“Hi g-guys! W-welcome to the c-council again.”
The family were seated around the rose bush, the garden bathed in the light of the setting sun. There were six in total, with two empty chairs on the ends as usual. Moss looked around at his children, remembering that he should be serious, but he had always been too much of a cheerful soul to conceal his joy at the tickle of the summer sun.
Old and wrinkled though he was, his fingers still twitched with excitement, his eyes still wandered dreamily and he still enjoyed a afternoon chat with the fruit trees. Still, nothing could make Reed forget his council decorum. Moss winked at his cousin, who rose from the chair and puffed out his chest. Never unsure of his own opinions, Reed enjoyed his role as leader immensely. He could hand out orders like scattered spores and always took a strict line in discipline, but the others knew if they worked hard he would also lay out plenty of praise and rewards. Most importantly, if you asked for an explanation of a rule, the elders were sure to give you a thorough one, with what some remarked was a tiny whisper of regret in their voices. Now though, Reed’s voice was filled with relish at the glorious ceremony of being in charge of a council meeting.
“Good evening,” he said. “Let us commence with a question from Holly.”
Holly gave a little wave. She had changed very little, the only visible differences being the pale web of scars that still graced her arms and legs, and that her leaves were glowing with ripening spores – she was preparing to spawn her second child very soon, her first being seated opposite her.
“Yeah, I just wondered if anyone had seen the pipe off the grill. That thing’s on its last legs, by the way. I don’t think it’s been quite the same since you put the heater back, Moss.” She winked at the elders. Blushing, the boy nearest to her fumbled in his pocket and sheepishly held out a thin metal pipe. Holly took it back, shaking her head.
“Honestly, Rowan, you’re such a Larch sometimes.” Rowan shrugged and smiled. He’d never truly understood that saying, but it certainly was thrown around a lot. He was Moss’s son (spawned as planned, at the perfect time of year), and the family’s new archivist. Although he emulated his vague memory of Oak in every way he could, the elders always noted the similarity in his stargazing eyes (and his habit of wandering off with a pocket full of tools) to the brother he was barely aware of.
“Well, that’s that then,” said Reed. “Now, I’d like to announce that Daisy has already chosen her area of specialty. Starting tomorrow, she will begin her training as our newest Nurturer!” Daisy’s face lit up, and she gave a little mock bow. She was the youngest of the family, matured only a few days ago, and was also Holly’s first granddaughter. She had a much firmer touch when it came to care, taking more after Willow than her aunt, but nevertheless it was undoubtedly a very suitable appointment – and a necessary one, seeing as they had failed to appoint one since Lily had left.
“We’ll get started with that tomorrow. Fern, do you have something to say?” Fern had silently raised her hand during her daughter’s announcement. She was a quiet, serious soul who would often go a whole meeting without even moving, so this was a very surprising development.
“Yes. Who’s that?” She pointed. The family looked round to see a young girl standing a little way back, looking curiously around the circle. At first, a flash of panic gripped the elders’ throats. Her tanned skin and long hair told them she was the first flesh-being to set foot in their forest since that fateful day all those years ago. Reed was on the verge of launching the defence protocol, when Moss, eyes transfixed upon the visitor, held out a hand.
“W-wait! I kn-know her!”
Indeed, although she was undoubtedly human she possessed a face that could be nothing other than their own, for she was the image of her parents in all but colour.
“Ch-Cherry!” He rose from his chair and rushed over to her. Shyly, he embraced his granddaughter. The younger generations stared, marvelling at this sudden apparition. They had had an inkling that there was a flesh-being on their family tree, but they had never imagined she would turn up on their doorstep.
“Hello,” she was softly spoken, like Lily, but with an air of confidence that came straight from her father. “You must be Moss!”
“Young lady, care to step forward and explain yourself?” called Reed. Moss went back to his seat, and Cherry stepped forward.
“I’m Cherry Rose,” she said. “I’m looking for my grandfathers Moss and Reed, and my auntie Holly. Is that you?” Reed studied her for a moment, still suspicious. After all, the last time there had been a flesh-being in their midst it hadn’t been a particularly enjoyable experience.
“That’s us!” said Holly, taking matters into her own hands. “It’s great to see you – look how you’ve grown!” Cherry smiled. She’d imagined all the things her relatives might say, what her cousins might look like, but now it was happening it all seemed quite surreal.”
“Wonderful! I’m in the right place then. I’m sorry to interrupt your council,” she nodded at Reed.
“Oh, it’s n-not a p-problem.” Moss waved a hand airily. “Take a seat!” Cherry gladly did so, easing the straps of her backpack as she relaxed into the chair. She looked around her, taking it all in. It was like jumping into one of her old bedtime stories.
“So Cherry, what’s it like living with the flesh-beings?” Holly asked eagerly. Cherry looked puzzled.
“Flesh-what? Oh, that’s what you call human Sims isn’t it? I don’t know what it’s like. Busy, I guess, compared to here.”
“And how are Larch and Lily?” asked Reed. He had apparently overcome his doubts and was as eager as everyone else to find out what had become of his daughter.
“Oh yes, I forgot you don’t know!” Cherry grinned and rummaged in her bag. She pulled out a photograph and showed it round the circle. The Roses studied it curiously. “They’re getting married next month! Dad proposed last holiday. They’d love you to come, but we understand if you can’t. It took me nearly a week to get up here. I can’t believe Mum and Dad made it down all those years ago, and with no idea what they’d find when they got to the town. It was lucky for them there were already PlantSims living there.”
“Wait, there are other plant people? And they live with the flesh- I mean, the Sims?” Rowan was so surprised at the thought of this that he forgot he had been struck dumb. Even the older Roses looked shocked. Cherry shrugged and smiled.
“Yeah, sure there are. Sometimes normal Sims become PlantSims when they spend too much time gardening. I’ll tell you all about it if you like.”
“S-sounds f-fascinating! But wh-what we r-really w-want to know is, w-why have you come?”
“Well,” Cherry took a deep breath. “I’m going off to college at the end of the summer, but before I do I want to get a better idea of my roots – no pun intended, of course. I don’t like to ask Mum and Dad about this stuff because they get so sad. They told me about it, about the forest, and the monsters and my great-grandmother. I brought flowers for her grave.” She pulled a slightly crumpled bouquet out of her bag. Reed extended a hand towards the Rose bush.
“She’s right there,” he said quietly. “And Oak too now, just to the left.” Cherry nodded and laid her flowers on the ground. She bowed her head for a moment.
“And the three creatures?” She looked over where the others pointed, and nodded again. “Got it. I wanted to say how sorry I was that they died because of me. Even if they did try to eat me. I’m sorry I’m not making sense, I know, it’s just all so confusing. There’s so much about myself I want to know – after all, from what Dad tells me not knowing doesn’t always work out too well.” The older Roses sighed. It always hurt to remember how much they missed Larch and Lily.
“That sprout,” said Holly. “I bet he’s forgotten almost everything about us by now.”
“Well, he asked me to give you guys a present. Apparently you’ll know what it means.” Cherry tossed something across the circle which landed in Holly’s lap. She, Reed and Moss took one look at it and burst out laughing. It was a brand new packet of screwdrivers.
“What’s going on? What’s so funny?” Rowan, Daisy and Fern all looked confused. Reed wiped a tear from his eye.
“Oh, kids,” he chuckled, winking at Cherry. “Have I got a story for you…”
In memory of my laptop, and all the Sims that died along with it.