Generation 4- Afterword

Well damn this gen was hard to write. I mean. The others were hard too, but this one takes the cake. 

Writing Winter’s Alchemy feels like I’m squeezing words out of my fingertips like sesame oil out of sesame seeds. It never comes easily. That’s one of the reasons I write one measly short chapter every week, and if I don’t have a schedule I wouldn’t even do that much either. 

I wasn’t sure this day would actually come. When I went on that break in 2018 I didn’t realise it’d take two whole years to come back, but that’s inertia for you. I actually finished my legacy challenge gameplay during that time. I have a lot of writing to catch up on!

So this generation… was a bit of a weird one, wasn’t it? 😂 I think it might have something to do with the fact the game threw me WILDLY off track. When the gen started, I thought it would be a story about forgiveness, redemption and healing. But in the end it turned into… this…………

Let me explain. There was a FIRE. A FIRE, y’all. I wasn’t even aware that it started, I had a bunch of actions queued and was zoning out, and when I looked back the house was on FIRE. And what did the fire do? Kill not one, but TWO very important sims.

I was horrified. Grief aside, this was terrible news for me as a writer. Because that plot I had for this generation? Gone. Down the drain. Didn’t work anymore. I guess that’s what I got for thinking of a plot before play finished. 

But what could I do, what was done was done. I rethought the entire generation from scratch. Using what happened in game as an outline, I came up with a story that fit it, and I was in such an odd mental state that the end result was this bizarreness. The choppiness doesn’t help either, does it?

I think the reason the writing is so fragmented is because I want to write the big events. I was never good at filling in time between action. I also don’t like writing things like weddings (though I love weddings in real life) because it is something that happens most generations and therefore gets repetitive. Maybe that’s why most things I write are gloomy- like Deneb, I subscribe to the notion that the little things are where the happiness is, and the little things, unfortunately, get the chop. 

Hopefully the next generation will be easier for me. Maybe. I’m thinking about what gen 5 was like, and I’m not so sure. But hey, we’ll see. It’s not like the game can throw any more curveballs at me, hahaha.

I won’t say much more. When I came back and reread some of my old posts I found that my ramblings were the cringiest bits of the blog. So I’ll end with my usual: a big thank you to everyone who is reading this weird as SimLit. You are the reason I still write. ❤


<Previous 4.17 || Next 5.1>

4.17 Shine


Since then, the house was rebuilt. Scars faded. Old secrets buried. Everything slowly settled into a new normal. Far too slowly, in my anxious mind. It took a long, long time for Deneb to show her genuine smile again. 

“Give her time,” Altair had said. “It won’t last forever.” He was right, of course.

In the years that followed, I watched her bloom into someone different to who she was before, but with the same light, the same spirit. I had always thought she would shine the brightest when she was in love. Perhaps the person who needed her love most was herself. Now, I see how she flourishes under the new name she has been given.

Gemini, a name meant for two.

Some nights the guilt overcomes me and I sob into my hands until daylight breaks. I visit and revisit those decisions I made over and over, trying to solve a riddle with no answer, wondering if there was ever a chance of unblemished happiness. 

But when morning comes I see Deneb and she shines bright, like I have always known she would. 

And I am at peace.

And that ends Gen 4!

Afterword to come soon, but while I’m here, an author’s aside:

In Greek mythology, Gemini is named after the twin brothers Castor and Pollux. Pollux was immortal but Castor was not. When Castor died, Pollux asked to share his immortality by turning them into stars, so they can be kept together.

Interestingly enough, Castor is designated as the alpha star (i.e. the brightest star of the constellation) yet it is Pollux, the beta star, that is actually the brightest one. Some people think this may be because the brightness of the stars have changed since they were named, but this is scientifically unlikely. Either way, I like the tragic irony of this fact – even in death, Pollux is destined to outshine Castor.

I think about it a lot.

Anyway. Thank you all so much for reading, see you all again soon!

<Previous 4.16 || Next Gen 4 Afterword>

4.16 Human Tragedies (Reprise)


“Well, little lady, we meet again,” said Crowman.

