Over the next few days, the Pruett family pulled together to heal the wound the divorce inflicted. Although Jayden was the only one physically in the situation, everyone was affected and had to learn how to cope without Maliyah. Brittany split her time between her mother’s house and the Pruett Estate to care for both of her parents.
“Brittany! My baby! It’s soo good to see you.”
“How are you doing, daddy?”
“I’m getting by. How, ummm…how is she?”
“Not too good. She cries a lot.”
“Yeah. I think she’s finding out that it was harder to do than she thought.”
“If she’ll receive it, tell her that I still love her.”
“I’ll do that. Well, I was actually on my way to work. I just wanted to stop by and check on you.”
“I appreciate that, Brittany. I love you soo much.”
“I love you too, daddy! Later!”
The most surprising thing to happen was the outpouring of love and support from the neighbors. People came from far and wide to give him their condolences.
“Hello…can I help you?”
“Hi, I’m Ann Johnson from down the road. I know we’ve never met, but I know all about you and your family. You guys have been in this neighborhood for five generations and are the wealthiest, most successful, close knit family in the region! We heard about what happened, and I just wanted to come by and say how deeply sorry I was to hear about it. You guys typically stay out of the newspapers and gossip columns, so I know this has got to be difficult for you.”
“It is, but I really appreciate you coming by. I didn’t realize how famous we were!”
As much as he appreciated everyone’s support, he still had a hole in his heart. He knew exactly what he needed to begin getting over this ordeal. He needed his brother and sisters. The 4th gen Pruett quartet spent an entire day at Jayla’s house just doing what siblings do, and they were quite happy to drop whatever they were doing to be there for Jayden. It was a great distraction for him, but more importantly, he loved that he could be himself around them. At home, he had to be strong for the remaining children and try to help them through their own problems. But Jasmine, his twin and Jared knew the real Jayden and allowed him to do what he needed to do without judgement or condemnation. He laughed, cried, vented, cried some more, and laughed, vented, and cried again. By the end of that day, he was still had that hole, but it was not as large.
Because Jasmine had her own family and left the Pruett Estate when Jayden was still in high school, she wasn’t fully aware of how all of this happened. Everytime she came to visit, things seemed fine. She knew Maliyah was a snob and had a mouth on her, but that was all. When she could get Jayden alone, she asked him about it. He told her everything from the red flags their father noticed to her petty jabs to her reluctance to having the children all the way down to the cold war that began when she got pregnant with Brandon until the very end.
She was sad for her brother, but that story enraged the voices and they all began talking at once. Poor Jasmine didn’t know what to do and just spazzed out and was not coherent at all.
The 5th gen Pruett children found solace in their new friendships that were blossoming quite nicely. Things were happening between Brandon and Amira and Bianca and Giancarlo at just the right pace–not too fast, and not too slow. They didn’t feel pressured by any clock, or any body. They were content to do things as they felt led to do them.
“Ummm…Amira? Would you like to kinda, like, hang out sometime, like…alone?”
“I’d love to!”
“Dad…are you out here telling Giancarlo all my business?”
“No, of course not! I was just getting to know him. He’s gonna be my son-in-law soon, right?”
“Dad!! We’re not even dating!”
“I know, I know. I’m just giving you a hard time.”
“Giancarlo, would you like to come inside before my dad constructs an arch with the flowers?”
“Well, I don’t know. Maybe I want to help him with the arch!”
Her heart skipped a couple beats and a warmth came over her that she had never experienced before. She always knew that they would be romantically involved one day, but her mind just wasn’t there yet–and she definitely wasn’t prepared to begin thinking about marriage. However, she had begun to see him slowly tip-toeing out of the friend zone and into another zone that was still under construction. She played it cool though.
“[gasp] Two against one? I can’t win with you guys! Come on, Giancarlo.”
They went inside, but oddly enough they were alone. Throughout Bianca’s entire life, this house was full and she was rarely ever alone. She liked the feeling, but it made her a little nervous. They were both nervous and stood in the living room searching for their next move. In light of her new sensation and growing affinity for Giancarlo, Bianca decided to take a more vulnerable approach.
“If I tell you something, will you promise not to take it the wrong way?”
“You’re the best friend I’ve ever had, and I love you.”
“I love you too, Bianca.”
“As a friend, right?”
“If you’d like to think that.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means whatever you want it to mean.”
“Giancarlo! Be straight with me!”
“I will…soon. I don’t think you’re ready for that conversation right now.”
“But there is a conversation?”
“There might be.”
“Now you’re just playing with me!”
By the end of the week, everyone was as good as they were going to be with their grief and were content to deal with it little by little, day by day. But Bianca was holding on to some anger she refused to let go but had never really spoke of. She tried to contain it, but every now and then she would slip up and let it out. One rare night, Asia was off and was talking about how she felt like she wasn’t a good mother because she didn’t get to spend a lot of time with Kolby because she worked at night.
