Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cypress - Gen 9 Ch 3

I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Shante had been going on and on for what seemed an eternity, accusing me of cheating, giving me the third degree on 'who was that girl you obviously were having so much fun with when I called'.

"Give me one good reason I shouldn't break up with you right now, Cy?"
Suddenly something snapped inside of me. I couldn't take this another second.
"I'm not going to give you any reason, Shante. In fact, I am going to do you one better. I am breaking up with you."

"What!? Let me get this straight. You are breaking up with me? You can't do that!"
"Uh.. Yeah..." I wavered for just a second, but the thought of Talia's parting words echoed in my head. Your true love is waiting out there.
"Yeah, I can," I continued, now full of unexpected confidence. "I can, and I did. We're through. Goodbye, Shante."

I was surprised at what a load that was off my mind. I actually enjoyed our family meal that evening. Bennie had made my favorite mac and cheese, and I savored it slowly. Mom appeared to be increasingly antsy as we ate, and finally I guess she couldn't stand it any more.

"So tell me already! What did you find out about the figurines?"
"Hmmm. Well, they are keys, I guess you could say. Keys to that oldest journal. Kind of like our own private family Rosetta Stone. I'm pretty sure the ancient Chinese characters are a translation of the older characters underneath. If they are, that means I can finally decipher the oldest journal - and maybe discover where our ancestors orginated!"
I just sat back and grinned at mom and dad's awe-struck reaction to my announcement.

I started spending more time upstairs, and less time in the basement, since I didn't have to hide from Shante anymore. I was right about the keys, and dove right into my newest translation project. Sometimes I wished I'd stayed in the basement, though - I really wasn't kidding when I had told Talia that my parents still acted like teenagers in love, more often than not.

When I wasn't working on my translation, I was pursuing my new passion - old romantic movies. I knew Shante wasn't right for me, but that didn't stop me daydreaming about my soul mate, who just had to be out there somewhere.  One day, I was interrupted in the middle of a real tear jerker, by the sound of arguing coming from the kitchen. After listening a few moments, I realized that it was  mom doing most of the shouting.
"Grrrr! How did this happen!? What am I gonna do about work? My team needs me!"
She sounded even more agitated than usual. 

"Calm down, love. Your team is just going to have to get along without you for the next nine months."
My eyes widened, but I wisely kept my eyes glued to the TV. There was no way I wanted to get involved in this conversation. Although, if mom had asked me, I could have told her exactly 'how this happened.' And Talia thought her parents were embarrassing.

Mom eventually resigned herself to the fact they were expecting another baby, and dad was absolutely delighted. Every time I turned around, there he was, talking baby talk to mom's tummy.

Not only were my parents behaving like love-struck teenagers, my brother Juniper was glued at the hip with his new girlfriend, Dayna. And my Aunt Lotus and her girlfriend had one child and were expecting their second, who was due around the same time as  Peony's baby. It seemed everyone I knew was finding love, except for me. I just kept plugging away at the computer, while trying to block out the annoying slurping sounds coming from the nearby couch.

Thinking back, I'm not sure what possessed me, but one day when I was feeling particularly low about being alone, I mentioned it to mom. I should have know that was a bad idea.
"How do you expect to meet anyone when you spend all your time moping around here?  Get yourself out there and meet someone, for goodness sake. Don't just stand there and complain about it!"

Suddenly, in the middle of her rant, she stopped short, the strangest expression on her face. A slight gasp of pain escaped her lips, and she grabbed her stomach. 

"Mom? Mom!? Are you okay??"
"Just .. call.. your dad... baby's coming.."

I didn't think my fingers were capable of moving so fast. I had my dad on the phone in no time. He was too far away to get home, he said. He'd meet mom and me at the hospital. Mom and.... me?? I had to drive my mom to the hospital?? I almost lost it at that. My dad was so calm. He told me to just breathe, I'd be fine.

I'm not sure how I did it, but I managed everything just fine, and my baby sister is the new love of my life.

Unfortunately, I have to fight my dad for a chance to even hold her. I asked my mom if he was this gaga over Juni and me when we were babies, and she confirmed that yes, he's always been that way.

Even so, I get in a lot of play time with my precious little Bluebell.

