The Bloomer Legacy: 8.24 Never Forget

He seemed calm, almost serene. Astrid didn’t know what to make of it. She expected Paolo to be angry or distant like Candy, but instead, there was a smile on his face.

They walked far enough from the wedding festivities to get some privacy. Now that it was only the two of them, it felt like the whole world has disappeared. Astrid’s stomach was doing cartwheels.

2

She opened her mouth, but words failed her.

Paolo helped her out; “So, you’re Astrid.”

He studied her face with a strange smile.

“I know we’ve met, of course,” he explained. “But it almost feels like it was in someone else’s life, and not mine. Besides, I’ve never actually seen what you really look like.”

“And… what do you think?” Astrid asked, in spite of herself.

“I see a lot of both of my daughters in you,” he smiled.

3

Here we go, Astrid thought. “You should know that the alien responsible for your abduction was the same alien that abducted my father. So the similarity with Peyton… it’s not a coincidence.”

“Oh.” Paolo processed the new information for a moment. “Just when you’d think the family couldn’t get any more messed up.”

4

“I never meant for any of that to happen to you,” Astrid exclaimed. “And I never wanted to hurt you either. Not you, and not Candy. She was my best friend. And you…”

Astrid couldn’t bear to go on. How could she even begin to describe how she felt?

5

“You said Pauline and I look similar,” she resumed speaking finally. “Well, I don’t see it. You’re all I see when I look at her face. There was a time when she was little, when I told her both she and I were monsters. I remember it to this day.”

Astrid paused, waiting for Paolo to disapprove of her behaviour, tell her she failed as a mother. But he didn’t say a thing. He was just listening. She carried on:

“I hated myself, and I hated that she got my skin to burden her forever. But the older she got, the more I saw it. She was all you. She is all you. And she’s beautiful.”

6

“I can’t even begin to explain how glad I am that you two somehow have a relationship now, in spite of everything I did. Pauline hates me, and I can’t imagine how much you must hate me, but I’m so happy you don’t hold that against her.”

“I don’t hate you,” Paolo finally spoke. “I’m not even angry at you. I’m not going to say you did everything right, but I only have the life I have because of you. So thank you.”

Astrid’s eyes widened. “You’re thanking me?”

7

“You gave me two wonderful daughters. You brought me to Candy. You made me grow up. You made me stop thinking just about myself. I loved you.”

“I loved you too. I… I still do.” Astrid’s voice was shaky.

She looked at him, with expectation palpable in her eyes.

Paolo shook his head.

“I love my wife,” he said simply. “But I don’t hate you, Astrid.”

He turned around, making his way back to the reception.

8

A smile spread across Astrid’s face. He didn’t hate her. She’d probably never stop loving him, and he’d probably never love her again. But he didn’t hate her. And in Astrid’s world, that was good enough.

9

Paolo sat down beside his wife.

“So, how was your… chat?” she asked bitterly.

“I’m so sorry,” Paolo said tearfully. “I know that must have been horrible for you. It’s just, if Astrid taught me anything, it’s that you shouldn’t leave loose ends.”

10

“I needed to meet her, to finally understand it all,” Paolo tried to explain. “To understand who I was, and the hold she must have had on me for me to have cheated on you. Finding out what I did to you, after all this time… I can’t take it back.”

He looked his wife in the eyes and continued: “We both know you can never take anything back, even if you erase it from people’s minds. Well, I don’t want to erase it. I just want to prove to you that I can be a good husband, and make it up to you every day. Am I making any sense?”

11

Slowly, Candy stood up. She let out a small chuckle. And then she burst in full-blown laughter. She couldn’t seem to stop herself.

Paolo watched her uncomfortably.

12

“I get why you’d laugh at me,” Paolo said finally. “I do sound like an idiot.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Candy interrupted. “I wasn’t laughing at you. When you came back after talking to Astrid, I thought you were going to say you were leaving me for her.”

13

Paolo blinked: “What? I would never…”

“I get that now,” Candy stopped him. “Look… we’re ok. Or we will be. I would say let’s forget about it, but the irony of the situation isn’t lost on me.”

She laughed awkwardly.

“And you’re right,” she carried on. “Nobody should close their eyes to the past. So… let’s not forget. Let’s move on.”

14

Paolo hugged his wife tightly. Things had been rocky between them ever since their memories got returned, but he now finally knew they’d be fine again. They had to be.

15

The bride watched them from the distance with a smile. Her wedding day was a day of love. The rekindled love between an estranged husband and wife…

16

The sibling love between her new husband Leo and his sister Tabitha…

And of course, aunt Yenn’s vigorous love of life itself.

What a fantastic day.

Yenn noticed Pauline was looking at her. She stopped dancing and walked over to her.

17

“You know what would make this day even better?” Yenn asked her conspicuously.

“Have you just read my mind?” Pauline grinned.

Yenn arched an eyebrow.

“Figuratively, of course,” Pauline giggled. “I know that in this family, things like that have become an actual accusation.”

18

“Speaking of which, I was going to suggest that you talk to your mother,” Yenn said.

“Ugh,” Pauline groaned. “That’s SO not what I was thinking.”

“I know,” Yenn said. “But right now, your grudges are the only thing clouding your special day. And you can change that. Change the memory in a very real way. No alien powers necessary.” She smiled.

“You really need to stop being so annoyingly right all the time,” Pauline rolled her eyes. And with a sigh, she approached her mother.

19

“Hi,” she said, cringing.

Astrid looked up, surprised. “Hi!”

20

They sat together in uncomfortable silence for what felt like an eternity. At least, Pauline thought it was uncomfortable. But she noticed her mother beaming.

21

“It was a beautiful wedding,” Astrid said eventually. “Thank you for letting me stay. That couldn’t have been easy. You’re a much bigger person than I’ll ever be.  In fact, you’re nothing like me, thankfully. I’m proud of you, Pauline.”

22

Pauline could feel the corners of her mouth lifting in a smile.

“I’m glad you were here,” Pauline realised.

Neither of them said anything else, but neither stood up either.

23

“Sorry to interrupt your, err, conversation,” Leo came to the table. “But the sun is up.”

“I can’t believe the party lasted all night,” Pauline yawned, suddenly feeling the fatigue set in.

“More importantly, we have a plane to catch… if we want to go on our honeymoon, that is.” Leo smirked.

24

“Go,” Astrid told them.

“Nice seeing you, Astrid,” Leo said politely.

“And you,” Astrid nodded. “Oh, and Leo… make her happy.”

“That’s what I’m here for.”

25

Leaving the wedding venue behind, Leo took Pauline’s hands in his.