I stared at him blankly.

“Not so little anymore I suppose,” he mused. “Maybe not even a lady anymore. Things have changed quite a bit since last time we met.”

“Why-” I winced as my voice grated against my throat. “Why are you here?” 

“To talk to you of course. Just like old times.” He settled on the bedside chair in a flutter of tattered robes. “Care to catch me up? You don’t need to, of course. I know quite well what has been going on. Which does remind me, do you remember that disagreement we had? I wonder if you still feel the same way. Tell me, little lady, is this a rise or fall for you? You finally got to be your brother.”

Something rose within me, something I hadn’t felt in a while: emotion. It was anger. “Rise? How would this be a rise for me? Gem is dead. I was going to move away from this wretched place. I didn’t choose this. My life was stolen from me.” With my damaged voice, I didn’t even sound like myself anymore. 

Crowman gave a short laugh. “Lighten up, would you? You can still live the life you wanted. Move away, just as your brother. It never did go away, did it, the feeling that you were living as the wrong person, playing a role you were not meant to play? Do you think it will disappear if you just start over somewhere else? No. It would have never gone away. This way you can have it all, the best of both worlds.”

“So what, I’m supposed to feel thankful?

“You could at least start being a little more honest. You say you didn’t choose this, but if you wanted to you could just reveal the truth.”

“I couldn’t do that to…”

“Your aunt? So you still care.” His tone turned mocking.

“Of course I do,” I snapped back. “I can’t just stop caring.”

“Ahh, yes, there’s also that. Those people you care about, how many of them would have supported you if not for the circumstances? A handful? None at all? But now they’ll help you in any way they can. Is that not something to be thankful for? Even your fiancé-”

“He’ll never understand. He’ll never stop seeing me for the girl I was.”

He threw up his pale hands. “This person this, that person that. Forget them. This is what you wanted, remember?”

It was, and the fact made it hurt all the more. “Not like this,” I whispered.

“And that is the Human Tragedy.”

I began to cry.

Ah, there they were, the tears. I had thought they had dried up with my humanity.

Crowman watched me in silence. After a while he said, “Has anyone told you how your father died?” 

I shook my head.

He gave a badly told, rambling account of an accident the night I was born, and a conversation that transpired before. “That was another Human Tragedy right there,” he said. “But because of that, you are not dead, so don’t grieve for a life that is not over.”

I nodded slowly. A last tear slid down my cheek. “So you’re saying, there is more to the story. Because I am alive.”


“So you can’t define it as a tragedy. Because stories are defined by their endings.”

Crowman’s eyes widened.

I took a deep, shuddering breath. “You know what? I reckon life only seems like a tragedy because you discount the little things. The little things are where the happiness is.”

“Is that so?”

“I’m going to prove you wrong. I am going to live an amazing life. I am going to do everything I wanted to do, be everything I wanted to be. When I die I will do so smiling. I will go on my next incredible journey which I know death to be, leaving you to wonder if I was right after all. It will be my ultimate rise.”

Crowman’s face twisted into a smile. “Sounds like a plan,” he said.

<Previous 4.15 || Next 4.17>

4.15 Little Homunculi (Reprise)


Aunt Vega told me everything.

The fire had started on the second floor or the west wing, where Mother’s room was. It had burnt through the house quickly; summer-dried wood was a delicacy to flames, as were the two people that had never left the building: Mother, and the lawyer named Mr Melvin. Gem had made it out of the house only to run back in for them. They hadn’t been able to stop him. He never emerged. Typical Gem, always doing the right thing, even until his very end.

All the survivors were scarred in one way or another. Alistair had large burns on his torso and hands. Others had scarring that weren’t visible on the outside- scarring in the lungs caused by the fumes.

My scars were the most obvious of all. I suffered burns on most of my right side, including my face. It still hurt. The marks will probably never disappear, the doctor said. My skin was disfigured in a way that made it hard for people to recognise me as the girl I had once been, and that, ironically, may be a good thing.

