Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chapter Twenty-Two: Various Expenses

Phoenix sighed as he stopped to pay the bills on his way home from work. At least this job will be good for something, he thought bitterly to himself. Meadow Glen didn't have the same work-study program that was available to him in Anne Arbor, and his experience there had just been barely enough to get him hired to one of the lowest positions here until he had the chance to become qualified on his own time. He had spent most of the day cleaning out bed pans and felt more like a janitor than medical personnel.

"I see you got the electricity turned on," he greeted his wife as he walked through the door. Coming into the room full of light and music lifted Phoenix's spirits a bit, "Since when did you take up exercising, though? Not that I'm complaining."

"Oh, Phoenix! I was just so excited, I couldn't sit still and had to do something. You'll never guess what happened--I'm going to France! For work, it's my first assignment and I'm leaving this weekend!" Sadie bubbled joyfully, hardly taking a breath between words.

"Wait, what?" Phoenix felt his mood plummeting again, "We just got here and now you're leaving? What am I supposed to do in a new town all on my own?"

"What do you want me to do?" Sadie asked, helplessly, her excitement sharply declining, "You know I would love for you to come with me, but there's no way we can afford it, and you couldn't take time off of work after just starting a new job, anyway."

"How are we even going to afford for you to go?" her disappointed husband questioned.

"Oh, that's not a problem," Sadie assured him, "Most of it's being handled by the museum as work expenses, and for spending money I was going to see if my dad--"

"No!" Phoenix cut her off, "We are not going to your dad--either of our parents--for money. I don't want to have to rely on them like that. I know they're already worried about us getting married so young, I don't want them to think we can't make it on our own."

"Alright, fine," Sadie gave in, tired of arguing.

Phoenix saw her shoulders slump as the last bit of excitement drained out of her and realized how poorly he had handled the whole conversation.

"Hey, I'm glad you're going to get to go to France, really, it just caught me by surprise," he tried to amend.

"It's only because of work," Sadie reminded him, "I would have wanted it to be different, otherwise."

"I know, I'm just going to miss you."

If Phoenix wasn't going to let her borrow money from her dad, Sadie was going to have to figure something else out, so at work the next day she asked Mallory if she could talk to her about the trip. The curator had been talking to a woman she guessed was the architect of the museum, and told Sadie to meet her in the office building.

"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do about things like cab fare and meals in France," Sadie explained, "I don't have a whole lot of extra money since I've just started and haven't even gotten a paycheck yet."

"Oh, have I forgotten to give you the traveler's cheques?" Mallory retrieved an envelope from the front desk and handed it to Sadie, "There you are! That should cover your various expenses. Which reminds me, it's quite customary in France to bring a gift for your host when visiting, so do be sure to do that, it would seem terribly rude, otherwise. A bottle of wine should be a safe option, just make sure to purchase it there, foreign wine can be seen as quite offensive."

The amount of money in the envelope wasn't much, especially once Sadie put aside some for gifts for any locals she might visit. She and Phoenix had hardly anything to spare, and she really didn't want to visit France of all places with so little. There was no other choice, she decided.

"Hi, Papa!" she greeted Sahil on the phone after she returned home from work, "Yes, the job is amazing! They're already sending me to France on an assignment."

"The only problem is that we have hardly any money left after buying the house, so I'll have barely enough money to buy food, much less anything else while I'm there," the puppy dog eyes were so second nature to her that they came out even though her father wasn't there to see them.

"Really, Papa? You could? You're the best!" she didn't have to tell Phoenix that he would be sending her money. Just because her husband didn't want to ask for help, didn't mean that she should have to suffer for it, and this way they could both be happy.

Meanwhile, Phoenix was trying to keep his spirits up despite the thought of his wife leaving so soon. He had wanted to spend as much time with her before then as possible, but he was so busy. He had enrolled in night school so that he could advance in his career eventually, and when he wasn't at work or in class he had plenty of studying to do. The books he had brought from Anne Arbor were no longer enough, so this meant hours in the library alone, instead of at home with Sadie.