She is my reason for getting up each morning, and although my research is leading me in another direction, I don't know if I can bear to leave her.

You see, I think I've discovered the location of the Greenbow.. tribe.. I guess you'd call it, before they emigrated to ancient China. It's all right here, in that first journal. They called their settlement Misty Waters, sandwiched between a forbidding mountain range, and the northern sea.  It's a long way away, though, and I'd be all on my own. No Uncle Mel and cousin Talia to help me out this time.

I was still waffling when my little brother's birthday rolled around. My dad invited the whole extended family, and of course Dayna was there as well.

Even my Uncle Song, who has always avoided crowds like the plague, showed up, looking none too sure of himself.

I noticed he barely joined in the celebration, as everyone else cheered Juniper on.

My little cousin Winter (Lotus' daughter) wouldn't put up with such nonsense, however.
"Come on, Uncle Song! You have to sing! Here wave this noisemaker, see? It's fun! Yay!! Happy Birthday!! I just love birthday parties, don't you?"
Even Uncle Song couldn't resist such enthusiasm, and was soon cheering with the rest of us.

After the singing, Winter proceeded to document the whole affair in cell phone pictures.

Even she couldn't get Uncle Song to smile for her camera, though. My mom never talked about her older brother. I wondered what had happened to make him so lonely and sad. Everyone else had moved to the dance floor, and that left Song and me standing there looking like fifth wheels. I decided to take a chance, and stepped over to say hello.

He is a writer for the newspaper, and after a few minutes, he had me talking up a storm about my research, and the leads I had discovered, and also how reluctant I was to leave home to follow up on them. He heard me out, without interrupting me once - which I found refreshing. Usually I can't get anyone to listen to my theories for more than a few minutes, without them interrupting and changing the subject.

"Do you mind if I give you a little advice, Cypress? Once I was like you, my whole life ahead of me, a girlfriend who loved me, a bright future at the newspaper - they told me I could be editor-in-chief one day - all I had to to was step out, and make it happen. But I let fear rule my life. I was afraid to ask my girlfriend to marry me, and eventually she left me for someone else.  I was afraid to take a chance, and here I am, almost ready to retire. I'm alone, no wife, no children, and still plugging away at the same old reporter job I've done for years.
"Don't let that happen to you. Take a chance, follow your heart, don't let fear or anything else keep you from your heart's desire."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cypress - Gen 9 Ch 2

I was still having difficulty deciphering my figurines, even after the breakthrough I had experienced a few weeks earlier. As a last resort, I turned to my dad. In retrospect, I should have consulted him immediately - it would have saved me a lot of time.
I felt a small thrill of excitement as we pulled up in front of the old blue clapboard building that houses the Riverview museum.  One of my dad's colleagues was visiting from Bridgeport, and he had agreed to meet with me.

"Son, this is Mr. Dean, from the Bridgeport Museum."
I was a somewhat put off by the condescending little smile on this Mr. Dean's  face when my dad introduced us, but the guy was supposed to be an expert in ancient inscriptions, so I swallowed hard, and nervously began to explain my theory. 

As always happens when I expound on my favorite topic, I found myself becoming more and more animated until I was totally focused on what I was saying. Finally I felt my dad's hand rest on my shoulder, and I realized that Mr. Dean was attempting to get a word in edgewise.
"Enough already, kid," he chuckled." I'll admit you know your stuff. So let's see these figurines of yours?"

I laid them all out on the table in dad's office, and turned the little tiger over to reveal the jumble of lines etched into the bottom. He carefully took the figurine from my hand and examined the marks for himself.
'See there?" I pointed out. "There are definitely two layers of writing here. I can make out some of the old Chinese characters, but it's hard because there seems to be a second layer of older characters showing through and obscuring them."

Mr. Dean furrowed his brow and studied the faint lines for what seemed an eternity,while I nervously jiggled my foot, waiting for his response. Finally he spoke.
"Hmmm.. I think I see what you mean. There is only one way to be sure, however. You must bring these artifacts to my museum in Bridgeport. I have a state of the art imaging program that will allow me to separate these so called layers, if indeed they do exist."

