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Unloved: A Sims Story by orenjiAi

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  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    Hey @BookBear and @DeafSimmer! Thanks for dropping by! This would be weird coming from the author, but me too. I mean, I also want to keep this series going. :DThis is the gown she’s wearing btw.
  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    Unloved 11


    “So your entire schedule has already been encoded into your smartphone. I have set it so it would notify you of your planned activities and where exactly they are to be held,” Robert said.
    "For lunch, you just walk into the cafeteria and fill your tray. You need not worry about payment. Everything has been settled in advance, my lady. I bought you these meal plans although I am just not confident that their rations would meet your daily nutritional requirements. So I asked the cook to make you some bánh mì to snack on."
    He held out a purple tin box for Elia but didn't look up to see if she was paying attention. Without saying a word, he loosened his grip and the lunchbox came crashing down. She barely caught it, noting its heftiness before she shoved it into her backpack. Robert was still fixated on his pocket notebook. He scratched off several lines from the text he had written on one of its pages. It was a checklist of reminders he thought would help Elia get through today. He had undoubtedly prepared it weeks beforehand. He was always organized like that and he took great joy in planning ahead. But unlike him, Elia was not particularly excited for this day.

    “You would actually not need to buy anything, but this should be enough for pocket money,” Robert added out of the blue. He handed Elia §100. He still did not avert his gaze from his checklist and he fell silent once more. Elia slumped back into her seat. It was still quite early and with the autumn rain cooling down the cove's atmosphere, she wished nothing more than to be back home sleeping under the covers of her warm bed. But instead, they were out at this ungodly hour driving towards the University of Britechester’s Preparatory School for her first day of classes.

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    Ever since Robert became the official executor of the late mistress's will, he had gotten very busy—and distant. While he still waited to Elia on hand and foot, it just wasn't the same as that summer day after Mistress Adelaida’s testament was read. Before then, she wondered how differently Robert would have treated her if she had been just a regular person. She had always thought of him as family. As a strict but reliable older brother. She told him she was genuinely afraid of losing him to Edward. But after then, she finally noticed the boundaries he set for their relationship. And now that she was a full-fledged Thebe, it is clear to her that he only saw their bond as only professional, not familial.

    Elia shook her head and dismissed the thought. She tried to distract herself by watching the scenery outside. But as she watched the poorly lit outside world get reduced to a blur while the car zoomed past, she found herself getting deeper in thought.

    When did it all begin?

    * * *


    “Hey, are you okay?” Elia asked as she noticed Adriel falling behind and dragging his feet.
    “Yeah. It’s just... I’m still beat from yesterday’s luncheon,” he explained. “I’m sore all over!”

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    Elia felt a little sorry for waking up and dragging her “little brother” out so early. But she missed him. They didn't get to bond over all that happened the day before, so she wanted to make it up to him.

    Long before the events at the luncheon, Elia found out through Robert that there was a café that started serving SimCity cheesecake in Upper Capeside. He mentioned it casually, probably intending to make fun of it as he prepared her a "real" cheesecake. In the end, she did not like his recipe and got curious about how the Simcity one would taste like. This greatly upset him, but she couldn't help it. She found the local variety's flavor brash. And she pleaded with him to try some with her the next time they were out.

    Another local variety of French cheesecake was served at the luncheon yesterday. Another one whose flavor Elia did not enjoy much. So she decided that today would be the day they try the SimCity cheesecake. She and Adriel followed closely behind Robert as they walked the winding streets of the medieval town. But since Robert walked considerably faster than the average person, since Adriel was moving slower than usual, and since they both got sidetracked by a shop selling "spectre candies"; they soon lost sight of him.

    "I'll go look for him in one of the other alleys," Adriel suggested. "You should prolly stay here, big sis. Just in case he comes back here looking for us."

    Elia watched him limp away. She stood by one of the quaint town's watchtowers as she waited for the duo to come back.

    "Hey!" a voice called out after a some time.

    Elia turned expecting to see Robert or Adriel. But it was someone she didn’t know. Or rather, a group of people she didn’t know.

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    “`Tis da princess, innit?”
    “Well, not really...but she’s a Thebe, alright! I saw her at the party yesterday!”
    “Uh...Hi?” Elia smiled politely.
    “She’s got the jewel eyes! She's the real deal! You’re so very pretty!”
    “Please spare me some change, Your Majesty! Help me, I implore you!”
    “Oh I’m sorry, I don’t have anything on me right—” Elia said.

    Other people got curious about the small crowd forming. But when they saw that it was her causing it, they too got thrilled and joined in the excitement. There were now about ten of them.

    “Are you free? Do you wanna hang with us for a while? It’ll be fun!”
    “Wow! Your hair is soft and silky...”

    One girl touched her hair. Elia pulled back hard and she was driven up against the door. They were closing in on her. She shut her eyes.

    The next thing she knew, she was sitting on the cold stone floor inside the watchtower. The door must have opened behind her. She could hear knocking and the voices of the townsfolk calling for her. But the door had been locked shut. A pale hand extended to help her up.

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    “What are you doing here? Where’s Bo—I mean your butler?” said a blonde teen with red eyes.

    Elia took his hand and stood up.

    “I-I was out with Robert. We were going to get cheesecake but we got separated.”
    “You lost sight of Bob while walking with him? What are you like, five?” Edward snorted.
    "I got distracted!” she defended herself.

    A loud bang from the entrance silenced them both. Edward cautiously approached. He made sure the door was locked and put his head against the door. There was only silence.

    “Well?” Elia asked.
    “It seems like the plebs are gone.”
    “Err...plebs?”
    “You know, commoners,” Edward said with a hint of annoyance as if it was a fact that she should have known by now. “These townspeople.”
    “But they’ve seen me before and they didn’t act like this? Why are they suddenly being creepy?”
    “It's obvious! They’re being “friendly”. Trying to win your graces. That’s what happens when you let your guard down. They take advantage, these plebs!”

    Elia shifted her eyes, then shot him a puzzled look.

    "Dear Watcher, did Bob just find you under a rock or something?" Edward rolled his eyes. "Poor people live their lives vicariously through rich people like us!"
    "Hey! That's not very nice!" Elia protested.
    "Like them pretending to be your friend is?"
    "D-don't compare me to you! We are nothing alike!"
    "Oh, sure! Want to prove the good in everyone, huh? Those people outside just want to get all chummy, right? Why not just let them in here!?"
    He dashed towards the door.
    "No!" Elia stopped him instinctively. Edward flashed one of his devilish grins. She cleared her throat. "I mean, not everyone just manipulates others for their personal gains."
    “What I’m saying is you’re kind of popular now. You’re a celebrity! Since that luncheon yesterday, you'll never be the same again."
    “That doesn’t make any sense!”
    “Sure it does. Maybe not yet. Maybe not to you. ‘Coz you still don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into.” he snickered. "You probably think that you lucked out. That you get a huge house, and pretty jewelry, and sleek black cars with a nice, dependable butler. But you're wrong! Nothing up here is ever what it seems!"
    “I didn’t ask for any of these!" Elia said, getting frustrated. “If you want it so bad just take it all! They don’t mean anything to me! I just wanted a family!”
    “Oh, Elia, Elia, Elia,” Edward said as he shook his head. He unlocked the door and swung it open. The street outside was now deserted. He whispered to her as he stepped outside. “I am your family."


    “My lady. My lady? Miss Elia?”

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    “Huh?”
    “This nice lady was asking if you’d prefer strawberry or blueberry toppings,” Robert explained.
    "Oh, I'll have blueberries, please." she finally said. Although she tried to smile, she was deeply still disturbed by what had just happened. She hadn't mentioned anything about the incident or Edward to either Robert or Adriel. They were here to have some fun. Bringing it up would just ruin everything.

    A while back, after Edward unlocked the door, she thought there was a high chance of the creepy townsfolk coming back for her. So she decided to locate Robert and Adriel herself. Luckily, they weren't far off. And they found the café together. It was almost empty, save for an elderly couple and a pair of college students. It was unnervingly quiet. It gave Elia some relief.

    "Madam Rika?" Robert said to someone as he put down Elia and Adriel's orders in front of them. "Is that really you?"

    Elia tried to see who Robert was talking to. She recognized her as the lady behind her from yesterday.

    Amagi Rika was the governess of Adelaida Thebe. She was a dignified elderly woman with very straight silver hair that she kept in a bun. Despite her frail frame, her movements were fluid and elegant—almost like a dance. Her fair skin, contrasted with her conservative black traditional outfit, shined like the moon against a night sky. Elia found her very pretty.

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    "My dear, Robert!" she kissed him on the cheeks. "What brings you out here?"
    “My lady wants to try the SimCity cheesecake. She is with her friend, Adriel.” Elia raised her hand and waved at Rika enthusiastically.

    Rika scrunched her face but acknowledged her anyway.

    “I am with my husband,” Rika said to Robert. “We stayed the night here at Capeside after yesterday’s reading.”
    “You could have told me you were planning to stay the night. I would have prepared the guest suite...”
    “No thank you, dear. You were already so busy yesterday, I would not dare impose! Now, we’re just passing time until our ride picks us up at 11.” She glanced at Elia again. “Errr... Robert, may I speak to you in private for a moment?”

    And she led him away out of Elia’s earshot.

    “This cheesecake’s good, don’t ya think, big sis?” Adriel suddenly said. “It’s definitely better than the ones served yesterday!”
    “Right?” Elia said, brightening up a little. Finally, someone who talks sense! “Robert says these can’t be called cheesecakes because they don’t have “real” cheese in them. But I actually hate it when he puts that moldy stuff in his!”
    “You’re kidding! Molds? Gross!”

    Robert came back and he suggested that Elia and Adriel join Rika and her husband's table. Rika shared her fondest memories of the late Mistress and several funny anecdotes of her service as a governess. Elia had fun listening to Rika’s stories. Even Robert chimed in; also telling his share of memories. Elia never got the chance to know her grandmother, but these dialogues helped paint her as a picture of an obscenely wealthy albeit simple and doting matriarch.

    When it was nearly eleven o’clock, Rika bade Elia’s group farewell. Robert decided that they too should be going. He asked Elia to go home ahead but offered to walk Rika to the main road to her ride.


