Friday, February 25, 2011

Chapter 30: Vampires, Swamps and Thieves

Violet's favorite subject is Lyle.

Oregon and her daughter have never had a close relationship; the fact that Violet was born from the unwanted seduction by a vampire stood in the way of any closeness the mother and daughter might have shared. But they share a common talent and hobby, and have found the painting room as a place where they can relate to each other.

Violet's best friend from high school, Annmarie Kindle, has gotten pregnant from her fling with Willard Carlton, Lyle's younger, insane brother. Annmarie has moved into the Carlton house, but Willard has given no signs he intends to marry her, or to stop seeing other women.
Lyle and Violet visit her one evening while both Willard and his parents are out.
"I dated Beau Merrick a little before I got involved with Willard," Annmarie says, "You should be happy you got cured, Violet. The feeding was so gross!"
Violet's smile at this point is quite forced.

While Violet coos over he friend's growing belly, Lyle sneaks off to the basement to indulge his urge to steal.

Beneath the Carlton house lies an underground kitchen bunker that belonged to Chanel's mother, Julienne Knack-Racket. She had been a renowned chef, but no one knew why she needed an industrial kitchen underground, and no one in the family ever used it after she died. So Lyle figures he can pilfer a few items here without anyone ever noticing their absence. But when Chanel gets home and sees Violet talking with Annmaries, she makes a beeline for the basement as though she knows her son must be there and what he must be doing.

"How dare you steal from my house!" Chanel shouts at him, "Ungrateful brat! If you are going to be a criminal, why don't you work for your father like your brother Willard? Petty burglary is not a proper career!"

"You're comparing me to Willard? He's insane. And irresponsible!" Lyle protests.

"Willard's a good boy. And he has a real career working for his father. You are just a lazy lay-about."

"You've always like Willard best," Lyle shouts.

"And why shouldn't I? Nicholas is a stupid jock who married a Drudge. And you, you're nothing! You're a criminal who can't even do that properly. Petty thieving is not a career!"

"I'm not a criminal!" 

"You certainly aren't a professional criminal, but I if I wanted I could have you arrested for stealing from me, now couldn't I? And what does that make you? A filthy no account criminal, that's what."

Lyle's father is a master thief by profession, as was his father Sinbad Rotter, before him. Lyle has been stealing things for as long as he can remember, but never considered himself a criminal. Is his mother right?

"Stay out of my house, boy, until you get a proper career. I won't have your kind here," Chanel speaks her final words to her son.

Hunter grows up, gets a job at the hospital and moves in with his girlfriend, Megan Wolf-Bayless.

As she gets closer to retirement, Oregon takes fewer styling jobs in favor of staying home to work on her paintings. But she cannot refuse the call from Lea Greenwood, Jeromy's niece. Lea has recently married Beau Merrick, moving into his swamp lair with him. Pity moved Oregon to come out to the swamp shack and see the girl, who is just out of high school, as Oregon had been when the vampire seduced her.

"I want a sexy new look for Beau," Lea tells her.

"You have to get out of here," Oregon answers, "He's not capable of love. He's using you for his feeding, nothing more."

Lea turns up her nose, "That's not true. Beau loves me. You're just jealous because you're all old and he doesn't want you anymore."

Oregon knows the words of a distant aunt won't be enough to overcome the hold the vampire has on her, but she had to try. So, she gives the girl the requested makeover. The spiked collar she wraps around Lea's neck will do nothing to prevent Beau's feeding, but Oregon does it anyway, hoping to at least annoy him.

Beau comes home at that moment, and waves at Oregon like an old friend. Is he really that oblivious? Oregon wonders. 

The catty look Beau casts at her as he walks by says, "I'm still young and beautiful, while you are getting old. I have a hot young wife. Are you jealous?"
He's not oblivious, Oregon decides, he's just a complete bitch.

While Lyle is out prowling, stealing from porches a night, his mother's words haunt him. He's not a professional thief, never wanted to be one. But does his compulsion to steal make him a criminal?

While messing around on the family computer, Lyle discovers some heavily encrypted files. Decoding them, he discovers Ewan McDermott's memoirs, obviously never intended to be read, let alone published. They detail Ewan's time as an adventurer in foreign lands, breaking into tombs and people's houses to steal relics and treasures. Like Lyle, he expresses doubts about what he's done, concerns that he's no more than a common criminal.

