2.45 Passing Time

I cannot believe how quickly we’re moving forward. Dad’s death was a momentary lapse, a silent moment in a sea of loud noise. Now we’re full up on toddlers.

Sidney’s growing up too fast. Mira’s focused pretty heavily on her job since she started taking on actual clients. She runs social media for organizations and celebrities, and she even offered to represent me. I could use the boost. With so much family stuff happening, it’s hard to stay on the game.

Aaron sprouted up. He loves to make messes, and I’m not usually so mad at him. I like to gently remind him that’s not how we do, and he seems to take the hint.

And so soon after losing dad, we find out we’re gaining another family member.

Summer’s so happy to be pregnant again. We weren’t even really trying. We’ve postponed any real decisions while the family was healing, but now we don’t have much of a choice.

Honestly I’m happy. Mom’s still sluggish after losing dad, and a new grandkid’ll perk her right up.

We’re both working from home more, which is good for lots of reasons. I have comedy routines to write, and Summer’s publishing her first children’s book soon. Her connections in the editing world got her book accepted quickly, and we’ll see it in stores soon. She wants to start a whole series and hopes being pregnant again will give her the time to work on it. And the two of us taking care of Aaron and Sidney has given Mira some free time.

She’s trying to date again, but I know it makes her nervous. This may be my big brother instinct talking, but I haven’t really liked a single boy she’s brought around. They all kind of remind me of Ray, who still doesn’t return her calls, according to her. I think she gets the same vibe from her beaus. They rarely come to the house. Still, she didn’t really get to experience dating yet, at least not with someone who’s not a complete asshole. We’re happy to babysit while she goes out and enjoys herself.

And after everything we’ve been going through, April’s born and grows and it’s like the time just flew by. Mom documented everything with her camera, and I feel like I barely have time to catch it. With April finally walking, we had to throw a big party with all of our people. It’s so hard to get everyone in one place anymore.

I feel like Mira’s finally back to being a person who likes herself. She’s growing her hair out again, and I think April loves her the most out of anyone in our family. Every interaction between the two of them, April adores.

And with Summer pregnant¬†again, we’re looking for all the help we can get. Luckily the boys’ll start school soon.

Mom’s still a little slow. Summer’s taken over gardening, though she tells me every day she has no idea how mom does all of this. Some weekends she hires a gardener, and if mom notices she doesn’t say. Trillian’s making some progress, Summer says, though she’s still dating three guys at once.

Jarred still manages to be my best friend and my best older cousin. He and Seema are trying for another baby as well, and I’m so excited that we’ll be raising our kids together. Sometimes it feels like this family is starting to stretch out far, even when I want to keep them close.

But there are special days where we’re all in the same place, sharing the same food and drink, dancing to the same music. It’s been a long road to get to a place that’s perfect like this. Sometimes it feels like all our dreams have come true. I’ve got a good feeling about the future.

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2.44 Saying Goodbye

I reread that last entry with my dad, and I can’t believe it was the last conversation I ever had with him. I try not to think about all the advice he could’ve offered me, or how great a grandad he could’ve been to Aaron and Sidney, and all the moments they’ll miss out on with him.

The day of the funeral was muggy, which made it all the worse for our dressed in black. The suit felt stiff on me. I hadn’t worn a proper one since my wedding, and having that thought as I trudged towards the graveyard made my limbs a little heavier.

Most of mom’s friends have already passed on. We buried Aunt Lacey a while ago, along with Aunt Kayla, and Grandma Zoe’s urn got passed onto Summer’s younger sister Trillian. Just as it feels like our family’s booming, it also feels like the limbs are being cut off the trees. But we invited everyone we had left to the graveyard to say their proper goodbyes, and once he was in the ground, we struggled with what to say to each other.

Seema, Trillian, and Zoe talked among themselves. It’s hard to imagine the people they’ve already lost in their lives, and being so close to that grief again had to be a struggle today. I know I couldn’t have gotten through it without Zoe at my side.

Jarred’s also just as good a big brother as he is a cousin. He put his hands on my arms and let me know he was here for me. His moms never even got to meet their granddaughter, which must sting for him. I’m grateful dad at least got to see Aaron before passing.

