Actions

Work Header

Sorry For The Convenience

Work Text:

After the sale of her parents' house, Jennie couldn't stand the bright lights of Bridgeport for a single further day. Taking her share of the cash - a measly sixteen and a half k, which wasn't going to get her very far - she set out in search of a new home.

Twinbrook looked just the place. No bright lights. No big city. Most of it was a swamp. She looked despondently around a couple of the swamp-based shacks she could afford on her tight budget, and wondered whether she should have taken up her sister's generous offer to let her move in, build up her cash reserves for a bit.

But - wait. Up there on the grassy riverbank, away from the swamp, amongst the big impressive houses that she couldn't hope to afford… a decent plot of land, adorned with a sign pronouncing it a Development Opportunity.

How could she resist?

Plunking down over three thousand of her hard-inherited Simoleons was painful - but she knew there was worse to come. A modest ten-by-ten building, she reckoned, wouldn't set her back too much. With a pleasant decking area outside, of course.

What went into a house? Painful memories of childhood mornings yawning and pedalling late into school draw her to avoid skimping on the bed; a fully stocked bathroom, obviously. Plenty of counter space for cooking, and now she watches her dwindling budget; the cheapest cooker, the cheapest fridge.

She gazes mournfully at the price tag on the coffee machines. Soon, she promises herself. Once she's set up in this new town. She buys extra dining chairs in a fit of optimism - surely she'll be needing them for all the friends she's going to make.

What else can't she live without?

Music, she must have music. And a computer - which means a desk - which needs another chair…

The tasteful cyan computer, cheapest of its kind, almost wipes her out. Just enough left for a bookshelf…

...oh. The walls are still bare grey. And the floor is… some kind of weird greyish substance, too. And… not that nice to walk on.

She looks around the house in despair. What can she do without? Nothing… it's all vital... and she doesn't dare face her new life with less than two hundred simoleons in her pocket.

Maybe she should have looked into that swampland property more closely.

Oh well. Time to make the best of it. It shouldn't be too bad, right? Just for a few days while she works out some source of income.

She wants to build robots, but she guesses that's going to have to wait.

Paging through the job ads on her slow and boxy computer, she looks mostly at the salaries.

The best-paid job with the most hours?

...Test Subject.

She looks wistfully at the Military career track for a few moments. Latrine Cleaner doesn't really sound her sort of thing, but it's the next best paid - and it has the potential to get her hands on some serious hardware later -

- and she's never really been much into fitness. She's not even sure she'd pass the medical, let alone do enough treadmill action for a promotion.

Meanwhile, the Science career mentions tinkering, gardening, fishing - all things she wanted to get into.

With great trepidation, she accepts the career.

Gardening. Gardening. She remembers the attempts her parents made at gardening. The wilted tomato plants staring accusingly at her from the back yard. But how does one even start gardening?

She looks at her front door. Some kid calling herself Dee Liver - oh, very cute - has just dropped a newspaper on her decking. She hopes she doesn't want paying too much for newspaper delivery.

Acutely aware of her social situation, or lack of it, she chases after her to have a chat - but it's too late, she's on his way to the next lot, and she'd look hideously overeager trying to follow her. Instead, she picks up the newspaper, drawn by a mention of Discount Classes.

Maybe she can find a gardening class? But no - it's only writing classes that are on offer, and even then, it's a little rich for her blood.

At least she bought a bookshelf. There must be something in here that will help. She looks wistfully at the front door again - maybe she could go out to a park, study some actual plants…

Rifling through the bookshelf reveals books on cooking, handiness, and logic, plus a couple of novels. Nothing gardening-related. She flicks through a few pages of the handiness book - that's where her real passion lies - but she forces herself to put it down. She's going to have to brave the great outdoors if she wants to get a head start on her new career.

Wandering outside, she tries to remember the layout of the place. It's all houses up here, big intimidating houses with pools and multiple floors, but there's a nice fishing lake across the bridge… and slightly further into town there's a beach park.

The science lab is nice and close, too, she notes with some relief. Just opposite the beach park, in fact… maybe there will be some interesting beachcombing to be done, too.

She considers heading off on foot, but the taxis here work on credit. And she's got a job, right? So she needn't worry about taking one, and it will get her right there - she just hasn't got the lay of the land yet.

Or a car. She loved her dad's car. Almost as much as he loved it, and that was a torrid passion quite exceeding his feelings for her mother. One day, she vows, she will have a car of her own.

But not today, with only two hundred and change simoleons in her threadbare pockets.

When she sees the cool, clear river - with some serious frolicking wildlife - she can't help but take a dip, even though she knows she ought to be looking around the plant life.

After a few minutes cooling off in the delicious water, she spots another person on the beach - in a military uniform, no less. Still with a lingering regret that she didn't take that path, she bounds over awkwardly in her swimsuit and stutters out a friendly greeting.

Gwayne Bayless, fortunately, thinks that Jennie is okay, and starts a friendly chat.

They share some slightly awkward words about a safe topic - music. Jennie subtly checks out her new acquaintance, but the grey hair is kind of offputting now she has had a closer look.

Admitting she's new in town, Jennie broaches the subject of her interlocutor's career - only to find that the military look is just an affectation, and these days Gwayne is a freelance writer!
They get chatting about science, as an odd couple show up next to them - possibly a father and his daughter? The 'father' gives Jennie a rather unparentlike look - or, she guesses, given what causes being a parent, maybe a very parent-like look - but then bursts out laughing.

Well, that's a self-esteem boost. Jennie resolutely ignores the pair of them and carries on her pleasant conversation with Gwayne, although she's beginning to feel a little self-conscious in the swimsuit, and she's not sure how this is going to turn into gardening.

The kid seems to have picked up that she's new in town, but the father isn't impressed and wanders off to have a swim, leaving the small child standing in eavesdropping range and looking increasingly bored.

Jennie glances in the kid's direction as she wanders off, and there's something new on the beach… it appears to be a table covered entirely in delicious cakes. With some kind of teddy lamp? The kid heads over to stand behind it, and she realises it's a cake stall.

As tempting as they look, she can't really afford to spend her tiny remaining budget on delicacies, so she returns her attention to the conversation. Which is running out of safe topics.

She can't quite believe that she is standing on a beach in her swimsuit talking to a stranger about the weather. This was not the life she had envisioned.

It was early in the morning when she'd left the house, and two guys having a picnic on the beach as the evening twilight began to descend reminded her that as pleasant as her conversation was, some food would be a good idea.

Not wanting to abandon her new acquaintance, and remembering those impulsive dining chair purchases, she invites Gwayne back for some dinner.

Only then does she remember the state of her walls and her floors. And she's seriously hungry. And… there isn't much in the fridge. She really wants the mac and cheese, but what if her guest is vegan? Autumn salad it is.

A nice safe choice - and looks more cultured, anyway.

She's a little worried at leaving Gwayne to amuse herself, but her guest is obviously a veteran of being invited to the houses of random strangers, as she quickly finds the bright pink stereo and starts up some godawful caterwauling - you'd think they'd have had some chance when they started talking about music to have compatible tastes, but no.

Concentrate, Jennie, she admonishes herself. Autumn salad. Which also has the advantage of not going in the slightly suspicious cheap oven - not the SimmerChar, even in her penury she wasn't that suicidal, but the Cowpoke Stove…

Gradually, with dawning horror, she wonders if Gwayne really likes Country or if she chose it in a misguided attempt to please her host. After all - it matches the decor. She feels like she ought to explain that the country-themed kitchen is just because that's the cheapest way to outfit a house on land that's too expensive for her, but she doesn't want to show weakness.

And she does want to eat some salad.

Gwayne thinks dinner sounds a bit romantic, but is finally convinced to stop dancing and have a bowl of salad. When she thinks that Jennie's not looking, she rolls her eyes at the decor. Jennie is looking, anxiously, over her shoulder as she washes up her bowl and then goes for a second plate.

Her guest seems to be content to keep dancing. She wonders if she should get up and dance, but that looks like far too energetic an activity. It's been a long day, and that wonderful - and expensive - pink double bed is beckoning.

But she'll have to get rid of the guest first. Gwayne is… unlikely to want to share a bed. Their acquaintance has been pretty short, and also Jennie is pretty sure by now that Gwayne is straight.

By the time she finishes her second plate and Gwayne says goodnight, it's gone midnight, and she falls straight into bed.

Her dreams are confused, and she's sure there was at least one unicorn… but mostly she dreams of science.

----

Up bright and early, the salad is still looking pretty fresh, but she's still rather full from last night. So she stashes the leftovers, and as she's doing so, she makes a connection… the fridge came with lettuce - lettuce is a plant!

With a few hours to go until her job starts, she marches outside with a head of lettuce, determined to make a tiny bit of progress towards her gardening goals. How did this work again? You take the produce, you make a mound of dirt, you put the produce in the mound of dirt…

She stares at the triumphantly buried lettuce for a few minutes, wondering what her life has become.

Then she heads inside and finally changes the music from 'Roots' to something she much prefers - Indie.

She's just rifling through the bookshelf again, wondering if she can get a few minutes alone with that Handiness book, when a honking noise alerts her to an arrival outside her house. Heading out, she sees a run-down and uncared-for vehicle frantically signalling her.

It looks like she gets a car-share to work. Maybe they want to be certain she's going to show up.

As she is bundled inside and the driver accelerates sharply, she sees the postman squaring up to her postbox. But he seems unhappy. Instead of placing the post within, he angrily throws on the ground her first bill - for a whole eighty-four Simoleons!

The job had better go well. She looks around at her fellow test subjects for a few moments, and then decides on an initial strategy of determined boss attachment. Maybe if he sees her as a human being, this will go better for her!

Especially as she reads his name badge with a sinking feeling. Apparently her boss's job title is Carnivorous Plant Tender.

And the hours are shorter than she thought. While that gives her less time to play Dodge the Cowplant, and probably increases her chances of survival, she can't help but think fondly of the military career she had so easily dismissed just because it was slightly less per hour with an extra day off.

Shadowing her boss's footsteps everywhere and carrying his watering cans is hard work, although at least she doesn't lose any appendages that way. Time seems to pass ever slower, and eventually she peels off and takes cover in a specimen closet to gibber quietly to herself for a few minutes.

Once she's got over that she feels obscurely guilty - and also terrified that she will lose the only job she's ever had - so she puts all her remaining enthusiasm into the rest of the shift, even letting one of the plants sniff her gently.

Then it takes a snap at her, and it's back in the closet until hometime.

----

Her pay packet is satisfyingly bulky, more than doubling her available wealth. Maybe this isn't going to be so hard after all. She dutifully pays her bills first, and is so overcome with the rush of fulfilling her adult responsibilities that she runs up and greets the random stranger who is just walking past her front yard, minding her own business.

After babbling nervously for some time about nothing much, Jennie learns that Patricia Knack is a CEO! The conversation naturally turns to Jennie's own paltry employment, and she tries to cover up her embarrassment by trying to sound enthusiastic about business matters that she has no idea of.

The conversation just reminds her of the precarious state of her bank account, her recent paycheck notwithstanding, and after blurting out her money worries she is finally too ashamed to continue the conversation.

She runs off to get some ice cream from the fridge to console herself. Ice cream is her friend. Ice cream makes everything better.

Maybe that's why she's twice the size of Patricia.

There are dirty plates and spoiled Autumn Salad everywhere. She could have had several more meals out of that lettuce if she'd only put it back in the fridge. Never mind - ice cream won't desert her, and there are Choons still blaring out of the hi-fi.

Which she'd left on all day. At least houses in Twinbrook came with free utilities. Or maybe that's the source of some of those arriving bills? All she knows is that her sister warned her to pay them, or the dreaded Repo-Men would come for her hard-earned fixtures and fittings.

Talking of fixtures and fittings, no wonder the conversation with Patricia was such a mess - she stinks! It's bad enough she can smell it over the rotting salad stench. Time for a shower.

She is in the shower when her phone starts ringing. iOS 10 finally waterproofed it for good, so she'd dropped it on the soap stand while she lathered up. Fortunately she's almost done, so she bails out of the shower in time to answer.

Oh. Caller ID says that 'Patricia' is in fact 'Pattina'. And for some reason she still wants to chat? Obviously Jennie didn't do everything wrong, then! Time to chalk up another Adult Point?

Sure, she should be cleaning up the place and maybe getting some more gardening practice in, or finding another way to pay the bills and finally decorate the distressingly bare walls, but wide-ranging gossip with Pattina the CEO to the soundtrack of the stereo totally counted too, she reckoned.

Finally the conversation comes to a natural end - how does Pattina do that? - and she looks longingly at the bookshelf, but the plates won't clean themselves.

It's getting a little late, but she reckons she can fit one more thing into the day. She tries calling Gwayne, but she can feel her adult points draining away as Gwayne patiently explains that she's just not in the mood for visiting right now. So she finally succombs to the temptation of the bookshelf, but she leaves Point Farmer on the shelf and picks up the Handiness book instead, for a little virtuous bedtime reading.

Having achieved a little insight into the art of fixing things, Jennie collapses into her expensive pink bed with great satisfaction.

This adult life isn't too bad, all considered.

----

She's not really ready to climb out of bed at seven in the morning, but she doesn't want to go to work hungry. Looking speculatively at the salad ingredients in the fridge, she determines that she doesn't have time to prepare a nice salad - or maybe it's just that the ice cream is looking at her again.

Eat me, it says. You're an adult now. That means you get to eat ice-cream for breakfast and dinner if you want. And being a little overweight doesn't seem to have hurt so far, does it?

She should really put that Farmer book back on the bookshelf, but as soon as she's thought about it, it's time for work anyway.

Jennie starts out the day with good intentions, but she soon gets distracted hunting around the gigantic greenhouse complex for other scientists. She eventually finds Rich Whelohff peering into a complicated machine with plenty of blinkenlights, which he explains is a Genetic Resequencer.

And at that point her boss catches her slacking off. He looks disappointed in her, but also there's a undercurrent of being glad that she's genuinely enthusiastic about the subject. Apparently when you irritate your boss, jobs come with homework too; Lincoln hands her a book, disturbingly titled 'Living With Mutation', and asks her to read it overnight.

Books are one of Jennie's favourite things, but she tries not to look too delighted, as she's pretty sure this is supposed to be some kind of punishment. And she's now somewhat worried about the glint in Rich's eye when he looks at her. Maybe he's sizing her up for the Genetic Resequencer, and soon she will be Living With Mutation…

She's so distracted that she has to work really hard for the rest of the day just to keep up, and by the time she gets home she has had quite enough of her day job. But there is some success to cheer her up when she gets home - her lettuce plant has sprouted!

