Edelweiss was engineering a major overhaul of the ol’ homestead. With Malcolm there, though, she was having a hard time concentrating. No matter what they did, even if parts of them were entwined and interlocking, she just couldn’t get close enough to him. But that didn’t stop her from trying at every available opportunity.
If the two of them weren’t doing stuff, they were half-present, basking in the afterglow, fueling up for the next round.
“I didn’t even know that was on the radial menu,” Ede said sheepishly, picking at her food.
“It’s not,” Malcolm smiled.
With Malcolm’s assistance Ede had determined that she could get away with storing most of her family’s vital items, moving a couple “keeper” rooms to safety, and then radically demolishing the rest of the house & starting over. Scary, but also pretty exciting!
“I think it’s going to be a lot nicer with more open space back here,” Ede remarked.
“Keeping the observatory?” he asked.
“Maybe? Haven’t decided.” She added, playfully, “We should probably check out the inside.”
It wasn’t just me that noticed their inseparability. A certain figure from the past had been observing them for several hours before he finally decided to make his presence known.
“Dad??” Ede scolded, “What are you doing?!”
The late Dianthus had been toying with Malcolm a bit – Malcolm handled it well. The initial shock of having an ethereal presence leap through his chest twice wore off and he wasn’t freaked out or pissed off, so Dia decided that it was probably okay to go ahead and introduce himself.
“There are three of you now, so it felt like a good time for me to say Hi.” Dia’s voice sounded a bit eerie, as though there were several of him speaking at once. Still, it had a gentle, relaxed quality to it that put Malcolm at ease.
“Malcolm Presley. I.. love your daughter.” It wasn’t what Malcolm intended to say, but it’s what came out.
“I can see that,” Dianthus smiled.
They all had a nice visit, catching up on the goings-on and such. Dia seemed a bit more carefree and less self-conscious than Edelweiss remembered him; perhaps shedding his mortal body had removed the need to try to fit into it. If that was true, it gave her something to look forward to.
Dia had to go, but he wanted to tell Malcolm one last thing.
“You don’t need it, but you have my blessing.”
It really did mean a lot to have his blessing. Malcolm had a great deal of admiration for Dia, even though they’d never formally met. The man had produced and nurtured a unique person who’d become very dear to him. And as an author, he was unlike any other Malcolm had chanced upon – Malcolm was still enjoying exploring his works.
The strange encounter gave Malcolm just the confidence boost he needed to finally do something he’d been wanting to do since that first cooking lesson.
“I haven’t been home in days, and still I find myself not wanting to leave you,” Malcolm began.
Ede smiled, and he grinned and took a knee.
“You said that I needed to decide if I was ready,” he said. “I am.”
Malcolm produced a ring and handed it to Edelweiss, who held it up to the light as though she were trying to ID an artifact – perhaps she’d find a bit of writing only visible at a certain hour of the day that would give a clue to its origin and purpose.
“What would you do if I swallowed this thing, right now?” she asked. “I’m feeling a certain panic.”
“Well, I guess I’d stay here kneeling a bit longer,” he said. “Reassess my life goals. Wonder if you needed medical attention.”
“That sounds unpleasant. Your poor knees.”
“Yes, let’s try to avoid that,” he smiled.
Malcolm waited there patiently, sure and true. Ede wanted to take his face in her hands and kiss it. She loved that face. His often-cocked brow. That little muscle just beside his mouth that tensed to form his smirk. The bridge of his nose. His eyes. She loved his brain as well; could she kiss that, somehow? Maybe she’d simply crawl up around him and live there at his shoulders, like a stole – she wouldn’t make any trouble, just hang out until she melded into his body and didn’t have to struggle with an individual consciousness any more. She wandered further, entertaining all manner of other high-contact low-class thoughts that probably shouldn’t be described here.
“Edelweiss?” he asked, leading her back.
“Wanna get married?”
“I believe I do,” she said. “Yes.”
Somehow the perplexing, glowing band of light made it onto her finger,
and they were back in each other’s arms where things made sense again.
“Thank you for asking,” she whispered into his neck. “I really do want to.”
“What did your dad mean, there are three of us now?” Malcolm asked Ede later.
“Me, you, mom? He’s a loner so he doesn’t like crowds. I almost never see him, so this was pretty unique!”
“Oh, right. You hungry?”
“Ravenous,” she laughed, playfully shoving past him as she ran for the kitchen.
It was good to be home. Edelweiss had some stuff to deal with. The house. The garden. Money. The rest of her life. An extensive remodel of all of the above was in order. Lots to think about, and more to actually do.
God help her, she was about to ask her mother for advice.
“Mom, do you believe in Soulmates?”
Coop flashed her a quizzical look. “I do.”
Ede chewed on that for a bit. If her mother, with all her badassery and her intimate knowledge of the darker side of sim nature, could believe in something more storybook, surely it wasn’t all fluff and nonsense.
“Do you?” Coop asked.
Ede considered. “I never used to. But, I don’t know anymore. I mean, in the sense that there is the potential for feeling a certain way that is only possible with a certain person.. yeah, sure, that makes sense. But a really intense, deep, lasting thing like that? That’s scary.”
Coop smiled. “It can be, yes.”
“I don’t doubt my feelings for this person. It’s just making me question my nature, you know? I can’t tell if I’m evolving into something else or just having some kind of stupid sideways mutation brought on by extreme fondness and mindblowing plum.”
Coop laughed out loud. “Well, I can certainly relate to that part.”
Talking with your parents about their own mindblowing plum.. that’s not awkward.
“I mean seriously,” Ede hopped back in, “I have to be losing my mind here. Bears don’t mate for life!”
“No,” Coop smiled, pushing away a stray hair from her daughter’s face. “But wolves do.”
Alright, time to focus, Ede. The idea that her nature could be tuned created a tiny spark of hope that was holding its own against all the other stuff going on in her head. It somehow kept her in a good mood despite being more than a little freaked out about her feelings and her future. As she jogged around the perimeter of the family property — now her responsibility — she let some pieces of the puzzle fit into place in her mind, without protest or doubt. And the emerging picture was so damned beautiful she was afraid to look directly at it.
“I just really don’t want to mess this up,” she thought aloud.
“I’m sure you’ll do fine,” said a familiar voice.
“Holy plum, Malcolm,” Ede cursed. “You materialized straight out of my head again. How do you do that?”
Malcolm laughed. “I’m sorry. Should I go back in?”
Ede shook her head. “I wouldn’t. It’s dangerous in there right now.”
“Can I see you tonight?” he asked. “I miss you.”
“I miss you too. Come over? But, it’s mom’s birthday — she’s been pretty good lately, but I can’t guarantee it won’t be another awkward gathering at the estate.”
“I’ll wear a raincoat,” he grinned, leaning in for a peck on the cheek.
It wasn’t enough. These brief touches were never enough. But she had things to do!
Ede decided she would make some appetizers for the party. After chatting with Malcolm, who showed up early to help, she chose a nice cocktail shrimp. Ede whipped up a test batch; they tried it and found it to be satisfactory.