And then Lance and Mira don’t even seem to know how to cope with what’s happening. Dad wasn’t the constant in their lives he was for me, but he was right by their sides when they needed it most. Without him, Mira might still be learning to channel her anger, and Lance might still be struggling with himself.

Mira’s lifted herself a lot since having Sidney, but I know she’s still struggling. Chopping her hair off and starting the tattoos were little things she did to get control, and sometimes dad was the only one who got that. She’s the only bad kid left in our family. The Rais side is disappearing.

And then there’s mom…

I don’t even know how to help her. I can’t tell her everything’s going to be alright. I can’t say to her tomorrow will be another day, and she’s still got her family right here. Dad’s gone. His support meant everything to her. He’s been her best friend, her confidant, and her true love.

I’m struggling to be there for her. What do you do when you have to take care of your own mother? How do you lift up the person who’s job is to take care of you?

I tried to remind her of what’s important. Her family. Her grandkids. All the little things we still need her for.

We headed back to the house for a small wake, which most involved us sitting around the table and reminiscing.

Sidney and Aaron were watched over by a babysitter while we were gone, and I could tell Mira was relieved when her son toddled over to her. Kids are good for a pick-me-up.

Mom didn’t seem to respond to anyone for a while. She looked lost in her own world. No one touched the food she’d made, but after a while the stories started.

Lance told us dad had tried to teach him the quickest way to deal with bullies: a jab to the stomach or a punch to the nose. Even mom hadn’t heard this one. He joked that he’d never had the confidence to pull it off, but Mira was more than happy to scrap for him.

Mira at least managed to look embarrassed about that. She said she always knew she was her father’s daughter, something I’m not sure I’d ever heard her say before. Maybe a little Rais lives on.

And after a while, even mom joined in, reminding us about their adventures together. She told us again the story about how a text from Zoe sent them off to the Romance Festival in San Myshuno, and their quick and dirty marriage. It’s the reason we keep going back, she said. It’s their place.

Our little party started to fade. Trillian pulled Summer aside and offered her condolences one last time, promising babysitting duty anytime we needed it. Lance kissed mom on the cheek and promised he’d come around again soon. He needed to get to know his nephews anyway.

Jarred and Seema left last, and I was surprised when he stopped to comfort mom some more. I didn’t think the two of them had ever really clicked, but he told her they were only a few blocks away, and nothing was too small for them to come over. Seema squeezed Summer’s hand and hugged me goodbye.

Today was a tragedy, but it was softened somewhat. We have good people looking out for us.

2.43 Aaron

I can’t believe how fast time is moving.

Summer’s pregnancy flew by, and we announced our little boy Aaron. Summer wanted a home birth, and I was surprised at how easy it was. She’s had no issues at all, not even morning sickness, thank goodness. We’ve had so much support from mom and dad and Mira’s been working from home as much as she can to take care of Sidney and promises to help out where she can.

I thought I was prepared for a kid. I thought I knew how I’d feel, but it’s different when he’s right here in front of me. I hold him in my hands, and he’s this perfect thing, small and delicate, warm and sweet smelling, his little fingers grabbing and his little heart beating. I want to give him everything. I want to watch him grow, and I want him to stay like this forever.

Mom’s absolutely thrilled to have another grandkid. When she’s not playing with Sidney, she’s cooing over Aaron. Dad’s happy too, though he’s smaller in his enthusiasm.

It took a while to settle back in, but I’m going back to work now. I hate coming home so late, but our different schedules will help when Aaron’s a toddler. I’m trying to learn to cook from mom too, and I spend a few nights a week testing out recipes.

Dad sat down with me. He’s used to staying up late, and I think he wanted to see how I was doing.

“Panicking yet?” he asked.

I laughed. “I’m still getting used to it.”

He picked up his fork, scraping the last of the leftovers across the plate. “I remember when you were born. I had a crisis over the whole thing. My job at the time was–well, it wasn’t easy, getting by like that. And getting paid peanuts for it. We barely had a house but we had you.”

I got quiet. Mom and dad don’t talk a lot about what they went through when they split for that short time. They seem happier pretending it didn’t happen. Sometimes I look at the old photos mom keeps around, and it feels like I’m looking at an alternate world altogether. It made me realize my whole life was changing.

