Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chapter 104: Siren Draws the Curtain

Sun, December 13, 2074 10:15 am: Caliente Manor, Middlebourne, Pleasantview

Siren knew this man. For thirty-two years, she had known him. When he smiled like that and nothing was funny, it was not out of warmth. It was out of reluctance. Pure, unadulterated reluctance.

"Where were you last night?" It didn't do to wish him a good morning anymore. She had spent too many mornings pouring him a cup of coffee and pretending. It took every ounce of concentration that she had to fake not being able to hear him stroll through the service entrance just before dawn, so seamlessly that he might never have left home. Troy's own personal dawn was getting later everyday. One of these mornings, Siren thought, he would return so late that he would meet himself sneaking out.

"I thought that you were asleep." His smile fell. He sounded distant. Maybe he was replaying recent events beginning with the moment that he left the stark white sheets of his marital bed with its unyielding mattress and cold, dispassionate spouse. If Siren ever had any illusions about their marriage then they were lost now, leaving her with nothing but an inference that tortured her like a fact. She had imagined it a thousand times. The woman that Troy sought after laughed with ease and made it her business to charm strangers. She was loud and carelessly beautiful. Young. Siren suspected that she was twenty-one or so with little to no respect for authority figures or social mores. She was a master of some esoteric creative pursuit. She could hold her liquor. She was crass and anti-intellectual but made up for it with a natural cleverness. And this above all else-- She made men like Troy feel like shrinking violets. Either by accident or design, Troy had finally found such a woman. Siren might have thought of herself as obsolete if she could think of herself as ever having been current. "I'm sorry." Siren dismissed his apology with a shrug.

"Save it for Laurie. You were meant to be helping him study for his pre-calculus exam. As it was, I had to try to help, and you know how miserable I am at math. It was the blind leading the blind." Troy looked away, perhaps recalling the commitment that he made to their son. He had disappointed the kids on more than one occasion over the past six months, and for every time that they had been neglected, she had been abused a dozen times more. Siren knew that she ought to be angry. She ought to be livid, but she could only hurt for but so long. Now that she was finally ready to confront him, she discovered that as much as she wanted the catharsis of lashing out at him, all that she could feel was grief. The look in his eyes said that he felt it too. "We made a pact, and you broke it."

"I'm sorry." His voice cracked, and it was genuine. He could no longer meet her gaze. Siren stepped in closer, determined to get him to look at her. He would not have the luxury of hiding, not now.

"You know, I never asked you to be anything you weren't."


"Shut-up." Here was the bite of finality that she had learned from him long ago. She often wondered how much of her nature was a mimic of his. She wondered too how much of his nature had originated with her. Marriage had not forged the union between them, nor love, nor family. They were one from the moment they first locked eyes and perhaps further back still. If he hurt her, it only served to punish himself. "I gave you two conditions, and that was all. I wanted you to be safe, and I didn't want to know about it. You swore I never would."

She was close enough now to see hairline wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and the sleep trapped between his lashes. His breath came in short spurts. It occurred to her that he was ashamed and more than that, he was terrified.

"I don't know who she is, and I don't care. I just want it to stop." That was only partially true. She did care. She cared very much. She wanted to see this woman. She wanted to look her in the eye. There was a need in Siren to realize the full scope of her own inferiority. If she could only know who the woman was, her circuit of bitterness could be complete-- from Troy, to his lover, to her inadequate self.

Troy nodded, still looking at the floor with his jaw clenched. He was too much of a coward to argue, too much of a coward to even face her. Part of her wanted to reassure him that she would eventually forgive him just as she always had. It was irrational to want that, but she did. Here was the mercurial little boy who would throw such fits of rage against their parents that the neighbors would call the cops. Here was the young man who ignored her so thoroughly that she was left feeling as substanceless as the air. Here was the slightly older young man that sure as hell had fucked her mother. Siren only ever bit her tongue and tried to forget. She did this for him because she loved him. She did this for him because she knew that deep down, he was trying his hardest to suppress thoughts and urges that were beyond his control.