Seeing the two of them together, Coop had to come and give her input.
Unfortunately, Cooper only had three things on her mind: wedding rings, bassinets, and tombstones.
“I see you two are openly dating now,” Coop said bluntly. “How long are you going to wait for the rest of it?”
“There isn’t a lot of time left, you know,” Coop informed Malcolm. “It passes quicker than you think!”
As Cooper continued to drill Malcolm, crossing off the time on her fingers, Edelweiss felt her blood start to boil and got up from the table. No fights on her birthday, Ede.
“I respect your opinion, Mrs. Wolff,” said Malcolm, “but we’re not in any rush to skip to the ending.”
Malcolm and Ede thought it was a fine time to take a little breather, so they stepped outside for a bit.
“Thanks for being my champion in there.” Ede said.
“I’m going to pop over and make sure Jarrett and Easter actually attend this time,” he smiled.
“Thanks!” Ede said. “I’ll get started on the cake while you’re gone.”
She channeled what was left of her rage into baking and made a very lovely gourmet cake for her mom, & had just enough time left to change into party clothes before guests arrived.
It was the usual gang + a few new faces. Ede, making a rare appearance in something-other-than-pants, stole the spotlight without meaning to.
“You clean up nice,” Malcolm teased.
“You mean the skirt?” Ede shot back, “You can borrow it sometime if you like.”
As strangely compelling as the idea of Malcolm in drag was/is, we had a birthday to conduct. Cooper wasted no time in stepping up to the plate.
I’m sure she wished for something obnoxious, but thankfully we didn’t have to hear about it. ;D
Cooper Nolan-Wolff — mother, grandmother, Shadow Agent, occasional bar-brawling bear — you look fabulous!
Cooper is one logic point and a day of work away from a promotion to the top of the Secret Agent career, so she’ll stay employed for now. Being a Perfectionist, she seems to enjoy having a successful career anyway. And it’s not like you-know-who has given her any grandbabies to dote on, so she’d be bored staying at home! Hmph.
At least Easter could be relied on for that. She was expecting again!
The appetizers were a hit and the cake was well-liked too! It was nice for folks to sit down and catch up. Cousin Adalynn and Coop were finally getting to know one another, while you-know-who’s mind was elsewhere entirely.
Folks finished eating and got to mingling, and Ede went looking for her beau.
“Hello, Edelweiss,” Malcolm smirked.
Ede was obviously at risk of leaving her flesh again, her yearning exceeding its carrying space. Malcolm seemed to delight in seeing her squirm this way, but only for a moment or two. He wasn’t completely terrible.
“Meet me by the river in an hour,” he whispered.
While this silliness was going on, Coop had slipped away to dance upstairs. When I finally noticed, she was mid petal-toss at the poor neighbor boy.
Coop flirty danced with Landon until he was convinced she had the hots for him (this took about a minute) – he tried a couple flirty moves of his own and she shut him down, hard.
Oof, this wilty flower just never learns.
The party was wrapping up, and Ede made her way out to the river to meet Malcolm.
It was a gorgeous night, as always. The moon was up and the crickets were out. Ede’s slender form cast a long shadow on the grass behind her as she looked out over the water, recharging her core.
It wasn’t long before Malcolm arrived.
“Come to tease me some more?” Ede asked.
“No,” he smiled, producing a flower from behind his back.
“I wish you’d stay,” she said, breaking the long embrace. “Despite what my mom thinks, I really am ready for whatever.”
“Are you sure?” he asked seriously.
“Yeah,” she smiled, “I am.”
She was being honest. Every day since they began courting, Ede’s had this deep dark secret wish taking up space in her heart and head.
She wasn’t about to tell him this, mind you. But she’d stopped fighting it at least. It didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
“It’s you who needs to decide readiness, besides,” Ede said earnestly. “Are you ready to deal with this family and this house and all that goes with it? I mean, we’re not exactly low maintenance over here.”
He laughed. “I think I’ve been handling it okay so far.”
“You’ve been incredible,” she smiled.
“I don’t know what to think when you’re all agreeable like this.”
Ede shrugged. She was too tired and too content for pretending.
“I’m tired of thinking, and of talking,” she said. “And it’s chilly out here.”
“I’ve got something for that,” Malcolm grinned. “C’mon.”
They walked a short distance to where the tent Ede had bought but not had a chance to use on their trip was set up.
“Oohh!!” Ede squealed excitedly. “If you’re consenting to be my living heater while we sleep outside, I’m all over this plum!”
Hard to actually sleep with an ember in your belly, but somehow Edelweiss and Malcolm managed to get a few winks before sunup. Morning came and there was still no sign of their cabin-mates Easter or Jarrett.
“This is so strange.” Ede mused as she whipped up something for everyone to eat. “Do you think they went home?”
“Not sure,” Malcolm said. “It seems unlike your sister to leave without letting you know somehow.”
Edelweiss was a lot better at cooking now, her skills far surpassing his.
“This food is phenomenal,” Malcolm commented on the meal.
“Thanks! I had this really hot teacher once who taught me the proper way to drop a spoon,” she bragged.
“Hey now,” he laughed, “I only dropped the hypothetical one.”
Someone opened the cabin door. Ede was about to welcome her sister back and ask where the heck she’d been, but it wasn’t Easter who showed up at all, but some hat-wearing woman she didn’t even recognize.
And then another. Attracted by the smell of actual food, perhaps, they piled in and helped themselves to Ede’s cooking.
“We’re, uh, gonna head out..” Ede said to the guests. “You folks enjoy your meal.”
They’d have to figure out what happened to Easter and Jarrett later. The day was much too beautiful to waste. Onward to Granite National Park!
Malcolm was still being devoured by mosquitos, but he was being a really good sport about it.
“Are you sure you don’t wanna head back?” Ede worried.
“Naw, I’m fine,” he said. “Let’s go explore.”
The national park is really neat! It’s got that real forest shade thing going on, with lots of undergrowth. Ede found some wild mushrooms and herbs that she managed to harvest without incident. Also caught some gnarly termites, just because she could.
Malcolm spotted a cave-looking thing off in the distance, its entrance obscured by hanging brambles.
“Wait!” Ede called out, “Don’t go in there!”
“I’ll be fine,” he smirked over his shoulder to her as he stepped inside.
The opening closed right back up after Malcolm passed though, as though the brambles were part of a sentient organism. Ede waited outside, unable to enter. She called to him, but he didn’t answer. She couldn’t hear or see a damn thing from where she was standing.
Inside the corridor, Malcolm was facing a series of obstacles. He pushed his way through darkened overgrowth and stopped to fish in a babbling brook, only to be chased out by some kind of woodland monster. Finally he emerged, shaken and scratching furiously.
“What the heck were you doing in there?!” she scolded, relieved to see him. “Are you okay??”
Malcolm was itching all over from his experience in the cave-thinger. Ede was worried about it. They went to look for a forest ranger, hoping to find information on a remedy. Bound to be one around here somewhere, right?
