Three Rivers, 10.1

Tenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: Arianna, Janet, and Orion Fuchs are a game-generated family. They live in a beautiful home built by TheKalinotr0n.

10. The Number 10

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Arianna Fuchs had journeyed through enough beginnings and endings to realize that from every completion rose a commencement.

On the afternoon of her and Janet’s tenth wedding anniversary, she returned home from the Convention of the Clowns of Existential Angst to feel the earth stop for just a moment. Ah! She said to herself. Here we are again, in the pause before we begin.

She found her wife Janet in the courtyard with their son Orion.

“Happy anniversary, Cracker Jacks!” Arianna said.

“How did the happy suit go?” Janet asked. “Did you hack the convention?”

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“Yes and no!” said Arianna. “I sort of followed them around through the Promenade and chased their depressing jokes with my cheerful ones. I left them laughing, at least!”

She hadn’t been invited to the convention; she crashed it, on principle, to ensure that the glass was also seen to be half full. Arianna was a hacker by trade and nature. She headed up the hackers’ collective TB4U, whose mission was expressed by their full name: Take it Back for You.

That was her attitude towards life, too–take it back, for you. Make it work. If it doesn’t fit, hack at it until it does.

The only hacking that she and Janet had needed to do as a couple had been societal and legal. Sometimes, it required a bit of activism, assertion, and finesse to get the legal system and the people in their community to accept the way they fit together, which was like roses and baby’s breath.

They stole a moment in the kitchen while their son finished cooking supper on the grill.

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After their kiss, Janet broke away with a laugh.

“You’re it!” she said, in one of the wild moods that Arianna always prompted, and she ran out of the house, across the street, and towards the river walk.

“You punk!” screamed Arianna, flapping after her in her over-sized clown shoes.

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“Kowabunga!” Arianna caught her and wrapped her in a hug.

They’d planned a quiet, romantic anniversary celebration. No party. Instead, they’d wait until Orion went to bed, and then, in the long hours before Arianna’s graveyard shift at TB4U, they’d find sanctuary in their large bedroom and rediscover the women they’d become during these ten years together.

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“Janet!” Their hug was interrupted by Sierra Trejo, who worked with Janet in the Greens.

“Ten years, huh?” said Sierra, when Janet told her of the special occasion. “Congratulations. Amazing.”

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“It feels like five,” said Arianna.

“Ten years,” Sierra continued. “Isn’t that like a record? Or a milestone? Don’t most marriages fall apart in the first seven? What’s your secret?”

“Remember to laugh,” said Janet. “No matter how serious, no matter how complicated, if you can find the humor, you’ll make it!”

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“Is that why you’re celebrating your anniversary in a clown costume?” Sierra asked.

Arianna didn’t answer right away. She was reflecting on Janet’s advice, remembering hard and confusing times when they’d needed to laugh. Orion was four when Arianna and Janet married. Janet had adopted him the year before. He’d had trouble bonding, the social worker said, and he wasn’t talking, either. He laughed first–at silly things: an apple that sang cereal jingles, funny faces she and Janet made at each other, squeaky voices saying everyday things. From the laughter, it became possible to move on to hugs, genuine smiles, and eventually, words.

“Love,” he called Janet, and “Love-Love” was Arianna.

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Arianna’s thoughts were interrupted when a man joined them.

“Honey-voice!” he said to Janet. “Is that your clown?”

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Janet introduced Sebastian Rhine to her friends.

“You know, Sierra,” she said, “It was Sebastian who inspired Alec to come up with free regional wi-fi.”

“I was there,” Sebastian said, “with the man in the big-eye glasses. That man? Then the little man with the mustache? I was there. I don’t have a mobile device.”

“Just as well!” laughed Arianna. “You can be one of the last of the no-data people! Power to the data-free!”

The sun had set and the street lights came on.

“Race you home!” said Janet, and she sprinted back across the street.

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When they got to the corner, they found that Sebastian had run with them.

“Would you like to join us for supper?” Janet asked. “Orion made enough for a whole village!”

“I don’t eat that much,” Sebastian said. “Could I? Could I come home with you?”

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Arianna laughed as they sat together in the living room. “What’s that they say about generosity, Cracker Jacks?” she asked.

“Good karma?” replied Janet.

