I’m not sure how I managed it, but I pulled myself together to speak at Franklin’s memorial. He had been a popular mayor and the city wanted to honor his death.
“Friends, citizen’s of Elmira, I want to thank you for joining me on this beautiful day,” I began. “It is exactly the sort of day that my husband would have enjoyed coming out to the park to take our son for a stroll.”
I continued talking about all of the things Franklin loved about the city and how much he appreciated the support of the people. I talked about the good works that he had planned and the wonderful things he had done. By the end of it all, I was crying along with everyone else, but I was really proud of myself.
I was also proud of Franklin. Listing his accomplishments made me realize all over again what a good man I had married. I really hoped that I could live up to his example.
“I know that people have been wondering whether or not I will step up take over for my husband as Mayor of this great city. I am not sure I am ready for the job, but I feel blessed that you all would think so highly of me that I could fill his shoes.
I’m sure that acting Mayor Donaldson will do an admirable job filling in before the next election. I urge you to support Mike as he finishes what Franklin had started. When the time comes, I will let you know what I plan to do. Even if I don’t run, I trust that you, the citizens of Elmira, will choose the best person for the job.”
Applause broke out after that, but I didn’t hear it. My eyes were locked on those of a late comer to the service. It was Malcolm Harold, the local rep whose campaign Franklin’s old manager had left us to run. I’d heard a rumor that Malcolm was planning to run for Franklin’s vacant position. I was shocked to see him out in the daylight. I knew vampires could walk in the day for short periods, but I’d never seen one.
Malcolm lifted an eyebrow at me and gave me a slight nod. Perhaps he was just being supportive, one person to another, but I couldn’t help the chill that went down my spine. Was it a coincidence that Franklin’s attacker had been a vampire?
I’ve never liked vampires. My birth mother was one of the worst vampires I’d ever heard of, and my mother, Glenna Fields, was kidnapped and murdered by vampires. What reason did I have to trust that not all vampires are bad?
But Franklin hadn’t had such a prejudice. The vampires of Elmira City (there weren’t many) generally supported him. While he hadn’t exactly been promoting the vampires’ cause, Franklin was not opposed to it either.
“They deserve the same rights as anyone else, Lil,” he explained to me. “The tricky part is that everyone knows that they feed off of Sims for plasma. People assume the worst about vampires. But now there’s plasma fruit. Vampires have an alternative food source that doesn’t involve biting someone. We really should give them the benefit of the doubt.”
I tried to tell myself that Franklin’s attacker had been crazed, that he was acting alone. A non-vampire could have done something similar…like that guy in Arizona who had shot all those people including an Arizona congress-woman. But the man had been a vampire. He had ripped into Franklin with his teeth, drank Franklin’s plasma, and then left my husband in a crumpled heap. It really didn’t feel at all similar.
Despite the calm and pride I showed at Franklin’s memorial service, I was not dealing well with my husband’s death. I was a mess. I couldn’t stand being at our house without Franklin, so I packed a bag for myself and one for TJ, and I started driving. I needed to be with my family.
But instead of going to stay with aunt Mickie like I did when I was teen, I found myself at Keenan’s house. He was still a cop, but he’d moved from Twinbrook to Capital City a few years ago.
“Of course you can stay here, Lil. I have plenty of room. Especially now that Tonia has moved out.” Tonia was his long-time girlfriend. She was part of the reason he had moved. They’d been living together, but she had left him because he spent more time at work than he did with her. I didn’t know the full story, but I was glad that he had the extra rooms.
When Keenan agreed to let us stay with him, I collapsed. All of my emotions caught up with me. When his strong arms wrapped around me, I just let all of my burdens go. Luckily he let me cry on his shoulder.
“It will be ok, Lila. I promise,” he told me over and over. I wanted to believe him.
It wasn’t easy overcoming my grief. There were times it just hit me all at once. I’d be coming in from a jog, for example, step into Keenan’s front room and realize that I wasn’t coming home to my own house and my husband wasn’t waiting for me. I’d sit down heavily on the stairs and just cry.