    It was already late in the afternoon when Elia woke up from her nap. The sun was starting to dip low into the horizon. It made slivers of gold on the floor where it shone through gaps on the windows’ heavy drapery. But everywhere else, it was starting to get dark. She walked down the halls, looking for a light switch. But she wasn't able to find a single one. She thought it must have been hidden behind one of the wall arts. The house was historically preserved, after all. Putting up a light switch (like the cheap plastic ones they had at the orphanage) would ruin the atmosphere. It seems like something the Thebes would do. But surely, Robert would not allow priceless antiques and paintings to be moved around every time it gets dark.

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    After some snooping around, she found a matchbox. She lit a candle. Then another. Then six more. Soon, the whole dining room was bathed in soft warm light.

    Elia had lived in the chateau for some time now but she never really looked at it. She knew it was ridiculously expensive. She knew it had been a royal home once. And she knew it was extremely old-fashioned and dated. But seeing it in the candlelight made her realize how opulent it truly was.

    Elia took a step back in awe. She twirled and saw how the dim light changed everything in the room she saw and dined in every day. It now made every gilded metal glow as if they were new. It reflected and refracted off the facets of the crystal chandelier, exploding in a fiery brilliance on the ceiling above. It gave depth to every beautiful grain of the wooden furniture. And as it landed in the pastel salmon-colored walls, it made every single face on the oil portraits look more handsome and regal.

    And then she noticed something else.

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    There she was reflected in the mirror. Framed among her stately ancestors. In a luxurious dining room. With a messy mop of hair. Disheveled hand-me-down clothes. And cheesecake crumbs on her face.

    She thought of everything that happened today. Her naivety with Edward and the plebs. Rika's grace and disapproval of her. And she and Adriel each scarfing down five slices of cheesecake in one sitting.

    She had already known it from the start. But now, she saw it with her own eyes.

    She did not belong.

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    "My lady, dinner is getting cold."
    Elia lifted her head to see Robert had come to fetch her. She was curled up on the grass. She planned on crying in her room. But she found it looked too nice to be sad in. In fact, everywhere she went looked too nice. She sat defeatedly under a tree in the cour d'honneur, where she had a good view of the chateau from a distance. This is where she belongs. Far from it all.
    "Robert..." she called out.
    "Yes?"
    "I do not...," she paused. That wasn't exactly true. She doesn't belong? Haven't she had those exact thoughts before? Elia took a deep breath. What she really wanted was:
    "I do not want to feel left out anymore..." she said weakly.
    Then with a little more conviction, she said, "I can change. Teach me! Please show me how to be a Thebe!"
    For a while Robert was speechless. They just stared at each other. Then, he closed his eyes and bowed. "As you wish, my lady."

    That was the last time he ever looked at her.

    * * *


    The car had come to a complete stop. They had parked at the end of a short tree-lined path. It descended to an open field filled with massive Gothic Revival buildings. The sun had barely risen. There was nobody else in sight.

    "My deepest apologies, my lady. It seems I have miscalculated our travel time." Robert said. He brought out his notebook and quickly scrawled a note. He called for the chauffeur, "Will, mark your schedule. Starting tomorrow, we will be leaving a half-hour later."

    He turned to Elia and for the first time in what seems to have been forever, her eyes met his. But before Elia could speak, he broke his eye contact immediately.

    "Notwithstanding," he got out of the car. He crossed to the other side and opened Elia's door. "The visitor center should be open by now. Allow me to walk you there."

    Robert dipped his body in a short bow and offered his hand out to Elia.

    "That's alright," Elia said. She ignored his outstretched arm and climbed down the car on her own.

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    "I'll see you later."
  • rosemowrosemow Posts: 158,416 Member
    It was great to read the update! :) Thankyou for posting it. It is great to read how Elia feels about her new life situation and I wonder what the future will hold for her.
  • mercuryfoammercuryfoam Posts: 1,137 Member
    @orenjiAi
    😕 in saying she wants to be a Thebe, could Robert have interpreted that she expects him to maintain the proper etiquette that comes with his position? I'm thinking not directly, but the statement could've reminded him to and thus he took it upon himself to maintain a clear boundary between them.

    She wanted to belong. But did she want family or did she want to belong to the status quo? I think Elia doesn't know the answer to this herself so we get to follow her on this journey of self-discovery. Crossing fingers she finds both. And does not lose herself or Adriel/Robert along the way. :)
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  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    Thanks @rosemow! Glad you liked the comeback chapter! :blush:

    @mercuryfoam
    Your interpretation’s actually not far off. Elia says that all she wanted was a family. Except the family that took her in is not exactly normal. It’s what she realized when she saw herself in the gallery wall in the dining room. To truly be a part of the family she longs, she must be willing to change: to be more Thebe-like. But at what cost though?
  • AnnoyingTigerAnnoyingTiger Posts: 420 Member
    edited March 1
    Chapter 1 - Wow, what an interesting start! I'm excited to read why he wanted her specifically. So many questions :o Well written and very intriguing so far!

    Chapter 2 - Chapter 2 - awww my heart T_T Poor thing, I hope she stops feeling alone soon. I can imagine it's easy to feel that way when you're in a big place like that. But royalty, I wonder what that feels like! I hope good things come to her.
    Post edited by AnnoyingTiger on
    ฅ^•ﻌ•^ฅ Check out my new Simlit blog: A Tiger's Legacy | Forum Archive | In a Year
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  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    Oof! @AnnoyingTiger I misread your comment last time. Didn’t realize you were doing a chapter by chapter reaction! :blush: I’m so happy you’re enjoying it! Thanks!
  • AnnoyingTigerAnnoyingTiger Posts: 420 Member
    @orenjiAi yeah, sorry, I tend to read one chapter at a time between doing other stuff ^^; If you don't want me to comment individually, I'll stop.
    ฅ^•ﻌ•^ฅ Check out my new Simlit blog: A Tiger's Legacy | Forum Archive | In a Year
    NJX5IuY.png
  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    @orenjiAi yeah, sorry, I tend to read one chapter at a time between doing other stuff ^^; If you don't want me to comment individually, I'll stop.
    I’d prefer it if you’d still update your comments! Please don’t stop. I’ll be looking forward to reading them! :D
  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    Unloved 12

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    Elia stood alone in front of a mirror in one of the school restrooms. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She balled her fists, focused, and with a forceful puff she exhaled. She stared at her reflection and curtsied.

    “Salutations! My name is Elia. I am 17. Today is my first day of school. I am pleased to make your acquain—acquaintances
    She stuttered. That did not go the way she planned at all. Cursing silently, she undid the bow tie of her uniform again. Even after fiddling and redoing it for the third time, she could never get it to fit just right. She wore it loose on the ride to UBrite Prep. But making her way to the classroom, she found it looked very slovenly. So she decided to wear it properly. Only then it made her choke. Only then it made her neck look short. Only now it made talking uncomfortable.

    Now that she thought of it, everything about her was uncomfortable. Was it the uniform with the old-fashioned lace back? Or was it the beret she was precariously balancing on her head? Or maybe she was just anxious to be out of the chateau and finally meeting other people again.

    The door suddenly opened.

    “Oh.”

    A girl with straight blonde hair walked into the restroom. She was wearing a pink sweater over her uniform. Elia thought she was extremely pretty with her doll-like tiny face. She looked surprised to see Elia but shook it off instantly. She walked to the mirror and produced lipgloss from her bag. She proceeded to apply some but she kept her big blue eyes on Elia.
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    Elia shifted and continued tying her bow.

    “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” the other girl said. “It’s actually been so long since I’ve last seen the full uniform.”

    Elia smiled nervously but did not reply.

    “Do you need help? Here,” she pulled Elia closer and untied her poor fourth attempt. Within seconds, the other girl produced a perfectly symmetrical bow tie. This time it fit just right.
    “Come to think of it, I was supposed to meet a transfer student here today.” the girl thought out loud. “I’m positive I’ve never seen you here before. You wouldn’t happen to be that transfer student, would you?”
    “S-salutations!” Elia half whimpered and half-shouted. How embarrassing. She was caught off guard and awkwardly tried to regain her composure.
    The other girl smiled. Then she mimicked Elia and curtsied too. “Right, Salutations!”

    "I'm surprised you're here early. I make it a point to get here half an hour earlier than required and you still made before me!" the girl said as she and Elia headed towards the principal's office. "I'm Samuelle Hiddleston. You can call me Miss Hiddleston for short! Just kidding! Sammy is fine."
    “I’m Elia.”
    "Morning, Sammy!" said a boy with thick glasses who sprinted past them.
    “Good morning, Charles!” She greeted back. She then turned to Elia, “Hmmm, where to start?"
    "Well I’m sure you know this already, UBrite Prep is the college-preparatory level for the esteemed University of Britechester.
    "This prestigious Viney League institution prides itself for producing some of the nation’s finest, most distinguished, and most upstanding Sims. Historically, it catered only to royal and noble families—A fine morning to you too, Jessica!—Of course, that prejudice is now gone and anyone with a GPA of 4.0 can submit an application for the undergraduate and graduate programs.
    "However, admission into the elementary and secondary levels is highly selective. I think it’s natural for them to not just admit anybody—Good morning, Lester!—especially since the lower levels guarantee one’s entry into the college after all.
    “So there is still a strong preference for the rich and powerful, usually from families of significant financial or political background. Or you have to be exceptionally talented in one field, like sports, or another—Hi, Ashton!

    They were running into a lot more students now. Elia marveled at all the people greeting Sammy as they walked around. Even more surprising was that she greeted them back and by their names too. They looked very excited upon hearing her single them out with her toothy smiles. Elia saw the students always walked away feeling content and giddy.

    "Anyway, my point is students who hail from such backgrounds usually reject being restricted by trivial matters such as a dress code. They, well honestly, myself included, feel it takes away from much more important values such as creativity and individuality.—Morning Miyuki!—As such, as of last semester, the school has opted a policy on the non-compulsory wearing of the uniform.”

    Elia looked at the other students walking around in the quad. It was true. She was too busy observing Sammy that she missed noting anyone else was not wearing the uniform. Elia guessed Sammy was wearing the uniform under her pink sweater. But now, Elia realized the silhouette was too different for it to have been the same pinafore dress. She felt a little embarrassed. Compared to everyone, it was as if she was wearing a costume. Sammy caught on to Elia’s thoughts though. She did not let her voice out her self-doubts. "You can still wear the uniform though! I love the way it looks on you!" Elia felt a little relieved hearing the other's affirmation.

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    Sammy dropped off Elia at the principal's office. She told her to come by the University Commons at lunchtime. She winked and gave her air kisses before she left.

