Generation One: Chapter Nineteen

Warning: Contains some adult language.

France was… magnificent.

There was something different in the air, but it was lovely. The people were very different from Americans; I appreciated that, as I too, was very different from the average American.

The first three days of our vacation were perfect. In fact, they were the best three days of my life. There were so many things to do here, outdoors and indoors. There were so many places to visit and explore, and we had gone to a lot of them. All I wanted to do at night was sleep for a long time, but… I’ll just say that I didn’t get much sleep.

Yes, France was wonderful.

But that only lasted three days.

On the fourth day, Sam and I had gone to visit some historic place. It was breathtaking. Everything was made of stone, and it displayed how old it really was. It seemed like an old paradise, a place where I could get lost forever, and never want to come out.

I was wrong. I did get lost, and I wanted to find my way back as soon as possible. The place  was packed, and somehow Sam and I were separated.

A beautiful, pale-haired woman, who was probably my age, approached me with a kind smile. “You seem a little lost,” she said. Her voice sounded innocent and girlish. To be honest, it was a bit annoying.

I looked around the place. People were walking by, not paying attention to us. I looked at her. “No, I’m fine. I’m just gonna go that way,” I told her, and pointed to the direction in which most of the people were moving.

“Oh, come on. I know the place really well. I can help you.”

“You don’t sound like you’re around here…”

“No, I’m American,” she laughed. “But I’ve on France for a while…” she did some thing with  her eyes, which caused me to stare at them. They were a beautiful yellow, and they matched her vanilla wafer-like skin and light hair color.

“You have… interesting eyes. Actually, they’re beautiful,” I told her, trying to distract her from wanting to guide me, but not lying at all.

“Thank you,” I noticed that she spoke slowly, as if she was thinking everything thoroughly before actually speaking. “I got them from my dad. What do you say about going for a coffee? They are exquisite here in France.”

I shook my head. “No, thanks. I don’t really like coffee.”

“Oh, please. You seem like a great person, and I’d love to have a chat. You’re the only person I’ve been able to talk to in days; I barely speak French,” she was nearly begging now.

I sighed. “Fine, but just for a little while.”

“That’s perfect,”  she smiled broadly.

~~~</3~~~

As I secretly suspected, there was something off about this woman. She locked all of the doors in her car when I got in. She grabbed her phone and spoke in a voice that I’d heard before, “It’s done.” She seemed very happy.

I gasped. I remembered where I’d heard that voice. It belonged to the woman who called me the week Jade arrived at my house.

You’re going to regret what you are going to do.

You’re going to regret what you are going to do.

You’re going to regret what you are going to do.

Those words rang in my head, and I stupidly gripped the steering wheel, causing us to nearly crash.

The pale woman gasped. “You bitch, you could have killed me!”

“Who are you?” I shouted at her. She rolled down the windows of her black car, so I had to shout louder. “What do you want from me?!”

“I want you to go back to that idiot that fathered you son! He wants you, and it gets you out of the way!” she shouted back at me.

“Why would you even want me out of you way? I don’t even know you!” I never stopped shouting.

“But know you, and it’s your fault that I don’t have the life I want!”

“What life are you talking about?!”

“Stop asking so many questions, or I’m going to have to kill you,” she said shakily. She pulled up at a hotel, or what once was a hotel. Someone walked out of it, looking around, and I realized, with a sickening feeling in my stomach, that it was Daniel. What was he even doing in France?!

“Hello, love,” he said to me, caressing my cheek. I pulled away quickly.

“Don’t touch me,” I growled. Yes, I pretty much hated Daniel, but my tone surprised me.

“Ooh, it seems like someone is feisty. I can fix that,” he said with a wink.

I felt repulsed by him and the woman who brought me here.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been kidnapped. I suddenly felt like I could puke at any moment. My face turned some shade of green. Daniel smiled at me. “Frightened, sweetheart? There’s no need to be. Lem, should we get her inside?”

“Of course we should, you moron,” she snapped and got out of the car. I didn’t remember her killing the engine.

I can scream! I thought. How could I have forgotten?

“HELP! Somebody help m–!”

“Do something!” ‘Lem’ yelled. Lem… Lem… That name… Where had I heard it before? Lem… Lem…

Daniel covered my mouth with his hand and I bit it.

I didn’t scream again, though. Instead, I addressed ‘Lem’. “You. How is it possible? You’re supposed to be–“

She cut me off instantly. “Dead?” She flashed a brilliant, sarcastic smile. “It’s a long story.”

“You want my husband,” I realized. “You want him back.”

“No. He’s not your husband! He’s mine!” she growled.

Her voice filled me with terror. Sam never mentioned that she was mentally unstable.

Daniel forced me out of the car, and made me walk toward the abandoned hotel. A rat walked right by me, and I had to put my hands over my mouth, trying not to scream.

“Weren’t you supposed to be yellow?” were the words that escaped my mouth when I entered the nasty hotel.

“It’s a part of the long story. Now, Daniel, go take care of her while I locate Sam. Pass me her phone.”

“It’s at my hotel,” I told her. I wanted to be over with this as soon as possible, and I didn’t want Sam involved with this at all. I knew it was too much to ask for, but I still hoped.

She glared at me. “Give me his number,” she demanded.

“No,” I shook my head.

She walked up to me and slapped me. “I said give me his number!”

“And I said no,” I reply simply, trying to act as if her slap didn’t sting me. I would have slapped her back, but Daniel came and held my hands behind my back. He had a very strong grip.

“Daniel, make her tell you,” she ordered.

I screamed, hit and bit Daniel as he took me away, but nothing I did would change his mind.

~~~~~Anita’s Point of View~~~~~

I grumpily crossed the streets of Sunset Valley. Great day for my car to stop working, huh? As I’d been doing for the past three days, I was going to visit Jade and Ethan to make sure they were doing okay. Only my car wouldn’t even come to life. So now I was stuck walking. The early afternoon sun heated my shoulders, and my shoes were killing me, even though the heels were short. I cursed under my breath. Why did I not take flats to work? I could hide them or something.

I walked quickly, not looking at anyone or anything, just the path I was taking. My usual walk was on a treadmill, not on a street. A woman slammed into me from the side and nearly knocked me down.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” she apologized. Her red hair was messy and tangled, her eyes and face were also red. She was crying.

“I-I’m fine,” I stuttered. “Are you alright?” I felt like smacking myself for asking that. Of course she wasn’t alright.

“Uh… no. Not really… Come on, Noel, say hello to this nice lady,” she said to a boy behind her.

I gaped at him. “He looks a lot like my friend,” I told the redhead woman.

“Oh. He doesn’t look like his… father, so he’s not your friend’s son,” she said nervously.

 “Oh no, my friend is a girl! Her son does not look like his father either… and he’s about Noel’s age.”

She looked up at me, curious. She wiped away one of the tears that rested on her cheeks. “What is your friend’s name?”

What harm could it cause telling this woman Arden’s name? “Her name,” I said, “is Arden. What’s yours?”

