Winds of Change

This is a long one (over 3000 words) so buckle in.

Content warning: This chapter gets steamier than any other Thoreau chapter. While it is still PG, this is your warning for some non-graphic nudity (including a tushie).

01-28-18_4-46-44 AM


The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is tell my parents that I got Zoe pregnant.

Big surprise, they were furious. Then again, so was I. I knew exactly when it must have happened—the day the condom broke. The only broken one we ever got. I did what I was supposed to do. Offered to buy Plan B, had tried to go with Zoe to the drug store to get it. She’d told me she’d take of it.

Obviously, she fucking hadn’t.

01-28-18_4-50-11 AM

“It’s just one accident,” she shrugged, seemingly not worried at all. “It’ll be fine.”

I should’ve been more persistent. I should’ve insisted on going and getting the meds. Watched her take them. I shouldn’t have let her shrug it off. If I had, I knew we wouldn’t be…here.

Shoulda woulda coulda.

01-28-18_3-48-25 AM

This was the last place I’d ever want to be at my age. I slouched in my chair next to Zoe and played on my phone, trying to ignore the harsh looks and judging stares coming at me from the reasonably-aged people in the waiting room. Zoe was getting those looks, too, sure, but it sure as hell felt like they were all for me.

You pressured her, they accused. You only think with your dick. It’s your fault you’re both here.

Fuck them. I did everything I was supposed to; how was it my fault that Zoe did nothing to prevent us ending up here?

01-28-18_3-56-20 AM

A voice called out softly, “Zoe Weber.” A nurse with a clipboard stood at the entrance to the waiting room.

I got up, shoving my phone in my pocket, and shuffled after my ex-girlfriend. This wasn’t her first appointment, but it was my first time going with her. This was the important one.

01-28-18_4-01-18 AM

Inside the exam room, the nurse did all the pre-doctor questions and then we were left alone.

You could hear a pin drop.

God, being alone with Zoe now was so awkward. Part of me was still pissed at her, but I loved her, too. A few months hadn’t taken that away. But, god, I was angry. Everything was different now.

Over half an hour passed before a kind-looking, middle aged woman let herself into the room.

01-28-18_4-02-53 AM

“Good morning, Zoe. How are you doing this afternoon?”

Zoe smiled weakly at the doctor. “Hi. I’m okay. This is my ex, Logan. The, um, the father.”

The doctor shook my hand. “Logan, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Dr. Pohl.”

“Nice to meet you,” I mumbled.

01-28-18_4-14-34 AM

She pulled up a stool and took a seat. With a smile, she said, “Let’s take a look at that baby, hmm? Have you decided if you want to know the sex?”

Zoe nodded, reclining back on the exam table, making the paper covering crinkle. “We want to know.”

She pulled up her shirt. Dr. Pohl squirted a clear gel on her stomach and pressed a wand to her softly rounded stomach.

As the baby’s heartbeat filled the room, my own skipped. I’d never been to one of these appointments, so I’d never heard the baby’s…my baby’s heartbeat before. The breath whooshed out of my lungs; in the space of a moment—a heartbeat—this had just become very, very real.

“There we are.”

01-28-18_4-17-38 AM

I looked up, realizing I’d been lost in my own head for a while. The doctor smiled at the both of us and pointed to the screen—I hadn’t even noticed her turning it around. “You’re having a boy.”

01-28-18_4-23-51 AM

I felt different leaving the doctor’s office. Like my perspective had taken a total one-eighty. I’d seen my son, heard his heartbeat. This had all felt real from the moment Zoe told me, but now there was something more than overwhelming dread. Was this how Tobi and Colette had managed to do it? Is this how Tobi felt when he found out about Joce and Luc?

“Hey, Logan?”

I slowed to a stop on the sidewalk, realizing that Zoe had stopped a way behind me. I turned and went back to her. “Yeah?”

01-28-18_4-26-56 AM

She wrung her hands in front of her. “I think…Logan, I think we should give him up. For adoption.”

01-28-18_4-27-27 AM

I stared at her blankly for several seconds as my brain struggled to comprehend her words; I had a hard time going from having an epiphany to debating giving my kid away. Finally, I was able to muster a, “What?”

“I’ve been thinking about this. Going over it and over it. Seeing him…Is keeping him really what we should do?” She dashed impatiently at her eyes; the hormones made her cry a lot. “We both wanted to go to college. Are we really what’s best for him? Is he what’s best for us?”

01-28-18_4-29-50 AM

I swallowed hard and shifted on my feet. “Zoe…fuck, if you’d asked me that this morning, that probably would’ve been an easy answer. I haven’t exactly made my opinion about all of this a secret.” And yet, up until right then, not keeping the baby hadn’t actually crossed my mind.

“But seeing him changed things?”

I nodded. “I mean…I won’t make you keep him.” I ran a hand through my hair. “Hell, I don’t know if we’re what’s best for him or vice versa. I don’t know, now, if I do want to keep him. I’d need to think about it more now that I feel this way.”

When she just nodded, I continued. “What do you want to do?”

01-28-18_4-32-41 AM

The way she looked at me, I knew exactly what she wanted. Deep inside, I felt a stirring of relief. “Look, Zoe,” I said gently. “If we do keep him, it’s not the end of our lives. Tobi and Colette are doing great—and they had twins. And my aunt had a kid when she was younger than us; she’s a really successful journalist now. She gave Caleb a great life; we could give our guy one, too. And still do what we want.”

01-28-18_4-33-27 AM

Zoe’s lower lip quivered. “You really think so?”

I nodded, trying to sound more certain than I really felt. “If you want this…if we want him, we can do it.”

01-28-18_5-44-01 AM

I cracked my back as I walked off the lot and ran my arm over my sweaty forehead. How had my dad done construction for so many years? I was struggling, and I’d only been at it for a few months. It wasn’t exactly that I minded it; I actually kind of liked seeing the buildings come together. Just, damn, it was hard work.

01-28-18_6-03-40 AM

As I walked towards the air-conditioned trailer that worked as Dad’s office, I couldn’t help but think how different things were supposed to be. Well, “supposed to.” It was September; if things had gone according to plan, I’d be moved in to a dorm somewhere and starting classes. As it was, Zoe was going to pop any day.

Speaking of. I took out my phone to check for messages, then muttered a swear word; I’d forgotten to charge it last night and now it was dead.

01-28-18_5-46-19 AM

As if summoned by my thoughts, Dad emerged from his trailer a wild look on his face. “Logan! I was just coming to find you. Zoe just called; it’s go time!”

01-28-18_6-43-24 AM

A cry pierced the darkness and pulled me out of a dead sleep. Blearily, I looked around for the source of the God-awful wailing before recognition set in.

Baby. Baby monitor. Crying.

01-28-18_6-47-41 AM

I got up and crossed the short distance to the nursery door and let myself into the dimly lit room. Carefully, I lifted the tiny infant out of the bassinet.

“Shh, little man,” I soothed sleepily. “You hungry? If you calm down for me, I’ll go make you a bottle.”

After I got him mostly quieted, I stepped back into the other room and prepared a bottle. At first, I’d felt a little squicked out knowing that I was warming up milk that came out of Zoe’s boobs, but meh. I’d gotten over it. The little bottomless pit needed to eat so much, I had to.

Once I was satisfied with the temperature, I returned to the nursery and lifted the baby into my arms.

01-28-18_6-48-23 AM

“Here you go, little man.” I rocked slowly on my feet while he nursed. Fought the urge to rest my eyes. I was exhausted just from staying over three nights in a row; how did Zoe and her mother—though mostly Zoe, if she was to be believed—manage every day of the week?

01-28-18_6-49-24 AM

When he finished the bottle, I burped him and then just cuddled him against my chest. I looked down into his tiny little face; oh yeah, that was how Zoe managed it.

I stroked my finger over his soft cheek. Two weeks and he was still so tiny yet had grown so much. I’d gone a couple of days without seeing him, and I swore, I’d been able to see a difference.

