime. Any other night I would have made an issue out of it, but if this was keeping him awake then I wanted to hear it.

“What’s wrong?”

He shuffled with his feet, and scooted closer.

“Do I have a daddy?”

My heart sank. I had dreaded this conversation, but I was prepared as well as I could be.

I nodded. “You did. He died before you were born.” Gary was smart, and he needed to learn about death some when. I didn’t need to give him all the details, but I didn’t have to lie about it, either.

“Oh,” he said, and leaned into me. “What was he like?”

04-02-16_2-07-06 PM

I smiled. This I could answer easily. “He was a good man. He was a police officer, just like me.”

“How did you meet him?” I was glad to see him so interested. I had been worried that Gary would resent Emery for leaving us, but instead he was curious. In his intelligent little head, he had worked out that Emery hadn’t meant to leave us, and that it wasn’t his fault.

“He was my partner at work. Your daddy was very brave, he helped me stop a lot of bad people.”

“Like batman?”

I pulled my son into my arms. “Yes, baby. Just like batman.”

Gary hesitated, then said: “Is that why he isn’t here now?”

My smile faded. I wanted him to know the truth, but how much detail did an eight-year old need? “It is. There was a very bad man, but thanks to your daddy he can’t hurt anyone any more. Don’t worry, baby, you’re safe.”

Gary nodded, but didn’t meet my eyes. “I know. You’re like batman, too.”

04-02-16_2-07-12 PM

Just like that, I knew what to say to lift his mood. “You know, your daddy loved to cook.”

His eyes went wide. “He did?”

“Hmh. One night he stayed with me to protect me from the bad man, and he cooked me dinner. He was a really good cook!”

“Better than you?”

I laughed, and my heart swelled. If Emery had still been with us, my cooking wouldn’t have stood a chance against his. “Much better than me.”

“Can I make breakfast tomorrow?”

04-02-16_2-07-42 PM

“Of course you can, baby. I love it when you cook for me.” Maybe Gary had just wanted a connection to his father. He couldn’t meet him, and he’d never know the sound of his voice, but he’d always share his father’s passion for food. Gary had made breakfast a couple of times now, and each time he had served me either cereal or toast with cheese. On Mother’s Day he had brought me breakfast in bed – two different kinds of cereal, two slices of toast, cheese, ham and raspberry jam. It was simple, but I knew he had put his everything into it.

Once he was older there’d be no keeping him from the stove and oven.

I felt myself well up. Gary had needed a connection to his father, but maybe I had needed one, too. He looked so much like Emery that it was impossible not to see him in our son, but it felt amazing that Gary had inherited more than his father’s good looks.

My birthday sneaked up on me, but thanks for Grandma and Grandpa Milan I remembered to throw a party.

04-02-16_2-30-07 PM

It wasn’t a big deal. Grandma and Grandpa Milan came, and Chief Chau made it as well as a few other people from work. After the nightmare with Blaine I was paranoid that some of his minions remained despite everything we’d done to identify them, but there were a few people I trusted. They had helped me take him down, and had been supportive after Emery’s death. We had grown close over the years, and they were the closest thing I had to friends.

Once everything had calmed down a little and Gary was occupied telling my colleagues all about the secret to a great ham sandwich (mustard), Grandpa Milan asked me for a chat.

04-02-16_2-31-26 PM

“You’ve got news, then?”

I had tried not to dwell on it, but now that he finally had something my heart was racing.

He nodded. “I do, but I’m not sure how to put it.” My heart sank. Nothing good ever started with those words.

“So it’s my fault, after all?”

“No, no, that’s not what- How much do you know about the universe?”

His question took me by surprise, and I blinked in confusion. “Not much. Why?”

Grandpa Milan tapped his chin, trying to think of an explanation. “It’s difficult to explain. Have you ever watched Doctor Who?”

I nodded, more confused than before.

“It may be fiction, but they’ve got one thing right. You don’t mess with the past. There are fixed points in time which mustn’t be altered.”