“It’s scary,” he said, smiling at me. “But it’s worth it. Every second of drama, of pain, of stress, it all leads to this right here. I’m looking at my son with a kid of his own. And I know he’ll give you hell.”

My chest was tight. No one in this family was shy about affection, but dad always showed his in different ways. This was the first time I’d really felt he was proud of me.

“It won’t be the last one,” I said, forcing a laugh. “Summer wants three more.”

“Your mom would’ve had eight kids if I’d let her get away with it.” He stood slowly, collecting the empty plates. He moved slower in his old age, but he’d never lost his strength. He still trained with Mira on occasions, and he still went for his daily jog around the neighborhood. Sometimes it seemed like dad was invincible.

I followed him into the kitchen.

“If my kids are anything like the twins, I’ve got a lot to look out for,” I said.

He gave me a look. “You were a little hellraiser too, don’t forget. It’s a journey every child must take. From loving offspring to belligerent teen.”

“No one can be worse than Mira,” I said.

“I sure as hell was.” He grinned at the memories. “And we both ended up with loving families for it. Just keep a clear head. Don’t lose your cool. I hear you’re funny. Use that.”

Normally I played it cool around my family, but my dad was offering me fatherly advice on my newborn son. It’s stupid to say my eyes welled with tears, but it’s true. I grabbed him in a hug to hide my unmanly emotions.

“Thanks, dad,” I said.

I heard his laugh in my ear. “You’re gonna do great.”

And I want to believe him.

2.42 The Baby

We’d known Mira was ready to burst for a few weeks now, but it still came as a surprise. Lance was visiting, and he didn’t even make it through the door before she started complaining of contractions.

We rushed her off to the hospital, and in less time than we expected, she returned home with Sidney Dabney.

He’s such a perfect kid. Lance rushed forward, ready to be an uncle.

He’s mom’s first grandkid, and I don’t thinks she’s ever going to let him go.

The train of visitors came and went, and Mira showed Sidney off to everyone she could, but I think the person most struck by him is Summer.

She goes into the room just to look at him.

She cooes at him and calls him sweet names, and I can tell it’s reminded her of what she really wants.

And after a few months of helping Mira take care of him, she stopped me when I came in from work.

“He’s just so perfect!” she said. “He smells so good too!”

“Mira’s done good work for sure,” I said. “And mom’s flipping out about it. She’s so happy to finally be a grandma.”

“I’ve just been thinking,” she said. “I’ve always known I wanted a family, and I know you want one too. We agreed to wait because of our careers, and we know it involves building on the house, but I don’t want to wait anymore. I love you. I want to start a family with you. I’m ready.”

She took my hands, gazing up at me. I leaned into her.

“I’m more than ready. I don’t care what we have to sacrifice. Let’s start our family.”

And just like that, we started working on it. Our schedules were different enough that there were days we didn’t see each other at all, but the time we did share was spent doing everything we could to increase our odds of having a baby. And the free time that wasn’t spent together in our bedroom was spent helping Mira makeover what used to be her room. The carpet was pulled out, the walls painted, and new furniture brought in to make it a homier room.

“It looks pretty fantastic,” Mira said as we talked over baby Sidney. “Bright and cheery for him.”

“It’s a big change,” I said.

“Hopefully he’s not as gloomy as I was.” She leaned down and waved a finger in his face. “I got a good vibe about this kid.”

“I’m genuinely proud of you,” I told her. “You put a lot of work into this.”

She snapped a finger at me. “Couldn’t have done it without you. Actually, dad put in the most work but it was a family effort.”

We were interrupted as the door sprung open, and Summer bounced in, still wearing her work clothes. She grinned at me, holding her hands up in anticipation.

“I took a test!” she shouted. “It’s official!”

Mira held out her arms. “You’re pregnant?”

Summer let out a giddy giggle. “Absolutely! We’re going to have a baby!”

I reached out and embraced my wife. I couldn’t even say words. We’re going to have a baby!

