Max watched as James set up his side of the army carefully picking up each ‘soldier’ and placing them in line. Sometimes it took James two or three tries to move the toys. It had been Max’s idea to play this game, but he no longer inspired. His own army was half assembled. He stared at the purple superhero in his hand.

The two boys are in Max's room. Toys line the floor. Max is holding Captain Sparkles, James a red truck.

“-Max?” James said breaking his concentration. Max looked up frowning. James army was ready and his own was still scattered across his side for the battlefield. “Everything okay?”

No. Yes. How to answer that? Max set down Captain Sparkles, digging the hero’s purple boots into the rug’s fibers. “Is everything okay with Mum?” he asked at last.

“With Bre?”

He nodded, not daring to look up. “They’ve been acting weird. Talking a lot.” Max frowned, that sounded so normal.

James's "army" is all lined up. Max's is still scattered. Max is looking sadly down at the toy in his hand.

It didn’t feel normal, though. Normally his parents talked where ever they were. He was used to bursting in on half-finshed conversations. But now he kept seeing them deep in conversations away from the rest of the house, alone. And then there was yesterday. “I heard Mom crying yesterday when I got home.”  Captain Sparkles suddenly came loose from the rug. Max looked down, a loop of the rug had come undone.

James stopped moving at that and came over to him. Pale blue hands just visible as he stared at the carpet.

“Julia was crying?”

Max is wiping his nose on his arm.

“I think so.” He sniffed and tried to hold back the tears that threatened to spill. He pulled at the carpet string but it didn’t come loose.

Max had come home from school and Mom hadn’t been downstairs at the computer or outside in the garden or anywhere she normally was. Just before he’d tried the bedroom he heard something odd. Pressing his ear against the door, he thought he heard his mother sniffing and talking quietly to herself.

Sepia Memory picture of Max in front of his parents' door. He is frowning.

Later she’d joined him at the table where he was doing his homework. She seemed normal enough then, but he thought she looked tired.

James sat back. Max waited. He knew James and his mom talked a lot. That was why he brought up. If something was wrong, James would know. He wondered if his parents were going to get a divorce. Lots of kids at school had divorced parents. The idea scared him worse than anything.

“Julia hasn’t said anything to me,” he said at last. “We mainly talk about the flowers. Did you know it’s finally bloomed?” James’s voice was excited. “It’s only this big” he spread two of his fingers about an inch apart. “But it’s never bloomed at all before.”

James has moved closer. He is holding his fingers about an inch apart to indicate the size of the Death Flower blossom.

Max nodded. His mom had said the same thing. But that had made her happy, so whatever this was, it wasn’t the flower. He felt like crying. If they got a divorce he might have to move or something. What if he couldn’t see James every day? What if his parents refused to talk like Mason’s parents had and his Mum moved across the country and he never saw her again?

James paused and sighed. “Hey,” he said softly. “I’ll ask her, okay?”

Max sniffed back the tears that threatened to spill and rubbed his nose. He felt like such a baby crying in front of James.

“I’ll let you know what she says, promise.”

“Even if it’s really bad?”
Back in the room. Max and James are still on the floor, surrounded by toys, talking.

“Even if she tells me not to tell you,” James said solemnly.

Max looked up surprised. “You would do that?”

“Yes, It’s making you miserable not knowing. I would tell you. But it might not be anything,” James warned, “Maybe she read a sad book. You know she cries during movies.”

Hope filled Max. That was possible, she had cried during the ending of that last movie she and Mum had watched. What had grandma said it was called? “Angel in the Darkness.” When he’d asked his mom what was so sad about it as she tucked him in, she’d smiled.

“It’s got a bittersweet ending,” she said.

“What’s it about?”

Julia laughed. “It’s a foreign film, German originally, I think. But it’s about love and death and…” she grinned, eyes twinkling. “Ghosts.”

Another Sepia Memory. This time Julia is tucking Max into bed.

“Is that why you cried?”

“You saw that?” she laughed. “Yes, it kind of reminded me of James.”

“I’ll ask her tonight,” James repeated. And Max forced himself to relax. James was right, it was probably nothing. But it was good to know that if it was something, James would tell him.


Once Max was in bed, I headed for the garden. That was where Julia normally was after she got back from her class. I didn’t want to frighten Max more, but I was also worried about Julia. I hadn’t lied, she hadn’t said anything to me, but I was pretty sure something was wrong. Normally Julia was quick to smile and with the plant producing its first, if tiny, blossoms, I expected her to be beyond excited. After months spent experimenting and watching and waiting, our efforts were finally paying off! But Julia’s excitement seemed subdued.

Julia in her garden crying. James is watching,.

She was tending her garden as I expected. It wasn’t just the Death Flower, all the plants were thriving under her care. I hesitated, she hadn’t noticed me yet, and her expression was unguarded. Her expression was sad and maybe a little angry as she ripped the weeds out from the planters. She looked up and saw me. Her expression faltered.

“Oh, James!” She rubbed her face quickly, dirt smearing, sticking her her cheek. But it was too late for I had already seen her tears.

“What’s wrong?” I came closer. Hoping she would give in and tell me. She used to tell me everything, before…before I messed up and I missed that.

Julia has stopped crying and is looking at James.

She sighed softly and gave a small smile standing up. Moving out of my reach. She wasn’t going to tell me, I realized. Did she see me more as only a child? Like Max? Someone to be protected? Irritation flowed through me. I wasn’t the same as Max.

“You can’t say it’s nothing,” I interrupted her before she could speak. Before she could deny anything was wrong. “Even Max knows something up. He thinks you and Bre might be getting a divorce.” It out in a rush, a confession. I wanted her to know she couldn’t avoid us anymore. She couldn’t pretend.

She hiccuped then, half laugh and half sob. And I was suddenly terrified he was right. I couldn’t imagine them not being together. I might not have warmed up to Bre, but I had watched them together. Bre made Julia happier than I’d seen her in a long time.

Close up of Julia trying not to cry again.

“Not a divorce, never.” She shook her head and the knot of tension that had been forming relaxed. Max would be so happy to hear that. “It’s -”

She paused and looked at me, her eyes shining with tears, open and exposed. Then that vulnerability faded. She was seeing me as a child again. I moved right next to her until we were eye to eye. Or as much as I could be. “Julia, what’s wrong?” I willed her to remember all our time together, all those years. Sure I still looked like a kid, but she’d known me her whole life.

Julia is hiding her face from James.

“Bre’s sick,” she said, almost too soft to hear.

Similar picture to the previous one, only James is no longer blue - he has gone pale.


Credits

  • Challenge details: CitizenErased14’s Ambrosia Challenge
  • The “movie” Julia watched is another Ambrosia Challenge ‘Angel In Darkness.’ by Marialein. If by some chance you’re not already reading it. You should. Julia says it’s worth the tears.
  • Max’s Bed is a ModPod Twin Recolor by Menaceman44
  • TS2 Painting for TS4 by Tukete
  • Stepstool, Ikea-esk Desk and Backpack from Around the Sims4
  • Various Toys from PlasticBox
  • Once again, it could not be done without Andrew’s Pose Player
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