Then there were times when I was so angry. I’d scream my rage and stomp my foot and raise my fists at the heavens. One of these times Keenan was unfortunate enough to be home.
“What’s wrong, Lil? You’re going to wake the baby if you don’t stop stomping everywhere.”
“I’ll stomp around if I want to!” I stomped my foot to punctuate my words. “I don’t care if I wake TJ up. TJ should wake up crying! His daddy is gone! Franklin isn’t here to comfort him. Franklin isn’t here to tell me to be quiet. Why isn’t Franklin here?!” I wailed.
All of my rage left me as quickly as it had come on. I collapsed into one of Keenan’s dining chairs, unable to hold myself up anymore. During all of this, he’d remained quiet.
“I’m sorry that Franklin isn’t here,” he finally said. “I’m sure that if he was he’d tell you not to wake the baby.”
I dropped my head into my hands. “I’m such a terrible mother. How can I raise TJ alone?”
“Don’t worry Lila. You’re not a terrible mother. You’re a great mother. Franklin would tell you the same thing. He’d tell you to be strong for TJ’s sake.”
“I don’t know if I can do it.”
I took Keenan’s words to heart and tried to be stronger for TJ, but seeing him reminded me so much of Franklin. I was glad that he was too little to know how I’d come into his room and just cry. No kid should see his mother as bad off as I was.
“Lila. Come on Lila, get up.” Keenan came into the room we’d made up for TJ. He went over to me and gently lifted me up.
“Please Lila. You can’t stay here. TJ’s sleeping. You need to go to bed,too.”
“I feel like I should be dead like Franklin,” I hiccupped, wiping tears from my cheeks. It seemed like my face was always wet.
“No,” Keenan pulled me into a tight hug, rubbing my back. “No. You need to be living. Franklin would want you to live. He’d want you to make a life for yourself. To do the things you wanted to do with your life and to help TJ do the things he’ll want to do with his life.”
“I just feel so dead inside,” I mumbled into his shoulder. “I can’t seem to feel anything.”
“Lila. Come on. You feel. You just don’t want to.”
“No, I don’t.” I wasn’t sure if I was disagreeing about being able to feel or agreeing that I didn’t want to feel. That confusion made me cry harder, but Keenan just kept holding me, rubbing my back, kissing me on the top of my head, comforting me.
His touch made me feel more connected to the world. I felt his lips press against my forehead, his hands running down the length of my spine. Like the desperate woman I was, I needed to feel more. I pressed into him. I turned my head, kissing the side of his throat.
“Keenan.” He seemed frozen in place, just stared into my eyes. Without thinking about it, I kissed him on the mouth. “Make me feel again. Please.”
“Please,” I said again when he seemed like he was going to pull away.I felt his arms tighten around me. Then his mouth on mine turned hungry, urgent.
“Lila,” he groaned. I kissed him again. I refused to think, wouldn’t allow myself to question. I was ripping at his jeans, pulling off his sweatshirt, tasting the salty skin on his chest.
“Not here, Lil.”
We kissed our way toward his bedroom. He removed my jacket and t-shirt. I lost myself in sensations as we fell on the bed. I was feeling him touching me, his mouth on me, him inside of me. I was feeling the mattress under me, the cool sheets on my skin, the hard man on top of me, his breathing in my ear, his wet lips on my neck as his body moved on mine.
I never thought I’d feel anything like that again. I fell asleep in Keenan’s bed, and for the first time I didn’t cry myself to sleep.
Of course, in the morning I was overwhelmed with guilt. I got up, quietly, I hoped, and just stood next to the bed, hugging myself. I closed my eyes, and hoped Franklin would forgive me.
I opened my eyes when I felt Keenan’s arms come around me and his chest press against my back.
“Don’t cry. Please.” He kissed my shoulder and I flinched.
“How could I do it?” I whispered. “Why would I do that?” I pulled away from Keenan’s embrace.
“Lila. I was there, too. We did that. We.”
“But why? I’m married and Franklin…”
“Franklin’s dead, Lila.”
“It hasn’t even been a month!” I screamed. I was furious. With myself. With Keenan. I was so angry…guilty.