In celebration of her success, after carefully watering the new greenery she purchases a chess board and tries inviting Gwayne over - maybe she'd like to play a quick game? This time, it's much earlier in the afternoon and Gwayne agrees to show up 'in a little while'.

Jennie practices anxiously while she waits, and soon enough Gwayne's camo-green truck shows up and deposits Gwayne, who's wearing a fetching hat and raincoat combination today. Waving her over to the chess board, they get stuck into the game immediately - which is a great load off Jennie's mind. She feels the work-related stress melt away as she gets into the chess match, glad that her friend is willing to play.

As the evening wears on, she gets increasingly peckish and sleepy, but she doesn't want to stop. The stars come out, and she considers her next purchase for the house - a telescope. She wants to see those stars closer, to reach out and identify them…

The game has woken something inside her, and she doesn't want to stop. She can almost see the autumn salad that she could be eating right now, but Gwayne shows no sign of flagging and she doesn't want to show weakness. The game gets gradually slower and slower, and Gwayne is definitely getting sleepy now, but she's not budging. Jennie doesn't want to be the one to leave - especially not in the middle of a game.

She knows she's going to be wrecked for work tomorrow. She wants the loo, as well. She doesn't want to be the first one to…

Her face impacting the chess board wakes her up, as Gwayne looks over at her with some concern. She staggers towards the door, and passes out on the lawn. Gwayne helps her up. The pressure in her bladder is terrible. She must get to a toilet. Pushing past her friend with no explanation, she rushes to the bathroom.

Left stranded outside the house - which Jennie realises, as she tries not to fall asleep on the toilet, she'd never actually invited Gwayne inside - her friend finally gives up and goes home.

Food can wait. Showering can wait. She stumbles back to her bed and loses consciousness.

----
It's seven in the morning. She's barely slept and she smells terrible and her stomach is no longer friends, although it is definitely on speaking terms.

And she hasn't read the book.

She can eat at work. Showering is a priority. She's certain some of those plants track by scent, and currently she's 'visible' from a long way off, practically leaving a snail-trail of grime. She has a good sing to herself in the shower, still buzzing with the excitement of last night's epic chess match.

There must be more scientists in here somewhere. And moving around lets her avoid talking to her boss about the book she hasn't read.

Eventually she finds another test subject, lurking under some dense ground cover hoping not to be noticed. Having not had nearly enough sleep, she's getting a bit weary for running about the place, so she sits down under the same bush and enthuses about that chess game with Charmaine Manne. In return, Charmaine - who doesn't really seem to be much of a natural scientist - tells her about the Lounge she was out at last night.

Her boss gives her a disappointed look as he sees her sloping out, but doesn't say anything.

As soon as her carpool gets her home, she collapses straight into bed. The book can wait - everything can wait.

Her restless dreams of getting married amongst a nuclear wasteland covered in garbage, and begging her boss for one last chance to prove herself at her job, are interrupted by the dulcet tones of her mobile phone.

It's just Gwayne. Jennie enthusiastically relates her dream, there being nothing much else on her mind. Gwayne hangs up.

----

Jennie contemplates her bleak surroundings, but her cash on hand won't even stretch to a telescope, let alone a proper set of wallpaper and flooring. She quietly discards the idea of going to a classy lounge and meeting celebrities. That life seems impossibly distant, for all that Charmaine is also a test subject.

Instead, she resolves to concentrate on becoming Gwayne's best friend - but not until she's finished this goddamn book.

There are so many things she could be doing other than lying on the bed reading. She could go fishing. She could catch some delicious fish. She's so hungry. But she's worried she will never pick it up again if she stops reading before she's done.

Finally she reaches the end of it, and dives out of bed on a mission to the fridge. She's sure there is some sensible food she should be eating, but why would you do such a thing when there's an infinite supply of ice-cream? Awkwardly trying to ignore the horrifying spoiled ice-cream from yesterday sitting accusingly on the dining table, she sits and shovels it into her mouth.

This is what adulthood is all about, yeah?

...talking of adulthood, didn't she plant something earlier?

She dashes outside and almost trips over the poor wilting lettuce plant, which she obediently douses in what she thinks is the right amount of water. Then she looks up at the pitch black night sky, and comes to the realisation that it is four in the morning and phoning Gwayne now will undoubtedly just piss her off.

But the book store is open all night! She might not be able to get that telescope, but surely she can afford a new logic book!

...yeah, no. Five hundred simoleons? What do these people think she is, made of money? It's not like it grows on trees. Or not any trees that she can grow yet, anyway.

Wait. Can she sell one of her other books?

The bookstore is unsurprisingly uninterested in Point Farmer, which contains disappointingly few gardening insights, and fortunately does not want her precious tinkering book either. But the book from work… they'll take the book from work… for just enough to buy the logic book she covets.

And - she's read it, right? That's what they asked her to do? No-one ever said anything about wanting the book back afterwards.

Maybe she can tell them she dropped it in the bath. She doesn't have a bath - showers were cheaper - but still. They probably won't even ask.

Looking over her shoulder - as if anyone else is crazy enough to be at a bookstore at four-thirty on a Thursday morning - she guiltily trades in the book and heads swiftly home in a taxi, clutching her prize.

Maybe next time she'll go and do something less expensive, like fishing.

Her nerves are so jangled by her nighttime adventure that she can't even open the book right away; she has to sit down and browse the web for a while to calm herself down.

And she's still no better at gardening, which is what her boss actually seems to want her to care about.

The browsing leads her to an interesting open problem in mathematics, and she whiles away the rest of the early hours tugging at it like a loose tooth. At seven in the morning she posts a possible approach to a relevant forum, only to realise the crucial error just too late to keep her from being widely quoted and denounced as a crank.

She is just starting on a new approach when the blare of a car horn outside reminds her of her real job. Now they'll have all day to pick her initial hasty posting apart.

To her mingled relief and sorrow, her boss doesn't even want to talk about the book. She wanders around the greenhouse poking various wildlife and attempting to look like she's working hard, but really she doesn't have a clue what she's doing. It's very clear to the lab technicians, one of whom takes pity on her and lets her help retrieve and stack some equipment; the dishwasher is broken and her boss chances by at that moment, suggesting that if she likes washing dishes so much, she could take those ones home to do.

She's just grateful to have some way to please him, to be honest. She tries to cut through the tedium of the day with wild speculation about becoming a celebrity; surely a celebrity would not have to wash incomprehensible labware for an uncaring carnivorous plant tender!

As a celebrity she could go out all day with friends - with adoring groupies, no less! - and she could… buy a dartboard! Maybe even… a dryer!

Her carpool deposits her at home and the look on her driver's face tells her what she needs to do next - after a day working that hard, she smells almost as bad as the decaying ice-cream cluttering up her 'dining table'.

Time for a shower!

...the heat control on the shower is broken. She miserably shivers her way through her cleaning routine, and contemplates calling Gwayne and having a moan, but that bed is looking very inviting. Even though she knows she will wake in the early hours again.

----

In fact, her lovely pink bed is so good that it's not even that late when she awakens. She could probably still call Gwayne. She finds herself dialling the number before she can talk herself out of it. Despite their last interaction being an undoubtedly dull dream-retelling, Gwayne agrees to show up in a little while.

What to do until she shows up? Those horrific ice-cream tubs - they have got to go. She has just finished depositing them in the trash compactor, wondering why she prioritised this over finished walls and floors, when she hears the tell-tale rumble of Gwayne's vehicular arrival.

She suddenly feels terribly embarrassed about her accommodation. Gwayne will only be unhappy inside, and Jennie isn't really feeling up to another epic chess match just yet. They should go out somewhere. They should go to a Lounge!

As she rushes up to Gwayne and explains her plan, Gwayne tries very politely not to laugh at her. There are, she patiently explains, no Lounges like that in Twinbrook. But maybe they could go for coffee at The Red Rendezvous, which is apparently some kind of Hangout?

Jennie isn't that convinced, but can hardly back out now, so she agrees that the Rendezvous sounds like an excellent plan.

They pile out of the taxi at the red awning, and Jennie eyes the neon crocodile on the sign with barely concealed contempt. This is nothing like the gleaming clubs and lounges of Bridgeport. There are… foosball tables. And is that a child at the bar? Where are that kid's parents?

The two adult patrons of the bar look disturbingly like they might be related to her boss. She turns around to Gwayne and is about to tell her how it was a bad idea to come here, but Gwayne seems to be in her element and goes to get them one of the dimly lit circular tables.

There is at least one interesting person here, though - hanging around by the door is a golden-skinned lady that Jennie hasn't seen before. Striking up a hesitant conversation, the first thing she notices is that Chandra is looking at her - no, looking at her. Almost the first thing out of her mouth is a declaration of how she doesn't care what anyone else thinks - apparently Chandra thinks that Jennie is 'hot'.

The feeling is, well, at least a little bit mutual.

She feels bad about abandoning Gwayne inside, but she simply has to follow up on this. Awkwardly, she complements the lady on her beautiful skin. This doesn't seem to go down too badly, so she swiftly adds that she's sure Chandra is a very interesting person, too.

Chandra seems to be waiting for her to say something else, so Jennie asks if she's going to be hanging around for a while, which she seems fairly keen on. Emboldened, she moves into Chandra's personal space a little and says something nice about her bunches, and how pleasant she is to talk to. She's running out of lines, so she ends up trying something cheesy about flowers, which also seems to work surprisingly well.

Gwayne, forgotten in the building, has a glance out of the window to see what is going on; seeing Jennie and Chandra so close to each other, she immediately works out what is going on. Jennie looks up with guilty embarrassment, but Gwayne just gives her a big thumbs-up and disappears back into the depths of the establishment.

This finally gives Jennie the courage to ask Chandra her sign, which is what her mother told her that you should do with possible romantic entanglements. Apparently she's a Virgo - just like Jennie! That might explain the strange attraction between them, Jennie speculates. Chandra replies, rather forwardly, that it's the ideal combination to start a family.

Maybe Chandra is a little more focussed on areas Jennie hasn't even thought about yet… like children. Would it be fair to have children when your role in life is as a test subject for a carnivorous plant tender? Or, given that book that she was assigned to read, should she be seriously considering getting it sorted before the mutations really started to set in?

If only she could be a little more observant, maybe she could figure out more about Chandra and see whether they really were compatible. It was all moving a little fast!

But now she was really looking, there was nothing to dislike about what she saw. Chandra did seem a little easily-impressed by Jennie, who was acutely aware she had nothing but moths in her pocket after that impulse-purchase of a logic book she hadn't even cracked open, and maybe a little kind-hearted and over-trusting in general, but a surreptitious glance at her hands suggested she was a natural with repair work just like Jennie was.

Maybe she had been staring a little long. There was one important question left - was Chandra even available?

Of course she was.

With another few awkward comments about her fine facial features and a pretty straightforward line about how they're helpless in the face of love, Jennie finds herself offering Chandra a slightly inexpert massage - which her new friend nevertheless enjoys. She thinks about going to the movies, as Chandra had initially suggested, but then remembers how incredibly skint she is.

Soon they are going in for the full hugging experience, and Jennie considers inviting Chandra home, but turns it into an awkward joke about bookshelves when she remembers the state of her walls and floors.

Instead, to fill the expectant silence, she asks Chandra if they're girlfriends now. Chandra is delighted to accept her offer, even though they've barely met and haven't moved from outside the Rendezvous. And she still doesn't know that Jennie is embarrassingly penniless.

It isn't really like Jennie had expected it to be, but never mind - she leans in to seal the new understanding with a kiss. She'd had a peck on the cheek from relatives before, of course, but she'd been a chronically shy teen, and she'd never done anything like this before. Chandra seems to realise, and maybe have a little more experience, as she takes Jennie's head in her hands and gently moves their lips together for the briefest of moments, but what moments!

She's so excited that she leaps into Chandra's arms. She doesn't quite know why, and Chandra seems pretty surprised as well, but the other lady is rather larger than her and just rolls with it. In fact, she seems to find it extremely irresistible.

Jennie is just about to go for another kiss, stroking Chandra's cheek in wonder at what she has found, when her stomach interrupts with a rather displeased note. She considers going inside and getting something to snack on, or at least a drink, but then she remembers again - she's broke.

So that is what finally gets her to invite Chandra back to her place.

----

No need for a taxi this time - Chandra's got a big lemon of a car, presumably ready for that family she wants to have, and is not afraid to drive it to some unknown destination with the girl she's just met outside a Hangout. Jennie still can't believe her luck. She's so happy that Gwayne talked her into giving the place a try, even if she didn't care for the venue itself - and still feels a bit bad about ditching Gwayne, but she did seem to be okay with it?

Jennie hesitates outside for a moment, but Chandra looks like she's hungry too, so she reluctantly heads inside and goes for the fridge to make them both some waffles. She needn't have worried, it seems; Chandra appears to be delighted with the poor undecorated excuse for a house. In fact, she seems to be eyeing up the possible space for cribs… Jennie isn't sure what she thinks about that, still.

Chandra sits down at the cyan computer and starts playing a football game that Jennie didn't even know she possessed. The fake commentary is so distracting that she burns the first set of waffles, getting carried away listening to the game. She dumps the charred remnants on the kitchen table and goes for another batch.

Checking the cooking waffles more often this time, she is startled by the sound of a car-horn outside. Why is someone hailing her at this time of night? Does Chandra have some kind of night job that she's meant to be going to? But how would that car know to turn up here?

Finally she checks the time on her phone. It's eight in the morning already. How did that happen? Mindful of the need not to burn the house down, she finishes cooking the delicious plate of waffles, but then her bladder chimes in with the news that it is bursting. Peeing in the car on the way to work seems even less appealing than possibly being late, so she dumps the waffles on the table and dashes for the loo.

She glances at Chandra as she leaves the house in a terrible hurry, but the golden lady looks so content on her computer that she can't bring herself to suggest that the stranger she's barely met might not want to stay in her house all day. So she just leaves without a word, hoping that Chandra will not be too insulted and will at least enjoy the waffles.

Running through the door of the greenhouse panting, she eyes the greenery somewhat hungrily - it's only fair, as she's sure some of it is doing the same to her. And then her boss asks her about the dishes. The completely forgotten, still-dirty lab dishes in her backpack. At least she's brought them back this time… but that doesn't save her from the disappointed looks, not only from him but from the technicians she was just beginning to befriend.

