Bruno’s death hit me hard, but I tried to do exactly what he’d want and not let it overwhelm me. I threw myself into my work.
The least I could do with Bruno gone, was continue his investigative service. At first I continued to do what Bruno had taught me. But eventually, once I was over my initial grief, I started implementing the changes that I had always wanted to make to the business.
With these changes, my clientele and my cases grew in complexity and prosperity. I was making good money and loving every second of my job. But I also started to realize that Bruno had been right about one thing: It isn’t good to be alone. Work just doesn’t compensate for having people in your life who love you.
My days were consumed by work and my nights were consumed with lonely games of chess against my computer’s AI. I recognized that I really needed to get a life. Unfortunately, just as I realized this, life was thrust upon me.
My sister Lydia and her husband Austin were still living in Hidden Springs. They’d had a baby girl who they named April. During her pregnancy and after, Austin became extremely popular in the dance world. People sought him out for roles which he was grateful to get since he and Lydia wanted to provide the best home life for their daughter.
Lydia missed performing. Austin’s success made her miss it more. She was determined to get back into the shape she had been in before giving birth. To this end, Lydia worked night and day.
Nobody was really sure of the exact details, but apparently Lydia was running one night when Austin had the night off. It was raining outside and dark. Maybe Lydia wasn’t paying attention? Maybe she was looking the other way? No one knows. What they do know was that a car came careening around the corner of the intersection Lydia was crossing. The car didn’t have time to stop. Lydia didn’t have time to get out of the way.
Lydia’s death was devastating for my family. My dads, who had always been so happy in Twinbrook, now found it unbearable to live there.
“Everywhere I look,” Dad told me, “I am reminded of your sister growing up. And there’s Becky. Her mother seems to think that if I had kept Lydia in Twinbrook the accident wouldn’t have happened. She’s been calling and leaving rude messages and then calling back and crying.”
“That’s awful Dad.”
“I know. But that’s why we’re leaving, Pumpkin.” Daddy nodded his head sadly.
“We just can’t stay here.”
I couldn’t believe it when they told me. They had decided to do some traveling and then settle in Sunlit Tides.
“I’m sure the sun will do you both good,” I said, but inside my heart was breaking even more.
It was probably my dads’ moving that caused me to invite my sister’s husband Austin to move in with me. He was having trouble caring for my niece by himself.
“Thank you for letting us come here,” Austin told me. He had taken a leave of absence from his dance troupe.
“It’s the least I could do,” I assured him. “I’m glad to let you and April stay with me. I really miss Lydia. Seeing April makes me feel like a little bit of her is still with me.”
We both missed Lydia, but April kept us busy. I thought that we were coping pretty well. I didn’t realize how badly Lydia’s death had really affected my brother in law.
I continued to work. I guess that I was too busy to realize the depth of his grief. One day, I came home to find April in her play pen and Austin was no where to be found.
April looked so happy and content! She didn’t know that her daddy had abandoned her. I picked her up before going out to try and find him. Eventually I found the note he had taped to my fridge.
“Sasha, when you read this I will be gone. I don’t want to do this, but it is too hard to be in the same room as my daughter. Every time I see her, I see my wife. I get so angry that Lydia is gone. I know that it wasn’t April’s fault. I love my daughter more than anything, but I just can’t be around her right now. I need to move on with my life and I can’t do that here. You will have to take care of her now. I am going back to the city. The Bridgeport Ballet has an opening. Maybe I can lose myself in dance, though I’m afraid that even there I will always be reminded of Lydia. Please take care of April. Don’t tell her about this. I know it isn’t her fault. Tell her I loved her. Austin”
I cursed and crumpled the note after reading it. “That selfish bastard!” I couldn’t believe what Austin had done. How could he leave his beautiful daughter? What man could do that?
“Don’t worry, baby,” I assured my niece. “Your Aunt Sasha will always be here for you. And your mom is still watching out for you. I know it. Maybe someday your daddy will know it, too.”
It was just horrible timing that I found myself being a surrogate mother to my niece when Lincoln Matthews came back into my life. I was still working even though I was now the full-time caretaker for April. I didn’t have the luxury to be a stay-at-home mom and I really didn’t have the temperament for it either.