“Looks like you two had a bit of a moment,” he said. “I hope you don’t mind I whisked you away.”

“Are you kidding? Keep on whisking!”

26

Leo beamed; “I thought you’d never ask!”

The Bloomer Legacy: 8.23 The Loves Past

“Congratulations, Mrs Sorrano!” Peyton hugged her sister.

Pauline’s aunts who were just casually drinking nearby both tilted their heads.

“She’s just kidding,” Pauline called towards them. “I’m still a Bloomer. The legacy’s fine, no need to panic!”

2

The two sisters giggled as Pauline’s aunts returned back to normal.

“Just between you and me, I kind of wish I could have taken Leo’s name,” Pauline whispered.

“Then you should have!”

“A Bloomer heir that’s not a Bloomer? That would be scandalous!”

They started laughing again.

3

“Anyway, you helped me get ready this morning and I haven’t even said anything about your new hair,” Pauline changed the subject. “Sorry for being so self-absorbed! It really suits you, Peyt!”

“You’re the bride, sis! Everything’s kind of supposed to revolve around you today,” Peyton said brightly. “You could not notice at all and it would still be ok! But thank you, for always thinking of me.”

“Oh no, don’t make me cry again, I did enough of that during the ceremony,” Pauline welled up.

4

“Can you believe it? Pauline is all grown up,” Yenn sat down next to Astrid.

She examined the woman’s face. “It was brave of you to come here. How are you holding up?”

5

“I didn’t exactly expect her to be thrilled to see me,” Astrid shrugged. “I’m just glad I could see my little girl get married. I probably won’t stick around very long though…”

Astrid glanced towards Candy and Paolo nervously.

6

“Such a beautiful ceremony,” Candy enthused.

“Thank you for inviting us,” Paolo added.

“Don’t be ridiculous, like I’d get married without having my parents here,” Pauline blurted out.

“Of course, we heard Astrid is here,” Candy said awkwardly.

“I didn’t invite her,” Pauline explained quickly. “And I wasn’t talking about her. I meant you guys.”

Candy choked up. “I couldn’t… I’m not…”

“I wish you were,” Pauline told her.

Paolo could see it was all starting to be a bit much for Candy. “Well I’m sure everybody wants a piece of the newlyweds, so we won’t keep you.”

“We’ll talk to you later,” Leo smiled. “And of course, we’ll see you right after the honeymoon.”

The couple was planning to go to a resort near Windenburg, so they’d arranged to visit Paolo, Candy and Peyton before returning back to Newcrest.

7

“Pauline really is a wonderful girl,” Candy sniffed, overwhelmed with emotion.

“I know,” Paolo agreed. “Thank you for coming to the wedding with me. It means a lot, to both of us.”

8

While Candy and Paolo were sharing their emotional moment, Pauline’s uncles were a lot more pragmatic about the whole marriage business.

“I bet Kiersten will be expecting romantic gestures for the foreseeable future now,” Noel sighed jokingly.

“Same with Anika,” Theo joined in. “Whoever came up with the idea of weddings didn’t think it through. Wives expectations raised, being forced to make small talk with relatives you barely knew existed… no offense, Peyton!”

“Speaking of which, apparently our sister’s here,” Noel gestured towards Astrid at the bar.

“Oh, great,” Theo grunted. “I stand by my point…”

9

Meanwhile, their wives were too busy gawking over Danrof’s adorableness to even think of whether their husbands will be extra romantic in the days to come…

10

As for Danrof, this was the first wedding he’d experienced, and he was determined to make the most of it, no matter if he was the only person dancing or if his moves irritated the other guests.

Pauline let out a small laugh is she watched him. She was glad her and Danrof were able to stay friends. Which brought her to the next point on her agenda.

11

“You guys haven’t changed at all,” she grinned as she joined Davion and Starr at their table.

It was the first time she’d seen the two of them since her move to Newcrest. Her anger over them becoming a couple seemed like a distant memory now. They did look cute together, actually, she observed.

“But you are all grown up,” Davion smiled broadly. “Thank you for inviting us. It means a lot that… you know…”

“That I’m not jealous of you two?” Pauline finished his sentence. “I’m a married woman now! It was a good first kiss Davion, but don’t flatter yourself.” She teased.

12

“So are you guys thinking of tying the knot? You’ve been together for a few years now…”

“Who knows, tonight does seem like quite the romantic night that might inspire someone to finally pop the question,” Starr looked at Davion, not so subtly.

“You know what, it just might.” Davion answered.

Starr became flustered. Probably best to leave these two lovebirds alone, Pauline chuckled to herself.

13

Leo emerged from the crowd. “May I have this dance?”

“I’d love that,” Pauline got up. “It was god to see you guys!”

But not all reunions with loves past were bound to be happy ones…

14

Candy felt a shadow fall over her. It was her.

“I was hoping I could talk to you,” Astrid finally spoke up. “Both of you.”

“Since you can read minds, you should know that we have no desire to talk to you,” Candy said coldly.

15

“I won’t take too much of your time,” Astrid pleaded. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”

“Well I have nothing to say to you,” Candy retorted as she walked away.

16

As she sat down, she’d realised her husband hadn’t joined her yet. “Paolo?”

Paolo hesitated.

“I… I could talk.” He looked at his wife cautiously.

A shocked expression spread over Candy’s face briefly, but she manged to compose herself.

“Fine. I won’t stop you,” she said, distant. “I’ll be here when you two are finished with… whatever this is.”

17

Astrid turned to Paolo. Even after all these years, seeing him made her feel weak in the knees. “Thank you,” she managed to say.

“Ok,” he nodded. “Let’s talk.”

The Bloomer Legacy: 8.22 Wedding Jitters

Leo was pacing around the venue entrance. Most of the guests had already arrived, so there was no reason to wait with the ceremony. Well, no reason other than…

“Nervous?” Yenn asked him with a bright smile.

“Yes. No. It’s just… she’s taking a while, isn’t she? She hasn’t changed her mind, right?” He laughed uncomfortably.

“I was just with her, so not unless it happened in the last 3 minutes,” Yenn joked.

Leo’s worried expression told her that he wasn’t going to be appreciative of humour.

2

“Don’t worry Leo! Pauline’s crazy about you,” she said reassuringly. “It’s a big day for her, so she wants to look perfect. She’ll be up here soon.”

She hugged the antsy groom and went over to greet Paolo and Candy. Something told her it wasn’t going to be an easy day for them.

***

3

“Ok, breathe. Ok.” Pauline spun around for the millionth time. “You look good. Both Peyton and Aunt Yenn said so. You’ll be fine. You won’t trip over your dress. Ok.”