Lyle wastes some time playing in the empty nursery with a toy he's crafted on his work bench. His mother ordered him to get a proper career, to work for his father's criminal organization,  but Lyle knows himself too well for that. He;s never been able to play by the rules, he can't even play games without modding them to suit himself, and school was a constant battle between himself and authority. Organized crime may be against the rules of society, but is laden with its own rules that Lyle knows he could never bend himself to.

But the petty thieving, the constant urge to steal, that is something he needs to get control of. It was one thing when he was a juvenile, now it's serious. It is criminal, as his mother said, and it makes him, and his family, the subject of scorn and gossip. Ithas to stop, but how?

The counselor at school always told him that he stole to fill a void inside him. Even as a child Lyle knew that void was created by his parents', his mother's lack of affection, and he believed that marrying Violet would finally fill it. But since he still steals compulsively, he clearly needs something more. Maybe, he thinks, if he became the parent he never had, he could become whole.

As Violet leaves work that night she spots Sommer Merrick, Bree's daughter, glowing in the candlelight, enjoying lobster thermidor. It won't be much longer before the young vampire will have to give up such delicacies for plasma; she's at the same age Violet was at when she got herself cured of vampirism.

Back then, it seemed like such an obvious choice, to be normal rather than a freak, to eat food rather than have to get used to sucking the blood from her lover's veins. Giving up the long lifespan seemed like nothing to a teenager, who saw life as going on forver no matter what she was. But now that she's older, she feels the quick pace of this life and sees the road to age and death is not very long at all. If she had stayed a vampire, her youth would stretch out ahead of her instead of the constant creeping of age she traded it for. She feels a pang of regret for the loss of all that extra time, but then remembers if she were a vampire, she would outlive Lyle, outlive whoever took his place, and outlive the next. Life is good, she thinks, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Lyle and Violet are night owls who rarely go to bed before the early dawn hours, and they sleep into the day. As Violet wakes to start her day, Lyle pulls her back into the bed. "I want to talk," he says.

"Are you sure it's talk you want?" Violet teases.

Lyle smiles, "Ideally what I have to say will lead to more. But, yes, I do want to talk. We've never discussed children."

"I'd always we'd have some, someday," Violet answers, "You do want children, don't you?"

"I do, Violet. I want to be a father. I want to do it now."

"I think now would be a perfect time," Violet answers. Having concluded the discussion, the couple puts their new plan for a family into action.

Oregon and Jeromy become elders. Jeromy had often thought about quitting his part time job at the grocery store, but always stuck with it out of habit. Now that he's reached retirement age, he finds he likes having something to do outside the house for a few hours a day, and decides to carry on working. Oregon, however, retires immediately. Despite her efforts to beautify he neighbors, they've learned nothing from her work. The children and grandchildren of those she's made over continue to dress abysmally and the town will continue to be inhabited by walking nightmares long after she's gone. She's given up on them and decided to focus on painting, creating beauty that will endure over the generations.

After retiring, Oregon turns her office over to Lyle completely. He gives the walls a good papering, gets himself a desk and some cabinets to display his inventions. Only Oregon's styling trophies and awards are left behind.

Safety goggles? Bah, the goggles do nothing!

Goggles are completely useless when you set your ass on fire.

Ewan's old shower-in-cans come in handy for handling inventing mishaps. Being on fire is a total rush. Lyle looks forward to setting his ass on fire again in the near future.

Violet becomes pregnant as they planned.

Always wanting to be informed, Lyle studies "Totally Preggers" before his child is born.

Violet wakes in the early morning with labor pains. Lyle rushes her to the hospital.

They have a daughter, Briar Rose.

Beau Merrick has the audacity to call and enquire after his new granddaughter, wanting to know if she shows any sign of vampirism. Though Violet was cured of the trait, it was not known if she could still produce a vampire child. Oregon assures him that Briar is a normal, human child, and that he should butt out of their lives.

"And," Oregon adds,"You might want to think about the fact that two of your three children, including one you raised yourself, have sought cures for vampirism, and all three of them have rejected you. Now that you've married again, you might want to keep that in mind before you have more children."

"I thank you for your concern, Oregon, it is much appreciated," Beau answers, "It is indeed a matter for deep consideration." Oregon meant her words as a dig, not as advice, but with Beau's monotone, it's hard to tell if his response is sincere or sarcastic.

Lyle isn't entirely cured of his kleptomania, but he has been staying in at night instead of out prowling. He does still hack funds into his account, which is technically thieving, criminal behavior. But he's not preying on his neighbors, and as such is sparing his family the gossip and attention. And, he's come up with a great way to dispose of the goods he's already taken. Detonation!

