Seven years. Ben remembered the old house – houses, in fact, with the fitness room on the right and the greenhouse on the left, and the sleeping quarters in the back. Ben had shared a room in the main house with Danny.
The new house was bigger. It was a sprawling mansion, almost like the one across the street. It was far from finished. The building and furnishing took three years already – all the important things were there, but there were lots of empty rooms and a list of things to be purchased in Danny’s room. It was getting longer every few weeks, when somebody had an idea about something they needed. Danny added it to the list, and promised to look into it. He made a lot of promises, being an aspiring politician. Promises came easy to him. Ben knew they were lies. Not completely, just… close enough. Danny told people things they wanted to hear. That was his job.
Ben had never made a promise in his life. Not since he came here. The years before that didn’t count. He almost managed to erase it out of his mind. The orphanage, the foster families, all those people who picked on him, trying to change him, trying to mold him into something he wasn’t.
Ben had just turned 12 when he was introduced to Alyson and Aleksej Voronov. He was just returned to the orphanage after staying for a while in a psychiatric ward. He had attacked his last foster family. He had his reasons, but nobody cared for them. They only cared for the things they knew, not for the things that lurked under the surface. They didn’t believe in the things that lurked under the surface. They branded everything Ben had to said as delusional.
Ben did not trust Alyson. She was all soft spoken words oozing with kindness, kindness that had to be fake. He did not trust Aleksej. Aleksej looked soft. He was just a glorified salesman. He was selling companies. He started with selling furniture and moved on to selling stocks and now he was negotiating deals between companies which resulted into consolidations or bankruptcy filings. He did not trust all the others. They all lived together, about a dozen of people, most related to each other, some not. There had to be weird things going on, or bad things, things that lurked under the surface, and Ben would be forced to partake in them, and he would flee, and be caught, and held captive again.
Ben spend years shoving people away, yelling at them, ignoring them at last. He spent years struggling to keep distance from everybody. To be an outsider. Just biding his time, waiting for the magical Eighteen, waiting for the day he could live on his own.
The day came and went. Three hundred of days came and went, and Ben was still here, living at the Raventree estate, taking care of Leonid’s son – his cousin – and now Danny’s daughter. He did homework, fixed plumbing, cleaned counters, went to buy groceries. All the normal things his previous foster families tried to force him doing.
Ben had no idea how that happened. The biggest difference was that nobody forced him to do anything around here. Nobody watched him secretly. Nobody laughed at him. On the outside, nobody cared if he even existed.
Alyson tried to raise him the way she raised Danny, sometimes. There were days when she came into his room, sat down next to him and talked to him in her sweet, soft voice. She talked about the universe, and about understanding things, and about connection between every living being, and about a lof of other things Ben did not want to think about. Sometimes he listened, sometimes he yelled at her until she left.
But in this last year, something changed. Something changed in him. He had no idea how that happened, but he welcomed the change with open arms, most of the time, at least. He still had bouts of anger, doubt, depression. He still had moments where he wanted to break something, or yell at people, or just hide somewhere for hours. But there were lots of good days now, and in the good days, he didn’t think about his childhood, he didn’t think about the before, he didn’t think about being a broken shell of a boy, an outcast, a social imbecile. He thought about going to college, getting a job. He thought about falling in love. And about family, and home, and what it meant.
He knew now that he had both home and family, and he wondered if this strange tingly feeling that he had everytime he saw Judy Roe was falling in love.
After seven years, he finally felt like he was fitting in.
And now we’re back to our usual blathering about stuff. Writing is hard, but my brain feels better now. Less under pressure.
I think Danny had a hard day at work. His shoes are still cracking me up.
Just a bad dream, little frog.
By the way, CathyTea’s super skilling strategy didn’t seem to work. He maxed Mental Skill playing Arithmetic Attack. I tried using Browse Simpedia in the end. No other skills got promoted during this.
The best part of being retired is waking up early and playing computer games the whole morning.
Ben is having one of his moments where everything just pisses him off.
Silvia had a work assignment to watch performers in the Arts Quarters but there were no performers to be found.
Instead, Ben ran into Judy. They talked for a while. Ben seems genuinely happy when with her.
Slava is having a grimacing contest with Zach in the park.
By the way, Zach’s wife Mia had 2 girls! Other news: Lara completed the Nerd Brain aspiration.
Alyson and Aleksej are having their Elder birthday very soon.
I found Ben stargazing with Alyson outside. Their visions match. Funny how the game reflects my thoughts sometimes: I guess, this is part of Ben coming to terms with his life and with being part of the family.
And then, as I was making preparations for the birthday party, there was the all-too familiar sound.
Danny couldn’t compel the Reaper to leave Lara alone for a little while.
Devastated by her death, he sat down in the kitchen, staring at the plate of food in front of him. He hadn’t eaten anything today, but he didn’t feel like eating now.
The Reaper came to stand at the other side of the kitchen. “She had a long life”, he said. “She deserves to rest now.”
He disappeared in a black cloud, as usual, leaving the family to deal with grief. Again.