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    The principal greeted her personally without Elia having to knock at the door. In truth, he was eagerly waiting for her arrival. When he found out that another Thebe had been admitted into the school, he went out of his way to arrange a special welcome for the heiress. He excused her from attending homeroom and the morning classes. Instead, he planned an itinerary for a comprehensive campus tour only for her. He showed off every picturesque historical spot and the modern amenities that made UBrite stand above all its competitors. He also introduced her to his colleagues as they went. Elia soon realized, after the fourth introduction, that she did not need to present herself. It was as if they had already been expecting her. Everywhere Elia went, the university staff greeted her with a warm smile. It was always followed by a shower of compliments. Sometimes she was even given flowers or handouts.

    Elia had grown less conscious of herself and was now actually enjoying the tour. She found out she can finally move more fluidly as her body remembered the postures and gestures of her rigorous etiquette training. She can now breathe, talk, and act more naturally—partly owing to her loosened bow tie. She briefly wondered what she was even nervous about earlier that morning. She knew she was anxious but over what exactly?

    The answer to this question came to her as the principal bade her goodbye at the end of their short walk. Elia was left alone in the hallway after the doors had shut. It was at that moment when she felt familiar nervousness started creeping up to her. She realized she was indeed still anxious. But it was not about interacting with the well-mannered adults of high society. She spent all summer long in charm school training for that.

    Elia realized it was the kids—teenagers her age—that she was wary of.

    She learned a life hack earlier that year. And it was that adults were very self-indulgent. They rarely pay attention to anything else but themselves, especially not to what kids like her had to say. They only ever react when someone oversteps the adults’ established rules and boundaries. But otherwise, they would prefer to and rather not care.

    On the other hand, Elia knew that kids cared about and reacted to pretty much everything. It reminded her of the kids back at the orphanage. Despite the limited options, they did care about how they look. They cared about being their best when foster parents came. They cared about getting to the toy room first so they can call dibs at who plays Bleep the Robot. They cared that Elia looked “like a freak" with her iridescent pupils. They cared that they would be thought of as weirdos if they were seen even talking with her. And they cared that no one wanted to adopt her and made fun of her for it. Everything mattered when you were a kid.

    Admittedly, it was something she never truly got over with. Even after all that happened, she still cared about being rejected. She was hoping she would never get to experience it ever again in this new life she had. It was the reason she was trying so hard to fit in this world she knew she did not belong to. And while the adults tolerated her, kids will be kids, right? They were bound to act that way. Even the high-class ones? She only hoped that this time, they wouldn't be so cruel.

    "Elia! Right here!" Sammy called out.
    Elia had reached the Commons. She found Sammy waiting for her at the arch beneath the twin stairs.
    "There're some people I want you to meet." Sammy giggled.
    She led Elia, not into the cafeteria, but out to the back garden to a secluded picnic area. It had a stunning view of the Britechester riviera. On one of the picnic tables sat a group of two girls and a boy in his late teens.
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    "Here she isss!" Sammy said excitedly.
    "Salutations," Elia said eloquently this time.
    "Awwwwww! You're right! she's totally adorable." said a girl in a gray knitted sweater.
    "And she has the school beret on! Oh, dear Watcher! I forgot we even had those!" a girl with tight curls chimed in.
    "Right?" Sammy agreed.

    "So, I've been meaning to get to know you earlier! But we had such limited time to talk." Sammy said through a pout. She gestured to the other two girls.
    "These are my closest friends. Mannie and Amy. I just know that they'll love you! We just have a few questions to ask.
    "And that's Sebastian,” she said dryly. “he's not really a friend but he’s here for some reason..."
    "I'm the reason. He's my boyfriend," Mannie interrupted and blushed. Sebastian blew her a kiss.
    Sammy and Amy both rolled their eyes at the couple. The girls invited Elia to sit. And she took the seat from across Sammy.

    The girls asked Sebastian to buy food for the table. Elia remembered that she had her own lunch pass and prepared to come with. But they insisted that Sebastian could do it on his own. They really only wanted him to leave. When he grumpily walked away to the cafeteria the questions started pouring out.
    "Which classes are you taking?”
    "A transferee in the senior year for UBrite prep is unheard of. Your family must be pretty influential to pull it off!"
    "What do your parents do for a living?"
    "I'm really jealous of your eyes! I want eye color change surgery!"
    “Are you gonna eat that bánh mì?”


    She was overwhelmed with all the attention she was getting. Elia had gotten used to being adored by the townsfolk at Capeside. She had learned that smiling and waving was more than enough for them. But as Edward had put it, those plebs don't really care for her. They were only after what she could offer them. These teenage girls, on the other hand, were expressing genuine interest in getting to know her.

    A long chime of the bell signaled the end of lunchtime, interrupting their little girl's talk. All at once, Sammy, Mannie, and Amy whipped out their phones and started texting frantically. They looked up, exchanged glances, and nodded in sync.
    “Alright, Elia. This is really interesting but the bell's rung. So we have to cut our little chitchat.” Mannie said.
    “Oh, that’s alright. I—“
    “But how would you like to join us and hang out at the mall later?” Amy said.
    "No need for you to thank us." Sammy smiled.
    “Hang out?” Elia said confused.
    “You know, eat out? Grab a smoothie?"
    “Go shopping?"
    “Or bowling or skating?”

    Elia was getting excited. She has never been to a mall before. Elia had been to Capeside but the small town only had shops. It did not even have any of the activities they mentioned. The nearest ones could be in Sable Square, but Robert didn't even go out that far. He most likely won't take her. Elia suddenly remembered Robert.

    “I’d love to! But I can't. Robert’s picking me up by the school gates later...”
    “Oooh, who’s that? Your boyfriend?”
    “No, he’s—”
    “Oh! A sugar daddy?”
    “Mannie!”
    “What?”
    “Robert’s my butler.” Elia clarified.

    Everyone went silent. Sammy raised an eyebrow.
    “Riiiiiiiight. I’m sure the butler won’t mind,” she dismissed Elia's reason. “Just tell the butler that you're hanging out with friends and to pick you up at the mall at seven."

    Elia wanted to smile when she heard the word 'friend'. She had always dreamed of having more than just Adriel. It felt good to be acknowledged as one by the other girls. She could suddenly understand how those students from this morning felt when Sammy greeted them. But she also understood that it sounded awfully like she was turning down their invitation. And for a butler nonetheless. But these girls probably did not understand how important this butler was to her.

    "I'm really sorry." Elia apologized.
    "That's alright. See you here same time tomorrow then? We'll pick up where we left off today.” Sammy's sweet words sounded more like an order than a suggestion but Elia didn't mind. She was just relieved she can at least still have lunch with them tomorrow. She was pretty sure that she blew up her chances at making friends.

    Elia was childishly playing in a leaf pile when the Thebe car rolled up. She can't wait to tell Robert of her awesome first day. She wanted to tell him about the cool places she's seen around campus. How much his schedule had been a godsend in getting to her classes on time. And how she was able to make some friends!

    But he was not in the car. It was just Will, the chauffeur.

    Robert was at the kitchen heating up the food for Elia when she came home.

    z2Rc6bz.png

    "You won't guess what happened today." Elia teased.
    "Oh?" Robert said without looking at Elia.
    Elia excitedly told him what had happened to her throughout the day over dinner.
    "...And then we went on one of those horse-drawn carriage rides around historic Gibbs Hill."
    "That sounds nice," Robert replied.
    "And I made some friends during lunch."
    "That sounds nice too."
    Elia sulked. She can't believe she honestly thought this was a good conversation-starter. She figured he would at least have asked her where else she went. Or who her new friends were. She even brought the topic of Princess Cordelia to the table because she remembered Robert liked the royal family's history. But it turned out it was not a good idea. Maybe what she should have remembered was that Robert was an adult too. And the adults do not care.

    Elia pushed her plate away. She was done eating. And she was done trying to get Robert to talk to her. She stood up and started to head upstairs.
    "I'll be in my room. Thanks for the meal."
    "Elia, my lady..." Robert called after her.
    "Yeah?" Elia asked expectantly.
    "Please don't forget to leave out your lunchbox so I can wash it."

    Ugh! She stormed out of the kitchen.

    CREfDSH.png
    Elia lazily flipped through her Contemporary Literature textbook. She was extremely bored. She looked at the old-fashioned bedside clock. It now read seven o'clock. Sammy, Amy, and Mannie must have been preparing to get home by now. They must have had so much fun eating cheesecakes, drinking smoothies, and shopping, or skating, or bowling together. She could have gone and joined them too. She could have experienced all those fun things. And they could have gotten to know each other more too. They would have asked her how her day went after they parted at lunch. Or what she did and where she went before she met them.

    But they couldn't. Because she didn't go. She chose to go home early to Robert. And here she was, miles away from the mall. All alone with a butler who was only interested in cleaning a stupid lunchbox.

    Yep, totally worth it, she told herself. She sunk her head into the pillows and sighed.

    Elia really wished she went.
  • rosemowrosemow Posts: 158,416 Member
    It was great reading the update! :) I feel for Elia as she tries to fit in and enjoy a type of normal life that she isn’t used to. I hope that she can settle in well and make more friends.
    You have written the update in a very descriptive way, which helps us to understand what she is going through,her thoughts and her feelings towards situations.
  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    Thanks for reading @rosemow! I’m glad Elia’s emotions came across to you. Also hoping that I somehow made the other teens realistic. Or at least believable lol :sweat_smile:
  • rosemowrosemow Posts: 158,416 Member
    You have written about the other teens well! :) You have reflected well the way teens talk, think and act. They are a great part of the story!
  • mercuryfoammercuryfoam Posts: 1,137 Member
    Unloved 12
    New school situations always makes me jittery! Elia and Robert's conversation is so painfully one-sided. Seems like Elia had a good first day. But Oof the battle isn't over yet. Those high school social cliques especially in prestigious schools can be pretty brutal. I'm not sure what I want for Elia. If she successfully integrates with them, she'll adopt some of those values, but if she doesn't, the consequences aren't great either. x.x Oof I'm excited for the next update!
    V2seNM7.jpg
  • DeafSimmerDeafSimmer Posts: 4,069 Member
    @orenjiAi
    Elia and Robert's conversation is one-sided. The only thing Robert seems to care about is the butler life. Well, I hope Elia makes friends and gets the confidence to go out with them.
  • mightyspritemightysprite Posts: 768 Member
    Enjoying this a lot, and I love all the builds! That kitchen in the last episode is so warm and comforting :)

  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    @mercuryfoam @DeafSimmer
    Robert probably wouldn’t have much to add to the conversation anyway even if he wasn’t in full butler mode.

