The Swan Family – Different Strokes

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Pierre woke up feeling discontent, the positive feelings of the previous day had vanished and he had a horrible sense of foreboding. He was worried about his mother, stuck in jail back in his old country. He was worried about his aunt, she was sick, and too stubborn to see a real doctor. And he felt generally frustrated that he couldn’t do anything to help anyone. The people at his new school were nice, they didn’t ask awkward questions, but they also didn’t understand what he was going through.

And he was hungry.

He found his aunt Amalie in the shop and they finished off the last of the chocolate strawberries in the office. ‘Waste not, want not!’ as his grandma used to say.

Amalie knew he was upset: not that he tried to hide it from her, she could always tell.

‘Why don’t you write about how you feel?’ she suggested. It wasn’t a bad idea.

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‘I know!’ Amalie leapt up suddenly, ‘I’ll make us breakfast! I’ve collected lots of vegetables, and there’s a grill outside by the lake… we’ll have a picnic!’

‘Great,’ Pierre whispered under his breath as she dashed out of the room.

Amalie enthusiastically gathered her supplies and took them down to the lakeside, it was a bit of an unusual mix of vegetables but at least they hadn’t cost a penny! She chopped them and mashed them together and created vegetable burgers which she cooked on the community grill. Ok, so it wasn’t exactly haute cuisine, but it was… healthy! And nutritious! And most importantly to them right then… free.

Pierre and Estelle were not as enthusiastic.

‘How many frogs did you put in this?’ Estelle remarked as she wrinkled her nose at the smell.

‘Only two,’ Amalie joked, ‘Now, sit down and eat your frog burgers, they’re good for you!’ Then she looked seriously at her sister for a moment, ‘You need to eat well, Estelle, you haven’t been looking well lately.’

‘Frog burgers and flattery,’ quipped Estelle as she sat down on the bench, ‘I am a lucky woman today!’

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Amalie started to clear up, and took the remaining vegetables back to the house. Giving Pierre and Estelle chance to talk.

‘You look better,’ Pierre whispered, glancing back towards the house to check Amalie was out of earshot. ‘Did you get some medicine?’

‘I did. I don’t know what it was but I feel fine now.’ Estelle pushed his hair back from his face with a concerned expression, ‘How are you? You look tired, I hope you haven’t caught it!’

‘I’m just feeling a bit down today,’ Pierre admitted, pushing the food around on his plate, ‘I’m worried about Mum, frustrated I can’t help her. Amalie suggested I write about it.’

‘You should!’ Estelle enthused, ‘You’re a great writer, and it will help you get your feelings out.’

‘Ok, I’ll try it,’ he said, getting up to leave, ‘I have to get to school now. Make sure you don’t overdo it today.’

‘Yeah…’ Estelle said, watching him leave. She looked down at her plate of mush, then back at the house. There was no sign of her sister. Estelle slipped away before Amalie came back to force her to eat the frog burgers.

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Estelle had spotted a small bar at the other side of Newcrest, she was sure she could pick up something to eat there. Amalie was being too conservative, she thought, they didn’t need to worry so much about money now the gallery was doing quite well. Of course, maybe interest would drop when the novelty of a new shop wore off, but they seemed to be acquiring a small group of loyal customers, so she was sure one plate of bar food wouldn’t hurt!

The bar was quiet that early in the day, Estelle didn’t care! She had the bartender all to herself, and enjoyed some snacks and several cocktails. She also got to enjoy playing darts, unharassed.

[Note: this is a multi-purpose lot, I used my Free Bartender mod to get the NPC to show up. I’m really happy with how well it’s working out.]

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‘Umm… where’s the bathroom?’ Estelle wondered [A silly architect had forgotten to add one to the bar *cough*].

‘You have to use the one next door at the cinema,’ the bartender explained apologetically.

Fine, thought Estelle, but I’m taking my drinks with me!

As she came out of the bathroom, she was excited to see the woman from the gallery, Ulrike. She was looking at some collectable superhero toys.

‘You collect kid’s toys?’ Estelle asked sceptically.

‘I sure do,’ Ulrike replied proudly with a twinkle in her eye, ‘don’t you?’

‘No, I don’t,’ she laughed.

‘Weirdo,’ Ulrike smirked and turned back to the shelf.

‘So… are you going to buy one of these toys?’ Estelle teased.

‘Collectables.’ Ulrike corrected, ‘And yeah, I would but I’m after the limited edition Silver Supersim and this dumb store doesn’t have it.’

Estelle watched curiously as Ulrike got into an argument with the woman restocking the shelves. Estelle didn’t understand half of what they were saying, but Ulrike seemed to get a good deal on one of the figures.

‘Want to grab a drink?’

Ulrike agreed and they made their way back to the bar. Estelle asked Ulrike about her job but she was evasive.

‘When I was at art school, I knew exactly what I wanted to do,’ said Ulrike with enthusiasm, ‘I played games, and I loved comics, and I had this whole series of superhero games planned out in a comic-book style. They would have been brilliant. But…’ she waved her hand and a stony look fell across her features, ‘…things happened. And now I take whatever work gets thrown at me.’

She shrugged and finished her drink, ‘I have to go. But we’ll catch up again sometime. Let me know if you get any more of those painting.’

Estelle stirred her drink thoughtfully, there was more to Ulrike than she’d realised.

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Back at home Amalie had spent the day painting at the lakeside. She’d heard about a bookstore at the other side of town that supported new writers, and she was excited to tell Pierre about it. Hopefully he would agree to visit with her the next day.

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