“You’ll need a bigger room soon, Xavier,” I murmured. He looked up at me with wide eyes that slowly drooped shut.

01-28-18_6-51-45 AM

I settled him back into his bassinet and returned to the couch—my bed on the nights I slept over, which was several times a week. Zoe and I may not be together, but I wanted to be around, both for Xavier and to help her out with him. According to her, her mom didn’t do much, and I believed her; I didn’t think Mrs. Weber had said a word to me since Zoe got pregnant. She wasn’t what you could call supportive about the whole thing. But that meant that, when I wasn’t over, Zoe was doing it all herself. I tried to be around as much as I could.

Tiredly, I laid back on the couch. Hopefully, I’d get a couple more hours before he started crying again.

As I started to doze off, a cry rang out.

01-28-18_7-07-12 AM

“You’re so good with him.”

I looked over my shoulder to find Zoe smiling at me from the nursery doorway. “You think so?”

She nodded and walked over to me. “You’re a really good dad, Logan.”

“I want to be.” God knew, Xavier had been the opposite of planned, but I couldn’t love him more if I tried. Tobi’s total adoration of Joce and Luc made absolute sense now; I’d do anything for this kid.

01-28-18_7-13-13 AM

“I know. I wasn’t expecting you to be around so much.” She grimaced. “No, I didn’t mean it like that. I mean, I just wasn’t expecting you to sleep over and all that. I know our couch isn’t super comfortable.”

01-28-18_7-14-00 AM

I settled Xavier into his bassinet. “It’s not so bad.” The tightness in my lower back begged to differ, but I ignored it. I nodded at the door. “Let’s not wake him.”

Zoe and I stepped out into the living room; she eased down onto the couch, and I sat beside her. “I started looking at apartments.”

01-28-18_7-16-20 AM

I smiled. “Really?”

She nodded. “I got promoted to manager at the store. The raise isn’t much, but I think it’ll be enough to get something small. I just…I want to be out of Mama’s hair, you know?”

I winced. “Yeah…” Mrs. Weber wasn’t a big fan of mine. “Maybe I’ll get you a couch for a housewarming gift.”

01-28-18_7-17-11 AM

Zoe laughed quietly. She looked over at me; the glint in her eye took me by surprise. I’d seen it before, many times, but not since we broke up. “You and Felix broke up, right?”

“Ah, yeah.” Not for lack of interest in each other, though. He’d gotten accepted to a college in the States, and neither of us had wanted to do the long-distance thing.

01-28-18_7-19-35 AM

A slight smile curved Zoe’s lips. She leaned in and put a hand on my chest then pressed her lips to mine.

I inhaled sharply. “Zoe…this probably isn’t a good idea. We don’t have a stellar track record.”

“One accident out of how many times? I think we did pretty well.” She smiled. “It’s okay; I have condoms upstairs.”

01-28-18_7-20-19 AM

“I don’t know…”

“Do you know how hard it was not to jump you while I was pregnant?” That surprised a laugh out of me, and she grinned. “All those hormones; God, I was so horny. Let’s go upstairs and have some fun, Logan. We always were good at that.”

How could I resist her? It had been half a year since Felix moved, and there’d been no time for anyone else. And, besides that, it was Zoe. That attraction had never gone away.

01-28-18_7-23-03 AM

I leaned in and kissed her deeply. “Yeah, okay.” I got up and took her hand, let her lead me up the steps.

01-28-18_7-27-55 AM

I pulled her into my arms and took her mouth again.

01-28-18_7-29-08 AM

Her body felt warm and familiar against mine despite all the time that had passed.

01-28-18_7-30-00 AM

It didn’t matter that her mother was just next door or that one or both of us would have to get up in a few hours when Xavier needed us.

01-28-18_7-34-53 AM

Right now, the only thing that mattered was her mouth on mine, my hands on her.

01-28-18_7-33-36 AM

This wasn’t important. It wasn’t meaningful. It wasn’t a relationship. It was just fun.

01-28-18_8-43-58 AM

I followed Mom out of the dining room. “Really, I can take him.”

She shook her head. “Really, it’s no trouble. I’ve got a lot of experience cleaning up messy boys.” Yeah, Xavier had had a lot of fun with the little cake Mom had made him to destroy. Icing everywhere.

“Thanks, Mom.”

“No problem. Get yourself some cake.” She shooed me back to the table.

01-28-18_8-47-42 AM

Smiling, I grabbed a piece of cake and joined the others at the table.

“Thank you for hosting the party, Tommy,” Zoe said.

01-28-18_8-48-26 AM

He shook his head. “It’s our grandbaby, and we have the space. And hey, whatever excuse to get him here.”

I snorted softly. Fortunately, my parents had always supported me, really embraced the whole grandparent thing. I just wished Zoe’s mom would loosen up. Even now, she was sitting silently at the end of the table, picking apart a piece of my mother’s amazing cake that, really, deserved better. She was hardly awful; I knew she loved Xavier, but she’d expected more out of Zoe and wasn’t shy about showing it.

01-28-18_8-50-18 AM

My little sister, Tomlyn, frowned mulishly at her cake. “Well, I wish Logan didn’t have a kid.”

Dad looked at her sharply. “Tomlyn!”

“You and Mom are always talking about him. He’s just a stupid baby. He doesn’t even do anything.”

01-28-18_8-52-56 AM

She turned to Mrs. Weber. “I can play piano,” she proclaimed proudly. “Do you want me to play for you? I can.”

Mrs. Weber gave her a tight, polite smile. “Maybe later. Thank you, though.”

Tomlyn sank back into her seat with a pout.

Dad sighed. “Tomlyn, your mom and I don’t get to see Xavier much. You know you’re still our little girl.”

I rolled my eyes and jerked my head to Zoe, signaling we should make our escape. This was just going to devolve into yet another of my baby sister’s tantrums.

01-28-18_8-54-37 AM

I took our plates into the kitchen, rinsed them, and put them away in the dishwasher.

“It has to be hard for your sister. She’s supposed to be the baby of the family.”

I snorted, walking around the island. “Don’t say that in front of her. And she’s spoiled enough; she can spare the attention.”

01-28-18_8-58-38 AM

Zoe smiled and shook her head, leaning against the island. She looked out towards the dining room, and I could tell she was lost in thought. “I can’t believe he’s a year old,” she finally said.

I eased down onto a stool. “I know. What a year, huh?” It was hard to believe Xavier was a year old. It still seemed like yesterday that he was this tiny, squishy little monster.

Zoe sat down beside me. “Hopefully, next year’s even better.”

01-28-18_8-59-48 AM

“I mean, kid being born. That’s pretty hard to beat.”

She laughed quietly. “Hey, you want to come over tonight?”

I grinned. “Sounds good to me.” Zoe had moved into a tiny little apartment a couple of months ago, which, in a lot of ways, was a huge step up from living with her mother. I didn’t sleep on the couch anymore, either; since that first night, we’d taken to sharing a bed whenever I stayed over.

It was still nothing more than casual. There was too much history now, I thought, for us to go back to being together. I, for one, had moved on. I hoped she had, too. This arrangement worked, though. I stayed over most nights now.

01-28-18_9-25-53 AM

I knelt on the rug and stacked one block on top of another. One chubby little hand reached out and smacked the tower then clapped with glee as the blocks crashed to the ground.

“Towa faw!” Xavier exclaimed with a giggle. “Ag’n!”

I laughed softly and did as he bade, helping him pile the blocks again. The sound of the lock turning in the front door made me look up. I smiled as Zoe walked in. “Hey, how was work?”

01-28-18_9-30-24 AM

She sighed, immediately toeing out of her shoes. “Long. Hope you enjoyed your day off.”

“I did the dishes.”

01-28-18_9-34-00 AM

“Exciting.” She came over to the two of us and scooped Xavier up. “There’s my man.” She poked at his sides, sending him into peals of laughter. “Did you have fun with Daddy today?” His answer was more giggles.