Maybe she should touch up her lipstick one last time. No. Time to go. She was just about to exit the room when the door opened.

4

“I really am ready this time, honest,” she called out to the hallway. “I was literally about to go upstairs…”

“You look stunning,” the echoey alien voice said.

Pauline turned abruptly.

5

“What are you doing here?” she said sharply.

“Is it so unusual for the mother of the bride to be present at the wedding?” Astrid attempted to smile.

Pauline was bemused. “How did you even know I’m getting married?”

“Yenn told me. You haven’t banned me from talking to her too, have you?”

“Aunt Yenn invited you?” Pauline asked incredulously.

6

“Not exactly,” Astrid said evasively. “She told me when and where the wedding was taking place and…”

“And you decided to invite yourself? Wow.”

“I’m sorry. I thought that maybe you’d want me here,” Astrid’s voice broke off.

7

Great,” Pauline gritted through her teeth.

“Clearly I was wrong,” Astrid said finally. “I’ll just go.”

Pauline let out a deep sigh.

“You can stay if you want. I don’t care.”

Astrid felt as if her daughter plunged a knife in her. The only thing worse than Pauline not wanting her at the wedding was her not caring if she was there or not.

8

“I’m late,” Pauline stood up. “So if you want to watch the ceremony I suggest you come upstairs now.”

Astrid’s gaze followed her daughter to the doorway.

“I almost forgot,” Pauline stopped before exiting the room. Astrid looked up with a glimmer of hope.

“Dad and his wife are here. I’d try to avoid them if I were you. I doubt they’d want to reminisce about the good old times the three of you had… Oh yeah, that’s right. Peyton gave them their memories back, so they know who you are now.”

9

And with that, Pauline walked out the door.

Astrid was speechless. Paolo and Candy remembered her now? This was a mistake…

10

Leo only needed one look at his gorgeous bride.

“Something’s wrong,” his heart sunk.

“You wouldn’t believe…” Pauline stopped herself. “It doesn’t matter.”

11

Leo was there. He was holding her hand. They were about to get married. Nothing and no one was going to ruin this day for her.

12

The Bloomer Legacy: 8.21 Romance

Pauline and Leo had only just finished their breakfast and were about to decide how to spend the rest of their day, when they heard the doorbell.

“I’ll get it,” Pauline offered.

“Hurry back,” Leo blew her a playful kiss.

Pauline smiled to herself. She still couldn’t believe this was really her life. It was so…

2

“Aunt Yenn!” Pauline stopped in her tracks.

“Hi honey,” Yenn entered the room with a wide grin. “Ah, good old Newcrest!”

3

Yenn looked around the familiar room.

“Feels good to be home!”

“I had no idea you were coming back,” Pauline’s eyes followed her aunt. “Does this mean you’ve found love?”

4

“But of course,” Yenn nodded. “Lots of love! But enough about me. You’re engaged! And Peyton’s moved back to Windenburg… I’ve been gone for too long.”

“Not at all,” Pauline disagreed. “I did miss you, but you deserved having some time to focus on you. Not to mention, I’m doing just fine, as you can tell.”

She winked.

“So, when can I meet your new man, aunt Yenn?”

5

“New man? I wouldn’t know about that,” Yenn smiled innocently.

“Wait, so you haven’t met anyone?”

“I’ve met lots of people. Made many new friends,” Yenn’s eyes sparkled.

“You should have stayed there longer!” Pauline interrupted.

“And miss your wedding? I don’t think so,” Yenn closed the discussion resolutely. “Speaking of which, where is Leo?”

6

“Right here,” Leo joined them, looking almost shy. “Good to see you, Yenn.”

“And you,” Yenn replied. “From what I’ve heard you’ve been making Pauline very happy.”

7

“I do try,” Leo smirked.

“Good,” Yenn said simply.

8

The three of them sat down to catch up, with Pauline recounting all about how her and Leo first got together, and the proposal. In return, Yenn told them about the connections she made, the gorgeous sunrises and the paintings she’d brought back with her.

9

Leo then left the ladies on their own, to give them a chance to properly enjoy their reunion.

Pauline observed her aunt. Seemed like she still danced with the same vigorous spark as before…

10

… still felt the same appreciation for life.

11

But even though she looked so happy, and Pauline couldn’t help but smile when looking at her, was she really satisfied with the outcome of her stay at the Freezer Bunny resort?

12

“I can hear you think,” Yenn looked at her niece. “What’s troubling you honey?”

“It’s just… why did you say you found love at the retreat, when there is no new love in your life?” Pauline asked awkwardly.

“But I have returned with love, Pauline,” Yenn shrugged. “New and old.”

13

“The love I feel for Cathy, who spent every moment worrying about our needs and our feelings, putting aside her own ones. The love I feel for Nate’s wisdom, Bradley’s jokes, Puma’s open-mindedness and Melany’s sweet disposition… If you’d told me how close I’d become with these strangers when I was your age, I wouldn’t have believed you. Me, a loner? Becoming friends with people who are not my family?”

Yenn tilted her head, pausing for a moment.

“But it’s not just the new love that I’ve brought with me. Being away has made me love this place and my family even more. Those who built Newcrest and are long gone. And you, who still have your future ahead of you. And being here to witness it all… What’s there to not love?”

14

Pauline listened to her aunt’s speech; “But… what about romance?”

“Romance is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?” Yenn agreed.

15

“All I need to do to see it is look at you and Leo,” Yenn added.

“But I was talking about you!”

“Ah, well it’s hard to focus on anyone else when I see the way you two look at each other,” Yenn chuckled.

16

Pauline sighed. “Fine, I give up. I get it. Romance is not for you.”

“I haven’t said that.”

***

17

She looked at the building with quiet appreciation. It warmed her heart she’d contributed to the town’s development with building a place that has seen generations get married. Even Pauline would soon join them, with her wedding set to take place here.

18

But it wasn’t thoughts of weddings that made Yenn come here. Or the pride she felt for the legacy. She walked past the graves of her ancestors with respect and appreciation, but she didn’t stop.

19

“Hi Ethan,” she sat down. “I know you’re not in there, but at least talking to your grave makes me seem a bit less crazy than talking to myself.”

She chuckled.

“I do hope you can hear me, wherever you are. I have a lot to tell you about. Pauline wanted me to find romance again, imagine… what she doesn’t realise is that I’ve never lost it in the first place. The people I’ve met, they were wonderful. And there was one person I had a special bond with…”

20

“But he wasn’t you.”

For a brief moment, Yenn’s light left her face. She sat in silence.

21

At last, her lips curved into a smile again.

