“Wyatt, you could have told me about April before this all got out of hand. We would have managed…”
“Mum, please. I know I’ve messed up, I know you’re trying to help and I know you think I’m nothing but a huge, naïve idiot, but trust me; I know what I’m doing…”
“…I’ll manage without you.”
Wyatt tugged down his waistcoat and tucked in his shirt for the dozenth time. He tried to relax. He could do this. He could totally do this. He needed to do this. He couldn’t stand to be in that apartment, surrounded by his Mum’s ceramic pig collection and magical bric-a-brac, a second longer.
He needed to get away. From everything.
“Your own place? Ha! You wouldn’t survive a week on your own!”
“I so would. How hard can it be? I can conjure up food.”
“There’s more to living independently than doing your own cooking, Wyatt. Responsibilities such as paying rent and bills. How would you manage that? You’re perpetually broke.”
The bar hadn’t changed a bit since the first, and last, time Wyatt had set foot in it. Except for the obvious difference that this time there were actually people in there.
The bartender, who was scratching his head and looking between two bottles of gin with confusion, clocked Wyatt the second he appeared and tentative smile of recognition appeared on his face.
“Oh hey, it’s you. Looking smart, here for that job after all?”
Wyatt stood taller and tried not to look like he was bricking it. “Yeah,” he replied. “My Mu— uh, my circumstances have changed. When can I start?”
The bartender pouted and put down the cocktail shaker that he was holding. “Woah! Hold on there, buddy. I can’t just hire you on the spot, you know. What kind of half-arsed establishment do you think I’m running here? There’s been loads of interest in this job.”
“Yeah, I’ll need to hold a full interview process, go through shortlisting, skills tests, and the successful applicant will need to complete a trial period. Oh, not to mention that I’ll need to draw up a contract, run criminal record checks, check references…”
Wyatt swallowed back a huge lump in his throat. He’d totally overlooked the fact that he might need to produce any form of identification or evidence of past work, and he had neither.
The bartender studied him for a moment, then he guffawed. “I’m kidding! I’m kidding. You’re the only one who’s applied in the whole six months since I’ve had the vacancy open. As long as you can pull a pint, you’re hired!”
Wyatt breathed a huge sigh of relief. If this hadn’t worked, he had no other plan. He relaxed a little. “Awesome. The job still comes with an apartment, right?”
The bartender’s smile flickered. “Uh, yeah, sure, if you want it…”
“Right, maybe you should see it first though,” he glanced over at a heavily made-up woman across the bar and called out, “Hey! Kaylynn! Watch the taps, yeah?”
The bartender and landlord of Xavier’s Place was unsurprisingly, called ‘Xavier’. He led his newest employee, and prospective tenant, around the back of the building, up a rickety set of steps, to what Wyatt presumed was the apartment for rent.
“I keep meaning to fix that fence,” Xavier muttered. “Say, it’s probably a dumb question as you only look about… twenty-four?”
“Uh… yeah, twenty-four, good guess,” Wyatt lied.
Xavier grinned. “You get good at judging ages when you sell booze for a living. Anyway, you don’t have any kids, do you? ‘Cause this place ain’t really suitable for little ones.”
Wyatt thought of April and shook his head. “No little ones, no.”
“Lucky you,” Xavier muttered. “I’ve got five under-fives, all adopted. Seriously, ‘neighbourhood stories’ has ruined my life.” He walked up to the door and started wriggling a broken key in what was clearly a broken lock. “There’s a knack to this, extra secure, heh. If you get it just right… it should open… it should… ah! There we go!” He stepped back allowing the door to fall open and a thick, damp scent to escape.
Wyatt wafted the air and Xavier grimaced. “I should’ve aired this place a bit more frequently, sorry. Anyway,” he walked inside; Wyatt following behind, “this is the main room; you’ve got a kitchen there with a fridge and an oven included. You’ve got a shower room to the left there. Two bedrooms. Rent is three hundred per month, bills included, I can take it straight from your pay if that’s cool with you. Any questions?”
Wyatt looked around, feeling way out of his depth. What kind of questions was he supposed to ask?
“Yeah, I mean what’s there to ask, right? You get what you see.” Xavier paused, looking around the space with a distant expression. “I lived here for a few years when I was about your age, you know, before I inexplicably adopted twins. It’s a pretty good starter home; train station across the street, supermarket down the road, a great bar right on your doorstep, relaxed landlord, heh.”
Wyatt nodded, a question finally coming to mind. “Is there any other furniture?”
“I have some in a lock up, if you need it. It’s all a bit knackered and mismatched, but aren’t we all? Heh. And feel free to decorate how you like it. I’m easy. I just ask that you don’t trash the place. The last guy who rented from me – well, I dunno what was wrong with him. I think he used the carpet as a toilet and then he had one of his rages and did that…”
“Who does that? Still, nothing a poster can’t cover, right?”
The pair stepped out into the May day sun, as Xavier continued.
“You’ve got a good, calm vibe about you, Wyatt. I know you’ll look after the place. I’ve got a good feeling about you…”
April shifted on the lumpy, bumpy old couch. Just one of the many reasons she was uncomfortable.
