Despite the long list of friends who would instantly drop everything to attend his birthday party, Luke’s celebration is a subdued and casual event held at Grandma Faith’s house.
Visiting Grandma Faith has always been a special treat. He’s heard the hushed conversation regarding how she’d changed since Grandpa Jimmy passed away. But to Luke, she’s the same, sweet, old grandmother he has always known. Luke was still just a toddler when it happened, so he doesn’t remember much about the man everybody speaks so fondly about. What he does recall, is that the loss affected his mother deeply.
There has also been a lot of talk about Faith’s health, lately. And Luke cannot help but feel some concern after she kisses him on the forehead, then goes to bed before the party ever really gets started. Luke had seen his mother speaking with Grandma Faith shortly beforehand. The elder Barimen had become very agitated and upset about something during the conversation. Amber apologized for upsetting her, but grandma did what she always does. Patting Amber gently on the shoulder, she assured her granddaughter there was nothing she did wrong. Then she just winked, placing the blame for her sudden mood swing on the fact that she is just a cranky and tired old battle-axe.
Aunt Tanya has moved back into the home with her boyfriend, to help take care of Faith. She had been the one to arrange Luke’s party. The funny thing about Aunt Tanya, is that she seems to understand Luke’s introverted tendencies. She did some pretty thorough digging around, to find out exactly which friends he’d want at his party. She was pretty much perfect in that respect, too. There are some kids he’d love to see again. But arranging it would would have been next to impossible, given that their parents are still serving in the military all over the globe.
Besides, with Aunt Tina’s brood present, any more than three of his friends would have made large enough crowd, to where both he and Tanya would begin feeling uncomfortable.
After the presents have all been opened, games have been played, and sugar has been consumed in mass quantity, Luke blows out his candles and becomes a teen.
He has always possessed an intimidating kind of intensity. It took some time for them to understand him, but Alex and Chase finally learned to relax around Luke. But now that he’s head and shoulders taller than them, the intimidation factor has re-emerged. Unfortunately, they both still have nearly an entire year before their teens, so they congratulate Luke and decide to spend more time with Aunt Tina’s cute twin daughters. Luke laughs, and warns his buddies that they’ll just end up talking about ponies and kittens.
But Alex and Chase get the last laugh. Luke smells the perfume before he notices Sandi standing behind him. He wonders why he hadn’t noticed it earlier during the party. Luke’s face turns red with blush, which sends Alex and Chase snickering together into the next room, where Tina’s kids are rampaging.
There is no denying that Sandi Baker has matured into a beautiful girl. She and Luke have grown into good friends during their years at school. In fact, she’s about the only friend he has whose parents are not in the military. As a result, she’s been in just about every class he’s had from year to year.
And though he has pretended not to notice it, she’s never been shy about broadcasting her crush on him. Honestly, Luke really doesn’t mind. It’s always been a kind of morale booster for him. The problem is, that they just don’t have a whole lot in common. But being the humble and gracious kind of sim that he is, Luke does his best to find that conversational middle-ground they seem to always occupy together.
As the afternoon turns into evening, a peculiar sensation begins to close in around Luke. He applies considerable willpower toward keeping his focus on Sandi and enjoying the evening. They play video games for awhile then hang out with two of Aunt Tina’s older daughters (where, ironically, the conversation turns to ponies and kittens). Still, it gives him a chance to mentally check-out and search for the thing that has been tugging at his senses. After awhile, Luke decides that the problem is originating from upstairs.
Luke almost forgets about the problem while dancing late into the evening with Sandi and his cousins. Then, as the guests leave and the music is turned off, he finds that Sandi has taken him by the hand and led him out, onto the front porch.
She complements his dancing and thanks him for inviting her to the party. It is very obvious that she has moved closer and leaned into him, as though she were giving him permission to kiss her. Luke likes Sandi a lot. But that odd feeling tugging at him has become more urgent, and the last thing he is interested in right now is swapping saliva with her. But at the same time, he really does not want this night to end with hurt feelings.
Headlights from a car turning into the driveway shine onto the teens, giving Luke a very timely rescue. Sandi’s parents have arrived to take her home. He waves to her parents, then places his hand gently on her cheek. He thanks her for coming to the party, then says goodbye; adding that he cannot wait to see her tomorrow at school.
Luke can hear his parents still talking and laughing with Tanya and her boyfriend, so he quietly makes his way up the stairs.
Over the past year, he has seen spirits, witnessed disturbing visions, and heard strange voices. So when he comes face-to-face with two ghostly figures at the top of the stairs, Luke is not startled any more than he would have been, had they been normal sims. What he does find curious is that he somehow knows who they are. Her name is Bebe. And he is Julian.
Upon seeing them, something clicks into place inside his head. Since her own childhood, Bebe had known there was something extraordinary about the little cabin where she played. As a young adult, there was a single night where both she and Julian understood, even if only for a fleeting moment, exactly how extraordinary it was. The encounter had changed their lives. But more importantly, something wondrous was set into motion that evening. Bebe’s ghost smiles sweetly and speaks gently. Luke understands, even though there are no words to hear.
History has no record of the events Luke had witnessed in that terrible vision on the bluff. Until now, only those who perpetrated the act knew that an entire race of beings was slaughtered during a brutal and horrifying assault. They had been angelic creatures, who possessed the ability to move throughout space and time as freely as a sim walks through the park. It might make sense to believe their special abilities had singled them out as targets. The truth of the matter, is that they were the embodiment of Love, Faith, and Hope in the universe. And they were destroyed simply because they could be destroyed. Those responsible did not understand (and still fail to comprehend), that the ideals they sought to crush are not variables. They are constants, and can never be purged from the universe.
The wealth of science about the observable universe simkind has accumulated over time, amounts to one drop inside a vast ocean, compared to what still remains unknown. One of those things which still remains unknown, concerns the place where this family has lived for generations, and the many reflections similar to it throughout spacetime. It is truly unique in all of reality. It is a place where, if given enough time, the ideas of Love, Faith, and Hope will manifest into living, sentient beings. Call it meta-physics, quantum-physics, divine intervention, or superstition – the label it is given by sims simply does not matter. What does matter, is that only one such being remains in all the universe.
Luke stands for a long time in the dark silence that follows. It is not broken until he hears a weak voice, a real one this time, calling his name.
Shaken by what has been revealed to him, Luke proceeds tentatively, unsure of what he should do with this knowledge. He enters Grandma Faith’s bedroom to find her standing beside a chest of drawers. Tears in Faith’s eyes glisten from the dim hallway lights. But the room is otherwise dark. She looks more fragile and weak now than he has ever seen her. She motions him forward, holding out something small and metallic. Luke moves quickly forward and accepts the engagement ring into the palm of his hand.
She whispers that when the ring came to her, she accepted it with the silent promise that it would be returned to its owner. It had belonged to a woman named Kacey; a sim with locks of silken silver for hair, the face of a child, and radiant, blue eyes the same color as the sky. Faith had made a promise that Kacey would proudly wear the ring again, some day (see Chapter 5.21 – Engagement). Unfortunately, she can no longer keep that promise herself. She kisses Luke again on the forehead, then tells him she is depending upon him to keep the promise for her .
Before Luke can speak, he feels overcome by a particular sensation that reminds him, unconsciously, of sunlight and parenthood; while Faith closes her eyes and smiles, then quietly passes away into the mysterious afterlife.