“See what you’ve done to me? Pauline thinks I’m not a romantic. But she couldn’t be more wrong. I’m more hopeless than you ever were.”

She laughed softly.

22

“Just you wait till we see each other again – I’ll have a thing or two to say about you making all of that soulmate talk of yours rub onto me!”

The Bloomer Legacy: 8.20 Perfect Day

This mind focusing nonsense better work, Peyton thought. Think positive. You’re Peyton. You can do anything. You…

“Anybody home?”

Peyton grunted. She recognised Royce’s voice immediately, but it wasn’t like she could hide – she was already outside in plain sight.

2

“Royce,” she nodded coldly. “To what do I owe this… pleasure?”

“Hi Peyton,” Royce ignored her sarcasm. “I wanted to talk to you…”

“That makes one of us,” she rolled her eyes.

“Wait, hear me out!”

3

“You might find this hard to believe but… I like you. I want to be with you. I’ve tried everything to fight it, but nothing’s worked. I’m sick of pretending.”

“I’m not sure what to say,” Peyton stared at him.

“Then don’t say anything,” Royce continued. “You and I, we’re just meant to be. I mean, I tried avoiding you, I tried to shout it away, I tried dating a normal girl…”

“Woah!”

4

“A normal girl?” Peyton lashed out. “What do you think I am?”

“Come on Peyton, we both know… But it’s cool, because you’re so fun and good-looking that I want to date you regardless. Doesn’t that speak volumes?”

Peyton couldn’t believe that for a brief moment, she’d almost fallen for his plum.

5

“Yeah, it speaks volumes alright,” she told him. “Get the plum out of here!”

“What? I don’t get it. I just told you…”

“You just told me everything I’ll ever need to know about you. Leave now.

6

“You alien chicks are crazy,” Royce shook his head. “Like I’d deal with your bullplum…”

Peyton was consumed by her rage. She wasn’t sure how long she’d stayed on the porch for. It could have been a few seconds, or an hour… Next thing she knew, her sister had gotten home from work.

7

“Peyt? Are you alright?” Pauline approached her, worried.

“I need to get out of here,” Peyton realised.

“What?”

8

“I need to go somewhere where I can be myself again… where I don’t run into Royce’s stupid face every time I open the door!”

So that’s what this was about, Pauline thought. Of course. “What has he done now?” She asked.

“It’s not just about him,” Peyton burst out. “Nothing’s going my way. I need to leave Newcrest!”

9

“You mean, like a holiday? Oh, we could go somewhere, just the two of us,” Pauline recovered. ”A girls’ getaway! Just imagine! It’ll be so much fun!”

“That’s not what I meant, Pauline,” Peyton said softly. “I think it’s time for me to move back to Windenburg.”

10

“You can’t be serious…”

“Why not?” Peyton asked. “I have no luck here.”

“But… we’ll turn it around. I promise,” Pauline pleaded desperately.

11

“It’ll be ok,” Peyton smiled. “You’ll be ok. You don’t need me here anymore.”

“That’s not true!”

“I don’t mean it in a bad way. But you’re fine on your own now. You’ve found your happiness. And now you need to let me find mine. Besides, it’s not like we won’t visit each other!”

Pauline sighed: “At least sleep on it. You’re not in a good place to make a decision like that.”

“Actually, I feel better than I have in a long time. This is what I need.”

***

12

Leo dashed towards Pauline. “Is everything alright? You sounded urgent on the phone.”

“Peyton moved out,” Pauline announced.

“Oh, I’m sorry. When did it happen?”

“Just earlier this morning,” Pauline shook her head. “It happened so suddenly, she decided last night and today she’s already on the plane to Windenburg.”

“Are you ok?”

“I’m fine. I’m just worried about her. Seems like she really rushed it. I get that she needed to get away and clear her head, but she should have thought it through…”

“I’m sorry,” Leo stroked Pauline’s cheek. “Anything I can do to make you feel better?”

13

“Yeah, actually,” Pauline’s face lit up. “You should move in with me!”

“Really?” Leo beamed. “Are you sure?”

“This house is way too large for just one person. Besides, I need you to protect me,” Pauline batted her eyelashes jokingly.

14

They spent the morning lounging by the pool. Pauline was trying to pay attention to what Leo was saying, but for the more often than not, she found herself drowning in his green eyes. Not to mention the kissing. Pauline’s mind trailed off giddily. Was there such a thing as a daydream within a daydream?

15

In the afternoon, she practiced music for work while Leo read a book. Pauline had no idea Leo was into reading, but apparently Leo and his sister had loved books ever since childhood. Who would have thought?

And now she would learn new things about him every day, she smiled to herself. She should make a point of asking what his book was about later.

16

In the evening, Leo offered to cook.

“You really don’t have to,” Pauline told him. “I can whip something up – won’t beat aunt Yenn’s cooking, but should be edible at the very least.”

“Don’t worry, I enjoy cooking,” he shrugged nonchalantly. “There’s something about the way the flavours mix to create something new. It’s like poetry. Or your music.”

17

“This is actually really good,” Pauline revelled, savouring the taste of the sauce.

“Are you really surprised that an Italian knows how to cook spaghetti?” Leo winked at her.

“Good point,” Pauline chuckled. “So, books and cooking, huh? Maybe you should ditch that bartending job and write a cookbook.”

“I’d like that.”

“I’m serious,” Pauline said. “You don’t need to work for me. In fact, you shouldn’t. I wouldn’t want it to make things weird between us. And we’ve got plenty of other bartenders. You should do what you love.”

“I do have a little food blog…”

“So make it a big food blog!”

“The biggest,” Leo joked, gesturing.

18

“You’re amazing, you know that?” Leo stopped laughing.

Pauline blushed; “You’re not so bad yourself…”

19

The couple finished their day with a slow dance on the back deck.

“Today’s been perfect,” Pauline whispered in Leo’s ear. “And now that you live here, every day can be like this.”

“I feel the same way,” Leo nodded. “In fact…”

20

Pauline watched him drop to one knee, as in slow motion.

“In fact, I want every day to be exactly like this,” Leo continued. “Will you marry me, Pauline?”

The neighbours could probably hear Pauline’s heart pounding. This was crazy. And wonderful. And crazy.

21

“Yes!” Pauline breathed out. “I want nothing more.”

The Bloomer Legacy: 8.19 Serious Business

Pauline couldn’t wait to see Leo again. Luckily for her, he felt the same way so the two lovebirds met in the Ruby Perrin park the very next day.

2

“You look pretty,” Leo greeted her.

“I look the same as always,” Pauline shrugged.