    Hi @mightysprite Welcome! Thanks for reading and for noticing the builds! This is the first time anyone’s mentioned anything about the setting. I’m so happy! :)

  • ShaymanthaShaymantha Posts: 769 Member
    Hi great to hear you doing better with your health now I'm pleased to hear it! Really enjoyed catching up on unloved since I've been gone for far too long. Nice to see your happier now and well done on the latest instalments I look forward to the next part of your story. :smiley:
  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    Unloved 13

    The Commons was a medieval gothic building found between the preparatory and collegiate campuses of the University of Britechester. It is believed to be the oldest building in the entire school. Ivy had grown unchecked over its face, screening off several of its windows. Some of which are now permanently closed because of the thick foliage that got entangled in its hinges.

    It used to be the old entrance gate to the school. But when the campus was expanded, the structure found a new life as the cafeteria. Elia walked into the building, carrying her purple tin lunchbox. But instead of entering through the mullioned double doors that led into the lunchroom, she climbed down the staircases that led to the semi-basement.

    “And where do you think you’re going?” said a familiar haughty voice.
    Elia looked up to see Edward casually perched on the banisters.
    unryt1F.png
    “The cafeteria is back up there,” he pointed with his thumb. “Down there’s just storage.”
    “No, there are some picnic tables too. I’m joining some friends for lunch.”

    “Friends?” Edward gave Elia a quizzical look. “Nobody goes down there? Unless... Surely you do not mean The Sams?”

    Elia thought Edward must be enjoying coming up with his personal vocabulary. She just wished he was aware that he cannot expect Elia to just know the meaning of these things. Contrary to whatever he must be thinking, “The Sams” was not a common word. And she was pretty sure the word “plebs” he taught her was meant to be a slur. Elia scratched behind her ear. She didn’t know how to react to that. Edward explained away with further prodding.

    “That’s what everyone calls them! Samuelle Hiddleston? Samantha Jung? Samia Guerra?”
    “You mean, Sammy, Mannie, and Amy?” Elia inquired.
    “I knew it!” Edward was annoyed. He looked as if he had just baked a cheesecake but accidentally dropped it while pulling it out of the oven. “Wait You’re on a nicknames basis with The Sams?” he asked.
    “Yes?” She said unsurely. But she showed him her lunchbox. She hoped she would get the clue.
    “Wow! Look at you! Social climbing already? Did you learn that from the old hag Rika during your little summer camp?"
    “Social climbing?" Elia repeated. "I’m just having lunch. With friends. I met them on the first day of classes.”
    "Listen, The Sams. They’re not just students. They're the most popular people in our year!
    F0ss2jt.png
    “Samia Guerra, Head Cheerleader. UBrite always had the absolute worst cheer team! Full of wimpy lazy band nerds too stuck-up to want to do anything! But when she joined the team back in middle school, they made it straight to nationals! They've been the undefeated champions ever since. She's the most liked person on campus. She's dumb as 🌸🌸🌸🌸 but no one cares `coz she's got school spirit or whatever!
    1gpJvHj.png
    "Samantha Jung is the school gossip. There's nothing you can hide from her—because she's that nosy! Maybe it’s because her personal life is just so unsatisfying that she just has to involve herself with everyone else’s! You know what? Talking about her makes me sick.
    He spewed angrily. Elia looked away disgustedly. Now she was feeling sick too.
    HxX2CqH.png
    "And then there's Samuelle Hiddleston.” He said more dramatically. “Students here think she’s perfect. Effortlessly pretty with straight hair. Class president with straight A’s. Her entire life is planned straight to a tee. Captain of the Debate Team. Net worth of §3.5 million. Regular soup kitchen volunteer. Little miss perfect. That's her!"
    “Look, my friends are waiting...”
    "Don’t be fooled!” He warned. “They’re not friends! They are by far the meanest, nastiest girls you will ever meet!
    “The Sams manipulate everyone in the school to bend to their whims. They all work together! Samia has the network. Samantha does the dirty work. And Samuelle thinks up the strategy—She's the brains of their operations.”

    Elia couldn't understand Edward. Try as she might. It seemed to her that he was very paranoid of friendship. Has everything anyone's ever done for him always had some ulterior motive? Hasn’t there been anybody in his life that reached out to him without asking for anything in return? Is this world really such the terrible place he makes it to be? She felt sad for him and shook her head.

    "You don’t believe me? Last summer, the teacher caught The Sams cheating on their Simerican history term papers. But did they get expelled? No! Samuelle Hiddlesdton charmed the faculty so they'd only have to do extra credit! Timothy Johnson on the other hand, was caught cheating on a quiz, and he was held back that semester!
    “Samia Guerra is excused from attending literally every class when it’s Viney League season! You try missing three days in a row and you get tardy permanently stamped on your school records!
    “And Samantha Jung had Andrew Robins and Lance Pascale suspended for “indecent behavior” on the school trip to Champ Les Sims in seventh grade when she herself is sneaking in her college boyfriend daily into the prep school grounds! That nosy hypocrite!”
    “And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The Sams are untouchables, I tell you! Teen royalty—no! Dictators!”

    His eyes suddenly went very round.
    “That’s it...I cracked the code!”
    Edward excitedly tried to grab Elia’s shoulders. But she pulled herself out of his reach. This helped him sober up.
    “You’re kind of a princess, right?" he said, now more composedly. "You’re a threat to their reign. That’s why they’ve taken you in. Try to subdue you.
    “Autocracies depend on three pillars of stability, according to—}

    "Elia? Where were you? I've been calling you for the last five min—" Mannie said as she tapped her back. She was all smiles until she saw Elia's company. She eyed him with contempt.
    "What're you do—?"
    “Shut up and get a life, you 🌸🌸🌸🌸!” Edward screamed at Mannie as he ran up the stairs away from the two girls.
    Mannie looked straight back at Elia.
    "Elia, why are you talking to Edward Witthaker?” she said with a raised eyebrow.
    GVq8Efx.png
    “Anyway,” She didn’t wait for the blonde teen to ask why. “Take my advice. Don’t hang out with him. Edward Whittaker is a lanky little social climbing liar. And you don't want to be associated with that kind."
    She smiled again and led Elia by the hand.
    "You look totally adorable in that uniform. C'mon, Sammy's waiting! We got a surprise for you."


    gyXq7D1.png
    Elia clomped slowly to the front of the physics classroom. The Sams gave her a pair of gold-colored high-heeled pumps. They insisted on having her wear it for the remainder of the day to help boost her confidence. ("And it'd make your butt look amazing!"). Elia's posture had already been corrected by the governess Amagi Rika over the summer, but this was her first time wearing heels higher than three inches. She was trying her best not to fall down the stairs of the stepped classroom.
    "Mr. Toya?"
    "Oh hi, Elia!" the olive-skinned teacher said. "What can I do for you?"
    "Yeah. About the groupings for the project due on the 22nd? It's said here that I'm assigned with a Tyler King? But it's been almost a week now and he still hadn't shown up. May I be allowed to work on it alone?"
    "Oh...," he scrunched his face. "Right. I forgot to tell you. Tyler King asked to be excused this week. He apparently had some personal matters to attend to. Family problems. He had to go back to Capeside to deal with it himself."

    Elia felt a little sorry for her selfishness. Physics wasn't particularly difficult for her. She could have easily finished the project on her own. But she was getting annoyed that Tyler King made her do all the work because he couldn't be bothered to show up for classes. Except it turned out he wasn’t skipping classes on purpose. If only she had known about this sooner, then she would've been more patient.

    "Wait. Did you say Capeside?" Elia realized.
    "Yes. You know that medieval town upstate?" Mr. Toya looked at her through the top of his eyeglasses. "OK. I'm really sorry about this Miss Thebe. I'll give you two days extension for the project if you're decided to do it alone. Don't worry about Tyler King. He'll just make up for it with extra credit.”
    "I'm sorry. Can you forget everything I just said?," Elia said. "I think I'll keep the partnership.
    "You see, I live at Capeside too. I realized I could just drop by his house this weekend and we could come up with something for the project. If he can't come here. I'll just go to his place."
    "Alright. That’s very noble of you, Miss Thebe.”
    “If you don’t mind me asking, isn’t Capeside really far from this campus?”
    “Not at all. I’d say about a three-hour drive?”
    “So you drive six hours every day just to go to school?"
    "Oh no, not me. Our chauffeur."
    "Must be nice," the teacher said dryly.
    * * *

    r6kn6eq.png
    "So how are you liking uBrite Prep?" Sammy asked as she sipped her lemon honey ginger detox tea.
    "It's amazing!" Elia replied. "People here are really nice... Back in the orphanage, the other kids wouldn't even look at me. But now, everyone's—" Elia smiled to herself. She couldn't find the proper words to explain what she was feeling. She was hanging out with friends in a coffee shop after school. Talking of literally just anything. It's just like in the movies. Back in her past life, she only dreamed of doing these things.
    "It's like a dream come true," she said almost tearily.
    "Aww Elia, I'm so glad to hear that you're having fun now!" Mannie squeezed Elia's hand.
    "Don't worry, those lonely days are over now," Amy said, holding her other hand.
    "You won't ever feel left out anymore. Because now, you have us." Sammy added as she flipped back her straight blonde hair. "And when you're with us..."
    "Life is tres bien!" they all said and giggled in unison.
    "Err... très bien?" Elia suggested.
    "No, Tres bien! D'you like? We came up with it ourselves. Tres as in three? And bien as in good? " Amy explained. "You know? 'Coz there's three of us and—"
    "Shut up, Amy! She gets it! She's not an idi-yet!" Mannie half-screamed.
    "Sorry, Mannie."
    "What's that?" Sammy pointed at the folder Elia had at her lap.
    "Oh, it's just some printouts for a classmate from physics. He's been absent all week."
    "Aww, you're so thoughtful!" Mannie complimented.
    "Thanks. I-I thought I'd bring this to his house so we can start working on our project over the weekends. He's apparently from Capeside, too"
    "We have classmates all the way out at Brindleton Bay?" Amy inquired.
    "We have classmates all the way from Windenburg and Mt. Komorebi, genius!" Mannie scolded.
    "You know, I've never been to Brindleton Bay," Sammy said as she leaned back in her seat.
    "Yeah, me neither. They say the beaches there are beautiful. But honestly, if we're talking about beaches, I bet it wouldn't compare to Sulani." Mannie agreed.
    "Lemme check." Amy said. She searched for Capeside on her phone. A few half-timbered houses showed up on the screen. Elia recognized one of the. as the cafe that served Simcity cheesecake. "It's like, so provincial!"
    "Again, Sulani's better!"
    "We should go check it out sometime." Sammy said, "Sulani is pretty but it gets crowded and boring.
    "It's crazy. I know classes just started this week, but I think I could really use some unwinding.
    Sammy stretched her arms above her. Then she clasped her hands together and rested her chin on them.
    “Let’s go check Capeside...” She gazed deep into Elia's vividly colored eyes and smiled. "Then we can have a sleepover at Elia's," she suggested.
    Mannie and Amy squealed and agreed indefinitely.