“I’m C-Cassandra. Please, tell Arden that I’m sorry. I’m now paying everything I did,” she told me, and more tears spilled.

“What are you talking about?” I asked her, more confused than ever.

“For accepting Daniel even though he had a relationship with her, and not doing anything about it. I am not lying when I say that my son and I are paying for my own mistakes.”

She raised her shirt’s sleeves, and I understood what she meant. Her arms were covered with old and recent bruises, and there probably were more all over her body. The boy was the same way, but he had less than her.

“You have to leave!” I exclaimed. “You shouldn’t let him treat you and your son this way!”

“I can’t,” she said. She started sobbing and I offered her my shoulder. Yes, we were stranger. Yes, my shoulder was small, and my clothes would get wet, but I didn’t care.

“Why not?”

“He spent all of my money. I only have my house, and he has a key because he lives with me.”

After a minute of silence, I speak, “Come on, Cassandra. We will take a cab that will take us to the City Hall. I am not going to leave you alone until you report this to the authorities. By the way, where is he?”

“He’s in France. That’s why we’re allowed to come outside, because he won’t know.”

In France?!

~~~~~Arden’s Point of View~~~~~

It was late in the afternoon. Nearly nightfall. Daniel said it. I sat in a corner and cried. Daniel did manage to get Sam’s phone number out of me, but only after doing horrible things that I didn’t want to think about. Sam was on his way. He was now going to be in danger. That made me sob harder. I tried to be strong, but my strength seemed to have abandoned me. I wondered and wondered and wondered. If Sam’s first wife cared about him so much, why did she fake her death? Why come back now? Where– I gasped in shock, and for air. Sam… twins… Where were Sam’s twin sons?

The sound of a car approaching reached my ears.

“The bastard has arrived,” Daniel announced.

“D-don’t talk about him like t-that,” I hissed at him.

“Want me to do that again, sweetheart?”

I fell silent. No, I didn’t want him to.

“Arden? Arden, where are you?” I heard my husband’s voice call out.

~~~~~Sam’s Point of View~~~~~

The surroundings of this ‘hotel’ were filthy, some old, extremely rusty cars were parked in a corner, and the smell was unbearable. It seemed to me like this was more like a motel than a hotel.

“Arden!” I yelled again and again. No response.

The front door opened, revealing the image of a woman that, if it wasn’t for her hair or skin, looked just like my dead wife. She rested her figure against the decaying frame. “Hello, lovely,” she purred.

I froze. It was her. Lemon. My Lemon. But she was so different! Not only physically; the innocence and niceness were gone from her eyes, being replaced with some sort of… anger and vengeance.

“How–?” I started to ask her, but I couldn’t form coherent thoughts, let alone questions or sentences.

“It’s a long story,” she smiled.

“I don’t have time, but I think that I, more than anyone, deserve to know what happened.  Why did you leave? Where are my sons? Where is Arden?! I need to see her!”

I pushed past her, resuming my yells of “Arden! Arden!”.

I heard some sort of response. It wasn’t my name or “Over here!” It was a muffled sound.

I ran toward the sound, where I found my wife on the floor, and her ex-boyfriend covering her mouth.

“Get the fuck off of her,” I snarled.

“What if I don’t want to?” he snapped.

“You are a coward, Daniel Plum. That’s why you hit and hurt women, isn’t it? So you can feel stronger for a change? It won’t be that way with me. I can defend myself, and my family, very, very well!”

“Fine, bitch,” he said and walked out of the room.

I ran to Arden. “Are you okay? Did he do something?”

Arden just shook her head. “What happened?” I urged.

She shook her head again. “Can you speak?”

She shrugged. What happened?

When I spoke again, it was barely a whisper, “Do you think you could call the police if I gave you my phone?”

It was a while before she moved or did something. Finally, she nodded.

I handed her my phone and looked around the room. “I’m going to distract them, so they won’t interrupt. Call as fast you can, tell them where we are, and most of all, don’t let those two see the phone,” I said, recited the address Lemon had given me, kissed the top of Arden’s head and left the room.

I walked into a verbal fight between Lemon and Daniel. She was scolding him for being so weak and stupid, and he was telling her to do the job herself. Job? What was that job? Making sure Arden suffered?

“If you chimp want her back, you will help!” she yelled.

I let the scene unfold in front of my eyes, remaining half-hidden and in silence. I was grateful for this; it gained some time for Arden.

At last, Lemon turned around, saw me and ran into my arms. “Lovely, how I’ve missed you all these years!”

I pushed her away from me. “Don’t touch me, Lemon.”

She made a sad face. I was pretty sure it was fake. “Why not? I’m your wife.”

“My wife is Arden, not you. Arden. Get it?”

“No,” she said simply, but sharply. “I am not dead, so I am your rightful wife.”

“No, you are not. I have your death certificate, which means that we are not married,” I said slowly. “Get it?”

“It’s fake, so it doesn’t count,” she pressed.

“That only means that you are going to jail, sweetheart,” I said in a low voice. I sounded like an insane man who was about to attack. I hated it, but I needed her to understand. “Why are you even white anyway?”

“Surgeries. After my accident, I had to have a lot of plastic surgeries to ever look decent again.”

“So, our sons did die?”

She sighed. “Yes.” It was the first time since our reunion that I heard some sadness in her voice. “They died, and I nearly did, too, but I managed to survive.”

“Why did you fake you death?” My tone lowered to a whisper.

“I couldn’t stand you seeing me so ugly…”

“Having you, no matter how “ugly” was better than not having you at all!”

“I–“

That was when the police arrived. The next half hour was full of yells, curse words, and struggles that all came from Lemon and Daniel.

They were arrested and didn’t have the right to be ‘free’ under bail.

It was over… at least until their trial.

~~~~~Arden’s Point of View~~~~~

Yes, it was over. After waiting for a long month, it was official. Lemon and Daniel were going to stay in jail. Lemon for kidnapping, faking her death and creating illegal documents, and Daniel for kidnapping and domestic violence. Daniel could have been guilty of another crime but, of course, I kept my mouth shut. I was going to take this to the grave.

But that changed until I found out.

I had been getting a familiar… sickness lately, so I went to the doctor to get checked up.

I carefully entered our new house in Starlight Shores. It was an antique house, and everything in it was old.

“Sam?” I barely called out.

He was closer to me than I thought he’d be, so he heard me. “Yes, love?”

“I have to tell you something…” I told him, still slowly and in a low voice, feeling sicker and sicker with every second that passed.

Sam seemed to notice. He put his hand around my shoulder. “Is everything okay?”

“I’m… pregnant,” I announced.

“That’s amazing news…” I could tell he was confused. Why was I in such a mood, if I was carrying wonderful news?

“The problem is… that it could be Daniel’s child…”

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Generation One: Chapter Eighteen

Twelve days had gone by since I got that unsettling mysterious call only I knew about. Twelve days which meant that yes, this was my last day of “liberty,” as Anita would say. I saw it as the beginning of the happiest era of my life. How could I not want to be married to Sam and enjoy our life with our son and pets?

Anita warned me months ago about me having to throw a bachelorette party but I refused.  She never mentioned it again, I noticed, feeling quite relieved. That meant she gave up. I knew Anita and she couldn’t keep quiet when things didn’t go her way but she had.

Right now, I was standing in a dressmaker’s cozy home. She was kind enough to offer to do the last fitting of my dress at her house, which was very close to mine. Of course, she probably needed the money but I was grateful because I didn’t have to go back to the little boutique where I got my dress.

I slipped on the dress that hugged my small figure perfectly. The texture was soft and comfortable, just the opposite of what one would expect a wedding dress to be. The dress was now a bit big on me, but nothing that was very noticeable. It was left just like that.

