Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chapter 34: Guided and Admired

Part I: Madeline Is Guided
Sat, November 14, 2074 8:01 pm: Lothario Hall- Rawling Hills, Pleasantview


"You and I are going to be the best of friends, I just know it! We're going to have so much fun! I'll teach you how to dress and how to do your hair and- Ooo, I know of this great place by the water where cute boys like to play soccer topless in the mud and..."

Madeline didn't mean to be rude but she was starting to zone out. Sabina's jeweled earrings and hair ornaments were splashing colored lights against her tawny cheek. Madeline traced their inconsistent path with her eyes. Up and down. Right to left. It was the only thing keeping her awake.

How Sabina could manage to be so exhausting without forcing Madeline to move an inch was a complete mystery. If Madeline's expression was a bit glazed or her mouth a little slack, Sabina did not seem to notice. She giggled and yammered with an astonishing fluency- Every word of it, chowderheaded fluff.

"So what do you think?" The abrupt halt in Sabina's prattling jarred Madeline out of her trance. Rather than admit her failure to pay attention, Madeline decided to take the high road.


"It's really just a matter of opinion, isn't it," she said. Sabina smiled, scrunching up her nose.

"Of course it's a matter of opinion and I want yours. So what do you think? Should I go blond?"


"I..." Madeline was having difficulty connecting the last thing that she remembered Sabina saying to this inquiry about hair color. Still, Madeline found a perverse sense of delight in playing along. She leaned forward in her chair and spoke with as much conviction as she could muster, "Most definitely, you should."

"Really? You think so?"

"Oh yeah, no question. It would totally bring out your eyes." Sabina's face lit like a tinderbox.

"I'm so glad you said that because I've really been seriously thinking that it's time for a change." And that was when the power died. The lights gradually dimmed with a low, electric moan.


The entire room went rigid. Beneath the undercurrent of silence, Madeline heard Lawrence whisper something that sounded very distinctly like, "Damn, we forgot about the candles!" Murmurs rose across the room. There was a significant amount of shuffling over by the piano. Madeline caught glimpses of her fiancé's bright yellow shirt in the candlelight. And just below his shoulder was Lawrence's cinnamon-colored head.


"Ladies, gentlemen and Dina," Enoch shouted, nodding over his shoulder at their hostess. "In honor of Lydia and Dad's respective birthdays, young master Lawrence and I would like to present you with a brief musical interlude to tonight's festivities. This first song is dedicated to our sister Lydia and is performed by her personal request." Lawrence's fingers slipped across the keys, playing his scales with a flourish. Enoch cleared his throat and a vaguely familiar tune wafted upwards from the piano. Then Enoch began to sing in an unnatural baritone.

"The devil went down to Georgia, he was look'n for a soul to steal. He was in a bind 'cause he was way behind and he was willing to make a deal. When he came across this young man poke'n a piano and play'n it hot, the devil jumped up on a hickory stump and said, 'Boy, let me tell ya what! I bet you didn't know it but I'm a piano player too..." Sabina groaned miserably. Madeline leaned back in her chair, almost in awe.

"I didn't even know that song could be played on a piano," she said absently. Sabina closed her eyes and shook her head.


"Those boys can be such show-offs sometimes," she said. Sabina's head then snapped in Madeline's direction and she peered suspiciously. "Don't take this the wrong way or anything but what does a girl like you see in someone like Enoch?"

"Nothing." Madeline regretted that the truth often came from her as a knee-jerk reaction. Sabina's eyes widened. For a moment, Madeline could feel her mouth moving but no sound was coming out. "I mean, we don't know each other that well. It's an arranged marriage."


"Oh," Sabina said. Madeline glanced over at Enoch, who was now twirling and grabbing his crotch as he sang. Her eyes wandered across the room and she was surprised to see how much the adults were enjoying themselves. Some of them were even square dancing. Madeline's parents included.


"Then what do your parents see in him," Sabina pressed. Madeline shrugged.

"I suspect they see eight hundred thousand simoleons in him." Sabina hit the arm of her chair hard with her palm.

"Eight hundred thousand? Are you serious? For a second born child?" She seemed on the verge of pitching a fit. Madeline shrank away a little.