On top of that, everything around the house had started falling apart. Phoenix had wondered how they were able to get a water-front home so cheap, even one as small as this one, and he was starting to figure out the reason.

The toilet backed up the morning Sadie was to leave for France, so instead of spending those last few minutes with her, he had to deal with that. He finished just in time to clean up and say goodbye.

"Make sure to call," Phoenix insisted.

"Alright, I will, but don't worry so much! It's only for a few days, I'm sure it will seem like no time at all before I'm back," she tried to assure him.

"I'll try, but I'll miss you," he replied.

"I'll miss you, too."

Sadie stopped by the museum to pick up any last minute instructions from Mallory, and then took a cab from there to the airport. She was on her way.


She'll get to France next chapter, I swear! Sadie is a mooch, in case you forgot and this chapter didn't give it away. I've decided to have that be a conflict point for her and Phoenix's relationship because, well, who likes mooches? Also, conflict is good for storytelling.

Phoenix isn't really in any night school program, I think there's a mod for that somewhere, but I don't have it. I might have him take some logic classes, but really I'm just trying to have it make some sort of sense that he's going to be a doctor without having to ever gone to college. Can't wait for the University EP!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chapter Twenty-One: Welcome to Meadow Glen

Sadie had picked out a small house on the beach for them in Meadow Glen. Phoenix wasn't sure why she wanted to be so close to the water since she didn't like to spend a lot of time outside, but he had left the decision to her and, if it made her happy, he wouldn't complain.

Too much.

"It's not very big, will there even be room for kids?" he worried.

"Kids? Isn't it a little soon to be thinking about that when you haven't even started your new job yet?" Sadie chided.

Phoenix shrugged and grinned.

"Well, it's definitely not too soon to start practicing for when we're ready," he replied, taking her hands and leading her inside...

...where they had a housewarming celebration appropriate for newlyweds.

After working up an appetite, Phoenix ran to the store to pick up some veggies for a late night snack.

Sadie had fallen asleep while he was out, but eagerly got back up for a meal prepared by her husband.

She was so happy to be here pursing her dreams with Phoenix at her side, that it didn't matter if they hadn't even had a chance to get the electricity turned on, or purchase any furniture other than the bed, and she had to eat standing in the dark.

There was one place to sit, which Phoenix galanlty tried to offer his wife, but she graciously declined and let him claim the throne for himself.

After eating, the young couple finally went to sleep, excited about beginning their life together in their new home.

Phoenix was already awake and in the shower when Sadie awoke the next morning.

She grumbled as she took it upon herself to make the bed...

...and pick up the trashcan that a raccoon had knocked over during the night. It turned out that there were some parts of being an adult and taking care of yourself that aren't quite so fun.

After a quick breakfast, Sadie left early to ride her bicycle out to the museum, while Pheonix did a bit of studying before heading to the hospital.

Arriving at her new place of employment, Sadie chained her bike up on the side of the building and admired the architecture as she approached the entrance. The Meadow Glen Museum of Ancient and Contemporary Art was more impressive than she had been expecting. It was a brand new building, and not yet open to the public, so everything was clean and quiet.

Inside was quiet too, and mostly empty, other than a pile  in the lobby consisting of a few ancient relics, some boxes and barrels which must contain future exhibits, and the remnants of construction. Sadie wondered for a moment if anyone else was here this early.

"There you are!" came a voice from one of the empty show rooms as a snowy haired woman appeared,  marching briskly over to shake her hand, "You must be Sadie, I am so glad you're finally here. There is so much to be done! I really do wish you could have gotten here sooner, but we'll have to make do now, won't we?"

This had to be Mallory Englert, the head curator and Sadie's new boss. As she rambled on about how it really would have been better for her to have gotten there earlier, Sadie bit her lip and decided not to point out how, in less than a month, she had gotten married, bought a house, and moved halfway across the country.