2.41 The New Place

I can’t believe how much has changed in a few short months. One second the twins are still little brats sneaking off at night and making terrible decisions, and now they’re real adults with real jobs and real relationships. I was a little surprised when Lance first announced that he planned to get an apartment with his high school sweetheart. It seemed like a swift death for any relationship, but I may be proven wrong here.

We all took a trip together to their place in the Spice District, which is probably the place we’ve all spent the most amount of time. It took a couple months of apartment hunting, saving money, co-signing paperwork, and getting on wait lists, but once moved in, Lance invited the whole family out to see the place.

No one was more excited than mom. I think she’s happy to see one of us on our own. It probably reminds her of when she went off to build her own house, only without the physical building.

Ellis had been trying to clean up the place as we came in. He jumped up to greet us. I still haven’t seen that much of him since Lance came out to everyone, but he seems like a cool dude. His artsy nature definitely matches Lance’s musical inclinations, and he tells me all the time he thinks my set is hilarious. I’ll admit that informs my opinion a little more than I should say.

Mom glanced around the page. The two fresh adults were definitely struggling to keep the place parent approved, and there were a few food crumbs on the ground and clothes strewn around. Still, I was impressed. Mira headed towards the window to get a look at the view.

“Not much to see from here,” she called. “I was hoping for a better view.”

“Next apartment,” Lance said.

“It’s still better than my tiny room in the house,” he said. “Which I hear you took over.”

She gave a sheepish look. “It’s like half a foot bigger, and we need to make room for you-know-who.”

“You don’t have to talk about the baby like he’s in the room,” I said. “You’re not going to give him a complex in the womb.”

Mira rolled her eyes. “With my luck?”

Ellis showed dad and Mira the study while Lance, mom, and I went into the bedroom. I couldn’t help ragging on my brother a little bit.

“It’s a good look in here,” I said. “Very bachelor chic.”

Lance shrugged. “We’re still getting used to it.”

Mom smiled as she looked around. “It’s looking homey. You two have made a lot of progress.”

“Thanks, mom.”

“Not big enough for a family,” she said with a sigh. “Maybe some day.”

“Mom!”

“Don’t start her on it,” I said. “I keep telling her Summer and I are trying to be responsible. At least Mira’ll pop soon so you have a grandkid to play with.”

Lance rolled his eyes. “Maybe one day, mom, but right now this is the perfect amount of space for just the two of us.”

We chilled out together a while longer, and Lance showed off his skills. It’s weird thinking my little bro is going down a similar career path as me, though he’s on the path to being a rock star. Ellis showed off some of his sports memorabilia, while Mira enthused about the nightlife. There was no surprise when we walked back into the kitchen and dad was fixing the sink while mom cooked dinner.

The two of them have retired officially, though mom still freelances on the side, and they spend all their time doing exactly this or cuddling together on the couch. Sometimes I imagine this is what it was like when they first moved in together. When the pair of them worked together to build a home. It’s almost sappy.

Mom made curry for all of us, twice as good as what they sell in the stalls, and we crowded around the little fold out table while dad and Ellis took up the couches. I think Ellis is a little intimidated by dad. I’m not surprised. Even in loafers and comfy pants, he’s got an edge.

We told stories and reminisced until the sun went down. After a long day hanging out in Lance’s apartment, I think we were all ready to clear up some space.

Lance and Ellis picked up all the dishes, and it warmed my heart a little to look at them. I spent a lot of time worrying about Lance, but now I know he’s going to be fine.

Interlude: A Little Late

Alice gazed through the door at her little girl. It’d been weeks since Mira and Lance had decided to throw a party without any adult supervision, a full week since their punishment had ended, and only a few weeks more until they were done with school forever. She’d expected excitement, late nights spent with friends outside the library, prom photos, and end of the year parties. But Mira had done the only thing she’d done for four full weeks: hide in her room and cry.

Anger, Alice was used to. She’d gotten it from Quentin when he was a teenager, and it was Mira’s default setting. Lance was the only one of her kids who didn’t storm around and shout about how unfair life was, and he was maybe the only one who deserved to. But the quiet was unsettling. She’d quickly learned when Mira wasn’t arguing with her, she wasn’t communicating with her, and Alice didn’t know which was worse. So she sucked in a breath and approached her daughter.