Dad had offered to come with me, and I almost took him up on it. At the last minute, I decided to brave it on my own. At the time, I thought it would be too embarrassing to admit I needed my parent tagging along in order to feel safe. Now, however, I wondered what had possibly possessed me to venture to this confusing metropolis on my own. It didn't help when I knocked on the door of the address my dad had given me, and was met by the most gorgeous woman I had ever seen.
"Uh.. I.. um.. is this.. I mean... is Meloire..."

She rescued me with an exuberant smile.
"Oh! You must be Cypress. Come in! I'm Talia. My dad said to expect you, that you would be staying with them for a few days. In fact, he asked me to stop by here, and wait for you. He and mom had to go out this evening."
I followed her inside, my eyes darting here and there. I had not expected to be stuck alone in an apartment with a beautiful woman - especially one who just might want to take a bite out of me. Dad had assured me that Mel was perfectly safe, but he had never mentioned he had a daughter.
"Um.. y..your dad?" I stammered, reaching up to self-consciously brush my hair out of my eyes.

She smiled again, a mesmerizing smile that should have made me even more nervous, but instead inexplicably relaxed me.
"That's right," she replied. "Mel is my dad. I guess that makes us.. some kind of weird sorta many times removed cousins, doesn't it?"
"I guess it does..."
She glanced at me expectantly, as if she thought I would say something more. When I didn't, she continued.
"So, ah, what brings you to Bridgeport?"
Now, my research and theories are one topic I can talk about forever. I had barely gotten started, though, when there was a commotion at the door.

Two people, who I assumed were Mel and El, practically tumbled into the room, all the while groping at each other in an embarrassingly suggestive way. Talia rolled her eyes at them.
"Meet the parents. I think they do that on purpose to embarrass me."
I tried to laugh at the thoroughly annoyed face she was making at me, but it was hard to ignore what was going on right next to us, and it came out more like a squeaky giggle.
"Y..yeah. Mine do that sometimes, too," I managed to reply.
"Well, let's leave them to it then. Come have a drink with me, you must be thirsty after your long drive."

I've never been one to drink, really, and after only one of Talia's special concoctions, I was feeling more relaxed than I could ever have imagined. Relaxed enough, I must admit, to almost forget that she was a vampire, and that I had a girlfriend.
"Are you going to stand there and stare at me all night, or are we going to keep our appointment with Mr. Dean?"
Her words snapped me back to reality, and I quickly moved my eyes back up to her face.
"Uh.. tonight? Is the museum open this late?"
"It's open all night, but Mr. Dean won't be there much longer. We should go."

"But first, come with me," she said matter-of-factly, taking me by the hand and leading me off into the bedroom. "If we're going out, we need to find you something to wear. I think some of dad's clothes might fit you."

I tried to protest, that my clothes would be fine, but she wouldn't hear of it.
"Hmm.. let's see what I can find that's not red. Ah, here we go."
She tossed a bundle of clothes at me and motioned toward the bathroom.
"Try these."

"How do I look?"
"Perfect! We need to hurry now, let's go!"
The shirt and vest weren't really my style, but Talia seemed so pleased, I decided to make the best of it.

We met Mr. Dean at the museum bar for more drinks. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around that - a bar inside the museum? People in Bridgeport sure do like their juice, I guess. I only hoped I'd be able to still think straight by the end of the night.

Eventually we ended up in Mr. Dean's office, which is a far cry from my dad's little office in Riverview. There were meticulously labeled pottery shards in the process of being reassembled everywhere, and an entire wall of state of the art computers.

Mr. Dean got right to work, photographing the three figurines from multiple angles, and feeding the data into his imaging program. I watched with amazement as he manipulated the data, and before long a three dimensional image of the little gold dragon popped up on the screen. He continued to manipulate the image, and suddenly a string of very recognisable ancient Chinese characters sprang into sharp relief.
"Hmm... fascinating.." the museum director muttered under his breath. "It will take me until tomorrow to thoroughly study these figures. Come back tomorrow evening, and I'll have all my findings ready for you."

That seemed to be a dismissal, as he turned back to the computer as if we were no longer in the room, and focused all his attention on the screen in front of him.  I was feeling pretty sleepy, both from the unaccustomed drinks, and the lateness of the hour, but Talia wouldn't hear of returning home quite yet.
"You can't say you've really been to Bridgeport without experiencing the night life. Come on, sleepyhead, you have to at least see my favorite night club."