"Yeah. Is that unusual?"

"Unusual? Are you kidding? If he weren't my cousin, I'd consider putting up with him for that kind of cash!" The song ended and the impromptu musicians were met with boisterous requests for an encore. The boys put their heads together before announcing something about the next song being "for the ladies". Couples drew nearer to one another on the dance floor.


Madeline turned away from Sabina when she captured a flash of movement just beyond Sabina's chair. It was Ian, briskly heading for the door. A radiant grin swept across his face. He winked at Madeline just before disappearing into the night.

"What do you think he's up to," Madeline asked. But Sabina was not listening.


There was a pained look on her face. Madeline followed her gaze across the room to where the Calientes were becoming sordidly affectionate.


Madeline had never really understood why public displays of affection were difficult for most people to stomach. She had grown up with her parents kissing and cooing all over the house at all times of the day. She was raised with the notion that love was more vital than air. Bitterness clogged her chest when she thought about the way that she had been bartered off to the Goth family. She had cried herself to sleep for three nights after the engagement was announced but she never spoke a word against it to anyone. It was just the way things were.


"That's my parents over there," Sabina said, pulling Madeline out of her thoughts. "My mother is almost forty and in the family way. She's trying to cover it up with that empire waistline but I don't know who she thinks she's fooling. It's completely scandalous." Maybe Sabina hadn't been looking at the Calientes at all.


And suddenly, Madeline found herself hating them- the Calientes, the Dreamers, her own parents. They were each in possession of something more elusive and immaterial than a shadow but all the more sacred for it. Madeline would never be looked upon in the way that Mrs. Caliente looked at her husband. And that knowledge consumed her.


Madeline leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, exhaling deeply. When would the night be merciful and end? She tried to tune out Lawrence's rendition of Unchained Melody but found it to be increasingly difficult. He had a surprisingly powerful voice that carried like dry leaves in the wind.

"And what brings you to our humble corner of the room?" Madeline's eyes fluttered open at the sound of Sabina's hearty greeting.


Standing above Madeline was a handsome man who appeared to be in his early twenties. He smiled at Madeline just slightly but she was not in a mood to return the favor.

"I wouldn't be much of a gentleman if I allowed two pretty women to go without a dance partner," he said, never once turning to Sabina while he spoke. Madeline felt her cheeks grow hot. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure, Miss..."


"Burb. But call me Madeline. I'm John and Ginny's daughter." Madeline stood to shake the man's hand and was caught off guard when he brought her hand to his lips.

"Nice to meet you, Madeline. I'm Phoenix Goth." Phoenix! What a name! Madeline wished that he and Sabina would turn away so that she could practice mouthing that name.


"Oh for the love of crap Phoenix, stop flirting. She's already taken. And anyway, she's too young for you," Sabina cautioned. Phoenix blushed visibly in the dim light. Madeline found it to be endearing. Sabina rolled her eyes. "Well aren't you going to ask her to dance?" It was a weirdly forceful demand. Phoenix grinned bashfully.


"Would you," he asked. There was an undue heaviness in those two very rudimentary words. Or maybe Madeline was imagining that.

"Yes, I would. I mean, I will. I mean, yes I'd like to dance." Madeline studied the way his top lip tucked just slightly above his teeth and the creases that protracted at the corners of his eyes when he smiled. Phoenix turned his gaze to Sabina.

"I'm coming back for you next," he said. Sabina folded her arms over her chest.

"As if! I'd rather be caught dead than be seen dancing with my own uncle," she huffed. Madeline scarcely heard her. Phoenix took Madeline's hand casually, as though they were much more than new acquaintances and guided her across the divide.

Part II: Ian Admires A Bird
Sat, November 14, 2074 8:14 pm: Lothario Hall- Rawling Hills, Pleasantview


Lydia had a neighing laugh that started somewhere near her esophagus and coiled tightly around the base of her throat, allowing for only funny little wheezes to escape through her nose. Most people found her laugh to be unladylike and off-putting but Ian was charmed.

"How long do you think we have before anyone notices that we're gone," Lydia asked.

"All night, probably. I suggest we climb through the bushes and go grab a pint somewhere."