Maybe this science thing just isn't going to work out for her. But she needs the cash, so she just looks at her feet and mumbles apologies, then sets out to work extra hard to make up for it all.

It's clear the lab techs now consider her one of theirs, however, even if she can't be trusted to wash a few dishes overnight. In some ways it beats wandering around the greenhouse wondering what might nibble on her around the next corner, but attempting to throw herself into the work make her a nervous wreck by lunchtime - not helped by the lack of breakfast - and by the time she stumbles blinking back out into the daylight, she really wants a long soak in a tub she doesn't have, or maybe just a good game of chess with Gwayne and a nice shopping spree.

At least her pay seems to have gone up with the new duties; she can't quite believe that there are a thousand Simoleans in her account. Briefly. Before she purchases that telescope she's been promising herself.

She glances wearily at the slightly saggy-looking lettuce plant, but can't bring herself to water it right now. Instead, she goes to take a good peer through her latest acquisition - but it's daytime, so the most interesting thing she can see is all the fine details of the Lopes mansion opposite, whose inhabitants must be very fed up with her little grey squat spoiling their sightlines.

As she pries herself away from the telescope, she notices something other than bills in the mailbox. Apparently Patricia Knack is inviting her to a party! She tries to remember who that is… oh, she can remember now, it's not Patricia, it's Pattina - the CEO that wandered past that first day she paid her first set of bills.

Presumably she's just trying to fill out her guest list, but Jennie feels like she should make the effort. Her renewed resolve to act like an adult causes her to put the (sadly untouched - Chandra must have gone home hungry) waffles away in the fridge before they go off further, and get her head down for a nap before the festivities are due to begin.

She just has enough time for a nice shower before the party when she awakens, which is a pity, because her rickety cheap shower is only good for another unpleasant cold shower. It's enough to stop her smelling like old socks, though, which is what she tells herself really matters as she hails a taxi.

Pattina, of course, has an enormous white-panelled house at the end of the road. Even the garage is palatial and multi-storied. In case the whole occasion was not embarrassing enough, the dress code was swimwear. Jennie shivered outside the house for several minutes, trying to work out which door to enter by - there were two front doors, not counting the garage door.

Eventually she picked the one with the colonnades, and gingerly pushed it open to find an older gentleman standing there in not very much.

It's just swimwear, she insisted to herself, as she walked over to introduce herself in a friendly manner. She was just getting her first words out when an intimidatingly cool-looking dark-skinned guy came walking down the stairs in long shorts and shades, followed closely by a very sleepy Gwayne in characteristic khaki swimsuit. Suddenly she was unsure where to turn, but she didn't want to be too obvious in ditching the boring old guy she had begun to greet.

Especially when it swiftly became clear that he was one of her mathematical correspondents, as well as something of an outdoorsman and rather career-minded. Meanwhile the guy in shades was just heading into the kitchen when he turned around and practically let out a whoop while looking right at her - as if to say to Gwayne, "this is really your friend? Talking to that square in the tight swimming trunks?"

Jennie had never felt so mortified, and she had a pretty good range of teenage embarrassments to choose from. She carried on resolutely covering the safe conversational ground of how much she admired the gentleman's papers - this was none other than Nick Knack, Pattina's famous trauma surgeon husband, it turned out.

Gwayne having separated herself from Shades, whose name she wasn't sure she cared to learn any more, Jennie flagged her friend over to join the conversation. Of course, Gwayne immediately began teasing her about all the cute babies that Jennie was naturally going to settle down and make with her new girlfriend,

So Jennie picked up the thread by having an apparently earnest discussion of the merits of various children's toys, before discovering that this town was quite full of outdoors types - Gwayne apparently had a passion for fishing that Jennie had not yet heard enough about.

Eventually Gwayne's tiredness got the better of her, and Jennie was just contemplating going to find Pattina and express her admiration for the wonderful house she had been invited into when she spotted Chandra across the living room, talking to a bona fide celebrity - Robert Cantor - across a chess board!

Before she could go and kiss her girlfriend possessively, however, she was interrupted by Pattina thanking her for attending the party, which seemed to be a signal for guests to leave. She thought about trying to introduce herself to the celebrity, but the tiredness she had kept at bay with a quick nap was hitting her again with full force. The other party attendees mostly left in their own cars, of course; mercifully, they had cleared out before her taxi arrived.

She collapsed into bed and gave thanks that it was now the weekend - a full two days of getting her life sorted out before she had to slope back into the laboratory where she still didn't really know what she was meant to be doing.

----

Morning brought the unwelcome smell of decaying waffles. Apparently her last-minute waffle stashing had not been as effective as she was hoping it would be. Never mind - she had plenty of time on her hands, and she rather felt like whipping up a new batch anyhow.

Maybe she could even make an expedition to the bookstore to pick up some new recipes. She sits by the computer to eat, as far as possible from the cremated waffles on the table and the wafting scent of decay from the refrigerator.

Between the telescope and the bills she had noticed were coming due as she passed the postbox on the way out of the house, her wallet was looking a little moth-ridden again, so she kept herself to the cheapest available recipe - which was twenty times cheaper, she was pleased to discover, than that logic book she still hadn't cracked open.

She could have gone home to read the recipe, but it was a nice day and there was a pleasant bench outside the bookstore. As she settled down to read, she saw a flash of green camo out of the corner of her eye and looked up to see if it was Gwayne, but this long-haired, mustached figure was only dressed like her friend. She considered saying hello and seeing if they were any relation, but the recipe was more interesting.

Having finished reading, she dropped by the supermarket next door to idly browse the ingredients she'd need to make the food, and maybe pick up something for the home garden she was meant to be cultivating. If she had a few more plants, maybe she would finally understand what her supervisor was talking about at the science lab.

Mindful of her limited funds, she picked up one each of the most plantable-looking vegetables and fruits, then set out for her garden patch.

Her poor lettuce plant had gone all parched and lacy white and brown, but a vigorous watering managed to bring it back to what looked like some semblance of health.

The grass brought to mind memories of lawn games - Gnubb on a lazy summer's day. But her funds would hardly stretch to such extravagances, so she continued to plant cheerfully; and when she was done, she discovered there were in fact some extra seeds left over from the vegetables she had been planting, so she planted them as well.

That gave her the insight that some of those extraneous dangly bits around her first lettuce plant were in fact weeds, which needed pulling.

Suddenly it was lunchtime, although she wasn't terribly hungry. She headed towards the fridge to try out her new recipe, but as she'd just started getting the ingredients together, her mobile rang. It was Chandra!

She was very glad to have a chat and confirm she hadn't been hallucinating that entire evening, but the flies gathering around the charred remains of the waffles on the table kept distracting her and she heard herself, with detached horror, complaining about her own self-inflicted garbage problem to her beautiful lady-friend, who tactfully hung up shortly thereafter.

That did it. Time for a comprehensive clean and tidy. By the time she was done scrubbing, the light was fading and it was definitely dinner o'clock, so she finally finished the ratatouille she had started preparing - and this time she immediately washed up and cleared away the remains when she was done.

The gardening had left her a little more confident about work, and hopefully there would be more to be done with it in the morning. Meanwhile it was time for a shower (mercifully with hot water available this time) and some flying zeds.

----

Waking in the early hours again, Jennie seriously considers selling the excellent bed and getting herself some better interior decoration, but she knows she could really do with the time. Determinedly heading outside in her fluffy pink dressing-gown, she sees that her plants have already sprouted, and need another round of tender loving care.

By the time she's done with that, the sun is well up, and it's a reasonable hour for social calls. She wonders whether to call on Gwayne or on Chandra, but her phone presents another way out of the dilemma - she could call over an unknown ranked chess ladder competitor instead. It would feel good to flex her intellectual muscles after the physical work of the morning, she decides, and calls the number.

She heads over to the board for a little practice, and a short while later, a small red car disgorges another genuine celebrity at her door! Wei Keane is short, dark-haired and bespectacled, but neatly done up in a suit and tie.

Jennie wishes she'd had the foresight to change out of her dressing-gown. He does not look very approving, especially when he glances through her window and sees the distinctly low-spec cyan computer on a table. It's clear he fancies himself a bit of a computer whiz.

Hesitantly, she reminds him of her own hard-worn skill in logical matters, which has led her to be able to invite him over in the first place; by the time she is rambling about tending cabbages, he's smiling again, and he seems to have accepted her.

Time for the game. Wei is less than impressed by the circle of rotting newspapers that adorn her front porch just above the chess board, but she makes sure to take the seat facing the house so that he can face the road and the much better house across from hers instead. The pieces flow across the board under her hands, and soon Wei is sitting back in defeat, claiming that he only lost because he's tired out.

She considers spending more time with Wei, trying to get to know him better, but her stomach reminds her that lunchtime is upon them. Still, it would be antisocial to beat him and just kick him out, so she invites him inside for some lunch. Autumn Salad should make her look sufficiently sophisticated, she thinks. Just a shame about the spoiled waffles still stinking the place out.

Wei seems rather disoriented and distressed by the lack of wall and floor decoration, and eventually decides to go and commune with the oven; Jennie is glad she's not preparing anything that needs it. Triumphantly depositing the bowl on the counter and taking a plate for herself, she notices Wei is doing a little dance by the fridge, and also appears to be having trouble staying on his feet.

She considers inviting him to stay over - after all, she's not going to use the bed for a while - but she doesn't know him well enough to know how to put it.

Instead of joining her for lunch, Wei watches her eat for a bit and then takes out his phone and starts chatting to someone about baseball. Not sure what to do, she awkwardly cleans up around him. He's just put the phone down when she's in the middle of washing dishes, so she considers engaging him in conversation, but by the time she's done with her plate he's on the phone again.

After putting the thoroughly dead waffles in the trash compactor and the leftover salad in the fridge, she asks him if there was something wrong with her lunch, and compliments him on his obvious dedication to celebrity-hood. She's just in the middle of that when Wei declares hurriedly that he needs to go home and flees her presence.

She's just about to figure out what to do next when she notices he's just hanging around on her porch, looking mournfully at the newspapers, rather than actually going home; she figures he's just sufficiently neurotic he needed to get out of the undecorated house, and heads out to engage him in further conversation, mostly about computers.

His answers get gradually less and less coherent as the conversation goes on, until he eventually stops responding at all. Jennie is a little worried by this, but it gives her the perfect out to go and use the loo, which she's bursting for.

As she heads back into the house, she hears a solid thump from outside. She's torn between her desire to rush out and look, and her need for the toilet; the toilet wins. By the time she gets back, Wei is picking himself up off the deck with a dazed expression.

She's about to ask him if he's okay when her phone rings.

It's Charmaine, the celebrity test subject she once hid under a bush with! Apparently the reason she's still a test subject is she has no idea how to even start with this gardening malarky, but she does like cooking, and she thinks maybe if Jennie provides her with some very nice garden produce for cooking it might inspire her to finally learn how to do it herself.

Despite his tiredness, Wei seems genuinely interested in the conversation - it looks like Jennie has made a new friend.

Agreeing to Charmaine's kind offer to pay her for some fruit and veg, Jennie turns back to Wei, but he appears to have started some kind of paranoid rambling about how the ranks of celebrities are infiltrated by vampires, and how Jennie should be careful about potentially meeting one. The poor guy is obviously too tired to make sense, and has finally made it off the porch, so Jennie lets him head off and goes to have a shower.

When she's done, she considers calling up Gwayne and telling her about her celebrity encounter, but it's getting quite late and Jennie just wants to collapse into her lovely pink bed, so she does.

----

She's just getting comfortable when Gwayne calls her anyway, although she seems much more interested in Jennie's job than in Wei and rumours of vampires.

Waking up bright and early, she has time for a nice breakfast of leftover ratatouille and a session in the garden before she needs to head off to work - although she does leave her carpool waiting for a few minutes while she waters the last of the green shoots.

She starts the day working as hard as she can, taking her lab responsibilities seriously now she has some idea of what she is doing from her home gardening efforts, but that's too stressful to keep up all day - so when her boss comes round with news of her raise, she's geeking out with Charmaine. Or at Charmaine, anyway. Who, on reflection, is standing a little close for comfort and appears to be doing more looking than listening…

Anyway, an extra seven simoleons an hour; it's not much, but it's gratifying to feel like she's on the right track, finally.

Talking to Rich and Charmaine makes her somewhat nostalgic for the exclusive venues of Bridgeport again - especially as, to her surprise, both celebrity co-workers think that she could totally get in on her own merits now.

Her car-pool takes her home, and she tries to content herself with another nostalgia item - a gnome in a zebra-fur music box - but its twinkling music just makes her memories of the pulsing beats rumbling out of the clubs of Bridgeport more acute.

Planting this morning's harvested cabbages and tomato seed, she wonders what to do next with her evening. She could practice chess; she could have another attempt at academic endeavours… or she could phone Gwayne again.

She calls Gwayne. They swap inconsequential anecdotes for a while, and then Gwayne drops the bombshell.

"You know how you were talking to me last night about vampires?" says Gwayne.

"Yeah," replies Jennie, somewhat embarrassed. "Sorry about that. You woke me up, and Wei had been rambling on about them after he fell asleep on my porch…"

"Jennie," says Gwayne. "Vampires exist. I know. I am one."

It takes some time to sink in.

"But we sat in the sun for hours," Jennie objects, "playing chess, that one time."

"I wasn't a vampire then," replies Gwayne. "But then I met DeAndre - you know, you call him Shades ever since that party at Pattina's - and he…"

"He bit you?"

"It's not as unpleasant as all that," Gwayne reassures her. "It's more of a… kiss, really. I mean, the transformation is a bit, uh, tingly. But it's worth it. I was getting old - I want to enjoy many more years - and now I can."

"But what about the sunlight?" Jennie persists.

"Again, it's not that bad," replies Gwayne. "I mean, it's not pleasant to be out in the sun, but you'd have to be tied to something for ages before it actually kills us. We can wander around outside in the light for a bit if we need to - it's just like being really susceptible to sunburn."

"And… the blood?" asks Jennie, finally getting around to it. "What about the bit where you need to drink blood?"

"Ah," replies Gwayne, "the modern world has conveniences for that. Have you heard of Plasma Fruit?"

"I saw some in the supermarket once," replies Jennie. "It was really expensive, though."

"Don't worry, the juice is much cheaper," says Gwayne. "Not quite as good as the fresh stuff, but it will do."

"And… the fresh stuff?" Jennie presses her.

"Well, yes," replies Gwayne. "Very occasionally. And only from people who want to. It's actually quite an experience, I'm told - like all the best bits of being turned without the… side effects."