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“I know about karma,” said Sebastian. “It’s what brings the blessings. Honey-voice, she has already enough kindness for a whole path of Sunday afternoons. That’s karma.”

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While Janet took Sebastian into the kitchen for supper, Orion pulled out his homework and joined Arianna.

“A king would proclaim it a holiday,” he said, “for peasants and laborers alike.”

“What are you talking about, Or?” Arianna asked.

“Anniversary,” he said. “Should be a holiday. For peasants and laborers alike.”

“And students!” Arianna said.

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“Not students,” replied Orion. “Peasants and laborers alike. Students work all days, even holidays.”

“Sometimes, I let you take holidays,” she reminded Orion. “Remember when we let you stay home all day because you wanted to memorize the Bach partita?”

“Work,” replied Orion.

“Well, sort of. But fun, too, right?”

He smiled and nodded. When she could get him to agree with something that was just a bit broader than what he originally proposed, she always felt the conversation had been a success.

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While Orion finished his homework, Arianna headed upstairs to the computer in their bedroom. She wanted to check on the status of the project they were scheduled to do that night. She found a coded message from SamStar226 indicating that it was a go. That night, they were planning to put in a reverse proxy which was reputed to be untraceable and which would allow them to escape detection while re-encrypting data that some of the more malicious hacking software had un-encrypted.

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They’d been working on this project for Landgraab Industries for nearly six months, and tonight was the night to put it to the test.

“Ari?” Janet said softly, “I’m turning in early. Ori’s still up, and Sebastian is downstairs playing computer games, and you’ve got to go to work soon. Think we can wait? You can wake me when you get home and we can celebrate then.”

Janet’s voice always stirred happiness inside Arianna. She was surprised to discover that she didn’t mind waiting. Her attention had already turned to the night’s project.

“You really do have a honey voice,” she said.

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When she headed downstairs to grab a snack before work, Sebastian quickly shut off the computer and jumped up.

“I was just playing games,” he said.

“That’s fine!” replied Arianna. “I’m a gamer, too! Which games do you like?”

“The race car ones?” he replied.

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“Racing games!” she agreed. “They’re the best.”

“I know! We could play two-person sometime!” Sebastian said. “Do they have that? So we could race each other?”

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“They do!” said Arianna. “And I’d love to play multi-player with you. Not now, though. I’m just heading off to work in a few.”

Sebastian’s face fell. “Then I guess I need to leave, too.”

Arianna thought about the cold night. Janet had explained that Sebastian didn’t have a home, that he lived in the woods in Windenburg.

“You can stay here!” she said. “Play more games. Watch TV. Nap on the couch. When you’re hungry, help yourself to leftovers from the fridge.”

“That would be,” he said with a sigh, “amazing karma.”

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He was still downstairs when Arianna came down after her shower.

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“Goodbye, then,” she said. “Make yourself at home. Orion and Janet will be up before I get back.”

He mumbled something. Arianna’s mind turned to the project that lay before her and her team that night.

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She went through the steps of remote installation and activation. They’d practiced this so many times, and RavenDarkx2Z was sure they’d overlooked nothing. It wasn’t how she’d dreamed of spending her tenth wedding anniversary, but D-day couldn’t be rescheduled. Janet and their queen-sized bed would be there when she got home.

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While she was gone, Sebastian did indeed make himself at home.

He watched cooking shows, though he didn’t own a kitchen.

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He helped himself to leftovers, though he was still full from supper.

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And he imagined what it must be to live in a house like this, with a honey-voiced woman who would be there when he came home.

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If he had a life like this, he would never leave.

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But since this wasn’t his life, he was gone before Arianna returned with the morning sun.

Her back ached and her eyes were so tired, and their project had been a success. The sun kissed her cheeks, and she remembered that she’d had such different ideas about how she wanted to spend their tenth anniversary.

It was the beginning of something new, and they’d seen out the old with their son and a new friend, with rest and work, with kindness and daring.

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Arianna smiled inside to think that the bed that waited for her upstairs would still be warm from the body heat of her wife, and her smile grew wider when she thought that maybe, seven hours from now, while their son was still at school and the house was empty, Janet might join her in that big wide bed and kiss open her eyes, and to the song of the mockingbird, they would discover together this new beginning.

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