I’d just dropped April off at the daycare I’d found and was heading into the police station to do some work for them when I ran into Linc for the first time in years. I had no idea he had even returned to Twinbrook!
I knew I couldn’t just turn around and avoid talking to him. He’d spotted me almost as soon as I’d seen him.
“Hey Sash,” he said as I got closer. I was glad he spoke first. I hadn’t thought of something clever to say, and I desperately wanted to be clever.
“Hey Linc,” I said, not quite pulling off the cool, intelligent response I’d wanted. “I didn’t know you were back,” I added lamely.
“He just got back to town!” One of Linc’s fellow officers came up to us and slapped Linc on the back. “Left the majors to come back and play ball with us minor-leaguers.”
Linc laughed uneasily. “I guess I just couldn’t cut it in the city,” he said.
His co-worker’s interruption saved our awkward meeting from becoming painful. I was able to disengage from both officers and head in to do my job. Eventually I was even able to concentrate on what I was there to do.
I went home that night praying that I could avoid Linc now that he was back in town. Secretly, however, I hoped that I would see him again. My heart had skipped a beat when I’d seen him coming out of the station house. I had forgotten what it was like when we’d been dating.
What I wasn’t prepared for was Lincoln showing up at my front door the next afternoon. He was dressed in his uniform and had driven his patrol car.
“Hey Sasha,” he greeted me when I answered the door.
“Linc!” I couldn’t believe he was standing on my porch.
“Is this a bad time? Can I come in?”
I was just about to open the door and invite him in when I heard April laughing from the playpen in her room. I panicked. I might want Linc back in my life, but would he want me if he knew I came with a de-facto daughter?
“I’m kind of busy now,” I said, shaking my head. I hadn’t opened the door any farther. I didn’t want Linc to catch a glimpse of one of April’s toys strewn around the living room.
“Oh.” Linc looked crestfallen. “Um…I’m sorry. I just thought…well…” he stammered. He pulled at his collar in a way that I used to find endearing.
“Maybe another time?” I asked, trying to give him my best reassuring smile. “Maybe we can do lunch sometime? I’m always at the station. I’m a PI now, you know.”
“Yeah. I had heard that. Brenton told me.”
“Yeah. I do minor cases for the police. Easy stuff that they don’t have time for.”
“Not that easy,” Linc smiled ruefully.
“No, I guess not. I’m pretty good at it.”
“I always knew you would be Sasha.”
I smiled at him. I hadn’t believed in myself when we’d broken up. I was glad he’d never lost faith in me.
“I’ll call you Linc,” I said. “Sorry that I’m too busy to catch up now.”
“No problem Sash. See you around.”
I watched Linc leave in his patrol car from my front window. I regretted letting him go.
Linc and I took things slowly. We had lunch at the hotdog truck outside the courthouse. Then we met at the park for the summer festival. He challenged me to a balloon fight and we both ended up soaked. He won, but I am happy to say that I got a few good shots in.
Our first night out, Linc took me to a game at the arena. It was a soccer match that I didn’t really care about. Lydia had been the sports nut. I just thought the guys looked good in their uniforms.
Each time we went out, I wanted to tell Linc about April, but I couldn’t. I did tell him about Lydia and Bruno, but for some reason, I couldn’t tell him that I was caring for my niece.
The night Linc picked me up at my house to take me out to dinner, he finally called me on it.
“Sasha, why don’t you ever let me come into your house?”
“I don’t?” I asked knowing full well that it was true.
“Not once. Even tonight you were waiting for me in the rain so that I couldn’t even ring your damned bell.”
“I just thought I’d save you from getting wet,” I said.
The drive to the restaurant was uncomfortable. I wanted to tell Linc, but I didn’t know how he’d react. We’d never talked about kids when we’d dated before. I had no idea if he even liked them.
At the restaurant Linc said, “Let’s just go in and have a good time. I was looking forward to seeing you tonight.”
“Me too. I couldn’t wait.”
“You’re going to have to tell me whatever it is eventually,” Linc said seriously. “I fully expect to be invited in tonight after I spend a ridiculous amount of money on food.”
“You do, do you?” I asked, smiling.
