1.4 Meeting Marina

Screenshot-104When Asiaq opened the door to the dormitory, she felt afraid. Two days of strolling up and down the quaint streets of the small fishing village hadn’t eased her mind, nor had the meeting with the social worker.

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The other children at the home had been victims of the earthquake, but most of them had now been reunited with relatives. “The girl” was different – they found her on the beach when she was a baby, wrapped in a blanket in a rowboat.

“Maybe the person who left her there hoped a fisherman would find her and take her in. People often hope someone like themselves will take care of their child, so maybe she was a fisherman’s daughter. We call her Marina. You can see her now.”

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The room was so austere it was chilling, and all the beds but one were covered with white sheets. In the middle, at the back of the room, sat Marina quietly, not moving a muscle, and waited for them.

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Asiaq swore she could hear her and Damon’s hearts stop at the same time. She didn’t know what she had expected – perhaps dirty toys, a dirty little face, a girl in an old-fashioned uniform. Not this perfectly clean, almost empty room.

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There were no lights on during the day – “to save electricity”, the social worker explained – and if the child had any toys, they were stowed away. A few halfhearted attempts at beautification had been made, with colourful butterflies and rainbows on the wall, but somehow they made the room feel even emptier.

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“Please don’t leave me here. Take me with you”, the little girl suddenly said, in clear, distinct Fharhondian Simlish.

Asiaq and Damon were both so stunned they had no idea what to say.

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“Can I hug you?” she proceeded, turning to Asiaq, and without a word Asiaq leaned forward and felt a very small ribcage heave rapidly under her arms. The girl acted calm but her heart was raising. Her tiny arms felt surprisingly strong around Asiaqs neck.

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“What’s your name?” Asiaq asked sheepishly, although she already knew what she was called. But she just shrugged apologetically – apparently she didn’t understand.

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“I don’t like to live here. I don’t want to be alone.” she answered instead. Suddenly Asiaq understood that she didn’t actually speak Fharhondian, she had just rehearsed a few phrases to absolute perfection.

Screenshot-113“It is dark and cold here. Please take me home with you.”, Marina continued her speech. Damon looked confused.

“She doesn’t understand you, Damon.” Asiaq said quietly, leaning against the door post. She felt a sudden urge to burst out of the room, but hovering close to the way out was all she could do at the moment.

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Damon still didn’t seem to get it, because the girl’s accent was so perfect it seemed incomprehensible that she didn’t actually speak the language. She had a variety of phrases prepared. Damon asked her if she was looking forward to school, and the girl replied she was alone and had no friends.

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Asiaq shut the rest of the conversation out, it was too eerie. Like listening to a recording. Even if it was all true, it just felt so staged and creepy. She had no room to move in this situation, so she turned to the window and looked out at the sea. Far away on the other side was Fharhond and their own beautiful little girl, playing horse with her grandfather probably.

Why would she need another child, anyway? She already had everything she could ask for.

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They were going to stay for dinner, so they got to meet the housekeeper as well. She was a warm and friendly type, which put their mind at ease at least a bit for Marina’s sake. The feta salad was good, but Asiaq feared it was what Marina ate every day. She did look small for her age.

“Please excuse Marina, she has a bad habit of staring. She’s just excited to have visitors”, the housekeeper smiled. There were no implications in that last sentence, and Asiaq was thankful for the small courtesy.

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Everyone knew why they were here and everyone was hoping desperately for her and Damon to take this girl home and make her their daughter. Even 15 seconds of pretending they were just visitors felt like a relief.

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Asiaq’s bad conscience made it impossible for her to stay at the table, so she excused herself and went looking for the bathroom. “It’s up the stairs to the left, dear”, the woman called behind her.

“She’s nice”, she thought to herself, “seeing her every day can’t be so bad, and she’ll start school soon, make new friends, and she’s obviously smart…”

Who are you kidding? her inner voice boomed, you have to take her home now. 

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Frustrated, Asiaq demanded a room closer to the sea. Damon realized immediately that she felt tied, that she wanted control over something small because she had no control over the larger issues. He admitted to himself that he had some second thoughts as well.

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“We don’t have to adopt her. If you really don’t think it would work out.”, he said. “I mean, the rehearsed speech was a little creepy. Maybe you’re right. There’s something a little off about her.”

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“I dunno”, Asiaq replied after a long silence, “it caught me off my guard, the whole staging. I mean I’m pretty sure she staged it herself, sitting on the chair in the middle of the room like that. And her little parrot speech. But even so, she’s not lying. She is all alone, and it must be terrible for her. In a way, you can’t blame her for playing on our emotions. She’s desperate.”