“He’s dead Lila. But you’re not. You didn’t do anything wrong. You have to move on.”
“Is that what this was for you? You were helping me move on?” I turned on Keenan, attacking him because I could not attack myself. He stepped back from me, shaking his head in denial.
“Yes…I mean, no. No.” Keenan tried to reach out and touch me again, but I pulled away. “Lila, I…”
“Leave me alone, Kee. Just leave me alone.” I stormed out of Keenan’s room and went into the smaller guest room. I flopped on the bed, horrified at what I had allowed to happen. I felt like I had cheated on my husband, but at the same time I also felt like I had ruined everything with my best friend. I was so angry with Keenan, but I was also worried that I had lost him as a friend. I just didn’t know what I would do if we weren’t friends anymore.
Keenan was waiting for me in the dining room when I came downstairs after feeding and changing TJ and then showering and getting dressed myself.
“I’m sorry Lila,” he said, awkwardly. “I feel like I should apologize for taking advantage of you. I shouldn’t have let things go that far.”
“No,” I said, just as awkwardly. “It was my fault. I kissed you. I shouldn’t have. I guess I just needed to feel…something.” I took a deep breath, “But I’m not ready to move on. I still love Franklin. I will always love Franklin.”
“I know Lila. I know. Last night was…nothing, really. We can just forget it happened. It was just…” Keenan broke off. I’m not sure what he was going to say next, but I was glad he stopped. Even though I was happy that he seemed to want to forget what had happened as much as I did, I didn’t want to hear him tell me how little it meant to him anymore.
“Can we go on being friends?” He asked. I nodded.
“I don’t know what I would do without you, Kee.”
“You’d survive Lila. You always do.”
Those words stuck with me for the rest of the day. I’d survive. For the first time I really thought I might. I decided it was time for me to call the mayor’s office in Elmira City.
“Lila Fields calling for Mayor Donaldson,” I told the receptionist who answered. Then I waited as she transferred me to Mike’s office.
“Hi Mike. I hope you weren’t in a meeting.” Mike said he wasn’t. “Good, good. I’m just calling to let you know that I’m coming up to Elmira next week to clean out my office and to pick up any personal affects Franklin may have left there.” Mike was surprised that I had no plans to return to work. He expressed his condolences and regrets that I wouldn’t be helping him as mayor.
“Franklin depended on you Lila. I could use your help. That Malcolm Harold has been stirring things up here. He insists that the vampire who attacked Franklin needs medical assistance that only other vampires can provide.”
“So you caught him?” I asked. I hadn’t heard about it. Mike explained how the deranged vampire was found wandering the streets. He was apparently one of the homeless. The police had taken him in and he’d confessed to Franklin’s murder. He denied that the attack was a premeditated. He just said he was hungry and couldn’t stop himself.
“The vampires seem to think that they can handle the justice for other vampires better than we can,” Mike was saying.
“But they want vampires to have the same rights as everyone else?”
“Yes,” Mike sighed. The whole thing had shot Elmira City to national attention. Vampire rights was one of the hottest political issues right now. Mike had a lot on his plate with this one, and Elmira didn’t even have that many vampires. “I’m not sure if I even want to be mayor,” Mike told me, “but I can’t let that Malcolm Harold become mayor either. He’d make sure that Elmira is always on the news, but not in a good way. I could really use your help, Lila.”
I took a deep breath and let it out. “I just can’t Mike. I’m sorry. I love Elmira, but I can’t come back there now. I’m going to be staying indefinitely in Capital City. I can’t run for mayor. I don’t know if I will ever be running for office.”
When I hung up, I wondered if Franklin would have agreed with my decision. Was I doing the right thing?
A/N: The town of Capital City is the name I have given Legacy Island, a world created by Rflong7. Legacy Island just wasn’t realistic enough to fit my story. What I like about this world is that it has a “Governor’s Mansion”. I think that’s pretty cool, so this will be the Capital of my Sim State. Lila’s generation may be the first one to not be set in Twinbrook even for a little bit. But I do have plans to bring the family back there, so I suppose this can still be “The Twinbrook Fields”.