~~~</3~~~

It was now night. I was feeling very nervous and I was sick to my stomach. Anita arrived at my door looking as if she was going to a party. My stomach felt even more uneasy than before.

“Get dressed we are–hey, why are you so pale?” she asked.

“I’m sick,” was my reply.

“Oh crap, you don’t think you can miss your bachelorette party, do you?”

“My what? I told you I didn’t want one and I still don’t.”

“I know but since when has that ever stopped me?” she said.

“I seriously can’t go, I’m really sick. I’ve been taped to the toilet all night.”

“Ew. Well, I guess I will have to enjoy it for you…” she sighed dramatically.

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll love that,” I told her.

“Oh yes, yes, I will.”

I hold up my finger and ran into the bathroom. I really hoped it would pass before the morning. I couldn’t afford to be sick at my own wedding. How would I even enjoy it if that happened?

~~~~~Jade’s Point of View~~~~~

I stood in front of my sleepyhead grandson while he slept on that uncomfortable-looking couch. And to think I was the one who had him sleeping on it. My left foot was getting cold from standing on the cold wood so I moved to the rug.

“Son, get up! You have to get ready with Kaleb! You’re already late!” I said loudly. Surely, it would sound like a yell to him considering I was standing right in front of him. A cough built up in my throat but I tried to hold it.

Samuel stirred. “Hmm?” he muttered.

“You have to get up, it’s your wedding day!”

That seemed to wake him up. He sat on the couch. “Where’s Arden?” he asked, looking around the room.

“She’s showering. You will either have to use the guest bathroom or Anita’s, your choice.”

“Mm, I’ll shower here.”

“How did you sleep, Sammy?”

His cheeks turned a slight pink when I called him Sammy. I didn’t see a reason to be ashamed, though. I had called him Sammy all of his life! “As good as one can sleep on a couch so small.”

Guiltiness washed over me. “You don’t have to sleep here, son. We can both fit in your bed. I can share, it’s been awhile since I’ve done that,” I said a little bit hesitantly. Ever since my husband passed, I had been feeling very lonely but I was glad to have some company for a few days.

“It’s fine, Grandma. As long as you’re comfortable, I’d even sleep on a tent outside.”

That made me smile. I was so lucky to have such an amazing grandson. He was truly gold.

“Go, go, Sammy. You don’t want to be late for your own wedding.”

~~~~~Arden’s Point of View~~~~~

I woke up Ethan right after I finished my relaxing shower. I was feeling as awfully nervous as yesterday but I wasn’t sick anymore and I was grateful. I take a good look at my son. He  grew up so fast. Just when Jade arrived, he fit in his crib. He was almost too big for it but he fit. Just last night he had to sleep in an extra mattress that was around the house because he only fit in the crib if he was sitting. It could not be comfortable at all to sleep while sitting.

The fact that my little boy wasn’t so little anymore saddened me terribly. He was growing up into what would hopefully become a great man. In no time, he would be moving out of the house to start his own life. The thought brought tears to my eyes.

The sight of my son in a tux caused the hot tears to spill and make their way down my cheeks until they landed in my already-damp hair.

“Mom, are you alright?” Ethan asked. He sounded and looked worried.

“Yeah, I’m–fine. You just–you just look so handsome!”

“Mom, stop it. You’re embarrassing me. What will I do with you when you get old and awkward?”

I laughed. “I’m going to get ready. Please, don’t get dirt all over your suit. Keep in mind that Sofia hasn’t had her bath yet.”

Ethan groaned. Of course he would want to play with Sofia. “Fine.”

~~~</3~~~

The wedding started nearly at 6:00 PM. It was in our tiny backyard because we wanted something simpler than simple. Anita and her new boyfriend, Kaleb Rudd, decided to be original and kiss all throughout the ceremony.

It was nearly empty, really. It was just a family thing. Jade, Ethan, Anita, Kaleb, the pets and, of course, Sam and I. It felt comfortable. I felt at ease.

The air smelled of roses and a little less of various types of flowers, but mainly roses.

I walked down the short aisle alone. My parents died when I was a teenager so my dad couldn’t be there to walk me and my mom couldn’t be there to cry because her daughter was getting married, like in those movies.

I smiled at the sight of Sam looking as handsome as ever. He was looking at me with such eyes… Oh, goodness, I couldn’t even explain it but it made me get butterflies. I felt like gravity didn’t have an effect on me anymore just by looking at him. Oh my, how did this stunning human being ever his gorgeous purple eyes on me?

“I, Samuel Valenzuela, take you Arden Elizabeth Teal, to be my wedded wife. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ’till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness.”

I, Arden Elizabeth Teal, take you Samuel Valenzuela, to be my wedded husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ’till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness.”

I was lost in my own world. I didn’t even knowhad a world to myself inside of my mind! I heard the faint sound of the priest talking–whose presence hadn’t really sunk in until now–, telling Sam that he could now kiss the bride aka me. That’s when it hit me. I am married. Married. As of right now, I am a married woman. I am married to the love of my life, Samuel Teal–yes, he took on my last name–and we could be together forever, if all went well and I hope it did. The word ‘married’ kept popping into my mind and I thought I could even see it everywhere!

Anita and Kaleb stopped kissing only to see Sam and I share our first kiss as a married couple. We kissed for a really short time because I thought it was embarrassing to kiss where people were watching, even if it was a wedding.

As I cut the wedding cake, I caught the faint sight of two women wearing all black getting into a taxi. One of them had some sort of… blond hair? I couldn’t really tell in the darkness but it seemed to be blond. I ignored it. Maybe they were at the neighbor’s house. I served cake for everyone and started eating a piece myself. There was also real food but who cares? Most people prefer cake–I don’t but still–and they could eat more food as the night kept us from seeing less and less. Oh, wasn’t tonight dark.

~~~</3~~~

The wedding was long since over and it was nearing 3:00 AM in the morning. I was falling asleep in my chair. I rested my head on Sam’s shoulder as the people around us left for their flights. Sam surprised me earlier with tickets to France. Yes, France. I couldn’t be more excited than I was, considering that I could barely keep my eyes open. My smile stayed there, though. I was married, and I was going with my husband to France. Life was good, wasn’t it?