“Mira,” she said, “what’s wrong?”

As if it were that easy. As if Mira would just share part of her life like that.

“What isn’t wrong?” Mira lashed out in her usual tantrum. “My friends are all ready to graduate and move onto their cool lives, Lance is going to move out as soon as he can, I barely have the grades to graduate, I missed every party because of my stupid grounding, and I dumped my boyfriend right before prom, so now I’m stuck alone, dateless, looking like a freak! I didn’t even tell him…”

She snapped her mouth shut and rubbed her eyes. Alice sat down beside her, folding her hands in her lap.

“You probably won’t believe me if I tell you I know exactly how you feel,” she said.

“I don’t,” she said miserably.

“It’s high school,” Alice said. “Everything seems so big and important. You and Ray were… together, at least, and losing him so close to feeling like an adult, you probably feel like you lost out on something. And your friends will still be your friends. Just because Lance wants to move to San Myshuno doesn’t mean you’ll never see him again.”

“It’s not just…” She sighed. “Mom, I have something really important to tell you. I’ve put it off a long time because I wasn’t sure, but I–I can’t anymore.”

“Mom,” Mira said, “I’m pregnant.”

Alice stopped. Her daughter looked at her, tears welling in her eyes, and she was suddenly very aware that her reaction was going to mean everything to her.

“Okay,” she said slowly. “Not what I was expecting.”

“I haven’t even told Ray yet.” It poured out of Mira now. “I was going to once I was absolutely certain, but then he tried to make out with my best friend at our party and I got so angry I couldn’t stand him anymore. I don’t know what to do.”

She broke down into tears in front of her, and Alice squeezed her eyes shut.

“First off,” she said, “don’t think I’m completely blind to what this feels like. Quentin was a very big surprise to me and your father. Imagine where you are now, but also you’re living in a studio hut you built yourself.”

“You’re not mad?” Mira asked in a small voice.

“I’m upset,” Alice said. “And I like to think you’re smarter than this, or that I raised you better, but platitudes like that don’t really solve the situation. Do you know how far along you are?”

She shook her head. “My period didn’t come last month, but I didn’t know for certain until I took a test.”

“Okay, second, we’ll have to make some decisions. If you want to keep them, how we’ll be handling the parenting situation if you do, what that means for you.” Alice touched her daughter’s shoulder. “You don’t have to go through with the pregnancy if you don’t want to. Whatever you need, it’ll be okay.”

Mira wiped her eyes. “I always thought–I wanted one, you know. Summer and Quentin are gonna spit out more rugrats that you did, but I liked the idea of having a kid too one day.”

“That’s a start, at least.” Alice smiled at her. “You’re going to have a few months to figure out what you need, and your father and I are going to be here for you. You’ll be graduated soon, so this won’t affect your school. We’ll have to take you to see a doctor. And you should tell your boy. Even if nothing comes of it, he deserves to know.”

“Okay.” Mira let out a big pathetic sniffle. “Thanks, mom, for being cool about this.”

“We’ll have plenty of time to freak out about this later. For now, we have a problem to solve.”

“I mean it.” She reached over to hug her. “I love you.”

Alice squeezed her close. “I love you too.”

2.40 Getting Along

Mira’s been going crazy since the twins got grounded for their party, and she spends every day at her punching bag.

I was right about one thing: mom and dad don’t care that Lance is dating a boy. They were thrilled when he told them and had him invite Ellis over for dinner.

Ellis got lucky that our schedules are all over the place. He did have to meet the parents, but he didn’t go through the whole family reunion.

Mom absolutely loves him. Said he was soft-spoken and creative and she could see why Lance liked him so much. Dad gave his approval as well. I don’t know what the conversation was between the three of them, but I get the feeling dad’s a little more protective of Lance now.

Mira didn’t hang around, according to Summer. I think she’s still hurting from the break up, which is official at least. Good riddance to Ray.

Summer keeps her depression under wraps, but she knows what it’s like to feel that crushing despair. I don’t know how much of her desire to talk to Mira was that and how much of it was her motherly instinct coming out.