There was an emotional turmoil to Troy that never died down. Even when he seemed to be happy or at peace, there was always that trace of unrest just below the surface. Siren could only guess at where this came from, and she would probably never know for certain. She suspected, though, that what he carried with him was the impetus behind any number of his sins. Troy never made mistakes or acted on impulse; he did everything with great purpose. It was what made him so culpable now as much as ever, but the pain behind his very measured existence was what made him human.

It was all so clear to her now. The rejection that she felt, she had yanked into her life with the clawing need of a hurricane separating rooftops from buildings. Troy had never wanted to be her husband, and perhaps never should have been. She knew this man. He was the catenulate sorrow that she had been dragging behind her for as long as she could remember.

December 3, 2057 9:38 am: Tellerman Farm, Middlebourne, Pleasantview (Seventeen Years earlier)

Troy closed her bedroom door slowly, peeking through the crack as though he expected to be followed.

"What on earth are you doing," Siren asked. He placed a finger to his lips, apparently listening for something. All that Siren could hear was the dull murmur of the television set downstairs and Lydia singing a nonsense song at the top of her lungs.

"They don't know that I'm here." Troy was whispering and double checking the door. Siren gave him a look. It was the sort of look that said he had finally gone off the deep end.

"So what if you're here?" Siren couldn't begin to guess at what he had done now, but she had thought his youthful misdemeanor days to be long behind him. Troy rubbed the back of his neck, and the light reflecting against his glasses changed. Siren could see the dirty smudges and fingerprints on the lenses from where she sat. It was not like him to be that untidy, particularly in a place to close to his direct line of sight as his lenses. "Has something happened to you?" Troy furrowed his brow in mild alarm.

"What? No, nothing. It's just Mom. She tried to talk me down at dinner last night. You know how she is. It's like she has telekinesis sometimes. She just knew I would pull something like this." Siren tilted her head back. It was also not like Troy to fumble so much with his words. Then it dawned on her that she remembered the bright yellow shirt he was wearing beneath his hoody. She'd told him that it made him look like one of those lemon drop candies that Isabella used to eat when they were little. That was yesterday.

"Troy, have you been to bed at all?" His eyes widened as though he were caught off-guard by the question. He shook his head and swallowed.

"I didn't make it home last night. But before you say anything, well, don't say anything." Troy sat down on the edge of the bed next to her, his back hunched. He cradled the back of his head with his hands. He looked so small. Siren had to curtail the desire to tip him onto the bed, take his shoes and fold the blankets around his frame. She placed her hand on his knee, and he raised his head, startled. "You can't marry him." His voice was shaking. Siren did not know what she thought that he would say, but it was not that. A sudden wave of adrenaline made her gasp and let go of him.

His reaction to the engagement announcement had been politely congratulatory, placid even. She did not have the time to scrutinize it then. After the toast was made, the entire family swept her and J.L. up in their arms. Jan cried like a baby. Lydia was doing some sort of a celebratory dance with Adelaide. Terry and Remmington shook hands and laughed together like old friends. Her mother and Dina were already making wedding arrangements, while Don was slapping J.L. on the back and doling out unsolicited relationship advice. She did not even notice when Troy disappeared, cat-like into the night.

"Don't." She did not know where this plea came from, but the conviction of it seemed to resonate throughout her body, dispersing into the space around them. Troy took her by the hand. He leaned over and sighed into her hair.

"You'll hate each other before the end," he said. Siren shuddered. There were things about J.L. that she could not suffer, but only Troy knew this for certain. It had taken her three days to accept his proposal, and all the while she imagined herself listening to his self-aggrandizing stories at every meal for the rest of her life. Siren had to walk on egg shells when she had even the most banal of conversations with J.L. Anything that she said could be magnified or taken out of context. The tantrums and silences that followed from him repulsed her so badly that whenever he touched her, all that she could see was his bloodshot glower. He was only ever a victim, only ever right. He dominated every discussion because only his perspective mattered. He was a good, patient and loving father, but that was due to the fact that he saw Lydia solely as an extension of himself.

"It isn't about me, Troy. Listen, this family is not what it was five years ago. Aunt Dina has forced us all kicking and screaming into her world because it was best for your father's career. I don't think any of us regret it, but there you go. We're playing by their rules now. My daughter can't be someone's illegitimate child."