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“I think we should try. I mean, I think we should take her home. She’s almost the same age as Eira. I always imagined she’d have a baby brother or sister, but why not a big sister? I think they would really connect.”

Damon nodded thoughtfully. It made sense, even if bonding with this 7-year-old would take some time for them, the girls would probably become close in no time. Children had it easier that way.

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“Ok then?”

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“Ok then! We’re going to be parents!”

 

—-

The little you saw of the “fishing village” “near Monte Vista” was shot on location in Positano (by Remmo) and I was about to show more of it but I think I’ll just fly them all home instead. I highly recommend Positano though, it’s beautiful and very playable, and feels “lived in”, and the families have pretty interesting non-slider genetics – no pudding faces. I use Positano for my ISBI and I’m on generation 3 now with no lag! 

 

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1.3 What a Difference a Day Made

Screenshot-145When you saw the Corona sisters & Harry Hilmarsson, you couldn’t even imagine them apart. They were always together. Always.

Screenshot-147It was certainly difficult to remember that Eira had been an only child just 2 years prior.

Screenshot-146Or that her sister didn’t even speak the island dialect one year ago.

Screenshot-148Harry, the youngest in a long line of Hilmarsson siblings, with Mimi being the oldest (remember Mimi?) didn’t even care that his school mates teased him about “girl cooties” and he dutifully played house and dress-up with his little friends. He slept over so often it wasn’t even an event anymore. He had his own sleeping bag waiting for him.

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But rewind the tape! It all began in a small fishing village near Monte Vista. Or actually, it began at an after party with a couple of jockeys who were visiting Fharhond, friends of Ylva’s mother Torianna. Asiaq had one or two glasses too many of that fine flame fruit nectar, and was feeling warm and fuzzy and a little sentimental. She confessed that she & Damon really wanted to have another child, but that she had a physical condition that made it impossible.

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Then it seemed like just a couple of weeks passed before they were sitting in a stuffy office at the orphanage. It was crazy, really. Didn’t these procedures take years? Weren’t they much too young to adopt, anyway?

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The lady behind the dark, imposing desk didn’t think so, but then again, she could be no older than 27 herself. She was smartly but rather casually dressed. She seemed competent enough, but there was no way she was running this big institution on her own.

Screenshot-116“I’m guessing from your looks that you expected someone older”, she said, “a Mother Superior of sorts. I get that look a lot, you see “, she smiled – a fleeting, professional smile. “I’m actually in HR, and I’m a temp as an administrator of the children’s home. You’ll meet the social worker in two days.”

“Two days? That’s kind of a long wait for us. You knew we were coming beforehand.” Damon remarked. It seemed sketchy to talk to a temp about adopting a child.

Screenshot-117“Yes, I realize that”, she sighed, obviously used to this particular conversation, “but our social workers cover a large area and they are swamped – even when there’s a prospective adoptive family coming to visit.”

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“We’re in a transition period right now, or have been for the last couple of years, where we are closing the old orphanages and adapt to the foster care system. However, this part of the country is.. how shall I put it, backwards.”, she flashed her fleeting smile again. “We don’t have that many foster families, and the ones we have are.. well, not adequate.”

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“How are they not …adequate?”, Asiaq asked. The woman fell silent for a few seconds, like she was going to dismiss the question, then hesitantly said that they had three possible foster families for “the girl”. She tried to keep a neutral face, but it was obvious she wasn’t at all pleased with the candidates.

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“This isn’t my place to discuss, really, I’m only the administrator. But they have already tried all three foster families.”

Damon and Asiaq looked shocked. “Have you sent a baby to live with three different families?”

“A baby?” It was the woman’s turn to look shocked. “The girl isn’t a baby. She’s starting school this autumn!”

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They young couple was too stunned to even speak. A 7-year old? Could Torianna’s friend really have missed the crucial information that they wanted a small child, a toddler at the oldest. He had gone on and on about the violent earth quake on Monte Vista’s coast and how many people had lost their families, and they had both agreed that it was awful and that they wanted to help. It just now dawned upon them that it had been years ago that catastrophe hit. Right about the time Eira was born, in fact, and they weren’t at all interested in watching the news back then, nor did they have the time.

“This is obviously a misunderstanding, and I’m terribly sorry, but Marina is the only child we have. The orphanage is about to close down, and the foundation is bankrupt.”

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Damon turned to his wife, but she was pale and still couldn’t find the words, so he asked if the girl’s age made a difference for their chances to adopt her. The woman kept staring at Asiaq’s pallid face and nervously fiddled with a ball pen.