“That’s because you always look pretty,” he smiled.

Pauline looked around nervously. Accepting compliments still wasn’t her strong suite.

“You know, there’s one thing I’ve always wanted to try ever since we’ve put this new fountain in,” she said mischievously…

3

“Putting soap in the fountain?” Leo fake gasped. “Surely that’s not what the Newsrest heiress should be doing,” he teased.

“Probably not,” she smirked. “Will you tell on me?”

“Your town, your rules.”

4

“I still forget about all of this responsibility,” Pauline grew serious. “It was so much easier when I was just a girl living on an island who wanted nothing more but to have friends and be free. Now the whole town relies on me, and I have 7 generations to live up to…”

“They’ve set up a good foundation for you,” Leo told her. “Newcrest is the best place I know.”

“I know, but maybe, in a way, they had it easier,” Pauline pondered. “There wasn’t much around, so they had no one to be compared with.”

“True,” Leo agreed. “But it must have been harder for them to keep going. They didn’t know how great the place would become one day. Must have been harder to find motivation. You… you just need to look around,” he smiled.

“You do have a point,” she admitted. “I just don’t want to mess it all up.”

“You won’t,” he reassured her. “Just do what your ancestors did – follow your dreams and hope for the best.”

“Easier said than done,” she chuckled. “Anyway… sorry to have such a serious conversation right off the bat. But this legacy is important to me. It will come up often… if you stick around, that is.” She added, flustered.

5

“I wasn’t planning on going anywhere,” Leo replied. “Speaking of serious business… looks like your soap’s working…”

Pauline turned around.

“Woah…”

“I suppose another tip for the legacy is never start what you can finish… because you’ll have to live with the consequences,” Leo grinned impishly.

“What do you mean?”

Instead of an answer, Leo started splashing her with the fizzy water.

6

“Hey, you’ll pay for that!”

Before Pauline knew it, they were in the fountain, bubbles flying everywhere.

They ran around like crazy kids as if the time had stopped, splashing at each other.

7

“Ok ok, I surrender,” Pauline giggled, drenched.

“That’s what I thought,” Leo smirked. “You’re at my mercy now!”

8

“At your mercy, huh?” she joked. “So, what are you going to do with me?”

Leo seemed to slow down suddenly: “I could think of a thing or two…”

9

And with that, he swept her in his arms in the longest and most passionate kiss Pauline had ever experienced.

***

10

Naturally, Peyton was elated for Pauline. Her sister deserved all the happiness in the world. But while Peyton’s excitement and encouragement were real…

11

…she couldn’t help but wonder but things haven’t really been going her way lately. She used to be popular in Windenburg, and although she was hardly lonely now, it didn’t feel like she had as many friends.

Her career in the entertainment industry wasn’t really progressing much (Pauline, on the other hand had just become a jingle jammer, entering into the music business).

And as for Peyton’s love life… aside from all the plummery with Royce, there was nothing new on that front whatsoever.

No, things were definitely not going Peyton’s way…

12

At all.

13

“Run,” Pauline yelled making her way to the fire with an extinguisher.

Not that Peyton needed prompting.

Thankfully Pauline managed to extinguish both her sister and the kitchen. Crisis averted.

14

“Phew,” Pauline hugged Peyton, relieved. “Maybe next time, we should just order take out.”

“Or ask your foodie boyfriend to cook,” Peyton winked.

“Pfft, we can take care of ourselves,” Pauline objected. “Girl power, remember!”

“You sure looked like a superhero with that fire extinguisher,” Peyton grinned.

But on the inside, she didn’t feel like smiling at all.

15

Since when was it her who needed to be saved by Pauline, and not the other way around?

The Bloomer Legacy: 8.18 Explode

Perhaps Royce had been seeing her for a while, and she was the reason for his sudden coldness. Or maybe it was a new development, with him being determined to show he had no interest in alien women.

2

In either case, seeing him with her made Peyton feel like she was stabbed in the gut.

“Come on sis, drink up,” Pauline said encouragingly. “Who cares about that llama head, right?”

“You’re right,” Peyton sighed. “I don’t know why I’m so hung up on this plum…”

3

“Oh hi Peyton, Pauline,” Royce waved at them, looking smug.

“Hi Royce,” Pauline attempted to stay civil.

“Hope you girls aren’t jealous,” Royce walked over to them.

4

“Plummit Royce, what’s wrong with you?” Pauline couldn’t stop herself anymore. “I don’t know what point you’re trying to prove, but we’d all be better off if you just stayed out of our way!”

“Woah, woah…” Royce stepped back.

5

“No need to get all saucy, Pauline,” he said finally. “I get it, you feel left out because you never got enough attention from me. Well you’re a fine looking woman for a greenskin, so maybe I could make an exception…”

6

“Ok, I’ve had enough!” Pauline’s blood was boiling. “After everything that’s happened, you really think that trying to flirt with me is the way to go? I’m so done with you plum!”

She picked up her drink, made a few steps towards Royce and then threw the contents of her glass into his face with full force.

7

“What the…”

“You need a further explanation?” Pauline asked. “You’re not welcome in my family’s bar! Or in our town really. I can’t make you leave Newcrest, but I sure as plum can kick you out of here!”

***

8

“Take that, Royce!” Pauline shouted angrily at the screen while tapping at the buttons aggressively.

“I do hear that video games are good for releasing tension, but you look like you’ll break the machine,” Danrof turned to her. “Didn’t you only just have these fitted?”

The arcade in the basement was the newest addition to the Captain Duckhorse Library. From what aunt Yenn said about her father, Peter would have approved of the upgrade to his community lot.

9

“You’re right, why would I take my anger out on a machine when Royce is right over there?” Pauline pointed towards the other side of the room.

10

“Gotcha!” she yelled out as soon as Danrof turned around.

Danrof gave her a puzzled look: “Is this a part of the courtship ritual customary for dates?”

“Sorry, I’m just being silly.” Pauline apologised. “No, it isn’t. Though I wouldn’t know. I’ve only been on one other date and I managed to ruin that one.”

“How so?”

11

“I let my feelings get the best of me, and transferred my anger into all the wrong places. Kind of like now,” Pauline realised.

“Did you try to rectify the situation?”

“Not really, I guess.”

Pauline wasn’t sure what to make of all of the realisations that were coming to her.

“Doesn’t this subject make you uncomfortable?” she asked Danrof. “Previous dates…”

“I’m a foreigner on this planet,” Danrof smiled. “Everything could make me uncomfortable. Or I could just approach it all scientifically and never feel uncomfortable, because it’s all a part of the process. I chose the latter.”