“I do. You can have the lobster, and for desert, we’ll go back to your place.”
I nodded. I very much wanted desert. I just hoped Linc still wanted it once he met April.
We had a wonderful night once Linc dropped his line of questioning. When we got back to my place, I fully admit that I went into cowardly mode and jumped Linc right away so that he didn’t have time to notice all of the kid things laying about. We entered my house making out, and I immediately invited him into my bedroom. Linc didn’t stand a chance. I figured he’d be more likely to accept April in the morning and if he wasn’t, then at least we’d have had one night together.
Linc was so cute. He didn’t even realize the teen-aged babysitter I’d hired who was sleeping soundly on my couch. I’d asked her to stay the night thinking I’d maybe go to Linc’s apartment after our date, so it wasn’t such a bad thing that I didn’t wake her and take her home.
The next morning, I awoke alone in my bed. “Shit!” I cried, looking around for Linc. I could hear April laughing in the next room. “Shit, shit!” I scrambled out of bed and pulled on some clothes.
When I got out, I saw Linc taking my niece from her high chair.
“Weee!” she screamed in delight as he lifted her above his head and blew a raspberry into her stomach. Then he turned, seeing me come into the room.
“Morning,” he said, smiling. April reached for me and I took her from him.
“I was going to tell you, Linc,” I said. “I just wanted to wait a little bit.”
“What were you waiting for Sasha? When would have been the right time to tell me you had a daughter?” Linc looked hurt and I shook my head.
“No, you don’t understand,” I said. “This is April. My niece. My sister…Lydia had a daughter. She was just a baby when Lydia was killed.”
Linc’s eyes lost their hurt as realization dawned on him. “Oh! I thought…”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to keep her from you. I can’t imagine what you thought! I mean, I can, but…no. She’s not mine!”
“Good. I mean, not good, but…” Lincoln was stammering as much as I was. Finally he said, “Tell me why she’s staying with you and not her father.”
I took Linc over to the couch and put April in her walker. I sat down next to him.
“Austin never really recovered from Lydia’s death. I invited him to live here with me so I could help him out. That room over there,” I indicated my spare bedroom, “that was Austin’s room.”
I explained Austin’s note to Linc and he frowned. “That’s a terrible thing for a man to do!” he sounded as angry as I had felt when I’d read the note.
“I know, but he was really grieving,” I explained. “I’m sure he will come back.”
I told Lincoln how I was now the only one around to care for the baby. I’d already explained that my dads had left for Sunlit Tides. “And Becky,” I explained about Lydia’s mother, “doesn’t want anything to do with April. She hasn’t even met her own grandchild! At least Austin cared for April for a little while. Becky refuses to see her because she says that Lydia would have stayed a dancer if April hadn’t been born. Can you believe that?”
“Who wouldn’t love such a sweet girl?” Linc asked. I nodded. We sat on the couch watching April play. I knew I should have told Linc sooner about April. I was so glad that he’d forced me to do it.
At that moment, I realized that I was in love wit Lincoln Matthews. Again.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that when Linc took me to the courthouse and proposed to me, I immediately said yes. And since none of my family was still living in Twinbrook, it should come as no shock when we got married right then and there. Why should we have waited? We’d been apart long enough.
As Bruno once said, “It sucks being alone. Grab love by the balls when you have the chance.”
**Author’s Note** So, now I have established why GC and Jake aren’t around now have done away with Lydia and Austin. Lydia’s fate was supposed to be a little more mysterious than it ended up being. I had planned for Sasha to have to investigate her death. She would have met Linc again in Bridgeport. Unfortunately, I just can’t use core mods or poses anymore. My plan had to be revised since I couldn’t really stage it. I regret this just a bit, but I think it still worked out in the end. Oh, and I have an interesting fact that didn’t make it into the story:
Obviously, I hadn’t planned this. I gave a brief thought to putting it into the story, but it would have been too weird in this generation. Anyway, I sent the alien baby back to her home world, disguised Austin’s pregnancy, and then moved him out of Sasha’s house. He will be back, but not for awhile. Also, just so you know, I starved Lydia. Made me feel terrible locking her in a room with no door. This is where I wish I had had a mod to just zap her into death. But the old fashioned torture method worked