"Don't you miss food?" Jennie asks.

"You get used to it," Gwayne assures her. "And you can still cook for other people!"

"How does the - not dying - thing work?" asks Jennie, finally.

"Oh, I'll eventually finish getting old," replies Gwayne. "It'll just take a lot longer. In fact, the earlier you do it, the longer you live."

"And…" says Jennie hesitantly, thinking of Chandra. "Can Vampires still have children?"

"Oh yes," replies Gwayne. "Assuming you weren't too old already, of course. But other than that, Vampires have the best children. Often they're already born vampires, you see, and they learn so fast…"

"Um," says Jennie. "I mean. Would you. Like to come over?"

The evening has got dark enough, after all, she thinks.

She can almost hear Gwayne's fanged smile on the other end of the line. "Sure," she replies, "I'll be over in a little while."

Jennie isn't sure what to do with herself in the meantime. She stumbles over to the mailbox to pay her bills, and then looks up at the sound of a car pulling up - but she knows from the noise that it isn't Gwayne's distinctive camo-coloured car, and the lady in white who gets out is definitely not Gwayne.

At first she thinks she is hallucinating - that she is being haunted by some kind of ghost that is going to tell her about her future once she has made this terrible decision she is building up to. But the lady looks fully opaque, even if strangely attired in a striking white backless dress with a huge tattoo of a rose on her back.

"Excuse me," Jennie begins, nervously, "but who are you?"

The lady, who had been climbing the porch steps, looks over at her, and heads in her direction; but instead of introducing herself, she pulls out a camera and begins to take pictures.

Suddenly Jennie remembers - the roving figures outside the windows, taking photographs of her mother whenever she incautiously ventured into view. She's 'made it' - Jennie Womack is a bona fide celebrity now.

She's not sure that's really a good thing.

Before she can object, Gwayne arrives in her camo-mobile, and sweeps her into a friendly hug despite the audience. It's as if the lady in white doesn't exist. Maybe she doesn't. Maybe she's a figment of Jennie's increasingly fevered imagination.

Seeing her friend's eyes glowing gently in the evening darkness, Jennie cannot contain herself, regardless of the pictures she knows are about to be taken.

"I want to be like you," Jennie confesses. "Turn me."

She had expected Gwayne to go for the neck, but instead her friend - her first friend in Twinbrook - grabs her arm and bites down, hard.

The world goes red. She can hear a muffled flapping and chittering, like a swarm of bats has risen around her, overwhelming her senses. It is not much like a kiss. She can feel the slightly rough hands on her arm as Gwayne presses a cotton wool swab over the puncture wound in her forearm.

She stumbles, but does not fall. She comes back to her senses. She opens her eyes, lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding. She smiles.

"You took that well," Gwayne reassures her. "I'm impressed… and your future is about to get a little more interesting…"

Jennie isn't sure how to take that. She feels giddy. Out of control.

"Do you want to play some chess?" is what she finally says.

----

It's strange, but not unwelcome, to have the paparazzi lady - Gwayne says this one is called Lucy - taking notes as they play, and taking photographs as Jennie answers her phone. It's Pattina on the line again, and it's strange how natural it feels now, talking to a CEO while a stranger takes her photograph and the bite on her arm tingles strangely.

By the time Pattina is finished, Jennie feels hungry. She asks Gwayne about food, but her friend just laughs and tells her she's not a vampire yet. Jennie wonders about having some kind of special meal - after all, every conventional meal now might be her last - but the remnants of her breakfast put her off getting another plateful of ratatouille and the bowl of autumn salad is right there.

She's just getting started when her phone rings again. Is this the life of the celebrity? But it's just Chandra - oh, Chandra. Jennie isn't sure what to tell her, so she rambles on about Wei and his computer snobbery until Chandra hangs up, and Jennie is left thinking about baby shoes and children with glowing eyes.

Drifting off to sleep, her dreams are full of fangs and bats.

The morning comes too early, and after rushing to the loo she's barely got enough time to clean out the bad ratatouille from the fridge and grab herself a bowl of autumn salad. She can hear her increasingly frantic carpool outside, but her stomach insists that she finish at least a decent portion of her meal before dashing off.

It's a calculated gamble that pays off; the carpool always comes too early anyway. Less than half an hour later she's back at work, trying not to rub the slightly itchy bite on her arm which shows that last night was not just an extension of her dreams.

Trying to pretend all day that she knows what she's doing is a bit of a stretch, so she heads to a storeroom for a little light slacking-off. It doesn't seem to make any difference, though - she feels a bit guilty when he finds her there, but Lincoln has come to tell her that she's being promoted.

It appears there is a position available that uses her… specialist skills… of not knowing what the hell is going on at any point, but ploughing on with things anyway. She has been promoted to Useless Contraption Manipulator. She tries to ask Lincoln what this actually entails, but he just smiles and says she'll see in the morning, and he's sure she'll be good at it.

Well, her job performance seemed to turn around when she started getting her gardening together, so she dutifully tends her garden as the sun sets. She wonders if she's going to be able to do this as soon as she gets home, with the sun still out, when she's a vampire.

That first lonely cabbage plant has finally borne its first fruit - two cabbages. Two distinctly uninspiring cabbages. Of a kind she could have just gone to a supermarket and bought. She sighs as she squirrels them away. More autumn salad, then, she reckons.

By the time she's done with her garden she's feeling kind of lonely, and she does want to work out how to break the good news to Chandra, so she gets on the phone. She thinks about heading back to the Red Rendezvous with her, where they first met, but just across the street there's an intriguing place she's never been called the Curios Memorial Museum, so on the spur of the moment she invites Chandra out there instead.

----

It's only when they arrive and Chandra starts talking about whether 'Painting of Three Lines in a Box', apparently this place's most famous piece, is really art, that Jennie remembers that she hasn't eaten dinner and she probably also smells quite ripe after a day in the lab.

Fortunately, she still has those cabbages, and she scarfs one down when she thinks Chandra is sufficiently engaged in expressing her opinions regarding modern art that she won't notice.

Then the difficult part begins.

"Some of the really old art is objectively good, though," she tries. "Like, uh, the Mona Lisa. You'd need a lot of practice if you wanted to do anything like that."

"It's all about the colours for me," Chandra counters. "I'm not so keen on that dull brown palette - although I think it's meant to have been more vivid when it was first painted?"

"Hmm, maybe," she replies. "I'm not that much of a painter, I wouldn't know."

"Me either," admits Chandra.

"In fact, I barely know one end of a paintbrush from the other," she continues. This isn't going anywhere useful, and the conversation lapses into an awkward silence.

"You'll never guess what happened to me at work today," Jennie attempts. "I got promoted! Well, my boss calls it a promotion. But apparently instead of washing glassware, I'm going to be… poking supposedly useless contraptions? Seeing if I can get any response out of things put together by the boffins."

"There, there," replies Chandra. "It at least pays better, right?"

"Right." Jennie plasters a smile on her face, but she's still no closer to the topic she wanted to bring up.

She tries again. "Since I've apparently become a celebrity, I've been hearing all kinds of odd things."

"Oh my god, I know!" exclaims Chandra. "Did you know, Marshall is a bookworm?"

Jennie doesn't have the heart to tell her that she has no idea who Marshall is, nor does she really care if he likes reading. Or maybe Chandra's trying to tell her that he's actually green and slithery and eats paper. She wouldn't put that past the world, any more.

"You know how I like you very much, right?" she blurts out. Chandra smiles and nods, although she is stifling a yawn.

"And that means I want to… be with you," she continues, awkwardly. "For, like, a long time. A very long time. Maybe…"

"Aww, Jennie, I didn't know you felt the same way!" replies Chandra, once again grabbing the wrong end of the stick entirely. "You do know I have a kid, right? Selina Mercado - she got the last name from her father? Don't look like that - he's well out of the picture! So we'll have to buy a cot, when we move in…"

Jennie doesn't have the heart to retract the offer. She considers trying to reverse it - could she move into Chandra's house, which would already be set up for children? But her tiny undecorated house is in a very nice area, and Chandra would bring enough money with her to finally extend and decorate it.

"Of course," Jennie hears herself saying. "I need to decorate a bit better anyway. It will be lovely to have your… small person… around."

"Then it's decided," Chandra declares with uncomfortable finality.

"Do you need to tell your carpool?" Jennie asks.

"Oh, don't worry about that," replies Chandra, "I don't have a job - apart from looking after Selina, that is."

It just gets better and better, thinks Jennie as she begins to mentally plan her upcoming building work.

----

Dashing home ahead of her new housemates, Jennie tries to put away the foul remains of Autumn Salad and ignore the billowing cloud of stench coming from the refrigerator. But she's barely picked up the plate when Chandra arrives.

"...where's Selina?" asks Jennie, nervously.

"Oh, she's on her bike," replies Chandra, having blithely shown up in a car.

For a moment, Jennie strongly considers just kicking them both out and spending the proceeds on a hot tub.

At least it gives her a little time to consider what needs doing before the child gets there. There are so many options for wallpaper and flooring, and she's determined not to continue living in a grey box with a kid to think about.

Consulting her on the matter of colours, Chandra seems to think that blue and aqua are where it is at - apparently the child prefers the lighter shade - so the main room is dutifully wallpapered in blue and aqua clouds, the bathrooms - there's just enough space for an extra toilet next to the child's bedroom, both of which fit into the little nook she ran out of space to fill when starting out - are tiled in blue and white.

Purple and aqua doors are located and fitted. A nice single bed and a blue toilet are procured, after checking with Chandra that the child is too old for a cot.

She papers the master bedroom in pink flowers to go with the bright pink double bed, and the child's room in a kind of aqua-ish… no, it's more kind of peppermint green, isn't it? With spaceships and planets. Kids are meant to like that kind of thing, aren't they?

Then the floors. Nice colourful lino for the bathrooms. Blue and green carpet for the bedrooms, and about half of the main room before she decides that carpet in a food preparation area is distinctly unwise and goes for some blue tiling instead.

She's tempted to stop there, but there's still some of Chandra's money left and she thinks she deserves to live in something a bit nicer looking on the outside, not just a grey box. It might be nicer to live in now, but the other schoolchildren might taunt Selina about it, or something.

Jennie looks at all the proper adult outdoor walling materials, but they're all so dull and lifeless. Eventually she gives up and paints the whole thing purple, then decorates it with blue and pink dots. Much better.

The flat roof is still ugly as sin, so as a finishing touch she goes for a proper gable roof with some lovely midnight blue tiling.

Perfect.

----

Of course, Chandra heads straight for the old toilet and complains about the filthy surroundings.

Apparently you've got plenty of time on your hands, Jennie doesn't say, so why don't you do some of the cleaning I've never had the time or inclination for?

It doesn't help that the thing almost fails to flush, but Chandra eventually manages to subdue it, and then immediately sets about doing some cleaning.

Jennie has just about got the last of the foul leftovers into the bin when Selina walks in. Her nose immediately wrinkles up, and not just at the waste disposal. The small, incredibly cute child is obviously not impressed by her new pseudo-Mommie.

Who, it turns out, has just broken the garbage disposal.

Looking mournfully at the broken garbage disposal unit, Jennie waves vaguely in the direction of the shiny new toilet to dispatch the small child who apparently needs the loo, and considers fixing it for all of three seconds before deciding to give up and take a long-overdue shower.

Meanwhile, Chandra heads to the master bedroom and falls fast asleep.

Entirely unfazed by the failure of the adults in her life, Selina takes out her homework, pulls up a purple chair to the blue breakfast table, and applies herself determinedly.

Jennie considers being inspired by her example, but bed is calling her firmly and she does not resist.

Finally, at about quarter to two in the morning, Selina decides she is too tired to concentrate and finds her new bed to crash out on, frustrated that she has not been able to quite finish her homework with all the disruption of the move.

She is grudgingly impressed with the expensive new bed that she has been bought, though.

----

Jennie wakes up starving, just after seven, to the smell of freshly-cooked waffles. Maybe there are some compensations to this house-sharing business after all.

Selina has also made it out of her room, and is carrying her homework resolutely to the table; the sight of both adults eating breakfast when she knows she needs to finish her homework is too much, however, and she takes her blue book back over the other side of the room to sit on the floor and pointedly ignore them.

Jennie and Chandra both try to wash up at once, but Jennie is secretly grateful that she can just abandon her plate and rush out to the car outside without the prospect of coming back to stale waffles adding their aroma to the miasma.

Meanwhile, Selina finishes her homework and runs for the school bus, virtuously abandoning all hope of breakfast.

Side-eying Selina's outfit on the way to the car - apparently blue short shorts and yellow sandals are what she feels like wearing to school today - Jennie resolves to get that child a new wardrobe.

Manipulating useless contraptions is a tiresome business, and buying a hideous dresser that costs more than her day's wages is the icing on the day's terrible cake. Selina is none too happy either, and insists that Jennie buy her a toybox to make up for the vital school performance that her crazy moving idea has cost her.

At least the toybox comes in nicer colours. Plunking down the shiny purple object, Jennie heads to the fridge for her old standby, Autumn Salad. There are plenty of waffles left over, but she feels like making something for herself, and pointedly ignoring Chandra sat at the table with Jennie's precious Logic book.

Not that she thinks she can get anything more out of that beginner's guide anyway, after all those epic chess sessions.

Selina gazes longingly at Chandra when she thinks no-one's looking, but she doesn't disturb Mommy when she's reading. Jennie indicates the new dresser. She considers saying something like "Would you like to play dress-up?" but manages to realise in good time how incredibly creepy that sounds. Still, Selina seems to get the message that New Mommy doesn't like her outfit, and starts pulling clothes out of drawers.

She settles on a bright blue apron over a pink shirt and blue trousers, and some purple wellington boots. Jennie smiles and tells her that at least that's more practical.

Then Selina gets out her homework and sits at the table. Jennie picks up a trashy novel, puts it down again, and promptly bursts into tears.

"What's wrong, new-mommy?" asks Selina, with the infinite patience of long practice.

"I'm a failure," sobs Jennie. "None of the useless contraptions did anything at all, I spent all day dodging out of their way to keep all my limbs and eyebrows, and now Chandra's reading an improving book and you're doing your homework, and here I am with my rubbishy Murder in Pleasentview!"

"You need a break," Selina advises her, with the deep and important wisdom only children can proclaim such things with. "What do you really want to do?"

"I want to jump on a trampoline," admits Jennie. "I really want to jump on a trampoline. But there's no way we can afford a trampoline."

"Sure there is," Selina assures her. "Just sell some things."