Luckily, the laughter and, um, other noises that that had formed the soundtrack to her day had stopped. But that meant that at any minute…
The door to Wyatt’s bedroom swung open and Kaylynn strutted out, singing to herself cheerfully. She stepped over the piles of rubbish on the floor and stopped in her tracks with an exaggerated expression of surprise as she laid eyes on April.
“Oh hey, Amy!” Kaylynn trilled in her annoying voice. She made a show of adjusting her hair and acting coy. “I didn’t know you were still here! Oopsie!”
April grimaced and continued playing her game, trying to ignore this annoying woman.
Kaylynn, unperturbed, rocked on her heels and swung her arms, chirping loudly, “What game are you playing, honey? That one with the dollies? Can I join you?”
April huffed, blasting the head off a zombie in her frustration. She continued to say nothing.
Kaylynn glanced over her shoulder towards Wyatt’s room and, observing that the door was still firmly shut, she lowered her voice. “I’m trying to be nice here, you stuck-up little bitch. The least you could do is talk to me.”
April glanced up, briefly, but remained silent.
By now, Kaylynn had fully dropped her pretend friendly face and was looking around the apartment with disgust.
“So ungrateful. Wyatt takes you in and all you do is stay up all night, lie around all day, playing video games and being rude to his guests? You don’t work, you clearly don’t clean. I don’t care that you’re his sister; when he asks me to move in – and he will because we are in love – your lazy ass will be out of – oh, hi baby!” she squealed, turning to face Wyatt who had stumbled in from the adjacent room. “I was just chatting to Amy. We two get on so well! Your two best girls are best buddies!”
Wyatt half-smiled and crossed the room to the area that passed as a kitchen. “Are you leaving, Kaylynn?”
“Unless you want me to stay?”
He shrugged and Kaylynn’s face fell so fast that April almost heard her jaw hitting the floor. “Oh. OK. Yeah, too much of a good thing and all that… I-I’ll see you tomorrow then?”
Wyatt winked and Kaylynn nodded. Her big, fake smile had returned to her face as she crossed the threshold, but not before she’d given April a look that was pure venom.
Wyatt plonked himself on the sofa next to April and downed his beer as she mutilated a few digital demons.
“What’s up, Apes?”
The silence between them was loaded, hanging in the stale air like Wyatt’s belch did a moment later.
“Is this something to do with Kaylynn?”
“She’s alright when you get to know her.”
April growled; her irritation bubbling to the surface. “I don’t want to get to know her! She’s so mean and awful! Her face is annoying, her voice is annoying and she’s super… super…” she scrunched up her face, trying to find the right word. “Super common!”
Wyatt sucked in a breath through his teeth. “Common? Look around, Apes. We live in a crappy little flat above a bar. We ain’t royalty.”
April bit her lip, trying not to cry. “I know that, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some standards.”
“Standards?” he repeated, blankly.
“Yes! All the people you bring back here are so… so dirty.”
Wyatt looked at her but didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to. Over the last two months it had become easier and easier to read his thoughts. Her stomach lurched as she read his latest one.
She sounds like Sandy.
April paused on her tirade, frustrated and ashamed of herself. She fiddled with her jeans and desperately tried to squash down the inner Sandy that still seemed to haunt her and warp all her thoughts, all these months later, even after the world had started to forget.
She swallowed hard, unable to let it go. “Do you love Kaylynn?” she asked in a small voice. “Is she going to move in?”
“Wha—? No! Apes, that’s nuts—“
“Because she thinks you do! She says she’s going to move in and kick me out!” April cried. “She says I’m lazy because I don’t go outside in the daytime, but I can’t go outside in the daytime and I can’t tell her that! And… and…”
“Woah, wha—? No, Apes—”
“And… and I don’t understand what you see in her! You can do better. You’re super smart and you’re handsome and you’re a great witch—“
“I’m not a great witch,” he snapped in that tone that told her the conversation was over.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly, gripping her hand. She could feel him shaking. “I’m not mad at you, all right? I just can’t talk about… y’know. But I definitely don’t wanna kick you out, OK? And I won’t have Kaylynn ‘round anymore. Not if it makes you upset. You’re more important.”
April swallowed hard, feeling rotten and relieved all at once.
Wyatt was still squeezing her hand so hard that it almost hurt. He was staring at the floor where something was crawling around. “Look, it’ll get better. I’m saving up some money, I’ll find us a nicer place, a better crowd – maybe I’ll befriend the Queen.” He laughed; a hollow sound with no happiness inside. “I just need some time to get my stuff together, OK?”
April nodded, feeling very small but slightly reassured.
Wyatt squeezed her hand one more time and gave her a watery smile as he picked up the games controller. “So, do you need a hand getting past this level?”
“I do, but you have work in fifteen minutes.”
“Nah, it’s Sunday, I don’t work Sundays.”
“It’s Wednesday, Wyatt.”
