The rain poured hard in Bridgeport over those two weeks. It always did in February, but Franco never remembered it being so brutal. The water flowed down the streets. Taking the subway was suddenly preferable to a city stroll. And Hannah came in from her classes soaked from her hair to the inside of her shoes.
She still had to stay in Bridgeport. The Bruegel College of Music did not have any satellite campuses, after all. So she would get a beautiful, empty flat to herself. With her music and cats and unused easels. Living weekdays as alone as she wanted to.
Living in the city full-time wasn’t agreeing with Franco as much. No wonder Seng took the offer to live in quiet Twinbrook as soon as it came! If lousy Seng could become bearable in the suburbs, then it certainly could melt away Franco’s bitter grimace.
Bridgeport had plenty to offer, but he would survive in Twinbrook just as well. Even among the backwards yokels of Terrebonne, there were patrons of the arts. Amy knew of several. Not to mention getting his mum’s cooking for every meal. And at times, Franco missed cheeky little Samira and sweet young Julian.
But in a way, home felt sweet only by comparison.
“I’ll check in on the weekend,” he said. “Anything you want me to bring back?”
“Well, I’ll see if mum will bake a casserole or something.”
As he walked away, the apartment filled with the sounds of aimless improvising on a minor scale. At least Hannah wasn’t crying. That was Rose’s job, as she pawed at the white oak floors.
It wasn’t that long after Sinbad’s funeral that Franco returned home yet again. It was the end of February, and always a cold time for Terrebonne. So there was still a thin layer of snow on the ground, and a dire need for sweaters.
On the plus side, it made Annette’s corn and habanero bisque taste that much better.
But on another negative, it meant picking up the kids from school in the cold.
While the first question was “why isn’t Amy doing that?”, it was fleeting. Franco understood that teachers didn’t always just teach and scram. Samira and Julian tended to want to, though.
So it was a Wednesday. The two kids talked amongst themselves, and Franco met Amy at the door. It started with explaining the long string of meetings for picking a new Arts and Humanities chair. She had been angling for that spot for ages, and Amy had to bring her best arguments. After all, a lot of the faculty still had their own nasty opinions about a tattooed, bisexual, polyamorous Korean woman.
He nodded along, until she dropped a bomb.
“…so if you can bring Julian to therapy while this goes on, I’d love it!”
“Wait, therapy?” he asked. “Is…is everything okay?”
“Well…uh…I’m not forgetting anything! There’s a lot his therapist can’t tell me. But things have been rocky for everyone since…you know.”
Franco nodded. “I get it. Is it anything I have to worry about?”
“Oh, you’ve known his dad for almost your whole life! I think you can handle Julian at his worst…I just worry about how he’ll handle himself.”
“I guess I don’t have any plans for today,” he said. “Where is it?”
“Oh, one of the office complexes downtown. You can’t miss it!”
Unfortunately for Franco, that didn’t help at all. Julian knew the way a lot better, and in much better words. That was the only enjoyable part of that kid for the whole walk over there. Samira skipped ahead of them, kicking piles of snow. Acting as if her stepfather wasn’t gone at all.
Julian, meanwhile, didn’t give one nice word to Franco. Even the simple answer of his therapist’s name was said with an angry groan. Ugh. Ms. Sandy. And what road was the building on again? Why? I just told you it was on Centre Street. He had never been so moody in front of Franco before. Maybe Julian just used to be better at hiding his issues. Or Sinbad, mean ol’ Sinbad, was the sole light in his life. They were inseparable and he remembered many hugs between them.
It looked like an okay practice. In spite of the basement location, Franco appreciated all the work they put into making the waiting room less dreary. The vibrant, scarlet walls and prussian-blue accents reminded him of Seng. But Seng sometimes had an okay taste in things. If it was red, he was there. And Franco sometimes was too.
And they had enough to keep the children entertained. A small, wall-mounted TV played the end of Ponyo, and there was a big train set in the center of the room. Samira took to the train set instead. Franco knew his mum. She would have tired out the kids on the entirety of Studio Ghibli twice-over. But he felt warm inside, watching his sister have fun cheering the train on. Sometimes she’d press a control on the side and get a slow train. Or a pile-up in the mini city it circled around.
If only Julian was the same.
“Well, I’m gonna be home more,” said Franco. “And I bet Ms. Sandy is great, but don’t forget about me.”
“That isn’t the point!” Julian got up, clenching his fists at his sides. “Dad’s gone because of stupid people like you!”
“You know I loved him.”
“But you didn’t love him enough.”
“Julian, this is the blame I was talking about last time.” It must have been Sandy. She wasn’t memorable looking to Franco, aside from her frizzy black hair. “And I’m sorry I was late. It was an important call.”
“Fine.” He stormed off to talk to her.
Ponyo must have ended. But it transitioned into Porco Rosso, and Franco had seen that twice by the time he was ten. And it wasn’t even Annette’s favorite Miyazaki movie. It warmed his heart to see Samira having so much fun with the train set, though. She lost both her dad and her stepfather, and took it all so calmly. Maybe it would be different if she was reeling from a breakup, though.
“Hey, you having fun there?” Franco asked.