    Now things were really playing out like it did in the movies! Elia thought. They would all watch a movie. Bake some snacks. Braid each others' hair. They should try that test-of-courage thing in the woods! And they would talk. And bond. And get closer as friends. It would even be better than the movies! She was getting excited again. And this time she knew better than to let go of this opportunity for Robert.

    "Alright!" Elia agreed. She brought her phone out with the intent of messaging Robert the schedule. "When's the date? I'll check with Robert."
    Elia realized her mistake as the words came out of her mouth. How did she manage to yet again involve Robert? She had just decided a moment ago that he wouldn’t get in her way.
    "Again with the butler? What is your fascination with him?" Sammy said.
    "Robert may be the family butler. But, with the Mistress gone, he's also standing as my legal guardian..." Elia answered honestly.
    "But still! You're the lady of the house!" Amy said.
    "You're technically his employer. You're the boss! Not him! You dictate his schedule." Mannie egged on. "You know what? Give me your phone, we're going to teach you what to say!"
    "—Hey!"

    Mannie snatched Elia's phone and ran behind Sammy. She whispered into her ear then looked at the screen to type.
    "Woah. Is this him?"
    EsKgfdl.png
    The two girls saw the profile picture Elia had set for Robert on the messaging app. She candidly snapped it on the day the National Historic Commission inspected the chateau. It was cropped from a photo of Robert standing by the side of an archway. He was waiting for the Count to exit the room. The sun was streaming in through the French windows and it cast its light on one-half of Robert's face. The other half was hidden in shadows. It emphasized his defined cheekbones and heavy jaw. His gaze was sharp and focused. He looked very manly.

    "He's a lot younger than I imagined." Sammy mused.
    "Oh Elia you naughty girl!" Mannie teased. "Did you sneak-snap this?"
    "What? Lemme see." Amy tried to get the phone but the other teen swiped her hand away.
    "Oh... now I get it!" Mannie said, zooming on the photo so it completely filled the screen. She stared at Robert's face. "You're totally crushing on him, aren't you?"
    "Oooh! A forbidden love! How romantic!" Amy said excitedly.
    "Which is why you're always worried about what he'd think!"
    "I kinda get it, he's a total hunk."

    That wasn't true, was it? Elia just thought it'd be more convenient for them to have the sleepover with Robert around. Surely, he would do a much better job at hosting the sleepover. He could help them with the sleeping arrangements, and the meals, and the activities. On top of being the butler, he was also the chatelain of the very historic Summer Palace. There would definitely be rooms that he'd consider off-limits. She needed him to be there.

    "'I will always be here for you'!? Wait, isn't that totally something a boyfriend would say!?" Mannie read out loud.
    Elia thought about what Mannie had just said. She recalled the line as her and Robert’s first text when he had adopted her. Had Mannie been snooping around her messages? She had some very personal conversations with him that absolutely no one else should see! Like that time he saved her from drowning in the bath and she thought he saw her naked. It could easily be misunderstood for something else!
    Realizing the situation, Elia quickly retrieved her phone. She buried it deep in her backpack then wanted to shove her whole head in too. She tried to hide her bright red face in vain.

    A loud slapping noise echoed through the brick walls of the cafe. Everything had gone quiet. Elia looked up to see the other customers all staring at their direction. She wondered what they were all looking at.
    It was Sammy and Mannie. Both teens were at their feet. Sammy had her arm outstretched with an open hand. While Mannie seemed to have staggered back a few paces. She was clutching her cheek. Her eyes were wide with shock. Elia could make out a handprint on Mannie's face beneath where she was touching it. Sammy had slapped Mannie.

    Sammy rolled her eyes at the other girl. She flipped her hair over her shoulder and collected her things. She slammed §50 on the table and walked out of the cafe.
    Elia watched the other two remaining teens exchange confused, nervous glances. Soon they scrambled to gather their schoolbags and rushed out the doors.
    "Sammy, wait!" "I’m sorry, Sammy!" "Come back!" Elia heard Mannie and Amy call as they chased after the blonde.

    Elia was left alone at the table; unsure of what had just happened.

    She took a long draft of her now-room temperature chocolate. Finishing it before leaving the cafe herself.
  • rosemowrosemow Posts: 158,416 Member
    edited March 24
    It was great reading the latest update and reading what Edward said about the three girls. He has given a new perspective to the story and what is happening. I now looking forward to seeing what happens next and what was the cause of the upset! :)
  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    Thanks for reading @rosemow! Glad you liked the update. I’m already working on the next episode! :)
  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    Unloved 14


    “Say, Robert...” Elia said halfway through breakfast.
    “Yes, my lady?” Robert responded to the teenager’s call. He positioned himself at her side and he refilled her glass of water.
    KRSFj1N.png

    Elia was not usually the type of person who would voice out their complaints. She found it easier to just let the minor inconveniences in her life slide rather than to let them ruin an entire day. She also knew how annoying it was to be around complainers. But today she was faced with an inconvenience she simply cannot ignore.

    She noticed it from the moment she got out of bed. Outside, it was a cool, cloudy autumn morning at Capeside. Through the large casement windows of her room, Elia could see the treetops of the formal garden's decorative maples have begun changing their leaves’ colors. A thin fog laid low on the estate grounds. Inside the chateau, however, it was unbelievably and uncomfortably colder.

    “Don’t you think it’s a little bit chilly today?”
    “Yes." Robert shifted. "I am terribly sorry, my lady. I had meant to tell you after breakfast.
    “At around 3:15-3:30 this morning, the Summer Palace’s central heating had malfunctioned. I turned off the boiler temporarily for our safety.
    “It is unfortunate because its regular maintenance is not scheduled until the week after next. I would have somebody take a look now but the boiler is incredibly vintage; dating back from the 19th century.
    “I am afraid a regular Capeside plumber simply shall not suffice.
    “Needless to say, we are at the mercy of heating by firewood for the time being.
    "The woodpile should be enough to get us through the next few weeks but not plenty enough to heat the entire chateau comfortably. I best find someone who specializes in 19th-century boilers.
    “Would my lady want me to fetch her a blanket?”
    “Yes, that would be lovely,” she replied. 

    It was the longest conversation Elia had with Robert since last summer. He excused himself to retrieve a blanket from the linen closet. Unlike the chateau which she believed to have waxed even colder than earlier, he seemed to be warming up to her. It might have been just because he was apologetic for the inconvenience rather than genuine care, but she was enjoying his undivided attention now, nevertheless. Elia was secretly thankful that the old boiler broke down.

    “And don’t worry about firewood. We only use our own rooms and the kitchen anyway. We don’t really need to heat the entire thing up,” Elia said as Robert handed her a fuzzy blanket.
    “No, I suppose we do not have to,” Elia thought she saw a faint smile on his face. Was it of relief or was it him just trying to be nice? Elia did not care. Robert’s smiles had been few and rare lately. “But I spent the last three hours restocking the pile and lugging firewood for all the hearths upstairs anyway. My back is really sore.”
    Was that a snide remark? Elia felt a little daring. Maybe she can stretch out the conversation a bit more.
    “Guess we’d have to wear our coats indoors now?” she teased.
    “Perhaps?” he teased back. She was ecstatic. “That would be so much cheaper, too. We could each buy a pair of fur coats with the budget for the winter’s bills and we’d still have money to spare!”

    Elia’s phone suddenly rang. Its shrill chime bounced off the stone floors and wooden panels of the dining room. Like the ringing of a bedside alarm clock breaking through dreams when it was time to wake up, the phone’s rings brought them back to their senses. They realized they were staring at each other with awkward half-formed smiles.

    Robert finally broke eye contact. He was back in butler mode.

    “I am sorry you had to hear that. I did not mean to complain. Please forgive me for my insolence," he said.

    Elia looked at the phone that had been so cruel to burst her nice bubble of friendly warmth. It was Sammy. She excused herself from breakfast and walked into the foyer.

    cehkJTj.png
    "Hello?" 
    "Hey, sleepyhead! Good morning," Sammy greeted. "Mannie has something important to tell you."
    Another voice came in through the line.
    "Elia, I am very sorry for the way I acted yesterday,” Mannie said. “And I am sorry for reading your messages.
    "And to make it up to you, I promise that I'll help you get together with your butler."
    "Errr...what?"
    "I mean from what I read—again sorry!—It's obvious that you're attracted to him. But don't worry. I know all the tricks in the book! I swear we'll get you your manz by Harvestfest."
    "Mannie has loads of experience. Sometimes in public places,” another voice said.
    "Amy? Is that you?"
    “Yass gurl!”
    "I hope you can forgive Mannie,” Sammy said in a sweet pleading voice. “I know that she can be such a nosy girl sometimes, but she really means it when she says sorry.
    “Besides," she continued in her regular voice, “We’re all friends right? You wouldn’t want to make lunch awkward on Monday, do you?”
    "Yeah? I mean, I guess it’s not really that big of a deal? I think?” Elia wasn’t sure what else to say. She didn’t think Mannie was all that sincere in her apology. It also felt like Sammy had just forced her to say it. And then, it felt like she herself had been forced to accept it too.
    "Tres bien! Oh yeah, so about that sleepover we were discussing yesterday?"
    "Oh. It's alright. We can try some other—,"
    "We're on the interstate right now. We had to stop for gas but we're already on our way to your place. See you later! Take care, love ya!"

    Sammy hung up.

    The Sams are coming for a sleepover. And they’re already on the way. Is dropping by unexpectedly something friends did? She had once imagined all sorts of activities they would do at a sleepover. But those were just the musings of a teenager. As far as actually hosting guests is concerned, she had zero knowledge. That would be Robert’s expertise.