I had never been too afraid of flying so that was fine. What worried me was Jade left alone to take care of Ethan, Sofia and Lucky. Anita said she’d keep an eye on them, along with Kaleb and that comforted me a little. At least they would all have their owns bed while we’re away!

~~~~~Stranger’s Point of View~~~~~

I sat on an uncomfortable chair out of sight from the ones the passengers usually took. It was not where I wanted to sit for over three hours but it was better than being seen. Plus, I had a great view right where I was. The best of all was that I could not be seen by the people who should not see me even if they tried.

I fished around my bag for the black cellphone I got for calling their house. My usual one was much better but I could not risk using it because they might have been able to track down the number somehow.

Once I found it, I speed-dialed who the phone identified as Donovan but of course that was a fake name. I thought everything thoroughly. Nothing could go wrong. I smiled at the idea. The phone rang three times before he picked up. “Any news?”

“Grab your suitcase because we’re going to France,” I told him.

~~~~~Arden’s Point of View~~~~~

 The air was filled with tension, nervousness and just downright fear. I would think flying would be more peaceful but, with the screaming children, yelling parents, people who looked like they had just seen a ghost, it was not.

Stewardesses walked hurriedly, offering everyone juice, water, bad food, or just a hard, red blanket and a tiny pillow. I kindly accepted the blanket and used Sam’s shoulder as a pillow. We made small conversations about French places we wanted to visit, or we just sat in comfortable silence; around our area, at least.

By now, most children were fast asleep and the adults had managed to stay relatively calm. The biggest commotion came from the bathroom area of the airplane, and I was grateful that I wasn’t sitting too close to it.

Some movies were showed. A few were lame, but most of them were in French and hard to understand.

After many, many hours, we were finally flying on the last airplane, the one that would take us straight to the France airport.

Sam shook me awake gently. “We’re here,” he whispered.

~~~~~Stranger’s Point of View~~~~~

France was everything. Now we were here. Let the games begin.

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Generation One: Chapter Seventeen

I sat on my hands and looked around uncomfortably. Sam hadn’t arrived but I was awfully nervous.

A few feet away from the couch sat Ethan playing with Sofia. It surprised me how close these two still were after nearly three years.

I got up from the couch and started pacing around the room, getting dizzy as the circle I was walking in got smaller. What if she doesn’t like me and convinces Sam that I am not the right person for him?

My worries were interrupted and intensified by the sound of our old car approaching the house. I fixed my outfit and moved my hair to the side, noticing how sweaty my hands were while doing so.

A door slammed, my stomach jumped…

Another door slammed, my heart quickened…

Footsteps approached, I got nauseous…

The door creaked and I was ready to run to the bathroom, possibly vomit and hide forever…

“Hey, Arden–Ethan, we’re home!” cheered Sam when he showed his head through the door. His brown and purple hair was tousled thanks to the wind–the car’s air conditioner stopped working and the only way to keep from cooking inside of it was to roll down the windows while using it–and he had a reassuring smile on his face. It made me feel the tiniest bit better but the uneasy feeling was still there.

Right after him walked the tiny figure of an old lady with gray hair, purple eyes like Sam’s and… a kind smile. Her smile became a full wrinkly grin when she looked at me. “Oh, darling, aren’t you a nice-looking girl?”

I smiled a little genuinely. “It’s good to meet you, Mrs. Smith.”

She waved her hand in the air. “Please, call me Jade. We’re family now.”

“Jade,” I repeated.

“I’ve heard a lot about you. All good things, of course.” She looked around the room and noticed Ethan staring at us, especially her. “Oh, and that must be Ethan! Come here, boy. Give you great-grandma a hug.” Then she turned to me. “I’d go there myself but I’m old and I can’t walk too much, ha ha.”

Sam walked inside of the house with Jade’s stuff–I didn’t even notice him walk outside. She would be staying in our room, Sam would sleep on the couch and I on the “big boy” bed we got for Ethan (which he wouldn’t start using until his fifth birthday, which is in three months).

Jade sat on the couch and called out, “Arden, come here.” She patted the spot next to her. “Let’s come talk about the wedding.” Ah, yes, the wedding. Everything is ready and the date is set for two weeks from now. There is only one problem: the dress. I still didn’t have one.

As if she could read my mind, the first thing she asked when I sat down was about the dress. “How is that dress of yours? Already fitted?”

I looked down at my hands. “Oh, I still don’t have one?”

“What? I must accompany you to get one! The dress is the most important thing about the bride on her wedding day!”

“That would be really nice, Jade.”

~~~</3~~~

Anita, Jade and I went to a little boutique on the outsides of town to get my dress. The tiny store smelled lightly of coffee and flowers. The floors were made of light wood and the walls were a pale blue that could compare to the sky on a sunless but cloudless day. Behind a counter sat a young woman with ginger hair and light eyes whose color was hard to identify. She smiled at us and asked which one was the bride. I kept quiet but Anita pointed at me and pushed me. If I was excited, she was about to explode with agitation.

I tried a gigantic amount of dress and, dress after dress, Anita would squeal with delight while Jade and I just pursed out lips at it. When I was about to give up, I knew I’d found the one–the right one, the perfect one–and I knew Jade liked it, too.

“That dress is way too antiquated,” commented Anita.

“I think it’s perfect,” I whispered without tearing my eyes away from it.

“Yeah, because you are antiquated.”

“Antiquated and antiquated suit each other.”

“It looks so much like my wedding dress…” said Jade in a low voice.

Anita scoffed. “See what I mean?”

It seemed to me like Anita didn’t like Jade but I proved she was just jealous when she told me I had replaced her with my fiance’s grandmother from Mexico. Yes, Sam’s family was originally from Mexico. His mother was Mexican and his father American.

We left for lunch after choosing the dress and getting it fitted and ready for the last fitting days before the wedding. The first place we found was an almost empty café and we were so hungry we didn’t care it looked so dirty on the outside.

As opposed to what I expected, the café was pristine. The tables all stuck out in the same angle, the chairs were perfectly placed and there wasn’t a stain on the floor. The smell of coffee here was really strong. It was mixed with other smells like fresh bread and cheese.

Anita ordered black coffee and toast, Jade got cornstarch and milk and I ate scrambled eggs with OJ. It was nearly 11:00 PM but we enjoyed the tasty breakfast anyway.

Anita yawned. She woke up at 4:00 AM to get ready and we left at 5:00 AM. She was usually going to bed at that time, not getting up. We arrived at the store at 8:30 AM or so and, luckily enough, it was open and we were able to start browsing through the dresses immediately. I was shocked about the variety of dresses there were. They were each a masterpiece, and one lucky woman would think of it as the perfect dress for the most important day in her life–that is, before she has children, of course.