The station (if that’s what this actually was) was deserted, though. Ranger whoever-it-was sure kept a lot of insects in there – nearly every available counter space held some kind of terrarium. Kinda creepy, really. Cozy little cabin though. Bathroom, chess table, fireplace, books.
They looked around, hoping to find information that might help them out of their predicament. Ede picked up a romance novel from an end table and couldn’t help but crack it open, naturally.
“Ha,” she shared, “this one is about a lonely lumberjack and a mysterious woman with amnesia.”
“What’s a good campfire song?” Malcolm asked, twanging a guitar string to check if it was in tune.
After giving the place a thorough rifling-through, they sat by the fire to warm up a bit, hoping the bug-wrangling lumberjack or mysterious amnesiac would show up if they just waited long enough.
“I’m starving,” Ede confessed.
“We’d better go then, unless you mean to sample the beetles,” Malcolm joked.
Ede grilled up some fresh fruit on the bbq outside. Despite being rather uncomfortable from his rash, Malcolm was feeling flirty so he sang her a silly little ditty while they ate.
Still not another soul in the forest. Would’ve been ideal were it not for their need for some guidance. Must be off-season or something? The two headed back towards the cabin, hoping they’d finally find their fellow vacationers.
“Hey, this little thing is the ranger station! I wonder what that bug shack was about..”
Ede browsed the wares and picked up some basic camping supplies just for fun. No ointment or repellent, but she did manage to find an herbalism guide. Bit late, as Malcolm’s rash was already feeling better.
A quick stop at the cabin revealed nothing. It didn’t even look like Easter and Jarrett had been by today. It wasn’t dark yet, but Ede was burned out and just wanted to take a bath and lay around, now.
“These two are making me mad,” Ede said. “I feel like we’ve spent half the time just trying to figure out where they are!”
“Well, your sister is a free spirit, and Jarrett’s got his own unique sense of things too.”
“I suppose,” Ede grumped.
“I’m still having a good time just being with you,” Malcolm said.
“Even though you’re being devoured by insects and maimed by plants?”
“Even though,” he smiled.
“I plumming hate these beds,” Ede sighed.
As much as Edelweiss loved the woods, she was anxious to get home. Her sleeping arrangements were uncomfortable and frustrating, random strangers were still inviting themselves into their “private” cabin, and she felt bad that Malcolm kept getting bit and stung and plant-rashed during their outings while she got off scot-free. But they’d paid for the cabin for one more night, so she would have to make the best of it.
While she sat, too annoyed to surrender to slumber, her phone rang.
It was her sister, finally!
“Where the heck are you guys?” Ede asked.
“What’s Parkshore? Where the plum is that??”
Ede hung up. She was kind of miffed. “Parkshore” wasn’t even on the map. It made no sense.
“They won’t be back tonight?” Malcom asked.
“Nope. I guess Parkshore is way more interesting.”
Malcolm grinned. Ede didn’t know why the heck he would.
“Get dressed,” he said. “There are a couple of things we need to do.”
First, he dragged her outside for a campfire. (To be fair, she came willingly. ;D)
Although it wasn’t yet dark, the campfire was cozy and very camping-ish. People were finally starting to appear and wander around. People and.. other things.
After his encounter in the cavelike-opening, Malcolm wasn’t keen on being around another woodland beast. He hopped right up and retreated. Edelweiss, however, knew bears. And this was no bear.
The bear, who actually had quite the squeaky high-pitched voice, was a friendly, playful sort. Wanda was her name. The two chatted for a good while and became fast friends.
She was a bit shy at first, but Ede managed to get Wanda to join them for a marshmallow roast. Even Malcolm was okay with it, eventually. ;D
Edelweiss and Malcolm returned to the cabin that evening in much higher spirits.
“I think we can go ahead and use the grownup room tonight,” Malcolm said.
No complaints here. Or there. Or, anywhere.
This was a much better bed indeed. I wasn’t keeping track or anything, but I’m sure it was at least 15 minutes before they fell asleep.
“Which cabin should we pick? Something with 2 bedrooms, right?” Easter asked over the line.
Edelweiss blushed a bit at the thought of sharing a room with Malcolm, even though she needn’t. She was supposed to be a hardened romantic, after all.
“Yeah, 2 bedrooms,” she told her sister.
“Ooh, ‘Forest Hideaway!'” squealed Easter, “I like the sound of that one.”
“Sounds perfect,” Ede smiled.
The four rode together, Jarrett talking, Malcolm trying not to talk, and Easter and Ede spacing out while drinking in the scenery passing by the vehicle.
They arrived at Granite Falls in the late afternoon. Jarrett must’ve hit the ground running, because he was nowhere in sight when the rest of them got out of the car.
The cabin they rented was huge!
The surrounds were amazing – Ede was already on a high from just being out there. But it’d been a long car ride, and the group was pretty tired already.
“I think I’m going to go in and unpack. Maybe take a little nap,” Easter said. “We can do a campfire in a few hours!”
Jarrett came bounding out of the cabin, landing on his rump.
“Silly!” Easter giggled as she went to check her hubby for bruises. “You shouldn’t run on the stairs!”
That may have been some sort of elaborate foreplay signal between Easter and Jarrett, as the two headed inside together all flirty-like, giving Malcolm and Ede a chance to explore the grounds a bit.
The immediate area had easy trails leading to fire pits, log benches, and bbq grills. There were fishing holes nearby and wild plants growing here and there. The nearby cabins were distant enough that it felt like they’d be able to find solitude if they sought it. She’d heard to expect insects, being so close to the water, but Ede wasn’t noticing anything personally.
“Ouch!” Malcolm yelped.
“I’m mosquito bait out here,” he noticed.
“That’s what you get for being so tasty,” Ede teased.
“Very funny,” he said, stopping to sit at a bench.
“Aw,” Ede said. “It’s getting dark already. Maybe we’d better go to the cabin and check in with Easter and Jarrett.”
“Do you think it’s safe to disturb them yet?” Malcolm asked, recalling their romantic departure earlier.
“Oh – that,” Ede said, sitting beside him as he swatted away more bugs.
“It’s been like 15 minutes since they went in there,” she said, “so yeah.”
“That’s not very long,” Malcolm argued.
“It isn’t?” Ede gawked.
Malcolm just smiled.
Ede was motivated to find their own room, so they decided to risk embarrassment and enter the darn cabin already. But Easter and Jarrett weren’t even home.
“Weird,” Ede remarked. “Well, looks like they’ve put their stuff in the downstairs bedroom, so we’ll take upstairs.”
Malcolm laughed when he saw their “room.”
“Well,” Ede said, “this is wholesome.”
“Disappointed?” Malcolm teased.
She’d be lying if she said no. But, maybe it was better this way, taking it slow and all that.
“You’ll definitely be safer from bears in here,” she said seriously.