For a while they thought they would lose me to the burns. It was Uncle Altair who suggested the basement. A good portion of the records were lost in the rubble, but most of the room itself was remarkably intact. From there they pulled the vines of the plant, the one that had been fed the Potion of Youth and allowed to grow for half a century. Little by little, they fed me its leaves. I took a turn for the better.

It fell to Aunt Vega to take care of all legal matters. With Mr Melvin gone, she turned to the previous lawyer for the estate and her old time friend, Edwin Tiverton. The problem was obvious: the heir to the estate was deceased. 

“If Gem were not able to…” Aunt Vega swallowed. “If he were not able to inherit the estate, and had no heirs of his own, it would go to Iris’ brother. You’ve never met him. He has been in an institution of the… unsavoury sort since before you were born. And I could not let that happen.”

So she declared me dead and made me Gem instead. As far as the world knew it was Gem that had survived, fighting the burns that will scar him for the rest of his life. Grieving for his sister. Living a secluded life in Winterstead.

I was the one that had died, a week after the fire. Never to live life the way she wanted, never to marry Alistair, never to settle in another town away from all crushing obligations. 

I had not only lost my brother, but also myself- it was one thing to understand, but yet another to accept. 

“I thought this was the best way… the only way.” Aunt Vega’s hands trembled as she spoke.
“Please forgive me,” she said, but I wasn’t sure I could.

My days went by meaninglessly. Externally, I was recovering. Internally, I suppose I should have been grieving, but I didn’t feel much of anything. Perhaps when Gem went he took my ability to feel with him. We had truly become little homunculi, both of us a grotesque amalgamation that was half him, half me.

I wasn’t sure if anything could make me move again, not even Alistair. “I’m still here,” he kept telling me. “I’ll always be here.”

How unfair for him.

Then one night I opened my eyes and he was there again: Crowman, unchanged from our abrupt farewell over a decade ago. “Well, little lady, we meet again,” he said.

<Previous 4.14 || Next 4.16>

4.14 The World Unravels


Death is quite a funny state to be in. For one thing, time disappears. There is no past or future- there is only a sense of now. 

My world unravels around me. The fire made a hole in the fabric on which I exist and someone- God, I think- is pulling the loose thread. Or maybe it is me struggling. I decide to lie still. I was dead after all.

The familiar faces, they visit. Alistair. Aunt Vega. Uncle Altair. No Gem though- I guess he has better things to do than visit his dead sister. Mother doesn’t either, but that is no surprise.

And between visits, he comes. He stands by my bed in silence, looking down at me with those empty voids for eyes. “You’re too late,” I want to tell him. “I died days or weeks or months ago.” But the dead do not speak.

Then the pain returned. 

I thought it was a mistake at first. It would be horribly unfair for a corpse to feel pain. But it got worse and worse with no sign of stopping.

That’s when I realised I must be alive.

I began to kick and scream, pulling at the sticky spider-silk the air has become, but I don’t think anyone noticed. At one point, someone had seen my eyes open, but they chose to ignore it in favour of another- “He’s awake,” they said, calling a second person into the room. I didn’t stay long enough to catch who it was. The blackness took over.

I heard footsteps. “Where’s Gem?” said a voice. Whoever it was walked into my room. Was Gem somewhere in here too? I tried to move my head to look around but gave up after a while. It was all too much effort. Why wasn’t he coming to see me? More blackness.

It is only when Alistair visited when I realised the extent of how horribly wrong everything was. He sat by me for hours, head bowed and silent. I don’t think he realised I was awake. He didn’t hold my hand. Was I that fragile? Or did it have something to do with the bandages over his own hands, and the angry red marks that peeked out from underneath?

After a while, I managed to catch his attention by my feebly moving fingers. He leaned over me, his eyes filling with tears, murmuring things I couldn’t make out over the thundering of silence. It took a while for the roaring tides to recede then I heard him say, “There was a fire, but it’s out now. You’re safe.”

His voice lulled me into a false sense of security, immediately broken by his next words that dropped my heart to the pit of my stomach. “Try to rest…. Gem. You’ll get better, I promise.” His eyes darted to something behind him.