    Elia rushed back into the dining room to tell Robert she’d be expecting guests. But he wasn’t there. The table had already been cleared of breakfast. She walked into the butler’s pantry expecting him to be washing the dishes. But he also wasn’t there. She looked for him all throughout the chateau. He wasn’t in any of the salons, or bedrooms, or entertainment rooms. She even tried all the bathrooms and his apartment in the attic but he was nowhere to be found.

    Elia realized she had already lost half an hour just looking for him. If she continued the search, she doubted they would have anything done in the time left. She just had to do it herself. She thought about her time in the orphanage. Presentation and food were always Mother’s top priorities whenever guests were expected. Maybe she should consider those too.

    Elia looked around the room she was in. Thankfully, she lived in a palace. She didn’t have to worry about presentation. Excluding the fact it was decorated obscenely and expensively, the place was always spotless. Robert cleaned the chateau religiously. Sometimes twice daily. That was one thing off her list.

    Elia checked the butler’s pantry again. But this time, she looked for food. Elia guessed that the groceries available in the fridge were enough to feed a family of three for a few days. She reckoned the cook could even make it last an entire week, especially if they pinched on using the ingredients. 
    uWnm4F5.png

    But the cook was away for the weekend. And Robert only knew how to cook two kinds of recipes: Boxed meals where the only other ingredient was water. And ridiculously complex, extremely wasteful, unnecessarily fancy gourmet meals. She bet he would do the latter. He almost always did. In which case, the groceries were not enough.

    She supposed she could make it part of their activities to shop for groceries and cook together. But do The Sams even know how to do stuff like that? She sighed and closed the fridge. Its fogged glass doors reflected the room. And Elia spotted a dark shapeless mass in the nook under the stairs.

    Startled, she turned around. It was just the woodpile. Elia finally realized where Robert was.

    One step outside confirmed her suspicions. A repetitive dull thud and the sound of dry wood cracking could be heard echoing through the air. Elia followed the sound to a place behind what used to be the royal stables.

    Her heart was beating fast. In the movies Elia watched on the Gift Card Channel, this would be the part where the heroine runs into the rugged manly love interest chopping wood. He was almost always shirtless in those scenes. And often, he was coated in a light layer of sweat that made his taut, defined muscles glisten under the sun.

    Elia had never seen Robert outside of his crisp butler uniform or its respective hot~ and cold-weather counterparts. But she had always assumed that beneath the sharp suit, he hid a similar body: buff and toned by the heavy housework that he did without fail every day.

    Her heart was racing. Robert would be splitting wood just beyond the corner. She stopped walking just before he was in sight. She already knew what she was expecting to see but she wasn’t ready to face it just yet. But she was running out of time. She had to do something. She closed her eyes and turned. 
     
    "Ah, my lady!” Robert said.  

    Elia opened her eyes. It was exactly as she anticipated.
    KphFDxI.png
    Robert was wearing a working version of his butler uniform albeit dressed down. He wore a henley with rolled sleeves under dark shapeless denim overalls. He was also wearing safety goggles and gloves. How typical of him. In his hands, he held a maul. He was sweating hard though even when it was still cool outside. It was the one thing he got right. 

    He stopped what he was doing to come closer.
    “I have talked with a specialty plumber already. They said they could squeeze us into their schedule next week! That’s a whole week less to endure.
    “We'd have to pay extra for their staff's board, lodging, and transportation—they're based in San Myshuno, after all—but I think it's a low price to pay for our comfort, wouldn't you agree?

    He wiped his brow of sweat and brushed his bangs out of his eyes. At least he wore his hair differently. She wished he would do that more often.  

    “Oh yeah,” Elia replied absentmindedly.
    "But, I did chop some more wood. Just in case."
    A strong wind blew through the garden.
    “Please head inside, my lady. It is getting cold out. I will join you as soon as I finish splitting these rounds.”

    Elia felt her phone vibrate. It lit up and sounded a short ding. As before, it pulled her back to the real world.  

    It was a picture message from Amy:
    HoR24Tx.png
    Hey! We’re near now. I think,,, Mannie had to make another stop tho. Said she forgot to buy protection. 🍆🤡💀
    She told me not to tell ya so just pretend you didn’t see that 🙈🙏🏿

    Elia panicked. She grabbed Robert’s bulging forearms and started shaking him, begging for solutions.

    “Robert help me! I don’t know what to do! We’re running out of time!”
    “M-my lady! Please,” Robert said flustered. “I reek of sweat!”
    He freed himself from her grasp. 
    “I can help you. But you need to tell me how. Please calm down.”
    "I'm sorry.” Elia can still feel the ghost of his firm sweaty forearms in her hands. “I have friends who're coming over right now! And they’ll be staying the night. I just found out now.
    "They said they stopped to buy...” Elia hesitated. Robert didn’t have to know. “Gas. They’re already at the interstate." She lied.
    "Petrol?" Robert said. “The nearest one on the interstate is a full and one-quarter of an hour’s drive from here. That is plenty of time to prepare. Although...”

    Elia knew what he was thinking. One hour was indeed enough time to make the guest rooms. It would have also been just enough time to grocery shop for any missing ingredient they needed for lunch. But with the boiler out of commission, they now had to go through the extra work of having to light and maintain the fireplaces too. And there were a lot of fireplaces in the chateau.

    “Let me help,” Elia finally said.
    “My lady, I will not allow you to do housework.”
    “I know how to do chores! I did it all the time at the orphanage. Maybe not as well as you could! But I can change beddings. I can cook. And I can clean!” Elia reasoned. “Please. Let me help. We don’t have enough time.”

    Elia could tell Robert was conflicted. A little help was certainly appreciated. But letting the young lady do housework herself was against his very purpose as a butler. Moreover, should the guests arrive now and catch her in her work clothes doing the chores, she would be made a laughingstock. On the other hand, however, there is simply not enough time to do everything by himself. It would mean the lady shall have to accept the guests into an uncomfortable chateau so ill-fitted for a reception. That too would have been equally as embarrassing. He agreed eventually. He reluctantly assigned her to replace the beddings for the guest rooms. It would be her only task. Everything else, he had to do himself.

    Elia and Robert’s teamwork led them to finish with only a few minutes left to spare. And soon enough the iron gates rattled open to admit a vehicle. Elia stood by the front doors eagerly waiting for her friends. But instead of The Sams, a young, built African-Simerican boy exited. He held a huge paper bag and approached her.

    “Uhh... Hey! Delivery for Mr. Robert Dubois?” He said to her. “It’s his grocery.”
    “I thought I said to deliver the groceries to the north wing entrance?” Robert interrupted. Elia didn't notice he was behind her all this time.
    “Oh, right! Sorry man, first-time delivery guy." He laughed nervously. He seemed to be around Elia’s age.
    "Don't worry. It is not a complaint. Just a reminder."
    "Man! Don't do that!" the teen said. "For a second there I thought I was really in trouble! Sign here please, then."
    "How's Tyrone doing by the way?" Robert asked as he handed him some cash and signed the form.
    "A bit better. But still not well. But better. Though looks like I'll be running King's Quality Food Emporium for a bit longer.”
    "King?" Elia asked. There was something familiar about that name.
    “Yes my lady, the same grocer we frequent at Capeside. They have started deliveries. You may remember Tyrone, this is his son...”
    Rxyw6WR.png

    “Tyler!” several voices said in unison.

    Elia noticed a yellow compact car parked behind Tyler’s delivery truck. 

    “We didn’t expect to see you here!” Amy said as she side-hugged Tyler.
    “Hey, Amy! Me neither...Hi Sammy!” Tyler greeted the blonde teen as she stepped out of the car. She ignored him.
    “So, what brings you here to Capeside?” Tyler asked, “Did you take a wrong turn Mannie? You missed the mall. T’was seven exits ago.”
    “Ha. Ha.” Mannie said sarcastically. “Very funny, Tyler! I’ll have you know that despite what the DMV says, I’m actually a very good driver!
    “Besides it was Sebastian who took us here.” Sebastian waved to Tyler as he and Robert unloaded a dozen bags from the small car.
    “We’re here for a sleepover!” Amy said enthusiastically.
    “This is our new friend, Elia Thebe,” Sammy said wrapping her arms around Elia’s. “And you? What brings you here?”
    Tyler didn’t say a word.
    Sammy's eyes glinted. She looked at the truck with the logo and dirty crates of vegetables on it.
    “Oh no! I’m really sorry! I didn’t know you were working now! By the way, that’s totally adorable,” she added. “Don’t let us bother you, then.”
    Tyler exhaled really loudly as if trying to calm himself. He dug in his jacket's pocket for the car keys and walked away. Elia wanted to make him stay. She completely forgot but she had originally reserved this afternoon for him. She intended to visit his home and they would work together on their project. But she got busy. He didn’t know about that plan though, so why did she feel so bad?

    “Byeeee!” The Sams waved as the truck rolled away.
    “Soo....” Sammy said to Elia, "We’re all here now!"
    Robert gestured to Elia to let the guests in.
    “Oh right, c'mon in!" Elia said. She would just worry about Tyler tomorrow. Right now, she had other matters to attend to.