“What, so you’re gonna leave too?! Is that what people do now? Things get rough and they leave their families???”
“Good heavens, no!!! I’m not going anywhere! I’m just saying I wish I had more time with him. Are you ok, Bianca?”
“I’m sorry. Oh my goodness…I’m soo sorry, Asia! I don’t know what came over me. I…I didn’t mean to snap at you like that.”
“It’s ok. I know you’re still hurting. It’s going to take a while to get over, but you’ll get through this.”
“Thanks, Asia. You’re so understanding. Jared is lucky to have you.”
“No, I’m the lucky one! He’s marvelous, but I got something greater when I married him.”
“You know…we should hang out more, Asia.”
“Yeah! Let’s do it.”
Apart from the pain management, the other concern everyone had was Jasmine. The twins had come to the end of their lives and was expecting death any day which meant that Jasmine had been at death’s door for quite some time. Her husband was already gone, and Cory–who was the same age as her–had died the week before. Everyone loved her dearly and wanted her to be around the family when she went. But, because of her active lifestyle, she didn’t show any signs of kicking the bucket anytime soon. Each day was bittersweet because it was another day to enjoy her loving, insane, sassy ways, but it was also another day to be on pins and needles wondering if it was the last. The Pruett household was on “Jasmine watch” for days. Every day, several times a day you would hear “has anyone talked to Jasmine?” She was invited to the house just about every night in case her time came. This went on for so long that now the hope is that Jayden and Jayla’s time would not run out in the process of worrying about Jasmine’s time. Only time will tell.
Brandon’s birthday was coming up soon, and so he decided that would be the perfect time hang out with Amira. He got their first date scheduled and set up, and finally they were out on their own without the family around.
“Would you mind if we didn’t go in? It’s loud and there are all kinds of people in there. I want us to really be alone.”
“Ok! We don’t have to go in if you don’t want to.”
They stayed outside the entire night talking about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. They got to know each other on a deeper level. Brandon learned that Amira was family oriented, and Amira learned that Brandon’s goal in life was to have a successful lineage. She talked about what life was like in Al Simhara, and he told her about his family history and the legacy. She was very excited to hear about the legacy because, in her world, only the kings and the very wealthy lived that way. All the poor people could only dream about being an heir to a throne or fortune and inheriting land, wealth, and status, and here Brandon was–a normal kid from her Simlish class–living out her dream. It was unreal. They briefly spoke of the divorce, but, of course, Amira had Brandon’s back.
“You’re my BFF, Amira. I’m so glad we met.”
“Well, actually…I was hoping I could be more than your BFF.”
“Yeah! I like you a lot, and I want to be your girlfriend.”
“BUT…if we’re going to be official,” Amira warned, “then you know what you need to do, right?”
“Kiss me, silly!”
“OH! Right. Sorry…I’ve never done any of this before.”
“Yeah, ok. Less yapping, more smacking!”
Brandon leaned over and gave her a peck on the lips.
“How’d I do?”
“We’ll work on it…trust me.”
Brandon left the date with his heart all a flutter. This was indeed the best birthday he had ever had. He just wished it wasn’t so late so he could tell his father all about it. He was just going to have to wait–that is if The Grim Reaper wasn’t working the night shift. When he got home, he found Asia in the kitchen.
“You’re still up,” he asked.
“Yeah. Do me a favor and go sit in the dining room.”
“Ummm, ok. What’s going on?”
“Just do it, please?”
He went to the dining room as requested and waited about 15 minutes before Asia joined him.
Asia started rambling, “Please don’t be mad at me. I know your mother always baked your birthday cakes, but I thought because she wasn’t here and everyone else is asleep and it’s such a special birthday that I would–“
“Asia,” he interrupted. “This is the best thing you could have ever done for me. I’m soo glad that you did this. I really don’t know what to say!”
“Oh, thank heavens! I thought you would be made and be like I was trying to take your mother’s place or something.”
“You’re a great mom, Asia. Kolby is a lucky kid.”
“I’m the lucky one.”
“Yeah….Well, these candles won’t blow themselves out! You’re here, so you may as well celebrate with me.”
It took him a couple tries to get all the candles out, but within seconds his life was transformed. One second he was a child, and the next he was a man. It was all the same to him, though. Brandon ate a slice of his cake, thanked Asia again, and went to bed. He didn’t give his life much thought that night, but he would soon. He will need to figure out what to do with his life as he never had any specialized skills and no aspirations for a particular job. He will also need to figure how to deal with his newly earned snob trait. He was more like his mother now than he ever imagined he would be with her genius and snob tendencies. Like Brittany, being a snob didn’t have to mean that they acted just like Maliyah and become selfish and self-absorbed. But their worldview would be changed, and only time will tell what that means for Brandon.