01-28-18_9-35-15 AM

She settled him back on the floor and fell down onto the couch. I got up and joined her. “At least you’ve got the weekend off. I thought we could take Xavier to the park?”

She nodded. “Sounds good.”

01-28-18_9-38-05 AM

We watched him play for a few minutes, building up a block tower and, this time, using his toy police car to smash into them.

Zoe looked over at me. “Logan, I think you should start applying to universities. You should go back to school.”

I blinked in surprise at her. “Where’d this come from?”

01-28-18_9-39-21 AM

“I mean, we both always planned to go to college. The little monster threw a wrench in things, but I’m doing good now with my job and all.”

I smiled a little. “Is this you saying you don’t want me around so much?”

She shook her head seriously. “No, not at all. I just think that it’s time you stopped putting your life on hold. Is construction really your life’s goal?”

01-28-18_9-40-18 AM

“You know it isn’t.” I leaned back on the couch and ran my hands through my hair. “I haven’t spent more than two days away from Xavier since he was born…”

“I know,” she said gently. “We can call and Skype and stuff. If you go to school close enough, you can still see him on weekends.”

“I do want to go back to school,” I admitted. “But what about you?”

01-28-18_9-41-11 AM

She smiled. “I’m going to apply to uni here in Windenburg. I should qualify for aid, and I can take out loans.”

“Maybe I’ll go here, too.”

“That’d be good. But you should go where you want to. Me and Xavier, we’ll be here. I wouldn’t let him forget you or try to keep you away from him. I just…I feel like we’ve got a handle on things now, you know? We can focus on ourselves a bit. It’s like you said; we can have what we want, too.”

01-28-18_9-44-09 AM

I laughed quietly. “Well, it’s no fair if you’re going to throw my words back at me.”

“Think about it, okay?” She pushed to her feet. “I’m going to see about food.”

Alone, I watched Xavier. I’d pushed the idea of college out of my head, putting all my energy into my son. I wanted to go to college still; as much as I’d come to actually enjoy working for Dad, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It had, however, given me an idea of what I might want to do.

Was I ready to go back to school? My heart squeezed in my chest. I saw Xavier every day, stayed at Zoe’s almost every night. I wanted that to continue, but…I also wanted my life to start again, too. I was eating, sleeping, and breathing fatherhood, but I wasn’t even twenty yet.

Maybe it was time to learn how to be a father and a college student.

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Chapter 3.20

Just a quick reminder that, chronologically, this chapter precedes chapter 3.19

01-27-18_11-48-10 PM


I sat up on the side of the bed and leaned over to kiss Felix’s neck. We’d done…it for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Then, it had felt like stepping into wholly unknown territory, as if I was a virgin all over again (and, yeah, okay, technically I had been), but that had been nerves talking. Being with Felix was no different than a girl (well…).

01-27-18_11-52-33 PM

Felix kissed me before getting up and finding his boxers. “My parents really aren’t going to let up on the whole meeting your parents thing.”

I groaned as I stood up. “I know.” I’d gone to Felix’s for dinner tonight, and, again, Mr. and Mrs. Mann had asked about when we could all get together with my parents.

The German rolled his eyes. “What is it, Logan? Are you embarrassed or something? I thought you were fine with this.”

01-27-18_11-54-41 PM

“What? No! No, I mean, I am fine with it.” I sighed softly. “I know, it needs to happen.” I knew it was just nerves stopping me. In my head, I knew it was just like the sex; it wasn’t actually a big deal. I was just…nervous. “My parents don’t give a shit who I’m into. I’m just being an asshole. I’ll talk to them tomorrow, okay? We’ll have you over, and then they can meet your parents.”

01-27-18_11-55-34 PM

Felix grinned and pulled me in for a kiss.

01-28-18_12-05-19 AM

I took Felix’s hand as we walked up the path to the house. I’d never really formally introduced anyone to Mom or Dad; they’d met Zoe at one of my games, and, before her, I’d never been serious about anyone. I knew I was making a mountain out of a molehill—that was why I’d finally nutted up and arranged this—but knowing that did nothing to quell the butterflies in my gut.

01-28-18_12-07-54 AM

“This is some house.”

I looked up at the Tudor-style façade. “It’s nice, yeah. Nothing like the house we had in Oasis Springs.” It had taken quite a while to get used to the change; occasionally, I still got a little jolt of homesickness for the old place. Had to admit, though, that I didn’t so much miss the desert heat.

01-28-18_12-09-16 AM

Nerves almost forgotten after Felix’s welcome distraction, I smiled as I let us inside, the barking of the two goldens and their claws skittering on the hardwood as they ran—or Sorbet ran and Giblet followed sedately—into the foyer heralding our entrance.

01-28-18_12-11-23 AM

I leaned down to rub Sorbet’s ears, trying to still her from jumping. “You know you can’t jump up.” More slowly, Giblet joined us, giving me a few licks and curiously sniffing Felix. Sorbet, meanwhile, completely ignored what I said and bounced around, barking all the while.

01-28-18_12-12-38 AM

Mom came out of the kitchen, laughing. “Sorbet! That’s it—outside!” She herded the younger dog outside to calm down. She returned to the two of us with a smile. “We’re still working on her training.”

“Oh, it’s alright, I really don’t mind,” Felix said.

01-28-18_12-15-32 AM

“Well, at least now we can hear each other. I’m Logan’s mom, Loralee. It’s really nice to finally meet you, Felix.”

“You too, Mrs. Smithson.”

“Ms. Thoreau, actually, but really, just Loralee is fine. Dinner’ll be ready in a few.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I pulled Felix into the living room and introduced him to my father and Tomlyn. Jasper was AWOL, probably upstairs on his computer.

01-28-18_12-20-18 AM

Dad leaned forward, smiling. Back in his usual spot beside him on the couch, Giblet wagged his tail. “Hey, Felix. It’s about time. I was beginning to think Logan was making you up.”

I huffed softly. “Yeah, yeah. I know.”

01-28-18_12-21-25 AM

Felix’s eyes twinkled. “But, he is making me up. This isn’t real.”

“Ha!” Dad snorted. “So, I hear your parents are anthropologists…”

01-28-18_12-26-31 AM

A short while later, Mom called us to the table, even dragging Jaz downstairs. Everything was going well—and why shouldn’t it? What had I been so anxious about? Why did I, for some reason, still have a little pit in the bottom of my stomach?

Halfway through the meal, my phone started to ring.

01-28-18_12-28-26 AM

Mom gave me a stern look. “You know there’s no phones at the table.”

“I know, sorry; I forgot to mute it.” I pulled the phone out and muted the call without checking the caller ID. A moment later, it buzzed in my pocket.

Surreptitiously, I pulled it out and opened it. Why was Zoe texting me? My brow furrowed into a frown as I read the message.


The pit in my stomach grew.


Not even a minute later, her response came.


A feeling of looming dread settled over me.

01-28-18_1-13-55 AM

The next day, I walked up to the café and found Zoe waiting for me outside. The tension in her shoulders and the set of her expression did nothing to help the twisting anxiety in my gut.

Oh, God, please.

01-28-18_1-16-21 AM

I tried to keep a neutral expression on my face as I approached her. “Hey, Zoe, what’s up?”

She looked up at me. Her eyes seemed puffy. “I need to talk to you.”

Had anything good ever come from that sentence?

“Do you want to go inside and sit down?”

01-28-18_1-25-46 AM

She shook her head and suddenly looked on the verge of tears. “I was inside but they started making bacon for their sandwiches and…I can’t handle it. The smell…it makes me nauseous.”


I started feeling light headed. My ears rang. Surely this couldn’t be going where it seemed to be. It was a cruel joke because I’d broken her heart. It had to be. I’d been so careful. We’d only had one accident, one broken condom; I’d done what I was supposed to, given her money for Plan B. She couldn’t be—

01-28-18_1-28-13 AM

“Logan, I’m pregnant.”