“That’s very smart.”

“Besides, I hear that it’s important to learn from past mistakes,” Danrof continued.

“Once again, you’ve got the best approach to everything,” Pauline shook her head.

“So, will you not be revisiting dating possibilities with the other individual?” Danrof asked.

12

“Danrof, I…” Pauline blushed. “I’m sorry, I should have told you I went out with Leo that one time.”

“Leo? Didn’t he say he genuinely likes you?”

Pauline looked down, observing the tips of her feet as if they were the most interesting thing she’s seen in a long time.

“Oh, now I made you feel uncomfortable,” Danrof said. “I apologise. I am still learning the local ways. Let’s stop talking about this. Come here, let’s take a photo instead, to commemorate the non-date.”

13

Pauline smiled for the camera.

“Wait, did you say non-date?” it dawned on Pauline.

“Do you think there is romantic potential for the two of us?” he replied with a question.

Pauline sighed: “You’re a great friend, Danrof. I love you, I do, but… if I had the alien emotional glow when I’m with you, it would be green, not pink. I’m sorry.”

14

“I don’t see why you should be sorry,” Danrof hugged her. “Green is a good colour.”

***

Pauline lingered at the library; she didn’t feel like going home just yet, so she decided to send aunt Yenn a quick email. She wondered if her aunt’s love life was working out better than her own…

15

“Pauline,” a familiar voice greeted her. “What a surprise! I thought you had a computer in your house!”

Across the desk, Leo was smiling brightly at her.

16

“Leo! Just the person I wanted to talk to,” Pauline grinned.

“Really?” Leo seemed taken aback.

“Yeah… would you mind talking outside? Unless you’re busy…” Pauline’s eye lingered toward Leo’s monitor.

He laughed: “I think Incredible Sports can wait for a little while.”

17

“So, what can I help you with?” Leo asked.

“I realised that after an initial inspection of our romantic potential, we failed to re-evaluate our attachment,” Pauline grinned.

“Uh… what?”

18

Pauline decided to explain in a more instructive manner.

19

“You…” Leo tried to catch his breath. “You’re quite the woman, you know that?”

Pauline laughed: “I’ve got to keep you on your toes, don’t I…”

Leo chuckled, but then his face grew serious again.

“Hang on, you said something our romantic attachment before?”

20

“I suppose I did,” Pauline nodded.

“Well, you should know that I’d be happy to… how did you put it? Re-evaluate it,” Leo told her.

“Does that mean you want to be my boyfriend?”

“If you’ll have me.”

21

A surge of happiness went through Pauline’s body.

“Of course!”

For a moment, the two just stood there and looked at each other giddily.

And Pauline truly understood what feeling pink felt like.

22

“So, Leo,” she looked at him in what she hoped to be a seductive fashion. “Since we’re official now, would you like to maybe… come over to my place? My room is quite spacious, actually, so you could easily… sleep over?”

She gave him a significant look. She felt ready.

23

“I’d lie if I say I wasn’t tempted,” he said, wrapping his arm around her. “But I wasn’t raised that way.”

And with that, he kissed her on the cheek.

“Good night, bella. I’ll see you tomorrow, I hope?”

24

Pauline had a cold shower as soon as she got home. The fire she felt earlier somewhat toned down, but the joy remained. He was so dreamy. And such a gentleman too!

25

For the first time ever, she felt so happy she could explode.

The Bloomer Legacy: 8.17 Feeling Pink

Having been through a fair share of ups and downs in the recent days, Peyton and Pauline decided that a party was in order. After all, what would be a better way to let go of all the drama in their lives?

Except that if you live in a town like Newcrest, it seems the drama makes its way everywhere, and even invites itself to your party. Speaking of party crashers…

2

“Royce, what are you doing here?” Danrof exclaimed. “You’re not welcome in this house!”

Royce completely ignored him and turned his attention to Caleb instead: “Hey, I know you, punk! You’re the guy that likes to sip frappucinos with Peyton in that coffee shop! Hands off!”

Caleb managed to maintain his composure: “And your problem is?”

“You’re my problem!” Royce burst out. “You need to stay away from Peyton! I mean… because aliens are disgusting!”

“Dude, you have issues,” Caleb shook his head and exited the room. It seemed that every time he was in the vicinity of Peyton and Pauline, he would end up getting yelled at by a stranger. Quite the life these girls lead, he thought.

Meanwhile, Danrof studied Royce’s face, intridgued: “I think you are much more interested in aliens than you’d like to admit. Particularly in Peyton, of course.”

“Get lost,” Royce snarled at him.

“That’s hardly a feasible request,” Danrof shrugged. “The house only has a handful of rooms, and I’m familiar with most of them.”

Royce rolled his eyes and stomped away, muttering to himself.

***

3

“Hi Pauline,” Leo approached the girl nervously.

“Thanks for coming,” Pauline smiled.

“I wouldn’t have missed it,” Leo replied. “I hope we’re ok, after…”

He failed to finish the sentence.

“After that disaster of a date?” Pauline offered an ending helpfully. “I owe you an apology for the way I acted. You do know it’s not your fault, right?”

4

“No, I shouldn’t have taken you there in the first place,” he shook his head.

“Nonsense,” Pauline disagreed. “I’ve just got some issues I need to work through, clearly. But you were perfect.”

Perfect?

“Well, I’m sure most of the bar patrons find you perfect,” Pauline deflated. “After all, you’re Leo the dreamy bartender…”

5

“Right,” Leo stood up. “You know I am more than just a mixologist who likes to compliment the clientele…”

“Sorry,” Pauline looked down. “I didn’t mean it that way.”

“I’m not offended,” Leo replied. “It’s just, there’s one particular bar patron who I’d like impress a lot more than the others.” He looked at her coyly.

“I think you already have,” Pauline winked at him.

“That’s good to hear. I’ll… see you in a bit?”

He snuck into the downstairs bathroom, as nonchalantly as he could manage.

6

As soon as he closed the door behind him, a huge grin spread across his face.

She still liked him.

7

She still liked him!!!

***

8

“So Royce, what’s your game?” Pauline causally turned to Royce when Leo left the room.

“My game?”

“Well, considering you supposedly hate aliens, you do seem to be everywhere we are,” Pauline shrugged. “I mean, this is our house. Our party. That you were not invited to…”

“Didn’t realise it was ticketed entry,” Royce smirked.

“You do what you’ve gotta do,” Pauline told him. “But if you hurt my sister, you’ll learn about the alien wrath. Spoiler alert: It’s not pretty.”

And with an innocent smile, she left him to mull that over.

9

“Have you reached the same conclusion about Royce as I have?” Danrof asked Pauline.

