Three Rivers 14.1

Fourteenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

14. What you see is what you get.

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No matter how many different ways Janet Fuchs tried categorizing the financial contributions to the Green Party campaign and general election funds , Geoffrey Landgraab’s always stood out.

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“It’s going to raise suspicions,” she confided to Arianna. “I just can’t find a way to camouflage it. Not that I’d want to.”

“Can’t you leave it anonymous?” Arianna asked.

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“Not in this amount,” Janet said.

Reports were due in a few months, and Janet couldn’t find a way to keep Geoffrey’s financial donations a secret.

“It’s going to have to come out,” she said.

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“Can’t we list is as coming from a corporation?”

“Only if we want an even bigger scandal,” said Janet. “They’d track it. It’s better this way. Everything out in the open.”

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“His wife won’t like it,” Arianna said.

“I know,” said Janet. “But it might be best in the long run, don’t you think?”

Arianna knew about Geoffrey and his feelings for Janet: Janet had shared everything, even her own attraction for him, as well as her fondness.

“The funny thing is,” Janet had told Arianna, “I could actually see it working out between me and Geoffrey, in a different universe. There’s something that fits between us.” Confiding to Arianna had brought them closer: knowing that Janet chose Arianna and their family, knowing there weren’t any secrets between them, knowing that if any secrets did arise, they’d share them with each other, all of this connected them with an even stronger bond.

“Maybe he’ll finally start sharing some of his secrets with Nancy,” Janet said, hopeful.

“I wouldn’t count on it,” said Arianna.

“I’ve got a secret!” said their son Orion. “Who wants to know my secret?”

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“I do!” said Arianna, sitting beside him.

“My history teacher was a complete jerk today,” said Orion. “Can I say that?”

“You can tell us what happened,” said Arianna.

“He said that there were no formal schools in Medieval times. But everyone knows that Charlemagne began the first schools in the early 800’s.”

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“Maybe he just meant that there were no widespread educational opportunities for most boys and girls,” Arianna replied.

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“But if that’s what he meant,” said Orion, “why not just say so?”

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Janet had to smile. Her own straightforward, literal approach worked well with their son. She’d discovered when he was a little boy that statements that weren’t factual, even if made in jest, caused him to become distraught. Her own mind was practical and honest; she enjoyed having her proclivities reinforced by the family communication style.

One of her tasks as the Green Party finance manager brought her regularly to the parks and open spaces of Three Rivers. There, she’d meet with other nature lovers, the birdwatchers, fishermen and women, and park-goers, to share the party’s platform and initiatives. Often, they’d offer small contributions or ask about upcoming rallies and other events to raise awareness.

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She was occasionally surprised by the skepticism and cynicism she encountered.

“Who’s behind you?” asked one woman. “Don’t get me wrong. I like your cause. It’s just that I can’t see you going up against the big corporations. They’ve got this whole marina slated for development. You think they’re going to back down because a few voters are upset?”

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Later that morning, she ran into Savannah, a fellow Green, at the park.

“You should have told her that Geoffrey Landgraab and all of Landgraab Industries were behind us!” Savannah said.

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“God, no!” said Janet. “I mean not yet. We’re going to have to come out with it, eventually, but until then…”

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” said Savannah. “So his wife does find out? Geoffrey just needs to grow a pair, get up on his platform and call out, ‘Power to the People, you money-hunger land grabber!'”

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Savannah laughed at her own joke. “That’d be rich!” she said. “Maybe he’ll change his name: Geoffrey Green!”

Janet chuckled in spite of herself. Savannah always made her smile.

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On the way home, Janet met Geoffrey, out for his morning jog. His smile at seeing her faded the moment she said, “I’m so glad to run into you. We’ve got to talk.”

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She explained about the finance contribution reports coming due in a few months and how she had to declare the sources of all the funds.

“All the funds?” Geoffrey asked. She nodded. “But my wife doesn’t know!”

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“You have a few months to tell her, then,” Janet said.

“But how? And what? Everything?” Geoffrey asked.

“I’m only responsible for reporting the sources of the contributions, Geoffrey,” Janet said. “That’s all that will be made public.”

“But that’s everything,” he said. “You don’t realize. Money. The Greens. The Conservatives. I’m not supposed to be funding the opposition!”

“We present a good cause,” Janet said. “Tell her about eco-tourism!”

“I can’t. I…” Geoffrey began to hyperventilate. “I’ve got to go.” And he jogged off.

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When she got home, she was met by Arianna, who came from the container garden, where she’d been pinching the petunias.

“Did you round up lots of voters?” Arianna asked. “All the butterfly lovers?”

“One butterfly lover got away,” laughed Janet. “I just hope he’s not flying into a big net!”

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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.