Mira has been muted lately. She hides in her room and I’m pretty sure she’s crying all the time. Lance told us the breakup with Ray really hit her hard, but I feel like there’s something more going on. Both mom and dad don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know what to do about it. The best I can do is hope she talks to me.

Summer tries really hard with her. She remembers what it’s like being a teenager and feeling like you can’t talk to anyone. Mira at least seems to respond to her. I’m hoping when these two graduate soon, they’ll leave their high school drama behind.

2.39 The Party

(A/N: Psst. If you’re looking for something spooky to read this Halloween, I’m uploading some monster themed stories to my writing blog every week of October. Check them out here.)

I’m so livid. I can’t believe what Mira pulled tonight. I can’t believe I’m the one who has to deal with it.

It started with date night. Mom and dad go out all the time now that they have a lot more free time in their jobs, and Summer and I are doing the usual bar and drink with friends. Generally we stay out late, and sometimes mom and dad stay out later, and Mira and Lance have been staying out of trouble enough that mom was fine with them staying home alone.

Boy were they wrong.

It was party central when we got there, and Mira was at the center of it. She wouldn’t say what happened that set her off, but I can guess.

It involved her boyfriend and her friend.

It involved her flipping out on him.

It involved a big fight.

Which is where we came in.

The party was still going strong despite the drama playing out in our front hall. I saw my baby brother in the corner, and well…

His boyfriend.

I left the scene to go deal with Mira, who was in full freak out mode at this point. I’ve never seen her weepy like this. Her two settings are chill and pissed off, but I’m willing to be the combination of boyfriend troubles and getting caught was weighing heavy on her.

“Quentin…” she started to say, putting a hand to her forehead.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I shouted. Admittedly maybe not the best reaction a level headed adult would have.

“I’ll get everyone to leave,” she said. “But you can’t tell mom.”

“Of course I’m going to tell mom!” Wright, when did I become the snitch in this family? But how do I keep this from her? There’s twenty kids in my living room wrecking the furniture right when Mira seemed to pull herself together.

“Please,” she pleaded, and it looked like she was ready to cry. The big brother in me relented.

“Just–” I let out a breath. “Get everyone out.”

They seemed to sense the party was over anyway. I walked back into the living room where Summer was talking to a very nervous Lance. She looked at me when I came in and gave a little nod towards him. She stepped out to help Mira clean up.

I looked at my brother, and I, don’t know. A lot of stuff suddenly made sense. Why he was getting picked on at school, why Mira fought so hard to protect him, why he disappeared in his room all the time, why he hung out with his friends where we couldn’t see them. There were some things I didn’t get.

“First off,” I said, “you two are in so much trouble.”

“Yeah.” He gave a nervous shrug. “Sorry.”

I ran a hand through my hair. “I don’t know what to do here. Mom’s going to kill you two.”

“She’ll kill Mira for sure.” He let out a breath. “Are you going to tell them about…”

“Why do you think they care?” I asked. “Why do you think any of us do? We all grew up with Aunt Lacey and Kayla. We see Jarred every week.”

“I don’t know.” He held out his hands. “It’s like this big thing and it felt like if I told anyone it’d made it bigger.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’m not going to tell mom and dad. They don’t have to know all the details. But you should tell them. They’ll understand.”

We finished cleaning up. I took the last of the trash outside and dropped it in the bin. Maybe mom and dad won’t go ballistic. I don’t know. I’m way too tired to think about that right now. I trudged back in and found Summer waiting for me. I sat beside her on the bed.

“I can’t believe they did this!” I started in.

“I’m worried about Mira,” she said. “Has she seemed extra sensitive lately?”

I sighed. “I don’t know. It’s hard to tell with her.”

“She’s definitely unhappy tonight.” She nudged me. “She told me she and Ray are done for good.”

“That’s a relief at least.”

She put her arms around me, pulling me close. “Can you imagine when our kids are that age.”

I laughed. “Don’t say that. Our children will be perfect and never cause us any stress at all.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but all kids are like this.”

“I bet you were perfect,” I said.

“I escaped into the fantasy world of books and am still trying to recover from it.” She rested her head on my shoulder. “What’d you say to Lance?”

“That he should tell mom and dad. I’m not going to tell them for him.”