“Is your conclusion is that Royce is a plumbag, than yes,” Pauline shrugged. “But let’s not waste time talking about Royce!”

“A change of subject then; you look rather beautiful tonight.”

Pauline blushed. “Danrof…”

“I like the way your dress matches your hair,” Danrof said matter-of-factly.

10

Pauline laughed: “You’re the best, Danrof!”

“I reciprocate the feeling,” Danrof assured her. “Although, we can’t both be the best, due to the definition of the word. I hear it is a common phrase, however. This culture is just fascinating!”

Pauline couldn’t stop giggling: “If only more people were like you!”

11

Leo was joined by his sister, Tabitha.

“So this is the famous Pauline?” she asked. “She seems to be rather friendly with that guy…”

“Well, they are friends… just friends… I think.” Leo looked across the room with uncertainty.

“I’ll see what I can find out,” Tabitha smirked. “Sister to the rescue!”

12

She casually carried her plate over to the table to get within earshot, joining a very pouty Cygnus.

“Who stole your kitten?” Tabitha asked him.

“What?” He looked at her, confused. “You’re talking to me?”

“Well obviously, where else am I going to find a dance partner whose outfit compliments mine?” she smiled politely.

Cygnus’s face lit up…

13

Ok, perhaps dancing with Cygnus was not the best idea, Tabitha cursed herself silently. Being encouraging to cheer the guy up was one thing, but boy did he like to get close…

Leo walked over to Pauline. The timing was perfect, there was barely anyone on the dance floor. She looked so beautiful… “Pauline, may I have…”

Plum. At the corner of his eyes, he noticed his sister needed help desperately. So much for timing…

14

“Whah!” he literally jumped in.

“Not cool, Leo,” Tabitha scolded him. “You scared the plumbob out of me!”

“Oh sorry, I’ll leave you to your dance partner then,” he teased her.

“Please don’t…”

“Who’s coming to the rescue now?”

15

“We’ve got to have each other’s back,” Tabitha smiled.

“Family first,” Leo confirmed.

“Don’t I have the best brother?”

Tabitha pulled out her phone to snap a quick selfie of the sibling pair.

“Smile Leo, you look like such a dork!”

“Apparently it runs in the family…”

16

Meanwhile, Pauline had already started dancing solo.

“It’s apparent that you understand music,” Danrof complimented her. “It guides your every move.”

“Thanks, Danrof! Why don’t you join me?”

Danrof came closer to her.

“I can’t say I’m much of a dancer,” he said hesitantly. “It’s not really customary where I’m from…”

“Just do what you said, let the music guide your every move.”

“I said you have that capability, not me.”

“Just give it a try,” Pauline laughed.

Leo just watched them sadly from the corner of the dance floor.

17

Danrof bounced from side to side awkwardly.

“Is my point proven now?” He smiled. “I much prefer watching you dance. It makes me feel pink.”

Pauline didn’t quite know had to respond. As a half human, she herself hasn’t experienced it herself, but she’d been around enough aliens to know what a pink glow meant.

Question was, did Danrof make her feel that way?

Peyton, on the other hand was not feeling pink at all.

“Royce, do you just have to ruin everything? Get a clue, there’s a reason why you weren’t invited!”

18

“Pfft, just as well,” Royce uttered. “I don’t need this alien shenanigans!”

Peyton watched him leave. It should have felt good, getting to yell at him. So why was she close to tears? He was infuriating…

She slipped indoors discreetly.

19

“Danrof! Weren’t you just outside, dancing with Pauline?”

“I was, but it seemed you may need someone to talk to,” he said simply.

“I’m ok, really,” Peyton dismissed him.

“Your face seems to tell a different story.”

20

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Peyton opened up. “It’s not like me to get hung up on a guy. Especially one that never misses an opportunity to diss me…”

“From what I’ve witnessed on this planet, romantic feelings cannot be controlled,” Danrof said.

21

“Speaking of romantic feelings, you and Pauline seemed to hit it off,” Peyton changed the topic.

“I’m not sure if I follow.”

“Danrof, you always follow,” Peyton grinned. “More so than the most!”

“I’ve never explored a romantic connection with another individual,” Danrof admitted.

“Well then what are you waiting for??? Now is a perfect time to have a go at that!”

22

Danrof was the last person to leave that evening.

“Thanks for being there for us,” Pauline said to him as they were saying goodbye. “You’re a great friend.”

Peyton cleared her throat significantly.

“Actually, Peyton and I had a conversation earlier which lead me to the conclusion that I may be exhibiting romantic feelings for you,” Danrof smiled sheepishly. “So friend may not be the most appropriate term.”

Pauline looked at her sister, and then at Danrof, wide-eyed: “I… I don’t know what to say.”

“That’s understandable, I don’t have much empirical evidence on the matter yet either,” Danrof said. “Perhaps we should spend more time together to evaluate our attachment?”

Pauline felt a warmth spread over her body: “That’s a great idea Danrof.”

The Bloomer Legacy: 8.16 Candy

Do you ever feel like the life you’re living isn’t yours anymore? Like you’re just going through the motions? You’re there one moment, and couldn’t be happier; and suddenly, some entity out there seems to decide “nope, you’ve had enough”, snap their fingers and it all falls apart…

The past you’ve burried somewhere deep down inside, in a forgotten place comes back to haunt you, with a thousand piercing what ifs. You wake up, and the man next to you who you’ve loved for years feels like a random presence in your life. Yes, the past is in the past. Yes, he loves you. But does it matter, if you feel like you’ve been a zombie that’s just awakened back to their mortal life?

2

I never asked for those memories back. I’ve been happy leading my life without them. Now that they’ve been returned, I feel like they’re flooding into my life through every tiny gap that they can find. Close the door? They’ll creep in through the window. Slam the window shut? They’ll find a hole in the ceiling. It’s no use. Once the past has been unleashed, you can’t stop it from accompanying your every move.

3

“I know something’s wrong,” Paolo said to me finally, days after we’ve returned from Newcrest. “You’ve been distant ever since we got back.”

I looked into his dark eyes. For years, all I’ve seen in them was my husband, my companion, the one who knows me better than anyone. But who do I see now? I don’t even know…

“It’s nothing,” I uttered.

4

“No. I know exactly what it is,” he said with an unusual seriousness in his voice. “We still haven’t talked about the memories we got back. The ones that were stolen. And I… I’m sorry. I didn’t know. If I’d known I would have spent every day of my life trying to make it up to you.”

I shook my head: “Oh, you mean cheating on me the night before our wedding? I guess in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.”