I stared at him in shock as everything clicked into place. I had fallen through my reality into this other, terrible version of the world in which I am Gem. And being Gem is nothing like I expected. Nothing at all.

I am not Gem,” I wanted to scream. “It’s me, Deneb. Why can’t you see that?” But all that came out of my throat was weak croaking.

“Try not to talk,” said Alistair.

The scene changed.

Aunt Vega was the one sitting next to me. “Shh,” she said, “it’s alright. No one else is here.”

“It’s me, Deneb,” I said. My voice was not even a whisper.

But Aunt Vega understood. “I know,” she said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t come earlier, I was… finalising some legal issues. Regarding… regarding your mother’s will. You see, we never found her after the fire. We think… we think she never made it out.”

“Right,” I whispered. I wondered what I should be feeling at this news, because I felt nothing at all. Nothing but relief that I was back in my world, the one in which I was Deneb. “We were going to leave,” I said instead.

“No, Deneb, you shouldn’t. You are the heir. You belong here.”

“Not of the estate. Gem is the heir.”

It was the fraction of a second, but I caught it. Her hesitance.

“He is the heir, isn’t he?” I asked. “That’s what Mother said.”

She could no longer meet my gaze. 

“Aunt Vega! What’s wrong? Tell me!”

Aunt Vega closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Gem is dead.”

No. That couldn’t be true. Gem couldn’t be dead. Gem was infallible. With his strength and humour, he was indestructible. He was a role model, a reference point, the better me. 

I waited for Aunt Vega to go back on her words, but there was nothing but raw grief in her shadowed face.

In that moment I felt truly lifeless. That Gem was gone, not of this world, never to talk or move or laugh again…

Somehow it hurt more than my own death.

<Previous 4.13 || Next 4.15>

4.13 Smoke

Author’s note:

Hi everyone, if you are one of the readers that joined me yesterday for Britechester After Dark, unfortunately this is not BAD chapter 1, but an update for my ongoing legacy story. For those not interested in reading both, here’s an easy way to tell the difference – my legacy story will usually not have any pictures / screenshots in the preview, and also have a number in front of the post title. Even if you decide not to read this post, I hope to see you again soon!

Now onto the story!


I opened my eyes, and regretted it immediately.

The shapes melted and reformed, continuously, endlessly. Even under my eyelids, in the complete darkness, they swirled and danced, like girls in ballet class, mocking me. Taunting me.

I may have slept forever, if it weren’t for Alistair waking me. He was still beside me, in a crouch I copied, moving steadily forward while muttering, “Come on, we’re almost there, we can do this, please, come on.” 

Why was the world so different from before? All had been good and safe when I had fallen asleep curled up next to Alistair. Now, I couldn’t stop coughing.


That’s what it was.

Licking its way up the pillars in search of more to consume.

And what of below? I imagined the flame brushing its fingers against the cherish words of my legacy. Erasing them forever. Tears sprang to my eyes, but that might have just been the fumes.

The fire roared so loud I never heard the pillar. I did feel it hit me though, smashing into my right side as I screamed- silently, or maybe not, it didn’t matter because no one heard- and then there was nothing but pain.

The pain was excruciating, then

just like that

it was gone, like it was nothing. 

In the darkness there was nothing but smoke.

Swirling and dancing.

Mocking me.

Taunting me.


between the swirls of smoke there was 

a surface.

There I was, existing on the surface which I think might have been a bed, listening to two voices. One was Aunt Vega. The other belonged to a man I couldn’t identify.

“I do not see any other options,” said the man.

“So you agree?” said Aunt Vega.

“Yes. Perhaps one day, it can be undone, but for now, this is the best way.”

“I will never feel good about doing this.”

“Nor will I. But I will take this secret to the grave.”

“Thank you, Edwin. You are a good friend.”

“Don’t thank me, Vega. I wish there was more I could do.”

There was a long pause. It was broken by the sound of a chair being pushed back followed by rustling of skirts as Aunt Vega stood up. “It’s decided, then.”