Ede and Malcolm really were exhausted, so they decided to call it a night. They laid awake chatting for a bit, each in their own beds, making plans for tomorrow. Ede wanted to explore the national park, where the real woods were. Hopefully they’d be able to connect with Easter and Jarrett before then – maybe invite them to come along.
The time between words grew and was filled with the sounds of the outdoors. Crickets chirping, an owl hoot here and there, the dampening effect of the forest trees. Ede could hear water lapping at a nearby shore, too. If she stilled herself and let her perception widen, she felt that she was outside, rather than in her little room with a roof over her head. She was totally at peace here.
“Good night, Malcolm.” Ede said gently as she got up to turn off the lamp.
Ede and Malcolm were a wee bit late to Jarrett and Easter’s house that evening, having spent the day enthusiastically exploring their new boundaries. The hosts didn’t seem to mind, though – having a busy house with a newborn kind of blurs the lines of time, anyway.
The twins were very excited to have company. They immediately began a mock-off right there on the couch.
Not to be outdone, mom threw some faces of her own down there at the end of the sofa.
Despite them being a rather odd pair, it was evident that Jarrett really wanted to be friends with Malcolm. Like, bad. Malcolm’s a pretty laid back guy, but it’d been a rough road because their conversations were always so darn weird.
(Seriously, idk what his deal is. Around half his chat bubbles are ducks, and the remainder is smattered with bathtubs and underwear. Malcolm keeps getting ‘awkward conversation’ moodlets from him.)
Ede and Easter were getting along just fine, though. ;D
“Family life suits you,” Ede observed.
“Yeah! It’s great!” Easter beamed. “I think we’re gonna have more kids soon!”
“Hey,” Ede asked Easter, “speaking of, is this an OK time to go peek at the baby?”
“Oh! Yeah, do it! She’s just upstairs in her bassinet.”
Easter’s recent pregnancy had been a difficult one. She moved out of the Legacy house well into her third trimester, but when she arrived at her new home she found her belly had all but shrunk away and she had to repeat the whole gestation. Thankfully her baby arrived perfectly intact after all that. Just a single birth – a girl she named Amina.
“Hello, little miracle. I’m your aunt Ede.”
Malcolm came into the room quietly and stopped when he saw Edelweiss holding her niece. She looked so happy and natural with a baby in her arms. For a moment he flashed forward and caught a glimpse of her holding their own child in a room a little bit like this, leaving him with a strange pang of loss when it passed. He had to leave the nursery, as the feeling was a bit intense and he was embarrassed that he’d even had it.
Ede rocked Amina to sleep and headed back downstairs, wondering where Malcolm had gone off to.
Ede caught up with him in the dining room.
“I thought you wanted to see Amina?” Ede asked.
“Didn’t want to disturb you two,” he smiled.
“Oh I get it,” she teased, “you saw me making a fool of myself with a baby and ran for the hills.”
“Something like that,” he smirked.
It was a lot of socializing for a loner (and there were three of them present), but overall it had been a not-altogether-unpleasant night for everyone involved. Ede could stand doing it again, if they asked.
“We’re going to the mountains this weekend,” Jarrett announced as they were getting ready to leave. “You guys should come!”
“Mom’s going to watch the kids as an anniversary present,” Easter added. “The four of us could share a cabin.”
The mountains – that sounded amazing to an outdoor lover like Edelweiss! She glanced at Malcolm to try and gauge his interest before answering, but she just got lost in his face; their romance was still too fresh for her to be able to concentrate on anything else for long.
Malcolm could tell Ede wanted to go, so he answered for them.
“Hey, bro!” Malcolm heard someone holler from across the room.
Malcolm wasn’t sure if the guy in the gym was talking to him at first, but then he recognized him – it was Jarrett, Edelweiss’ brother-in-law.
“What’s shakin’, man?” Jarrett asked.
Malcom did his best to return the bro greeting.. thing.
“Not much, man, what about you?”
“Just getting some reps in before work, bro. How’s Ede?”
“Oh, she seems good,” he said, “Saw her yesterday.”
“Niiice. I got the sweet one, man – my Easter’s an angel. Ede’s more like a fireball. But they’re both smokin’ hot, am I right?”
Talking with Bros was always awkward for Malcolm. Should he opt for the ‘yes, your wife is hot’ response, suggesting he may be harboring untoward feelings for the man’s wife, or say nothing, implying his wife is unattractive?
Malcolm chose the path of gentlemanly avoidance.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve got anyone..” he said.
“Naw, man, you got this,” Jarrett insisted. “She digs you, man! Plus, she listens to you. You can totally tame her first, am I right?”
Ick. No. That’s not what he was doing.
“Hey listen, you two should come by the house later and see the baby, hang out.”
“Yeah, I’ll talk to Edelweiss.”
“Aw, don’t give me that, man,” Jarrett said. “You’re coming over! It’s a done deal.”
“Ok, man,” Malcolm conceded. “See you tonight.”
After another awkward pre-hug moment, Jarrett left for work and Malcolm finally got to working out.
What Jarrett had said about Edelweiss was bugging him. He certainly didn’t start out with the intention to manipulate her into being more malleable to him. But if he continued to steer her in personal matters, aware that they were becoming more and more drawn to each other, and eventually capitalized on it — isn’t that what was happening? It’s not like he could call off his feelings at this point; he was way too far gone for that.
Malcolm needed to talk to Edelweiss.
He found her at home, baking bread in her PJs.
“Got a busy day planned, huh?” he joked, seeing her attire.
“Hey, you,” she said warmly. “I felt inspired to bake when I woke up this morning. Check out this loaf! It’s plumming perfect!”
He liked how comfortable she was around him lately. She’d stopped automatically trying to disguise herself — both her feelings and her body. She wasn’t bothered at all that she was only partially clothed.
“You’re awfully quiet. Want something to eat?” she offered.
“No thanks,” he smiled.
“You feel serious today,” Ede noticed. “Let’s have it.”
How to phrase this without sounding overly dramatic? Malcolm thought. He sat down at the table, and Ede joined him.
He sighed. “I need to terminate our arrangement.”
“The life coach thing..” he said. “I can’t do it any more.”
“I’ll still help you with whatever you want me to. Just, on equal footing, you know?”
She didn’t know, no.
“Edelweiss? Are you listening?”
“Sorry. Yeah, ok. You’re free to go. What will you do next? For work I mean.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I thought maybe business. But right now what I want is –”
“You’d be good at that,” she interrupted. Ede was trying her best to be supportive and upbeat, but she just wanted to get the hell out of there.
“Look, I have some things I have to take care of,” she lied. “I’ll see you around, or something.”
Malcolm tried to speak, but she interrupted him again.
“Thanks for everything, Malcolm. Really.”
Ede tried to outrun her stupid-ass feelings by walking with unnatural determination out of the room and down the hall and up the stairs to her quiet bedroom, but the best she could do was to keep them hovering at her back, threatening to creep over her shoulder and gnaw on her face like some kind of deranged flying monkey.