“Wanna see another crash? I wanna do it at City Hall next!”
“…and then I can make it go in and out of the tunnel! It’s funny because that’s how people do it.” Franco watched with keen observation. Who’s bright idea was it to tell her about sex? She was eight!
“That’s nice, Sam,” he said. “Do you always come here with Julian?”
“Nah. Uncle Seng usually has stuff for me to do,” she said. “Last week I got to see his niece! And he tells me that I can help babysit her any time.”
“Well, don’t get too excited. I’m putting an end to that nonsense.” What a tool. He didn’t want Benji in the same room as his little sister. Or in the same car with Seng and his constant buzz behind the wheel.
“But Mari’s so cute and squishy.”
“And her dad is an ugly monster of a man. Honestly, you must need therapy yourself after seeing him.” His grudge went so far. Of course he wouldn’t be above harming a little girl for the sake of petty revenge.
“Well I think he’s okay…wanna take these plastic people off and run them over with the train?”
“You can do that,” he said. Franco would have otherwise obliged, for the sake of a little harmless evil fun, but someone distracted him.
“Oh, do you mind taking the 4:30 slot next week instead? I forgot to write down the other one I have at 3.” Her voice was still warm and rich, like a buttery pastry fresh from the oven. Franco didn’t think he’d remember her so well. He met her only once when he was still 17.
And Pansy looked back at him, like she remembered him too.
“Oh…Franco, right?” she asked him. “I remember your face, anyways.”
“Oh…hi Ms. Prudence,” he said, scratching the back of his neck. He was a no-show for several appointments she scheduled back then. And Franco thought he was okay, spending each night deep in the therapeutic chambers of Hannah’s vulva and elsewhere. But then again, he had about as much of a chance of returning there as he did of bringing Carmen back to life. “I guess I’m hard to forget.”
“First pink guy I’ve ever met,” she said. “I hope you’re doing well.”
“He’s actually really sad about his girlfriend,” said Samira.
Franco sighed. “Different scenario. And you know how well last time worked.”
In spite of wearing tall black heels, Pansy snuck up next to Franco in a quiet flash.
“People change in five years,” she said, barely breaking her tight smile. “Even I have, right on the track to having my own practice.”
“I…I bet you’re a great therapist, but I’m an adult now,” he said, stammering. “And I am handling this just fine.”
“You still cried last night about her,” Samira said, in a deadpan tone.
“Shut up and watch some Miyazaki.”
“Can they change it to Howl’s Moving Castle? I liked that one better.”
“Our copy of that actually got damaged,” Pansy said. “But I guess we oughta replace it. I loved that movie as a kid.”
“My mum’s big on cartoons. I think she has a problem,” Franco said. He wouldn’t admit in public that he re-binged Avatar: The Last Airbender every few years. Or that he had fond memories of watching Howl’s Moving Castle in his pajamas, with a big bowl of mum’s olive oil-popped corn. “But I think you should leave now.”
“Well, what if I offered to talk to you for free? I don’t have to see anyone else today,” said Pansy. “We’ll end it as soon as someone gives me an emergency call.”
“You get those?”
“More than you’d like to know.”
He rolled his eyes. “Not that money’s an issue anyways.”
“…sometimes games really help ease tense patients, so I’m always down for a game of Clue.”
Pansy gained a much bigger office since her move from the school. The scarlet was a giant step up from drab grey. She even had a computer in her office this time, with only a somewhat-obsolete processor. And even an extra small table and chairs for Clue still left a lot of walkable room in the office. Franco appreciated it. He would even be down for solving Mr. Boddy’s murder.
“So you like it?” he asked.
“I’m hoping for some windows if I get a private practice,” said Pansy. “I like all the wall space here. I’m just a sucker for wall art.”
Commissions had dried up for Franco. He almost wanted to smirk and make an offer.
Instead, he took a look at one of her installations. It was like a flower or a star, with a frame of wood and stitched fabric. There wasn’t a name anywhere to be seen.
“I’m…intrigued, at least,” he said.
“It’s from my aunt. One of her old friends in Madhya Pradesh made it, and she thought I’d like it.”
“India. You know, when I first met you, I thought that I finally met someone who understood,” said Pansy. Her voice lowered to a humble, gentle tone. “Being forced out of a rich culture and spending so much time trying to get back into it. Not like India is anything like the cosmos, but my dad was adopted out of it and never tried to get back. And yeah, my mum was Indian too, but I still always felt like a stranger to it.”
“It’s not like I want to go back to…wherever,” said Franco. He snarled at the thought of his murky origins. If it had anything to do with Diamanda the soldier kidnapping him, he’d abandon the rest of it for boring White America. “And at least your dad was kind of honest about where he was from.”
“As if he knew about which state or religion or even his own birth name. Maybe we’re both confused…it’s why I wanted you back here.”
“I think it’s easier to find more confused adoptees than to go after me.”
“What can I say? You’re just pretty fascinating. Not everyone gets to meet a pink man.”
One thing hadn’t changed from her days at the high school. She still had a collection of patient-colored mandalas on her wall.
“Do you still make kids do that?” Franco asked.