Ya’ll. This was SO NOT PLANNED. I just turned on the chance for teen pregnancy out of fairness; if there was a risky percent chance for my adult’s getting knocked up, it was only right that the teens have it, too. Zoe wasn’t supposed to actually get pregnant.

*shakes fist at risky woohoo*

Stay tuned to see how this plays out. 😉

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Chapter 3.19

01-25-18_1-21-33 AM


I could barely breathe as I held the tiny little bundle in my arms. For so long, I’d been anticipating this moment; now that it was here, it felt like anything, one wrong move, one hair out of place, would shatter it.

01-25-18_12-49-44 AM

At two am the night before, I’d gotten the call. It was time. Danny and I had rushed to the hospital, and, finally, a short sixteen hours later, there she was.

01-25-18_1-22-33 AM

“You’re finally here,” Danny whispered, leaning over my shoulder to gaze at the wrinkly little baby in my arms.

“She’s perfect,” I murmured. Our daughter looked up at us with blue eyes; soon, they’d darken to brown—Bri and Danny both had brown eyes, just like me. Our little girl was the perfect piece of both of us.

01-25-18_1-24-31 AM

“I hope you like this one,” Wanda said in a quiet, flippant voice, gingerly sitting up on the bed. “Because I have a strict no returns policy.”

I smiled over at her. “Definitely no returns necessary.”

“I’ll hold you to that once the tantrums start.”

I laughed quietly. “Do you want to hold her?” I offered, though I was loath to surrender her.

She shook her head. “Not now. Later, maybe.” She smiled fondly, only a hint of sadness clouding her expression. I could only imagine what her hormones and maternal instincts were doing to her; it had to take some serious strength and selflessness to be a surrogate. “I made that baby perfect, so you better treat her right.”

I nodded. “We will.”

01-25-18_1-31-01 AM

She rubbed at her eyes and changed the subject. “Have you decided on a name? I know you were torn.”

01-25-18_1-35-59 AM

Reluctantly, I surrendered the baby to Danny. He smiled and played with one of her hands. I turned my attention to Wanda. “We’ve decided to name her Cassandra Forrester. We’ll call her Cassie.”

Wanda smiled. “Forrester, huh?”

I nodded, reaching over to stroke Cassie’s downy hair. “Yeah, she’s definitely a Forrester.” Danny’s family were good people. They had their issues, sure, a sprinkling of homophobia here and there, but nothing like Huy Casillas. Forrester was a good name.

A short while later, Danny and I, along with the baby, were moved to a separate room so that Wanda could recuperate in peace. After a few minutes of family time, we let the others start to pile in.

01-25-18_1-50-13 AM

Mom was the first in, closely followed by Brianna, then my surrogate parents, Camille and Shirley, arrived to dote on Cassie. I knew my girl would be like another grandchild to them, and I was more than happy with that.

01-25-18_1-54-36 AM

Brianna pulled me aside after she’d handed the baby off to another set of arms. “I’ve got to get going, but I wanted to say congrats again.”

I grinned and pulled her into a tight hug. “Thank you, Bri. I really mean it. Thank you so much.”

01-25-18_1-55-31 AM

“For my big brother? Anything.” Her smile faded. “Oh, I did want to tell you…Dad’s in the hospital again. The doctor says that, if he leaves, it’ll be to a hospice center.” She held up her hands. “Not trying to guilt trip or anything. I just…I thought you should know.” With that, she bade goodbye to Danny, waved to Mom, and let herself out.

01-25-18_1-57-54 AM

I looked over at my daughter, held snugly against her daddy’s chest. Danny looked down at her with amazement written over his face even as he held a conversation with Shirley. It hit me like a punch; Loralee was right. Who had room for hate when I had all of this?

01-25-18_2-03-49 AM

With a whispered explanation to Danny, I let myself out. I went to the nurse’s station and asked about Huy; a few minutes later, I was on the correct floor. I walked down the hall that smelled of disinfectant so strongly it made my nose burn and opened the door to Huy Casillas’ room.

“I’m surprised to see you in a chair,” I said evenly.

01-25-18_2-05-52 AM

“I hate those damn beds,” Huy rasped in a voice destroyed by years of booze. He really had started drinking like a fish after he got out of jail. “Didn’t think you remembered me. Haven’t come to see me once,” he said reproachfully.

Just yesterday, I would’ve instantly felt ire flare. Now? Nothing. I really had decided to let it all go, hadn’t I?

“I was already in the hospital. I became a father today.”

01-25-18_2-07-58 AM

My voice turned cold, hard. “You will never get to see my daughter. You’ll die alone, and my daughter will never know what it feels like to grow up unloved and unaccepted. I promise you now—I’ll never be like you.”

01-25-18_2-08-47 AM

As I spoke, Huy’s face contorted in anger, but I spoke over his stutters of outrage and the aggravated beeping of his monitors.

“You deserve this bed you’ve made for yourself, but you know what? I’m done feeling anything for you. This is the last time I’m going to see you, alive or dead. It’s the last time I’m going to sacrifice any part of my life for you. I forgive you. For all the shit you put me through and never once being the kind of father I deserved—I forgive you.”

01-25-18_2-09-55 AM01-25-18_2-10-36 AM01-25-18_2-11-00 AM01-25-18_2-12-48 AM01-25-18_2-14-27 AM01-25-18_2-15-28 AM

Welcome to the story, Cassie Forrester! Technically, she is the first sim of the fourth generation of Thoreau’s!

Chronologically, this is actually the last chapter of this arc, however, there is one more chapter next week to complete Logan’s teen arc. There’ll be a brief reminder at the beginning of the chapter to make sure no one gets confused.

I hope everyone has enjoyed Blake’s journey. Whether he will reappear again, only the future can tell, but the YA arc plans to be jam packed between Logan, his siblings, and Stefan–hey, you remember Stefan Rosebrook, right? I always intended on featuring him in Gen 3 of the Thoreau’s. Well, I may be slow at it, but Stefan’s time is coming!

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Chapter 3.18

01-24-18_11-37-50 PM


“You know,” Mama said from behind me. “Most people would let their parents cook for them on their rare trips home.”

I turned to see a wry smile on her face. “I mean, if you don’t want my world class cooking…”

01-24-18_11-33-59 PM

“Don’t put words in my mouth.” She laughed quietly and took a seat at the island. “What’s on the menu?”

“Since we’re going to have a full house, I thought I’d make tortellini. Easy to eat wherever.” If everyone who’d said they were coming over actually did, we certainly wouldn’t all fit around the dining table.

Mama smiled and cast a look around the room. It wasn’t much like what I’d grown up with. After Aunt Hadley had shown off her beautiful renovation, Mom and Mama had gotten the remodeling itch themselves. I had to say, it had come out amazing. But then, that was hardly surprising; they had good taste and the money to make execute it.

01-24-18_11-41-13 PM

“It’ll be nice to have the house busy. God knows, we don’t have big get-together’s enough.”

“It’s hard to get people in one place at the same time,” I agreed. Tommy and I had made a handful of friends in Windenburg, so I knew firsthand how challenging it was to get more a couple of them to the house for dinner. Everyone had something going on.

“Silly jobs and families and lives.”

01-24-18_11-42-46 PM

I laughed in a quiet burst. “Yeah, so annoying, aren’t they?” I sobered a moment later, the old ache in my chest flaring. Sometimes, I was able to forget just how much I missed everybody. Then I came home for a visit, and it all came rushing back. I was happy with life in Windenburg—the city was beautiful, the suburb where we lived quiet and scenic, and moving to Germany had allowed me to travel as I never would’ve otherwise. Still, it was hard not to miss all the things—all the people—I’d left behind.

01-24-18_11-45-42 PM

Leaving the pot to simmer, I joined Mama at the island. She turned to look at me. “So. What’s really spurred this impromptu trip? I know you like to be as hands-on as you can, but there’s really nothing in person you can do to help the Tomalee repairs.”