“Yes,” said the man. “I will go tell them. From this moment, Deneb Winter is dead.”

And that’s how I heard my own death declared.

< Previous 4.12 || Next 4.14 >

4.12 Descent


You left me on the edge of the stairs, looking down.

The void awaits me, warm and enticing. It is so cold up here, so dreadfully cold.

When you left a hole opened up from under my feet. It swallowed me. I never emerged since. Wherever you are, I assure you it’s better than here. 

There was no one on my side tonight. They each in turn showed their ugly colours, each display of poison more lurid than the last.

The butler who raised me.

Your siblings, always acting like they are above everyone else.

Even my own son, whom I bore, raised and loved for nineteen years.

Traitors, the lot of them. Traitors to me. Traitors to your memory.

Worst of all, the creature, the one who took you from me. Walking where you once walked. Sitting where you once sat. Her hands brushing over the pages you treasured, staining them, defiling them.

And the whole time I’m wondering







to face them alone.

They look at me, and they have your eyes.

Your eyes condemn me.

I turn away from them. I turn towards the stairs. So warm. I just wish it weren’t so dark.

But I can change that.

You would try to stop me, if you were here. But you aren’t.

You left me on the edge.

Now I descend.

Very short chapter because I am incredibly sleep deprived. My darling puppy cries at night. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep myself awake at work next week, and until then, stay safe everyone.

< Previous 4.11 || Next 4.13 >

4.11 And All the Others In Between


I knew it would not go as planned the moment I entered the sitting room.

We were the last two to arrive. Everyone was already sitting around the coffee table. There was a man, an unfamiliar one with an angular face, making himself comfortable in a chair next to the fireplace.

And Mother had control of the floor.

She didn’t acknowledge us in any way but it was obvious that she had been waiting for us. As soon as the others let us get settled, she began. “This is Mr Melvin,” she said, as the stranger stood up and bowed. “He is the executor for this estate.”

“Since when?” said Aunt Vega, sharply.

“Since the papers were drawn up a day ago.”

“What about Mr Tiverton?”

“I have dismissed him.”

“And what right do you have-”

“Vega, please,” said Uncle Altair. “Let’s listen to what she has to say first.”

“Thank you,” said Mother. “As I was saying, Mr Melvin is the executor for this estate. And I have asked him to draw up my last will and testament.”

“Already planning your descent into hell?”


“It is simple, really, but I thought it best that everyone was here for me to reveal it,” continued Mother, completely ignoring all interruptions. “Of course, we could wait until I am dead, but then I wouldn’t be able to see all your faces.” Her eyes glinted dangerously as she smiled.

“Spit it out then,” said Aunt Vega, her voice tight. Her fingertips drummed an irritated beat on the side of the couch.

For a split second, Mother’s eyes met mine. Those cold, glittering eyes. It was then when I knew exactly what she was going to say, mere heartbeats before she said them- heartbeats that felt like an eternity- so really, I wasn’t too surprised by her words that followed.

“In the case of my death, or other circumstances in which I cannot take care of the estate… all of it will be inherited by my son, Gemini Winter, under the condition that it can only be inherited to his children after him.”

Not even a second later, Aunt Vega was on her feet. I heard her voice, impossibly high above me. “What?” she shouted. “We have never seen eye-to-eye, Iris, but surely you recognise Deneb as the heir. The land, at least, should be hers!”

“She is NOT my heir,” snarled Mother, also on her feet. “It is not proper for her to be the heir, not when I have a son. He will continue the family name.”

Most people were on their feet now. Crowding me out. Their movements made me dizzy. The world was filled up with long, invisible shards of glass and if I moved my thoughts, the edges would cut my mind. I had to get out of here. No one would notice.

“You may give your worldly possessions to whomever you please, but the alchemy does not work that way! The study-”

“So YOU gave her the key!” Mother screeched. “She was walking around, in HIS ROOM, when she is the one who KILLED HIM!”

“SHUT YOUR MOUTH,” thundered Aunt Vega, and that was the last coherent thing I heard before the heavy doors slammed shut behind me.

