Chapter 8: Afterthought


Andres’ brother’s rebuff is, of course, the worst thing that could possibly happen to a teenage boy’s fragile ego.


So he calls over the best thing that could happen to that ego: a pretty girl.


This particular pretty girl is a Gloomy Loner (Andres learns by practicing his powers on her), so isn’t a suitable candidate for primary spouse, but is a perfect candidate for good friend.


And she willingly offers her wrist when Andres requests a taste.


Myron easily reaches the top of his part-time career.


I go on an unexpected and highly interesting adventure. It pays to be a scientist. I hear the non-scientifically-inclined don’t fare quite so well on these excursions.


Daniel maxes gardening. His list of skills is becoming quite long and impressive. I refrain from comparing it to my own.


A rather obvious fake. I’m almost too disgusted to mail it back to the archaeology society. Almost.


My beloved brings home his level 8 promotion, completing his aspiration. His relief is palpable, and a wave of calm passes over the house. He has contributed what he set out to contribute, and I have done right by him in giving him the resources to make it happen. We’ll leave the maxing of this career to a future generation with more time and a bigger head start, and for now bask in the glory of getting this far, toasting his victory over a plate of never-spoiling Baked Alaska.


Daniel’s satisfaction shows in his painting, too, which he resumes with extra flair and exuberance.


Myron wonders why he hasn’t been allowed to quit his job, and maxes violin as evidence, perhaps, that his time could be better spent. Our sweet boy is just about as perfect as he could be, and for this reason is perpetually overlooked. He calmly and steadily spends his time composing beautiful songs under the lemon tree. His brother’s temper tantrums and flashy vampire powers make for more exciting pictures, but Myron is truly doing the lion’s share of the work around the house.


Andres, having exhausted the last of the Vampire Tomes, sets about learning fitness in the new gym we build for him on the new second floor of our home, which, with its wall and floor coverings, lights, and even the occasional decorative item, is now beginning to look suspiciously like an actual house fit for actual people to dwell in.


Gizmo observes faithfully, with an expression that hints that a nice companionable jog is far superior to the punching bag for raising one’s skill, at least in terms of the pleasure it gives.


Myron, dutiful as he is talented, composes an ode to Daniel, memorializing him officially as his self-portrait cannot.


Though the boys have spent every day since achieving A’s in school attempting to make friends, their list of contacts remains woefully brief. Thus, on Friday we head to the one place known for attracting droves of teenagers in the middle of the night: the park.


Sadly, we find nothing but vampires, or young adults dressed very much like vampires. Andres is able to practice his skills at least, and casually, almost lackadaisically catalogues the traits of passersby.


Almost as an afterthought, he thinks to inquire about one young lady’s career, and learns that in addition to the three unique traits she possesses, Romina Arroyo is a level 10 Double Diamond Agent.


And that is how I meet my daughter-in-law.


Following a hurried makeover, I test three slimify serums on the young lady. She appears deeply annoyed, but I hope I detect a small hint of gratitude beneath. And if not, there’s a fridge stuffed with Baked Alaska to help her regain her original figure.


One thing Romina cannot complain about is the house. The roof took us ages, and there are many, many expensive windows left to buy, but the basic frame is there, and at least doesn’t look comically primitive next to the lily-coated fountain of elegance in the driveway.


Romina and Andres hit it off right away.


His cheeks flush with blood from her veins when he realizes he has a particular affinity for the taste of her. The heir decision is still up in the air, and Andres still too young to fully understand the feelings Romina has stirred in him, but there will be no arm-twisting necessary when and if the time comes for these two to become more intimate. If the winds blow the other way, he will have more than his share of angst keeping his hands (and fangs) off his brother’s wife. At the moment, however, their connection is neither good news nor bad news, and I do my best not to worry.


The week ends with the Romance Festival, and one more thwarted attempt to find the missing plant for our collection. I feel strangely peaceful and permit myself a moment of undiluted enjoyment, devoted to neither skill-grinding nor achievement shilling, nor fussing over my sons and their futures.


The Romance Guru tells Romina what she already knows.


And with renewed confidence, she begins to pursue her aspiration in earnest. She wants to become a Party Animal. I knew we’d have to face this one eventually, and I suppose I’m grateful to her for precluding any procrastination on my part, but I think I’m even more nervous about getting this completed than I was about Daniel’s Master Chef. Ah, well. All things in time.

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