I sighed softly. “I do want to get a look at the work.” A month ago, Tomalee had suffered an electrical fire. There hadn’t been major damage, but the kitchen had basically needed a full replacing. Since the restaurant was going to be closed for repairs anyway, I’d decided to do some remodeling of my own; after ten years, it was time for a bit of a facelift.

But she was right; seeing the construction in person wasn’t the only reason I’d needed to visit.

01-24-18_11-47-52 PM

“I needed a breather,” I admitted. “Logan’s giving us hell. And thrown us for a hell of a loop.”

Mama frowned. “What’s going on? Something serious?”

I shook my head. “No, not serious. Just…mostly typical teenage, moody boy stuff. Pushing us, what he can get away with. Copping an attitude the size of Texas.”

“Oh, the usual,” Mama said with a smile.

I laughed softly. “He also just broke up with his girlfriend and came out as bi.” And he kept making excuses for why we couldn’t meet the boy he was now seeing. He couldn’t possibly think Tommy and I would have a problem—we’d explicitly told him, several times, that it didn’t matter to us who he dated. So why was he being so damn difficult?

01-24-18_11-48-47 PM

Mama quirked a brow at me. “My dear daughter, if you tell me you have an issue with that…”

I rolled my eyes. “Mama. It’s just been a surprise. He’s had nothing but girlfriends ‘till now.” And, honestly, I’d been pretty fond of Zoe, even if Logan had liked to forget his curfew when he was with her.

Mama nodded understandingly. “What’s this boy like?”

01-24-18_11-51-51 PM

I threw up my hands with a sound of exasperation. “I wish I knew! Logan keeps putting off introducing us.”

She laughed softly. “Sounds like you’ll have to put your foot down when you get home. If he’s serious about this kid, you need to meet him.”

“Too right,” I agreed.

01-25-18_12-11-52 AM

I set my plate on the coffee table and leaned back on the couch next to my half-brother, Blake. I gestured over to Anna, talking with my parents and Aunt Hadley. “She seems like she’s doing well.”

He nodded, glancing towards his mother. “She is. It killed her to press charges, but Danny and Bri and I convinced her, and it seems like she’s handling it okay.”

“I’m proud of her.” Secretly, even, I had to wonder if I could’ve done the same if it were my own kid. It was one thing to write of Bradley—he’d been troubled even as a kid—as his sister, but pressing charges—being responsible for your child going to jail? I tried to imagine what I would do if one of my three followed in Brad’s footsteps; I’d like to think that I could do the right thing, but, really, they were my babies. I wasn’t sure I’d have the balls to do it.

“So, is he in jail?”

01-25-18_12-13-59 AM

“Yeah, he didn’t have the money for bail, and, obviously, none of us were bailing him out.” He sighed. “He asked me to go see him.”

“Are you going to?” I sure as hell wouldn’t if I were Blake.

“I don’t know.” He smiled weakly. “If I do, it’ll just be for the satisfaction of seeing him behind bars.”

“He won’t actually be behind bars when you see him, you know.”

01-25-18_12-15-01 AM

His smile grew into a genuine, crooked grin. “Hey, let a man dream.” He shook his head. “Nah, I’m not going. He’s just going to ask for bail or a lawyer or something. Fuck him. He’s going to end up just like Huy—or worse.”

“Ah, yeah, Huy. I hear he’s in bad shape.”

01-25-18_12-18-30 AM

“He crawled into a bottle after he got out of jail, and now he’s drunk himself to death. Bastard deserves it.”

I looked Blake over; there was so much anger in his face and the set of his shoulders. Just talking about our father had him on the brink of being royally pissed. I shook my head. “I mean, yeah, he did this to himself, but this anger you’re hanging onto? You’ve got to let it go.”

01-25-18_12-19-46 AM

Blake looked at me in surprise. “What? Are you telling me I shouldn’t be angry for the shit he put me through? Aren’t you angry?”

I sighed softly. “I was. Angry and hurt and angry some more. But he’s just not worth all that emotional baggage. I don’t have room in my life for it; I realized a few years ago that the best thing I could do for myself was just to let it all go and forgive him.”

Forgive him? You’re kidding.”

01-25-18_12-21-15 AM

I shook my head. “Look, Blake, I’m hardly a therapist. But you’re going to have a baby in less than a year. Do you really have room for hate in your heart when you’re about to be filling it with love for that little life? Forgiveness isn’t for Huy; it’s for you, so you can put it behind you. I felt so much lighter when I just let it go.”

Blake rubbed a hand over his face. “I don’t think I can, but we’ll see, okay? We’ll see.”

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Chapter 3.17

01-02-18_3-24-21 PM


I walked up the sidewalk to an adorable little house. In the yard out front, a sign proclaimed OPEN HOUSE. This would be one of over a dozen houses I’d looked at in Willow Creek. Maybe this one would finally feel right for me and Zury.

01-02-18_3-26-43 PM

I stepped inside. The interior was just as nice as the outside. The kitchen was new, the hardwood smooth and shiny beneath my feet. The den could easily be converted into an art studio. And yet…

As I looked around the master bedroom, it struck me just how dramatically everything had changed. One moment, I’d been eking out a living trying to sell artwork, the next, I was gearing up for my own showcase at the gallery. I was hardly an art-world celebrity, but I was oceans away from where I’d been in that sad little San Myshuno apartment not even six months ago.

Sometimes, I felt like things had changed so rapidly that I had whiplash. Just the day before, I’d gotten a call from an art dealer in California asking about the piece the gallery had put on display just days before. It made my head spin.

01-02-18_3-29-36 PM

I made my way back to the living room. As beautiful as this house was, I knew it wasn’t the one. I stepped out of the house—and froze on the spot. Headed up the front walk was Peter.

I gaped at him. “Peter? What are you doing here?”

01-02-18_3-30-58 PM

“Your mother told me where you’d be.” He was just as he’d always been. Polished and perfect, whether he was in a suit or not.

“Why are you here?” Just when everything had been going so well.

He smiled. “You remember my coworker, Mike, don’t you? His wife is an avid art collector. Imagine my surprise when Mike tells me she’s just bought one of your paintings.”

01-02-18_3-32-24 PM

“One of mine…? How…?”

“I didn’t bother asking how she found out about you,” he said impatiently. “I assume she looks for new talent. Not that your talent is new. I always knew you could be great.” He sounded proud. As if he was somehow responsible for my newfound success.

01-02-18_3-34-25 PM

Irritation started to build. How dare he come here after what he’d done to me? How could he act like this was okay? “Why are you here, Peter?” I repeated.

“I realized how wrong I was to let you go.” Let me go? As if I left despite him? “We were great together—just think of how much better we could be now.”

“You mean now that I’m getting some recognition. By the way, have you forgotten Zury? You know, the daughter you refused to pay child support for?”

01-02-18_3-35-03 PM

He had the decency to look guilty. “I apologize for that. It was petty of me. I was wrong, Theresa.”

01-02-18_3-36-07 PM

“Go to hell. The only reason you want me back is because you think it’ll make you look better to have an artist for a girlfriend. You don’t care about me or Zury. I don’t need you anymore, so fuck right the hell off.”

I ignored his attempts to talk to me. When he tried to grab my arm, I threatened to call the police, and he dropped his hand like he’d been burned. I stalked to my car and drove away.

The nerve he had to come here. God, how stupid I’d been all those years to let him manipulate me. It was so easy to see through him now. He didn’t give a shit about me; all he cared about was his image. Now that he thought I might become a famous artist, he wanted me back. Yeah, well, the joke was on him; I had no need or desire for him to come back into my life.

01-02-18_3-48-17 PM

My anger had mostly cooled by the time I’d gotten home. I stepped out onto the sidewalk, looked up at the little pink house, and knew.