"There doesn't seem to be a whole lot here yet, is the rest of the collection in storage?" she asked, attempting to change the subject.

"Now, that's what I hired you for, isn't it dear?" Mallory opened her arms wide, as if she were presenting an obvious fact.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand," Sadie replied, puzzled.

"We do have some in storage, of course, but we're starting from very little. I am far too old to go running around the world picking up new additions, however, so that will be your priority. I will make the arrangements, and you will travel to the location and assertain the authenticity of the items and transport them back here," her employer explained breezily.

Sadie didn't know how to respond. She had been under the impression that she would be working at the museum, cataloging and displaying artifacts, not travelling around the world collecting them.

"I've already prepared everything for your first assignment," the dauntless woman continued, "I have a contact in France who has been promising me some pieces if I send someone out. Honestly, I was starting to worry that I would have to go myself if you hadn't gotten here today. The information with your plane ticket and room reservation is all in the offices around back. I haven't hired a receptionist yet, but everything is in the folder on the desk right as you go in, so you should be able to find it yourself. Your office is the first on the right, I had my grandsons hook up the computers last week, if you have any use for the thing."

Her mind in a whirl, Sadie walked around to the back of the building as Mallory had indicated and found the administrative area.

The folder was on the reception desk, right where she had said it would be, and Sadie picked it up and brought it into the room that was supposed to be her office.

Inside was completely bare, other than the previously mentioned computer and the desk it was sitting on. Sadie opened the folder on the empty part of the desk and sat down to take a look.

Glancing through the file and seeing the tickets and the lists of French addresses, it finally sunk in, I'm going to France! She was actually going to get to travel overseas to collect authentic art and relics in person. This job was turning out to be even better than she could have possibly imagined.


I had originally planned to have more stuff happen in this chapter, but it took 25 pictures to tell this part already, which is pretty average for my blog, and there was a pretty good stopping point, so I figured I'd just end it here instead of risking not having another good exit and making it too long. Since a few new places were introduced, hopefully it's still interesting enough! Sadie also kind of took over the chapter, and will probably hog the spotlight for a bit since her career is way most interesting than Phoenix's rabbit-hole one, but I promise I won't forget about him.

Phoenix and Sadie are so poor, it's almost like starting the legacy over from the beginning. I had to sell some of the windows off of their poor house in order to send Sadie to France as soon as I wanted to. I probably should have taken more of Rachel's furniture, if only to sell, but as it is I only brought things that actually belonged to Phoenix or Sadie, which wasn't much, especially since I decided to leave his bedroom furniture behind for being too childish. But, with a few days of work for Phoenix, and giving Sadie all the travel related life time rewards she had the points for, they could just barely afford it, and hopefully they'll be able to get comfortable a bit faster than Rachel, since they at least have the benefit of there being two of them!

The first picture of Phoenix and Sadie at the beginning of the chapter was the very first thing they did when they moved in, umprompted. I just had to pause it and get a picture to work into the story, even if there's a problem that, if you look closely, you can tell that the mailbox is in the wrong position and I hadn't put in the walkway yet. xD

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chapter Twenty: Going Back

"Well, I'm glad to hear you two made it out there safely! Give me another call once you've gotten a bit more settled. Love you, sweety!" Rachel's forced cheerful disposition faded quickly after she hung up from the phone call with her son.

She often found herself wandering aimlessly through the house now that Phoenix was gone. It was all too quiet, and it made her feel restless. For the last several years she had coveted those brief moments where she could get some work done without music blasting from the room, shouts and laughter from the backyard, or a door slamming somewhere or another, but now she felt that she couldn't being to concentrate without them.

All-in-all it ended up making her decision much easier. Of course she would be going to Shang Simla to see the International Sim Fu Competition. How could she not take this chance to reunite with the father of her child? She sat down to make the appropriate reservations, full of anticipation.