“Again, it’s not really my place to discuss the details about.. the girl, but probably not. You really must speak to the social worker, though. She knows about her case, and I really don’t.”

Screenshot-128“How can you not know her?” Asiaq asked, suddenly angry. “You’re here every other day, I take it. If the social worker – does she even have a name? – only comes once or twice a week, who looks after the child?”

“As I said“, the woman snapped, “I’m only the temp, and I am very busy. This is not my only office, and child care isn’t part of my job description. I feel for the girl, I really do, but I can’t take responsibility for her.”

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“But you can’t just leave her here alone!” Damon was distraught too. The shock of the baby not actually being a baby hadn’t subsided, but a 6 or 7-year-old left all alone in a big institution every day, what were these people thinking?

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“She’s not alone!”, the HR woman blurted out, “the housekeeper comes twice a day!”

“Then I suppose everything’s alright, then?” Asiaq said with badly concealed fury. “I bet she has all the time in the world for that little girl, with the cooking, and a huge building to clean.”

“She follows her around like a little lap dog”, the woman admitted sourly.

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“Can we see her then?” Damon was quickly losing his temper, and he wanted to get out of the stuffy room.

“I’d advice against that before you have met the social worker”, she answered, “and besides, if you don’t want an older child, you’ll just disappoint her. Again.” Her dry tone sounded borderline sadistic. Maybe she was just over-worked.

“She’s right”, Asiaq said quietly, “we really ought to wait for the social worker..”

Damon wanted to push his wife and the HR woman aside and just grab the child and run, without having even seen her first, but he composed himself. Breathed. It was better to wait. Asiaq was right, they needed to talk this through.

Screenshot-136“Ok then, we’ll wait a couple of days.” Damon concluded, after a nod from his wife, “but before we leave I must say I find it shocking that you don’t seem to care about her at all! She has absolutely no one except you three people who work here.”

“As I said“… the woman began coldly… “yeah yeah I know, you’re in HR and it’s not your job, but as a human being for Watcher’s sake!” Damon interrupted.

“Do you think you’re the first couple who’ve come here and judged us?” The woman narrowed her eyes and lowered her voice to almost a whisper, so that no one in the next room could hear. “Couples like yourself drop in every 6-7 months to look at that child like an animal in a zoo, and say it’s terrible how we treat her and how can we, and they return home to look for a prettier, younger, better kid. And we’re left to try and run an institution with no money, no staff, no foster families, no help from our community. Try and work here yourself and see how long you’ll last!”

Then she quickly flashed the last of her apologetic but ice cold smiles and said she was so sorry but she really had to end the meeting because she had to go to her other workplace.

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Later at the small B&B, Damon and Asiaq tried to get a hold of the situation.

“There’s something about this that I don’t like”, Asiaq said.

“What, except for a 7 year old being left to her own devices every day in a big, dark institution, running on empty? It’s like the beginning of a horror story in itself.”

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“It is.” Asiaq arranged her pillows carefully. “But even besides that. What if she’s disturbed. What if that’s why nobody has adopted her yet.”

Damon immediately got defensive, thinking about his own brother. “What do you mean, disturbed. Of course being left on her own all the time is bad for her. She’s probably institutionalized already, in one way or the other.”

“I was thinking more.. profoundly. Like, from the beginning.”

“Don’t speculate too much. There’s no point in expecting the spawn of Satan. Also, it’s not fair”, he added, and turned his back on her to read. He could almost hear her thoughts tumble against the ceiling like dark puffs of smoke, but he didn’t say anything.

—————

So, if you’ve looked at The Rolls™ you already knew I rolled Mixed Couple and was going to adopt, but if you didn’t, well now you know. And when you know that, there’s no point in pretending things aren’t going to work out with the adoption, so I thought I’d show you the happy progress right away. (Can’t say “ending” because we’re not there yet.) I feel that the subject is a little touchy and I hope you all understand that this is a make believe adoption with pixel people and it has nothing to do with a real adoption or real people. It’s set in the twilight zone between realism and total humbug. Mainly humbug. Just go with it! 

I was going to add a paragraph or even a chapter about why Asiaq couldn’t have another child, but I skipped that. It’s not important for the story, but it involves a back injury. It would also be part of the reason why she won’t work in the military as a cryptographer. She will never work, because she rolled soccer wife no job, but her dream in game is to work in the military and she’s also really smart, so that’s why I added the cryptographer aspirations. Sorry, Asiaq.