Being exploded is such a rush!

Briar becomes a toddler. She's not a vampire, but she does have Beau Merrick's hair.

Most importantly, she's finally old enough to play dolls with her father. He was so tired of playing by himself all the time.

Challenge Notes:
At first I was stoked to have Lyle's LTW to have 50k of stolen goods. But after a week of nightly stealing, taking the max amount of swipes, we only had 5k worth of goods. Including a car and computer. It might be possible to achieve the LTW before he dies, but it would take dedication. And since thieving can only happen at night, and two of Lyle's allowed professional activities, stargazing and hacking, are also only available at night, I decided something had to go. As my generation goal is Perfect Careers, I figured Lyle should devote himself more to that than his klepto hobby. So, he used 10k happiness points to change his LTW to Tinkerer, to max Logic and Handiness. While his 'career' has no levels to max, I've decided he needs to max Logic, Handiness and Inventing to achieve the generation goal.
Lyle is a daredevil, so he gets good moodlets from setting his ass on fire. I love Lyle.

Violet has achieved her LTW of Culinary Librarian, before she maxed cooking skill or read the top level recipe books. Foreign recipes aren't added to the total required, so learning them means you achieve the LTW before reading all the base game recipes. She has since maxed cooking and is level 8 in cooking career. I'm going to make her learn all the base game recipes before I will consider the generation goal complete. She's only got 3 left to read.

They've got the first of their two required children. They started their family a bit later than previous generations. Lyle and Violet are just days away from being adult.

The roll for generation 8 is: Couple, two children, (Again!) Journalism career and author as secondary. Goal is again Perfect Careers and the Misc. Fun is tattoo addict. I rolled 1st child as heir, so Briar is heir. When she was born, she was given the artistic trait by the game and I was allowed to chose the second. I gave her genius, like her father.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chapter 29: Thief of My Heart

"You should smile more, Lyle," Jeromy comments over breakfast, "You always look like someone pissed in your cornflakes."

Lyle knows how much Violet loves her father, so he reins in the sarcasm, "It's genetic. My natural expression is a frown."

"A frown is just a smile turned upside down," Jeromy says. Lyle gives up on the conversation and waits for Violet to get out of the shower.

Smiling isn't something Lyle does often or for just anyone. For Violet, however, he does it without thinking about it.

"I have something for you, " he says, getting down on one knee and offering her a ring. "Do you recognize it?"

Violet gasps, "Of course I do. That's Sofia Carlton's ring." When they were kids, Lyle showed her this ring the first time she visited his house. He told her it was his grandmother's favorite piece of jewelry, and it was the first thing he ever stole. He called it his greatest treasure, and said he'd never part with it for any reason. "You're giving it to me?"

"You're my greatest treasure now, Violet. I would be honored if you'd wear it."

That night Violet is invited to a party hosted by her Aunt Jammie and Uncle Josiah. As they arrive Violet is greeted by her uncle Carter, who is very excited about her engagement.

While Violet chats with her uncle, Lyle is left to prowl the house unsupervised.

He certainly doesn't need a new computer, they have one just like this at home, and he has his own laptop, as well as enough money to buy several more computers just like this or better if he wanted. But kleptomania isn't about need or even desire, it's a compulsion, and the unattended PC calls to his twitching fingers.

Violet can't sleep until she's checked the faucets.

"I didn't even use the sink," Lyle informs her from the shower.

"I know," Violet says, "I just need to check it anyway."

That night, Violet has a nightmare. It's her wedding day, but when her guests arrive, the sinks all explode causing a huge flood in the hall, drowning everyone. 

After that nightmare, Violet cancels her wedding plans and opts instead for an at home wedding party.

Her home wedding party is not without its emergencies. Though she's becoming a talented chef, she'd decided not to stress herself about the food served at her party, and planned to use the food from the replicator. But when she replicates Allyson's key lime pie, it's spoiled. Violet freaks out, and then throws together a salad as fast as she can. She barely has time to dress before the guests start arriving.

Lyle is freaking out, too, just in a more subtle manner.

Guest start to arrive. Lyle's father Loren comes up and introduces himself. "You look familiar. Do I know you?"

"I'm your son, Lyle."

"No, I don't know any Lyle."

"Go mingle, Dad, Try not to ruin my wedding," Lyle says sadly.

Antone and Tamika (Wyoming McDermott's youngest daughter) want everyone to know they are newlyweds.