Troy linked his hands behind her back. The fabric of his hoody was cold, even through her clothing. She wondered if he had spent the night in his car, or if he had wandered the streets like he used to so many years ago. He fretted over her so.

"I would never let anyone mistreat her. You know that," he murmured. He was drifting off to sleep on her shoulder. Siren stroked his hair. It was curly and wild on its own but he kept it gelled as close to his scalp as he could manage.

"Even so. People talk," she said.

"Let them. We're stronger than that. You don't have to do this." His chest rose and fell. Siren supposed that it was a poorly suppressed yawn. She pulled him closer, and he adjusted his position until she was enfolded completely. There wasn't much that she wanted from the universe. She never had Troy's ambition, or her mother's passionate theatrics, or Terry's staunch determination. She only wanted two things, and the first was for her daughter to grow-up safe, surrounded by the people who loved her. The second was a fantasy.

Troy pushed away from her then. His eyes were so tragic that she had to turn away. If he were more awake and alert, he would have never allowed her to see him so unguarded.

"You know, I'm not settling for him. If I can make Lydia happy, then I can be happy." Siren fidgeted with her skirt in her lap, and Troy clasped her hands in his to still her movements. "Oh god, you should have been her father," she choked. Crying in front of him only ever made her feel infantile and absurd, a left over emotion from the days when he would crush her to his chest until a curtain was drawn against the light of the world and only the two of them remained. If he was shocked by her outburst, he gave no sign. He wiped her tears with his fingertips.

"I might still be," he said.


  1. I don't think we've ever gotten their relationship from her perspective before. :\ It was pretty illuminating for me as it unfolded. In part 1, Siren fluctuates between half-way joking about his infidelity(One of these mornings, Siren thought, he would return so late that he would meet himself sneaking out.) to absolute despair (He was the catenulate sorrow that she had been dragging behind her for as long as she could remember.). I think that on one level, she knows that what they have is permanent and ineffable, and no one is going to get in the way of that. On the other hand, she just feels deeply betrayed. Troy has never indicated that he did not love her romantically, but she is starting to come to that conclusion on her own. He was always a womanizer. That isn't what's bothering her here. Troy is getting so sloppy with Sabina that Siren now knows something is different about this affair-- It's a relationship.

    And d'oh! They're wearing the same glasses. I only saw that when I previewed the chapter before posting. Oh the perils of me forgetting what my sims are wearing.

  2. Siren and Troy have such a fascinating relationship. They're sort of platonic "soulmates". It may not be conventional romantic love, but I don't think Troy could have stuck this long with anyone else without one of them throwing in the towel. The connection may not have a name, but that doesn't make it any less valid.

    I wonder how Siren would react to knowing it's Sabina that Troy has been seeing, since I'm assuming they would have met, probably more than once (I mean... Siren's aunt is Dina, and Dina's stepdaughter was stepmother to Sabina's father, so their circles would have some overlap). On one hand, she might find Troy's lover's identity reassuring--Sabina is young, pretty, and not bright or stimulating, so no matter what Troy thinks he feels now, it's probably not going to last. On the other... well, she clearly has some self-esteem issues, and assumes that she must automatically be "inferior" to whoever Troy would involve himself with romantically, and if she takes that to mean that she is "inferior" to Sabina... yeah, that self-esteem may have another few notches to drop.

  3. I couldn't have put it better. They are absolutely platonic soulmates. It makes me wonder too how things would have been if they could have only met as adults. Having grown up separately, they would have been very different people from who they are today, but I think that same sense of recognition would have been there. Maybe their feelings for each other would have taken a more conventional turn then.

    Oh yeah, Siren and Sabina are as well acquainted as you would imagine. They probably run into each other on a weekly basis at Dewilliker Prep alone. Siren doesn't tend to talk to Sabina much when they do meet in part because of the simple fact of their age difference but also because their immediate families really do not get along. Dirk and Lilith are huge political conservatives. The two families just tend to suffer each other. Roan and Sabina's little sister Rhiannon are buddies though, just as oblivious to the familial awkwardness as kids can be.

    Yeah, I think that even if Siren were to find out that it was Sabina, she would still find things about Sabina that were better and more appealing. To Siren's mind, the mystery woman is inherently the better person because Troy seems to find her more desirable. :\ What a mess.