She really did feel calmer in there, though. She gazed out the window for a bit, but wound up coming back and staring at that plumming fish. He really was a cute critter – a delicate little thing. She still felt happy when she looked at him – she just couldn’t help it.
“Hey there, little guy,” Ede cooed to the fish.
Ede almost coughed up her heart when she heard Malcolm’s voice in her room.
“I was talking to the fish,” she said without facing him.
“Oh,” he said. “Don’t let me stop you.”
She couldn’t see Malcolm, but she knew exactly what expression he had on his face. It was that playful amused one that made her nuts.
“It was a private conversation,” she stated stubbornly.
“Did you want me to wait outside?”
“Why are you in here, Malcolm?” she asked the fishbowl.
“I’ve been trying to tell you something,” he said.
“Will you please look at me, Edelweiss?”
Ede turned around.
“I can’t keep advising you because I would like to have a relationship with you. But I want it to be based on free will, and not me coaching you to act a certain way. I don’t trust myself to keep my personal feelings separate any more.”
“If you don’t want something serious,” he continued, “we can just –”
“You don’t think I’m gross and weird?” she interrupted.
“What? No!” Malcolm laughed, “why would you think that?”
Ede shrugged helplessly. This was so confusing.
“Me and you, though?” she asked cautiously. “That’s something you would want?”
“And that would mean I could like, touch you, touch you, sometimes?”
“If I should be so lucky, yeah.”
Ede tested out her new permissions, just to see if they worked.
They seemed to be functional.
“Ok,” she said quickly.
Malcolm seemed surprised at such a rapid, short answer. “Ok? Really?”
“Ok,” she nodded.
Not much else was accomplished that day. Somehow the two of them remembered to breathe and feed themselves and go to the bathroom, but the rest is pretty much a blur.
“I’ve gotta run to work in a minute, but please eat before you go off and do things with your boy today.”
“He’s not my b –” no, Ede, don’t have that argument. She’s trying.
“Thanks mom,” she said instead. “It looks great!”
Ede managed to hold her tongue while her mom finished her plate, and Coop headed off to work in a good mood for a change.
All other things aside, Coop was a pretty darn good cook. Despite focusing much of her training on becoming a badass secret agent, her domestic skills were top notch. Ede was starting to appreciate that more and more, now that she was having to do stuff herself.
There was just enough time for a shower before Malcolm showed up.
And maybe just a quick bit of primping too.. try one of mom’s many perfumes?
And, thank plum, time for just one more shower to wash that crap off.
While she awaited the arrival of not-her-boy, Ede spent some minutes downstairs trying to coax her brain and body to cooperate with one another. She’d been pretty good about staying cool with Malcolm in public, but there was something about having him here in the house, alone, that kind of awoke her inner bear. She had to control her damn self, this time. No hugs. No leering.
“Hello, Malcolm,” Ede grinned. That’s not leering, right? Confident grinning? ;D
Uh oh, he thought, maintain safe distance.
“How are you feeling this morning, Edelweiss?”
“Really clean,” she proclaimed, “I showered twice!”
An eyebrow went up at that. “Pays to be thorough?”
Malcolm launched right into business. This whole budget management stuff was actually right up his alley. His own finances were impeccable, but he was just a single guy who’d worked for the government — he was pretty excited to get the chance to tinker with something complicated like a sprawling legacy estate that’d been around for generations.
“So I figure we’ll talk a little bit about what you like and what you don’t like, and then we can walk around and you can show me the parts of the house I won’t have seen yet. Sound good?”
“Yeah! I’m stoked.”
“Do you have any strong feelings upfront?”
“I do, kinda, yeah,” Ede said. She’d actually been thinking about this a lot. “The house feels too square, if that makes sense. The ground floor especially is like a series of disconnected boxes separated by walls. You’d think I would like that, but I don’t — I would like it if it were arranged more into distinct spaces you’d want to hang out in, you know? And there are parts of the house, and even pieces of furniture, that nobody ever uses.”
“Here.” Ede handed him a folder. “This shows what our bills are, and there’s a list in there that shows all the weird stuff we have in storage. I’m sure we can get rid of some of that, but I just don’t know what I need to keep and what I don’t.”
“Damn,” he said, seeing the figures. “Wow. Yeah, we can definitely improve this. Is it okay if we start upstairs?”
“You’ve seen the entertainment area,” she said.
“This space seems to get good use,” he nodded, “but what about the rest of this floor?”
Ede nodded. “There isn’t much else up here, but since you haven’t seen it, you might as well.”
“When Easter had the twins and they were all still living with us I sort of claimed this space for a bedroom for myself. Probably doesn’t make any sense,” Ede apologized in advance. “Right outside the party space and stuff.”
Rather than some sultry dungeon with red walls and mounted bondage gear, the living space Edelweiss had made for herself was downright serene. The colors were soothing and subtle. Simple shapes and draping fabric. Lots of natural light.
Malcolm walked over to the dresser. When he saw what was in the fishbowl he cracked a huge grin.
“This guy looks familiar.”
“Oh god, I should have hid that,” she blurted.
Malcolm laughed. “Hid the fish? Why? Better yet, where?”
“Under the bed?” she shrugged. You know, where I’m going to crawl in a minute to die?
Malcolm didn’t press it. She was clearly embarrassed and he didn’t want to discourage her sentimentality. He actually liked this side of her quite a lot.
“You know what I notice about this room?” he asked.
Ede was sure he was about to launch into a list of technical flaws and/or make fun of her for keeping the fish they caught together, but he didn’t.
“It’s on the very furthest corner of the house, most away from everything – including the front door. It’s calming and quiet and it’s got a really nice view of the undeveloped land behind your lot.”
“I didn’t really plan it that way, but I guess you’re right!” Ede laughed. “I really am a loner.”
“It’s perfect for you.” he smiled.
Suddenly Ede felt very exposed. Her sweater was starting to feel itchy at the neck and her palms were getting clammy. Cute boy in my bedroom alert!
“Oh!” Ede remembered, and kind of walk/ran out of there, heading over to the far side of the stairwell. “Trophy room!”
“This is where my grandparents stored their collections. They aren’t quite complete and I don’t even know if we need to keep this stuff. If there were a way to display it that didn’t look like a museum workshop, it might be cool. But, I dunno.. I never go in here.”
They headed back down to the ground floor, and Ede gave a quick peek into the downstairs bedrooms. Just like she’d said, it was a series of rectangular spaces with furniture arranged in mostly the same layout. Bed against one wall, dresser opposite it.
“I see what you mean,” he said. “So, three more bedrooms and a nursery.”
“Yup,” she said. “Just a couple more rooms left.”
She led him to the end of the hallway where the gym was.
“Mom used to spend a lot of time in here.” Ede explained, “I like having access to the equipment but we don’t necessarily need to keep the room like this. And I think that’s like the 4th computer in the house — definitely don’t need 4 of those things.”
Malcolm had been keeping track of all of this, adding and subtracting in his head. “Someone’s been to space, I see,” he said, noticing the alien specimens stored along the far wall.