I was out. Where to go? Any old direction would do. I never seemed to end up where I wanted to anyway.

For once, no tears. I only felt a detached, calm numbness as Mother’s last words rang in my head. “What did she mean by that?” I murmured, but I couldn’t bring myself to be fully invested in the question.

Instead, I let myself grieve. Not for the estate, no. It was too good of a thing to ever belong to me anyway. 

It was the legacy for which I grieved. That was what Father’s study had meant to me. I was the heir. Part of something greater than just myself. I let that thought become my rock, the foundation on which I built my identity. It was all I had. Now it was being ripped away from me.

After a while, I found a chair. After another while, there were footsteps.

“There you are,” said Alistair. “There will be a loophole. There’s no way Gem will go for this.”

Quietly, I looked up into his eyes. I had been wrong. The legacy was not all I had. It was, perhaps, the only thing I had inherited, but there were still things I had made for myself.

The legacy was my rock, and I had been cut free.

“Deneb?” Alistair said, his brow furrowed in worry.

“I’m done,” I said. “Let’s move far away together and start over.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“I’m sure. As long as you’re okay with it.”

He hesitated, then nodded. “I’d go anywhere with you.”

And I would have gone anywhere with you. If only it were that simple.

4.10 The Good Moments


The good moments have a way of sneaking up on you, and you don’t notice it until it’s gone. Then you beg and plead and wish and pray that it will return, but if it does, you are one of the truly fortunate.

The bad moments on the other hand whack you in the face with a rusty drain pipe and leave you face-down on the ground.

My face-down moment happened because I got careless.

The hallway had always been deserted so I stopped being cautious. But that day, I left the study to find Mother standing outside.

Our eyes met across the yards. Both of us stood frozen. I was about to stammer out an apology, or an excuse, anything, really, but she turned and walked away without a word. I was left standing bewildered.

She said nothing during dinner. Or next breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner after that. In fact, she was exactly like before. She didn’t look at me, talk to me, or acknowledge my existence. Everything was as normal, but the weight of dread would not go away.

To make matters worse, I couldn’t tell Gem or Alistair. The fact I had access to the study was still a tightly kept secret. They knew, of course, that something was bothering me. I never did get better at hiding my feelings. In the end, I only told them half the story.

“You think you’re in trouble with Mother?” asked Gem. “Why?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said.

They didn’t seem to think it was a big deal anyway. 

“Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s fine. She didn’t seem different from before,” said Gem.

“Is she ever happy, really?” said Alistair.

I hoped with all my heart that they were right. It was true that over the years, Mother had begun to ignore me more and more. One day, already years ago now, it occurred to me that I had grown taller than her. She no longer had the same sway on me as she once did. Perhaps Mother’s hostility towards me had cooled to indifference. 

“She won’t do anything when the guests are around anyway,” said Alistair, putting his hand over mine and rubbing it reassuringly. I felt myself relax, and for a moment too long we stared at each other, grinning like fools.

Gem’s gaze darted between us and he smiled, somewhat forlornly. “Why don’t I leave you two alone,” he said. We hurriedly began telling him he needn’t do that, but he walked out regardless.

The two of us, left behind, exchanged guilty looks. After a pause, Alistair cleared his throat. “Uh, well. Have you decided how we’re going to tell everyone?” 

“I don’t know,” I said. “On one hand I don’t want people to make a big deal out of it. On the other, I want people to make a huge deal out of it.”

“I’d say an engagement is a pretty big deal.”

“I’m just not sure I want everyone to make a fuss.”

“You’re right, people don’t need to do a song and dance about it, they can save it for the wedding.”

“But on the other hand, I do want everyone to jump and squeal and tell me how lucky I am to have you.”

“I’d quite like that too, except they’ll be telling me how lucky I am to have you.”


Even after all these years, these old habits raised their ugly heads. Alistair gave me the look- the special one used to banish them.

“Alright,” I conceded, “You are quite lucky to have me.” 

He smiled, satisfied.

“Remind me why you like me,” I said.