Seeing as Anita was nearly asleep and Jade didn’t drive anymore, I took the steering wheel once again. Everything went smoothly most of the ride except for when we had to go through a forest-like path. I couldn’t move at more than 7 miles per hour and I had to look everywhere at once. There were tree branches and trunks in the way, along with some roots and an animal corpse. I tried to dodge a rust-covered tree trunk that was too close to the car. I had look away from everything else trying to keep the car from getting a scratch or something worse–it was a rental car! Why did I even take this route anyway?! My heart quickened when Anita screamed and Jade said panicking, “Watch out!” There was a deer eating right in front of us. I gripped the steering wheel tightly and moved the car roughly to the right in a matter of seconds. I slammed my foot on the brake. The car came to a stop right. In. Front. Of. A. Tree. Just one centimeter more and… oh, God. I would have to buy the car rental agency a new car.

I breathed heavily and remembered there was a woman in her 80’s in the car with me. I turned to look at her. “Are you alright?” I was breathless.

“I feel… as if I might… have… a heart… attack so-soon,” she panted.

I turned to Anita in the backseat. “And you?”‘

Her tone matched Jade’s. “Y-yeah, if you count nearly k-killing a deer and–” she took a deep breath. “–dying in the process.”

I turned away from her and sat straight. I sighed heavily. “Let’s get out of here.”

~~~</3~~~

After getting out of the forest, everything went back to fine. We got out alive, the car was fine and we had a dress. There was no way in Earth that I would go back to that place. I would call and ask them to send it here. I would pay anything.

I dropped Anita off at her house and she walked clumsily toward the door, she opened it, walked inside and slammed it. I could imagine her crashing on the couch without even taking off her shoes. That’s what I would love to do. Jade talked excitedly about the dress and the wedding. “Only thirteen days until the big day arrives,” she kept saying. I had to admit I was excited but even more nervous than I was about meeting Jade yesterday. She turned out to be a lovely woman, though. I would love to have her as my grandmother, which, in thirteen days, she would be.

We pulled up at the house and I gratefully embraced my fiance and son. I told Sam all about the… accident because I knew Jade would tell him if I didn’t. I didn’t want to worry him but honesty is the best policy, right?

I gave a kiss to my soon-to-be husband and went directly to the computer to work on my column. I lost some hours of work and I was really behind. I sort of didn’t have free days. I got two days off from the Bistro every week but they were spent writing and pouring my thoughts on whatever subject I had to work on. I loved working but I was truly exhausted. 24 hours were not enough to work, write, run errands and spend time with my family. And let’s not forget plan a wedding!

Sam interrupted my writing after hours of being in the studio. “Don’t you think you need a break? Wanna watch Food Network together?”

I sighed. “I’d love to but I have to finish this tonight. I’m sorry,” I told him. I loved spending time with him and not being to able to do that caused sadness.

“It’s fine. It’s getting late, I’m going to get Ethan in bed.” He kissed the top of my head. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

When he left, my phone started ringing. I checked the Caller ID. Unknown caller. I decided to pick up. I pressed the green button and brought my small phone to my ear.

“Hello?”

You’re going to regret what you are going to do,” a female voice whispered sharply before hanging up.

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Generation One: Chapter Sixteen

Note: This chapter takes place two years after last chapter.

Sam and I sat on the hard, wooden floor as we have done every night for a few months and watched his favorite cooking show before watching the news for half an hour, which was on TV before my favorite cooking show came on.

Sam’s hand rested on my shoulder while mine wrapped around my leg. Chef Piñeiro was preparing a very interesting lasagna, which was made of mainly fruits and vegetables.

“Love,” whispered Sam in my ear during a commercial. I wasn’t completely aware of the world around me so his voice made me jump slightly. “We’re going out tomorrow. Dress up a bit, but not too much, okay?”

“Where are we going?” I asked him, turning around to stare at his face.

“Um, nowhere special…” he said. His tone suggested he was hiding something but I let slide.

“Okay, then,” I replied.

“I’m going to bed, you coming?” he asked, motioning to our room.

“Not yet,” I said. I had been reading a book earlier and I wanted to read some more.

“Okay, good night,” he said. He gave me a kiss–which I returned–and he disappeared through the door, falling into bed like it was his heaven, I imagined.

I picked up the hardcover from the dining table, where it had been for hours. I started reading where I left.

“Fundador Gutierrez had been working on his own newspaper ever since. The famous Sunset Valley Newspaper was all his. After he passed, he left his business to his son, who passed it to his son when it was time, who passed it to his son, who happened to be my father and passed it to me, Dionisio Gutierrez. 

That brings us to Chapter Four: The Tale of the Employees. Divided into two categories, this chapter will let us know about the good and bad workers this newspaper has had over the history.”

After reading all about the people who had influenced the newspaper, either for good or for bad, I saw a name that caught my eye. More than my eye, actually. It dumbfounded me.

“Arden Teal: One of the best employees of the decade. She was in fact, one of the best secretaries I have ever had. She was efficient and she handed everything perfectly, and on time. But beware, this isn’t one of the good employees we have had the delight to have. She was great, yes. But she also made one mistake that cost us thousands of dollars and her job. I couldn’t bring myself to make a recommendation letter for her. Her career as a secretary and her dream of being a writer vanished. She didn’t come–“

I slammed the book shut. How was it possible? Me–what?

I felt fur brushing against my leg. I looked down and saw Sam’s huge dog, Lucky, looking at me with huge, happy eyes. I got up from the chair, stretched, and rubbed his stomach. At first I was afraid of this dog because he was so big and we had a cat and a toddler in the house but he proved to be a really sweet dog. Hyper, but sweet.

I went to bed, leaving the book forgotten in the table but not out of my mind. I carefully wrapped my arm around Sam’s chest. He stirred but did not wake up. I sniffed the air. He smelled of soap and Axe deodorant. Mmm. I fell asleep almost instantly.

The next day, I got a hot shower, had a bowl of cold cereal, fed the dog and the cat, fed Ethan and Sam, got another shower (this time it was cold), dressed in an old over-sized T-shirt, blow-dried my hair, changed into a dress, etc., etc., etc. I touched-up the little makeup I applied in the bathroom mirror before Sam called me into the living room.

Sam got down on one knee and grabbed my hand. He kissed it lightly and said seductively, “Are you ready to leave, my lady?” He strongly reminded me of one of those princes in the Barbie movies, which is probably what Sam was trying to achieve.

“Yes, Sir Lordy Sam,” I replied. He stood up straight and laughed.

He shook his head. “You are not good at imitating those royal girls… but that’s great because you are much better than them. You are not just a princess, you are my queen.”

I blushed and Sam slightly tousled my hair. “Hey,” I complained.

“You look gorgeous no matter what.” Sam grabbed my hand and led me to his car, opened the door for me, closed it when I got in, and changed the hits station to a classical music one. Sam really liked the new music but he enjoyed classical music, too, and he knew I preferred the sound of violins and other instruments to music people could dance to so this station was the one we usually listened to when we went out together, which was really often.

After driving for a while, Sam pulled up at my old work place. I didn’t expect to go somewhere fancy but I sure didn’t expect this. I never talked about this place because it was too painful so I don’t know how he found out I worked there or if I still care about this place, which I did.

“I know you’re probably wondering why we’re here. The reason is that book you were reading yesterday. I saw it this morning and I saw you were mentioned. Firing you was a terrible thing to do so I talked to him on the phone this morning. I tried to convince him to let you work there again and I was sort of successful.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, he said he could give you a column on the newspaper every Sunday… but on one condition.”

“What is it?”

“He said you’ll have to work from home because he’s still too mad at you for making him lose so much money. I thought he’d have a little more of forgiveness in him. It’s been four years, after all.”

“How did you know?” I asked. My mouth was hanging open but I could not bring myself to close it. Good thing there weren’t any flies around at the moment. “How did you know how much time it’s been or how much this place means to me?”

“I talked to your old boss and, well, I guessed. I know you, Arden. I know the Bistro is not enough for you.”

“It is not,” I agreed. “But can I keep my job there?”

Sam dropped on one knee. “On one condition.”

He searched nervously for something in his pocket and he pulled out a velvet box.

He opened the box and revealed a beautiful diamond ring.

“I am your boss, right? I can fire you…” his voice was teasing, as it was very often. “If you want to keep your job, you will have to marry me.”

“Arden Teal, I love you with all my heart and soul. I promise I will never hurt you and I will take care of you like no one else has before. Please, do me the honor of being my wife?”

I nodded, once again unable to speak. I swallowed and found part of my voice. “YES,” I whisper-shouted. “Yes, yes, yes. Yes, Samuel. I will marry you.”

Sam got off the ground, wiped the dust from his pants and wrapped his arms around me. I returned the hug wholeheartedly. I never wanted to let him go. Sam rubbed my back and I  clinged to him as if my life depended on it. My life didn’t depend on hugging him at this moment, but my balance sure did.

Sam took me to the Bistro to celebrate. He said he would have preferred taking me somewhere we didn’t spend so much time in but the only other restaurant in town was basically a fast food diner. Definitely not the best place to celebrate getting engaged. Engaged. Engaged. I was engaged now. I felt as if I could faint.

I ordered some spaghetti and Sam got the new soup on the menu. We thought the plate was exaggerated so Sam would take to his boss about changing it. Good. This was supposed to be an elegant place.

We talked about the wedding (already) and about his family. I have none and Sam knew it so he just talked about his grandmother and how excited she would be. She is Mexican and Sam warned me she’s a bit… talkative. The way he described her made me wonder if I should worry about meeting her but he said she was really nice. She just did not measure everything she said. If that was the case, then I could practice being patient with Anita, who did exactly the same thing. Talk, talk, talk. Zero thinking.

I wondered who could be my bridesmaids and I could only come up with Anita. I didn’t have any other friends.

Sam noticed my worried expression. “What’s wrong?”

“There would only be one bridesmaid… I don’t have any friends besides Anita.”

“I have two sisters, if that helps,” Sam said doubtfully. His sentence ended up sounding like a question.

“Of course it does. I might have to get Anita to ask some of her friends to be there. Or we could have just three.”

“Whatever you prefer is fine. Just-” Sam looked pointedly at me. “-don’t die of stress, okay?”