“Think of this like practice,” she said. “For when our kids grow up too.”

How does a woman fill me with so much hope and dread at the same time?

Meanwhile mom and dad didn’t get home until way after we all crashed into bed. I don’t know what happened.

We got lucky I guess.

2.38 Punch Out

Dad somehow cracked Mira’s code. He doesn’t talk to us a lot about his life before he met mom, but I’ve gleaned most of it. I get the feeling that she takes after him more than the rest of us.

I saw him lugging in something before I had to run off to work, and he set it up in the study. It wasn’t until later that I got to see what it was.

According to Mira, she came home to find dad dragging her into the study. He’d bought something to help her with her anger issues. Mira insists she doesn’t, but she has three detentions this week.

Anyway, dad gets her to change into some workout gear and shows off the new toy.

A punching bag. Right here in the home, right where she can get to it. He told her he’d train her in how to use it properly and hopefully build up some muscle on her. I can hear mom’s disapproval at the thought of Mira getting better at fighting, but dad tells us something like this saved his life as a kid. Something about getting all the tension out.

She took a few practice swings, but she tells us she’s still not sure what she’s doing.

Dad’s going to train her after school every day she doesn’t have detention.

I think we’ll all be glad to know he got through to her.

Interlude: Twin Chat

Mira grinned as she and Lance stepped out into the streets of San Myshuno. Sometimes it felt like they’d been raised here as much as Willow Creek. Their dad loved the food, their mom took them to the festivals all the time, and the whole family had pictures in front of the fountain or singing karaoke.

“Aren’t we grounded?” Lance asked.

“What’s a little sneaking out?” She grabbed him by the arm as she dragged him towards the flea market. “I need to find the rest of the MySim trophies.”

He rolled his eyes and followed after. His fingers itched as they walked through the main thoroughfare. He’d brought his guitar along to try, hoping to get a chance at the small stages set up and earn some tips. While Mira haggled, he set up shop and started to strum.

Mira struggled with the vendor for a while, but she’d grown up at her mom’s side while she haggled down convention shirt after curry dish. Collecting her trophies, she waltzed back to her twin brother, who showed her a fistful of dollars.

“Lunch is on me,” he said.

They grabbed lunch and sat at one of the worn tables. Lance looked over at the basketball court as the smell of curry wafted into his nose. Nostalgia bathed over him, and Mira glanced up as she shoveled food into her mouth.

“When are you going to tell them?” she asked.

He sighed, hanging his head down. “I don’t know. It’s kind of a big deal.”

She frowned, setting aside her food. “What do you think mom’ll say?”

“Who even knows.”

“Dad doesn’t care at least.” She put her chin in her hands. “But you’re going to have to tell them eventually. What’re you going to do when you move out?”

“I’m still dreading telling mom that,” he said. “You remember all the stuff with her and Quentin.”

“Yeah, but he wants to do all that family stuff.” She grimaced. “He’s all married now and they’re going to start popping out kids like crazy, I can tell.”

“Yeah.” He tapped his fingers on the table and looked at his sister. “And what about you?”

Her mouth twisted up. He saw the familiar spark of anger on her face, but she sucked in a breath.

“I don’t know,” she said in a small voice.

“I mean mom’s going to figure it out. You haven’t even said anything to–”

“I’m still figuring it out,” she snapped. “Once I–I know for sure, I’ll be able to decide.”

“We don’t have much time left,” he said. “We’ll graduate soon.”

“And be adults.” She sighed. “I can’t believe you’re going to leave me.”

“You could move to San Myshuno too.”

“I’m not about to get up all in your business,” she said. “I know how long you’ve wanted to be on your own.”

He smiled. “I won’t be completely.”

They stood, taking their stuff to the trash. Mira stood there, looking at her brother, and she let out a big breath.

“I’m gonna miss you,” she said.

“Aw.” He grinned at her. “I’ll miss you too.”

Lance reached out to hug her, pulling his twin close. “I mean, without you around, who’s going to beat everyone up for me?”

“Hopefully you won’t need anyone,” she said.

He squeezed her a little tighter. “You’re gonna be okay, Mira. I promise.”

She closed her eyes. “I know.”