“Because you are kind, and strong, and amazing.” It was something he had told me a thousand times over, but he was still patient. “Also because you got the answer to that cat and mouse riddle immediately,” he added.

“It wasn’t that hard a riddle,” I protested, laughing as he leaned over to kiss me, safe in the knowledge that I only needed to ask and he would tell me the same thing, again, a thousand times over.

“I reckon we should just say it,” I said. “Tomorrow, after dinner. When everyone is together. No fuss.”

“Alright. Tomorrow, after dinner.”

The good moments are so small, and mundane, and often overlooked. 

But this one I cling to.

4.9 Hysteria


“Well doctor? Can you tell what is wrong with her?”

I saw her hands flutter in my periphery. My scrutiny was firmly fixed on the doctor’s shoes.

The doctor- I had already forgotten his name- sighed deeply at Aunt Vega’s anxious inquiry and wiped his glasses on his pants. “Yes, I know what’s wrong with her, and it is unfortunately all too common in growing girls,” replied the doctor. 

Hope. I lifted my gaze to the doctor’s knees, drawing in a breath of anticipation.

“Hysteria. The girl is clearly hysterical.”

My gaze sank back to his shoes. How reflective they were.

Aunt Vega’s voice hardened with indignation. “Hysteria? That’s all you can come up with?”

“Well, growing girls at their age are quite emotional… Surely you know…”

“What is that supposed to mean, doctor?”

“Just that- surely you must have been through-”

“I think I have heard enough.” 

“Miss Winter-”

“Come, Deneb, let’s go.” Having cut him off three whole times, Aunt Vega added insult to injury by marching straight out of the office. Her strides were so wide and fast I could barely keep up.

“Wait,” I panted. “Sh- shouldn’t we hear what he has to say?”

“And waste more time?” Her pace did not slow. “You are unwell, Deneb, and all that leech of a hack can come up with is hysteria. The audacity!”

“I think he might be right,” I admitted.

At last she stopped. “Don’t be ridiculous Deneb, why would you say that?”

So I told her everything. It was too late to hide it now, everyone could clearly see how unhinged I was. I laid out all the ugly truths I never wanted to admit to anyone, her least of all. My selfishness. My jealousy. And she listened, without saying a word.

“What is it about Gem that wants you to be him?” she asked when my confession was done.

“I… I don’t know. All of him, I guess.”

“Lay it out for me. What consists of ‘all of him’?”

“His… personality. How being good just comes naturally to him. How he doesn’t have to struggle to think of something to say to people.”

“Anything else?”

“He got to be a boy. If I were a boy I wouldn’t be expected to wear dresses at garden parties. I don’t like how my body is so uncomfortable and awkward all the time.”

“Is that all?”

No, there was one more, and it stung most of all. “If I were Gem… Mother wouldn’t hate me so much.”

Aunt Vega inhaled sharply, her lips going white as her mouth tightened. “Oh Deneb, your mother is a fool! It has nothing to do with how you are. The problem is not with you, but with her.”

“She isn’t like that with anyone else, so it must be because of me! I know she isn’t the most f-friendly with everyone else, and s-she does hate other people, but it’s… it’s not the same, h-how can she hate me, she’s my MOTHER.”

Damn the tears.

Aunt Vega grabbed my face with an intensity that startled me. “No,” she said, “No. Your mother’s reasons have nothing to do with you. You hear? Nothing. She never even bothered to look past her own nose long enough to get to know you. So don’t you try to change for her. 

“Deneb, there is nothing wrong with wanting to do better. To be the best you can be. Don’t let anyone stop you from living your best life. But you must do that as yourself. Not as someone else.”

“Aunt Vega, I described Gem both inside and out. There is no bit of me that I want to keep.”

“Who else will fix all the machines in the house without you, hmm? You understand them in a way we never will. You find ways to make better everything you touch. You love everything so fiercely. There is so much that is special about you, and we’ll be here to tell you, until you know it for yourself.”

Her words, and Alistair’s words, combined to pull me with a force greater than gravity. So what could I do? I decided to believe her.

And foolishly, I allowed myself to feel happy.