Despite waiting until the last minute, Rachel had been able to get a room in the same hotel that she had stayed at on her last trip and, as she arrived, she paused at the spot where she had said goodbye to Zhan. She had tried hard not to let herself think about her time with him once she realized that she wasn't going to get a reply to her letter, but being here now brought the memories back in a rush. It all seemed just like it had on that day so long ago, and for a moment it felt as if she could turn around and see him standing there beside her, a soft smile lighting up his deep brown eyes, ready to take her into his arms.

But no, he wouldn't know that she was here yet, she would have to find him at the dojo, where he would be coming to view the competition.

Of course he wasn't there, either, but the first round of the competition didn't start until tomorrow, so Rachel wasn't put off. She did find out, however, that they were still accepting last minute enrollment in the amateur division, which she qualified for. She eagerly signed up, and spent the afternoon practicing.

This was where she had met Zhan, but her skills had improved significantly since then. She remembered how he had stopped her from hurting herself on the balsa board, but now it presented no obstacle.

Nor did the oak, which she dispatched of quickly and cleanly.

The stone on the other hand...

As she held her throbbing palm, she felt a creeping doubt beginning to rise in her stomach. When she had decided to practice board breaking there had been a part of her that had expected to relive their first meeting - Zhan jumping in to rescue her before she ambitiously charged ahead past her ability.

That was silly, though, she admonished herself as she ate dinner at one of the local restaurants a while later. This wasn't some fairy tale or romance story where things like that happen. She would find Zhan tomorrow at the tournament, or, if not, he would see her when she was in the spotlight for her match and he would find her. It would all work out quite practically.

She repeated this assurance to herself the next day, when she arrived again at the Phoenix Martial Arts Academy and couldn't spot him in the crowd.

She was certain that he must be out there watching as she bowed before her competitor, and resolved to put up a good fight just for him, even if she was up against someone nearly half her age.

She won her match, but just barely, and not with enough points to qualify for the next round. But Rachel didn't mind, the bout had served its purpose and Zhan was sure to have noticed her.

To keep herself occupied while she waited for him to seek her out, she continued to practice while the competition went on, making sure to position herself near the entrance to the grounds so she could keep an eye out in case he missed her while coming or going.

When she became too tired to exercise any longer she moved to the chess board instead, although she spent more time staring out at the crowds in the field below than at the game.

She stayed until the Academy closed for the night before dragging herself back to the hotel, exhausted.

She followed the same pattern the next day, and the day after that, only leaving the grounds to eat or sleep, until the tournament was over and it was time to go home.

Rachel stood at the base of the stairway that stretched up to the hotel, hoping one last time for Zhan to appear, but it was no use. She had been wrong, he hadn't come to the international competition, and there was nothing more to be done.

Finally returning home, she stood in the driveway, dreading the silence that would greet her within. She couldn't stand the idea, so instead she took out her phone.

"Hi, Sahil? Yes, it's Rachel... I was wondering if you'd like to come over for dinner?"


So, I basically decided that I didn't want to decide whether or not Rachel and Zhan got back together, so I figured I'd send her to China and, if they ran into each other at the martial arts academy I'd hook them up, if not, that was that. And, well, you've seen what happened. That doesn't necessarily mean that Zhan won't ever come back into the story, but I haven't made any plans for it at this point.

Rachel participated in the competition because, shortly before she left, she got an opportunity to win a sparring match in Shang Simla, which makes that the final opportunity of her opportunist roll, even if it's technically gen 2 now and I didn't have to worry about that anymore. It's going to be kind of sad leaving her behind, as she won't be as big a part of the story any more, but it's also kind of exciting to think about the future for Phoenix and Sadie. They were actually still living with Rachel at the time I took the pictures for this, but they're moved into their new home in Meadow Glen now, and getting started with their careers, which you'll learn more about next chapter!