“…Shi-oot, is it?” he groaned. “What happened to Monday and Tuesday? Wait, I think I remember. Ugh. Hey, are you going to see Mel tonight?”
“Yes, there’s some space thingamabob that she wants to watch.”
“Sounds thrilling,” he grinned, stretched and scooted forward in his seat. “Well, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Later.”
“Where are you going?!”
“….To work. I might be on time, for once.”
“Aren’t you going to change?” April asked sheepishly. “I can tell that you were… you’ve been smoking… um… ah…” she wrinkled her nose. “You smell really bad.”
“Yeah, but you have a sensitive vampire nose, Apes. No one else will notice.”
“No one will care,” he insisted, looking at an empty pizza box on the floor and thinking about how hungry he was.
“I care,” April insisted, following him as he wandered the apartment, peering in food cartons, looking for scraps.
Wyatt sighed and playfully thumped April’s arm. “I know you do, Apes. Fine, for you and just in case the royal family stop by the bar for a watered-down beer, I’ll go shower.” He whipped off his offensive shirt and threw it across the room. “Oh, wait, I haven’t done laundry for ages—”
“I did laundry last night,” April replied. “I’ll find you a shirt, you go and shower.”
She watched as Wyatt staggered off to the bathroom. He wasn’t sober, but that seemed to be his default these days. She looked around through the piles of filth and bags of trash wondering where the clean laundry had ended up, going back over her steps. She’d visited the launderette the previous night, but she hadn’t had enough money to use the drier. She’d left the wet laundry in the bag, figuring that it would dry on its own, and she had left the bag… oh! There it was!
It felt lighter so it had dried, but the green clouds coming out it weren’t a good sign.
Still, even slightly stagnated as it was, it smelled better than the horrible undershirt Wyatt kept wearing.
With the crumpled, slightly damp ‘clean’ shirt draped carefully across a chair, April turned her attention to preparing some food as Wyatt wouldn’t have time to before he had to leave. April was a rubbish cook, she’d discovered, but she’d bought some pizza rolls from the grocery store to try. They said ‘microwaves in two minutes!’ on the front – how hard could that be?
She reached into the fridge, pushing aside bottles of beer and rotting vegetables to find them and she noticed that her blood flask had finally been refilled.
She smiled a little to herself.
Two minutes and some mild cussing later and April had some microwaved pizza rolls on a plate. Feeling immensely proud of herself, she rested them on top of Wyatt’s shirt, where he would see them, and headed into her bedroom.
Stepping over discarded items that had no other place to be stored, she thought about Moon’s house, where Melinda was staying. How clean it was, how nice it smelled, how there were never any leering men or trashy women hanging around. She really hoped that Wyatt could save enough money so that they could go somewhere nicer. Maybe enough so that they could hire a butler, or at least a maid.
Moon had offered, multiple times, to take Wyatt and April in, but Wyatt had refused and April couldn’t leave her dad on his own. He needed her to look after him. What would happen to him if she did leave? Would he forget to go to work? To wash? To eat?
Would he completely fall apart?
April settled herself on the floor and pulled out a dusty book. She gently opened the old tome to a page bookmarked with a frayed ribbon; the page she was studying.
She had never been a great student. She was never terrible, never failed anything, but she found that she daydreamed a lot and tended to lose track of what she was supposed to be doing. But that didn’t happen when she studied anything magical. When she studied potions, she became engrossed, absorbing knowledge like she was a mystical brain sponge. Reading about elixirs and balms felt so much more natural to her than studying geography ever had.
She’d wait until she heard Wyatt leave and then she’d go and practice this potion on the temperamental stove. Wyatt hadn’t mixed a potion since he accidentally made the too-strong tea. He wouldn’t do any magic at all. He didn’t go to the coven meetings anymore. He rarely spoke to Broof. Every time April brought any of these things up, Wyatt shot them down.
It really was a pity because this place was getting very smelly and Broof would have cleaned it right up. Despite what Kaylynn thought, April really did try to clean things but she wasn’t very good at it – they all got dirty again! It felt like a waste of time.
April turned the page in her potion book, re-reading the one she was going to try until it was cemented in her head. It was a much simpler potion than the ones Wyatt had previously been teaching her, but she had to get it exactly right.
Tonight, there was some sort of moon event happening that Melinda was super excited about. She and Melinda were heading out after dark to stargaze and make out, as they did most nights now Melinda was officially April’s girlfriend. Eek!
But the summer nights were so short! It felt like they had barely been together for five minutes, before the pesky sunshine began to peek over the horizon. Melinda had mentioned, a few times, how she wished they could lie outside together and watch the sun come up without catching fire.
April heard Wyatt call out a hasty ‘thank-you-Apes-love-ya!’ as he fled the apartment, late for work, as usual. As she stood at the window, the day’s heavy clouds shifted and she could feel the evening sun hot on her exposed skin. She fizzed with excitement at the thought of the potion she was about to attempt and what it could mean.
‘SUNLIGHT REVERSAL – a powerful elixir to protect even the most sun-adverse sims from harmful sunrays.’
Surely it was worth a shot.