After yet another round of drinks at the Plasma 501, Talia turned to me with a question.
"So, do you have a girlfriend?"
I shrugged. "I guess."
Her brow furrowed slightly.
"What's that supposed to mean? You don't sound real enthusiastic about it."
I don't know if it was the juice, or what, but Talia was so easy to talk to, that all my problems with Shante just came pouring out. She patiently sat and listened throughout my whole tirade, without interrupting once. It felt so good just to talk about it.

She didn't say a word; instead, she took my hand and led me out to the dance floor. I really don't know how to dance, and by this time I had had so much to drink, that the room seemed to be fading in and out.  I was having a hard time staying on my feet. Talia must have noticed my difficulties, because she took my hand again, and led me over the small sofa at the edge of the dance floor.

Before I could sit down, my phone buzzed at me. I pulled it out of my pocket and stared at the screen, trying to figure out who was calling me at this hour of the night. I couldn't see straight, and the letters and numbers jumping around just made me dizzier than I already was. I vaguely remember handing the phone to Talia.
"Can you read thish?"

"I'm sorry, he's busy right now. He'll call you back tomorrow."
"Who wazh it?"
"Nobody important. Come on, let's get you home."

I managed to stay awake for the ride back to the apartment, and I let her convince me that it would be nice to relax in the hot tub for a while. But as soon as I slipped into the hot water, I felt myself nodding off. I heard Talia sigh.
"Come on, sleepyhead. The sun's starting to come up. I guess I should get you to bed before you totally pass out, huh?"

I woke the next afternoon in a panic, my head pounding. It was so dark in the bedroom, I was sure I had slept through my evening meeting with Mr. Dean. I hurriedly pulled aside the dark blinds over the window, and winced as the bright afternoon sun came streaming in. Groaning, I let the blinds fall back into place, sending the room back into blissful darkness.

I stumbled out into the kitchen, hoping to find something to eat. I heard a quiet chuckle behind me.
"Heh. I doubt you'll find anything you'd want to eat in there. Here, I'll make you a drink, heavy on the fruit juice. That should tide you over."

I helped myself to a drink from the tray, took on sip, and felt the room begin to spin once more. If this was heavy on the fruit juice, I wondered what Mel's normal drinks were like.
"Whoa there, are you alright?"
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak.
"Heh. So tell me, how is your family? I see your mom's name in the news every once in a while. She's quite the super star athlete, isn't she?"
I knew he was just trying to make conversation, but I was having a hard time concentrating, and soon excused myself to toss down a couple pain killers and flop down on the bed again.

By the time Talia arrived to drive me to the museum, I was feeling a little better. I took a few polite sips of the new round of drinks that Mel had prepared, but I had learned my lesson last night. No amount of reduced anxiety was worth the morning - or in this case, afternoon - after.

Mr. Dean had everything ready for me at the museum.
"See here? I've separated the two layers of writing. You are already familiar with the more recent layer, but look. The older one is in a language I've never seen nor heard of before.  I'll continue to study the data, but with so few characters, I doubt anyone would be able to translate it. Anyway, I uploaded all the data to this thumb drive. Let my know if you discover anything new, and I'll do the same for you. Oh, and say hello to your dad from me."

My mission accomplished, it was time to head back to Riverview. Although I was glad to leave Bridgeport behind, I knew I would miss Talia.
"So, uh.. I guess this is goodbye." I looked down at my feet, and pretended to dust a bit of lint off my jeans.
"Come here, you. You're not getting away that easily." Talia grinned and pulled me into a tight embrace.
Then she whispered for only me to hear, " You are a very sweet boy. I know your true love is out there somewhere, waiting for you. You just have to find her."

I whistled softly to myself as I walked through the front door. It was so good to be home. Smiling happily, I turned toward the stairs. I could hardly wait to pop the thumb drive into my laptop and get started. I was stopped short in my tracks by an extremely disgruntled looking Shante. Oh great. Now what had I done?

Note: I didn't realize until after I took all the screenshots, that since Talia is a born in-game vampire, she is missing her fangs.