01-02-18_3-49-17 PM

I let myself inside; I was met by the smell of roasting chicken and the sound of cartoons. In the living room, I found Mom and Dad sitting and reading while Zury stared up at the TV from the floor.

I picked my daughter up and gave her a kiss and a tickle, making her squeal with laughter. I smiled and hugged her. “Mom, Dad, if it’s okay with you guys, I think I’ll stop looking for a house.”

01-02-18_3-52-14 PM

They lowered their books and shared a look with brows arched. “If it’s alright with us?” Dad asked.

A slight, knowing smile came to Mom’s face. “I thought you wanted your own place.”

01-02-18_3-53-17 PM

I gave my daughter another squeeze. “I don’t need one. I’m already home.”

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Chapter 3.16

batch_01-01-18_2-06-45 AM


By now, I’d almost learned to live with the little niggling voice at the back of my mind.

Is it today? Maybe we’ll know today. What if it hasn’t worked?

It’d only been a few weeks since Wanda had had the first round of IVF. “First” because it was extremely unlikely to conceive on the first try. I was trying not to get my hopes up, but my heart leapt into my throat at every phone call and the little voice got louder.

Is it her? Good news? Why isn’t it her?

batch_01-01-18_2-09-17 AM

I looked through the cabinets and then stared into the fridge, listening with half an ear to the sport’s announcer’s excited commentary coming from the living room TV. I wasn’t hungry, but I’d skipped breakfast and had barely anything for lunch. Cooking was a good distraction, too…Except that I couldn’t summon the effort to do anything.

batch_01-01-18_2-12-30 AM

I left the kitchen and joined Danny on the couch. His arm slid around me. Even pressed into the warm embrace of my husband, I still couldn’t shake the niggling voice. I had to hope that it would quiet down with more time.

Danny’s fingers stroked over my shoulder. “I probably should figure out something for dinner,” he murmured idly. I could hear a note of distraction in his voice; I knew I wasn’t the only one with a Little Voice.

batch_01-01-18_2-15-57 AM

“Let’s order—“ I cut myself off when my phone rang. My heart leap and then started to pound when I saw the caller ID. “Wanda?”

“Hey,” she said, a smile in her voice. “I’m sending you a picture.”

batch_01-01-18_2-18-02 AM

I pulled the phone away from my ear and, sure enough, there was a message notification. I held my breath as I opened it. A pregnancy test with a tiny, perfect plus sign stared up at me.

Next to me, Danny let out a whoop of delight and leapt off the couch. A grin split my face wide. From the phone, I could hear Wanda’s joyful laughter.

“I already went to the doctor and had it confirmed,” she told me once I put it back to my ear. “No false positives.”

batch_01-01-18_2-21-04 AM

A minute later, I hung up, tossed my phone, and let my husband wrap me up in a bear hug. “We’re going to be parents.”

batch_01-01-18_2-26-19 AM

We did end up ordering pizza, simply because we were both too overjoyed to focus on cooking. I was itching to tell Mom and Brianna, but I held myself in check. As excited as I was, I knew that it was far too early to tell anyone.

Instead, I leaned against Danny and planned the nursery with him while the game he was watching droned in the background, forgotten. This time when my phone rang, my heart didn’t leap and the Little Voice was quiet. I hardly even glanced at the caller ID.


“Blake, I’ve been robbed.”

batch_01-01-18_2-39-37 AM

I was in a seething rage by the time Danny and I got to Mom’s house—which only got worse once I walked inside. The place had been trashed. Everything of value had been taken—the stove even looked like it had been shimmied around, as if the thief had even tried to take it.

“The thief.” I knew who had done this.

batch_01-01-18_2-41-09 AM

“Mom, you have to call the cops. You can’t let him get away with this.”

The older woman sniffed softly and nodded in resignation. “I already have.”

batch_01-01-18_2-42-18 AM

I hugged her tight. I couldn’t believe Brad would do this to our mother. Honestly, I couldn’t. I’d known he was a loser, a user, a piece of shit, but to steal from his own mother? It was a new low I hadn’t realized he was truly capable of.

“You’re going to stay with me and Danny tonight, okay, Mom?”

She nodded miserably. When red and blue’s flashed outside, she straightened her spine and went out to meet the police.

Hey everyone! Sorry for the accidental little hiatus. I wanted to check in and share a bit of happy news. You may notice some small changes in my pictures–I just got a new laptop and can now run Sims on ultra settings! My old computer really couldn’t handle the game, much less the settings I forced it to struggle with, but my new beast is fully prepared for it. There’s nothing like being able to actually play the game to rejuvenate your interest in it! I’m hoping this will mean no more breaks.

By the way, we’re closing in on the end of the teen arc! Thanks all of you guys for sticking around; I can’t wait to close out this arc with you and begin the next.

A belated happy new year to you all!

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Chapter 3.15


What a bust talking with Tobi had been. I should’ve known he’d never be able to understand what I was feeling—how could he? He’d only ever been remotely interested in one girl; Colette was now his wife and the mother of his twins. I doubted the guy could even fathom romantic interest in anyone else.

Memaw might be able to understand. She’d been married to a guy before marrying Granny. But she was an ocean and several timezones away, not to mention she was my grandmother. I didn’t really want to talk to her about my romance issues.

All I could think to do was talk to Felix. My stressing was a moot point if he didn’t want to be in a relationship at all. If all he wanted was to fool around, I thought it would be downright easy to tell him thanks but no thanks. But if he wanted more…then I was still stuck.


I left practice to find him waiting exactly where he usually did, a smile on his face that would make me want to kiss the hell out of him if I even knew up from down anymore.

“Hey, can we talk?”


The redhead frowned slightly, looking at me apprehensively. “You’re still upset about the party, aren’t you?”

I shook my head and started walking, expecting him to keep up. “No.” I wanted to be far enough away from the pitch that none of my teammates could eavesdrop.


I sat down on a bench and gestured for him to do the same. “Look, Felix, I’ll be honest. I like you. But you know I have a girlfriend, and, besides that, I don’t even know what it is you want from me.”

A hint of pink tinged the other boy’s cheeks. “I thought I made myself pretty clear.”

The ghost of a smile curved my lips. “I know that. But is that it? Or are you looking for a relationship here?” After so long being confused and conflicted, it felt good to ask bluntly for an answer.


Felix leaned closer to me. “Oh, yes. I’d like for us to date, Logan.”

Just like that, my problem remained unsolved. “I don’t know what to do, Felix,” I admitted quietly. “I like you—I really do—and I’d like to see where this could go, but I lo—like Zoe a lot, too. I know I’m an indecisive asshole.”

He shook his head. “I’d think you were an asshole if you weren’t feeling like this. Maybe you could just date us both?”

“I told you—“

“I never said don’t tell her.”

I stared at him, nonplussed. Surely he wasn’t suggesting…?


“You should tell her where you’re at. Maybe she’ll be okay with sharing.”

I doubted it, but the idea was so tempting. To be with both of them, to not have to choose…

“I…guess that’s a possibility.”


I held Zoe against my side and stared into the flames of the bonfire. She felt right and perfect tucked into me. I could almost pretend that this was months ago, long before I ever met Felix, before my world devolved into chaos. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that there ought to be someone else on my other side.

Zoe let out a soft, contented sound. “I love it out here. Did you have to make a blood pact to get your parents to let you come out tonight?”

“Close.” This was my last chance. If I wasn’t home by eleven, I could fully expect a house arrest ankle monitor in my immediate future.


“I can’t believe they grounded you for hanging out with Tobi.”

Inwardly, I winced at the lie, but I couldn’t very well have told her that I’d gotten grounded for going to a college party and staying too long with a boy who I’d also kissed. “It was just the last straw.”

“It’s almost ten,” she said with a sigh. “We need to leave soon.”


“Yeah.” Now or never, Thoreau. Reluctantly, I pulled away from her. “Zoe, I need to talk to you about something, and I want you to keep an open mind, alright?”