I felt a shiver run through me. “I’m with you so far.”

“When I made the bargain with the spirit to save Morrigan, I changed something I shouldn’t have interfered with. She was supposed to die, but because of me she lived. Not only that, but because I meddled with her fate – with the universe – she had a child. There’s now a bloodline that shouldn’t have existed. Your family has touched all sorts of things since then. Morrigan has written some influential books, your mother’s contribution to charity was immense, and now you are actively making the world better as a detective. The universe doesn’t know what to make of that – for lack of better words.”

I nodded, but my head was spinning. “Are you saying that we were a mistake?”

04-02-16_2-32-25 PM

“Oh no, not at all! I may have messed the universe around a little, but I don’t regret it for one moment.”

I didn’t know whether to feel better or not. Just what was he trying to tell me? “I don’t see where Emery and I come in.”

“The spirits don’t believe that his death was your doing. He was a cop, Sophia. It’s a dangerous line of work. Your interfering might have sped his death up a little, but sooner or later he would have been in an equally dangerous situation. It was inevitable. But this is where it gets interesting. The spirits aren’t sure, because the universe isn’t sure.”

04-02-16_2-31-47 PM

“I don’t-” Was the universe conscious? He talked about it like it was a living thing!

“Perhaps I shouldn’t have interfered, but I did and it confused the cosmic order of things. But the universe is older and more powerful than any of us can imagine. It… adjusts. You could say it’s getting used to your presence.”

My heart jumped. Was he implying- “So I could grow old with someone I love?”

Grandpa Milan shook his head, but it didn’t look confident. “No. The spirits seem sure that it’s too early for you, but Gary might be able to. I advice caution, in case it’s too soon for him, too, but some day in the future your family will be able to love. Your grandchild might be able to have a normal life.”

It was too much to comprehend in one sitting. I thanked him, and said I understood but really I needed time to think it all through. The universe adjusts to my family? That would make it sentient, wouldn’t it? Or was it even more complicated than that?

I wasn’t sure if it was too much for me to understand, or if the drinks Mum had been mixing all evening were to blame, but either way I needed time.

04-02-16_2-17-00 PM

Gary had a passion for drawing and painting. He enjoyed his art classes at school, and asked me for a drawing table and some paints for his ninth birthday. His teacher thought he had a talent for it, and I was happy to see him immerse himself so much. He still liked to cook, but he was too young to really get into it. He wasn’t allowed at the stove or to use the oven, and eventually he got bored of making toasts and salads all the time. His drawing table gave him something different to do, and soon the walls in his room were covered in drawings.

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“You could be a big artist one day,” I said one afternoon after adding another drawing to his wall. “Like Picasso, or da Vinci.”

He smiled, but shook his head. “Nuh, I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“It’s fun, but I don’t think it’s for me.” I smiled at his choice of words. He was so grown-up it was easy to forget that he was only nine years old.

“What do you want to be when you’re older, then?”

“An awesome chef, like you and daddy!”

04-02-16_2-42-04 PM

I smiled, and resisted the urge to pull him into a hug. He was getting too old to be hugged constantly by his mother, and I didn’t want to be clingy. I wanted him to know that he could be whatever he wanted to be – not what I wanted him to be.

“Then I’d better start saving for culinary school!”

Even if he decided on something else later on, it’d be good to have a college fund set up. A good education wouldn’t be cheap, and with his mind he’d be able to get into the best school there was. I didn’t want to hold back on his education. If he wanted to be a chef, I’d have the savings set aside to make it happen.

I gladly hugged back when he hugged me. Emery would have been proud of him. I knew I was.

Interlude

“Make it quick, mortal.”

He balled his hands into fists, and reminded himself that he needed to stay calm. It had taken the spirits a while to agree to this meeting. Now that he was here he wouldn’t waste the opportunity.

He had already achieved more than any other human alive, had asked for more than any other human alive – and he’d been granted it. He needed no favours this time, only an answer. A simple thing.