~~~</3~~~

I worked endless nights after coming home from the Bistro and long mornings before going to work so my column would be perfect. I was proud to say I was succeeding.

Life was busy but it was great.

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Generation One: Chapter Fifteen

I was always in a good mood when I was near my new friend but, when he wasn’t around, my mind would always be on another planet and Anita started to notice that. One day, she came into my house telling me that we would be getting makeovers.

“Why would we?” I asked her.

“Weeell,” she said, stretching out the e sound and clapping her hands together. “You’ve had that hairstyle for years and your clothes make you look old and, since you don’t drink coffee, it’s not good at all. You are a mother now but you are also a young woman and you need help from an expert in fashion. It would also be a great excuse for me to get a makeover too. What do you think?”

“I–”

“Why do I even ask? Your opinion doesn’t matter; you’re getting a makeover.”

“I was going to say it was a good idea…”

Anita made an exaggeratedly shocked face. “Really? I thought you’d say no. You know since you’re the non-fashionable nerd mother and all…”

“Let’s just go before I change my mind.”

~~~</3~~~

Do I really want to get a makeover? I thought as I stared at my reflection on one of the salon’s mirrors. Oh what the hell. I could always get this hairstyle back if I want as long as I don’t cut my hair.

After giving it much thought, I decided I would keep my hairstyle but I got a different outfit. Anita wasn’t pleased at all but I had my reasons.

As a child, I had always been terrible at styling my hair while my mother was amazing at it. I loved the way her fingers would comb my hair, untie every single knot and the way the braid I usually sported looked and felt. When I became a teenager, my mother stopped fixing my hair every morning and I had to learn how to style it. I tried many things from French braids, ponytails, buns, curly hair, extremely straight hair, etc., until one day I decided to blow-dry my hair and then pushing it all to one side. It was very simple but I loved the result and I have been using this hairstyle ever since.

Anita, on the other hand, jumped eagerly at the chance of getting some new clothes and a new hairstyle. She got a lot of her hair cut off and she didn’t even seem to mind that much.

~~~</3~~~

The doorbell rang early in the morning and I wondered who would come at 8:00 AM on a Saturday. When I reached the door, I saw Sam standing there. I smacked my forehead and opened the door.

“I totally forgot!” I said as a greet. Sam and I were supposed to work on some recipes for the Bistro today and I had just woken up. I was still in my pajamas!

“I can tell,” Sam said with a laugh.

“Come in,” I said and stepped aside to let him in.

“Hello, buddy,” Sam said to a half-asleep Ethan.

Ethan jumped from my arms into Sam’s. “Daddy!” he yelled.

“Ethan–” I started to tell him that Sam was not his dad, as I do every time they see each other but Sam cut me off.

“Don’t worry, Arden. I don’t mind anymore, it’s actually kind of nice.”

“I’m gonna go change,” I said and walked toward my room.