"Don't tempt me," Lydia snorted.

"Do you think we should at least turn their lights back on?"

"Absolutely not. I'm savoring the image of Dina scurrying around back here with a flashlight to flip the fuse back on after everyone has left."

"Eh, it will probably be me that has to do all the scurrying."

"If she asks it of you, then you have my permission to tell her where to shove it." Ian shook his head.

"Can you really imagine me telling Dina where to shove it?"


"No but you ought to every once in a while." The two of them quieted for a moment.

"It's a really nice night." Ian felt silly saying it but something had to be said.

"Yeah it is," Lydia said, looking around. "You guys don't empty your pool in the fall?"

"Nope. It's heated. I like to swim in the mornings. Helps me ease into my day."

"What about your night?" Lydia unfastened her necklace. The act puzzled Ian but he plowed ahead nonetheless.

"I don't need to ease into my night. It's the day that scares me." Lydia removed her gloves and let them fall to the ground.


"What in the world are you doing?" Ian laughed uneasily. As if in response, Lydia unzipped the back of her dress and slipped the entire thing over her head. "You're completely nuts," he said breathlessly. Try as he might, Ian couldn't keep the admiration out of his voice. Lydia unclipped her mousy brown hair and it tumbled gracefully down her shoulders. She turned to the diving board.


The pool lights cast a gentle glow against her bare skin. Ian realized rather uncomfortably that Lydia's underwear was so sheer that she might have been wearing nothing at all.

"What if someone sees," he whispered desperately. Lydia shrugged.

"Then maybe they'll be inspired to join me."


Lydia plummeted from the diving board like bird struck down by a stone. It was tragically, almost poetically beautiful. And in that instant, Ian had an epiphany.


Maybe he really was as stupid as people always told him. He must have been if he was only just now noticing such a creature as Lydia Caliente-Goth. She was plain and skinny. She dressed like a man and belched with malice. But by God, those were the things that made her nothing short of divine.


  1. YAY!!! Update!! And a great one it is!

    Sabina a blonde? Say it ain't so Pen?! LOL! I can't believe Madeline would urge her on that way! Plus her face when she saw Troy! How sad!

    I LOVED Enoch and Lawerence's song! I was literally cracking up! It was great! And everyone was dancing to it too!

    Oh and NOW Ian sees Lydia! *tsk* I love her character! She's just so free!

    Great update Penelope!! :D

  2. hehehe Oh yeah, I haven't seen what Sabina will look like as a blonde yet but I suspect that it's going to be a bad move. I think that Madeline suspected it as well.

    My favorite part about the song was just the look on Dina's face in the background. Makes me snicker.

    I love Lydia too and I'm curious about what Ian is going to do now. Probably nothing since he and Adelaide do care about each other in their way. But Lydia's totally smitten with him.

    Thanks Phoenix!

  3. Lydia and Ian would be so cute together. It's a pity they're both married :(

    Oh wow, Phoenix is HOT! And he has THE NOSE! :D

  4. Haha! I was wondering if anyone would notice that Phoenix has THE NOSE. I think it must be buried deep within the recesses of the Goth family gene pool because the Dreamers all have the same nose.

  5. AHAHAHA when they started playing The Devil Went Down to Georgia, I almost fell out of my chair. I know people say that all the time, but really, I did almost fall out of my chair! I started laughing, and threw back my head and kicked my legs up in the air and got all out of balance and kind of teetered. So, you see, you got a good reaction to your comic moment. And also, that is my favorite song of all time. ;-)

    What else? Yes, Sabina will look crappy as a blonde, but it will suit her personality if you know what I mean.

    Lydia's great. Are you going to let Ian decide what he wants from the relationship, or do you have something planned already?

  6. lol, Bev! I had it stuck in my head all evening after I decided that that was going to be their song. I thought that it was just random and funny enough without being too obscure. (I pretty much assume that it's a song everyone knows.) Other songs that I considered were:

    1) The Moody Blues- Nights in White Satin
    2)Bell, Biv, Devoe- That Girl is Poison
    3) Iron Butterfly- Innagaddadavida (sp?)
    4) ACDC- Big Balls
    5) Sir Mix-A-Lot- I Like Big Butts

    I don't have anything planned for Ian and Lydia yet. Which means that I'm either going to let this plot fall by the wayside or something will occur to me later. But Ian isn't Troy so my suspicion at this point is that very little will come of this.