He had promised her.

He hadn’t expected to become a part of their family. If he could help by asking one simple question, then he would.

“Was it Sophia’s fault that Emery Dwyer died?” 

In front of him, the spirit broke into a grin. The spirit inside him moved around like an excited child in a bouncy castle. 

His palms were sweating, and his forehead was wet. 

“You beg an audience for this? You used to be more ambitious, mortal.”

“I’m not here for myself.”

The spirit’s grin widened, and he no longer knew what he was dealing with. Most spirits were curious, but there were others. Benevolent ones. Malevolent ones. Once he had confused the spirit that used him as a host as the latter, but in time he had realised that he’d been wrong. The spirit he shared a body with – the spirit that had kept him alive for so long – was merely curious.

He didn’t think that the one he was talking to now was merely curious.

“No, you are here for her. Another mortal. The reason the universe is in turmoil.”

“In turmoil?” He’d known when he had asked his favour many years ago that he was manipulating things out of reach to humans. Resurrecting the dead wasn’t within their abilities for a reason, yet he had asked – no, begged – it regardless. He had believed her family to be what the world needed. Had he been wrong?

“Your little experiment has shaken the universe and the stars themselves, mortal. What did you expect?”

He swallowed. That was a very good question. What did he expect? Not this.

But his time was limited. He could only stay for so long, and he wouldn’t leave without an answer. 

“Was it her fault? Is she responsible for his death?”

The spirit laughed. “You are asking the wrong questions, mortal.”

He thought for a second, and grew cold when he considered the impossible. “Will the universe recover?”

A hundred grins appeared around him, and for the first time he saw the spirit world as it truly was. He was merely a visitor, a guest. This was their home, and they were everywhere and in all things.

“It has already started, mortal. The universe was… unsure, when we gave her life. It was unsure, too, when we halted her ageing. But the universe is larger than you can imagine. It can deal with all manner of things, and it can recover from worse.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“She is not to blame for the man’s death. Not directly. Her actions sent smaller ripples through the nebulae than her mother’s actions, or her grandmother’s.”

He felt dizzy at the implications. “Does this mean that she can find love, and grow old with someone?

The grins around him dimmed. “No. Not her. It is too early.”

“But one day? Will her son be able to?”

“I do not know, mortal. I only know that your request and our granting it has forever changed the way of things. I cannot say if that is for better or for worse, only that it is.”

He smiled, despite it all. Sophia wouldn’t get her happily ever after, but perhaps it was possible for Gary. How could this be for the worst? Love was always a good thing. The spirits didn’t understand – they didn’t love as humans did – but he understood. 

One day his family would find love, and he looked forward to the day it happened.

3.15

11-21-15_1-26-46 PM

Gary’s birthday came around much too fast. Between work and catching up with housework time had flown by, and before I knew it I was throwing him a birthday party.

Grandma and Grandpa Milan were thrilled to spend the day with us, and showered him with presents. I loved having them here, but nice as it was it drove home the truth that Emery should have celebrated with us. Mum and Momma should have been here, too, but I hurt the most for Emery. At least my parents had died of old age, after having lived a long, fulfilled life. Emery never got that chance.

Gary would have many questions, and I had no idea how to answer some of them. Would he be too young to understand what happened to his father? Would it scar him? How on earth was I supposed to explain why his great-grandparents looked younger than I did?

11-21-15_1-27-31 PM

I had never been as aware of time as I was on his birthday. My memory of Emery was fading, and it didn’t seem real that he had been gone for five years already. That Mum had been gone for five years.

That, while I was still young, my own grandparents looked younger than me. That my baby was no longer a baby, but a little boy who would start school soon.

Time seemed to be slipping through my fingers, and it scared me.

Grandma and Grandpa stood around the crip with me, and the three of us sang together.

“Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Gary… Happy Birthday to you!”

11-21-15_1-39-12 PM

Gary looked so much like his father I couldn’t believe the resemblance at first. Emery’s sun-kissed skin, his bright eyes, even his brown hair – Gary could have been his twin. He had my nose, but it was impossible not to see his father in him.