"Like what?" Jennie demands. "We need everything! What am I going to do, sell the fridge and let us all starve?"

"That ugly dresser," replies Selina, calmly. "I'm done with it. And the bookshelf. All the books are gone or out anyway."

Jennie looks skeptically at the offending items of furniture. "It still doesn't quite add up," she insists.

"What about that chess board?" asks Selina. "I've never seen you use it."

"The chess board has a long and important history," says Jennie, firmly. "And I'm sure I'll use it again one day. It has to stay."

"Fine," replies Selina, a little sulkily. "Then sell the toy box."

"I only just bought you the toybox!" cries Jennie, despairingly. "And you've never used it!"

"And now I never will," declares Selina. "Go on, sell it. Get a trampoline. Bounce a lot for me."

Jennie looks at the toy box. It is, in fact, still worth just about enough to finish trading in for the trampoline. She swears that the garden is looking at her accusingly as she bounces her stress away, but she doesn't care. She has a trampoline. It is everything she had hoped for.

Back in the house, Selina takes advantage of Chandra's toilet break to ask her for help with her homework. It's not like she needs it, but it's a low-key way of trying to get a little attention, and she feels that she deserves it after solving New Mommy's problems for her.

Some time later, Jennie jumps extra high and stumbles off the edge of the trampoline, falling flat on her face. Picking herself up and dusting herself off, she declares to the world in general: "Worth it."

Now she feels relaxed enough to tend to her little garden patch.

The apple tree contributes to her good mood by yielding four very nice apples, and the other cabbage plant is offering up nice cabbages. She watches Chandra and Selina run off to the dark expanse of lawn that covers the rest of the plot to play a spirited game of two-person tag, and continues watering contentedly.

Until the world suddenly goes red, and is filled with the flutter of bats.

----

There is definitely a feeling of loss involved. It feels like a part of her has died - but every other fibre of her being is raging with vitality. She craves something, desperately, but she can't quite recognise what yet. It's like she's thirsty, but a tentative sip from the watering can doesn't help.

Suddenly she realises that this must be her new-found thirst for blood.

As quickly as it comes upon her, the thirst fades to manageable levels, and she feels invigorated by the cool night air. The weeds still need to be pulled, so she turns and carries on with her gardening, planting one very nice apple and one very nice tomato.

Everyone else in the house is asleep, but she feels like the night is still young. She remembers that Charmaine was after some very nice fruit and vegetables, and after her impulsive trampoline purchases the family finances are in really quite dire straits. Time to go and make good on her promise.

She finds Charmaine out on the beach. It's past midnight, but somehow this doesn't seem very strange at all. But Charmaine is pretty tired and just about to go home; it appears she caught her just in time. She graciously accepts the apples and tomato, and provides a couple of hundred Simoleans that Jennie hopes will tide the family over until her next paycheck.

It's just as well she's no longer a test subject, she reflects. Being in that greenhouse might no longer be the best of ideas.

Jennie turns and heads back towards home, but also crossing the beach is DeGrasse - Shades - and she feels as if she should at least say hello to her vampiric grandsire. Fortunately, he's easily impressed, and seems to want to talk to her even though she starts the conversation with a stuttering recitation of how she knows who he is.

The hovering papparaza Lucy is holding her nose and trying to wave away the smell; showering has not been high on her list of priorities today either. Serves her right for eavesdropping so closely. DeGrasse doesn't seem to be bothered.

He does seem to want to talk about music though, and classical music at that. Jennie feels her mind wandering as he starts giving her his list of favourite composers and orchestral conductors. In fact, the raging energy seems to be distinctly calming down. It's almost as if she's still sleepy.

As Lucy backs off a little to take photographs, she asks DeGrasse, "So, uh, I feel really energetic this evening - but also like I'm slowing down a bit now. How do - how do vampires sleep?"

DeGrasse laughs. "Vampires sleep just like people. In fact, I probably want to go and get catch some v's myself. I mean, some of them use these weird stone slab beds and levitate above them, but an ordinary bed works just fine, kid."

"Do you mean catch some zees?" Jennie asks, confused. Lucy appears to find this hysterical, creasing up with laughter in the background.

DeGrasse takes her more seriously, but doesn't seem to be in the mood for explanations. "You'll see, little vampire, you'll see," he says.

As she heads home, she sees Lucy running off towards the road. Suddenly she becomes very aware of the papparaza's mind - her weak, mortal, influenceable mind. And probably her tasty blood, but she is pretty sure Lucy can get in the car before she can reach her.

Instead, she can't resist just reaching out and causing Lucy to think more pleasantly about her. She knows now that the report that Lucy will write will be much more positive, and she will finally graduate from a Fame Leecher to a Notable Figure in her own right.

Jennie heads straight to bed when she gets in, and as she settles down, she can hear Selina get up and start rooting around in the miasmatic fridge. She briefly feels bad about the kid having to root around in rotten food and eat breakfast in a kitchen full of spoiled dishes, but not bad enough to get up and do anything about it.

Soon she discovers what DeGrasse meant. Her sleep does not come with dreams; in fact, it is barely like sleep at all, but more like a trance. She notices Chandra get up and head out of the room; hears the quiet 'clack' of the stool that Selina uses to reach the washing-up bowl being put in place; sees Selina when she takes a quiet shortcut through the master bedroom to optimise her route to the shower.

It seems to work as well as sleep, however, although she has to get up before she is entirely ready in order to catch a shower before she heads out to work. The thirst for blood is rising slightly within her, but it is still low enough that she decides not to make her first attempt at plasma juice in the short time before work.

On her way out, she peers over Chandra's shoulder as she taps away at the computer. Chandra appears to be working on a trashy romance novel, Subtle Satin Sheets. Right now, she appears to be describing very accurately the experience of sleeping next to a trance-held vampire.

Jennie considers saying something, but the carpool is here. Selina gives her another scathing look as they both head out the door together, but she isn't sure what insult she has given the child this time.

Maybe, she thinks as she looks at her dim reflection in the car window, it is just the glowing eyes that Selina now disapproves of.

She is knee deep in useless contraptions - literally, this one seems to be some kind of crude self-replicator - when an unfamiliar face looks nervously around the laboratory door. Wading through the wreckage, she smiles apologetically at the visitor, who commiserates with her over her current career.

"Have you ever thought about working with people, rather than useless contraptions?" asks the visitor.

It turns out that the visitor is Molly Coddle, a Resident at the local hospital, and she is shopping around for new Medical Interns. After ascertaining that a) the job is a pay rise and b) it involves significantly fewer carnivorous plants and useless contraptions, Jennie tenders her insincere apologies to Lincoln Baker and walks out of the lab.

The thirst is beginning to become an issue for her, and the bright sunny morning really isn't helping. She gets out her phone and calls Gwayne, but her friend is at work and tells her not to call back for another five hours. There is, understandably, nobody out and about in the abandoned warehouse, the broken-down old fire station, or the scrapyard or abandoned railway line which constitute her workplace's surroundings.

So, for want of anything better to do, she goes home. Chandra is still there, typing away on the computer. The wide square collar of her top exposes a lot of her lovely, golden, inviting neck…

Chandra gets up to ask what has gone wrong at work, but Jennie smiles a captivating, fanged grin and says, plaintively, "I'm so thirsty, Chandra."

Immediately, Chandra holds out her arm. Volunteering for the bite. But Jennie tenderly strokes her love's face, and sinks her teeth gently into that beautiful golden neck.

As Jennie pulls away and wipes her mouth, Chandra looks a little dazed, but there must be some kind of healing power in those fangs - the wounds are visible, but already healing. In fact, Chandra appears to have quite enjoyed the experience. She gazes lovingly into Jennie's eyes and then heads in for the full snog, undeterred by the prospect of sharp pointy teeth.

Jennie tries to lose herself in the moment, but she can't help but notice the flash of a camera through the window. She disengages and looks out, but can't see where they are; nevertheless, her mental reach tells her someone was there, and now they have a photograph of the kiss.

Taking the advantage while Jennie is distracted by something out of the window, Chandra visits the toilet, giving Jennie a few moments to consider whether she cares about someone watching them kiss. She remembers that the siring bite from Gwayne was also caught on camera, and decides that this is no more private. When Chandra emerges from the bathroom, kissing re-commences with great enthusiasm.

They stumble towards the bedroom and are just climbing into bed when Jennie's phone starts ringing.

She thinks about ignoring it, but the family funds are too low to risk missing an opportunity to make more. Unfortunately, it's only Wei on the other end, wanting to chat. The moment is lost, so she takes the call anyway. Chandra heads out into the kitchen area while she tells Wei about her career change. He sounds like he might start talking about vampires, so she deflects him onto a recounting of what he just interrupted, and uses that as a pretext to end the conversation.

Of course, just as she is heading back out to pick up where they left off, Selina gets in from school and informs them both that there is a bounty for her being on the honour roll, and therefore Chandra must help with her homework.

Jennie gives up and heads to bed alone; if she catches some v's when the sun shines, maybe she'll have more of that lovely nighttime feeling while she's active enough to enjoy it.

----

That wretched phone starts bleeping again shortly after sunset, and Jennie glares at it before answering. This time, it's...well, this is new. It looks like Lucy's editorial has attracted someone who wants to be Jennie's agent. Apparently Jennie's celebrity career would really take off if she just worked out a bit, and got into better shape.

Jennie quite likes the shape she is in already, thank you very much, so she makes some insincere promises to her 'agent' and wishes that her newfound mental powers worked over the telephone. Thinking of her newfound powers… maybe she could call Gwayne again.

Gwayne seems to be more interested in her new job than her new vampirism. Jennie supposes that being a vampire is old hat to Gwayne now. She leaves out the part where her first drink of blood was from Chandra.

It's dark outside now, so she heads out to tend to the garden, paying half the household's current reserves out in bills on the way past the mailbox. Losing one day of pay over swapping jobs hurts, but she is sure she'll recoup that and more in her new career.

On her way out she vaguely notices Selina eating more leftover waffles and Chandra answering her phone; apparently someone wants their TV fixed and will pay sorely needed cash for the job. At least Chandra is attempting to pull her weight on sorting out the family finances.

She tries to avoid looking at the trampoline which ruined them in the first place as she weeds and waters. The smell of smoke drifts out of the house towards her, but she assumes it's just the damaged TV that Chandra was talking about.

Chandra has gone to sleep when she gets in, and she looks at the fixed TV speculatively. The cloud of smoke appears to be hanging over the computer, but it seems to be working still. The TV also appears to be back in working order, and she reckons she could get five hundred Simoleans for it. She doesn't think Chandra will be getting paid five hundred to fix it.

She thinks about stealing it all the way to the toilet and back, but she decides to be good, for now. If the bills had been more than she had on hand, it might have been a different matter.

The thirst is rising in her again, and she doesn't feel like she should wake up Chandra just to feed off her; in fact, she's not even sure if she can reasonably do it again so soon afterwards. Isn't there a waiting period after donating blood for a reason? In any case, she's rather curious about this Plasma Juice substance.

Sitting alone at the kitchen table, she sucks meditatively at the carton of cold juice. It'll do, but it's nowhere near as good as the real thing. She's glad her first experience was Chandra's own warm, inviting nectar, or she'd have been quite unhappy at the prospect of having traded in food for this - especially with Chandra's excellent waffles to remember!

 

Also out of curiosity, she decides to have a shower before bed, even though she can feel the lassitude that leads to the sleeping trance settling into her limbs. The lassitude deepens as she stands in the shower, dimming and pulling in her senses, returning her to her normal human abilities - a difference she had not quite realised until now, with her supernatural prowess locked away from her by her tiredness.

----

Jennie wakes up just in time to see Chandra clearing away another plate of waffles, and Selina tapping industriously at her own work on the computer; a casual shoulder-surf shows that the girl appears to be writing her own memoir, blaming herself for interrupting her mother and father's relationship and causing her mother to run off with a crazy vampire.

She is sufficiently embarrassed that she decides to hail a taxi and go to work a little early. After all, there are lots of new colleagues to meet, and new tasks to blag - whatever Molly Coddle thinks of her chess-playing prowess, she's sure there must be more to medicine than moving little pieces around a board.

It doesn't take her long to meet everyone. She already knows Nick Knack, the Trauma Surgeon, from meeting him at Pattina's party, and the only other medical employee at the hospital - amongst the legions of administrators, who politely brush her off - is a gentleman named Shamus Drudge, who introduces himself as an organ donor. She laughs politely and assumes that he is joking, but he assures her that it's true; they have him on drugs to regrow his organs extra fast, you see.

With so few staff, she can understand why Molly was lurking around the science labs trying to tempt away their employees. As the intern she primarily sees hyperchondriacs and other walk-ins; the computer generally tells her what to do, and her job is to look intelligent, extract information from the patients, and administer the various pills, potions and injections recommended by the expert system.

Everything is going quite well until she takes a shortcut between buildings to get some new dressings. She can feel the old janitor's mind as he shambles along, but it is too confused for her to get a sense of what is about to happen. As he trundles past her with the empty laundry cart, he moves surprisingly fast for an old man and tips her straight in!

Before she can even gather herself to object, he has raced down the alleyway and dumped her in the garbage, laughing his head off.

She rises out of the garbage with bared fangs, intending to give him the fright of his life, but he has already run off. There's nothing for it but to go back to seeing patients, smelling distinctly garbage-scented and probably not giving the best impression of the hospital's cleanliness standards.

By the end of the working day, Jennie feels totally wrecked. The normal lift of night-time just doesn't come. All she wants to do is crawl into a nice dark grave and sleep for a couple of thousand years. And just to add insult to injury, Molly ambushes her as she is trying to slink quietly out of the door and cheerfully informs her that she's on call tonight, and might be summoned back to the hospital at any time!

For all that hard work, it appears that she gets about seven extra Simoleans a day, for a grand total of three hundred and thirty. Getting home to discover that Chandra did in fact get paid five hundred for fixing the television does not improve her mood. She's trying to tell her something about the consignment store and vampires, but Jennie is not interested in listening, or indeed anything other than the sweet embrace of their expensive bed.

----

Sure enough, her phone goes at about half eleven. She forces herself to come out of her trance and pick it up, only to discover that it isn't the hospital - it's just Gwayne.

Now she's more stressed than tired, though, and she looks appraisingly at the stereo which the child has set to pouring out appalling kids' music. Exercise is meant to relieve stress, right? Maybe a little bit of working out wouldn't hurt.