“Yup, my grandpa Clematis was an Interstellar Smuggler.”
“I suppose that explains the rockets outside, too,” he grinned.
“Yeah,” she smiled, “we probably don’t need two of those, either.”
This was going pretty well. Almost done now, and Ede was feeling really good about the prospect of having some direction as far as what to do with the house itself.
Ede had been saving Dia’s room for last.
“I haven’t been in here since right after dad died,” she warned, in case it was a mess.
She took a deep breath and opened the door so the both of them could go inside.
It was kind of like stepping into a little personal memory pocket. Ede inhaled sharply, surprised at the sudden rush of feelings.
“It’s quiet in here,” Malcolm noticed.
“Yeah.” Ede said. “Good for writing.”
“Kind of dark, too.” Nice one, plumhead, keep pointing out the obvious, he scolded himself.
“I don’t know why he never put more windows in,” she said, barely connecting to the present.
Sensing her unease building, Malcolm reached over and turned on the desk lamp so she wouldn’t have to.
Dia had written a LOT of books. And most of them were right here, in shelves and stacks around the room. Pretty much every milestone in the lives of his family members was documented in the form of some work of fiction. He had written children’s books to commemorate the birth of each of his kids. And there were so many extras – Malcolm figured those must correspond with whatever challenges life had thrown at them along the way. In each book, the person he wrote for was the hero of the tale, and clearly someone he loved very much.
“I didn’t know these existed,” Ede said wistfully. “I mean, we all knew he wrote all the time – I remember him reading some of the Ede books to me when I was a kid – he made me a porcupine in one of them.” She paused, looking sharply at Malcolm, anticipating some kind of remark about that, but he only had caring in his face.
She continued, “he never really talked about what he wrote, though. And I guess I just never thought about it. He was so humble. And.. awkward,” she smiled weakly. “He was a loner like me. And a romantic.”
Malcolm smiled at her warmly. “Rough combo.”
Ede had to sit down. But Malcolm was fascinated by this strange private memorial the man had built to his family. He could pick up a book and thumb through, and soon he was able to recognize the characters as these living, breathing, flawed people he just barely knew. But Dia had somehow captured their true essence — those glowing secret parts that made them special — not capitalized on their quirks or made them into caricatures. It was pretty incredible.
“Wow,” he said, taking it all in. “This is heavy.” He glanced over his shoulder towards Ede, “You okay?”
Ede just kind of squeaked from the bed behind him.
Malcolm went to her. “Do you want to get some air?” he asked.
“Please,” she nodded.
They walked together, outside to a bench across from the house so that Edelweiss could sit down. It was a nice spot, near the water.
“Do you want to be alone?” Malcolm asked gently.
“No.” Her eyes were wet.
He sat down next to her and they stared out at the water. A family of ducks occupying the space paid them no mind. There was a slight breeze swaying the cattails by the shore. It was peaceful here, calm and quiet.
“Will you help me get those where they need to go?” she asked.
“I can write up a list for you, summarizing some of the issues we found and some possible changes that can be made to address them, if that would be helpful,” he offered.
“Please,” she said, leaning into him. “I don’t want to forget anything.”
“Of course.” You keep saying ‘of course,’ meathead, he thought.
Malcolm put a comforting arm around Ede. She let her head dip down so that it was against his chest, feeling the stretch of muscle over bone, concentrating on the soothing thud, thud of his heartbeat, reminding her that she was here, in this body, in this moment. She was flesh and bone. She had a heartbeat too, but hers was faster. Thud, thud, thud. She had lungs to breathe air. Inhale. Exhale. Calm down, Ede. Match his beat. Inhale. Exhale. That’s it. Thud, thud. Thud, thud. Thud, thud. There.
“Malcolm?” she said after a while.
“I think you’re my best friend,” she said.
He rested his chin on her head and held her close. “I kinda like you too, kid.”
After Malcolm went home, Ede could scarcely concentrate on anything. She gardened, bathed, and cleaned up the house a bit. She should have gone to bed, but she was feeling restless. So she watched TV until she passed out on the couch, the ads all blending together in her head, feeding her strange dreams.
A cheesy announcer voice speaking nonsense. “Pink love never lasts, but green stays until your shower breaks!” A vision of Malcolm’s smirk, pulling her closer to and farther from at once. The voice again, “When the dragon attacks, and the walls come crumbling, you’ll be glad you’re wearing TinyHeart boxers!” A vision of Malcolm’s shoulders, that bit right where they curve so perfectly into his neck, jacking her heartbeat. The dragon becoming an actual dragon, throwing itself full-force into a locked wooden gate that was buckling a little more with each thrust. The crashing getting louder, closer. Coming from somewhere outside the dream..
Ede dragged herself out of sleep to address the racket.
4:AM. Ugh. The noise was coming from the nursery, of course.
Cooper had been at the club all night again. She’d been doing that a lot lately, blowing off steam after work. And now she was blowing off more steam by pummeling the dollhouse.
“Mom? Did you just get home?”
“Mom, you just fixed that thing. Please stop.”
Cooper was ignoring her. Did she even hear her?
“MOM!!” Ede yelled, grabbing her arm.
Ede wasn’t afraid, but she didn’t want a fight, either. So she tried reason.
“You can’t just smash plum when you’re upset, mom!”
Ede watched, feeling her mother just letting go. Filling up on relief, trying to take enough to sustain her beyond the act itself. Ede could tap into that energy so easily – she knew exactly what it felt like to indulge in raw pulling impulses. She’d done it a hundred times herself.
“Oh my god.” Ede said, horrified at this realization. “I’m YOU!”
“What?” Cooper finally stopped thrashing the dollhouse and turned to face her daughter.
“I’m you!!” Ede yelled, angry. “You just hurl yourself onto things and people! You’re like a plumming bear! You don’t think about anything but mauling!!”
“I’m getting some air!”
“Ede, wait.” Coop said. But it was too late.
Ede made sure to slam the door on her way out.
Coop felt really bad about what had happened. She couldn’t blame Ede for being mad at her; it’s true she had been a bit out of control lately. She just didn’t know what to do with herself anymore. She missed her family.
On her way back inside, Coop bumped into Malcolm heading up to the house. He looked as though he’d interrupted himself due to her sudden appearance in his trajectory and was considering how to proceed. She thought she’d spare him the awkwardness of asking – she really was too tired to explain, anyway.
“Ede’s not here.”
“Morning, Mrs. Wolff,” he smiled. “Do you know where I might find her?”
Such a nice boy. And she’d ‘mauled’ him, too. She sighed. “I’m afraid we had a bit of an argument this morning. My fault. She’s probably out running, or at one of the parks since I didn’t see her out back.”
“I’ll find her.” He paused, not sure how involved he should get. “What about you – do you need anything?”
“I’m fine,” she said, mustering a smile. “And, thank you.”
It didn’t take much effort to locate Edelweiss. Malcolm knew her pretty well by now. He wasn’t sure what state he’d find her in though, so he approached with caution.