  7. Sir Mix-A-Lot would also have been a very excellent choice!

    Too bad Ian and Lydia won't really be a major item, but you have so many other interesting plots going on, I can manage. ;-)

  8. Yeah, we'll see what happens. Because to some extent, I'm not even sure of what's coming.

    Now if only my computer will let me finish Chapter 35.


  9. Eeeeeee now I am in love with Phoenix! THE NOSE *and* THE CURLS! That is too much THE for one man. And there's a whiff of the Mr. Knightley about him, too. *pink hearts*

    I feel so bad for Madeline, and not just because she can't have THAT GUY but because of what she can't have in general. If it's true that her parents are so much in love then I kinda wonder what they were thinking. It's not like they looked at Enoch and said "When he grows up a little..." (Or did they??)

    Oh yeah, and Lydia and Ian *mumble mumble* Sabina *mumble mumble* and OMG PHOENIX!!!!

    I loved getting glimpses of Dina in some of those backgrounds, she looks so crabby. And I didn't know that devil song they were singing, but maybe that's just me. The idea of Laurie singing Unchained Melody is just hilarrrious however. :-D

  10. Lothere! You don't know the Devil Went Down to Georgia??

    Prepare for you life to be forever changed! Or not. You could watch it for 20 seconds and get the general idea. :p

    I'm having difficulty figuring out why Madeline's parents would arrange their children's marriages period. Their eldest child, Mona, married pretty young, has three kids and suffers from postpardum depression. Then Ian... Is OK at the moment. He and Adelaide have a friendly sort of relationship and very awkward sex. Madeline is the third child. But it seems like they would want their own children to someday experience their happiness at the very least.

    I suspect that they have probably only met Enoch briefly on a few occasions and are therefore clueless about just how Enochy he is.

    I think Dina probably wears a semi-permanent scowl. What an angry lady. Her blood pressure must be through the roof.

    Oh Phoenix, that cereal-eating semi-outcast. I'm gonna try to find him a gal. Unless of course, he just ends up back with his wife. But I think the honeymoon is so over there.

  11. someone who knows how to use the word epiphany outside a church is a jewel.

    and yeah, you did switch POV. It's your rule. You can break it.

  12. These chapters were originally meant to be four separate chapters. But for the sake of, well, just not using four chapters for this party, I cut it down to two. This meant that there ended up being a part 1 from Madeline's perspective and a part 2 from Ian's. The proceeding chapter was likewise Adelaide and then Ian.

    Keep your eye on the dates, locations and subtitles in this story. :)

  13. I'm trying. I'm getting it that the dates and locations are critical. I'm so into the story that it's hard to do that.

    and I'm distracted right now. well I'm in a permanent state of distraction. Can I ask you - is there somewhere you have a list of what comes first and what comes next? I'd like to follow this the way you wrote it. sorry if I've missed it.

  14. I know how you feel! I read a few stories where the chapters are dated and labeled with a particular location but I don't always take a moment to place the chapter on the larger timeline of the story. The most important information is always going to be just the year and the name that appears in the title (because invariably, that is the character whose perspective we get).

    Everything is meant to be read in the order that the chapters were published. Do you mean, is there a timeline of the story? I could whip one up and post it on Behind Blue Lake if you like. It might be a little sketchy though because much of what happened in the past and that affects the present is still unknown. ;)

    I have been toying with the idea of doing a brief sketch of about the past 100 years of Pleasantview's history. This would mean major events, natural disasters, groundbreaking legislation, economic booms and busts, etc.

  15. I'm taking a step back. Hang on. Looking. Ok. You've already done that. There's a dropdown list. Sorry about that I didn't see it. Why. Don't know. But I got it now.

    You should do that! A sketch. Include landforms. Weather. Natural disasters. Political preferences and alliances. Economic catastrophies. If there were any. Somebody from the Centers for Disease Control called me today because my number came up on a random list and wanted to know if I had vaccinated my children. So what about health?