    Elia led The Sams and Sebastian to the grand salon. She invited them to sit down by the fire.
    “Wow. Your house is like, really, really nice,” Amy said, looking around.
    “Thank you!” Elia smiled. Not at the compliment but because she just couldn’t believe she finally had friends over. And they were all staying the night for a sleepover.
    "Elia, it's freezing in here!" Mannie rubbed her shoulders. She scooted closer to the fire. "Can’t we turn the heat up a bit?"
    Robert knocked on the open doorway and offered hot spiced sparkling apple
    juice and coffee to drink.
    XL7dX5H.png
    "Well, I get why it’s so cold. It is the Summer Palace, after all,” Sebastian said sipping his drink. “Princess Cordelia had it built here as a holiday home for her and her pirate boyfriends in 1764,”
    “Err...so?”
    “I’m saying that as is the 17th-century baroque Winter Palace in Chateau Peak, this structure is designed to make the most of its locality. That is, Del Sol Valley's year-round warm Mediterranean climate for the Winter Palace; and here, the cool mild springs and summers resulting from the oceanic climate. I bet it’s designed to just draw in the cove's cold air and trap it inside its thick walls indefinitely.
    "Elia," he said, "No, your royal miss. It truly is an honor to even be allowed to set foot in the hallowed halls of this historic palace."
    “If you want, I can give you a tour!” Elia said excitedly. “Hang on, I’ll call Robert. He knows this place much more than I do.”
    "Thank you, Elia! But really, it’s not that big of a deal,” Mannie said through a stiff smile. “It’s still just a house. No need for tours."
    "What are you talking about?” Amy asked Mannie. “This place is larger than our school building. Of course, we need a tour—OW!”
    Mannie “accidentally” kicked Amy in the shin.
    "It is a big deal though, “Sebastian argued. “The Summer Palace was closed to the public since its restoration in 1852 and since then had been the private residence of the former royal family. Historians only know about its existence but not of anything that happened inside its walls after the Great Sloth Invasion. It's an enigma. That’s almost 200 years of unrecorded history!"
    A loud clunk interrupted the conversation. It turned out to be Sammy who dropped a log from a height to stoke the fire.
    "Oh sorry," she apologized. "I just thought it was getting colder. Don’t mind me. Just carry on with your conversation."
    "I'm really sorry about that. Here.” Elia handed over her blanket. “Sebastian might be right. It's not always this way though. I promise it's usually warmer and cozier. It’s just our boiler broke down this morning." 
    Sammy took the blanket and huddled near the fire. She brought out a book and started reading it. Amy began playing games on her phone. And Mannie and Sebastian kept to themselves. They spoke in lowered voices so nobody else could hear what they were talking about.
    “Some sleepover this is turning out to be,” Elia thought. She had to break the ice.
    "So, what do you want to do today?" she asked.
    The girls stopped what they were doing. They exchanged glances then smiled mischievously. It was a trap. They planned it all along.

    Elia found herself seated in front of the mirror of her boudoir. Behind her, the Sams are clamoring with their luggage. They brought out clothes, and hair products, and makeup. Elia finally understood why it seemed they brought far too much stuff for an overnight stay.
    FCoLkBf.png
    "Go away, Sebastian! This is for girls only!" Amy kicked him out of the room.
    "But what am I supposed to do?"
    "Go watch TV or whatever."
    "Does this place even have a tel—"
    Mannie slammed the door in her boyfriend’s face. She excitedly grabbed a hairbrush on the counter and stood behind Elia.
    “When we’re done, you’re going to look like a real princess!” she said. “I’m going to do your hair. Amy will do make-up. And Sammy will help you pick what clothes to wear."
    "Aren't you excited!?"
    “Let's start! BTW, you have really nice thick eyelashes.”
    “Thank you.”

    After an hour of loud chatter, laughter, chemical sprays, and powder puffs; The Sams took a step back to admire their handiwork.
    "You look amazing! So fresh! So clean! So cool!" Amy exclaimed.
    "Stop! You’re making her sound like an Irish Spring.” Mannie said offendedly to Amy. She turned to Elia. “But what did I tell you? I know all the tricks. That’s step one done. That butler is as good as yours!”
    "I think you look beautiful," Sammy said. "Let's go ask what the boys think then take pictures."
    The Sams found Sebastian in the Tea Salon. He was chatting with Robert animatedly. Unsurprisingly, they have been talking about the history of the chateau. Sebastian was a uBrite History major freshman. He also interned as a museum tour guide for the National Historic Commission last summer. History was essentially his interest. Robert on the other hand was oddly devoted to the Thebes. He was determined to preserve their legacy. They were two peas in a pod.
    "Hate to break your nerd talk, boys. But may we present to you the new and improved Elia Thebe." 
    Elia walked into the Tea Salon.
    kPojcvA.png
    "Wow!" Sebastian says. "What a glow up!"
    "Don't you think she looks totes adorbs?" Mannie asked Robert. Everyone turned to him. Elia was a little nervous. It had been a while since she heard anything nice from him. What would he say? Would he think she looked pretty too?

    Robert looked at her face. He stared deep into her eyes from across the table.
    "Yes, young miss.” He had finally said after a long pause. ”I do find my lady's new look quite stylish."
    The Sams squealed. Elia couldn't help but feel a little happy too. 
    "Would the young misses and gentleman want some tea and tarts?"
    "No thank you, Robert," Sammy said. "We'll pass. The girls and I wanted to have a photoshoot around the estate."
    "Of course. And may I suggest some points of interest? The grand salon receives the loveliest natural light before noon. The grand staircase would make for some interesting angles. I would also suggest visiting the formal gardens. You will find the hydrangeas are in full bloom. A humble fountain and some garden follies are on the easternmost edge. South of the chateau, you will find some woods. A seven-minute hike through it will lead you to the private beach. Although, I would advise against swimming in it in this season."
    "Awesome! Thank you, Robert," Amy said. She grabbed Elia by the shoulders and pushed her out of the tea room.
    "We'll be back by lunch," Elia called out to Robert. And for the first time in a long while, he waved back.

    “Make sure you get my good side,” Amy said before turning her back to Mannie who was holding a camera.
    “Your backside?” Sammy asked snickering.
    The girls have decided to take photos of each other in the castle interiors first. The grand salon was the first location. They were posing against the French door that looked out to the gardens.
    “Okay! My turn,” Mannie said, handing the camera over to Amy. “Darling, the fan please.”

    Sebastian turned on a portable fan. The gentle breeze it blew lifted the delicate fabric of Mannie’s sundress and her hair. She pouted and held a pose. Elia thought she looked just like a model in one of those fashion magazines.
    yTxiEdv.png

    But even when she was dolled up, Elia thought Mannie still paled in comparison to Sammy. She was just so mesmerizing. Even when she wore plain clothes and minimal make-up; even if she sported a simple straight hairstyle; and even she was cold and uncomfortable; she radiated elegance and grace. Elia stared at the pretty girl beside her. She was just casually reading by the fireplace. But she fitted in the chateau—there was no other word that could describe it better—perfectly. It could be easily justified if anyone were to mistake Sammy as the lady of the house instead of her.

    *Click*

    “Amy! What’re you doing?!” Mannie called out angrily. “Hurry up! I’m freezing here!”
    “I was just taking a candid pic of Sammy and Elia,” Amy defended herself. She turned back to Mannie. She walked around her trying to find the perfect angle. When she was satisfied, she snapped a few photos. “Where’d you even get that flimsy dress anyway?”
    Mannie took the camera from Amy.
    “It’s obviously a vintage dress from next season’s Savage Maiden collection, duh,” Mannie said. “I’m planning my Simsta posts three months in advance. This is for my post next spring. I’m sure it’ll be the next big thing!”
    “I like Savage Maiden,” Sammy stated. “The clothes they make are cute and comfortable.”
    “See? Sammy gets me.” Mannie beamed.
    “I’ll show you leaks from the collection later, Sammy. Tell me if there’s anything in there you like and I can get it for you. You have to keep it secret though! The collection isn’t out yet... but there is a workaround. Daddy has his connections.” 
    “Cool! Can Elia and I have looksies too?”
    “Yeah, sure whatever...” Mannie said flatly. She took a look at the camera roll.
    “Ugh,” she gagged. “Amy, This silhouette photo is really bad! I can't upload this to Simsta! You can’t even tell what I’m wearing!
    "It’s useless!”
    “Here,” she shoved the camera into Elia’s hand. “Maybe you can take better results.”
    Elia viewed the photo Mannie had just been looking at.  
    “Awww! Amy! This shot is beautiful!”

    Mannie immediately took back the camera from Elia and gave it to Sebastian. She then loudly stated that they were done with this location and were going to the next (which was the formal garden). She walked out with her nose in the air. Sammy closed her book, wrapped herself in Elia’s blanket, and followed Mannie outside. Elia and Amy exchanged glances. Neither was particularly interested in the photoshoot anymore. Much less bossed around by Mannie. But they also did not want to be left alone in the chateau. As Sammy said, it would only be awkward for all of them so they quietly followed.

    Mannie spent another half-hour posing in front of the camera. She had a total of 13 outfit changes including a bathing suit which she wore while she was knee-deep in the frigid waters of Brindleton Bay. None of the other girls participated in the photoshoot anymore until Mannie asked for a group shot at the very end. Having achieved her goal, she gave back the camera to Amy who happily used it to snap pictures of the landscape and their candid moments.

    The group was shown to their designated guest rooms after a hearty lunch. Sebastian though was requested to bunk in a spare bedroom in Robert’s apartment (apparently, so he can keep an eye out for him to ensure there would be no messing around). The afternoon brought autumn rains, forcing them all to stay indoors. Time passed by incredibly slowly. And the girls, except Sammy who was still reading her book, quickly became bored. Mannie began editing her photos. Elia watched as she turned a cold wintry beach into a vibrant summer paradise. Sebastian went back to the kitchens; probably to look for Robert to discuss some more history. And Amy sat beside Elia.

    “Hey, thanks for earlier,” she whispered.
    “Huh? Thanks for what?”
    “For standing up to my photo,” Amy clarified. “Mannie is my best friend but sometimes she can get really...subjective of the things I like.
    “I usually just accept what she has to say. I mean, that’s what artists do, right? We have to learn to take criticism!
    "And well, she’s one of the most aesthetically inclined persons I have ever met. So I take her opinions seriously.
    “It’s just... Sometimes, her opinions...hurt.”
    Amy went quiet and hugged her knees.
    “Well, it really was a well-composed artistic photo for all it's worth. It’s such a shame she didn’t like it.” Elia consoled her. “Hey, you know I’m a bit of an artist too.”
    Amy looked at her.
    “C’mon! I want to show you something.”

    Elia swung open a door cleverly disguised with the paneling in her bedroom. It led to a small room with walls full of portraits and landscape paintings. An easel stood in the middle of the room.
    “Wow. You made all of these?” Amy said dumbfounded.
    “No,” Elia laughed. “I wish I did. But this was Princess Cordelia’s art studio in the 18th century, those are all her original works.
    “But I did make these,” she pointed to a small pile on the floor.
    aVIYkvv.png
    “They might not be that good. Especially when compared with the masterpieces hanging on the walls.
    “But I digress. I wanted you to know that if you ever find yourself overwhelmed by Mannie’s criticism, maybe you'd like to talk it with me instead... You know, from one artist to another. Think of it as seeking a second opinion!”
    “Hmmm? You’re just trying to flex your painting skills on me, aren’t ya?” Mannie teased sorting through Elia’s works.
    “No, I’m not!”
    Amy laughed. Elia quickly caught on.
    “I mean, no, pfft! These aren’t even worth flexing. But look at this one I made. I call it “Elia-tion”.