Not all of Lyle's family are insane, evil and criminal. His brother Nicholas and sister-in-law Janelle are sincere and gracious in their congratulations. Nicholas is considerably older than Lyle and escaped the Carlton house when his brother was just a toddler.

As they prepare to take their vows, Violet freaks out.

"You stole my heart," Violet says quietly as Lyle slips the ring onto her finger.

The room is full of their families and friends, but the Violet and Lyle barely notice them.

After the ceremony is done, Lyle approaches his mother, Chanel Carlton. As though this were just any other day, she launches into a boast about her business successes, ignoring that her son just got married.

"Well, I guess I should take your father home now. You be a good boy, now. I don't want to hear you've been misbehaving."

"Sure, Mom, thanks," Lyle says, and his mother leaves without a word of congratulations. A hug would be out of the question, Chanel doesn't engage in that kind of affection, but the preemptive reprimand wasn't really called for.

Finally, it's over and the couple are alone.

"That went pretty well," Violet observes, and then notices the expression on her husband's face, "What's wrong?"

"This was a mistake. I'm not good enough for you, Violet. I'm going to disappoint you..."

Violet knows him and knows the deep insecurities that lie beneath his cocky, self-assured demeanor, and she knows the source of his self-doubt all too well.

"You know that's not true. Do not let her ruin our happiness."

Violet guides him over to the bed. "I've watched you try over and again to make your mother happy, to make her say she's proud of you. It's never going to happen, Lyle. Not because you aren't worthy, but because she can't be pleased. She refuses to be anything but critical, to find a flaw in anything you do, no matter how good it is. But I do love you, and I'm proud to be your wife, so let's put our mommy issues behind us, and be happy together."

"I noticed your mother didn't say a word to you all day," Lyle observes.

Violet shakes her head, "Even though I'm not a vampire anymore, she still can't look at me without seeing Beau Merrick. It hurts, but I guess I understand. If someone did that to me, if I was made to carry a child from a man who forced himself on me..."

Her words rouse Lyle's protective instincts. "I would never let anyone hurt you, Violet."

Violet has got a job at the Little Corsican Bistro. Lyle isn't cut out for regular employment, instead he dabbles. He's set up shop in Oregon's office, working on various projects. It doesn't bother him in the least that that the walls are purple and decorated with fashion sketches.

He also does freelance work for the science facility. And hacking, because his kleptomania is not limited to swiping real objects, but also extends to breaking into computer files and transferring money into his offshore accounts. He's also not above industrial espionage, selling one business' secrets to another for his own profit.

One evening Violet is invited to a party hosted by Tamika and Antone McDermott.  Violet is working that evening, so Lyle shows up alone.

He's not interested in socializing, of course. It's the access he's here for. Your teddy bears are not safe.

Because of her late hours, Lyle and Violet eat dinner after the rest of her family is in bed. Tonight, she made Lyle's favorite, cheesesteak.

"Tamika called me," Violet says while they eat, "She says you showed up to her party, disappeared upstairs, and the next day she discovered some of her things went missing. She suspects you took them."

Lyle stands up, "I told you I'd disappoint you. Now you want me to leave, I suppose."

"Sit down and finish your dinner, Lyle," Violet answers with a smile, "I told you that I love you, knowing full well who you are. I just want you to be more careful. If stuff disappears every time you show up to a party, we aren't going to get invited to any more parties."

Lyle could do without the parties, but he wants to please Violet, so he finds other ways to indulge his kleptomania, like stealing Crissy Carlton-Wheloff's car.

Challenge Notes:
I originally threw a wedding party for Violet and Lyle at my community lot party hall. But shortly after I got the pic of Violet freaking out in front of the buffet, my game crashed. I had last saved right before she made the party call, so I decided to have a home party instead. And then I used my one community party pic as her 'nightmare'.

When I first had Lyle interact with his father at the wedding, he had the introduction interactions only available. Which I found very weird, as Lyle grew up in the same house as his father.
Lyle's mother does actually have the mean-spirited trait. 

Though I had Violet initiate the 'get married' interaction, the couple ended up with Carlton as a last name. I know that can be changed easily with master controller, but I haven't done it. It might be fun to change my legacy family name. I'm dithering. Will decide before they have kids, lol.

Lyle earned enough points to get the trait change reward, so I swapped his Snob for Computer Whiz, allowing him to hack for money. His LTW is to have 50k worth of stolen goods. I've never done that one, so it should be fun. 
He's also dabbling in invention, though obviously I can't sell anything he invents.

Oregon and Jeromy will be elders in a few days, and Hunter will become YA and move out.