“This isn’t what you said in Newcrest,” he pointed out. “You said it was all in the past…”

“I didn’t want to stand between you and your daughter,” I said dryly. “So I took myself out of the equation, to let you get to know each other.”

5

I thought of the time him and Pauline spent in Newcrest, ecstatic to have found each other. With me in the sidelines. No, I wouldn’t interrupt. I wouldn’t do that to them. But…

“But it changes things,” he said.

“Does it?” I wasn’t sure. Nothing has changed, in reality. The reality has been the same for years. We were just blind to it. I was blind to it.

Paolo looked at me, his eyes begging: “We’ve been married for over twenty years. Does that not count for anything? Are you going to forget that time, because of memories that we were forced to forget, a long long time ago?”

“Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it,” I trailed off. Back to the present. But the present hurts. What is all this anyway? “Our marriage is a fraud. Our love is a fraud. If our memories weren’t wiped, we never would have gotten together in the first place.”

6

He touched my hand hesitantly: “Maybe. Maybe we wouldn’t have gotten together. But does that make it any less real? Because I know that the years we’ve had together have been real to me.”

Paolo has never been a deep thinker. But the occasional deep statement he makes tugs at all the right strings. That’s why I’ve fallen for him, way back… stop.

“You loved her. Astrid. My friend. And when that was all erased from your mind, you just projected your feelings on to the closest thing you could find. Our relationship, it’s all been a scam.”

“I loved her,” he agreed. “I was made to forget, but you’re right I did. Make no mistake though; I love you so much more. Those memories of long ago, they’re all fuzzy and blurry. I just remember a feeling…”

“I guess that’s what happens when your memories get wiped and then returned,” I said bitterly.

7

“Maybe,” he shrugged. “But maybe it’s like that with any old memories that don’t matter anymore. They’re there, and they might come back to you every so often, but at the end of the day, it’s not who you are anymore. Or where you are. Or where you want to be. I want to be with you, Candy. I did when I asked you to marry me, and I do now. If you’ll still let me.”

“I… I’ll have to think about it,” I paused. “I haven’t forgotten about what we’ve had. No memory wipes this time. But… It all feels so empty now. Like somebody switched a button.”

“Then I’ll have to find that switch,” Paolo said, determined.

“I don’t think it’s that easy.

8

“Of course not,” Paolo replied. “But I have time. For the first time in years, I see the whole picture. And I don’t want you out of it. Just give me a chance.”

I thought of our wedding day. Of my first big concert Paolo cheered at. Of Peyton’s first day of school, when we both walked her to the bus – she was so nervous, the poor little thing – and Paolo reassured her. Of the evening we renewed our vows, just a few days ago…

“Maybe.”

The Bloomer Legacy: 8.15 Artistic Expression

“Surprise!” Leo exclaimed. “I thought I’d take you to the art gallery your mom built, since you must miss her now that she lives all the way on Sixam!”

“Right,” Pauline gritted through her teeth. Astrid was the last person she wanted to be reminded of.

The date was off to a disastrous start already.

2

Still, she did like Leo, so she forced a smile and followed him inside, trying to pretend enthusiasm for the paintings she loathed.

Bumping into her uncles who were discussing Astrid’s assumed whereabouts did not help.

Just keep smiling, Pauline told herself.

3

“I’ve got to say your mom’s range is incredible,” Leo pointed out. “These are so diverse!”

Pauline felt sick to her stomach; “That’s my mother alright. Never sticking to one style for too long. Or to one identity.”

“What do you mean?”

“We should probably sit down for this one,” Pauline gestured towards the glass area with benches.

4

“You see, my mom would always swap her disguises and identities, since she always loathed herself,” Pauline started.

“I’m sad to hear that,” Leo commented sincerely.

“Don’t be. I’d hate myself too if I were her. Thinking that she was a terrible person was the one thing she was right about.”

5

“I… I don’t understand,” Leo confessed. “Granted I didn’t know Astrid too well, but she seemed nice enough, just a little bit sad.”

“That would be because she wiped the memories of everyone she supposedly cared about, including my father, lied to me about mankind, kept me a prisoner on an island until we moved to Newcrest and called me a monster when I was just a little child… just to name a few of her quirks.”

6

“I’m sorry Pauline, I had no idea,” Leo said quietly.

“The worst thing is, when I finally found out about all of her lies, and about who my dad is, she tried to erase my memory too.”

“She’d do that to her own child?”

“Apparently so,” Pauline shrugged. “I suppose if you call your own child a monster, you don’t have much respect for their thoughts…”

7

Leo stared at her, dumbfounded.

“I’m sorry, I’ve ruined the date, haven’t I?” Pauline asked sadly. “I didn’t want to bring it up, it’s just… all these plum paintings remind me of growing up on that island she trapped me on.”

“No, don’t apologise. It’s my fault. I picked the worst place imaginable to bring you to,” he laughed bitterly.

8

“You couldn’t have known,” Pauline hugged him. “You were just trying to be nice, I get it.”

Leo pulled her closer. For a moment, Pauline forgot she was in that plum art gallery.

9

“I’d never do anything to hurt you, you know that?” he whispered. Before Pauline could reply, he continued:

“Let’s get out of here! We could both use some fresh air!”

They exited the museum, passing the last paintings Astrid hadn’t finished before moving to Sixam.

“It’s like she’s everywhere,” Pauline shook her head.

10

“Shh,” Leo placed his finger on her lips. ”Don’t think about her. Come, let’s watch the stars…”

They lied down on the ground, gazing upwards in silence for a moment.

“You see that constellation over there? The one that looks kind of like a plumbob? That’s where Sixam is,” Pauline pointed towards the sky.

“Oh.”

11

“And she’s happy out there,” Pauline continued. “In spite of everything she’s done. How is that fair?”

“I wish there was something I could say to help you,” Leo told her.

Pauline sighed: “You must think I’m a horrible person. I don’t want my own mother to be happy! Maybe I am a monster!”

“You’re no monster Pauline,” Leo said gently. “You’re hurting. I wish I’d known…”

12

“I know, you could have saved yourself this pathetic date experience,” Pauline stood up.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“You’re very kind,” Pauline smiled at him mournfully. “But I’d like to be alone, if you don’t mind. I’m sorry tonight turned out to be such a mess.”

13

Leo wanted to reply, but Pauline had already turned away. She pulled out her violin and started playing.

For a while, he just listened to the sorrowful melody. But he didn’t want to pry, so he walked away in the end.

14

Pauline composed her first song that night. Perhaps, with the help of music, she would be able to let go of the anger and hate she felt towards her mother sometime. But tonight was not that night.