“You look cute in your pajamas,” he called out. Did he just call me cute? For a moment, I thought it was my ears playing tricks on me but no. I had heard right. He called me cute. I was suddenly filled with adrenaline and was even able to change in less than five minutes, which would’ve been nearly impossible in any other occasion.

~~~</3~~~

“Phew, we’re done with the food!” sighed Sam happily.

“Not trying to burst your bubble, buddy,” I said,” but we still have to work on the desserts.”

“Ahh, that’s right. But I’m your boss… and I order you to call it a night.”

“Yes, boss,” I replied with a smile.

“Let’s play a game,” said Sam.

“What sort of game?” I asked.

“Let’s do a Q&A.”

“What for?”

“Answering questions,” he replied. I had to admit I felt suspicious.

“Okay…”

“I go first,” he announced. He seemed thoughtful for a moment. “Hmm, how many boyfriends have you had?”

I felt my face grow hot and I groaned. Covering my face, I said, “Not that, please.”

“You have to answer,” he ordered.

“Ugh, fine. Just Daniel.”

“Just Daniel?” he raised an eyebrow. “I don’t believe you.”

“Why not?” I questioned him.

“You’re pretty, smart and a great cook. How come no other guys were interested in you?”

“To be honest, I was way too much of a nerd for boys to notice me. Only one boy did and he was a huge pervert. He was called a nerd but he wasn’t smart so he couldn’t really be one. He even managed to steal my first kiss. It was disgusting.”

“Hmm, interesting. Now you. Shoot a question.”

“Hmm, how many girlfriends have you had?”

“Hey, you stole my question!” he complained.

“Answer me,” I ordered a bit jokingly.

“Okay, three. And, hopefully four after tonight.”

“Oh, you have a date!” I said. “Then don’t waste time. I don’t think you’d want to make her wait.”

“Oh no, it’s nothing like that. I don’t have a date.”

“Then you want to show up unexpectedly at her house and surprise her?”

“Um, not exactly.”

After a while, it was my turn to ask another question. “Tell me about the girls that have been your girlfriends,” I told him.

“Uh, you want to hear about my girlfriends?” he asked, somewhat embarrassed. “I was seven when I had my first one.”

“How cute. What’s her name?”

“Cassandra. She was really sweet and adorable back then. She’s changed so much… She wore her hair in adorable red pigtails. One was always higher than another and it made her cry when someone told her so one day, I helped her make them even and we became instant friends. After a while, I asked if she wanted to be my girlfriend and she said yes.”

“That was very nice of you. To help her, I mean. Young love,” I said and poked him playfully on the ribs.

“Making fun of me, I see. The second one was the one I dated for three years of high school. I thought we’d end up together but college separated us. That’s when Lemon comes in. College. You know all about her by now.”

“Yeah… I do.”

“You know about that girl I sort of mentioned earlier? The one I want to be my fourth girlfriend?”

“Yeah?”

“Wanna meet her?”

“Okay, sure,” I responded absentmindedly. My mind wandered to a place full of the faces of attractive women–blonde and tall, redhead with lots of freckles, latinas with long, dark hair–and I felt like slapping them all because one of them could look just like the girl Sam was after. To be honest, I felt jealous of the girl he liked even if I didn’t know her. I did not understand why, but I was.

My thoughts were interrupted when something touched my shoulder. My head came back to reality and I noticed what brought me back–Sam’s arm.

“Her name is Arden, she’s smart, funny, beautiful and a really amazing mother. Does she sound familiar?”

“Not at all,” I murmured before Sam’s lips crashed into mine.

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Generation One: Chapter Fourteen

The first thing that Ethan did when he saw Sam was jump into his arms.

“Daddy! You finally came!” Ethan said in the happiest voice I’ve ever heard him speak in.

“No, I–” Sam started to say something but he stopped.

I was right behind them but I couldn’t move or say anything. Sam turned around to look at me and he noticed my condition: shaking uncontrollably and sobbing noiselessly into my hands.

“Oh my god, Arden. What’s wrong?” Sam said sounding worried.

I took a deep breath. “I am so sorry, Sam. Ethan has never met his father.”

“It is alright…” he whispered. I looked up at him and I thought his eyes looked shiny but it was possibly because mine were filled with tears. “Could I–” his voice broke and he cleared his throat. “–Could I use the bathroom?” he asked.

“Of course. Come on, Ethan,” I reached for Ethan but he hugged Sam’s neck tightly. I wondered if he was strangling him.

“NO. I want Daddy!” Ethan yelled.

“Ethan, Sam is not daddy.”

“No?” Ethan’s eyes and voice raised with curiosity. “Who is Daddy? I want Daddy, Mama.”

“Daddy is… gone,” I said.

“When he come back?” Ethan asked me.

“Daddy won’t come back, Ethan.”  I reached for him again and this time he didn’t refuse.

“B-but I want Daddy.” Ethan’s eyes were now filled with big, fat tears and I felt like killing Daniel. Hurting me was one thing but hurting my son was another one and it was much, much worse.

“I will be right back,” Sam whispered before disappearing into the bathroom. The bathroom was so close to Ethan’s bedroom that I could hear water running from the sink. I could also hear… sobbing? About 3o seconds later, every noise in the bathroom vanished. I hugged Ethan, which never failed to calm him down.

Sam walked into Ethan’s bedroom seconds later.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“For what?” I asked.

“Making your son feel like this.”

“That is not your fault; it is Daniel’s.”

“I shouldn’t have come. I’m really sorry for causing more trouble,” he said as he turned around and started walking away.

“Wait, don’t go.”

“Yes?” he asked once he was facing me again.

I looked at his eyes. Yes, they were red, as I suspected. From crying. “Can we talk? In the living room?”

He looked confused. “Um, sure.”

“I’ll be there in a minute,” I said and turned to Ethan. “Are you ready to play with Sofia?” I asked him and he nodded excitedly. “Good. Let me get her.”

Once Ethan was playing happily with Sofia, I sat down next to Sam on the couch.

“What did you want to talk about?” he asked me.

“I heard you in the bathroom. Were you crying? What’s wrong?”

“Oh. Well, the fact that Ethan believed I was his father was a part of it. He seemed so happy to meet his ‘dad’. I felt like punching his sperm donor in the face even if I don’t know him at all.”

“Thank you, Sam. That really means a lot. Your wife is so lucky to have you.”

Sam looked away. “Yeah… my wife.”

“Is something wrong?”

“I don’t really want to talk about it but I feel like I should be honest with you after the other night. This is something I haven’t told anyone…”

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“It is not good to keep everything bottled inside. Sometimes it is good to talk about it, remember?”

“Am I the right person to talk about it with?”

“You definitely are,” he said and he smiled slightly at me. I could tell that he was forcing it.

I just pressed my lips together and nodded.

“I was happily married to the best woman in the whole planet. She meant the world to me and I think I was her world, too. Her passion was art. She had her own gallery and she was into classical music. I didn’t think she  could be more perfect. She was always in a great mood and she brightened everyone’s day just by smiling. She was what some people call a Berry Sim. She had long, gorgeous yellow hair and yellow eyes. They used to sparkle when she was happy… they were brightest the day she–” He suddenly stopped talking and took a deep breath. “We had just found out she was pregnant and she was the happiest woman in the world. I was much more than the happiest man in the world; I was the happiest man that had ever existed. Then she felt the need to go crib-shopping and… a drunk man crashed into her car… I got a call two hours later telling me that my wife and unborn child had died. The album I gave her as my first gift to her when we had just started dating was found in her car’s radio when it was inspected. That just made it worse. It was a year ago but I still can’t get over it and I still have nightmares about it.”

“I-I’m so, so sorry, Sam. I don’t know what to say…” I said.

“You don’t have to say anything at all,” he told me and he wiped away some tears that had fallen from his eye with the sleeve of his sweater.

“You know, I believe things always happen for a reason. Even if the reason is unknown most of the time.”

Sam nodded. “I just do not understand why God would take away my wife and my child before I even had time to grasp I was going to be a father. Or at all.”

“You don’t know now and I don’t either… but you will know one day.”

“Thank you,” he whispered.

“Anytime,” I said and I gave him a big hug.

“I came here today to cheer you up and look at what I have done. I have made you have a miserable morning.”

“It wasn’t miserable at all. I enjoy the company,” I said and Sam gave me another small, fake smile.

“I made you cry, I made your son cry and I poured my heart out at you. I don’t think I could be a worse guest.”

“Oh yes, you can. Believe me. I’ve had worse. If you want to cheer me up… do you want to watch a movie or something?” I asked.

He smiled again but, this time, his smile wasn’t fake at all. “I’d love that. What do you want to watch?”

“Hmm, you choose,” I said.

“Oh, I can’t. It’s your house and I’m trying to cheer you up. What if I choose a movie you don’t like?”

“And I’m trying to cheer you up.  If you choose a movie I don’t like, I’ll just let you know.”

“Okay,” Sam said and we began movie-hunting.