“Hey, Edelweiss. Whatcha reading?”
“Just some stupid romance novel I picked up from the free box at the library.”
“Any good?” he smiled.
“Well, no,” she admitted. “It’s basically softcore plum.”
Malcolm laughed out loud. “I see.”
Edelweiss didn’t seem like she planned on adding anything to the conversation, so he gently probed.
“I went by the house,” he said. “Everything OK?”
“That depends,” she said with halfhearted humor, “how much do you already know?”
Malcolm smiled. “I only talked to your mom for a second. She was..”
Oblivious to the personal nature of their conversation, Landon waltzed right up and sat down next to Ede.
“Hiya Ede,” he said, ignoring Malcolm entirely, even though he was standing right there in plain sight.
Ede sighed. And here I thought the day just couldn’t get any better.
Sitting here with two past recipients of Ede’s own brand of “mauling” was not the most relaxing way for her to spend an already plummy morning. She felt like she owed the whole world an apology for everything she’d ever thought or done or felt. Sorry I come on so strong. Sorry I touched you both and made you feel things. Sorry for wanting one of you so thoroughly right now. Sorry I don’t want the other of you at all.
Ede was feeling like the only way to protect the world from the dangers of her mere existence at this point was to go full-on celibate. She only hoped it would be enough.
And she’d better hurry, too — Landon was radiating flirty for some godawful reason and she could just feel him queuing up a proposition. She had to do something to stop it.
“I’m going to become a monk!” she blurted to them both.
Landon seemed confused.
Malcolm seemed amused. “Not a nun?”
“Monks are cooler. Better robes. Vinyards. You know.”
“Oh, of course,” he smirked. “I see you’ve considered this at length.”
“ANYway,” she continued, “the point is, I’m not going to inflict myself on another person ever again.”
Landon seemed bummed. “By inflict, you mean..”
“I mean everything, Landon. Everything.”
“So I guess that means you don’t want to go hang out?” said Landon.
Malcolm was doing that I’m trying really hard not to smile and/or laugh right now thing he does, which only made Ede grumpier. Why wasn’t he taking her seriously? And why did Landon sitting between them make her feel so very threatened? Ugh!
“That is correct. Also, I was already sitting here talking to someone when you decided to plop yourself down and ask me to leave with you! What the plum.”
Landon finally acknowledged Malcolm’s existence.
“Oh, hey, man,” he said sideways to Malcolm.
Malcolm smiled as neutrally as possible, not wanting to make matters worse.
“Well, I guess I’m gonna go then. See ya later, Ede!”
When Malcolm sat back down, Ede felt his eyes on her, even if they weren’t.
“Do you have something to say?” she snipped.
“Nope,” he laughed. “Wouldn’t dare.”
The two sat as Ede fumed. She felt like she probably had smoke coming out of her ears. Oddly, with just Malcolm here she didn’t feel that urge to be alone like she normally would. What’s up with that! It just made her madder!
“Let’s go fishing.” he said abruptly.
“What!?” She didn’t know what that word even was, much less why he was saying it to her.
“Fishing. You, me, a couple of poles. Right now.”
She just looked at him like he was nuts. He knew what to do, though – it wasn’t the first time, after all.
Stand up, take hands, guide.
“Come with me, Ms. monk.”
They walked far away from the benches and the activity to a little hidden fishing hole in a quiet corner of the park.
The word re-entered her vocabulary as soon as she saw the water.
The pond was still and quiet. No current. Despite the seeming lack of vegetation, there were plenty of insects around, and that usually meant fish.
The two cast their lines and sure enough, Malcolm got a nibble right away. But it didn’t take.
Ede felt a hint of a tug on her line right afterward, and she reeled it in just slightly. No bite there either.
After a few minutes of waiting, Malcolm got another shy nibble on his line. He waited for it to grab, but nothing.
Just when she was about to give up and re-cast, Ede’s line tugged again, hard. She reeled in the slack, and felt the weight of the fish pulling on her line — fish on!
“I think you just caught my fish!” Malcolm laughed.
“We can share him,” she beamed.
Ede was just delighted. Fishing was great!
“This is awesome.”
“Thought you might like it,” he smiled.
They fished for hours until their arms were too tired to keep holding the poles, then sat together as Ede tried to work up the gumption to return home. She wondered if her mom would be there, and whether she’d still be mad. Am I still mad? I don’t feel mad. Just happy and safe.
“Still tense?” he asked.
“Only a little bit,” she smiled. “Didn’t get much sleep.”
“So,” Malcolm posed, “tomorrow, how about I come by the house and we can talk budgets and estate management stuff?”
Ede didn’t answer for a good minute as she slipped into a lovely daydream about gentle, mutual, full-disclosure mauling. She didn’t know if bears were into that but she would totally freakin’ try it right now.
“Oh. Yeah!” she said. “That would be really good.”
“Midmorning, sometime? Would that be ok?”
Damn. Did he have, like, some kind of super-hands?
“Yes,” she said. “Really ok.”
She had no idea why he was so kind to her. Didn’t he realize she was a menace? And this neckrub business was the best thing since pasta primavera.
“You’re kind of melting my monastic resolve, here,” she said.
Edelweiss and her new “life coach” had planned to get started the following day. Malcolm suggested they handle cooking first, with that whole fire-sometimes-causing-death thing and all. So he arrived at her house midmorning, ready to begin.
Ede was right happy to see him.
Since Malcolm had broken the hug barrier, Ede had been taking advantage and hugging him whenever she could get away with it. Hello, goodbye. He certainly didn’t mind, only sometimes her hugs felt less like “hugs” and more like full-contact body rubs.
“These hugs are getting a little, um..”
“Awesome?” she said, still clinging to his middle.
“‘Distracting,‘ is the word I was looking for.” He smiled, reluctantly increasing the distance between them. “How about we make a ‘no handling’ rule while we’re working, ok?”
“Suit yourself,” she said, feigning disinterest. “So, what are we making?”
“You will be making pasta primavera. Nothing too complicated, but a step up from sandwiches. Knife, stovetop.”
“So, one of the main things you’re going to want to consider when cooking is serving size. It’s usually most economical to make a little bit more than you need and keep the leftovers in the fridge for later, but if you make more than you’ll actually eat in time it’ll wind up being a waste of money.”
“That makes sense,” she said. Duh, really.
“Since there’s two of us and your mom’ll be home later, let’s have you make a 4 serving batch.”
Ede set to prepping the ingredients. Lots of chopping. Everyone knows how to chop stuff, so she didn’t even bother to take care with it.
“Ow! Squirrely plum!” Ede cursed, grabbing her finger.
“Hmm,” said Malcolm. “I don’t recall this recipe using plums.”
“Not plums,” she said, “plumming peppers!”
Malcolm chuckled at her fierceness, but wasn’t without sympathy. “C’mere, let’s see.”
He took her hands gently, assessing injury.
“Well,” he said, “I think you’re going to live.”
