6.12 Stern Talking

Sky headlined at Llama Music Center.

The stands were packed. She had never imagined she had so many fans.

In the sea of faces, she could easily pick out Forest’s. She didn’t even think he liked her sort of music. Whatever else he was, he was a loyal brother.

She sang her soul out.

In the morning, she was almost afraid to read the reviews.

“It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had as a musician!” she gushed to to Xia when she returned home after midnight.

“I wish I could have been there,” Xia said, pouring her girlfriend a glass of juice. “The pre-mission mission ran really long. It’s really a routine excursion, but this will be my first trip into space!”

“I’m going to miss you, but I’m so excited that you’re finally going to reach your dream. You’re literally reaching for the stars, huh?”

Xia smirked. “For a couple of old geezers, we’re sure not slowing down, are we?”

Sky snorted. “You’re doing a great job at being an embarrassing old woman. Now you need to get to bed, or you’re going to nod off during blastoff.”

“That’s right! I have to get my beauty rest. Not just for me, but for geezers everywhere!”

It was after dawn before they finally got to sleep.

Abby was a wreck. She’d been trying to soldier on, but it just wasn’t working. After the casting director stopped her in the middle of an audition and asked her not to come back, she lost her last grip on composure. She burst into tears and fled home.

The sound of her sobs brought Dylan running. “Abby! Good heavens! What’s wrong?”

“Everything!” Abby said. “I made a horrible mistake. Now I’m publicly humiliated. My career is a joke. Even Dion thinks I’m disgusting, and I think he’s right.”

“Whoa, whoa! You are not disgusting. Please tell me what happened.”

“I woohooed a casting agent,” she said. “And then someone found out and reported it to a gossip magazine.”

“Oh my gosh,” Dylan gasped. “Why would you do something like that?”

“Because I want to act!” Abby cried. “Do you know how hard it is to break into acting? Do you know how many people start their careers on the casting couch?

“But woohoo? You don’t have to compromise your body to reach your dream!”

“I was so frustrated showing up at audition after audition and seeing that bland smile. I thought it was just a sacrifice I had to make. Now I’ve ruined my career and everyone’s respect. Especially mine. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror!”
“Stop!” Dylan exclaimed.

“I– what?”
“Don’t you see? You’ve fallen into a trap,” he said. “I dare say it’s exactly the trap that this sorry excuse for  a human being hoped you would fall into. If you made a mistake, it was provoked, and I can only begin to guess how many other worthy actresses have the same story to tell. 

“You can’t let this strike you down. You’re stronger than that. I know. You’re my sister.”

“Dylan…” Abby murmured. “I thought you of all people would be horrified.”

“I am horrified,” Dylan said gravely. “I’m horrified that you must fights wolves like this agent in order to pursue your dreams. It shouldn’t be like this.”

“You’re right,” Abby said. “It shouldn’t be like this. Thank you. You won’t tell my moms?”



“Mama reads gossip mags to find the stories about herself. She might find out anyway. But I won’t tell her. Abby… I’m sorry you’re going through this, but I want to set your mind at ease. You have never done anything to make me respect you less. I don’t think you ever will.”

“Thanks, Big Brother. I guess you’re so, well, old-fashioned that I was sure you’d think less of me.”

Dylan smiled a little. “I think we have different definitions of ‘chivalry,'” he replied.

Plum Marmalade seemed to be having a bit of trouble with reality.

She surprised Sky with a bouquet of purple roses one day at an autograph session. “They were so bright and beautiful, they made my heart sing! And that made me think of you.”

Sky’s eyes darted to Leah, who was watching nearby, as she accepted the flowers. “I think maybe these would be better for your wife?”

“Ah yes, my wife! Have you met my darling Leah? Doesn’t she have the most sparkling blue eyes?”

“I’m sorry,” Sky said to Leah. “I didn’t do anything, I swear! Is everything all right with Plum?”

“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Leah said with a grimace. “Plum’s on a new medication, and it seems to make her a bit loopy. We’re working with the doctor on a better dosage.”

“If you need any help, let me or Dylan know.”

“I think we’re all right. Thanks anyway!”

“Don’t let’s leave without an autograph!” Plum gushed.

Sky scribbled on a scrap of paper. “That, at least I can do,” she said.

Xia, on the other hand, was in a break in her astronaut training. She was prepped and ready for her first mission, and now all there was to do was wait.

“I don’t know what to do with myself!” she confided to her friend and boss, Anita Bookabet.

“We are both women of leisure,” Anita said with a chuckle. “We should find some fun way to waste taxpayer money.”

So they went outside and played football.

Xia also took up fishing and could be found by the pond on the Sample estate at odd hours. “I’m just practicing for the long hours I’ll have to be alert when we blast off.”