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    The rains lasted well into the evening. Dinner was served at six o’clock. As Elia had assumed, Robert made a heavy full course meal of caesar salad, clam chowder, lobster thermidor, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, garlic bread, and to her surprise, a glass of grappo blanco. As Robert withdrew to the butler’s pantry to prepare the dessert (baked chocolate mousse), Elia followed him.
    “Robert, why did you serve us white nectar as drinks for dinner?” she reprimanded.
    “My lady, please trust me on this combination. The crisp citrusy notes of the grappo blanco will complement the lobster thermidor's buttery creaminess. I am most sorry, but if you are implying that I should have served red nectar I would have to politely decline your request—”
    “What? No! I’m saying that you shouldn’t have served nectar at all!”
    “Alright, my lady. Then what shall they drink?”
    “Water? They’re still kids. We are all just seventeen!”
    Robert was taken aback. He acted deeply offended as if she had just slapped him hard.
    “I happen to know for a fact that Mr. Sebastian Wilkins is nineteen years old,” he said defensively.
    “That’s not the point! We can’t drink nectar yet! We’re still underage!”
    “My lady. I have been drinking nectar since I was thirteen. I have tried all the different types, blends, and maturity offered within this country—coast to coast—and even the ones abroad. Please rest assured when I say that a little grappo blanco will not affect them negatively in any way. It is but five fluid ounces of white nectar. It is not even enough to make anyone “juiced”. What is the worst that could happen?”

    Dinner turned out to be a huge disaster. Amy spent the last hour giggling non-stop about the most random things. On the other hand, Mannie became very timid and kept whispering to herself. She looked like she was about to cry. Sammy however, remained completely sober.

    After Amy and Mannie have calmed down and fell asleep, Robert and Sebastian carried them up the grand staircase.  Elia and Sammy watched from the first-floor landing.
    “Which rooms are whose?” Sebastian asked.
    “Amy stays at the Capt. Rodrigo de Pablo Suite to your right. Mannie sleeps at the Capt. Chaz McFreeling down the hall.” Elia said.
    “Would that be a good idea?” Sammy said thoughtfully. “The house is two centuries old. And those two suites you’ve mentioned are key persons in both Princess Cordelia’s life and this country’s history. Surely, leaving two juiced girls unsupervised in such historic suites would not end well?
    “Please bring them to Elia’s room. We’ll all bunk together.” Sammy ordered.
    “But young miss, I must refuse.” Robert attested. “While the suites are indeed historically invaluable, I cannot allow the lady’s guests to be uncomfortable.
    “We do not store spare mattresses in the chateau. To let the lady’s esteemed guests sleep anywhere but a bed is simply unforgivable.” 
    “Aren’t there other bedrooms we could let them sleep in?” Sebastian wondered.
    “There are some more rooms on the second floor,” Robert said, “They are built in the 19th century and are not as historically valuable. But each of them is heated by the radiators.” 
    “Bring them to Elia's room,” Sammy repeated. “They can sleep on the bed. I don’t mind if I sleep on the floor."
    “I don’t mind sleeping on the floor either!” Elia said.
    “Then it’s settled. Don't worry, Robert. This is our choice. It also only makes sense for us all to bunk together since the heating is faulty, "Sammy said.
    “Sebastian, give me the car keys. I left the air mattress in there. Elia, come with me and help me get it.”

    The two girls have returned upstairs carrying a heavy knapsack. They found Mannie and Amy already lying on Elia’s bedm as requested. Robert came back carrying spare beddings and pillows. He offered to helped dress the blow-up bed but was sent away by Elia who said she can do it herself. When the bed was set up and they have changed into their pajamas, Elia and Sammy laid together to relax.

    “We’re not going to sleep right now, are we?” Sammy asked.
    “I don’t know,” Elia replied. She looked at the other two girls on the bed beside theirs. They were both sleeping soundly already. Sammy didn’t know, but Elia was really tired. She really wanted to rest.
    “There isn’t really anything else left to do. Might as well turn in,” she continued.
    “Are you liking your sleepover so far?” Sammy dismissed Elia's suggestion.
    “It’s...less than ideal.”
    “Really? I’m having fun. I think it’s the best one I’ve had.”
    “Why’d you say so?” They said at the same time. They chuckled.
    “Okay, you first,” Sammy said.
    “I had a lot of things planned for us to do. But we never got to do any of those. Because the boiler broke down and it got too cold to do anything. Then it rained. And now our friends are drunk. Some sleepover this turned out to be. This was supposed to be my first ever sleepover, too. I wanted it to be perfect—“
    “What’s so great about being perfect?”

    Elia looked at Sammy. Who doesn't want their first sleepover to be perfect? But she didn’t look like she was trying to crack a joke. Of course, she wouldn’t have understood the frustrations of trying so hard and falling short. She was already perfect. She didn't even have to try.

    Sammy must have understood Elia’s silence because she asked a different question.

    “Do you like him? The butler?”
    “Where did that question come from?” Elia laughed uncomfortably.
    “You don”t have to be shy,” Sammy urged. “It’s only between the two of us. Think of it as girl talk... You're the one who wanted a perfect sleepover, right? Here’s what other girls do when they have them.”
    “Well, yeah, I do. But not in that way,” Elia said honestly.
    “Which way?”
    “It’s not like I love him or anything.”
    “Well, have you ever been in love?”
    Elia grew silent. She watched love unfold every time in the movies and TV dramas she saw. She knew about its pleasures and pains through the songs she listened to. But she never got to experience it herself.
    “Then how can you be so sure if you don’t know what it feels like?”

    “Love is a feeling that’s hard to explain unless you experience it yourself. But maybe I can give you some insight," Sammy said. “Do you find your thoughts always somehow going back to him?”
    Elia did always think of Robert. She wanted to share with him every new experience, new stuff, old news: everything that happened in her life. But wasn’t that only natural? He was her guardian after all. Wasn’t it her responsibility to let him know?
    “Do you feel safe or blissfully happy whenever you’re around him?"
    Safe was an understatement. He kept her within literal castle walls. He also guarded and served her to the best of his abilities. If that wasn’t enough to make her feel safe, Elia didn’t know what would.
    “Have you ever fantasized about him?”
    She did think he was attractive. And maybe she did sometimes steal glances of his wide shoulders and powerful arms. Maybe she was guilty of this one?
    “Could you imagine a future with him in your life?"
    At this point in her life, Elia could not imagine a future without Robert.
    “You never answered any of my questions,” she said disappointedly. Elia didn't mean not to. She just got lost in her thoughts that she forgot to voice out her answers.
    "Maybe it isn't love after all?" Sammy said thoughtfully.
    Elia shrugged. She really did not have a clue.
    “Oh! One last thing. How would you feel if he did this to you?”

    Sammy lied on her side. She faced Elia and inched closer. She reached for the other’s face. Then she caressed her cheek. She tucked her hair behind her ears.

    “Hmmm?" Elia felt weird. It would be certainly uncharacteristic for Robert to do so. But... "I guess I wouldn’t mind it all that much, though. It’s not—?!”
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  • Kellogg_J_KelloggKellogg_J_Kellogg Posts: 619 Member
    Wow...things took an unexpected turn there!
  • mercuryfoammercuryfoam Posts: 1,137 Member
    I did not expect that end either. 😮
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  • orenjiAiorenjiAi Posts: 539 Member
    edited April 12
    Hey! There won’t be an update this time (figures) coz I am dedicating the next few days to my vaccine appointment. 🎵 And I am not throwin’ away my shot. I am not throwin’ away my shot. Hey yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry and I’m not throwin’ away my—🎵 *cough* So this time, we're going to be discussing some behind-the-scenes.

    I've always wanted to talk about Unloved’s main setting and Elia and Robert’s home, the Summer Palace at Brindleton Bay.
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    In the last episode, I went through the unbelievable effort of fixing up the chateau and its gardens only for me to decide against using it at the last minute. The scenes where it would have been featured were reduced to mere suggestions for pictorial locations—which btw I did not even shoot! I did get to use one establishing shot but you can't really see it since I decided to drench it with evening rains. :grimace:

    Though the writing isn't the only issue I had with the setting. In my head, the grounds of the 18th-century Neoclassical French chateau spans about 30 acres. With French-style formal~ and English gardens; craggy cliffs with underwater caves; secluded white-sand beaches; and an expansive pine and maple forest that hides the family tomb. But with the lot size fixed at 64x64, remaking the estate in-game is technically impossible. Let's not even discuss my imagined 1200 acres for the Winter Palace at Château Peak!

    But with the TOOL mod, I've been able to bring some of that grandiose in my head to my game. It's still a bit watered-down and all Maxis-matchy but at least it's a bit closer to how I envisioned it.

    Here's a view of the cour d'honneur with the proper clipped shrubberies and landscaping. Towards the left end of the court, there is a hidden gate that leads to the woods.
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    Behind the house, you exit into the formal gardens from the grand salon. Its principal axis, framed by imported flowering Brazilwood and parterres, runs eastward and ends with a wall of natural rock. From the higher floors of the chateau, the viewer sees past this to the ocean beyond. There are several less impressive beds running parallel to the main axis.
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    When Robert said:
    A humble fountain and some follies are on the [garden's] easternmost edge.
    This would be what he was referring to:
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    Garden follies are decorative fake buildings/ruins commonly used as focal points in landscape architecture during the 18th century. Their modern counterpart would be the art installations we see in parks. These follies are mimicking Omiscan ruins which are also featured inside the Salon Selvadoradaine as part of the Royal Collection. The follies are sunk from the rest of the garden and serve the dual purpose of 1) being the garden's termination on the horizon and 2) drainage so the whole plateau doesn't flood. This depressed area can also be purposefully flooded into a shallow wading pond.

    Here's a view of the house from under a dogwood canopy by the follies.
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    This build, sadly, does not exist outside of this post. It lives in my mind rent-free and needs a 64x75 lot to be actually constructed. Not unlike Hollywood productions, the follies are built elsewhere, and the mansion is just edited in during post-production. There are a lot of green screens involved when "shooting" the scenes. It's actually a lot of work that goes unnoticed coz who bothers with the background anyway? But I do think it makes for some very nice photos. It's a shame they're all on the B-roll. This one could straight-up pass as a postcard.

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    'Til next time! Château d’Été, 1852
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