In the background, Selina is still writing her sad little memoir, and Chandra is tucking into some mac and cheese. Jennie is sure she would have found the aroma tantalising just a few short days ago, but now it just smells faintly nauseating.

Eventually, Selina lets out a tired little yawn and shuffles over to the mac and cheese bowl. It must be about two in the morning. No wonder she's writing passive-aggressive memoirs with this lack of bedtime control. She still insists on washing up and putting the leftovers away before heading to bed.

Having completed the recommended four hours of working out, Jennie has to admit that it was actually quite enjoyable, and thoughts of such alien pursuits as jogging are going through her mind. First, however, she could really do with a cool, fresh plasma juice straight from the refrigerator. She rather appreciates that one not being at body temperature, this time.

Sitting at the table reminds her that she still smells of garbage and the combination with the sweat she just worked up is an unattractive combination, so she heads for the shower to wash it all off. Of course, as soon as she's got her clothes off, her wretched mobile starts chirping again.
It's still not the hospital. It's her 'agent' again, this time trying to introduce her to some delightful-sounding fellow named Sinbad Rotter. Despite the good time she had, she sorely regrets ever having done anything this yammering cretin instructed her to. She is a little less polite this time and determinedly cuts off the call, then heads back into the shower.

By the time she gets out, it's already seven-thirty in the morning, but to her delight it is also the weekend. She spurns the first rays of sunlight by climbing into bed next to Chandra, and entering a nice deep trance.

It isn't long before Chandra is out of bed and tapping away on the computer again, however. Maybe some day she will finish that trashy novel and move on to something else. Something a little more light-hearted, perhaps…

There's a phone noise around mid-day, but it's Chandra's phone, not hers. Maybe Chandra will have another chance to spend half an hour earning twice what Jennie does in the hardest day she's ever worked. Not that she's bitter or anything. Oh no.

----

Jennie finally crawls out of bed in the middle of the day, feeling more refreshed than even her best night's sleep has ever made her. She decides it's time to come clean with Wei, and calls him up with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately, she gets swiftly sidetracked into an argument about how she still hasn't upgraded her computer. Apparently 'the child likes the colour' is not a good argument.

She almost manages to bring up the subject when Wei starts talking about lunch, but apparently it's just that he hasn't had any and he wants to get off the phone and eat some.

Talking of the child, Selina appears to be noticably absent. And there are two extra appliances cluttering up the main room. She isn't sure which to confront Chandra about first - or whether to ask her what she thinks she's doing with the shower, with all that infernal clanking that has started up from the bathroom.

In the end, as soon as she sees Chandra, she is possessed by the desire to have another taste of that delicious neck. Slightly unfairly, she uses the aftermath to quiz her about the various household oddities.

"Selina's just gone out to a writing class," Chandra informs her, breezily. "Don't you like the new appliances? I shopped around to get one in your favourite colour and one in hers…"

"Do we actually have any money left?" Jennie asks, irritably.

"A little bit?" replies Chandra. "Oh dear. I do hope Selina didn't get kicked out of her writing class for not being able to pay."

It is at that moment that Selina arrives through the front door, closing it behind her with just enough force to make it clear to all present that she is extremely angry, although she would not do her parents the honour of letting them see it on her face. She proceeds directly to the fridge to retrieve leftover mac and cheese, pointedly ignoring both them and the large shiny new purple and cyan objects either side of the door.

"Oh," says Selina.

Jennie pulls down her pants and sits broodily on the toilet, despairing of the lot of them. She is tempted to sell the new appliances straight back, but they have already lost some of their value and to be honest they could probably do with a washer and dryer, right?

As Selina heads to the sink to wash up her plate, she glances contemptuously at Chandra, who is spurning the leftover mac and cheese in favour of making her favorite comfort food, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Jennie looks for her intermediate logic book to brush up on her job skills, but first finds a medical journal that she barely remembers picking up. It's apparently about organ donation. Maybe someone slipped it in her bag after she demonstrated her ignorance of the subject in her conversation with Shamus. She'd better give it a read, she supposes.

Selina gets right back on with her memoir. She has plenty of new material.

----

After finishing the journal, Jennie sneaks out of the house for another jump on her impulse-purchased trampoline. She spots Shyla Curtis, the new peeping tom of the paparazzi, taking pictures of Selina through the window, and gives her a big toothy grin which makes her exclaim in terror. Serves her right for stalking a celebrity's children.

On a brighter note, she is happy to see that Chandra is out here enjoying the trampoline; she feels less guilty about it now that someone else has also got some use out of it. Although she does only just manage to stifle a giggle when Shyla gets a perfect shot of Chandra taking quite a nasty tumble off the side.

From here she can see that her garden is rather in need of tending, so she has a good harvest of all the fruit and vegetables which she is sure she would have found delicious in her former life. Now they're about as appetising as a chair leg, but this is something of an advantage - instead of scoffing them, she can plant the best of each variety and take the rest to the supermarket.

Selina takes a short break from writing to announce mournfully that it's her birthday, and all her work on Friday's homework will probably have gone to waste, as they will put her up a class or three in school for this. Jennie can hear the speech echoing from the house, but decides not to stop gardening. She's sure that her presence will annoy Selina just as much as her absence; possibly more, as the latter only confirms Selina's opinions of her.

Chandra is almost too busy trying not to break the toilet to attend; when she finally shows up, she discovers that Selina has shaved off her cute little black bunches in an ironic gesture of rebellion and put on the ugliest of all floral dresses, as well as applying some distinctly over-the-top red lipstick, a beauty spot, and some major-league eyeliner.

"...but are you a genius yet?" is all her mother can think of asking.

Selina rolls her eyes. Jennie can't see it, but she can feel it in her step-daughter's mind. "Mom," she says, "of course I'm a genius."

"Well," replies Chandra, "um, good? Carry on, then?" And she blows the world's saddest party horn, as Selina does just that - she sits down and continues writing her memoir like nothing has happened.

A little while later, Jennie is surprised to see the transformed Selina come out of the house, heading for the trampoline. Selina explains that she has just finished "A Failure On My Behalf", a truly unique work of non-fiction that should appeal to a certain demographic of readers, and now intends to work off some of her frustration on this fine trampoline - in the approved manner, of course.

After taking the inevitable fall off of the trampoline, Selina returns to the computer, and declares loudly that she is taking up a position as a Burial Specialist at the Mausoleum. Jennie hears Chandra mutter "that's nice, dear," and finally finish whatever she was working on in the bathroom.

Selina then proclaims that her next work will be labelled as science fiction, as "nobody could possibly believe what goes on in this household."

The gardening appears to be never-ending; as the sun comes up, Jennie vows to pull up all but the best-quality plants just as soon as she's done harvesting them. She finishes the harvest and rushes indoors just in time to save herself from a nasty case of sunburn.

Once inside, she commits the household's first act of laundry before she starts to feel the fatigue creeping around the edges of her powers and heads to bed.

She can hear Shyla Curtis bouncing up and down on her trampoline outside. The cheeky bastard.

----

The kitchen smells awful when Jennie finally stumbles back out of bed. Somehow the fumes of the very dead peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are even more nauseating than they were when she might have contemplated eating the fresh variety.

As she cleans up, Selina slouches out of her bedroom and tells her that if she was a decent mother, she'd buy her daughter an easel. Jennie contemplates telling Selina to save up out of her new earnings as a mausoleum clerk, but the family finances have been very slightly bolsted by Selina and Chandra's writing royalties, so she just gets her the easel to shut her up. Naturally, Selina ploughs right on with her 'science fiction' work and entirely ignores the new object she demanded.

Halfway through washing up, the sink breaks. The effort of repairing it leaves Jennie seriously out for blood, but Chandra is sleeping so peacefully that she can't bring herself to wake her for a drink, and while Selina is looking distinctly prey-like, Jennie scolds herself about how wrong that would be. Instead, she contents herself with another carton of plasma juice from the fridge, which seems to work just fine.

She is just about to finish cheering herself up by retrieving the household's first batch of clean laundry when her hospital buzzer goes for the first time. Apparently there's some kind of emergency, and she's being drafted in to help.

Some overtime pay would be quite useful, she tries to tell herself as she leaves the comfort of her nice cool house for the pitiless light of the early morning Sunday sun.

As far as she can tell, the 'emergency' looks very similar to 'business as usual', and she gets back to the house at lunchtime to catch Selina scurrying away from the washing-up bowl and the place much improved. Pretending nothing has happened, Selina sits back down at the computer for more writing and occasional over-the-shoulder scowling, as Jennie finally retrieves the stack of sweet-smelling laundry. Finally, the scent of success!

Thinking of success, she supposes she should continue to brush up her logic. She could just read a book, but she glances over at Selina, and an idea forms in her mind. "Hey, kid," she says. "Fancy a game of chess?"

Selina suggests that she should pull the other one, which has bells on, and that maybe she should spend more time clearing up the rubbish tip that the house and environs keeps turning into, but while she's doing that she follows her stepmom out to the chess board anyway.

At about five in the morning, Chandra gives them a concerned look on her way out of the house on some kind of writerly errand, but both of them are deeply engrossed; Jennie because this is helping her see some of her hospital busywork in a new light, Selina because she is determined to beat her stepmother at least once before they call it a night.

Eventually the sun comes up, and Jennie notices that Selina is giving her an even funnier look in between her glares of fierce concentration.

"Mom," says Selina. "Why are you emitting a cloud of black smoke?"

"Aaah!" exclaims Jennie, suddenly realising how long she's been sitting out here since sunrise, and how much it hurts. "I'm burning! I'm burning!"

Fortunately for Jennie, at that moment both of them are distracted by the simultaneous arrival of Selina's school bus and Jennie's work carpool, keeping her from having to provide any further difficult explanations.

The car provides enough shelter to keep Jennie from any further damage, but as she starts her daily rounds, she begins to regret having spent all night engrossed in repeatedly beating her stepdaughter at chess. Not only does she become sluggish, she feels the continual urge to feed off patients, blood bags, colleagues, and similar inappropriate sources of vampiric nutrition.

Eventually, it's all too much for her. She slinks quietly into the blood bank and gorges herself on a tasty supply of O Positive. Feeling hideously guilty, she works extra hard for the rest of the day.

Despite her transgressions, or possibly because of the extra fervour inspired by them, Molly finds her practically passed out on her desk at the end of the day and congratulates her on her promotion to Resident. The significant payrise is very welcome, although in her exhausted state Jennie has trouble summoning up the appropriate enthusiasm to greet the offer with.

As she gets in, she notices Chandra swearing at the chess board and Selina nowhere to be seen. She is not that impressed with Chandra's cheery reassurance that Selina phoned to ask if she could go home from school today with some boy called Notzo Curious, but she's too tired to argue, and falls swiftly into a deep trance on their bright pink bed.

----

Up shortly before sunrise, she washes away the taste of the purloined plasma with a nice carton of plasma juice, and reads her assigned tome on organ donation. She has another hour to kill before the carpool arrives, and although the sun is fully out, she notices the terrible state of her poor neglected garden and decides to brave the rays for the short time before work to get at least the best plants watered.

Working as a Resident seems to be exactly the same as working as an Intern, apart from being paid about twice as much. That was, until the familiar faces from her workplace begin piling into accident and emergency…

Charmaine tearfully relates the story as Jennie carefully tweezers small shards of impacted gnome from her delicate flesh. Apparently the replacement Useless Contraption Manipulator had let a clockwork gnome loose in the carnivorous plant greenhouse, and everyone had been enlisted to stop it before it could destroy any of the valuable plants. Of course, once it was surrounded, the damned thing had exploded in their faces…

After de-gnoming all of her former colleagues, Molly proudly announces that while she would remain Jennie's boss, Jennie had been promoted above her on the basis of her demonstrated skills - to Trauma Surgeon. Oh, and also, not only is that a night job, she's on call today.

Finally trudging home, she discovers that Chandra had, while she was picking gnome detritus out of old friends, purchased a Music Box - with Gnome and left it waiting cheerfully on the front porch for her arrival.

Having had quite enough gnome for one day, Jennie heads swiftly inside and sucks sullenly on a carton of plasma juice, also noticing a hastily started and abandoned painting, and a new offensively zebra-coated guitar, courtesy of Selina. Chandra assures her that the teen is off at her job for sure this time, and is definitely starting to pay her own way, despite her artistic demands having already cost about ten times what she's earned so far.

As Selina comes home, Jennie is just heading outside to have a pleasant, restorative bounce on the trampoline. Chandra starts making some kind of fuss about her birthday, but after the Gnome Incident, Jennie thinks it's best just not to be there for the rest of the day, and heads off to the bookstore.

Enjoying the liberating feeling of being able to just walk in and purchase the highest-grade logic book without having to worry about the price tag, courtesy of her two recent promotions, she sits down on the bench outside the bookstore to have a read, but the words are all swimming into one; she's too worn out for this. As she gets into the taxi home, she looks with concern at the gentleman who appears to have just collapsed on the sidewalk - was she meant to do something about that? Oh well - too late now!

She is rather pleased to see Chandra and Selina sat companionably on the floor going over Selina's homework, on her way to bed. It's nice to see Selina getting along with at least her real mother.

Only a couple of hours later, she is awoken by the sound of her medical beeper, summoning her to an emergency. This one turns out to be a young gentleman with an impacted toenail and an exceptionally pushy mother. At least it's quick.

Getting back to the house, she finally finds some time to sit down with her latest research journal and her logic book. Today's journal is entitled "Be Nice to the Nurse" - she suspects this might be a pre-emptive measure against her becoming increasingly shrill about what said nurse classifies as 'emergencies' worth getting her out of bed for.

After her morning plasma juice, she's just about ready to get back into bed for a good long trance.

----

When Jennie next wakes up, she finds another teenager with outlandish hair sitting at her kitchen table. Selina introduces this mohawked individual as 'Bunny Curious', which suddenly reminds Jennie of the Red Rendezvous… isn't this the stray child that was there on the day of her first date with Chandra? Now that makes her feel plenty old, seeing the cute kid now in similar teenage-rebellion style to Selina. Although at least she appears to be diligently doing her homework, whereas Selina is playing that awful guitar again.

There's not that much time before her first Trauma Surgeon shift, however, so she quickly fusses with a couple of the garden plants and then is whisked off in a much more pleasant, modern black car than her previous positions had produced.

About halfway through the night, she is called in to see the Hospital Administrator, a shadowy figure from the admin side of the hospital. This is rarely good news, but this time it is at least neutral; she is offered a seat, declines a tea or a coffee, and is informed that her exalted rank comes with some additional responsibilities, namely raising the hospital's good reputation amongst the political classes. She is informed that it is her task to seek out Bill Racket and befriend him, for the good of the medical profession.