A phone rang while Sawyer was irradiating a life fruit seed. He had to look around for a moment before he realized it was his phone. His phone never rang.

“Why are you calling?”

“Hello? Is this Sawyer Sample?”

“Yes I am.”

“This is Sharon Leonard. I was wondering if you’d like to go out.”

“Go out? Go out where?”

“To Fiddler’s Green?”

“I guess so.”

His mom was always telling him to be more social. He guessed it couldn’t hurt. While he was driving to the pub, he finally placed the name. Sharon Leonard was a girl in his science class.

She was waiting for him as he stepped out of the car. “Hi there.”

“You’re the one who laughed at me when I got into a fight at Honeydukes,” Sawyer said when he saw her.

“Yeah, about that. I didn’t really mean to make fun of you. Besides, you should have seen what the other guy looked like when you hit him!”

“He was a real moron.”

“I could tell. A real mouth breather. Anyway, I was mean to you, and I was hoping I could make it up to you.”

“How would you do that?”

“I could buy you dinner?”

“I’m not sure if that would make it up, but I’m happy to eat.”

So they did. Sawyer was able to find hot dogs on the menu at Fiddler’s Green. That made him feel better. Then Sharon suggested that they go upstairs and play shuffleboard for a while.

Shuffleboard was a pretty dumb game. He could analyze the velocity of the pucks, but his analysis didn’t have much effect on the outcome.

Sharon kept talking, but it was repetitive stuff: what he thought of his teachers, whether he had any hobbies. Pointless drivel like that.


Finally, Sawyer had to stop. “I’m sorry, but this game is boring. You’re pretty of stupid. I think I’m going to go home and find something more interesting to do. Thanks for inviting me anyway.”

He left her gaping at the shuffleboard table as he headed home.

Dylan found Andria surveying the living room with a distressed look on her face.

“Is there something wrong with our decorating?” Dylan asked. “You look offended.”

“So much electronics!” she said with a scowl. “All out in the open where everyone has to see them!”

“Have you ever thought of living off the grid?” she asked eagerly. “We totally have the resources. All these technical doodads destroy our connection to the land.”

“Good heavens! I had no idea you felt so strongly,” Dylan said. “I have no particular love for electronics. They seem kind of garish. I don’t think the family would be too eager to move to a farm, however.”

“We have enough land to do it here!” Andria said. “I’m certain of it. There’s so much untapped potential in this property. Even through all the interference from technology, I can feel the pulse of the land. This is a beautiful place.”

“This is about your true self?” Dylan asked awkwardly. “About being, uh, fae?”

“I guess so,” she admitted. “Our magic springs from the land. Electronics make me feel uncomfortable. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like one of my senses is muffled. Almost like a buzzing in my ear that won’t go away.”

“I can’t ask you to move into this home if it makes you feel that way,” Dylan said. “But I believe we’ll have to find some sort of compromise. Sawyer will never accept a limit on his scientific equipment.”

“Is Sawyer really going to live her after he graduates from college?”

“I honestly do not believe Sawyer should live on his own. He taunts us and complains, but it’s the only way he knows how to interact. He is special, and he needs us. I will not turn him away.”

Andria smiled wanly. “I was pretty sure you’d say something like that. All right, then. We’ll work something out.”

“On an unrelated subject, have you seen Abby?”
“She was reading something on the computer, and then she left. She looked like she’d been crying. Is she all right?”

Dylan scowled. “It’s her story to tell, but it involves the foulest of knaves,” he said. “It’s been all I can do to keep myself from tracking down this villain to give him… a really stern talking to. Oh, Andria, none of my experience in life has prepared me to defend my sister’s honor. What should I do now? Challenge him to a duel?”

Andria folded him into her arms. “You can’t defend her honor, my love. But she can, and I think she will.”

“Thank you so much for agreeing to meet,” Abby said. “This is a really awful subject. I wasn’t sure you would talk to me. When I started looking for celebrity tell-alls about me and Nemo Hodgins, I started finding articles about you. I guess we’re in the same boat.”


Aminali Ibari was the newest rising star with Plumbob Pictures. She’d recently completed filming a supporting role in the film adaptation of The Dog Barks for Thee, which would hit box offices next month.

“Don’t read those articles,” Aminali said seriously. “They’ll drive you crazy. I want to put all that behind me and focus on acting.”

“But is it true?” Abby asked. “Did Hodgins offer to exchange woohoo for jobs with you?”
“If you really want to know my story, I’ll tell you,” Aminali said. “You promised to buy me a drink.”

Over the course of the evening, Abby and Aminali shared their stories with each other. They were surprisingly similar. Or perhaps not so surprising. They shared the same passion for acting and faced the same barriers to making their career. And they both had Nemo Hodgins in their past…. Aminali further in the past, but not much further. Realizing how recently Nemo had passed from Aminali to her filled Abby with another wave of shame.