A deep frown creased her face. “What’s wrong, Logan?”

I took her hand and guided her over to a stone bench. “There are some things that have been going on—some things I’ve just found out about myself.”


Worry filled her eyes. “Are you okay? You’re not sick are you?”

I shook my head. My stomach was full of writhing snakes; I wasn’t sure I had the balls to finish this conversation. Somehow, I forced myself to keep talking. “Do you remember the first day I met my friend, Felix? You came over, and I told you about him. You joked that I sounded like I had a crush on him.”

Confusion quickly replaced her concern. “Sorta. If you try to tell me you’re gay, no power on this earth will make me believe you, Logan Thoreau.”


That almost made me laugh. I bit back a smile. “No, I’m not saying that.” I exhaled a deep breath. “But, actually, I’m bisexual. I…I have feelings for Felix.”


“But I haven’t stopped having feelings for you,” I rushed to add. God, I was fucking this up. “I like both of you.”


Zoe got up and put her hands on her hips. “What are you saying, Logan? What are you actually saying?”


I swallowed, throat suddenly gone bone dry. “With your permission, I’d like to start seeing the both of you.” There, I said it. I’d practiced a whole speech, but this was the only sentence that had actually made it past my lips tonight.


“You what?” Her eyes lit up with anger. “You want my permission to cheat on me!?”

I shot to my feet. “No! It wouldn’t be cheating.”

“Fuck you, Logan! You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If you’re my boyfriend, you’re my boyfriend. Felix can go get his own. I thought you—I thought you might actually—“


“Zoe,” I entreated pleadingly. “I don’t feel anything less for you than I did the night I gave you that necklace. That’s why I had to be honest with you. Please, just understand.”

“Maybe you do, but obviously you don’t feel enough for me if you want him, too.” Her voice was thick, like she was on the verge of tears.



She swiped at her eyes. “You can be with me or you can be with him. You can’t have it both ways, even if you go that way.”

My eyes started to burn. My chest ached. “Fine,” I responded tightly. It wasn’t much of a choice at all now, I realized. I knew that Zoe and I would never be the same now, whether I stayed with her or not. More than that, being with Felix was something I needed. I needed to know the other half of myself. Yeah; in the end, it really wasn’t a choice anymore.

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Chapter 3.14

11-20-17_4-03-45 PM


I paced the living room anxiously, scouring the area for any hint of dirt, anything less than perfect. Everything had to be perfect. Our dog, Piccolo, danced around my feet with a whine.

11-20-17_4-07-02 PM

“Blake,” my husband said gently from the couch. He stood up, gave the pibble a soothing pet, and took my hands, forcing me into stillness. “You need to relax. You’re winding yourself up.”

“I know,” I admitted. “I can’t help it. Maybe I should take my earrings out…”

11-20-17_4-09-09 PM

“Babe.” He wrapped his arms around me and squeezed tight. “Remember, we’re the ones who are supposed to be interviewing her.”

I laughed weakly. “You’re right. I know you are. I just…”

“Want to make a good impression.” Danny tugged me down onto the couch and put his arm around me. “Just relax, Blake. Breathe.”

11-20-17_4-14-14 PM

I forced myself to take a deep breath and slowly let it out, then did it a few more times. The urge to panic slowly faded. We’d contacted an agency, and they’d sent us files of potential surrogates. We’d pored over them for ages to narrow the pool down to a few. Today we were beginning the interview process. I really had no idea what to ask these women or what they’d want to ask us.

I nearly leapt off the couch when the doorbell rang.

11-20-17_4-19-03 PM

“Breathe,” Danny murmured to me again as he rose to answer the door. After a couple calming breaths, I told Piccolo to stay and got up to join Danny.

11-20-17_4-23-19 PM

The woman who stepped inside was around my age; she had a kind, somewhat nervous smile on her face.

I offered her my surprisingly-steady hand. “I’m Blake Casillas, this is my husband, Danny Forrester. You must be Wanda Hartman.”

She shook hands with both of us. “I am. It’s nice to meet you both.”

I showed her to a seat and sat down beside Danny. I looked over at him, suddenly at a loss for what to say.

11-20-17_4-31-02 PM

Before I could grab him, Piccolo bounded over to Wanda, tail waving faster than eyes could track. “Piccolo, no! I promise, he’s not dangerous. He just likes people.” Just because I knew he’d never hurt a fly didn’t mean she’d believe me.

She just smiled and scratched his ears. “It’s alright. I love dogs.”

11-20-17_4-33-18 PM

I felt a smile come to my face and some of the tension eased out of my shoulders. If she liked dogs—especially pit bulls—how badly could this possibly go?

Forty-five minutes later, I showed her out of the house. I knew we’d still interview the other women we’d narrowed it down to, but Wanda would be a tough act to follow.

As I resumed my seat next to Danny, he echoed my thoughts. “I like her.”

11-20-17_4-41-48 PM

“Me too.” Liking the surrogate was important. We had to trust her with our baby, and we’d be around her all the time so we could be as much a part of the pregnancy as possible.

My phone started to buzz. Irritation spiked as soon as I saw the caller ID. Naturally, my day had just been going too well.

11-20-17_4-43-06 PM

“What do you want, Brad?” I asked by way of greeting.

“Is that any way to say hello, little brother?” Without waiting for a reply, Brad continued, “I need a favor. Could you loan me a couple thousand dollars?”

“There’s no way you just said what I think you said. Are you out of your fucking mind?”

“Come on, Blake,” he cajoled. “We both know you’ve got it to spare. Fancy businessman and all. Mom didn’t have enough, and I need a car.”

“Fuck. You. You think Mom doesn’t need all the money she’s wasting on your worthless ass? I’d sooner burn every cent I own than give it to a piece of trash like you, Brad.”

11-20-17_4-45-43 PM

I hung up angrily and stood up. “I need to go see Mom. This is getting fucking ridiculous.”

Danny frowned and rose to his feet as well. “Do you want me to come?”

I shook my head. “No, it’s fine. I just need to get through to her. I’ll be back later.” I gave him a quick peck on the lips and left the house. Mom was going to lose everything she’d worked for if I didn’t get through to her.

11-20-17_4-57-37 PM

A short while later, I walked into Mom’s small house.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” she chattered as she waved me into the living room. She stood and turned towards the kitchen. “I was just fixing to see about supper.”

“Where’s Brad?”

She slowed to a stop. “A friend of his came by a bit ago and they went out.”

“How much did he bum off of you for that car he wants?”

11-20-17_5-06-48 PM

She sighed heavily. “Blake…”

“No, Mom, this has to stop. Can’t you see that he just doesn’t care? He doesn’t care about anybody but himself. He’s using you.”

11-20-17_5-09-52 PM

Mom looked stricken. In a small, tearful voice, she said, “Who can blame him? Do you think that being Huy’s ‘golden child’ was really any less abusive? I failed my son—I failed all of my kids, but I failed Brad more than anyone. Brad is this way because I didn’t save him from the ideas Huy put in his head. It’s my fault he’s like this.”

Hearing my mother so upset was like a punch to the gut. “Mom…no.” I crossed the short distance to her. “He’s a grown man. You did the best you could.” There were times I’d been angry with her—even still, rarely, I’d feel those old resentments flare up—but I knew that she’d done her best when we were growing up.

She shook her head. “How can you say that? After everything.”

11-20-17_5-14-57 PM

“Because look at me, Mom. Look at Bri. We’re both fine. You didn’t fuck Brad up. He’s like this because he wants to be. He chooses everyday to be this person. All you can do is keep him from taking you down with him.”

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Chapter 3.13

10-25-17_2-45-21 AM


I paced around my bedroom like an animal trapped in a cage. I felt like shit. God, what an idiot I’d been to go to that damn party. It was pure luck that we’d only had the one, little kiss. Even luckier that it had been thrown by college students and no one from school had seen me there. It was one thing to come out to my family—I was not ready to go public.