Bunny is still there when she gets back, and everyone is still awake; Chandra is doing some more calisthenics in front of the stereo, which is still playing offensive kiddie garbage even though Selina has thoroughly outgrown it, while Bunny plays the guitar badly and Selina is getting some supper. The smell of burnt food pervading the kitchen area suggests that her first attempt was significantly less successful. "Don't worry," Chandra tells her, "I fire-proofed the oven earlier."

After an incredibly disappointing shower, Jennie decides to use some of her new salary on upgrading the bathroom; goodbye Simple Shower, hello Shower of Power, a bathtub/shower combination that she spends some time trying to figure out how to install in the tiny bathroom. Eventually she manages to get it to fit, but only by moving the toilet and ditching the sink. It's not like the other bathroom has a sink anyway, or that anyone in the household has ever used it for anything.

Chandra is still bopping to the music, and Jennie starts to feel a little insecure; before she knows what she's doing, she's rooting around inside Chandra's mind to find out what she thinks she's doing. Her fears are allayed - it's not that Chandra thinks that exercise will make her more attractive, and therefore might be upset at Jennie's own girth, it's just that she really, really likes kids' music.

Thinking of kids… it's been a long time since Chandra and her have had some 'alone time'. Selina seems pretty engrossed in her writing project again - and surely she's old enough by now to not be too upset when Mommy and Mommy engage in some kissy-face, right?

After swiftly working off all her stress with some long-overdue woohoo, Jennie rolls over and falls into a contented trance.

----

As the trance wears off, Jennie happily grabs a carton of plasma juice and settles down with her logic book. With Chandra writing away in the background, it's a scene of domestic bliss. It isn't even that impaired when Selina comes home and starts twanging away on her guitar, which she at least has the decency to do outside.

Her latest schoolfriend, a much nicer-looking girl called Pansy Prudence, sets up her homework on the kitchen floor like a nice, obedient teenager. Maybe she'll be a good influence on Selina.

As the sun gradually begins to set, Jennie is gripped by a strange nausea. She makes it to the toilet in time, but the bright red vomit is extremely disquieting. She tries to tell herself that it's just because blood is all that she eats, but she can't shake the old mortal feeling that vomiting blood is a sign of something deeply wrong with her. And she should know, after all - she's a highly paid doctor!

The taste of bile also reminds her that she is meant to be befriending a member of the local government. She resolves to pay him a visit just as soon as she's cleaned up.

After getting up the nerve to ring the doorbell, she is met at the door by what looks like a common houseburgler! Ready to raise the alarm and save the day, she is fortunately too slow in taking this course of action, and Dennis Racket gets the chance to introduce himself. Unfortunately, while she could frustratingly see her quarry through the open door, Dennis seems in no hurry to actually let her in.

She fidgets for a few moments, aware the clock is ticking down to her next shift, until he finally stops telling her what an honour it is to meet her and lets her through the front door.

Not wanting to waste a minute now that she's potentially late for work, she turns her vampiric powers on Bill Racket immediately, projecting good thoughts about her into his mind before greeting him in a friendly fashion.

Fortunately, he's easily impressed, even if he is a bit of a mooch and appears to be hitting on her - talk about inappropriate. He's also only a campaign intern, and he doesn't seem to be that committed to any one campaign, either. She wonders why the hospital administration set her on him in the first place. The hospital administration… she's late to work!

At this point she discovers another vampiric power she didn't know she had - extremely fast movement, out to the curb to call a cab. The cab is still faster, but not by that much.

She is summoned immediately to meet the Hospital Administrator on arrival, and is fearful of receiving bad news; she'd just got used to being financially solvent, it was nice, she'd like to keep it that way. But instead she finds herself being congratulated on her efforts with Bill, who they apparently think will be a vital 'contact' at City Hall.

By the end of the day, Molly is bustling into Jennie's small office just off the Trauma Ward with more exciting news - advances in Gene Therapy have caused many sims to come to the office clamouring for the treatment, so Jennie is being appointed their first Gene Therapist! Molly is slightly vague on what that entails - something to do with counselling people with bad genes, or a distressing lack of genes, until they spontaneously develop good ones - but is sure that Jennie will work it out as she goes along.

By now, Jennie is also pretty sure of this - and the pay rise is excellent. She's sure that's more simoleons per hour than she made in an entire day as a Test Subject. She also notices that Molly's eyes have started to glow in the dark, just like hers. Is there anyone in this town that can resist the lure of vampirism?

She returns home to find Chandra busily typing her latest novel - apparently it will be a comedy masterpiece, entitled The Floatability of Fruit - and Selina fast asleep in her bed. "I wasn't that keen on the friend she brought round today," confesses Chandra. "After Selina went to bed, Pansy made some disparaging comments about your fangs and asked me if I wanted to see what a real woman was like. Of course, I threw her out of the house immediately, but I thought you should know."

"Eww," replies Jennie. "Thanks for being honest. It's a shame - she looked like such a nice kid. I was hoping she might be a better example to Selina than the other waifs and strays she's been hanging around with."

"Well, obviously not," replies Chandra, and turns back to her writing.

Jennie heads out into the darkness for some nice relaxing chess practice. She notices that Pansy hasn't gone away - instead, she's engaged in animated conversation with Shyla Curtis, who is probably getting all the dirt. She tries to ignore them at first, but eventually overhearing their conversation gets too much for her, and she rises up from the chess board ready to do some proper occult scaring and give them a good reason to dislike vampires…

...but she is saved from embarrassing herself by her medical beeper, which informs her there is another emergency demanding her attention.

She wonders what a gene therapy emergency would look like; it turns out to be a heavily pregnant lady who is terrified that she is about to give birth and pass on her own 'bad genes' to her offspring. Jennie is about halfway towards calming her down when her patient starts to make cracks about how she's looking a little rounded herself and has this kind of glow about her. Declaiming that she is not going to take any bullshit about her weight or her vital status, Jennie storms out of the consulting room and out of the hospital, only to pause outside and re-evaluate what the patient was just saying.

The throwing up. The delightful woohoo. The… not so much extra, but something different around her midsection. It all adds up. Jennie is pregnant.

She goes straight back into the hospital to apologise profusely, but both the patient and the nurse reassure her that mood swings happen during pregnancy, and then the hospital administration signs her off pregnant and ushers her back outside.

----

For a few moments she stands there, not really knowing what to do. She needed to get out of the sun, but where should she go? Saving her from making a decision, it's at that point her phone rings.

It's apparently some establishment called the Little Corsican Bistro, who have some kind of plumbing problem and have somehow heard that she is good at solving random problems and might have some time on her hands. She wouldn't put it past the nurse to have tipped them off. Thoughtful of her; Jennie is glad to have somewhere to go and earn some simoleons, even though she knows most of her generous salary will be covered during her time off.

It turns out the reason that Little Corsican Bistro is having plumbing problems is the vast pile of potato peelings that some scatter-brained sous-chef has been dumping down the plug-hole. The digging work reminds her of gardening, and the happy faces of the staff when the plumbing began to function again make it all worthwhile.

She's rather worn out after her excursions, though, and it's probably time to go home. Following a sudden impulse, she stops by the bookstore on the way and has a look at their pregnancy book selection. While her logical bent draws her towards the promisingly titled Baby Incoming: Prepare With Vigilance, her tiredness suggests that Totally Preggers: An Expecting Mother's Tale might be an easier read.

Plus, it's a hundred simoleons cheaper.

After a nice refreshing trance, plasma juice, and her first shower in the Shower of Power, she heads out into the night and looks longingly at the trampoline, but her medical knowledge suggests that using it while pregnant is not the best of ideas. So instead she quietly weeds her garden, picks some lovely fruit that she can't eat, and takes a phone call.

It's from Gwayne! She hasn't heard from Gwayne in ages. She enthuses about baby shoes, and gardens, and the toys that she's going to be able to buy on her Gene Surgeon salary.

Selina passes by on her way in from work, and Jennie feels somewhat guilty about not having spoiled her step-child as much as she intends to spoil her biological daughter - or at least, she hopes it's going to be a daughter.

As the call ends, she realises that the unholy racket from the house is being caused by the washing machine. Selina and Chandra seem to be studiously ignoring it, so she rushes over to subdue it. There is an awful lot of hideously spoiled carbonara lying around, but she decides to ignore cleaning up in favour of reading that pregnancy book.

Jennie watches Selina strongly consider washing some dishes, but the poor girl can't stop yawning, and eventually abandons them next to the sink. Chandra proudly announces the completion of her comedy novel, and celebrates with some PB&J.

Sitting on the cheap dining chairs has given Jennie a terrible backache, and she heads out in search of the Day Spa that this backwater surely must possess. Eventually she successfully locates the Sharma Day Spa and gets a relaxing Swedish massage as the sun rises. Apparently this involves being wrapped in some kind of seaweed, but she doesn't care, because the foot massage is sooo good.

Heading back home for her plasma juice, she leaves the pregnancy book pointedly lying around on the dining table.

While taking her post-plasma pee, she realises suddenly that the house could rather do with some additional items. Like a crib. Attempting to jam a crib into the master bedroom doesn't work very well; she looks mournfully at the floor plan of the house, and dumps it in the middle of the living room instead, regretting building on one corner of the lot rather than right in the middle. No, wait - she can still expand the house back down the lot.

Checking her bank balance, it looks like it's time for a serious extension. Much enthusiastic carpeting, tiling, wallpapering and painting commences.

Selina takes advantage of the new space by heading into the master bedroom to play her guitar; after admiring the new additions to the house, Jennie decides to brave the sunlight briefly for the sake of her poor wilting garden.

As she's watering away merrily, trying to ignore her natural darkness seeping out and attempting futilely to cover her from the sun's rays, an unfamiliar car pulls up. "Nice garden," says the lady in traditional maid dress, before heading into the house.

Jennie tries to focus her mind on the newcomer, but the midday sun is making it too difficult to concentrate. By the time she's done with the garden, the maid is long gone and Jennie really needs a nice long bath.

She finds Selina still strumming away in her bedroom after the bath, but she's too sleepy to care, and drops into a trance to a soothing backdrop of plinky guitar noises.

----

Sometime during the night, Selina heads out to her graveyard shift and Chandra finally gets off the computer and gets into bed, and before Jennie knows it, it's time for the morning plasma juice again.

Or the midnight plasma juice, anyway.

Selina is still nowhere to be seen - which is somewhat worrying, as her job ends at curfew. Jennie's not sure about this whole teen curfew business, but she's pretty sure even this backwater has one.

Her suspicions are confirmed when the sound of sirens approaches down the road, just as she'd got back into her logic book. She thinks about going outside to see what's going on, but Chandra has been awoken and storms out of the house with a more furious expression than Jennie has ever seen her with.

Probably best to leave it to Real Mom, then. She can hear the lecture floating clearly through the window; Chandra laments the loss of her studious little pig-tailed girl and asks if Selina understands how upset it makes her, not knowing where she's got to?

It does not appear that Selina understands that, as she slinks back into the house and looks moodily out of the window until Jennie relinquishes the seat by the computer for yet another toilet stop, then immediately starts writing the next chapter of her 'science fiction' work.

Meanwhile, she can hear Chandra taking out her frustration on the trampoline.

Naturally the toilet picks this moment to clog up and pour dirty water all over the bathroom floor. And there's this really weird feeling in the back of her head - this unshakable craving for pancakes. Even though she can't eat pancakes. Even though there haven't been any pancakes made in the house for a very long time - it's all carbonara and PB&J and occasionally waffles.

She decides to distract herself by finally reading her last treasured medical journal - Surgery for Dummies. She's not sure what the title says about what Hospital Admin think about her skills, and she shouldn't need to do so much surgery now she's a Gene Therapist anyway, but it's a comforting reminder of the work she misses already.

Then she hears Chandra talking to an unfamiliar woman outside. Her mind strays outwards and discovers that Terry A. Keyes is single… and while she hasn't really been that jealous before, suddenly she's seeing this interloper as a potential threat. Drawing her attention to Jennie's presence, Jennie sweeps outside with her swift vampiric blurring motion and bares her fangs at the interloper.

Terry seems rather taken aback, but isn't exactly fleeing in terror; Chandra takes a few steps back and rolls her eyes, obviously blaming the uncharacteristic behaviour on Jennie's pregnancy.

Jennie tries her best to pick a massive fight with Terry, but something seems to be holding her back from anything more extreme than shouting in his face and occasionally grabbing ineffectually for his wrists.

Attempting to ignore the whole altercation, Chandra has started bouncing on the trampoline again. This makes Jennie irrationally angry as well. "Get down from there," she yells, "and back me up here!"

Climbing down from the trampoline, Chandra attempts to convince her to calm down and stop insulting poor Terry, but she's losing the argument until Jennie suddenly doubles over in agony.

"The baby," she gasps. "The hospital… I should…"

"I'll call you a cab," Chandra reassures her. "Just… stay calm."

Terry, meanwhile, has climbed up onto the trampoline for an experimental bounce. Jennie takes one look at her and bursts into floods of tears. Then another contraction washes everything else from her mind.

Bundling her into a taxi, Chandra considers getting in too, but is worried she'll be turned away at the door - she's the 'father', yes, but it's not like they're married. They just started living together. It's all too complicated - it's all too much. She stands around panicking for a few more moments and Terry gets down off the trampoline to reassure her it's all going to be okay, but she'd better get after her partner if she wants their relationship to continue.

Chandra runs to hail another cab, and arrives out of breath at the hospital ward in the nick of time. Nobody challenges her right to be there, and she is vindicated when the bouncing baby boy comes with almost exactly her golden skin tone.

Jennie stumbles out of the hospital with the baby in her arms, and carries him home to the crib, where he immediately starts crying. One bottle of milk later, and she is glad to discover her proper craving for plasma juice is back - none of this pancake nonsense. Having downed her carton of plasma, she heads outside for a triumphant, baby-bump-free bounce on the trampoline.

----

Coming back in out of the sun, Jennie finds another stranger in her house. Introducing himself as Jameel, he engages her in a discussion of the relative merits of food and plasma, and she gathers that he's probably the latest maid from the cleaning service. However, the way his eyes keep lingering on both her possessions and her swollen mammaries begins to freak her out, and she informs him that his services are no longer required.

Selina chooses that moment to arrive in the kitchen and gives Jennie a longsuffering look before beginning to clear away the dirty plates herself.