“We can’t let him keep doing this to young actresses,” Abby said. “We have to do something.”
“What can we do?” Aminali demanded. “He has all the power. Young wannabe actresses are interchangeable, and he knows it. Nobody is willing to risk their careers to go after him.”
Abby took a deep breath. “I think I am.”

Aminali just stared at her. “Do you realize what you’re saying? If you accuse someone in the industry, you could be blacklisted. He might come out smelling like a rose.”
“I just can’t sit back and let him prey on any more women,” Abby said. “I think it’s worth the risk. If I lose my chance at a film career, maybe I can save someone from what we went through.”

“You’re a pig-headed woman,” Aminali said. “Take that as a compliment. If you go public against Nemo Hodgins, I will back you up.”

“Oh, thank you so much!” Abby cried. “I just wanted to know your story. I didn’t expect to find an ally!”

“It’s about time we started standing together,” Aminali said. “Good luck to you.”

———-

I didn’t expect the big show venue to be so awesome. If you get close, you can see how artificial the big crowd looks, but it’s a still a fabulous effect.

Abby looks like she’s wearing too much makeup. I could have sworn it looked more tasteful when I was playing it. Ah, well, I’ve played weeks ahead of this, so we’re stuck with it.

Sharon Leonard invited Sawyer on a date. It was the only time he was invited on a date while he was a teen. I thought it was pretty funny that it was the same girl who made fun of him earlier. They had an attraction of 0. He couldn’t stand her.

8 thoughts on “6.12 Stern Talking

  1. Well, I don't even know where to start for this chapter! All of the siblings were really interesting this time, and Sky, too!

    Why don't we start with her. I'm so proud of her =) she really made her dream come true, and to successfully perform in front of such a huge audience is beyond impressive.

    Next: Abby. I'm glad she talked to someone about what happened, and Dylan was awesome about it, as could almost be predicted. Her attempt to make Nemo go down is something I fully support, even though it seems like she changed her story a little bit. To me it never seemed like she saw this as a sacrifice she had to make. We'll see how that goes.

    And Sawyer being asked out on a date astonished me. Later it made me laugh, because he just left the scene when it got boring! πŸ˜€ It's nice that he was asked out at all, because he hadn't had many successful human interactions, but this wasn't the right girl for him. He needs someone who really understands how special he is. Or maybe he doesn't need someone at all,maybe he will be happy staying with his family, hence Dylan and Andria. And their kids. It's possible that he will find it easier to deal with kids than with grown-ups once he is older, who knows.

  2. In retrospect, I think I probably advanced Abby's plot too fast in this chapter. But then again, I seem to want to do everything on a slow build…

    I didn't really intend for Abby to be changing the story. I more intended for her motivations to be unclear until she talked about them. Remember, she asked Xia about bending the rules to get what you want.

    I mean, Nemo's pretty smarmy in this story. He was baiting her with promises of acting parts and showering her with compliments. He was smooth, but Abby's also pretty smart. She knew what he was probably trying to do, and she was trying to decide what to do about it. Should she back away, or was this a rite of passage for her career she should just accept?

    She decided to be just as ruthless as he was and use him to advance her career. But it turns out that she's not as ruthless as he is. Also, she stood a lot more to lose than he did. She's smart, but she's still young.

    Sawyer is a lot of fun when he actually interacts with someone, which as you'll notice is pretty infrequent. With everyone being interested in his story, I was starting to get concerned that he wouldn't HAVE one. But stuff does happen for him. πŸ™‚

  3. Poor Sawyer. I feel bad for him, but I can't help but laugh at his interactions. I hope he manages to find someone who can tolerate his mannerisms, but I'm starting to doubt it πŸ™

    That whole scene with Sky and Plum was beyond awkward! I can well imagine how she felt there, but at least Sky and Leah have put their animosity behind them now. It could have gone the other way entirely.

    Abby has never been my favourite character before, but the fact that she's willing to put her career, future and dreams on the line to expose that creep has really made me warm up to her. She's definitely strong enough to make him rue the day that he chose to take advantage of her. I also have the feeling that Sky will be a great ally to Abby, so she should really confide in her mother. Sky has definitely had her fair share of negativity from the press.

  4. Wow! So much happening in this chapter! Sky’s performance was amazing! Nevermind the artificial crowd, it looked totally awesome. Sky truly deserves this πŸ™‚

    Let’s not forget the family trait of the Samples… Abby is going to kick Nemo’s ass! I’m sure of it!

    Sawyer’s date was really funny. Poor girl, I guess she’s never going to call him again πŸ˜€

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