    Ok I'm done. Can't believe I'm even leaving this kind of insane comment.

  16. The dropdown is a new feature. I used to have a blog archive but it didn't seem to make sense, organizing the chapters by date published. There is probably a better way to do the table of contents but I can't think of one.

    Ooo. You're giving me ideas there. Maybe this will be my birthday project since it occurs to me that DBL will be 1 year old next month.

    Ha! Hmm... I don't think that there were any pandemics in Pleasantview in the past 100 years. Strangetown is probably a different story though.

  17. why don't you just do a table of contents? Sure you can think of one. It's just a table of contents. It goes at the back of the book. Clumsy but then it's back of the book stuff.

    If you're going to go into politics, definitely include a lot of annoying people. Including people who call you and want you to bring them lunch. and leave it outside the door because the door is locked. because they are in there making calls. leave the damned bag of burgers and walk off and wonder if there really is anybody in there who will come get them.

  18. Aha, BUT, I wanted to be able to get to any chapter from any page. So if I'm looking at Chapter 15 and I want to mosey on over to Chapter 50, I should be able to access it from the sidebar. And the story is probably too long for a flat list so it had to be a dropdown if that was going to be the route.

    Oh I can think of a few politicians that will make their way into the post, for sure. ;)

  19. Lol Enoch: "Ladies, gentlemen and Dina."

    And oh no, Ian is going to have an affair just when his wife is pregnant.

    Poor Sabina came off as an empty airhead here, but it just ocurred to me that maybe it had something to do with the fact that the man she loves was right in front of her, being publically affectionate towards his wife. She was probably trying to distract herself, poor girl.

    And I like Madeline, and Madeline + Phoenix. She cannot marry Enoch, it'd be such a waste!

  20. I don't think that Ian would have an affair with anyone but he does have a little crush on Lydia for sure. Ian places Adelaide on a pedestal and on the one hand, he has this perfect woman whom he greatly admires but on the other hand, she's way up on that pedestal, where he could never hope to reach her. Because of it, he feels a pang for not having married someone that he could have felt closer to. Someone like Lydia.

    Sabina's airheadedness is interesting in that she isn't actually stupid but that she IS sort of anti-intellectual. She's quite clever but has zero interest in anything even remotely sophisticated. She a gum-popping, magazine-reading, shoe-shopping teenaged girl. Of all of the women in town that Troy could have fallen for, he went for a teenaged girl whose personality was very much in keeping with her age. I think that says quite a bit about Troy, particularly when I think about his main defense for why he thinks that he could never truly be in love with Siren-- He raised Siren so he will never be able to see her as anything other than a little girl.

    Madeline and Phoenix! Well, I still don't have any plans for Phoenix and Madeline is way out of Enoch's league. The only way that Enoch could ever have a functional relationship with a woman though would be if he found someone to whip him into shape. I think that Madeline would be capable of that... These are still open-ended problems.

  21. Hey Pen, I might have asked you this at one point before, but if I did, I've forgotten the answer... what was Madeline's father's relationship with his first wife like? Not that it's at all relevent to the story at this point in time, I'm just curious.

    Also, I thought you might like to know that the link for Chapter Eighteen in your table of contents actually leads to Chapter Seventeen :P

  22. What the-- Thanks Van! I'll fix that. :D

    I've never really considered John's relationship with Jennifer. I always imagined that it was a happy marriage but never delved into it any further than that. I do believe that they had a quiet and happy little marriage but not the constant mush that happens between him and Ginny.

    Sorry I've been so AWOL. Life is being life at the moment. But the snowpocalypse has shut down my place of work today so I just shot a brief drabble that I'm going to post on BBL today.

  23. No prob :)

    Oh, okay. That would make sense. A lot of people writing Pleasantview stories seem to interpret their relationship as her being really controlling and not into having any more children while he's all whipped and needy, but that always struck me as weird for the Maxis purists considering that their relationship starts in the high 90s. I like your idea better, in terms of both the game and writing a unique story.

    Ehhh, life's a bitch :P It happens. Can't wait for the BBL post :)

  24. Gaaaaah, my bad, that was me. Oh well, I'm increasing your comment count :P