“You just broke the rule,” she smirked, “You’re handling.”
He smiled. “I’d better let go then,” he said, dropping one of her hands.
“You’ll want to get those knives sharpened,” he said earnestly, getting back to the task at hand. “The ‘plums’ will be less slippery if the blade can penetrate them on contact.”
When the sauce was assembled and it came time to stir the pot, Ede got a little overzealous. She stirred so hard that she lost grip of the handle and the spoon slipped from her fingers and flung off to the unknown. She grabbed another and started again, and did it a second time! Malcolm had to come over to show her how it’s done.
“You’re not trying to beat it into submission, Edelweiss. You just want your strokes to warm it all the way through, without letting it burn.”
Ede’s glances have a way of making the recipient feel stripped completely bare. And when she smiles at you the way she does afterward, you feel like she’s smiling at your naked form standing there. Malcolm must have been pretty comfortable with his own nudity, ’cause he refused to crack under the pressure. Mostly.
“Sorry, what?” Ede asked.
“I don’t even know,” he said. “Something about a spoon?”
Quit horsing around, you two! Geez. Anyhow, after much painful not-flirting, finally Ede’s dish was complete, and it looked pretty darn good!
It also smelled good! Who knew?
Tasted pretty darn good, too! You might even say it was Excellent. ;D
And so the two enjoyed a lovely meal of pasta primavera and chatted well into the afternoon. Yes, this seemed like it’d be a fine arrangement. Lots of fun, anyway. And they weren’t likely to starve.
Edelweiss slept in late. On the floor. On her face.
The events of the previous night had really proved one thing to Ede: she didn’t know plum about plum. She had never thought of herself as “sheltered” before, but damn.. she was feeling lame.
When the stove and neighboring counter caught fire at the party, Ede had spent all but 1200 of the family’s cash reserve to replace them. With no job and mom only having one more payday before the bills came — and she needed to have at least $17k by then — Ede was in trouble. So she started to dig.
By the time she got home from gathering all she could, the garden was already thoroughly out of control again. She could swear she just took care of that yesterday. Or maybe that was the day before yesterday. Either way, Frankenplant was emitting its own toxic plume.
Viewing her family estate from an outsider’s perspective, there were some things about it that just didn’t add up. The whole building was just shaped weird – the external walls didn’t line up in places. There were pillars at odd intervals that supported nothing..
And the roof didn’t even cover the entire house! But the worst thing of all, as far as Ede was concerned: they had a huge, beautiful lot and there was very little unspoiled space left.
Ede felt like demolishing the whole thing and starting over would be easier than trying to figure out how to “fix” it. Just build something basic. Smaller. Functional. But she didn’t know anything about actually designing a house, either.
She checked the value of her collected harvestables. Combined with the produce she’d been carrying around, it was just enough to cover the bills – whew! But, what about next time? If Ede was going to survive as heir to this legacy, and master of this giant estate, she was going to need some training.
The obvious thing would be to ask her surviving parent for assistance, but given her mother’s recent foray into dark self-exploration, she really didn’t think that would be fruitful.
Ede had heard that you can learn skills faster at the right kind of community lot, and there had to be some expert type folks around town she could hit up for some tutelage. She’d wash up and go downtown – maybe post an ad on the board. If she could just get some basics down, things should become a lot more manageable. Plus, staying busy would help her keep her mind off of that itch she couldn’t scratch.
Oof. First stop: the community maker space slash library. Ede checked the jobs board out front, but nobody was really advertising what she needed.
The place itself was nifty, though. They had a community garden and all sorts of tools there for making pretty much anything, and it seemed like there was always someone around that she could ask about specific skills.
It did seem like it was a bit easier to concentrate here than at home – after just a few minutes on the bonsai tree she’d already managed to learn more about gardening. She’d definitely be back to work on some of her skills later. For now though, she needed to use the computer.
She checked local listings for tutors and things. Nothing really stuck out.
“Maybe it’s time to just bite the bullet and post an ad on Simslist,” she mused aloud.
“Famous last words,” said a familiar voice.
Ede was surprised to find that the object of her confused affections was also here. He walked past and sat across from her, and she felt a wave of emotion that twisted her face into in an embarrassing display of longing.
“Hello, Edelweiss,” smiled Malcolm.
Ede snapped herself out of it, at least enough to smalltalk him.
“Hey. No deliveries today?”
“Ah, no,” he said. “No more deliveries for me. They let me go.”
“What??” she demanded, a bit too loudly. “Why!”
“They like their employees to keep their identities secret,” he said dramatically. “Once there’s a name and an address it’s pink slip time!”
Ede frowned, not sure whether he was just being funny or making fun of her moment of vulnerability on the balcony.
“Sorry,” he smiled, noticing her sensitivity. “I’m a little tense today.”
He explained honestly, “I voluntarily agreed to terminate my contract so I wouldn’t have to accept transfer. They don’t like to keep us in one location for too long, and I didn’t want to leave the area just yet. So I’m here looking at job listings.”
Ede wasn’t sure if it was safe to feel flattered by this or not. But then she remembered why she’d come here in the first place, and smiled thoughtfully. She got up and moved around to his side of the table.
“You know,” she said, “I could hire you.”
“New guy already that bad, huh?” Malcolm joked nervously.
“Very funny,” she said, “But it’s not your mad mailman skills I’m after, and I really do need the help.”
“Might as well humor her,” he thought. “And what, praytell, would this position entail?”
“Well.” Ede took a deep breath and went on, “Basically, I need a life coach.”
Normally Malcolm would have been way too polite to actually facepalm, but, y’know, he was tense!
Ede laughed at his reaction. “Hear me out first! I just inherited a huge estate that’s kind of a mess and I don’t know how I’m going to keep paying the bills. I feel like I don’t know how to do anything.”
“You’re not that bad, Edelweiss,” he said.
“Last night I caught the house on fire trying to make a grilled cheese sandwich,” she argued.
This was true. He was there.
“Point taken,” he laughed.
“Mom has been really off lately, and that’s not helping,” she confided. “I’m just stressed out all the time. Things that used to come natural to me are choking me up — I don’t even know how to talk to boys anymore, for plumsakes. I need some help figuring this stuff out.”
Wow, okay. There was a lot of stuff there.
“It wouldn’t be a permanent thing, just enough to get me pointed in the right direction. Say, a week?”
“So,” he summarized, trying to wrap his brain around what she was asking, “you want me to teach you economics, cooking, stress management and.. dating etiquette? In one week.”
“Yep.Though I’d be happy with just the first two things,” she added. “I know it’s a tall order.”
“Whaddaya say?” she asked, half-begging, “it could be fun!”
Now she was just being silly. This whole thing was silly. He couldn’t believe he was actually considering it.
Malcolm threw up his hands and gave in. It’s not like he was going to be able to say no to her anyway.
“Oh, thank plum!” she said, relieved. “You have no idea the kind of freaks that would’ve responded to an ad like this if I posted it on Simslist.”