Especially since I’d, you know, been cheating on my girlfriend.

10-25-17_2-46-13 AM

I sank down heavily onto my bed. Even if Felix hadn’t kissed me, it was still cheating. I’d never cheated on anyone. It made me sick to realize I’d done that to Zoe. I’d apologize if it wouldn’t mean she’d have to know about it.

What was I going to do? I liked Zoe a lot—maybe more than liked. But I was beginning to think that I could feel the same way about Felix.

The way he made me feel whenever we were together was so different from how I felt with Zoe and yet exactly the same. Like I was a coin and Zoe had one side and Felix had the other.

Did I stop seeing Felix? Cut him out of my life? Even as I considered it, I shied away from that as a solution. He was my friend more than anything. I couldn’t do that to him. But I also sure as hell wasn’t breaking up with Zoe.

I needed to talk to someone. Which was insane because that would probably mean admitting to cheating on my girlfriend, but I needed to talk it out. I was grounded so my options were limited. Unless I convinced my parents to let me go somewhere else. It was worth a shot, I supposed. Otherwise I was going to keep stewing up in my room.

10-25-17_2-53-49 AM

Downstairs, the smell of food drew me into the kitchen. Mom was at the stove while Dad had taken up a spot at the island.

Mom smiled at me. “Hey, kiddo. Lunch will be ready in a bit.”

“Actually…Could I go over to Tobi’s? I know I’m grounded, but I really need to talk to him.”

10-25-17_2-57-33 AM

My parents shared the kind of look that seemed to contain an entire conversation.

“Alright,” Dad said, rising to his feet. “But I’m driving you.”

10-25-17_3-16-52 AM

“Hey, are you okay?”

I looked over at Tobi. “Yeah.”

“Are you sure? You’ve been quiet ever since you got here.”

He wasn’t wrong. As soon as I’d gotten there, Tobi and I had gone to sit on the back porch, and I’d probably only said a handful of words in the last fifteen minutes, for all that I’d come over here to talk.

10-25-17_3-18-31 AM

I exhaled deeply. “No, actually. Some stuff has been going on…I’m not sure how to deal with it.”

The blond frowned. “What is it? Does it have anything to do…y’know, with the last time you were here?” The time we’d gone to the burger place.

“Yeah,” I admitted.

10-25-17_3-20-13 AM

“So, are you gay? ‘Cause what you were saying last time…”

I smiled a little and shook my head. “No. I like both.” I laughed quietly. “I guess I’m an equal opportunist.”

“Have you told your parents?”

10-25-17_3-21-57 AM

I nodded. “The other night. Something happened…Something’s been happening. See, there’s this guy, Felix…”

I told him everything. Felix turning up suddenly in study hall. Zoe’s offhand comment that turned my world upside down. The practices and the party. The kiss. I unloaded it all and, to his credit, Tobi sat there stoically and took it all in until I finally said, “I don’t know what to do.”

10-25-17_3-22-48 AM

“I mean, I think you have to pick one or the other, Logan. You can’t love two people at once. If you’re feeling this way about Felix, isn’t it pretty obvious that your feelings for Zoe have changed?”

“But they haven’t. When I’m with her, nothing is any different than it was before I met Felix. Why does it have to be either or?”

“Look, man, you admitted to cheating on her once already. You kissed somebody else. If you keep hanging around both of them, you know it’s going to happen again. You should break up with her now so you don’t cheat on her later.”

10-25-17_3-25-02 AM

I glared at him, but I was as upset at myself as I was at him. He was only parroting back my own thoughts. “Whatever. I’ve gotta go.” I ignored his attempts to call me back and all but ran out through the house.

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Chapter 3.12

10-25-17_1-43-20 AM


“Zury, come on, honey. You love applesauce.” I couldn’t believe I was practically pleading with my toddler, yet here I was. She was usually such a good kid, but this morning she’d woken up in the foulest mood.

10-25-17_1-45-12 AM

“NO!” A fierce glare on her face, she flung her applesauce from the tray of her highchair.

Anger threatened to swell in me, but I harshly tamped it down. I was already running late; getting pissed at Zury wasn’t going to help.

10-25-17_1-46-25 AM

“Theresa, you go to work,” Mom said, suddenly sweeping in from the other room. She bent to clean up the mess Zury had made. “I’ll take care of her.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

She turned a kind smile onto me. “I know. Now get going.”

10-25-17_1-47-30 AM

I hated to leave her with a fussy toddler, but I really did need to get going. Besides, Mom had raised four kids; she probably had a handful of tricks to calm little ones down. “Alright, thanks, Mom.” I pressed a kiss to Zury’s hair and left the house.

Fortunately, Willow Creek is a small town—at least compared to San Myshuno—so traffic was minimal. I just managed to make it to work on time.

10-25-17_1-56-27 AM

When I walked onto the show floor, I immediately turned my attention to prospective buyers—only to find one of my own works staring down at me from the wall. I looked up at it in open shock. It couldn’t possibly be mine, yet it had to be mine. How could it be hanging there?

“That’s a lovely piece.”

I turned to find Angie next to me. “It’s mine,” I said dumbly.

10-25-17_1-59-34 AM

She smiled. “I know. Your mom brought it in. When Mr. Sheffield saw it, he had to put it on display.” Surely she didn’t mean Mr. Sheffield, the owner of the gallery.

“My mom brought it in?”

10-25-17_2-01-04 AM

Angie nodded. “It really is great. You should’ve brought it in sooner; you know Mr. Sheffield loves to showcase local artists.”

“I guess I forgot,” I said absently, turning my attention back to the painting.

Angie wandered off, but I stayed rooted in place. I wanted to take it down, hide it away. There were real artists up on those walls next to it. What was my painting doing up there where it had no business being? Mr. Sheffield was out that day, but he was supposed to be in his office tomorrow.  I’d talk to him about it then.

10-25-17_2-06-43 AM

I got home earlier than usual and immediately went to find Mom—which didn’t take long, since she was in the living room.

“Why did you give them my painting?” I asked, anger and more than a bit of hurt in my tone. I wished I could remove the latter.

10-25-17_2-07-47 AM

Mom looked up at me, completely unapologetic. “Because it’s beautiful. It deserved to be there. I knew Richard would agree.” Of course, she was on a first-name basis with Mr. Sheffield; they were the same age. She’d likely worked closely with him back when she worked at the gallery.

10-25-17_2-09-45 AM

“You shouldn’t have done it. He probably just put it up as a favor to you.”

Mom shook her head and patted the spot next to her on the sofa. “Theresa, come sit down.” I hesitated but reluctantly took a seat.

10-25-17_2-12-21 AM

“Sweetheart…why don’t you think your work is good enough? What happened to the girl who moved to the big city to make her dreams come true?”

I remembered the day I’d told my parents I was dropping out of college and moving to San Myshuno. They’d been dead set against it, and I’d made a rather impassioned speech about living my dream to become an artist. I’d been filled with drive and passion…until the rejections had started. One gallery after another had glanced at my work, paintings that I’d slaved over, meticulously choosing every color and brush stroke, and found it wanting.

10-25-17_2-13-10 AM

Gently, Mom spoke again. “Your work is beautiful, Theresa. It’s rich and evocative and just as good as anything else in the gallery.”

Tears burned my eyes. I used to think so, too. When had I stopped? When had I started to listen more to the snooty, plastic automatons that filled the galleries in San Myshuno than my own heart? When had I become ashamed of my paintings?

10-25-17_2-15-03 AM

“You’re my mother; you have to say that,” I said with a sniff.

She smiled softly. “Maybe, but Richard didn’t have to display your painting. You know he wouldn’t have if he didn’t believe it was good enough to be up there. Just watch, Theresa. It’ll sell before you know it.”

As it happened, she was right.

As a quick heads up, I’ve updated the Story Builds section with Loralee and Tommy’s three houses and Hadley’s house post-renovation if anyone would like to check it out. I’m planning to add more in the future.

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