Some jerk called Jeremy Castor has invited the whole family to a party, but apparently isn't sufficiently competent to brush his own hair out of his eyes, so Jennie plans to firmly avoid it. She's sure that she could throw her own, better party.

Maybe… maybe a wedding party. After all, they've had a baby together. And she's kind of helped bring up Selina, she thinks. Surely Chandra wouldn't mind getting married, after all this time living together?

But first the baby needs cleaning, and feeding, and holding. Then Jennie spots the creepiest member of the paparazzi yet outside the house, and chases him off with bared fangs - now she's no longer pregnant, this one knows that she means it, and flees swiftly from the area. And that means she needs to slake her awakened hunger with a nice carton of plasma juice.

Finally, she manages to snatch a few moments of romance with her hopefully soon-to-be wife. Selina gets in from work just as they are rushing off to the bedroom, but she doesn't say anything as they flee the main room.

Jennie has settled into bed, and Chandra is just slipping off her shoes, when Jennie's phone goes, of course.

To make things worse, it's just that Jeremy Castor dipshit, with some bullshit about how sorry he is that they couldn't make his stupid party. Jennie stabs the call-end button vindictively, longing for the days when she could do a proper receiver-slam to such nonsense. She turns back to Chandra, determined that they are going to have a party all of their own, and Jeremy will not be invited.

Although the sound of Chandra rattling away at the computer keyboard, no doubt composing her teenage missive on the foibles of their family cunningly disguised as science fiction, is a little distracting.

When they're done, Jennie finally gets up the nerve to pop the question. Chandra is overjoyed, throwing her arms around her and admitting, "I've been trying to get up the nerve for weeks, but you've always seemed like such an independant woman. I'm so glad you're in my life, and that you agreed to take Selina into your house as well - and now we have baby Michael, it's just so wonderful!"

"We've got to have a decent party," Jennie replies. "Where do you think we should have it? I was thinking of the Red Rendezvous in town, where we met…"

"Why not here?" asks Chandra. "After all, we can't get that far away from the baby, and bringing him with us sounds like a lot of work…"

"We can hire a babysitter," Jennie assures her. "Or Selina can babysit, depending on whether she's pretending not to want anything to do with us or not that day."

"How about the art gallery?" counters Chandra. "After all, that's where you invited me to live with you. I'm just not really that keen on the Rendezvous."

"Sure, let's do the art gallery," replies Jennie, getting out her phone. "Gwayne's got to be there, of course. After all, she introduced us. And Molly Coddle - I'm not sure you know her, but she's my boss, and I swear without her going to bat for me I'd not be earning half as much. I really should invite Pattina and Nick - they were good to me when I first moved into the neighbourhood. And Shades, of course - you know him as DeAndre…"

"You don't half know a lot of people," says Chandra, wistfully.

"Oh! Yes, of course, we should invite some people for you," Jennie says. "Who do you want along?"

"I don't know," replies Chandra. "I really don't know that many people, I'm afraid. With Selina I haven't got out of the house much, and I didn't know many people I still wanted to talk to after her father walked out anyway. Maybe Bunny Curious? She was always more Selina's friend, but…"

"Bunny it is," declares Jennie. "You're sure there's no-one else?"

"Not really," admits Chandra.

"I'll round off the list with Wei Keane, then," Jennie decides. "I owe him for putting me on the celebrity map all that time ago with that chess match - although that's been rather a double-edged sword."

"Yeah, I guess a lot of paparazzi are going to show up," sighs Chandra. "They're not that keen on the whole blood-drinking thing you do, either."

"Let them stare," replies Jennie dismissively. "I'll chase them away if I really need to. Fangs have to be good for something, right?"

"That's my girl," says Chandra admiringly, as Jennie begins to make the arrangements.

----

After a little more baby-snuggling, Jennie settles down to get some good trancing in before the big evening.

Only awoken once in the night by the baby needing a diaper change, she is up bright and early for her morning plasma, after which she gradually notices that there are some… differences to the living room.

"What's the, uh, big grey plant-cage thing on the wall?" she asks Chandra. "Or… that weird decal next to it?"

"Selina brought them home from work," replies Chandra, airily. "Some kind of bonus for her promotion, apparently. She's now an Overseer of the Dead. Whatever that is."

"And… the toybox and kiddie stove?" Jennie continues. "Not that we didn't need them, I think it's a fine idea."

"Selina bought those out of her own earnings," admits Chandra, sounding very proud of her daughter. "She said something about Michael getting to play with the toybox she never even opened, and, uh, never having to rely on leftovers that taste of fridge."

Jennie glances mournfully at the passive-aggressive toybox. It is indeed the spitting image of the purple toybox that Selina had instructed her to sell in order to acquire the trampoline.

Chandra heads off to bed, and Jennie really isn't sure what to do with the rest of the day, although she's pretty sure it wasn't sensible to have a party while the sun was up. She interrogates the latest cleaner, but Dale Clancy seems to be neat and tidy by nature, calm and confident, and his only downside is that he wants to talk to her about fish, so she lets him stay for now.

She heads outside for long enough to rearrange the garden, but the sun gets too much for her and she heads indoors again, intending to read a book. Her phone rings on the way in, however - it's Gwayne, and this time she's inviting her over.

The tiny corrugated shack in the misty swamplands with Gwayne's signature camo pickup outside is entirely abandoned when she gets there, however, and then suddenly she realises that there's only an hour until the wedding party! Overtaken by another bout of her vampiric swiftness, she manages to climb into her formal gear and get another cab out to the Curios Memorial Museum.

When she gets there, Chandra immediately starts scolding her about not thinking things through. Apparently Selina is still at work, or something, and when Chandra called a babysitter she got some scruffy kid called Zachery who hit on her as she was going out the door. Jennie tells her that she looks fabulous in that skirt and jacket combo, even though it is actually the most dull set of formalwear she has seen in her life, and gives her a big kiss.

In a skimpy black number herself, Jennie wanders around and chats to various of the guests while Chandra stands around staring awkwardly at the paintings. The most interesting guest, Jennie concludes, is Molly Coddle, her boss - she's bold, friendly, and it's clear she doesn't get out enough. Bunny Curious also scores a few points as the only person who compliments her on the dress, rather than studiously avoiding the issue.

The venue is a disaster, though. No food, no drink, and Chandra is soon yawning loudly. In order to stop the party from being a complete bust, Jennie heads back into the main gallery and gets the marrying underway. The sound system in the walls of the gallery at least manages to cue up "Here Come The Brides" in good time, and a nice public exchange of rings is had in the large downstairs gallery.

Just to add icing to a terrible plan, somehow that creepy guy Trey has managed to creep in and was standing on the sidelines applauding too. Well, Jennie thinks, if the paparazzi want to be here, let's give them a show. She glances at Chandra and bares her fangs slightly, asking permission.

"I want more than that," whispers Chandra. "I want to be like you. Make me one of you."

"If you're sure," Jennie replies, and at that moment, her phone rings.

Chandra looks despairingly at Jennie's pocket, and instead of answering, Jennie holds her wife's face gently in her hands and sinks her fangs deep into her neck.

And while Chandra is reeling from the aftereffects of the vampiric injection into her veins, Jennie answers her phone.

"It's Gwayne," explains Jennie, as Chandra gradually comes round. "She couldn't make it out here - I'd better go and see what is up."

"I'd better get home and see how Michael is doing," replies Chandra. "That Zachery didn't look so trustworthy to me, I don't want to leave him alone with him too long."

With the gallery still full of people and gossip about what had just happened, both of them abandoned the doomed wedding party and went their separate ways.

Jennie gets to Gwayne's house and is greeted at the door by an old guy with long hair that she was previously unaware of, who introduces himself as Skeet Bayless. Gwayne wakes up briefly and tries to say a few words, but she's obviously exhausted and collapses back into a deep trance as soon as Jennie makes it clear that it's okay. Embarrassed, Jennie fetches herself some plasma juice from the fridge. She's too shy to ask Skeet whether he's Gwayne's son, her father, or what, so she reads his mind.

Turns out they're in a relationship. She'd thought DeGrasse was Gwayne's squeeze, but maybe she has two. Unlike the paparazzi, Jennie is determined not to judge, so she sits down, gets out her logic book, and waits for Gwayne. All of the comfy seats and the rug around the fireplace are camo-pattern, just like the pickup truck, and the bedspread is cow-patterned.

There's a sad little urn on the bedroom counter, apparently containing the cremated remains of someone named Fly Bayless. When he catches her looking at it, Skeet - who is not a vampire - gets angry and asks her to leave.

She considers the merits of hanging around pathetically in the misty garden, but instead gives up and goes home, where she can at least lie in bed regretting the impulsive decisions of the day at her leisure.

Chandra is already in bed when she arrives; sleepily, her wife relates how she got home to find Selina idly leafing through a comic book on her bed and Zachery nowhere to be found. Apparently, Zachery ran off as soon as he saw Selina coming, and Michael was screaming his head off, leaving Selina to settle him down with some food and comfort and stay in the room with him to make sure he was okay.

----

It's impossible to trance through Michael's crying, but Chandra seems to want to deal with him, so Jennie just hovers anxiously as her wife changed and fed her baby. A few marginally restful hours later, her phone goes off; it's Charmaine from the Science Facility, who has heard about her marriage and has wrangled a potential sponsorship for her to give her a few extra simoleons to celebrate with.

Jennie tells her that's very nice, but they're not exactly hurting for simoleons any more; Charmaine then admits that actually it's a random selection of previous employees, and contingent on her recording the activities she takes to progress in her studies of Logic. As she's planning to continue her studies anyway, Jennie agrees to give the Science Facility a report when she feels that she's reached another milestone.

Giving up on her trance for now, Jennie pulls out her logic book and starts to do some more reading, watching Chandra tend to the baby again. She ignores the washing machine when it starts to dance loudly again, but the cleaner who has shown up also ignores it, and when she hears the suds start to pour out of it she reluctantly puts down her book and goes to investigate. It's nice to have sparkling clean clothes and sheets, but she could have sworn she never noticed the laundry piling up until these demanding boxes entered her life.

She puts off fixing the ominously bubbling machine until she's had her carton of plasma, which leads to Selina getting back from school and asking her angrily what she thought she was doing sitting there calmly while that infernal machine poured soapy water all over the floor. Jennie protests that she was just about to get to it, and makes good on her word as Selina storms off to bed for a nap before work.

That was quite therapeutic, actually. Jennie looks around for some other device to get her spanner into, but on closer inspection the stereo is well beyond repair - she'd wondered why no-one had turned it on lately - and most things in the house are already upgraded. However, Chandra hasn't had time to get her hands on the new expensive Shower of Power, so Jennie sets to work retro-fitting a self-cleaning system to it.

Eventually her tiredness overtakes her, and she settles down to attempt to get a little more trance in. Obviously, a few minutes in, Michael starts crying again, but this time she gets there first and gets to wonder at his softness in her arms as she snuggles him back to sleep.

After a couple more rude awakenings, Jennie decides it's time for plasma juice and very early morning chess practice - it's still dark outside, so she can still avoid having to find space indoors for the chess set. The sunrise and arrival of Selina's school bus give her a handy time signal to stop practicing and head back inside to continue upgrading the bath and shower, too.

Having finished with the shower, Jennie notices that Chandra had left one of the upgrades on the toilets unfinished, so she picks up where her wife had left off. She just about gets this one finished before she needs a toilet break, a plasma break, and a trance break, again.

Talking of broken trances, soon enough Michael is complaining that obviously as his parents have been out of sight for more than a couple of seconds, they have gone away forever and abandoned him, a fear she can only assuage with additional snuggles.

As she settles back down into her trance state, she hears Selina pick up her guitar again. It's been a while, and she's almost starting to sound good, Jennie thinks. Or maybe motherhood has just softened her up.

----

When she gets up, Michael is somehow out of his crib and has also grown rather more hair than he had previously possessed. Jennie is suddenly possessed with an urge to teach him how to talk, although his more immediate needs such as snuggling and a diaper change are still her first priority.

On being told the word for 'heartbreak', Michael begins crying and won't stop. Eventually Jennie deduces that he wants some more milk, and provides him with some, but this doesn't seem to stop the tears. Jennie has brief fantasies of hiring a babysitter, but she remembers how the last one turned out.

With a few final triumphant keystrokes, Chandra turns around and spots the crying toddler making determinedly for the toybox. Scooping him up, she hands over a bottle of milk and watches him gurgle contentedly, then sweeps him up and deposits him in the crib, where he turns over and falls peacefully to sleep. Jennie gives up and falls into bed.

"Sorry for the convenience," mutters Chandra as she turns out the light climbs in beside her. Jennie turns to her and is about to ask her what she means, when she realises that Chandra's eyes are glowing.

"You made it!" Jennie exclaims. "You've turned vampire!"

"Was there ever any doubt?" asks Chandra, fondly, but with a very slight edge of worry.

"Well, Gwayne congratulated me on how well I took it when I turned," admits Jennie. "So I was a little worried. But I didn't need to be, did I?"

"Sorry for the Convenience is the title of the book I just finished," Chandra explains. "My publishers say it's going to be a best-seller."

"That's nice, dear," replies Jennie as she drifts off into a blissful trance, her newly vampiric wife dropping into a similar trance beside her.

Now we've got a toddler, she thinks as she drifts gently, we really must get him a potty chair.

----

As she wakes up, she thinks, and a peg box, too; she puts this down right next to the crib, and buys herself a new stereo for good measure. And a couple of shiny new toilets, which she is itching to upgrade a few more of.

She's just made a good start on her first toilet when Chandra comes up behind her and whispers in her ear that she would quite like to try some woohoo with her new vampiric sensitivity to... everything. Jennie readily agrees, although all she really wants is to purchase a nice pink and purple dolls' house - for Michael, of course.

They have just finished when the cleaner blithely strolls in, so Jennie takes herself off to the bathroom to keep hammering away on the toilet and Chandra heads into the kitchen for her first plasma juice. Despite cleaning out the empty cartons being one of his standard tasks, Dale seems distinctly freaked out to see Chandra with glowing eyes and a plasma obsession too, and flees the vicinity.

As she congratulates herself on a job well done with this next toilet and gets a celebratory plasma juice, she can hear that Michael has woken up and Chandra is teaching him to talk, interrupted only briefly by Selina checking whether she can go over to the house of some other illiterate swamp-bred cretin after school. Chandra blithely gives her permission to go to Cletus Jones-Brown's no doubt fetid and corrugated dwelling, so Jennie runs herself a nice relaxing bath and tries not to think about it too much.