~~~</3~~~

All of my DVD movies were old and not fun-time material so we ended up watching a Bones marathon. It was always fun to see Booth and Brennan arguing. We popped Hershey’s-covered popcorn into our mouths, sipped Coca-Cola and talked during the commercials.

Then the smell of cat poop filled my nostrils.

“Oh snap,” I said and jumped off the couch, nearly spilling my soda all over the rug.

Sam chuckled. “Need help?”

“I don’t want you to suffer through that and neither do you, believe me,” I said jokingly.

Sam put the bowl of popcorn on the floor next to the couch and got up. “I don’t mind. I had a huge dog as a child. Now that was a mess.”

I laughed. “If you insist…”

So we walked carefully through the house trying to find where Sofia made her mess. All of the house stank but the smell was strongest in my room.  I examined everything: the bed, the closet, the drawers, under the bed but I didn’t find anything. Then I remembered my bathroom is connected to my bedroom and that Sofia loves the bathroom.

I carefully opened the bathroom door and immediately spotted her poop. I laughed out loud. Why? Because my cat had tried to poop in the toilet. The mess was now all over the toilet seat but I could not stop imagining Sofia sitting in the toilet with a newspaper in hand and shooing me out of the room.

Sam came into the bathroom seconds later and laughed too. I could tell he was imagining something similar to what I thought.

I smiled at Sam. “Well, I guess you’re saved. The mess isn’t big at all so I can clean it up alone.”

“Nope. Not a chance. I already offered to clean and it would be rude if I didn’t do it.”

I waved my hand in the air. “I don’t mind at all.”

He shook his head and looked at me straight in the eye. “I insist.”

“Okay, okay. Let me get the detergent.”

“See? We can get along just fine!”

“Don’t push your luck or I might change my mind,” I joked.

“Yeah, yeah.”

~~~</3~~~

“Thanks for tonight, Sam,” I said as Sam was going to leave. “I really needed it.”

“No problem,” Sam smiled. “I needed it too.”

“See you tomorrow at work,” I said.

“Hopefully we won’t only have to see each other at work,” he whispered, kissed my cheek, turned around and left.

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Generation One: Chapter Thirteen

Just as I suspected, Ethan was awake when I got home, biting his little hands and waiting for me to get him out of his crib so he could play with Sofia. The babysitter was passed out on the sofa with some papers–which I recognized as homework–on her hands.

I walked to her and shook her shoulder softly. “Sandy, wake up,” I told her lowly.

She started stirring. A few seconds later, her eyes were wide open and she was on her feet. “I am so sorry I fell asleep! I have just been so busy lately all of the time and I was so tired! Ethan had fallen asleep and took it as a chance to do my homework but I, you know, I fell asleep.”

“Shh Sandy, it’s okay. Ethan is now awake and probably wanting to play with Sofia and you can go home now.”

“Thank you, Ms. Teal. I am truly sorry about falling asleep.”

“Please call me Arden. Everything is alright. As long as Ethan and Sofia are okay, I am not mad.”

“Of course they are okay. Sofia fell asleep on the toilet seat and Ethan was on his crib.”

“Let me pay you so you can go home and sleep.” I left the living room and I walked to my dresser where I had some money hidden. I picked 50 dollars from a brown sock I had gotten for work (when I worked at the office) and handed them to Sandy.

“Be safe, Sandy.”

It was always like this every night but Sandy usually didn’t fall asleep. I got out of work at 9:00 PM and I was home by 9:30 PM if I didn’t miss the carpool which only happened when Sam drove me home.

“MAMA?” called Ethan from his room.

“Coming!” I yelled.

“Mama, Ethan want Sofia!”

“Aww, Ethan. Sofia is asleep and you should be too. You can play tomorrow.”

“SOFIA! Nooooow. Ethan want Sofia now.”

“Ethan, please. Mommy is tired and so is Sofia.”

“S-Sofia,” he said in a tiny voice. I knew what was coming.

“Oh please, don’t cry! If Sofia does not get rest, she will get sick and then she wouldn’t be able to play. Do you want that to happen?”

A tear fell from his eye. “No.”

“Then you should let Sofia sleep and you can play all you want tomorrow.”

“All I want?” his eyes lit up excitedly.

“Yes, all you want but only if you go back to sleep.”

“I sleeping, Mama. I sleeping.” He dropped on the mattress and closed his eyes as hard as he could so he would seem asleep. I knew he was faking it but if he kept that up for some minutes, he would fall asleep immediately.

It was still early so I walked around my small house cleaning. I picked up some toys Ethan had left on the floor, I swept some hair balls from the rugs and I removed the dust that built up on computer desk, the book shelves, all the tables and the countertops. I was in bed by 11:00 PM.

I hopped in the shower the next morning and hoped that the hot water burning my back would make me happy but it didn’t. I changed the water to cold to see if it had a different effect and it did. It was just not the effect I wanted it to have. I jumped out of the shower freezing. I picked up a towel and wrapped it tightly around my body. I started shivering and I hugged myself tighter hoping I would feel warmer.

I stood in front of the mirror staring at the person looking back at me. The happiness that once filled her eyes was not there anymore. All I could see was sadness. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t that I missed Daniel. It was what I had told Sam: I just didn’t believe in love anymore. That took away all of my hope, causing me to feel depressed. I didn’t think I was actually the depressed, though. Maybe just a little.

I felt the need to chop off all of my hair like girls in movies do when they are really mad and don’t know what to do. I knew I would regret it later, though. Instead, I washed my face with freezing water. It helped me think better. I picked up a towel and patted my face dry. I know that I felt like everything was hopeless but I had my little Ethan and that was all that mattered.

I also had Anita but I still felt lonely. Very lonely.

Then the bell rang. Had I found my cure to loneliness for the day?

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