“I can’t make anyone do anything,” said Pansy. “Try as I might, nothing happens in therapy without the patient agreeing. And a lot of teens who were too cool for coloring end up really liking those mandalas.”
“You say it helps stress.”
“I can pull out some studies, and I had nothing to do with them.”
“Fine…I guess it fits your aesthetic.”
“Trying hard to be Indian…you got it.”
His eyes darted to the violet-colored one on the wall. She still kept one colored by Carmen, signed with her name.
“Sometimes I wish I could forget about her,” said Franco. His face melted into a despairing pout.
“Oh yeah, your ex,” said Pansy. “Well, I guess your first one.”
“I didn’t even like her that much, but…well. There’s someone who always likes to make me feel guilty for what happened.”
Five minutes later, and he was holding back a sob while curled up on the floor.
“…and now that Julian hates me, I mess up with everyone! I’m going to be as bad as my mum.”
“And here I was expecting a sob story about your newest ex,” said Pansy.
“That’s all you wanted from me?”
“I need to know about you in order to help, of course. If I didn’t like hearing sob stories, I would have just become a teacher like my dad. Then I could ignore sob stories…and refer kids to therapists.”
He got up from the floor. “I guess…I think I should get the kids home, though. Mum wants them home for dinner.”
But Pansy just gave him a sweet, wide grin. “You seem to be the guy who suffers when he’s alone.”
“Yeah, like everyone does.”
“And you prefer tan Asians half your size.”
“You’re not my patient and haven’t been for years. There’s nothing I can’t ethically do to help you now,” said Pansy. “Just so you know.”
Two weeks without a girlfriend, and everything was starting to hurt. He could barely sleep alone, hadn’t had sex in weeks, and Sagebear wanted him to stop hugging her. Plus, Pansy was far from ugly. Franco would be a hypocrite if he said a bad word about her sharp nose, big chin, or thick eyebrows.
So when he leaned in for a kiss, Franco held it, just for a moment. But once Pansy’s tongue brushed against his lips, he pushed her back hard.
“You’re old!” he yelled out. “And I don’t need you, I need to get over her.”
“31. And it’s not mutually exclusive, you know.”
He turned towards the door in a huff. “I’m not taking him to any more appointments.”
“I’ll be sure to let Ms. Sandy know that,” said Pansy. Her voice was still so glowing. “But it looks like you all need some help.”
“I highly doubt it.” Franco slammed the door behind him.
“Ugh, you’re just a…nose picker!”
Julian’s held his face in a tight scowl. Was Franco in her office for that long? Or maybe Ms. Sandy had enough of him in half a session. He only half-watched the telly and clutched the chair’s cushion hard.
“Maybe you’d feel better if you picked your nose,” Samira said. “It helps me when…you know, stuff happens.”
“Everything go well?” Franco asked. Julian shrugged. “Maybe your mum will have more answers.”
“Whatever. No one else.”
“Can I go take a piss?” Samira asked.
“Not with that language,” said Franco. “I guess Benji taught you that one too?”
“No, that was mum…can I pee?”
While Samira trotted off to the loo, Franco took a seat in one of the cushioned chairs. It supported his back and butt and felt so much better than he expected. And there was still more than half of Porco Rosso left.
In a strange way, he got a craving for popcorn or his mum’s cookies then. She once made him chocolate and cranberry ones while he watched that movie.
Franco expected to come home to dinner, and found that Annette was lagging on it. She hugged Seng from behind and guided a knife for him.
“So you want to cut as much of the septums off as possible.” She must have been talking about peppers. “Then, for this, we’re doing strips.”
“For all these peppers? You’re gonna be holding me here for a while.”
“That’s the plan! Before Amy can bitch and moan about me still being poly. I know she’s screwing around with that cute new math teacher anyways.”
“I’m just so glad I got to hear that,” Franco said. He crossed his arms as he watched his mum cling to Seng like a sloth. “I should have guessed that you guys were…and in Shark’s old room.”
“Nah. All that old cat piss turns me off,” Annette said. “But where your father blew his brains out…kid, where else could I do it?”
“Nowhere, that’s what.”
Annette let go of her loverboy to lecture her son. “Now Franco, I can’t mope over another dead husband like I did with your dad. Instead of just wanting to die myself, now I have a younger, hotter, even more Asian model to fill the void. And I can say that! Seng knows what he is.”
“It’s so much better than pleasuring rice queens at Triangles,” Seng said, with a smirk.
“You’re being ridiculous.”
Annette gave him a pleading look. “I’m glad you’re so much better than me, if that makes you feel any better.”
A/N: There aren’t many custom channel mods, but I found one that created a custom Animation channel in the middle of filming this. Now your sims can experience Miyazaki too! But there was that one shot with the TV on the default children’s channel and I’m sorry. I goofed. 😛
And heeeeeeeey, Pansy’s back! Not that any of us asked for her and her really weird lust for Franco, but she’s here. A lot of her ethnic heritage is left a mystery due to her South Asian looks and Anglo name, so do you disagree with her being Indian? I bet you’d come up with a great backstory for her too. 🙂 We all loved Harwood with his whitebread name and mixed looks, but Pansy probably isn’t that lovable.