I smiled. Even though my memory of Emery was fading, Gary would always be a perfect reminder.

Grandma and Grandpa stayed for cake and dinner. Gary was busy trying out his new toys and everything else around the house, which gave us a chance to talk.

11-21-15_1-38-42 PM

“Any news?” I asked Grandma while Grandpa Milan introduced my five-year old to chess in the garden.

She shook her head. “Not yet. He’s trying, Soph. He’ll be over as soon as he knows something, I promise. And didn’t I tell you not to worry?”

Suddenly I found it hard to swallow my chilli. It had gotten easier over the years, but the feeling that I had caused Emery’s death still haunted me at times. Especially at night, when I couldn’t sleep and my mind wandered without my permission. If I hadn’t fallen for Emery, he would still be alive. I knew that Grandma was right – he had known the risks when he had joined the force – but it was my fault that he had gotten mixed up in this mess. Maybe, if I hadn’t involved him and told him about the notes and that someone had been in my house, he wouldn’t have come to my rescue when Blaine tried to kill me.

My heart ached at all the things that could be different. Emery could be alive, but I wouldn’t have Gary. Would we still have slept together if I hadn’t involved him? Would we still have had that moment of weakness, or would it have been easier to ignore my feelings? Would it have been more difficult?

I felt guilty and ashamed that his death was my fault, but I didn’t want to live in a world without my son. He was everything to me, and with the only exception of Blaine’s death Gary was the one good thing that had come out of this.

I couldn’t imagine a life without him any more. I just wished it could have been a world with Emery in it. Gary deserved to know his father, every child did, but I had to accept that it wasn’t meant to be for my family.

The happily every after I had wanted since I was a child couldn’t be for us. I knew I had to come to terms with it, but it was hard.

11-21-15_1-45-27 PM

Gary was clever, and took to chess easily. Once a week Grandpa Milan came over to play with him, but on all other days he wanted to play with me. It didn’t take long for him to beat me, and I wondered who he had gotten his smarts from. Both I and Emery had been clever, but neither of us had been a protegee at five. Or maybe he was simply good at chess?

I was a good cop, and Emery had been even better. He had loved to cook and everything about food. I couldn’t help but wonder if Gary had inherited his love for cooking.

11-21-15_1-58-00 PM

He did well at school. I loved helping him with his homework, but most of the time he didn’t need my help.

To see if he did enjoy cooking I brought him into the kitchen more, and he loved to assist me.

11-21-15_2-00-10 PM

He did everything he could to help with our meals, and soon he came into the kitchen without me needing to ask him. It warmed my heart to see him take after his father so much, and hoped that it was more than just a son wanting to help his Mum.

I had been sad that Emery’s memory had faded, but now it never would. He lived on through our son, and I was immensely grateful for that. I was a little sad that my son didn’t take more after me, but if that meant that Emery wouldn’t be forgotten so soon I could live with that. He had been a great man, and I was beyond happy that Gary was so much like him.

I promised myself to nurture his talent in every way I could. If he wanted to grow his own fruit and vegetables, I’d make room for a garden. Our plot was large enough to house a good-sized vegetable garden, or whatever else he wanted to grow. It wouldn’t be an issue. If he wanted to go to culinary school, I’d pay his fees. I had the beginnings of a respectable financial safety net, and by the time Gary was old enough to chose what he wanted to do with his life I’d be able to support him.

Besides my grandparents, he was my only immediate family. I had accepted that I’d never have the large family I had dreamed of, but I’d invest all my love into Gary.

I just hoped he’d never ask me for a sibling. Maybe a puppy would do if he did.

——————————————

[rant on] I know I’ve said this before but I hate how quickly babies age up!! The gap between newborn and fully-grown child is much too big. It doesn’t bother me when I’m playing just for fun, but for these stories? Far too unrealistic!! -.- [rant off]